A caught a recent dash cam video of a police DUI arrest involving alleged police brutality. This particular event appeared to be one that many were divided on, so I thought I’d take a closer look.
I try to stay objective when looking at the police force. They are a necessary part of life. However, there seems to be a division forming these days between cries of “police state” and those who will defend them to the end. Extreme views tend to be void of rational thought.
When analyzing the actions of the police, one should do it with a perspective toward their purpose, which is to protect us from local, domestic harm. In fact, the police chief involved in this event, Dennis Jones, made that very statement regarding this event:
“Our job is to serve and protect, and that includes victims and suspects”
Unfortunately, when looking at these cases, many carry a hidden bias. They tend to take the view “that suspect got what they deserved”. This ignores the purpose of the police and the essence of justice in our legal system. We should not judge those they are called on to deal with. If you don’t think this is true, read my analysis of this event and compare it to all the comments out there from those backing up the police in this case. One has to wonder what causes people to defend the actions of others that could very well result in a dangerous, unwarranted assault on them.
There’s no doubt that the actions of Ms. West leading up to this were in the wrong. However, the damage Ms. West caused (crashing her vehicle into a home) was already done. There is little point in taking our anger out on her with physical violence. In addition, there was also the remote possibility that Ms. West was affected by some medical condition or other event, such as an attempted suicide, or whatever. The police are notoriously bad at recognizing such edge cases. This is the reason why it should be the job of the police to deal with events objectively with an eye toward the safety of all those involved. Unfortunately, the police frequently put their own safety ahead of everyone else. This creates an ironic situation. Americans frequently call police officers hero’s for risking their lives on the job while at the same time defending them to the end when they clearly put their own safety first.
It’s important to come to the correct resolution in cases like this. If an officer breaks the law, that officer should be subject to the exact same procedures as anyone else. How often is a police officer accused of assault or murder, or even manslaughter? It happens, but it’s rare. The consequences of this will be an increase in violence from the police force. Good officers will be driven away in disgust while new, bad officers, happily take their place.
Now for the details of this case. The following link from the Tallahassee police department has comments on this event and the full dash cam video. After reviewing the video, here is a timeline of events as I saw them, picking up at 27:51 when they arrest her:
There were several officers involved, but mainly it was two. One appeared to be kind of in training while the other was the alpha male, so I will call them junior and alpha. (You can find the names of the two officers in articles, but I don’t know which is which).
28:00 Both officers put on the cuffs, with her putting up mild, drunken resistance
29:30 Ms West goes willingly into the back of the cruiser
Ms. West is just sitting in the back of the cruiser while they interview the 3 kids that were with her.
33:47 Ms. West knocks on the cruiser window and the alpha officer says “One second… Knock it off!”
33:53 Alpha officer: “She has hooked her cuffs to the front. We’ll deal with that in a second.” She apparently stepped out so she was cuffed in front instead of in back. To me the cuff chains appeared to be too long and Ms. West appeared to be pretty flexible, so not a surprise this happened.
34:34 Ms. West agrees to the implied consent (breath test)
34:46 Ms. West asks about David (her husband) again. Alpha officer says “Who’s David?”
34:49 Alpha officer: “<gibberish> and we need to get you out of the car”
35:09 Alpha officer “We need you to get out so we can slip those handcuffs behind your back.”
Here we are getting to the critical moments in this event.
It’s clear to me Ms. West is trying to make sure her family is taken care of, explaining she has two small children and only one car seat in her car. Maybe her concerns are valid, maybe not. But Alpha officer clearly ignores her and wants to just get the job done.
35:12 Ms. West “Please….”
Alpha officer “Get out of the car”
Ms. West “Listen…”
Alpha officer “Get out of the car. You listen to me. Get out of the car now!”
At this point Ms. West is interfering with Alpha’s job and he is clearly getting irritated. Ms West (who is staying calm) and alpha officer (getting upset) go back and forth a bit more and:
35:20 Alpha Officer “Last time. Get out of the car!”
Keep in mind Ms West is clearly drunk and has been proven to be by these same officers sobriety test.
35:24 “Get out of the car” with his voice raising more and more each time. “I don’t care” (about your family).
35:26 Ms West voluntarily stumbles out of the car. Now I’m a little confused here because Ms West seems to have the cuffs behind her back, not in front.
35:37 Alpha male is apparently pissed off because at this point he takes her let arm behind her and clearly applies excessive force. Look at the video – he goes overboard with the chicken wing. Ms West had done nothing up to this point but stumble around and ask about her family.
Ms West: “Do not break my fuckin arm”. Alpha male has his right arm restraining Ms West’s left arm, with her pushed up against the cruiser. He then uses his left arm to smash her face into the car. Ms West must have “touched’ alpha at some point during this time.
35:42 Alpha male “Fuckin touch me!” and takes her and slams her to the ground, with her face smashing into the cruiser on the way down. . Alpha officer then puts one arm on the back of her neck and the other smashes her (broken up) face into the ground some more. Notice also they STILL DO NOT even have the cuffs on. They failed while she was upright and pushed against the cruiser because alpha officer was too busy beating on her. At this point Ms. West is letting out blood curdling screams. She is clearly badly hurt. At this point alpha says “Don’t fuckin touch me” (again).
Now to give you an idea of the “touching” alpha officer was talking about, look at the video at 35:53. Ms West is face planted with a broken orbital with her left arm sticking straight out to her side and juniors wait on her backside. Alpha officer straddles that arm so he can help with the cuffs. She reaches up and touches the back of his leg. While I can’t see exactly what happens, it could not have been much. Clearly alpha has ISSUES with being touched as he says again “Don’t fuckin touch me” and proceeds with more excessive force.
36:00 Another officer apparently is interested and comes over and stands over her and watches. He doesn’t attempt to see if she is OK. He doesn’t help the other officers. He just stands there.
36:17 Another officer comes over. He also stands there looking at the whole affair.
36:26 Another cruiser pulls up (?)
36:51 Junior admits “No, these (cuffs) are too big for her wrist”. Perhaps you should carry smaller cuffs in the cruiser? Seriously, what would have happened had they NOT CUFFED her at all. Alpha might have gotten a scratch on his face, who knows.
37:03 Ms. West “I’m pooping my pants because you hit me so hard”. At this point, a normal person with the tiniest bit of empathy would be concerned for this persons health. They are only concerned with getting the cuffs on, despite the fact that this person was practically zero threat even before they smashed her face.
Notice that it takes forever for junior officer to get the cuffs on and it seems like he has to keep redoing it. Maybe the cuffs are wrong. Maybe he’s incompetent. But it clearly isn’t Ms Wests fault.
36:39 Junior officer, taking a queue from alpha says “Continue to talk. We don’t care what your saying”. As Ms. West tries to explain the issue with the car seat.
37:29 Ms West begs junior to get off her leg because it hurts. He ignores her. He STILL does not have the cuffs on. When he finally does get up, you can tell the guy, who appears to run at least 200 lbs, had most of his weight on her leg. He keeps mucking around with the cuffs until:
38:06 Ms West: “I think you broke my right cheek”. Officer: “Your fine”
38:20 Ms West” “That was unnecessary” Junior officer grabs her by the shoulder and turns her around so he can properly scold her with “You do that again and your gonna regret it. You understand me?” and then, after they pick her up…
38:28 Ms. West makes a lame attempt to kick the one officer and hears this from Alpha “There’s another charge”, and junior “”You went from a misdemeanor to a felony”. The law in Florida requires a battery charge for a felony, but I’m surprised to know that a lame attempt at a kick in these circumstances is “battery”.
Keep in mind we have two large male police officers and a drunken 130 lb woman. They smashed up her face and accused her of assault for leg touching and a lame kick attempt. This was all AFTER they smashed her face.
This was not fun to watch, but I felt it was necessary.
Another important point should be made regarding this event and others like it. The investigation was done by the same police force that employees the officers involved. You don’t need to have a degree in sociology or psychology to understand that this will result in biased decisions. But this is how the system works.
Also note, the “use of force” report was approved by the officer’s supervisors the next day. It wasn’t until 30 days after this event, and enough public outcry poured in, that any disciplinary action took place for the officers involved. At that time, they were “suspended with pay”, which sounds suspiciously like a vacation to me. Do we really want to have disciplinary actions toward police that incentive them to repeat these same actions?
To wrap this up, this has to be taken in context with everything else going on in this country: the increased militarization of the police force, endless attempts to engage in military intervention overseas, massive spying programs by our federal government. What is the result of this? One: good people leave public positions while bad people take their place. Two: an attitude of contempt toward authority resulting in increased cases like this. That, in turn, makes things even worse. I’m not feeling good about where this ends.
I believe many if not most Americans are now conditioned to accept substandard service from their police force. Think about it this way: If you didn’t have a police force and you had to get together to pay for protection, what would your expectations be? What would your reaction be when they failed to meet those expectations? Of course, you are paying for it via taxes, so maybe it’s time to raise your expectations.