Many people defend police brutality by saying that cops have a tough job to do and sometimes catching the bad guys requires a little roughness. But while policing is a difficult job, that does not excuse the above-the-law mentality fueling the all too frequent and unnecessary police violence we see. A lack of accountability is at the heart of the police brutality problem and is readily apparent when you look at the scads of videos of police officers abusing suspects who are in jail lock-ups awaiting charges or prosecution. When suspects are in lock-up, the legal system should take over and decide who deserves to be prosecuted or punished and what the punishment, if any, should be. But with alarming frequency, some police officers violently assault suspects in jail or holding cells. This is inexcusable misconduct inflicted on people who are already captive and at the mercy of the government. It is also violence committed in a place that officers are well aware is monitored by video cameras. This brazen brutality shows just how above-the-law abusive cops believe they are.
In the disturbing video below, a muscular Cook County (Chicago) officer, Branden Norise, punches a suspect, beats him to the ground and – after the man curls to a fetal position – kicks him in the head repeatedly. The abuse was egregious enough that the Cook County Sheriff referred the case to the State’s Attorney, but charges against the officer were never brought. Three years later, Norise is still on the job with a taxpayer-funded salary of $57,000. It’s no wonder some officers feel above the law – many times, they are.
Loevy & Loevy client Sayyid Qadri was abused in lock-up by a slightly savvier group of police officers. Evanston (Illinois) police officers pulled Quadri into a bathroom stall to attack him, knowing that the stall was the only place in the entire police station not monitored by video cameras. Fortunately for Mr. Qadri, the station’s cameras captured images of him being pushed into the stall, of several officers entering the stall, while others stood outside and watched, and of Mr. Qadri eventually leaving the stall covered in blood from a wound that later required six stitches. The video then shows an officer slamming Mr. Qadri against a wall and choking him near the bathroom while his hands are cuffed behind his back.
In cases like these, police abuse of suspects reveals the officers’ utter disregard for the law or people’s civil rights. This type of brutality is never about safety or capturing a suspect – the abuse victims are already locked up. It is about violently asserting authority and demanding submission. Because abuse in jail lock-ups is typically committed by officers who patrol the streets (as opposed to prison guards), it provides unique insight into how street officers think about police brutality. The take-away appears to be that these officers believe that the slightest provocation justifies asserting their dominance with extreme violence. And the officers do so without fear of repercussions because there is almost never any accountability.
I am hoping that this issue particularly resonates with readers because, while abuse of prisoners is always wrong, the people in lock-up have not even been convicted of a crime. Often they are there for some minor issue or even a mix up, like a traffic problem or a mistaken belief that there’s an outstanding warrant. I and several of my colleagues have been held in lock-up (my colleagues for participating in political protests, myself for a curfew violation – driving after 10 p.m. at age 16). It really does not take much to find yourself in this lawless world where you can be beaten senseless, or worse, for not sufficiently submitting to the officers’ dominance. The vicious police brutality in lock-ups is a harsh reminder that to tackle police brutality, we have to have more accountability. The Constitution protects all of us, and if our society lets the government and police get away with violating it because we think that “those” people deserve it, what is to stop the government from turning that power on us when given the opportunity? No one should be subjected to police brutality.