An ugly job, but it’s a living

A Kerfuffle over a Piffle

Mack Reed at LA Voice writes a post about the You Tube video showing two LAPD officers trying to handcuff a suspect. Reed titled his post, “LAPD Beating Video Posted – Explanation, Please?”, and prefaced his posting of the video with the comment, “This is pretty ugly-looking”.

For those hermits and cave trolls amongst you who have not yet seen the video, take a quick peek at it while the rest of us wait patiently.

Okay, now that all of the class is caught up, let’s dissect this twenty seconds of media frenzy.

Mack, you got it right when you labeled the video “ugly”. I look at that guy with two cops on top of him, a knee on his neck and a fist smacking him in the face and I know that hurts. But like childbirth and sausage making, there are some human endeavors that aren’t pretty to watch while still being necessary and even worthwhile.

What I see in the video is two cops using force, and the resulting pain, to control a suspect and make him submit to arrest. The suspect is not cooperating. In fact, he is attempting resisting arrest. I realize it’s a twenty second clip that’s just a glimpse of a much longer incident, but what I see there is not excessive force being used. There most definitely is force, and the dude on the ground was probably feeling used and abused, but there is no abuse in the sense that the guy is being wrongly or improperly treated.

In fact, that scenario is played out on streets across the country every day, and I can’t imagine anybody whose been a cop for more than a few weeks who can look at the video and not think “hey, I’ve been there.” Mack, how do you think police officers arrested resisting suspects before we had Tasers?

Among all the amazing things I have learned in police work, one of the first was how difficult it can be to handcuff a person who is resisting. You don’t have to be swinging fists and lashing out with your feet to make it hard as hell for a cop to get a set of cuffs on you. Listen to the two cops huffing and puffing, they’re getting a workout, and all the guy is doing at the moment is preventing them from getting a handcuff on his wrists.

The knee across the throat? Well, they had to chase the guy down because he did not want to go to jail, and the technique is extremely effective at keeping someone down on the ground. They already caught him once, it would be stupid to give him another shot at escaping.

Is he being choked? Well, he claims he can’t breathe, but didn’t air have to come from his lungs and go past his larynx in order to shout those words? Seems to me that a simple reversal of the process would supply plenty of air.

There is only one thing on the video that I would try not to do, but have been forced to do one more than one occasion – punching the suspect in the head. The human hand is actually quite vulnerable, as an ex-partner found out one day while trying to keep a suspect from taking his pistol out of its holster. With one hand being used to try to keep possession of his weapon, the only way he could fight back was to beat the bad guy in the face with the other. He spent weeks with his hand in a cast.

No, if allowed my preference I would have jabbed the edge of my hand at the base of the guy’s nose and tried to make the tip of it bend upward toward his hairline. It hurts like hell and is an incredibly effective technique to take the fight out of someone without either of you suffering injury.

I won’t deny that there is no such thing as excessive force, or that of all the sadists in the world that some don’t wear badges. It happens, and as a society we should never tolerate it. But just as we cannot tolerate abusive officers, we should not foolishly deny that sometimes cops have to use force and pain to accomplish the tasks they are given. If police work didn’t involve some unpleasantness and ugliness, why do we arm police officers with firearms, batons, chemical spray, handcuffs, etc., and then spend a lot of money training them how and when to use those tools?

The bad guy was having a bad day, and the two cops weren’t enjoying their afternoon either. But the bad guy made a choice and the video is the proof of the consequences. As for the officers’ outlook – well I’ll just say that my personal belief has always been that my job tends to put me in dangerous situations, but nothing about it makes me a punching bag. The only fair fight is the one I win, and if anybody ever told me that I can’t defend myself and use the force needed to accomplish the job – that would be the day I hung up my spurs and went job hunting.

What you need to understand Mack, is that there is a very distinct difference between causing pain and hurting someone. Just as there is a world of difference between using appropriate force and excessive force. The video shows us two police officers trying to arrest a resisting suspect by using force – that seems to be appropriate to the circumstances shown. And while they’re using pain as a tool to turn resistance into compliance, I don’t see anything that makes me think the bad guy got hurt.

To a cop’s experienced eye, what is depicted is just another day at the office.

As for the “if it bleeds it leads” bunch – I know they’re just trying to make a buck by playing the video every chance they get. Not that I respect that, I mean I’ve known pimps and whores who weren’t evil people, but that doesn’t mean I would want to change professions. I look at the media storm brewing around the video as something that my wife would call a piffle. Foolish nonsense and futile talk.


3 responses

  1. We have been talking about this here on a UK blog at
    Maybe it would have been better to shoot the guy instead of using a reasonable amount of physical restraint on an obviously violent non compliant offender.
    People are so quick to criticise a Police officer who is putting his or her life on the line for the safety of the public!
    Maybe they should have a go at trying to stop a violent offender from trying to fight the whole world.

    11 November, 2006 at 17:18

  2. I don’t know how it is over there, but here if we have an injured prisoner we have to go with him to the hospital and stay with him while he’s being treated. It would be dishonest to say that there haven’t been times where I’ve felt bad about some guy laying on the table in the E.R. injured by my hand while simultaneously being ecstatic that he’s laying there rather than me. But that’s what it comes down to, he elects to fight and somebody is going to get hurt before it’s over. Given that choice I pick him every time.

    14 November, 2006 at 23:20

  3. It’s the same here, we have to take the injured prisoner to the emergency dept. The custody sergeant wont accept any prisoners with more serious injuriers. I have spent many shifts at the hospital with a prisoner, some still wanting to take us on.

    15 November, 2006 at 12:45

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