search
top

Good Cops, Bad Cops.

An officer of the Webster, Massachusetts is suddenly an internet star after a video was posted by someone trying to show the officer had a “me, not thee” attitude. Watch for yourself:

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? A cop parked in a handicapped spot? A cop saying he can park and do whatever he wants?

For a moment, put yourself in the position of the officer. You get picked to make a run for food for people at the station and as you are coming out, someone with a camera rolls up on you, giving you a hard time. How would you react?

For us, it would pretty much be like the cop reacted especially since the cop was in the right.

Yep.

The video doesn’t give the whole story and even worse, the cop was parked legally.

Here is a picture of the parking lot:

(image courtesy Webster Police Department)

(image courtesy Webster Police Department)

The arrow shows where the cop was parked. Notice that there are no signs indicating that the spot is for handicapped parking as required by law.

The Webster Police Department’s Facebook page has more of the details:

Webster-PD-FB-post

The officer is still getting a lot of nasty comments because when asked “so you can do whatever you want?” the cop says “yeah…” and the rest of his answer is muffled because the person filming talks over the officer and doesn’t appear to want to hear the answer anyway. But what if the rest of the answer the cop gave is “….within the law, yeah, I can do whatever I want – just like you can.” No one should have a problem with that type of an answer and we certainly don’t have issues with it here.

The bottom line is that someone decided to make a video to make a cop look bad, and in the process, made themselves look like idiots.

Enjoy your BigMac in the blissful knowledge that you were in the right, Officer.


Contrast that officer to the police out in Portland, Oregon.

According to the opinion issued by Judge Diana Stuart, an incident between 16 year old and several officers started this way:

Late on the night of September 14, 2014, Thai Gurule, his older brother and two or three other men were crossing a street in the SI. John’s downtown area of North Portland. None of the men, including the youth, were engaged in any disrupfve, suspicious, or criminal behavior. The court has ruled by way of separate findings and order that the youth were illegally stopped by Officer Betsy Hornstein who frisked at least one, perhaps more of the men. Nothing of concern was discovered.

The officer called for backup and Officers Jiminez and Hughes quickly came to the scene and were joined later by other officers. Thai Gurule turned away and walked up the sidewalk away from Officers Jiminez and Hornstein.

As the youth walked past, Officer Hughes said, “Hey” to the youth and when the youth continued, he again said, “Hey” and clapped his hands.

Thai Gurule turned to face Officer Hughes and in an angry or aggressive voice said “Don’t fucking clap your hands at me”. Officer Hughes stepped forward while the youth stepped back.

Both Officer Hughes and Hornstein indicate that they grabbed hold of the youth in an escort or control hold within seconds of the youth’s angry statemen~. Both agree that this was done without warning or other preface.

The situation escalates from there. Gurule is taken to the ground under the premise of “officer safety” as a group of bystanders begins to grow. When Garule doesn’t want to be on the ground after the police have detained (arrested) him for no reason, the cops start beating on him and eventually tazed the 16 year old.

The police “sweep his legs” in order to trip him. They deliver punches to his head and torso. They knee him in the torso repeatedly. The officers describe the scene as a “melee of swinging arms and fists.” One officer says that Gurule attempted to choke her while other accuse Gurule of trying to strike them.

Gurule was charged with:

Count 1 – Assaulting a Public Safety Officer; Count 2 – Attempted Assaulting a Public Safety officer; Count 3 – Resisting Arrest; and Counts 4 and 5 which are both Attempted Strangulation charges. The youth has raised the defense of self-defense pursuant to ORS 161.209.

At Gurule’s trial, the officers testified that Gurule tried to strike them, choke them and assaulted them.

For the officers, there was a huge problem: two people had filmed the encounter. In addition, there was a security camera at a bank that filmed the incident as well. None of the cameras showed what the officers testified to. None of the cameras showed Gurule striking the officers. None of the cameras shower Gurule trying to choke an officer. None of the cameras showed Gurule assaulting anyone.

If anything, Gurule was the victim of an assault by the police.

Judge Diana Stuart’s opinion must be read in order to understand how disgusted she is with the police and the events that led to the arrest and charge of Gurule. She ended up dismissing all charges against Gurule.

That dismissal did not sit well with Daryl Turner, President, Portland Police Association who issued a statement saying:

Late last week, Multnomah County Judge Diana Stuart found Thai Gurule not guilty of resisting arrest in an incident that occurred last September. I am very disappointed with her ruling. What is most discouraging is that when police officers respond to a call, those officers must now be concerned that someone sitting in hindsight, from the safety of a courtroom, will not only question their actions, but also their credibility.

I have sat in many courtrooms involving dozens of cases and have found judges to be fair, credible, professional, and knowledgeable regardless of their final rulings. However, in this case, it was unfair and in conflict with well-established legal principles to question the credibility of the police officers involved in this case based on shaky cell phone video footage filmed from some distance away. Graham v. Connor states that the reasonableness of a use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions as to the amount of force necessary in that particular situation. In other words, the officers’ reasonable perceptions count, not video footage. In this case, the cell phone video footage does not capture the physical struggle from the officers’ perspective, nor does it capture the officers’ reasonable, split-second decision-making and thought processes in tense circumstances.

Judge Stuart’s ruling is disappointing and her statements regarding the credibility of the officers’ statements in this case is cause for concern. As a fact-finder, Judge Stuart may have disagreed with Sergeant Lille and Officers Hornstein and Hughes, but her disagreement with the officers’ actions should not be a mark on their credibility. The officers acted reasonably in tense circumstances, and they clearly articulated the reasons for their actions in their police reports and testimony.

What is also problematic is the uneven playing field that officers now operate under. A civilian charged with a crime, such as Mr. Gurule, is presumed innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, with the national furor surrounding allegations of excessive force, police officers are now presumed guilty of misconduct and must prove that they acted appropriately.

We handle very difficult and dangerous calls for service with the overriding goal of resolving the issue safely and effectively. However, the presumption is that we want to harm the very people we are sworn to serve and protect. That sentiment must end. Not only is it untrue and unfair, it creates an insurmountable obstacle for police officers who simply want to do their jobs.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Assocation

The idea that a judge cannot make a decision on the credibility of a witness – any witness – is ludicrous. Turner seems to think that testimony of police should be taken as gospel. So when there are three independent videos showing the officers at worst lied through their teeth and at best misrepresented what occurred, the judge should accept the testimony of the officers.

Turner is right on the “reasonableness” actions of the officers. However, that “reasonableness” must be based on facts, not faery tales. You cannot say that the actions of the police are “reasonable” when they are allegedly based on Gurule’s swinging and fighting which did not happen.

Turner is also correct that people are presumed innocent. At the same time, police do not and should not enjoy some sort of legal protection above and beyond the average citizen. Judge Stuart did not find that the officers were not credible because they were police. She found them to not be credible because their testimony did not match the testimony of each other and the videos. They were not credible because they did not tell the truth – not because they wear a badge.

We understand that Turner has to try to protect the interests of his union members, but here he has done a great disservice in feeding into the idea that police think they are above the law.


In essence, there are two cases here that illustrate a huge problem in the country. The first case shows that there are people who believe that all police can do nothing right and all officers believe that they are above the law. That isn’t the case.

The second case shows that there are cops who believe that they are in fact above the law and they can do no wrong.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Citizens need to support good officers and good police departments who weed out bad cops. Police need to support citizens and realize their actions are not perfect and deal with those actions accordingly.

Until the two “sides” converge and start making a difference in the way law enforcement and citizens interact, we are all in for a bumpy ride.



6 Responses to “Good Cops, Bad Cops.”

  1. Lee says:

    The arrow on the photo is pointing at the wrong space. The police officer was parked on the space to the left of that one — which is still not technically an accessible space. It was ONCE. You can see faded blue pictogram in it. But there is no sign posted on front of it. And here is another clue: it’s narrower than the one clearly marked as accessible. The ADA was revised a couple of years ago and one of the major changes involved parking spaces. Spaces are STILL in the process of being changed. But usually they just leave the old spaces alone.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lee,

      I am going to disagree with you on this. If you look at this image that is 49 seconds into the video, the diagonal lines of the parking spot are under the officer’s feet on the driver’s side of the car.

      If the cop is parked to the space to the left of the arrow as you believe, those lines are not going to be on the driver’s side / left of the car. If anything, the officer might have parked in the space to the right of the arrow, but that doesn’t line up with the background of the building.

      Thanks for the comment, but we disagree.

      • Lee says:

        Viewing or again, you’re right. But either way, neither space is an accessible space any longer.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Lee,

          Thanks. I felt pretty confident on the location of the space. I had debated the issue with someone who could charitably be called a “cop hater.” He finally saw the same thing I was seeing and then said “but the cop was wrong to have an attitude.” An attitude of what? Someone wrongfully accusing the cop of breaking the law? The cop should stand there and say “thank you fine citizen. I will accept your rebuke and will correct my non-illegal parking in the future?”

          With some people you cannot win.

          We both agree and have agreed from the start that neither the originally cited spot or the second spot you showed are designated handicapped accessible. We are not a big fan of the ADA because while the original intention was good, the law has seems to have lost its way a bit which has made it difficult, if not impossible, for businesses (especially small businesses) to be compliant in all things related to the ADA.

          It also doesn’t help that the standards keep changing with no regards to the costs forced upon small businesses.

          In our opinion, this is one of those laws that should be ditched and started again from a blank sheet of paper.

          Thanks for the comment.

          A. Afterwit.

          • Lee says:

            In construction, it is generally considered as “guideline” which does not (or at least is not supposed to) have the same force of a “code.” And if you try to get a definitive answer from the DOJ ADA people on an interpretation, they will not really give you one. It’s in places like California where it’s become essentially a code. And people have set themselves up as ADA consultants. Where I used to live, there was one guy who’d burst on on your construction project and threaten a suit if your were not compliant with every tittle and jot of ADA. (Even if it were not required according to the actual ADA!)

            It should not be used as a cudgel to destroy businesses. And yet, it is. So, I agree with you that out should be ditched and start over.

  2. ugly4126 says:

    Thank you for this post. As a 27 year veteran of urban law enforcement, I am very aware that the police will only have the trust of the public if we are trustworthy. While the “tiny minority” argument regarding police misconduct is true, we as members of law enforcement make the problem as big as it is by our silence. Kudos to the Webster PD for defending the proper actions of their officer, and shame on the Portland Police Association for defending the indefensible. We, the men and women of law enforcement, must be constantly reviewing our own actions, immediately and vigorously removing those unfit to stand with us.

    I believe that law enforcement is a noble profession. The nobility comes from selfless service. We know that we give up some of our rights while in uniform- you can’t disturb the peace of an officer on duty – but it is in that sacrifice that we truly serve. When we become arrogant in our use of power, when we think that power is ours and not the people’s, the corrosive nature of power becomes evident. Those of us who wear the badge must be constantly on guard against this, or we become thugs with badges.

    Many departments and individual officers are working hard to remove those unfit among us, and to change the culture of our profession. Thank you for recognizing that, and thank you also for reminding us that we can and do occasionally fail. We must constantly work to be worthy of the public trust.

top