Police Abuse

Tuscaloosa Cops Manhandle, Tase, Beat, and Cuff Students Whose Music Was Too Loud

The police chief says he was "deeply disturbed" by video of the incident.



Responding to a noise complaint early Sunday morning at an apartment building in Tuscaloosa, police ended up arresting three University of Alabama students for harassment, obstruction, and resisting arrest. Those sound like the sort of bullshit charges that cops make up when they have no real justification for hauling people off to jail, and cellphone video of the incident, during which one student was shocked with a Taser and beaten with a baton, tends to confirm that impression.

The students, who apparently were celebrating Alabama's victory over LSU in a football game on Saturday, turned off their music when the police pulled up. You might think that took care of the noise complaint, but the bystander video shows an officer trying to drag a student out of the now-quiet apartment while his friends object. The students are argumentative but nonviolent.

"Please let go of him," says a male student wearing a baseball cap. "You are illegally entering."  

"Don't treat him like that!" says a female student. "Why are you acting like this?…Do you have a warrant?" 

"I don't have to have a warrant," the cop says.

As if to prove that point, the cop and a couple of other officers eventually force their way into the apartment and drag out the three students, throw them to the ground, and handcuff them. The student who gets the Taser and the baton seems to be the one who was pulling away from the cop's grasp as the video began. 

Why was the cop trying to drag that student out? According to the cop, it was because the student grabbed his arm, justifying an arrest for harassment, a misdemeanor that includes touching someone "with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm" him. The student denied touching the cop's arm, and his friends agreed that no arm touching occurred, saying they were confident the video record would confirm that point.

In any case, the harassment allegation appears to have arisen in the context of a home intrusion that was not justified to begin with. It seems that pretext nevertheless begat the additional charges of obstruction and resisting arrest. Alabama's definition of obstruction "is intentionally broad so as to give law enforcement officers ample discretion in their interpretation," notes Steven Eversole, a Birmingham criminal defense attorney. "Arrests for obstruction tend to be made in the heat of the moment. Upon careful review after the fact, there is always the possibility that the arresting officer lacked sufficient grounds for the charge."

A.P. reports that "Chief Steve Anderson of the Tuscaloosa Police Department said he was 'deeply disturbed' by what he had seen in the videos and disappointed in the actions of the officers." Anderson called the incident "a black eye" for the department. The three officers are on paid leave pending an investigation by the department's internal affairs division.

"I respect your authority, but you are not allowed in my apartment," the student wearing a baseball cap told the cop who grabbed his friend. "You are not respecting my authority," the officer replied, and one suspects that was the real issue all along.

NEXT: Extracting Useless Symbolic Climate Confessions from Fossil Fuel Purveyors

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.

  1. No video, no investigation. Simple as that. A new age is dawning.

    1. Some might call it a…libertarian moment?


    2. A new age of excuses is dawning.

      1. The video only shows what the video shows. Things occurred off-camera or before the video started that justify the officer’s fear for his safety.

      2. Don’t disobey an officer’s order. They are trained to use their authority to control any situation. If you disrespect their authority, the officer is not in control of the situation and fears for his safety.

      3. What video? The batteries of the officer’s personal camera were in need of replacement.

  2. You are not respecting my authority,” the officer replied, and one suspects that was the real issue all along.


    A cop’s authority comes from their law enforcement duties. When there is no crime, then they have no authority. They have power, but no authority. Though in practice there is no difference.

  3. “Deeply disturbed” is the new “part of an ongoing investigation,” isn’t it? It gives the listener the impression that something might be done, when in reality Nothing Else Happens.

    1. ^This. I was just going to post that. Well-done, CS.

      1. I’d have maybe taken the statement seriously except it’s the third or fourth time in the past few weeks a senior officer has made that statement,. Seems like there’s a memo going around advising chiefs what to say during their pressers for heinous officer-involved incidents.

        1. Exactly. The first time it was believable, now it’s just formulaic bullshit.

          1. Believable by “us” that is; the great unwashed masses will believe, or more likely “believe,” these meaningless platitudes until the cops are breaking down their own doors.

            1. It at least adds to the consensus that there is a problem, more so than a chief saying “rules were followed”.

    2. “Deeply disturbed”

      “I’m pissed off that they did this in front of a camera to somebody we don’t have enough dirt on”

  4. If it’s so deeply disturbing, have these cops been arrested for trespassing and harassment?

    1. The “90% of cops that are good” that we always hear about would never stoop to arresting a fellow cop for breaking the law.

      1. There are no good cops. There are only criminal cops and their accomplices.

      2. The good cop is the one who administers prompt medical attention before the victim bleeds out.

        Like unicorns, they have never been seen on camera, and are considered extinct by most intelligent people.

  5. The chief pleaded for patience. “This investigation does not move at the speed of the Internet,” he said. “With a little bit of patience, we’re going to get there. We’re going to do everything we can to rebuild the public trust.”

    “Do not be afraid of calling the Tuscaloosa Police Department,” he said. “Do we always get it right? No, but there’s no need to fear us or fear our officers.”

    Anderson said if a police officer knocks on your door and you come to the door, it becomes a consensual contact. However, he said, “No the officer cannot just go in.”

    The video begs to differ on that last point.

    1. “Do we always get it right?”

      Dude, you’re supposed to always get it right. That’s part of the deal that comes with being able to threaten someone with a gun. That’s exactly why people fear you and your officers.

      It’s time to rethink the whole state-sanctioned-monopoly-on-the-use-of-force. Thought the same thing when I read the earlier story about the rancher who got shot for basically daring to usurp a couple of jacked-up cops who thought they are the only people on God’s green earth who have the training/right/authoritah/whatever to empty their clips in a frenzied off-target volley that fails to put down a suffering cow.

      1. When Amazon gets it wrong, I don’t get my shit in 2 days. When the cops get it wrong, I get beaten and tased.

        And they wonder why people don’t like them.

        Or shot because I know how to put down a wounded critter mercifully.

        1. When Amazon gets it wrong, I don’t get my shit in 2 days. When the cops get it wrong, I get beaten and tased.

          Positively lyrical and poetic! If only it weren’t so depressingly true, but then again that’s what I thought about pretty much every poem I had to read in every English class I took. Maybe it would sound better if Ice-T rapped it. Or was it Ice Cube? I don’t know, I always get the Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogs confused.

        2. And amazon apologizes and tries to make restitution.

    2. “Anderson said if a police officer knocks on your door and you come to the door, it becomes a consensual contact.”

      Let me guess: if a police officer knocks on your door, and you refuse to answer, that’s termed “suspicious behavior”.

    3. Anderson said if a police officer knocks on your door and you come to the door, it becomes a consensual contact.

      The resident asked the officer to leave. I don’t know how you could think the contact was consensual after that.

  6. “We’re going to do everything we can to rebuild the public trust.”

    Meaning that the investigation will find that the cops didn’t do anything wrong. If it found that they did to something wrong, then public trust might suffer. They can’t go around firing police officers and charging them with crimes, because then their hiring practices might come into question. Can’t allow that. So no matter what they do, it will always be justified. It’s twisted logic, but it’s what they believe.

    1. Chief Anderson is likely a political animal and might actually be aware enough to see how badly things go for those who badly handle recorded misbehavior that’s been made public. It’s also possible he does actually pride himself on staying out of the spotlight, but I don’t think that’s the case or else his officers would be better trained to show professionalism and how not to escalate benign encounters.

      1. If he fires the cops for behaving badly, then on the one hand he looks good for not allowing behavior like that from his officers, but on the other hand he is responsible for allowing them on the force in the first place. So if he fires them, then one may wonder how many other bad cops there are on the force. If he finds what they did to be justified, then not only is he not responsible for allowing bad cops onto the force, but there’s no need to ask if there are any more. Public trust will be restored.

    2. Meaning that the investigation will find that the cops didn’t do anything wrong procedures were followed.



  7. They did it to protect him.

  8. The officer escalates the situation as soon as his backup is in sight. The responding officers then have no ability to independently assess the situation because a brother is involved in a physical confrontation and the pack mentality kicks in. This officer is a pussy.

    1. Just this one, you think?

    2. In a just world, when the backup appeared, one of them would have pulled the pussy cop away and deescalated the situation. One would have talked to the first cop, another would have calmed down the residents.

      But noooooooooo….

      All the Barney Fifes just jumped on and started pummeling people with no idea of what they had done. Simply because their brother cop was screeching.

      1. Officer safety is rule number one. And two. And three for that matter.

  9. Private Police, a libertarian pipedream.

  10. “You are not respecting my authority,” the officer replied…

    I think this whole thing was a setup to get the cop to actually say that line on camera.

    1. It does seem a little too perfect, doesn’t it?

  11. one important question – what kind of music were the students playing?

    If it was Nickelback, then not enough force was used.

  12. ‘Harassment of touching my arm’ – This cop should join the protesters at Yale. He seems to have the same desire for victimization.

    1. Indeed. Nobody believes in “safe space” more than cops.

    2. Does seem like a bullshit trumped-up charge, like contempt of cop, doesn’t it? I mean how many nut-punch stories have we read here when an actual touch to the sacrosanct body of Johnny Law turns into “I feared for my life and emptied my clip, and the perp who assaulted me was struck by three of the fifteen bullets fired by my service weapon from two feet away.”

  13. Wait, they’re not black. How could this happen? Should it be #civilianlivesmatter?

    1. Cops are civilians. They’ve just forgotten that.

  14. If and its a BIG if, the student assaulted the cop, the cop would have the right to ‘pursue’ across the threshold of the doorway to arrest

    Generally speaking, a cop would not have AUTHORITAH to enter w/o a warrant for a loud stereo w/o consent and it appears it wasn’t in progress anyway

    In most jurisdictions this would be a ‘past occurred infraction’ (the noise) although in some it could be a past misdemeanour

    Either way the latter usually only justified citation not custodial arrest since its a past misdemeanours which are only arrests orbit they statutorily are arrest able via PC (some are most aren’t

    Simple solution

    In my jurisdiction we NEVER force entry

    If people refuse entry AND maintain the noise – we get a telephonic warrant

    If they turn it down – it’s a warning

    If they refuse, and we have to get a warrsnt – its a arrest

    Word gets around and we get compliance from then on

    I’ve had to do 2 of these warrants in 20+ yrs

    99% will comply and turn it the fuck down

    The grapevine is remarkably effective when people spread the word – don’t comply and you get forcible entry – WITH warrant

    Again, if they turn it down we don’t give a flying fuck whether they allow entry

    It’s when they refuse to turn it down That we get a warrant

    I played in a band at UCSB and the cops were totally cool but excessive force is not justified just because a guy is an assmunch

    My friends band acted like ass jackets and got a citation AND their power amp seized

    1. Ah, so the cops stole their amp. Typical.

  15. It is stupid, even for a reasonoid bigot to claim no video no investigation

    The overwhelming # of iiu investigations occur without video as so suspensions and firing

    Video makes it more likely the guilty will be punished but this is true of all investigations

    Video fucking RULES because it makes it more likely the guilty will be punished AND more likely the innocent are exonerated

    Polls show slightly more than 2/3 of cops want bodycams

    It’s all going to come down to the arm grabbing claim

    IF the guy did so, it will justify entering and dragging the guy out

    If not – nope

    If my arm was grabbed and he retreated inside I would still get a warrant

    The problem would he if I couldn’t identify the perp by name, you would have to apply for a search (not solely arrest) warrant to enter the house to search for the non-id’d

    That’s a hard warrant because it’s a lot to ask to enter a private residence to search for

    Home – castle

    And cops would have to waste manpower surround the house so they could show he was still present

    Better to just write the report and if you see the guy later- ID him

    Not satisfying to impatient cops who want instant justice but it’s prudeht

    it’s not worth forcing entry for a misdemeanor (and in my jurisdiction you can’t hot pursue into a residence for a ‘minormisdemeanor’

    But in most states- yea

    evrn with s DUI where they run in the house – better to get a warranT

    Prudence and restraint are good

    1. “Not satisfying to impatient cops who want instant justice but it’s prudeht”

      The last thing any cop wants is justice. It wouldn’t end well for them.

    2. Did you ever consider you might be too close, too inside to objectively see what generally goes on in law enforcement with regard to accountability?

  16. I wonder if any of the three offending officers proudly served in Iraq.

  17. BREAKING: They’ve taken the preemptive step of naming the officers involved.

  18. Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”
    and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

  19. I understand that sometimes students could be too loud but that is not the reason to beat them. You could notify them that in case they aren’t calm down you would call the police but having them beaten that is not the solution of the problem. Besides, we could give them the example that issues could be solved calmly with only your tongue and understandable speech initiated. If they are tired from their education and hard studying days they could select college papers writing service to get assistance with their college papers and re4lax in calm quite atmosphere but not taking part in loud parties that cause troubles.

  20. The cops show up to a noise complaint and make more noise than the original reason for the complaint. Sweet. I bet the neighbors regret making that call.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.