Monday, May 13, 2013

This beating will not be televised

Rule number one when beating someone to death is to get rid of all evidence of what happened. And that's exactly what deputies with the Kern County (CA) Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol did after beating David Silva to death last week.

According to the police Mr. Silva was suspected of being intoxicated outside the Kern County Medical Center when officers responded to a call. They said Mr. Silva fought with them so they had to use force. It was far from a fair fight as nine police officers and a dog set upon Mr. Silva.

They beat him with batons and, when they were done, Mr. Silva wasn't breathing. They took him into the medical center where he was pronounced dead.

And, of course, the first thing the police did afterward was confiscate any and all video recordings of the incident. According to this article in the Bakersfield Californian,
John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw. 
"When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies," Tello said.
Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.
When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn't take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said. 
"This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed," Tello said. "These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem."
The police didn't want the video so they could investigate whether their brethren violated Mr. Silva's civil rights. They didn't want the video to determine whether the officers on the scene murdered Mr. Silva. No. They wanted the video to make sure that no one on the other side of the thin blue line sees anything that might implicate their fellow law enforcement agents.

Now whether that plan involves demonstrating the Mr. Silva misbehaved and that the police had no other option but to beat him to death or that there is no evidence that the police overreacted, I don't know. But you can bet the police will do everything in their power to deflect attention away from the actions of the officers involved.

There is no reason for a man to die simply because a police officer thought he might have been intoxicated. There is certainly no reason for nine police officers to beat the hell out of an unarmed man. More troubling is the notion that not one of the officers involved did anything to de-escalate the situation. No one stood up and told his colleagues to stop.

Groupthink is a very bad thing. Law enforcement and military personnel are indoctrinated with groupthink. It's always us against them. And them is always the enemy. And once the adrenalin starts flowing there is no turning back.

So much for protect and serve.

H/T Radley Balko

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