Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New York's finest --- finest at what?

The official story, according to the police what that Christopher Long, 29, was riding his bicycle in a dangerous manner during a “Critical Mass” bike ride in New York City. According to the police he weaving in and out of traffic endangering others.

Police officer Patrick Pogan claimed that Long rode his bicycle into him, injuring him and causing Long to fall off his bike. The police gathered around Long and arrested him. They said he committed attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Witnesses said the officers roughed Long up. One said: “They put their knees on top of his head and were smashing him into a phone booth.” Long was carted off to jail for his crimes against the police and sat there for 26 hours.

Many people, perhaps most, would be inclined to believe the story. Three officers were involved in the arrest. And we are told that the police are upstanding individuals “laying their lives on the line” for us and they wouldn’t just make up a story. I mean, if it didn’t happen the way the police say it did are we to believe that a police officer just randomly picked some guy out the crowd and assaulted him? Come on! Who are you going to believe?

Apparently not the police officer. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Mr. Long a tourist was filming the bike ride in the moments before the incident. And that film clearly caught the actual incident on tape. Here is what you will see.

Officer Pagon is off to the right of the screen. He starts crossing through the bicyclists. You see Long coming up the road. He spots the officer and veers off to his left to avoid hitting the policeman. Pagon, however, intentionally speeds up. He starts to run toward Long and then intentionally hits him with full force knocking him off his bicycle and onto the sidewalk.

One the officer assaulted Long, and not the other way around as the police claimed, Pagon and another officers starting working Long over in the course of “arresting” him. The New York Post says that when the tourist posted the video of the actual incident to YouTube it showed that the reality was far from the official police report. “The criminal complaint drafted by Pogan bears little resemblance to what was witnesses by onlookers and recorded on video.”

Craig Radhuber, 54, was there, just a few feet behind Long. He said that the officer “body-slammed this kid off his bicycle so hard that he went from the lane to the curb.” He said that he went to tell Officer Pogan off for his assault but that another police officer prevented him from getting hear him.”

Bicyclists who were behind Long also said that the police concocted the entire complaint. At no point was Long doing anything wrong. Officer Pagon just decided to assault a member of the public for his own reasons. Unfortunately someone happened to have made a video.

All I can say is that this fits a pattern of behaviour with the police. I take Lord Acton seriously. He said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You might call it the “Lord of the Ring” syndrome. Smeagol yearns for the ring and the power it brings. But the power of the ring corrupts the wearer of the ring.

The more power someone is given over others the more likely they are to be corrupted by it. Our police have become worse because they are given vast control over the lives of others. As one favorite cop t-shirt calls it, they are “death dealers”. The police have taken on more powers in recent years, they know that their fellow cops will protect them. They know the system will believe them. They know that they are given wide latitude in how violently they treat people. They know that they can kill and rarely will ever pay the price for doing so -- even when entirely unjustified. They are not held responsible in the same way your or I would be. Reduce responsibility for their actions when couple with greater powers to act violently means that police are more likely to be abusive than the general public. Power does corrupt.

This also illustrates very nicely why so many cops get irrate when they are filmed. In numerous cases, around the country, individuals have been arrested for doing nothing more than filming a police action. Cameras prove them to be violent and deceitful. I say bring on the cameras. Like the police like to say about surveillance: if you have nothing to hide then why do you fear them?

By the way, once the video surfaced and Pogan was proven a liar and guilty of assault he was put on desk duty pending investigation. Even with this evidence, without a public outcry that is loud and sustained, chances are good he'll get little more than a slap on the wrist with a wink, a nudge, and a "don't get caught" again whispered in his ear.