Police Abuse

Tackled, Punched, and Cuffed for Sitting on His Mom's Porch

"Relax," says the cop, right before arresting a guy for nothing.

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Greensboro Police Department

The encounter between Travis Cole, a white police officer, and Dejuan Yourse, a black man sitting on the porch of his mother's house in Greensboro, North Carolina, starts calm and friendly but ends with Yourse lying face down on the front lawn, restrained by handcuffs and Cole's knee on his shoulder, complaining that "you tried to beat my ass for real." The senseless escalation of the interaction between Cole and Yourse illustrates how even seemingly mild-mannered cops can be clueless about the indignities they are inflicting on innocent people yet supersensitive to any perceived questioning of their authority. That double standard is compounded by a legal system that fails to hold cops responsible for the crimes they commit when they make bogus arrests.

In the 16-minute body camera video of the incident, which happened last June, it is easy to identify the point at which things start to go south: about eight minutes after Cole arrives with another officer, C.N. Jackson, in response to a report of a possible attempted burglary. That is when Cole pokes Yourse in the chest and orders him to sit back down. Yourse, who has repeatedly suggested that a neighbor named Charlie can verify his identity, is heading for Charlie's house when Cole makes it clear he is not free to go.

Yourse has not done anything illegal, and at no point during the encounter does Cole or Jackson seem to think he might actually be a burglar. "Usually if someone is trying to break into a house, they're not gonna sit on the porch" in broad daylight, Cole notes, and as Yourse points out, "the address is on my ID." Cole says he believes Yourse when he says he is "just sitting here, chillin', waiting on my Moms," who has the key to the house. Cole even speculates that "somebody outside the cul-de-sac" must have called the police, since anyone who lived nearby would have recognized Yourse. Although Yourse's mother is not answering her cellphone, Cole says it's not necessary to bother the neighbors. "I believe you," he says. "You have your ID. You told me your name. It matches up."

Yet Cole stays and continues to grill Yourse—about his prison tattoos, his possible outstanding warrants (Yourse says he has none), even the pronunciation of his last name. Yourse tolerates it all with a smile. But after Cole prevents him from leaving the porch, he starts to show his irritation. "Why are you doing this?" he asks. "Why are you talking to me like that?" Cole seems genuinely puzzled by Yourse's anger at being treated like an intruder on the porch of the house where he grew up. "Dejuan, relax," he says. "What's going on? I didn't do nothing." Yourse responds, "I didn't do nothing either." Cole wonders why "you seem a little animated," as if there must be some explanation other than the treatment he is receiving from Cole. "I'm just trying to prove to you I live here," Yourse says, "and you start looking at me like I'm lying." He says he is upset because "a cop is on me in my own house, and I ain't did nothing."

Maddeningly, Cole does not seem to get it. In his mind, he has been patient and understanding, so there is no reason for Yourse to be upset. So when Yourse calls a friend (or maybe a relative) to complain that "the police is over here, and they're harassing me," Cole loses it. He tries to grab the phone, Yourse objects, and Cole orders him to stand up so he can be handcuffed. Cole ends up tackling Yourse on the porch, punching him in the face, and handcuffing him behind his back. Yourse insists that he's not resisting, so there is no need for violence, and Cole says "you were resisting the whole time." When Yourse asks why Cole suddenly decided to handcuff him, the officer says "you can't use the phone and call people and say get over here." On the way to the police car, finding Yourse insufficiently submissive, Cole tackles him again and kneels on him while Jackson tells him to "be an adult." To which Yourse replies, "What about you?"

Yourse was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Those charges were dropped, presumably after Cole's superiors had a look at the body cam footage. The Washington Post reports that "an internal affairs investigation, which was completed on Aug. 30, found that Cole violated the Greensboro Police Department's rules on use of force, courtesy toward the public, arrest, search and seizure, and compliance with laws and regulations." Cole quit the department in the midst of the investigation, and Jackson resigned last week, but no criminal charges have been filed against Cole—a decision that the police chief, city attorneys, and the Greensboro City Council recently urged prosecutors to reconsider.

"It's because he didn't commit a crime," Chief Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann told the Greensboro News & Record last week. "I'm confident that's what the law says. To charge him would be a violation of my role as a prosecutor." The News & Record paraphrased Neumann as saying "law enforcement officers are entitled to use whatever force they think is necessary to arrest somebody they reasonably believe has committed a crime." And what crime did Cole reasonably believe Yourse had committed? According to Neumann, "Cole decided he was going to place this guy under arrest for obstruction."

It's not clear exactly what Yourse supposedly obstructed or how he obstructed it, but apparently it had something to with his phone call, his refusal to surrender his phone, or maybe both. Yet Yourse was never charged with obstruction, and the police department concluded that his arrest was not justified, which means the force Cole used to effectuate it was not justified either.

"There was nothing in that video that prompted Officer Cole to go from zero to a 1,000 in less than a second," Greensboro Councilwoman Sharon Hightower told the News & Record. "Certainly police have the right to use force. I think that Officer Cole crossed the line."

It is hard to disagree with that assessment. On the face of it, Cole is guilty of trespassing, assault, and kidnapping. The fact that he had a badge while committing those crimes should not make a difference, but of course it does.

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  1. Another tragic case of being black while black.

    1. If Sitting On A Porch While Black is the new Driving While Black, a lot of old retired dudes in my neighborhood are in trouble.

      1. Blacks sitting on porch…
        Racist!!!!!

        1. Veranda? Terrace?

          1. Lanai. It implies that they’ve been on vacation in Hawaii at least once in their life.

            1. They probably have. Most of the older black folks in my neighborhood used to run their own businesses.

              1. Oh, so now all the black people in your neighborhood are drug dealers?

                You sicken me.

        2. He’s taking it back!

  2. Cole violated the Greensboro Police Department’s rules on use of force, courtesy toward the public, arrest, search and seizure, and compliance with laws and regulations.”

    Yet no charges filed, even though the cops have concluded that he committed one or more crimes.

    Glad to see they are pushing the prosecutor to reconsider.

    1. I can’t go risking my future career on suing my Brady boys now can I?

    2. There was clearly no intent.

      1. He’s a reasonable prosecutor.

  3. To charge him would be a violation of my role as a prosecutor.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    1. That line blew my fucking mind.

  4. “Relax,” says the cop, right before arresting a guy for nothing.

    Just lie back and think of your mom.

    1. I thought his name was Dejuan?

  5. My nuts were feeling preety good and content this morning. Thanks Reason for ending all that.

    1. Reason is a nut free zone.

      Feel free to have your nuts zoned in on.

  6. After reading this story this morning, you know I actually felt hope? (Don’t worry, I crushed that naif little spark quickly.)

    But really. The victim lived, the bad cop and his enabling partner were fired, and the victim received what seems to be a genuine apology.

    That’s a big deal. When does anything like a rational adult response from the authorities ever happen?

    1. “Cole quit the department in the midst of the investigation, and Jackson resigned last week, but no criminal charges have been filed against Cole”

      What big deal? It sounds like business as usual to me. Like all of these cases, they weren’t fired, they quit. And, since they didn’t fire or charge them, they will move to the next city/county/state and get a job on another police force. And, they will continue their reign of terror until they do end up killing someone. The ‘victim’ may have lived this time, their next one might not be as lucky.

      1. Here.

        An internal affairs investigation, which was completed on Aug. 30, found that Cole violated the Greensboro Police Department’s rules on use of force, courtesy toward the public, arrest, search and seizure, and compliance with laws and regulations. Cole resigned from his position while the investigation was pending, Scott said during the City Council meeting.

        The police department also began a criminal investigation on Cole, but the Guilford County district attorney’s office declined to file charges.

        The Greensboro City Council adopted a resolution last week stating that the police department will ask the district attorney’s office to review the incident again. City officials also recommended to a state commission to revoke Cole’s law enforcement certification indefinitely. If that happens, he will no longer be able to be a law enforcement officer.

        Last week, City Manager Jim Westmoreland placed a 30-day hold on the promotions of any officers involved in the incidents surrounding Cole.

        This doesn’t look like business as usual. The prosecutor, he’s all about business as usual. Not so much everyone else.

        1. Yea, they “ask the district attorney’s office to review the incident again.” I’m sure it will go about as far as Congress asking the FBI to look at the Clinton investigation again. Doesn’t matter who is shielding the criminal behavior. The outcome is the same, and business will go on as usual.

          1. Yes, and on the other hand people aren’t giving him a commendation and a raise. Consequences have happened. Not all the necessary ones, but in whatever manner, however this miracle came to pass, a few consequences were allowed to happen. An apology, by gum!

            Both of our positions can be true. They are not mutually exclusive.

            1. My point is it’s the same ole song and dance with a little bit of window dressing. But, I bet they wouldn’t be bothering with the window dressing if it wasn’t for the body cam footage. I’m actually surprised that his camera didn’t ‘malfunction’. My guess is that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. That’s probably the way he’s done his job since he started. So, +1 for body cams.

      2. “It’s hard to watch a video like that and not feel moved to do something and try to make it right to a degree,” City Council member Justin Outling said.

        Scott said the incident “is not indicative of what we as a police department want our citizens to experience.”

        “I’m sorry,” he said, “and it was wrong.”

        Not business as usual. If only.

        1. “I’m sorry,” he said, “and it was wrong.”

          http://i.imgur.com/n34kuqX.png

    2. Better than usual, for sure.

      But that pig should be in prison for as long as I would be if I just up and kidnapped someone off the street. Because that’s what happened.

  7. Insert your favorite Friday quotes here-

    “bye, Felicia.”

  8. Can it ever just be about a dick headed cop acting like a dick and violating someone’s rights? But no, you just have to pander “white cop versus black person” angle when there is seemingly no reason to do so other than the fact that one is white and the other is black.

    1. Right, because literally nobody else in America will care about the skin color of either.

      1. Right, because “people eat this shit up” is a great reason to interject unfounded assertions into every single case.

    2. I hate having inconvenient information, too.

      1. What information? Is there some identifiable racial animus to this? Strange that information wasn’t included in the article since the racial aspect is so important.

  9. seemingly mild-mannered cops

    You don’t have to scratch those ” seemingly mild-mannered cops ” very deep to find out which side of the thin blue lion *you* are on.

    1. Can’t have anyone start questioning their authority now can we? It’s a slippery slope.

  10. Cole: FUCK! I forgot to turn the camera off!

  11. I ain’t did nothing.

    This is how black folks fight white oppression.

  12. the bad cop and his enabling partner were fired

    Coming soon, to a police force near you.

    1. One departments trash is another’s treasure

  13. If Cole is prosecuted, what is the likely outcome? Community Service? If there’s one thing we absolutely don’t want Cole to do, it’s service the community.

  14. obstruction is still a thing? i thought the mask was dropped years ago and it’s now called contempt of cop.

    1. Usually, they just call it “resisting arrest,” even if there are no other charges that might justify an arrest in the first place.

      1. You’re under arrest for resisting arrest!

  15. The part where this whole thing goes sour and also where you learn that the Cole had zero intentions of doing anything less than cuffing and stuffing Mr. Yourse was when Mr. Yourse tried to introduce Cole to his neighbor to show that there was nothing to worry about and the cop wasn’t having it. Yourse tried a few times to go introduce him to the neighbors.

    The whole incident would’ve ended right there but instead Mister I HAVE A FUCKING BADGE SO I DO WHAT I WANT tried to play Captain Detective and the whole thing went to shit. God only knows how often this happens on a daily basis.

  16. Nigger was probably getting ready to steal some loose milk crates.

    1. Lucky for him there weren’t any containers of raw milk in it. Would be doing serious time.

      1. if it’s in a crate, that shit ain’t raw. If the dairyman (which is apparently in firefox’s dictionary, go figure) isn’t milking it on my stoop I ain’t buyin it.

        1. Oh he’s milking something on your stoop, assuming that you live with your mom.

          1. “Mom Likes It Raw #24”, seen it.

  17. Yes, that’s right, give me more, I like the pain.

  18. Certainly police have the right to use force.

    Privilege, actually.

    I wonder which police department Cole and Jackson are working for next.

  19. Law enforcement officers are entitled to use whatever amount of force they deemed necessary to arrest someone they believed committed a crime, Neumann told the paper.

    “To charge him would be a violation of my role as a prosecutor,” Neumann said.

    If you believe your role as a prosecutor is to obstruct justice where police are the violators, I suppose it would.

  20. Certainly police have the right to use force.

    Yeah, umm… that word, there… I think you know which one I’m referring to…

  21. Meanwhile in St. Louis, police encounter the whitest woman in America:

    102-year-old woman crosses ‘get arrested’ off her to-do list

    1. Getting a knee on the back wasn’t on the list, though.

  22. Here’s a possible reform – if the DA refuses to seek an indictment for misconduct in office, the grand jury can accuse (“present”) the misbehaving official, and the case will go to trial with a special prosecutor.

    Grand juries are supposed to be protections against out-of-control prosecutors, not vice versa – let the grand jury decide whether a public official (or ex-official) should go to trial for abusing his power.

    DAs seem to have too much sympathy for crooked officials (at least the crooked officials they work with), don’t give them a veto over prosecuting such officials.

    1. The problem is, who will present the case to the grand jury?

    2. “DAs seem to have too much sympathy for crooked officials”

      The bureaucracy will protect itself at every turn.

  23. Yourse was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Those charges were dropped, presumably after Cole’s superiors had a look at the body cam footage.

    Did I catch a headline yesterday about LA cops releasing footage where the victim did in fact have a gun? You see how fast they release that shit when it helps the cops’ case?

  24. Well, let’s not lose sight of the most important fact in this case – Officer Cole made it home safely that night. Why do you want to make his wife a widow and his children orphans?????

    1. Maybe we should ask them if they want him coming home?

  25. Some commenters below questioned whether this is a racial thing. The truth is that cops abusing Blacks isn’t necessarily a racial thing, it’s more a powerful-abusing-powerless thing. Blacks just happen to occupy a generally powerless position in society, so the cops feel more free to do things like question the guy for 8 minutes even though they agreed about half-way through that there was no reason to think the guy was doing anything wrong. They also feel more free to get physical (including use of guns) when things aren’t going the way they want them to, because it’s an affront when the powerless person doesn’t follow the instructions of the authoritarian officer.

    That’s why homeless and poor people in general suffer more serious issues from police than upper-middle-class people doing the same thing.

    It’s not a 100% correlation, but that perspective explains a lot of the problematic interactions between police (of whatever color) and citizens (of whatever color).

    1. They also treat people with a criminal history differently than people who don’t. That’s what was the motivating factor here – the cop knew damned well that the house belonged to the guy’s mother and that he lived there. There was absolutely no reason for him to keep interrogating the poor guy, but he does. Why? Because he saw the tats and knew that he’d been to prison. He thus feels empowered to go on a fishing expedition for something, anything, to arrest the guy. Why not? Isn’t he a criminal, after all?

      1. Theres got to be some outstanding warrant or something.
        Watch any episode of Cops.
        Random stop. No crime. Fishing. Arrest/beatown.

  26. One part of the story you left out (which is in the video) is that a neighbor reported he was trying to pry open the garage door with a shovel and there sits Dejuan with a shovel. Not an excuse, but seemed like the cop was trying to poke around at the guy’s story a bit just to see if he would get nervous and mess it up. Heck, even if it is his mother’s house doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t trying to break in…people steal from friends and relatives all the time. That’s all pretty standard police work, and I don’t think should be interpreted as baseless harassment.

    Of course then the cop then goes totally off the rails by poking the guy in the chest and freaking out over the phone call.

    1. Except:

      Yourse has not done anything illegal, and at no point during the encounter does Cole or Jackson seem to think he might actually be a burglar. “Usually if someone is trying to break into a house, they’re not gonna sit on the porch” in broad daylight, Cole notes, and as Yourse points out, “the address is on my ID.” Cole says he believes Yourse when he says he is “just sitting here, chillin’, waiting on my Moms,” who has the key to the house. Cole even speculates that “somebody outside the cul-de-sac” must have called the police, since anyone who lived nearby would have recognized Yourse. Although Yourse’s mother is not answering her cellphone, Cole says it’s not necessary to bother the neighbors. “I believe you,” he says. “You have your ID. You told me your name. It matches up.”

      The interaction should have been over at this point.

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