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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Imagine the Public Outrage Had Officer Faust Punched a Dog in the Eye

Posted by on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 8:58 AM

The Seattle Times this morning features an above the fold story on Rosie, the beloved family dog that was cruelly chased, tased, and shot dead by Des Moines police, with no apologies. It's a pretty awful tale, and I certainly wouldn't trust these officers to treat me humanely if this is how they treat a dog.

But there's nothing on the front page about the dash-cam video of Leo Etherly's police beating, which while certainly not, as Etherly's lawyer described it, "the worst video I’ve ever seen of police misconduct," is arguably yet another example of excessive use of force, and one that may have resulted in permanent injury to the victim.

So why the front page focus on police abuse of Rosie the dog rather than Leo the suspected hit-and-run perpetrator? I'm guessing because a black Newfie with a "sweet disposition" is a helluva lot more sympathetic than a Black man with rap sheet. And cuter. Just look at that picture.

One of these days a Seattle Police officer will beat the crap out of—or kill—the wrong victim. Instead of a young black man or a drunken Indian or an anarchist occupier or some bag of Mexican piss, they'll target a professional class "family man" who due to some strange confluence of circumstances is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time wearing the wrong clothes. Unaccustomed to the rules of engagement, perhaps this man will say the wrong thing, or instinctively flinch when the officer first comes at him, a motion that officers will interpret as aggressive or resisting arrest or whatever it is that they think gives them the license to repeatedly punch a suspect in the face while he is being helplessly restrained by two other officers.

And then, rather than just mulling over the "culture" of the SPD, or the political ramifications for Mayor Mike McGinn, perhaps the public will express a little genuine outrage.

When it comes to abusive police behavior, what I've seen in Seattle is nothing compared to what I saw in Philadelphia during the Frank Rizzo era and beyond. It can get a lot worse. And unless we address the SPD's pattern of recklessly escalating such incidents, it inevitably will.


Comments (32) RSS

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Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 1
Or an octopus, god forbid. The whole theory that Seattle's cops are violent and racist because they live in the suburbs is just smug Seattle's way of denying they have a problem.

The people of Seattle don't care all that much when a brown person is assaulted by the police we employ. We care about animals and we want to legalize pot and we stay up nights worrying about the rights of bicyclists. But non-white victims of police brutality? Seattle does not care.

It shouldn't come as a surprise. It's not like there is some magic rule that says Seattle is immune to racism. White people across America are, on balance, kind of racist. Seattle is full of white people; more than most American cities. Therefore, racism. Simple.

The only thing that makes Seattle different is the white population's unrealistic self-regard.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on November 28, 2012 at 9:07 AM · Report this
sperifera 2
Please tell me that you're referring to someone from India when you use the term drunken Indian.
Posted by sperifera on November 28, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Jesus.@2. Enough pc patrolling already.
Posted by Drun unken euromutt on November 28, 2012 at 9:32 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 4
Imagine the outrage if a Dog were caught selling crack!
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 28, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
Goldy 5
@2 I'm inhabiting the mind of the officer in that sentence. That should be obvious.
Posted by Goldy on November 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Lew Siffer 6
If the cops thought I was a burglary supsect, or murderer, I would (sadly) meekly comply and they would quickly (or not) clear up the situation. Resisting arrest is a one way ticket to a bad day. Dumb fuck struggles like a dumb fuck and catches a beating. No sympathy here.
Posted by Lew Siffer on November 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
treacle 7
I've heard L.A. cops were pretty ruthless... beating up suspected gang members in the backs of police cars, then dumping them in enemy gang territory. Wiretapping whomever they want, then surreptitiously passing "leads" from the wiretap department to patrol cops and detectives.

On the flip side, a former gang member friend of mine said when he lived in Chicago they would get up on top of buildings, call the cops to come break up a "gang fight" in the street, then shoot them from the rooftops when they arrived on the street.

Super fucked up. Glad we don't have that happening here so much.

@2, No, he's not referring to someone from India. He's referring to John T. Williams, an American Indian, First Nations carver, who was drunk at the time the cop shot him dead.
Posted by treacle on November 28, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
TVDinner 8
@6: And you're not at all concerned about the precedent of allowing cops to arrest someone who refuses to give his name to them when they had no probable cause?

All right, then. Carry on in your totalitarian state. The rest of us will continue to fight for a better democracy, which includes not allowing the police to terrorize the populace.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Mayor McGinn won't express outrage. Nor will any other city leader. Why would you expect anyone else to be outraged? And why the free pass for McGinn's office who keeps covering for these clowns? Right. Bike lanes and basketball arenas.
Posted by hmmmmm on November 28, 2012 at 9:53 AM · Report this
This is why I don't spend time in the city anymore. I used to do all my Christmas shopping downtown, now it's either Bellevue or online.
Posted by DJSauvage on November 28, 2012 at 10:15 AM · Report this
@8 -- have we established the police have no probable cause for the arrest? If we have, I missed it.
Posted by six shooter on November 28, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Report this
If the police have probable cause for arrest, that gives them the right to do anything, up to and including summary execution. You got a problem with that? File a complaint, we'll get right on it.
Posted by hmmmmm on November 28, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
If Etherly were a dog, with his violent criminal history, he'd be a feral pitbull in which case you'd do a "such nice dogs" posting.
Posted by Hipster on a Fixie on November 28, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Report this
ScienceNerd 14
I'm used to excessive police actions. I grew up in a culture that distrusts police in the neighborhoods. Then I went to Michigan State University in the early 2000s. This was near the end of MSU's reputation of being a party school due to the rioting by students after big football and basketball games in the 90s. The police used to gas the students seemingly each weekend when the bars let out at 2AM. They claimed it was to calm the crowd and usher them home, although gas always seems to have the opposite effect of calm on a crowd. Needless to say, I have a very low view of police and the people who become police anymore. I am hardly surprised these days about brutality reported against the police, it's almost expected at this point.
Posted by ScienceNerd on November 28, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
"I went to Michigan State University"

"I'm used to excessive police actions."

Be careful, your white privilege is showing.
Posted by Go Blue! on November 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Michael of the Green 16
The Seattle Times and Slog's Wednesday Morning News. Or did I miss it?
Posted by Michael of the Green on November 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
long-time reader 17
@6, how meekly would you comply if you'd spent the better part of your life being harassed by the police due to your skin color?

Talk is cheap. Actually remaining calm when a bully with a gun starts shouting at you is harder than it sounds.
Posted by long-time reader on November 28, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
pfffter 18
I'll take my chances with street thugs and dogs any day over my changes with the police. They are the real danger here!

Whenever I do call the cops because of something going on, it takes them 20 - 30 minutes to even show up, when the precinct is a few blocks away. I could walk there 5 times and back in the time it takes one car to make it to the scene in Capitol Hill.

I guess they are too busy beating someone up to find the time to actually do any real police work. Fuckers.
Posted by pfffter on November 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
@18 if u hate cops, next time you get ass raped, call an anarchist to come save you and hold a GA with your rapist and see if you can get a consensus vote that next time you get buggered they at least use KY.

Or be a pussy and call the police.
Posted by Angry white kids! on November 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
@11: With regard to the issue of probable cause - at the arraignment, the court dismissed the hit-and-run charge. At the arraignment, not an evidentiary hearing.

An arraignment is an after-the-arrest/before the trial hearing where they read the charges against the accused, and the accused enters a plea. It also often functions on a hearing on probable cause.

I read the complaint filed by the attorney seeking the public release of the tape, and it indicated that the hit-and-run charge against Etherly was dismissed at the arraignment. That is pretty strong evidence that there was no probable cause to arrest him in the first place.
Posted by karion on November 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Eric Arrr 21

I'm super skeptical of the foundation of that arrest. My mind is open to the possibility of unreported facts, but I can't easily imagine what they might be. From what's on the video, it appears that:

* The victim was not at the scene to ID the driver or the vehicle
* Etherly sure didn't admit to anything
* The plate number supplied by the victim matched a black Mercedes SUV

To that last point, maybe there's a surprise in store. Maybe that black SUV's plates were somehow on the white van. Or maybe the officers noticed the plate number matched except for a transposed digit. But since nothing like that is articulated by them on the video, I remain very skeptical.
Posted by Eric Arrr on November 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM · Report this
pfffter 22
@19 Good morning Officer! Hope you have a nice day beating up the citizenry!
Posted by pfffter on November 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Rotten666 23
Quit making it a race thing. The cops are out of line with everyone in the city. What was the skin color of the kid that got his skull caved in on the wall of the Cinerama?

I figured out fast that the cops in this town were fucked up when I had a cop pull a gun on me FOR DRIVING WITH A HEADLIGHT OUT.
Posted by Rotten666 on November 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
SPG 24
@20, my guess is that they dropped the case because they couldn't completely prove that he was the perpetrator in a case that had brewing charges of excessive force. When the cops get out of line they tend to drop the charges in exchange for not getting sued, or put the case on the shelf indefinitely in the hopes of not getting sued. This is another big reason why we need better trained cops...this bullshit loses cases and makes all of us less safe.
As far as this incident, they were both wrong. The cops didn't need to escalate the situation and the suspect shouldn't have spit in the face of the angriest cop there.
It sucks, but it's not a clear case of police abuse, just an example of bad police work. The punchy cop does need to be reviewed, and probably encouraged to find a different line of work.
Posted by SPG on November 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
@24 - Actually, no. The single best defense the police department has against a wrongful arrest/excessive force charge is showing that they had reasonable suspicion to believe their suspect had committed a serious, violent crime (here, that would have been a hit and run). Dropping the charges is perhaps the surest way to get sued.

In any event, the police didn't drop the charges. The court dismissed them. At an arraignment - which was essentially a probable cause hearing. The police couldn't drop it, and certainly didn't drop the charges because they couldn't "completely prove" anything. The court - not the cops - dismissed the charges because there was no probable cause to sustain even the arrest - which, by the way? IS A VERY LOW THRESHOLD.

Posted by karion on November 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
...they'll target a professional class "family man" who due to some strange confluence of circumstances is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time wearing the wrong clothes.

Counterpoint: well no, they won't.

There are indeed a few rich people who like to dress and behave and like poor people some of the time, but their numbers are so small, compared to the number of actual poor people (they're 99% of the population, I've heard) that the chances of the police accidentally targeting* a rich person due to misidentification are effectively zero.


* I am of course simply accepting, for the sake of argument, Goldy's assumption that the SPD's police brutality problem can be accurately characterized as a series of premeditated attacks on targets fitting some sort of non-rich demographic profile.
Posted by robotslave on November 28, 2012 at 12:29 PM · Report this
@25 -- Are you a lawyer? I imagine there are hundreds of reasons to drop charges at arraignment.

I suppose the whole reason Egan has a copy of this dash cam footage is so he can bring a case before a judge and make these arguments.

Then again, you're a lawyer, right? So there's no question you're right, right?
Posted by six shooter on November 28, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Report this
SPG 28
@25, good points, but in my and my friends experience of bullshit police charges they would always back down right before it was going in front of the judge with a quick deal not to pursue the BS that the cops pulled. These were not major cases, just typical macho cop overreactions to skateboarding or drinking, but when the cops acted too aggressively in the first place or didn't have a provable case, they'd back down in court to let the case get tossed out. It was always the same admonition sue us and we'll bring real charges against you.
Posted by SPG on November 28, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 29
Because the dog didn't spit in a cops face and resist arrest after hitting a cyclist with a van.

Mexican is a Nationality not a "race" people of all colors and numerous cultures live in Mexico.

I guess Goldy doesn't realize this because he is a filthy scumbag racist.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on November 28, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
the idiot formerly known as kk 30
It's not just the cops. Drive-by shooting is perfectly acceptable in Seattle until a white dad gets his ass capped. Then all hell breaks loose and the cops are sweating until they catch the perp.
Posted by the idiot formerly known as kk on November 28, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
venomlash 31
>mfw Goldy never said "Mexican" was a "race"
>mfw I have no face
Posted by venomlash on November 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 32
@8 for the Swashbuckling Hero win.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 28, 2012 at 9:17 PM · Report this

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