Police video shows disturbing response to teen assault, plus poll
posted at 2:17 pm on March 1, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Any of us who have parented teenagers know how frustrating they can be, and one has to imagine that police officers know that better than most. Most of the time, they react better than Deputy Paul Schene did in this video, after a 15-year-old girl responded to a demand that she remove her shoes by flipping one at Schene. He then charged into the cell and now faces criminal prosecution (via QandO):
The video shows Schene and Brunner as they escorted the girl into the holding cell. Schene had asked her to remove her basketball shoes, and, as she slipped out of her left shoe, she appeared to kick it at Schene.
Schene then lunged through the door and kicked her, striking either her stomach or upper thigh area, court documents say. He pushed her against a corner wall before flinging her to the floor by her hair. He then squatted down on her and made “two overhead strikes,” although it’s unclear where the blows landed.
The detective who reviewed the video said it appeared Schene and Brunner had the girl under control when Schene struck her. Schene, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 195 pounds, did not explain his action to investigators, court documents say.
He and the girl exchanged words. Brunner said she was “real lippy” after being informed she was under arrest and called them “fat pigs.”
The Sheriff’s Office policy manual says deputies should use physical or deadly force only when “necessary to effect an arrest, to defend themselves or others from violence, or to otherwise accomplish police duties according to law.”
Normally, we give police a lot of leeway to control violent or obstructive arrestees, and for good reason. It’s dangerous to second-guess how an officer reacts in two ways. First, in many instances, we don’t get a chance to see the larger context, in which an officer may see a threat not depicted in later exploration of video clips. Second, it pressures law-enforcement personnel to act too passively in situations requiring greater control, leading to dangerous and even deadly incidents.
In this case, though, it’s difficult to see any context in which Schene could justify his actions. Presumably, the teen had already been searched for weapons and was in fairly firm custody at the jail. She committed an assault by flipping the shoe at Schene (and battery if she actually hit him), but she represented no threat at all, nor were there any threats in the vicinity of the secure detention facility. Even before he punched her in the head twice, Schene used an excessive level of force clearly intended for punitive action rather than to secure the girl.
The defense did not want the video released before the trial because it would “inflame public opinion”. I’d guess that would be the case, but the video is publicly owned by the Seattle taxpayers who paid for it. Would the police have released it if the video showed Schene properly reacting to a real threat? I’m betting yes.
What do Hot Air readers think? Did Schene overreact, and does he deserve prosecution?