Friday, November 10, 2006

L.A. Police Case Gets FBI Probe et al

L.A. Police Case Gets FBI Probe - AP

Beating of L.A. Suspect Sparks Outcry - Washington Posts

Click here for Video...

William Cardenas is no Rodney King.

Shock is what any normal person experiences when they see a person strike another in the face. However, once we get past the visceral impact, we are left with trying to understand if the LAPD have run amok, ala Mr. King, or is this an example of police doing a difficult, dangerous, un-pretty job.

It is certainly reasonable to investigate police behavior, particular when the charge of resisting arrest is included, but it is also fair to consider more than the simple and obvious pummeling the suspect received during the course of the arrest. The law provides for standards of response that may challenge layperson sensibilities, but nonetheless protects the public, including the officers and suspects.

The philosophy of criminal law in this country is one of equal force. This means that the force used by the officers should match the threat of the suspect, no more. Once the officers began to grapple with the suspect in close quarters, the level of threat elevates to life threatening. Why? Because the lethal weapons they carry are now in reach of the suspect. Rodney King, rolling around on the ground, getting 50 baton strikes, was a limited threat to the officers who were hitting him. Mr. Cardenas, alternately, was indeed a lethal threat as the two officers lay on top of him attempting to handcuff him.

As for striking the suspect repeatedly in the face, or other vital locations for that matter, it would seem that this level of force, while distressing, is plausible considering that the suspect's continued resistance may result in a free hand that could acquire either officer's service weapon, potentially resulting in fatal injury, including to the nearby public. The video shows the suspects right hand as free at one point and near one officer's waist-belt, which holds his weapon.

Lastly, the suspect's plea that he could not breathe, while alarming, negates itself immediately. The audible plea, repeated more than once, evidences an unobstructed airway and the act of breathing. The suspect's breathing discomfort was consistent with having the body weight of two officers on top of him, and exacerbated by his struggle to evade their control.

With this said, Mr. Cardenas remains innocent of all crimes until proven guilty in a court of law, as are the officers, and review is definitely warranted. What is more difficult to see through our emotional lens is a struggle, arguably precipitated by Mr. Cardenas, where serious or fatal injuries were reasonably possible and where all manner of force would be acceptable to insure the paramount objective of the officers maintaining control of the suspect and their weapons in the close and combative quarters of an arrest.

James C. Collier


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found this post via Technorati. That's a good analysis and well-written. It seems a lot of lay people are watching the video and just reacting to the sight of two cops hitting a guy - but not taking the time to analyze the event. Thanks for taking the time to think it through and sharing your thoughts.