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LAPD punching video

• Someone needs to explain this to me: Regardless of the individual or the nature of the alleged offense, why would beating, punching, kicking, etc., an already physically subdued individual ever be considered acceptable or even condoned in a supposedly civilized society, as ours continues to pretend to be? I have not read or heard the mention of this issue in any discussions regarding the police's seemingly increasing use of excessive force in the apprehension of suspects. Has the opportunity to pulverize anyone in their custody that they choose, in the name of "protecting the community," become a perk for frustrated cops?

Beth Miller


• Since Beth Miller of Glendora has requested an explanation, I shall provide it for her: Just because you’ve seen an arrest on Law and Order or NYPD Blue, does not make you an expert on police tactics. That, sadly, is the blunt truth. I say sadly, because most people, like have formed their opinions of police work based on staged façades rather than first-hand knowledge of what it takes to overcome real resistance. Then, when they see the real thing, they are shocked.

On the other hand, folks who have wrestled and battled without benefit of a referee, with more than a bit of pride on the line, realize that there are few bright lines as to what is acceptable and what is not. I doubt Ms. Miller has been in many bar fights. While this is a good thing (oh that more were like her), it hardly qualifies her to judge tactics. Police officers are authorized to use force to overcome resistance. That is the key word – overcome. Not match. Not equal. Not stalemate resistance – overcome it. To use another word, their force must exceed that of the suspect – it must be excessive on some level.

Contrary to what the ill-informed observer might think, Mr. Cardenas was neither subdued nor compliant. Merely looking at the first 3 seconds of the latest video proves this is the truth in this case. Watch his right hand. It slides up the inside of Officer Farrell’s right thigh, quite close to his pistol, and grabs on to the cloth of his pants. That is not compliant. That is not subdued. He was, in fact, continuing to fight, but simply had become a bit limited in his range of motion - not in his intent or effort.

Those who conclude that this was excessive force, do so because of what happened after the strikes, not before. Mr. Cardenas went to jail, and the officers went home, thus that ugliness must not have been needed. But, if, after the punches, Mr. Cardenas had pulled a small gun from his waistband, the consensus would be the officers did not do enough. Those officers were not so much trying to control a suspect, as control the unknown – an unknown that often proves deadly.

Every police officers’ fight is, penultimately, a gun fight. If a cop loses – gets knocked out – there is a gun on his (or her) hip with which he can be murdered. Go look at the Officer Down Memorial Page. There you will find detailed descriptions of the deaths of literally thousands of police officers, increasing by about 150 annually. Each year a not-insignificant number are killed with their own weapons. Yet more are killed by handcuffed suspects. Is someone to be considered subdued just because they are in handcuffs - even if they are willing and able to kill?

Police work is dangerous enough. If you doubt this, ask officers Tuck and Ripatti, both gruesomely wounded over the summer. Officer Ripatti was in a hands-on-brawl with a suspect who pulled out a pistol and shot her. If her force had been a bit more excessive then maybe- just maybe - she’d not be confined to a wheel chair. In your paradigm, however, she’d be confined to a jail cell.

Almost every police department in Los Angeles County is currently hiring reserve police officers – fully trained and certified, part-time officers. If you really think you can do better, the opportunity – and the department – is waiting for you.

Robert Parry

November 12, 2006 11:43 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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