As I’ve shared many times on this blog, I have had the honor of shadowing some amazing police officers and learning about the risks they face and the split-second decisions they must make all the time. I have the highest respect for the men and women who determine law enforcement to be their professional calling. So, when two men appear to degrade the uniform through excessive, deadly force, I get angered on behalf of all the great cops out there.
Many of you will recall the videotaped beating death of homeless schizophrenic man Kelly Thomas last summer in California. Officer Manual Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli, along with four other officers who have not been criminally charged, allegedly hit Thomas, exhausted a taser on him, and eventually beat him unconscious. Thomas died five days after the incident. This week, a preliminary hearing is taking place in Orange County to determine if the officers will stand trial.
Kelly Thomas met his violent fate after not cooperating fully with the officers when they responded to reports of a homeless man peering into car windows. On the videotape, Thomas screamed that he couldn’t breathe and that he was being killed. He cried out for his father, who was present in the courtroom to watch the tape of the beating. Both officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges they face.
How do you react when you see stories like that of Kelly Thomas? Do you see such incidents as isolated examples that don’t reflect on a police force as a whole? Or, do you worry that there are more events like this that take place and we just never hear about them?
Of course, these two men are innocent until proven guilty and the justice system will run its course. I’m just wondering what gut reactions are in this instance.
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Doing research and interviewing victims of domestic violence I come across disturbing accounts of the police being just a continuance of the abuse. In my connection to the crisis center I see first hand that the police quite often do more harm than good. This is a travesty, as I know there are officers who are honest and want to help. The ‘good old boys’ network blemishes the ones who are ‘real’ cops.
The law goes both ways. It protects the innocent and convicts the guilty whether they wear a badge or not. I don’t know the facts. But I have faith in judge and jury.
I believe that there is good and bad in any organization. It is scary though. Very scary that those who are there to protect us, can sometimes do the opposite.
I personally always think of these sorts of things as isolated incidents, which makes many people think I’m naive. I prefer to assume people are good until they prove themselves otherwise.
The big problem isn’t the individual officers–although they obviously were to blame–but the real problem is that we criminalize mental illness and homelessness. We’re a barbaric culture compared to the rest of the civilized world in that we persecute our most vulnerable citizens instead of helping them. I’m horrified we’re not more horrified.