Sunday, October 25, 2009

Police Beat Handcuffed Math Major

I know being a cop is a tough job. One of my frequent commenters, a former army buddy of mine, is a cop, and I have a former student who's working to be a cop. I value and respect law enforcement. I know cops are only human.

But so was the kid these cops beat in San Jose.

A cell phone video shows San Jose police officers repeatedly using batons and a Taser gun on an unarmed San Jose State student, including at least one baton strike that appears to come after the man is handcuffed, as they took him into custody inside his home last month.

The video, made by one of the student's roommates without the knowledge of police, shows that force was used even though the suspect was on the ground, and apparently offering no physical threat to the officers. Several experts in police force said the video appears to document excessive — and possibly illegal — force by the officers. A police spokesman Friday said the department had opened a criminal investigation of the officers'
conduct, after police officials viewed a copy of the recording.

The confrontation arose as Phuong Ho, a 20-year-old math major from Ho Chi Minh City, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting another of his roommates. He faces pending misdemeanor charges of exhibiting a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. Ho admits picking up a knife as he argued with a roommate. He was not armed when police arrived.
How the heck can you expect a handcuffed, beaten person that several people are yelling at to follow instructions? It's just gross.

The video is harder to listen to than it is to watch.


zflynn said...

Criminal probe? The official report will be the cops acted “appropriately under the circumstances”. Maybe if there is enough public outcry there will be one or two token short term suspensions (with pay of course) just for show. America lives in an expanding police state, has been for quite some time. The government and most of the sadistic masses like it this way. Just look at the horrible stuff you can see on “Cops” and whatnot, and that’s the things they SHOW you for ENTERTAINMENT, just image the abuses they edit out or don’t do because the cameras are rolling.

If you read the whole story one of Ho’s roommates put soap in his food and laughed about it. When Ho got angry and didn't allow himself to be bullied so easily another roommate called the police with the lie disguised as an hysterical overreaction claiming Ho was making a threat: the as+hole roommates just wanted the cops to do their dirty work for them. The cops, being the half witted sadistic brutes they are who overreact violently to the most mundane situations, were only happy to oblige and be used to settle the personal vindictive vendettas of the as+hole roommates. If Americans insist their police must be monstrous brutes who dole out savage (sometimes fatal) punishment to whoever is today’s witch, maybe they should use these henchmen more judicially. For example, in this case it seems at least two of the as+hole roommates could have used a couple of baton whacks and tasering. Maybe, just maybe it would have taught them a little civility. As for civility with the cops? That’s out of the question in a Police State.

Darren said...

I don't think we live in a police state. Some instances--especially no-knock raids--can give that air, but we're not "disappearing" people in the dark of night. That this is news is testament to the advent of citizen video *and* its relative scarcity for most of us.

Sometimes, though, our police get out of hand, and when they do, they need to be disciplined for it--just like anyone else.

zflynn said...

Darren, I don't know how old you are but perhaps you old enough to have seen the dramatic change in the behavior, dress and attitude over the last 30 or more years. Clearly, the policeman went from being a cop (constable on patrol) who was there to protect and serve and was looked at as to uber-soldiers, law ENFORCERS who dress and act like commandos at war and everyone's a bad guy who's to be interrogated and handled like a murderous felon. Sadly, this phenomenon isn't strictly American (though this, along with our record setting Prison for Profit system, are two of the few areas we still lead the way for others to follow). And don't quote the lie that it's more dangerous now than ever to be a cop (but it is true it's much more dangerous-and scary- to be questioned by a cop). According to the FBI statistics, the rate for police killed in the line of duty has stayed fairly stable the past sixty years with a dramatic rise of those killed in car accidents percentage-wise, which is, by far, the leading cause of death. Of those killed by guns, the rate of death by suicide is higher than random, felonious murder and friendly fire death (cops who shoot other cops) is almost on equal par as well. Cops aren't even in the top ten, according to the Department of Labor.
True, we're not in Stalinist Russian or Jews in Nazi Germany, but this was once called "the land of the free", which is less true than many other nations these days. With America's war mongering, it specializes in wars on its people now, The War on Drugs, The War on Poverty, The War on Freedom is becoming the fastest reality. It's a sad, sad decline that is far worse than it once was, at least when I was a kid. A cop was someone you could look at as having a tough job and you hoped, and usually could depend on, as being a good guy for the community. Now I wonder how much of a gung-ho, over reacting LAW ENFORCER he or she is. Every Police State increases incrementally along with a righteous, belligerent attitude. America's going in the right direction for that in spades, my friend.

Darren said...

Police states don't punish their "enforces" when they go beyond bounds. We do.

PeggyU said...

Where is the student now?

MikeAT said...


Looking at the video there is one major oh s$%^ I see. Before someone goes off on what I’m going to say (and yes, I’m the Army buddy Darren mentioned in the posting and a police officer in a major city) let me try and set it up from the cops’ point of view and please read this entire posting.

What I know from the video and news report:

1. Those officers are entering someone’s house where this guy has already threatened someone with a deadly weapon (the knife).

2. They are going into his area, surrounded by some of his friends/family.

3. They want this man secured. One thing we teach all of our rookies is you want the suspect secured, i.e. handcuffed so an investigation can be made in a safer environment.

What I’m assuming from what is written/on the video:

1. The officers were dispatched to a disturbance call with an armed man.

2. At some point they wanted to handcuff the man and he did not put his hands in the back.

What I don’t know from the video:

1. If when the officers were trying to place his hand behind him Ho started something or if the officer’s immediately started to strike him.

2. What was the space constraints? If there was a small amount of space a third officer may been more in the way than anything.

Did the officers have legitimate need to cuff Ho? Yes. He had already pulled a knife on his roommate. Did he actually swing it at someone or use it in another threatening way to his roommate, I don’t’ know. But he is a threat and needs to be secured while the investigation is taking place.

Once he was handcuffed could the officer legitimately strike him again? Probably not. I don’t see anything in the video to say Ho was a threat anymore. And before someone says “No kidding, he’s handcuffed” officers have been shot and killed by men who were handcuffed and searched.

MikeAT said...


Now, to the potential “oh s$%^ “ is striking a man in the head with a baton “potentially lethal”? No, it is deadly force by statute. That would be aggravated assault unless it’s justified (i.e. threatening the officers or a third party with death or serious bodily injury). I’m not sure if that happened from the video but if it did that has to be investigated seriously.

What happens next? The department I know will investigate the incident, I assume in CA they will have the district attorney investigate this and the officers will have to face the grand jury. The grand jury will determine if they used legitimate force or if they will be indicted.

Now don’t take much from the statement “The Mercury News was unable to reach either officer seen using force during the incident, despite written requests sent both through department officials and their union.” As I said these men are facing a department investigation and a grand jury subpoena. Their lawyers are telling them to stay quiet and it may be shocking but sometimes newspapers/media don’t report the full story, so cops tend to trust them.

Suffice to say, let the department/district attorney investigate and determine what happened. I’ve watched the video five times and from what I saw it’s too grainy to make an exact determination of what happened. We have people who can clear the images up and I have no doubt both the city and Mr Ho’s attorneys are working on that. I’m not saying the cops did right or wrong, I’m saying let the incident be investigated and a conclusion made based on more than a video from a cell phone.

Zflynn, I don’t know where you get your “statistics” but you are wrong. According to the FBI, the number of murders of police officers by firearms last year was 41, down from 58 the previous year. The number of officers killed in accidents, mainly auto accidents was 68. Police deaths did soar in the 60/70s but have been reduced greatly by both body armor (Source, FBI report from the Sacramento Bee, and better medical capability. Similar to a less than one percent death rate for the military in Iraq. From the numbers I’ve been quoted over the years, in rough numbers the causes of death of officers in a year are approximately: 45% handguns; 45% auto accident and ; 10% other causes (e.g. rifle/shotgun shots, falling down stairs, knife or blunt object).

I would like to know how many officers per 100000 kill themselves as opposed to the general population. You can of course list that for me. You wouldn’t be pulling “facts” out of the air would you?

Darren did mention a good point. Cops are human and some do some stupid, even criminal things. We hold them accountable. If that’s not true, why are their former peace officers in prison for crimes committed under the cover of their authority?

BTY, I’m 44 and been a cop for almost 12 years. I’ve been many things that alarm me about American society now. But if you want to see a police state try going on too many universities these days. Say the wrong thing and your career is over.