Saturday, May 9, 2015

Good Cop / Bad Cop - Breaking Down the Blue Wall of Silence

On a warm night in August of 2013 a call came in to the Dispatch Center of the Dover Delaware Police Department regarding a disturbance at a local gas station - a purported fight with a drawn gun.  Officers were dispatched and Cpl Thomas Webster arrived first on the scene. The Officer found 30-year old Lateef Dickerson (yellow hat - as seen in the dash cam video of the second Officer to arrive) about a block away from the gas station.

See video HERE

It was reported to the responding Officers that Dickerson was the suspect with the gun (no gun was found and there were no charges filed pertaining to a gun).  As the second Officer arrived, dash cam footage shows Dickerson complying with Officer Webster's commands.  Dickerson raises his hands and locks them behind his head as Officer Webster, with gun drawn, directs him to get on the ground.  Dickerson does so without hesitation - but when he complies, in the street on his hands and knees, palms flat on the pavement, completely helpless, Officer Webster suddenly and viciously kicks Dickerson full-force in the face - hard enough that Dickerson's hat flies off his head and out of the videos frame, hard enough to concuss him, hard enough to break his jaw, hard enough to knock him out cold.

And for what reason?

The second Officer arrived in time to be standing at the scene when Officer Webster knocks Dickerson into lala land.  He then helps Officer Webster handcuff Dickerson - who is now beginning to shake the cobwebs out in his head.  Dickerson is then transported to the hospital for his injuries and later booked on charges of assault, theft and resisting arrest, with those charges eventually being dropped.

In 2014 a Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Webster and later that year, the U.S. Attorneys office decided that Dickerson's Civil Rights were not violated.  At that time the ACLU involved themselves with the case, filing a lawsuit and demanding the release of the video.

In January of this year Attorney General Matt Denn took office and began a look into the case.  He soon requested a second Grand Jury - Webster was indicted on Monday and arrested on a felony assault charge that very day.

Rep. Sean Lynn tells the News Journal that the officer's use of force "seems completely unwarranted.
… I was definitely taken aback."

Fred Calhoun, President of the Delaware police union said, "It's not fair. This was done because of what is taking place in society today," an apparent reference to Baltimore and Ferguson. Webster's lawyer says his client will plead not guilty; at this time Officer Webster is out on $5,000 bail.

We will have to see how this case shakes out, but on the face of it, there can be no excuse for Officer Webster's violent assault on an unsuspecting and defenseless citizen.  He had backup on the scene.  There were no other suspects in sight.  Dickerson was complying and was completely impotent and defenseless when Officer Webster willfully chose to inflict pain and injury on an unsuspecting and submissive citizen.

This is not about whether Dickerson is a bad guy - he is a life long criminal and that fact is not in dispute.  It is about LEO who overstep their bounds... because they believe they can.  Because they have been off the leash for so many years - like feral dogs.  Because they have the authority of law.  Because the courts and government legislators - both Federal and State - have erred over and over again on the side of LE.  Because the courts have ruled time and time again in LE favor, tearing down the Bill of Rights in the misplaced name of safety - for both the Citizens and LEO's themselves.

Right now, through the magic of the internet and personal video devices - which are ubiquitous, to say the least - Bad Cops are splashed across the world in all their raging glory.  Bully cops, lying cops, intimidating cops, physical cops,  cops who realize they are being filmed and suddenly become nice guys, cops who deny citizens their Rights, cops who attempt to stop citizens from recording, even though they know that the recorder is well within the citizens rights, cops who abscond with phones, hoping to delete or destroy video... it's a veritable cornucopia of Bad Cop examples.

Bad Cops have cost the taxpayers of this Country billions of dollars in misconduct suits. In 2011 alone, the city of New York paid out $119 million -  which included non abuse suits such as negligence.  Chicago has paid out over $450 million over the last 10 years - $84 million in 2013 alone.  $54 million from Los Angeles in 2011.

So.. what exactly has to change?  For me, it's simple.  The answer is Trust and Respect - and it's a two-way street.

But herein lies the dilemma - you can't have trust when the line between Good Cops and Bad Cops is blurred by the Blue Wall of Silence.  Go back to that video and watch the second officer on the scene - what did the second Officer do when he saw his Blue Wall Brother viciously attack a defenseless man with a savage and brutal kick to the face.

He did nothing.

He didn't step in between the victim and the Officer.  He didn't physically restrain his Brethren in Blue.  He didn't try to protect the victim... he didn't do anything at all, except help cuff the suddenly unconscious man.

If Police departments across this Country want to mend fences with the public, if they truly want the trust of Americans, they must start by policing themselves - first and foremost.   Good Cops - and make no mistake, they are legion - need to show the public that their first and highest concern is the protection and safety of that public.

Good Cops need to turn in Bad Cops.  They need to report Bad Cops immediately and without concern for the welfare of anyone except the victim and the citizen.  The public needs to see that LEO are here to protect and serve... us.  The public must know that LEO are placing 'we the people' ahead of their own Fraternal Order.  It's the only way this works.  It's the only way to regain the trust and respect of the citizenry.  It's the only way back to sanity.

As far as the Lateef Dickerson situation, the questions I would like answered in this particular case are these... What exactly did the second Officer write in his report and did he report his fellow Officer to his superiors?  If he did those things, Great!  Good on him.

But if Officer #2 did none of those, then I want to know if he was suspended and or terminated for filing a false report?  Was he reprimanded for not reporting it?  Was anything at all done to reinforce that this is not acceptable behavior?  That his first responsibility is to the safety of the public?

We have a long way to go in this fight to bring the Police into the 21st century of video, audio and the internet... and its complicated by Unions, Politicians, Legislators and our Courts. It's a worthwhile fight - but only if the Good Cops realize we are on the same side, fighting the same fight.  All Cops need to be held accountable for their actions... and inaction.

Otherwise, our trust is gone like a ghost at sunrise.

UPDATE:  The Officer identified above as Cpl Thomas Webster is due to start his trial for Second Degree Assault on November 30, 2015 - See related story HERE

UPDATE:  After 16 hours of deliberation, the jury found the Officer not guilty of all charges.  The officer claimed he was aiming for his body, not his head - Though I don't understand why he was kicking him at all.  See related story HERE

UPDATE:  The same Officer received $230,000.00 from the city in a "separation deal"  See related story HERE

Stay Safe and Carry Responsibly
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