By now, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve seen the video of the 15-year-old girl who was violently attacked by a Seattle (Kings County) cop while being booked, because she kicked her shoe off at him and called him a name.
For said cave dwellers, here’s the video in question from a news report.
The teen had been arrested when she and some friends were seen driving erratically; the car belonged to a friend’s mother, and had been taken without permission. The girls were arrested and charged with stealing the car.
Bear in mind, I do not condone that behavior by any stretch of the imagination. No one ever has the right to take someone else’s property without permission, and they were also a serious danger to everyone else on the road since their erratic driving along with their age suggests they had no training or experience driving a motor vehicle. I therefore have absolutely no problem with the girls being arrested.
I do, however, have a very, very serious problem with cops violently attacking suspects in this manner.
In a nutshell, the 15-year-old girl (Malika Calhoun, who has since given media interviews so her name is in the public record) angered officer Paul Schene, age 31, by calling him a “fat pig” and kicking her shoe off at him (though the shoe was not kicked hard, so it could not have harmed anyone), and Schene reacted with a shocking level of violence. As you can see in the video, Schene ran into the room in full attack mode, slammed her head against the wall, threw her to the floor, punched her in the head several times, then picked her up by her hair (don’t get me started on what the hair-pulling says about this cop’s psychological problems). She complained of having trouble breathing after the attack, which I do not doubt. If nothing else, she may have had a panic attack following the shockingly violent attack against her.
Should she have called him a “fat pig” and kicked her shoe off at him? Obviously not, and it’s pretty clear that she is a troubled teen based on her being involved in auto theft. At the same time, that kind of behavior in teens is not unusual, as many parents find out the hard way, and many teens engage in that kind of behavior but grow up to be perfectly respectable, law-abiding adults; in fact, that’s why the criminal records of minors are sealed, since they lack the maturity of adults and do many times make extremely poor choices. Either way, her disrespectful actions toward Schene do not explain Schene’s reaction, and in fact his reaction says far more about him than her behavior says about her, given her age. I therefore can’t say her portrayal of him as a “fat pig” was necessarily incorrect. Why should anyone respect the authority of a cop like Schene, who acts like a violent criminal himself?
Even in light of the video evidence against him, Schene has only been placed on paid leave pending the investigation. Yet it is very clear that he engaged in brutality, since even his defense – that she called him names and kicked her shoe off at him – does not in any way explain, much less excuse, his violent actions. So why are taxpayers being forced to fund what amounts to a paid vacation for him? Clearly he is a danger to the public, and thus should have been fired as soon as his actions came to light. Steps must be taken to protect the public from Schene. Pure and simple, this is a man who should never have been given a badge. Paul Schene didn’t just snap and attack a suspect this one time, that much I can guarantee. He merely got away with it until now, because he’s a cop.
While the various television talking heads are quick to point out that this is an unusual situation, they’re both completely right and horribly, terribly wrong. This kind of violence toward suspects actually happens all the time, but is almost impossible to prove since the average person tends to believe cops over the people they arrested, so the public doesn’t hear about it. The only thing truly unusual about this situation – not unlike the infamous Rodney King beating by the LAPD – is that the attack was caught on videotape. In this case, the prosecutor who was assigned to examine the criminal complaint (filed by the cop against the girl, not vice versa) pulled the surveillance tape to see what happened. Had Schene not charged the girl for kicking her shoe at him, the public would never have even known about this shocking instance of police brutality. The truth is, few if any people would believe a 15-year-old girl over a cop, even if she went public with the allegation. Schene was counting on that, too. The fact that he knew there was a surveillance camera there, but still filed the assault charges against her, suggests that he was counting on the prosecutor looking the other way as well.
The other cop in the room, a trainee, never reported the incident even though he had an absolute duty to do so since a violent crime was committed in his presence. Is this trainee really so stupid that he doesn’t recognize assault when it’s right in front of him? Does that trainee believe that cops are allowed to brutalize suspects? Was he afraid of getting into trouble for being there? Or did the trainee not report it because he feared for his career, and possibly even his life since in the field he has to depend upon other cops to cover his back?
The trainee cop has not been disciplined, and has not been charged. However, he should have been fired immediately for failing to report the assault. It’s easy to fire a trainee, since they can be relieved of duty for any reason, or no reason at all. Chances are he was not fired because he cooperated with the investigation into Schene’s actions, but that still does not excuse his actions (or lack thereof) insofar as his employment is concerned. At most he should be granted immunity from prosecution, since he does not appear to have assaulted the girl himself (but could still be charged with conspiracy); however, he still should lose his job for not reporting Schene’s assault.
Schene, on the other hand, would be harder to fire because he almost certainly has the Fraternal Order of Police backing him up. While the FOP is extremely powerful when it comes to defending cops who have been fired, it would also be extremely hard for them to successfully argue that Schene should not be fired in light of the video and his pathetic excuses for his actions. Yes, it would cost the department quite a bit of money to defend against a union challenge, but that’s their mistake and they now need to correct it. They obviously didn’t screen either cop very well, or else they would not be in this predicament at all. They need to fire the trainee, fire Schene, fight any FOP challenge to the decision, and learn from it by more carefully screening their officers. Either way, take the badge and gun away from this uniformed thug before he kills someone else.
Yes, you read that right. Schene has been a cop for only eight years, but has already been investigated for two police-related shootings, one of which resulted in death. He was cleared both times, which is also not at all surprising. Cops are rarely found at fault in shootings, even when they acted improperly, because the cop’s claimed perceptions are given greater weight than the actual reality of the situation. Schene’s shootings should be reinvestigated by an independent panel outside the law enforcement community and outside the area, given his actions in this case which clearly show that he has extremely serious impulse control problems which render him dangerous to others, as well as the failure of everyone within the department to report his assault upon the girl – though obviously numerous people knew, including the trainee and the medics – which suggests there may have been a coverup in the investigation of the shootings as well.
This brings me to another issue, with regard to the complaint made against this girl which resulted in the discovery of this surveillance video. Simply stated, charges of obstruction of justice and assault on a police officer are rarely legitimate charges. More likely than not, they are used to pad other charges. Sometimes, as in this case, a charge of assault upon a police officer is filed only to cover up violent behavior by the cops. Those kinds of charges are also used as a trump card by the prosecution, to make defendants think they’re getting a deal by having some charges dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on other charges, when in reality there is rarely any evidence to back up the dropped charges beyond than the cop’s word. That the girl would be charged with assault upon a police officer at all, given what is shown in that video, is disturbing at best.
What I find most disturbing of all, however, is the number of people who are defending Schene for committing a violent crime against a minor. The internet is overrun by those making excuses for him, from “maybe he had a bad day” to “the girl had it coming because she stole a car”. I hate to tell them this, but “having a bad day” is not an excuse for attacking anyone, or else it would be an affirmative defense for everyone accused of assault, murder, and other violent crimes; and there is no law in this country which states that the punishment for being accused of car theft is a violent beating by someone much larger than you, and trained to attack others.
Those who claim to be law-and-order types are strangely the first ones to suggest that violent crime is acceptable, as long as it’s committed by a cop. Those with the same mindset defended the animals-with-badges on the LAPD who nearly beat Rodney King to death (they claimed he was resisting arrest, though the video shows otherwise), and the NYPD cops who shot Amadou Diallo a shocking 41 times (they claimed they thought his wallet, taken out to show ID as he did not speak English well, was a gun), so making excuses for completely out-of-control cops is not a new phenomenon, but it never fails to be an extremely disturbing reflection upon our society.
At any rate, the US Department of Justice is now investigating Schene’s actions in brutalizing the teenager. While normally I don’t approve of the feds intervening in local affairs, it is the best thing which could happen in this case since local authorities (and local juries) rarely take appropriate action in cases of police brutality, even when there is clear and convincing evidence and high public/media interest. Even in this case, in which Schene was criminally charged, he was only charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault. Chances are he will get probation at most if convicted of that charge, and based upon the long history of cops being acquitted for even more heinous acts against the citizenry, it is not even sure that he will be convicted despite the video evidence. However, if convicted in federal court, he will likely be sentenced to federal prison, and caged like the animal he has proven himself to be.