Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Very Thin Line

What you see to the right is a Seattle police officer about to land a punch on a 15-year-old girl. That's right. Fifteen years old. This story caught my attention today. Watch the whole video and see if you find it as horrifying as I do. This is Deputy Paul Schene in action in a holding cell at the Seatac county courthouse. And, as you will see, there's more to it than punching. Prosecutors evidently saw the same thing in it that I did. Schene has been charged with 4th degree assault in connection with using excessive force on a suspect.

You can also see the video in the context of this TV news report of it. And there the attorney for Schene claims that this video does not tell the "full story" of the event. Well, I'm sorry. What more do we have to know about this? It's perfectly obvious to me that this cop just completely lost it because a shoe hit him in the shin. This kind of incident always reminds me just how close to the surface murderous violence in this violent country is.

Police brutality is probably one of the most overlooked violations of civil rights that happens in this country. It's easy to understand why. There's nothing quite so impenetrable as the cone of silence the thin blue line maintains about the criminals in its ranks. Moreover, the victims of brutality at the hands of the law are from the lowest rungs in the society, people who are most helpless to resist in the courts or be believed in the face of law enforcement denials.

I've often contended with, I think, the best of evidence that the line between the cops who are supposed to be protecting and serving society and the criminals who prey on the society is very thin indeed. The kind of beserk tantrum of violence this Seattle cop throws is, I fear, only too common. What bothers me is the kind of personality types who are drawn to work that puts them in a position to give vent to their rage and, worse, puts guns in their hands as well. (This same Deputy Schene had shot and killed a mentally ill guy previously. That shooting was adjudged justified by the police department.) It's a shame for me to say it, but I'm always suspicious of cops. Yes, yes, I know. There are many honorable police out there, just like the kind in the children's books who walk little kids across the street. And brave ones, too. But it's the other kind that scare me. And I think there are a lot more of them than anybody wants to believe. Always ready for a beat down at the slightest provocation.
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