Reason.tv: Radley Balko on the 3 Worst Cases of Police Abuse in 2011

Due to the violence depicted and discussed in this video, viewer discretion is advised.

The 1991 beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department, which came to light after being caught on video by a citizen trying out a video camera, ushered in a new age of transparency and openness when it comes to law enforcement.

Since then, sound and vision from any number of sources - including cell-phone cams and pocket recorders, not to mention footage shot by police themselves - have captured law enforcement in action in a wide range of circumstances. Sometimes, the footage exonerates the police and sometimes it incriminates them. Always, though, we as citizens gain from having a better sense of how law enforcement operates, even (or especially) when what we see is hugely disturbing.

Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie talked with Reason columnist Radley Balko, proprietor of The Agitator and a long-time student of the increasing militarization of police. We asked Balko to talk about what he thinks are the three most-schocking videos of police abuse that have come to light so far in 2011.

Ironically, Balko notes that widespread video of police at work gives rise to the misimpression that such violent abuse is on the rise. In fact, police are almost certainly more respectful of civil liberties than they were 50 or 60 years ago. He argues that it's precisely because citizens and watchdogs (including many with the law enforcement community) have more tools at their disposal to ferret out abuse that better practices are being employed.

Approximately 5.30 minutes. Shot and edited by Josh Swain, with camera assists by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

For longer videos of the incidents shown in the interview, go here (Utah police kill a man brandishing a golf club); here (Seattle police shoot and kill homeless man); and here (Michigan police caught on tape discussing unwarranted seizer of musician's equipment).

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel for automatic notifications when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    including many with the law enforcement community

    Within?

  • ||

    Here's why we never get convicted even when you to video tape us beating someone:

    There really is no "abuse" by law enforcement, the law allows us to use force as necessary to enforce the laws we in government make. It is you people who must submit to us when we are enforcing the laws, even if a few bruises are the result.

    Try doing to us what we do to you every day and we will imprison you for decades.

    http://youareproperty.blogspot.....ality.html

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Hmm, the blogwhores seem to have realized they can use (the abomination of) threaded comments to get their links to the top.

  • Government Man||

    You'll be losing those guns of yours soon enough; maybe 1 or 2 more crises and we’ll be taking them by force. Only we in government can be trusted to use guns for government authorized violence.

  • ||

    You're forgetting one thing Einstein...the thousands of military vets who are thoroughly trained to fight the enemy. Even if it wears a badge.

  • blogho||

    Who you callin a Ho?

  • ||

    Due to the violence depicted and discussed in this video, as well as the certainty of your nuts feeling stomped, viewer discretion is advised.

    ftfy

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Win.

  • juris imprudent||

    Like you didn't expect payback for the bikini shot of Andrea Penoyer?

  • Tim||

    Whittling gets you killed?

  • ||

    If I feel like it, yeah.

  • ||

    He was whittling a zip gun. Totally a good shoot.

  • ||

    there's a scene in a (woody allen movie iirc) where he whittles a gun out of a bar of soap to make an escape from prison. it's raining, and he ends up being caught when he is holding a bunch of suds in his hand as the gun dissolves

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    "Take the Money and Run."

    He also writes a holdup note and hands it to the teller, who reads it out loud - "I have a gub." "What's a gub?" She says to him. He then gets into a big argument with her about whether it says "gun" or "gub." She calls the security guard over, who agrees it looks like "gub."

  • ||

    thanks. that's it. great movie. haven't seen it since i was a kid. that and sleeper were my introduction to woody allen.

  • Pip||

    If you whittle outdoors, then yeah.

  • Will Munny||

    Deserve's got nuthin' to do with it.

  • ||

    this was SUCH an obvious bad shoot. even SPD called it a bad shoot right from the beginning, and the guy resigned pretty quickly before he could get fired.

    this shooting was a complete travesty.

  • Pip||

    So is the fucker in jail, Officer Asscunt?

  • ||

    the prosecutor could not charge him under WA law. WA RCW forbids prosecution of police officers for using deadly force (note: does not apply to non-deadly force) unless the state can prove he did not act in good faith. it provides a heavy burden for prosecution

    if you believe in rule of law, then there is no way you can prosecute this guy for this shooting. otoh, either citizen intitiative or the legislature could repeal the law.

    RCW 9a.16.040
    "A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section."

    iow, the state must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) MALICE and that the officer did not have a good faith belief that his force was justified.

    i went to the inquest. there is little doubt about two things

    1) the shooting was not justified
    2) there is no way in this case to show (i think it's not even likely, let alone can it be disproven beyond a reasonable doubt) that this officer did not act in good faith and acted with malice.

    he resigned prior to being fired, and he'll be sued. but there is no criminal case under the state's laws

  • Dr. Q||

    "[T]he state must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) MALICE and that the officer did not have a good faith belief that his force was justified."

    He charged at a man from behind for no reason and shot him in the back five times. Case closed.

  • ||

    If it was a bad shoot then the pos committed a crime and should be in jail. Not working in another jurisdiction where he is free to shoot some else.

  • ||

    this is not true. you clearly don't understand law, the difference between civil and criminal burdens, etc.

    it is entirely possible to get in a bad shoot and it not be a criminal bad shoot.

    those are different standards, and different rules.

    this was CLEARLY not a good shoot. that's what the review board found almost instantaneously, it was "pretty" clear by the results of the citizen inquest (although not unanimous) and he resigned before he could be fired.

    however, under RCW 9a.16.040 it was not a CRIMINAL shooting.

    in brief, all criminal shootings are unjustified, but not all unjustified shootings are criminal.

    while that holds true for both non-cops and cops (i have seen nonprosecutable citizen shoots that were successfully sued), in WA state, there is an even higher burden to prove in cop shootings

    it's a two tiered system, and IF you believe in rule of law, you respect that the law needs to be changed

  • ||

    I believe in "Equal Protection Under the Law" not the two tiered system that protect murdering gangsters because they wear a government issued clown suit. I hope this guys family takes that fucker to court, as well as the city and deparmtent, and fucks them real good. Then hires a graduate of the school of the americas to teach that mother fucker about pain.

  • ||

    that's fine, but then it is still a requirement to change the law. i was actually surprised when i moved here that this WAS the law in WA state. never been in a state that had such a law.

    it doesn't apply to NONdeadly force, only to deadly force.

    regardless, it can be repealed via citizen initiative, so that's probably the easiest route.

    the point is that satterberg made the correct decision under the law, which he is duty bound to follow.

    they did recently charge some cop up in sno county in regards to a shooting.

  • ||

    He was charged, and then found not guilty. Another travesty imho.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....ng27m.html

    I agree that under the law, Birk couldn't be charged criminally and that the law needs to change....but DAMN! The knife wasn't even in the open position.

    If someone is that frightened, they would have a much more enjoyable career as a flower arranger.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    If it was not a "good shoot," then he was not justified or excusable in killing the guy, then he killed the guy unjustifiably and in excusably. If it were anyone other than a police officer, the shooter would be up on criminal charges. Why should the fact that the shooter was wearing a badge and representing local government give him a get out of jail free card? He killed a guy, under circumstances found to not justify or excuse the killing.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Well, its okay because it only applies to deadly force. That way the cops have an incentive to kill and not merely injure.

  • ||

    more idiocy from VGO. who doesn't realize that "deadly force" is not determined by a results analysis, but a process analysis.

    if you shoot at somebody, that's deadly force REGARDLESS of whether you die.

    see: use of force continuum

    you really are an idiot.

    if a cop shoots somebody, that's a use of DEADLY FORCE.

    it does not matter whether somebdy is killed or not

    to contrast, if he pepper sprays the guy, that is not considered deadly force, even if the guy stumbles into traffic and gets hit by a bus and dies.

    i have never in my entire time posting here actually called somebody an idiot

    but you qualify.

    congrats

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    And your rebuttal just proves my point. The cops have an incentive to kill (use a gun) and not merely injure (use pepper spray).

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Due to the violence depicted and discussed in this video, viewer discretion is advised.

    What are we, children? What's next; warnings that certain descriptions might be 'triggering'?

  • Sudden||

    This video might trigger one seizure.... the seizure of ReasonTV's film equipment under asset forfeiture laws.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    "seizer"??

  • Police to Balko||

    We're really, really sorry we confiscated your pot in high school. Please stop already.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I'm kind of curious if there is a story behind Balko's journalism focus on cops. He does kind of look like a cop.

  • ||

    When the bad grammar and misspelled words overshadow the intent of the article itself, you know it's time to hire a proofreader.

  • ||

    good cops support videotaping. it protects the good cops, and helps convict the bad cops.

    for example, the videotape of the jaywalker/assault/punch episode actually exonerated the cop , even though some people thought it looked excessive.

    otoh, it's helped expose the bad force incidents.

    win/win

  • ||

    Answer Pip's question about the scum-shit that shot the whittler. Or are you in actuality and Ass-Cunt?

  • ||

    i did answer his question. under the law, in WA state, he cannot be prosecuted for this shooting. satterberg came to the correct conclusion. refer to it.

  • ||

    I can only hope that some good citizen will bring some "Natural" justice to this murdering piece of shit. If you can't get "justice" in court get it the old fashioned way. Make this fucker wake up on fire.

  • ||

    your lack of respect for rule of law is telling.

  • ||

    I respect the rule of law, i have no respect for jack-booted thugs that think they are better than the little people. When the law is stacked to let one class of people get away with shit then there is no law. Only the brutal struggle for survival.

  • ||

    i'm not aware that former officer birk thought anything of the sort. i'm just aware that he shot that guy w/o justification.

    but under WA law, he could not be charged based on the fact pattern

    the law CAN be changed, but whinging about it on the internet won't do it

  • ||

    Are you SPD or not, dude? I want to know if you're going to pull me over on Aurora and beat the shit out of me.

  • ||

    epi, we've had this conversation before. i am NOT going to tell you which agency i work for. considering i have never, in 20+ yrs, had a use of force complaint though (and have been involved in all sorts of force from deadly force on down), you can be reasonably confident i won't beat you up. that's not how i roll

  • Tim||

    If anything you like abuse, it's the only thing you get here.

  • ||

    hey, it's the internet. the flame wars we used to have on usenet make this look like nothin'

  • ||

    Right, and yet he still shows respect to others. Some hide behind the government and others the anonymity of the internet.

    Hey let's just pick on the guy is willing to actually dialogue and not only that is right about the rule of law. Right now we have government as it is and cursing the darkness is never an effective tool for change.

    I could understand if dunphy came in like a self-righteous punk but he doesn't, and it's really tiring to see so many whining children who are more intent on tearing people down than actually engaging in dialogue to use persuasion.

    Non agression my arse.

  • ||

    You can't even say if you're SPD? Come on, dude.

  • ||

    As bad as SPD is, King Co. sheriffs are the real bullies of the region. If you're worried about an ass kicking, those are the guys to avoid.

  • ||

    The facts are this:
    Cops are an occupying enemy force.
    Cops lie.
    Cops shit on people's rights.
    Cops are too cowardly to join the military and face a real enemy force...it's too easy for them to prey on the sheep.
    Cops are your enemy.
    Everyone hates cops.

  • Tim||

    There's an i-phone ap for avoiding that, no?

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    i did answer his question. under the law, in WA state, he cannot be prosecuted for this shooting. satterberg came to the correct conclusion. refer to it.

    That's a bullshit answer. If the answer is, "well, that's what the law says," then the correct answer is "the law is an ass."

    Do you personally agree that that law and that result is correct, fair, justified, equitable, whatever? Just because the guy was a cop, he can make an "oopsie" and kill a guy and then walk? Under circumstances in which anyone not a cop would be up on criminal charges? Anyone other than a cop would not get a Mulligan like this guy did.

  • ||

    no, i do not PERSONALLY agree with the law. several morons (not you) on this thread have made that assumption since they can't tell the difference between a legal explanation, in response to a question vs.a normative analysis.

    imo, LOTS of law are incorrect, unfair and shitty.

    i don't think VAWA is just. i don't think felony shoplifters should lose their right to carry a firearm. i don't agree that drug users should be thrown in jail

    NONE of that is relevant to legal analysis, which is what i was giving.

    for fuck's sake, at least you have the intelligence to ask a question, instead of assuming an answer w/no evidence, even if you preceded it with "that's a bullshit answer".

    it was a proper answer GIVEN the question

  • Lousy Gregory Smith Fake||

    Shit happens. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. These officers are putting their lives on the line out there for freedom while potsmoking libertarian liberals stab them in the back.

    LIBERALS INTERFERE WITH HEROIC LAW ENFORCEMENT HEROES AGAIN
    repubs4slavery.blogspot.com/2011/03/hit-him-again-who-cares-if-he-is-unconscious

  • Sudden||

    Top notch spoofing. I give 9.5/10. Or two severed thumbs of Afghan teenage civilians up!

  • ||

    Says the coward. Anyone who spews bullshit such as this needs to have his or her stupid ass carted off to one of the -stan countries to see how a real enemy fights back. You're pushing your luck jackass. Pull that shit with me and I'll show you some MMA moves on your face. Sickening that people like you exist. You have no right to live in a free nation, move to China scumbag.

  • ||

    btw, great (the real) dunphy post i just read in regards to LAPD's new policy...

    Los Angeles Police Department officers manning sobriety checkpoints will no longer, as a matter of department policy, impound cars driven by unlicensed drivers. That is unless the unlicensed driver is a United States citizen or lawful resident, in which case he can say adios to his car for 30 days, as authorized by California law …

    The change in policy was announced last week by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who called it a question of “fairness” …

    The new rules, Beck said, were an attempt to mitigate somewhat “the current reality, which is that for a vast number of people, who are a valuable asset to our community and who have very limited resources, their ability to live and work in L.A. is severely limited by their immigration status.”

  • ||

    So, if you are an illegal alien driving without a license, you get waved on down the road.

    If you are an actual citizen, though, they take your car.

    And this is "fairness" in action.

  • wayne||

    How is such a policy constitutional, equal protection and such?

  • ||

    there is an SPD cop who commented on similar double standards in the SPD's guild newspaper. when the public, especially the mayor found out, they wanted the guy fired. for expressing his viewpoints about public policy.

    shows you the respect "liberals" have for the 1st amendment.

    google the story. it's out there. the guy made a very libertarian argument, opposing seattle's "social justice" policies and was vilified by the mayor, etc. who said he should not be working for their PD. seriously.

    fwiw, the guy has worked a diverse neighborhood for years with exactly ZERO complaints, as pointed out in several articles. but his viewpoints are verboten in the seattle archipelago

  • ||

    FTP

  • Poppin' Caps lock||

    And the worst part is that we're only one-quarter of the way through 2011.

  • ||

    he resigned prior to being fired

    Something tells me the union will fight tooth and nail to get him his pension.

    Way to tow the thin blue lion, scumphy.

  • ||

    something tells me you have no idea what you are talking about. as a WA cop, he paid into the LEOFF-II system. as a rookie, with no vesting etc. he will get out exactly as much as he put into the system which was mandatorily taken out of his paycheck, and nothing more. and he will have to pay taxes on it, since it was taken out pre-tax.

    and please tell me what "line i towed". i said from the very outset -

    IT WAS A BAD SHOOT

    but don't let your kneejerk bigotry get in the way of facts

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    and please tell me what "line i towed".

    You're hiding behind "but it's the laaaaaw." If you don't think this guy should be in jail, then you support gunning down unarmed people on the street. As BSR said upthread: Do you personally agree that that law and that result is correct, fair, justified, equitable, whatever?

    IT WAS A BAD SHOOT

    If you don't think he should be in jail you clearly don't think it was that bad.

    but don't let your kneejerk bigotry get in the way of facts

    Like the fact that there is a murderer not going to jail? I would have thought you would be for prosecuting killers.

    PS: He never accused you of towing a line.

  • ||

    in a PERFECT world, he should be charged with a crime for what he did. but this isn't a perfect world, it's a world where we must go by the law AS WRITTEN. what he did, in WA state, cannot be charged as a crime under our RCW.

    that's the law.

    i don't think people convicted of felony shoplift should lose their right to carry a firearm. that's a perfect world. it's not the law WE HAVE NOW.

    if you are too dense to understand the difference between legal analysis and "i wish i had a pink unicorn" irrelevant analysis, i don't know what to tell you.

    i was explaining why he was not charged. it wasn't a normative argument. it was a legal analysis

    vs. your wankage

  • ||

    i'm not hiding behind anything. i'm explaining WHY HE HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED, which was the question asked (actually, it was why he wasn't in jail, but even a complete moron should understand that we give people the right to a trial).

    regardless, i never said what i WANTED the law to be. that's your complete and total lack of reading comprehension.

    i commented on why he was not in jail

    fuck, people can';t even read. bigotry combined with idiocy. on toast

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Dude, you spent like 10 posts talking only about the law when everyone else was talking what should have happened to the cop. When you spend that long defending a law's application without saying the law is unjust, don't be surprised when its assumed you support the law.

  • ||

    VGO +1

  • ||

    IT WAS A BAD SHOOT

    Then why the fuck isn't the murdering pig in jail?

    Oh, right- a law insulating cops, no matter how incompetent or malevolent, from the consequences of their most egregious fuck-ups magically appeared on the books, and nobody can do anything about it. Your hands are tied, right?

    How many of your "good" cop buddies spit in that fucking murderer's face?

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    P Brooks, they can be charged. All you have to do is prove is that he acted with malice and forethought. Just the same way the state has to do when charging anyone else. Oh wait, that's not how it works...

    Also, I just looked up malice and wikipedia defines it:

    In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken ... as requiring either:

    1. an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or
    2. recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk of it).

    I'm pretty sure shooting a person qualifies as intending to do harm to them. And firing without properly identifying the target certainly qualifies as reckless about causing the level of harm bullets can do.

  • ||

    ah, nothing better than legal analysis based on a wikipedia lookup... that's the kind of sage legal wisdom i seek from such wonks as "Vermont Gun Owner"

    read satterberg's analysis, and read some of the cites in WA state case law.

    oh wait, that would actually be relevant and make sense. better to rely on wikipedia (rolls eyes)...

  • ||

    there is so much idiocy here, i don't know where to start.

    first of all, the state does NOT have to prove malice in many crimes. in order to criminally charge a public officer in WA state who used deadly force... they do

    second of all, it's not "malice and forethought". lol. what idiocy. it's "malice Aforethought" (emphasis mine) which is a legal term that doesn't even apply here... lol "malice AND forethought"

    seriously. don't post when you have no fucking idea what you are talking about.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    first of all, the state does NOT have to prove malice in many crimes. in order to criminally charge a public officer in WA state who used deadly force... they do

    Fuckin' reading comprehension, how does it work?

    That's the point of "Oh wait, that's not how it works..."

  • ||

    *my* hands aren't tied, because in WA state, cops don't make charging decisions. prosecutors do. given that, THEIR hands are tied because they must (if ethical) follow the law. i didn't fucking write the law.

  • ||

    btw, this post shows the idiocy of the anti-cop bigots. i never once defended what birk did in this shooting. in fact, i called it a "bad shoot" (and did so months ago i might add). i said he could not be charged under the RCW.

    i never once in this thread defended his actions, or said that if the law was just, that he would not be charged. i never commented on the justice of it. i provided legal analysis, in response to queries. and a few of the morons here are such frothing at the mouth bigots, that they read that as me DEFENDING what he did.

    for the umpteenth time

    1) it was a bad shoot
    2) it was not criminally actionable under the RCW

    it does NOT therefore follow (to anybody with a brain and an understanding of analytical reasoning - a tall order for a few here) that i AGREE with the law AS IT IS, or think that given a better law, he should not be charged. imo, his actions SHOULD be criminally chargeable. they are not, though

    hth (to the morons)

  • ||

    for the umpteenth time

    "1) It was murder
    2) it was not criminally actionable under the RCW, but he fucking murdered an old man in cold blood "

    FTFY

  • ||

    Awwww, butthurt troll is butthurt.

    I'm in yr commentz oppressin you.

  • mbt discount||

    good

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