3.03.2009

police beating of 15-year-old girl in jail cell "may inflame public opinion"

I often think how many times this has happened that we never heard about, or could never be proven. Video helps us name and shame.



A video showing a King County Sheriff's deputy pummeling a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell was released Friday over the strenuous objections of the officer's attorney.

The case goes beyond police misconduct, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a prepared statement.

"It's about criminal misconduct. And that's why he needs to be prosecuted," he said.

The video of the Nov. 29 incident was disclosed Friday, one day after Deputy Paul Schene, 31, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault in King County District Court.

. . . .

A detective assigned to the girl's case discovered the video Dec. 1 and immediately forwarded it to supervisors.

The Seattle P-I requested a copy of the holding cell video and all reports from the incident under the state's open records law. A judge on Thursday denied a request from Schene's attorney to bar the video from public disclosure.

"We take this very seriously and we're very concerned about this," sheriff's Sgt. Jim Laing said Friday. An internal investigation would begin after the criminal case is finished.

The girl was arrested after she was caught in her parents' car, which had been reported stolen from her parents' Tukwila home. Deputy Travis Brunner spotted the car driving without headlights about 3:45 a.m. on 32nd Avenue South in SeaTac and pulled it over.

She and another 15-year-old girl were arrested and taken to SeaTac City Hall to be fingerprinted before being transported to the youth detention center.

The P-I is not naming the girl because she is a minor.

The deputies apparently didn't know until later that the girl, who was in the passenger seat, was related to the car's owner.

"We had argued strenuously that the videotape released to the media this morning not be released because it does not tell the whole story of the incident," attorney Anne Bremner said in a statement.

"As we argued to the judge, it will inflame public opinion and will severely impact the deputy's right to a fair trial."

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."

. . . .

In his own report from the incident, Schene wrote that the shoe hit him in the right shin, "causing injury and pain." He wrote that he "placed" her into handcuffs and that she needed medical attention for a "panic attack."

He said a "blood filled pocket" formed on his shin, requiring treatment at Auburn General Hospital, according to his report. The video, however, appears to show his shin strike a metal toilet as he pushes the girl against the wall.

The girl told investigators that she didn't intend for the shoe to hit him, court documents say.

Schene had previously been in the news in 2006 after he fatally shot Pedro Jo, a mentally ill man, during a struggle after a traffic stop on Interstate 5. It was the second officer-involved shooting of his career.

An inquest jury ruled the shooting was justified. Jo viciously attacked Schene, trying to strangle him with his own radio cord.

Jo then ran back to his car and disobeyed Schene's orders to stop. Schene said he saw Jo reach for something in the seat, so Schene fired 11 times after Jo ran back to his car.

Shortly after the shooting while on administrative leave, Schene was stopped for driving under the influence.

He had been drinking and taking prescription medication, according to court records. He received a deferred sentence and was placed on probation, records show.

Schene works in an urban precinct with higher rates of violent crime and gang activity than other precincts. Officers assigned there more often report having to use physical force in arrest situations, Laing said.

"It will inflame public opinion"? Yeah, the truth about injustice will do that!

Thanks to James, via BoingBoing.

27 comments:

Stephanie said...

OMG!!OMG!!OMG!!OMG!!

What a threat she must have posed (to his psyche/ego).

And imagine if he had had a taser?? But I get the impression that he prefers the HANDS-ON approach.

Was that two punches to the head while his knee is in her back? And did he pick her up by the hair??

OMG!OMG! How very disturbing!!

L-girl said...

It's horrifying. I cannot imagine how terrified she must have been. I look at the image of two men holding down a teenage girl, it conjures very, very scary thoughts. Nauseating.

Stephanie said...

I am sure that this video will evoke horrors for many.

I felt myself reliving the old emotions I have felt after being subjected to irrational hostility or unexplained aggression.

...it leaves me with such boiling anger (towards the perpetrator) and yet I feel such aching empathy (for the victim, of course) it is so conflicting...

Cornelia said...

What horrible officers!!! They need to be in the dock themselves!!! OMG, like the wolf guarding the sheep. Hopefully they will not come away with it...
The poor girl!!!

James said...

More evidence, along with the RCMP story you posted, that all those CCTV cameras need to be pointing at the police, not the public.

David Heap said...

How horrifying. And as you say L-girl, surely only a very small tip of a very large unreported iceberg.

"The deputies apparently didn't know until later that the girl, who was in the passenger seat, was related to the car's owner."

And this would be relevant how, exactly? Because it would be OK to beat up some people like this, if they steal cars from people they aren't related to??

Public opinion could sure use some major inflaming here. Big time.

David Cho said...

Wow.

The guy's attorney says the video "does not tell the whole story."

Okay. I guess it comes down to what the "whole story" is.

If she is saying that the video does not show that he has done this to 80 other teenage girls, she is probably right.

L-girl said...

And this would be relevant how, exactly? Because it would be OK to beat up some people like this, if they steal cars from people they aren't related to??

I think it's the opposite. If they had known the car belonged to the girl's parent - which should have been very easy to find out - they would have realized the car wasn't stolen, merely borrowed and perhaps even with permission. They probably would have called the girl's parents and handled the situation differently.

So why didn't they know this? Didn't they ask? Didn't they ask to see the registration (what's called "ownership" in Canada)?

I had a dream about this video last night. It's triggering flashbacks for me.

L-girl said...

More evidence, along with the RCMP story you posted, that all those CCTV cameras need to be pointing at the police, not the public.

YES!

L-girl said...

If she is saying that the video does not show that he has done this to 80 other teenage girls, she is probably right.

Right. Other than something that is even worse, it doesn't matter what "the whole story" is. What could it possibly be, to justify this violence? She was "disrespectful" to him? Nope. She kicked off her shoe? (Which you can clearly see was not kicked at anyone.) Nope. Did this teenage girl, dwarfed by these two adult men, attack them? No one is claiming that. And if she had, would this be justified? No.

James said...

These stories are becoming more visible recently, in part thanks to the pervasive video culture. In the UK (CCTV capital of the world, also known for police excesses), there's a move to make photographing or videoing police officers a "terrorism" offense.

One recent case that's making a splash (that didn't have video attached) is that of honor student Dymond Milburn of Galveston, who was 12 years old when three plaincloths officers jumped her on her front lawn, claiming she was a prostitute. She was later charged with assaulting police officers. The story is here.

Beating up on teenage girls seems to be popular among police these days.

Cornelia said...

How horrifying. And as you say L-girl, surely only a very small tip of a very large unreported iceberg.

"The deputies apparently didn't know until later that the girl, who was in the passenger seat, was related to the car's owner."

And this would be relevant how, exactly? Because it would be OK to beat up some people like this, if they steal cars from people they aren't related to??

Public opinion could sure use some major inflaming here. Big time.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 8:50:00 PM


David Cho said...
Wow.

The guy's attorney says the video "does not tell the whole story."

Okay. I guess it comes down to what the "whole story" is.

If she is saying that the video does not show that he has done this to 80 other teenage girls, she is probably right.

I think it's the opposite. If they had known the car belonged to the girl's parent - which should have been very easy to find out - they would have realized the car wasn't stolen, merely borrowed and perhaps even with permission. They probably would have called the girl's parents and handled the situation differently.

So why didn't they know this? Didn't they ask? Didn't they ask to see the registration (what's called "ownership" in Canada)?

Right. Other than something that is even worse, it doesn't matter what "the whole story" is. What could it possibly be, to justify this violence? She was "disrespectful" to him? Nope. She kicked off her shoe? (Which you can clearly see was not kicked at anyone.) Nope. Did this teenage girl, dwarfed by these two adult men, attack them? No one is claiming that. And if she had, would this be justified? No.



Thank you all! I agree.
Probably the attorney for the defendant needs to resort to saying something weird. But at least the video is EVIDENCE and evidence against the offender. And I guess inflaming public opinion could be very helpful for getting redress and further preventing such horrid grievances!!! What an awful police is that?! Kiran Bedi from the Indian police said police can be a great defender and protector of humanity or the very opposite...Such officers do a horrible job and the very opposite of what they really should be doing!!! And yeah, nothing on this earth ever could justify something like that (opinions of Bush, Cheney, Rummy, the guys who did it and other bullies and offenders don't matter on the issue!!!) The human right to be free from torture, degrading, cruel or inhumane treatment needs to upheld, respected and protected by all means!!! NO "justification" for violent physical abuse and stuff!!! No way, no how, no such!!!
I just hope the poor girl has support from the women's cisis center and a good attorney for filing as coplaintiff (and for standing up for her against whatever trash the accused and his lawyer might come up with, hey!!!)

Cornelia said...

I really hope that law will not come to pass, James. OMG!!!

Cornelia said...

And imagine if he had had a taser?? But I get the impression that he prefers the HANDS-ON approach.

I agree that this guy is just plain awful and a violent criminal offender himself!!!

Cornelia said...

He is definitely into beating people up and maybe also into sexual harassment...what a dreadful guy!!! I hope he gets his comeuppance in court, hey!!!

Cornelia said...

I hope that sadist goes to jail and can never work for the police again!!! Such a brutal, cruel bully should not get away with probation!!!

Stephanie said...

I had a dream about this video last night. It's triggering flashbacks for me.

I can't even imagine!

impudent strumpet said...

/me walks up to James's comment and highlights, underlines, bolds, italicizes, circles, capitalizes and paints bright red the word PLAINCLOTHES!

Dear Galveston police:

Please immediately issue instructions on how we can tell that the strange men trying to force us into a van are in fact police officers, and how we can be certain that they're not people who disguise themselves as police officer to abduct people.

deang said...

And the predictable response among right-wingers (and many others) in the US is, "Well, we don't know what happened just before that. She was probably threatening them." Then if evidence comes out that the victim was attacked unprovoked, it's "Well, she'd probably done something threatening in the past that the police know about but we don't." On and on. It sickens me. It doesn't help that we've had about two decades of shows like "Cops", "NYPD Blue," etc to encourage people to think favorably of cops whatever they do.

When I used to be an occasional activist on issues surrounding the poor, largely African-American part of our town, a resident once told me she had once seen cops beat an innocent pedestrian so brutally that she (the observer) had to go and throw up. "And it goes on all the time," she said.

L-girl said...

When I used to be an occasional activist on issues surrounding the poor, largely African-American part of our town, a resident once told me she had once seen cops beat an innocent pedestrian so brutally that she (the observer) had to go and throw up. "And it goes on all the time," she said.

Someone I used to know - she was my mentor while learning about sexual assault counseling and activism - was walking in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. She was walking a short ways behind some African American young men, and two cops were walking towards them from the other direction, just strolling.

One of the young men reached into his jacket, and the cop drew his gun and shot him.

It was later shown he was reaching for a Walkman.

The victim died.

My friend served as a witness on the case.

Some time later, Allan and I were out with two friends of ours, decent liberal people, and I told them this story. One of them did not believe it had happened because he had not seen it in the media. He was so convinced that anytime something like this happens it's a huge story, and it only happens the number of times you read or hear about, that he was convinced that I either got the story wrong, or my friend was exaggerating, or something.

Another thing I remember from this horrible story - my friend told me when they brought the young man's mother to the scene, that they treated her like garbage.

Without observers to testify the young men were merely walking, doing nothing wrong, what would the cops have said?

James said...

Please immediately issue instructions on how we can tell that the strange men trying to force us into a van are in fact police officers

I'm told -- though I haven't been able to confirm this with news articles -- that the "assaulting an officer" trial ended with a hung jury. Which means it's not just the police that are messed up in Galveston.

"Well, we don't know what happened just before that. She was probably threatening them."

Man, these cops must be total wimps if they're threatened by teenage girls.

Cornelia said...

It's awful that there is so much malpractice and abuse by police officers over there. What people hire they in on earth and what else contributes to these serious grievances??? OMG!!!

Cornelia said...

I have also heard that some police officers in the US are extremely scared and thus tend to overreact and therefore, it is most important when one is driving and gets stopped and police officers want to ask or say something TO KEEP HAMDS ON THE DRIVING WHEEL AND NOT TO TRY TO GET SOMETHING OFF A BAG OR SO BECAUSE THEY MIGHT MISINTERPRET THAT AND GET SCARED ONE WOULD REACH FOR A PISTOL AND WANT TO SHOOT THEM...OMG!!!

deang said...

Without observers to testify the young men were merely walking, doing nothing wrong, what would the cops have said?

Horrible story. Ugh. And all to common, really. We used to have a very active Copwatch chapter here in Austin, until cops started threatening and harassing the activists, resulting in the tasing of one. They really don't like for there to be observers.

What makes me as mad as the "bad apple" brutes that tend to do this sort of thing is the fact that the cops that don't do it maintain that notorious "code of silence" and won't speak out against or work to improve their more bullying colleagues. I understand that they may legitimately fear for their lives if they do, but still.

Cornelia said...

What makes me as mad as the "bad apple" brutes that tend to do this sort of thing is the fact that the cops that don't do it maintain that notorious "code of silence" and won't speak out against or work to improve their more bullying colleagues.

Yeah. It's very regrettable. Or if their superiors kept the bullies in check...

I understand that they may legitimately fear for their lives if they do

OMG, then the problem with those bullies must be extremely grievous!!!
deang, may I ask whether you think that if for example some lawyers or congress members were somehow involved in Copwatch that might possibly help somehow or...? Don't they have people at the police where you can file complaints if some police officer has done something real bad? Because over here, we do have them and that has helped to tackle some issues, I think. For example, if a lawyer from legal aid helps with the complaint...sorry, just an idea, there can definitely be more ideas, too what can be done to remedy these grievances, I just thought this is utterly unacceptable what has been going on...

Cornelia said...

I really wonder why so many police officers have been doing such a horrible job. Don't they receive proper training or do the bullies unfortunately have reason to think they can get away with everything or...? Because such horrid grievances will not come without reasons. There are always some idiots around but if things get that bad, there might be structural reasons as well, I guess...

L-girl said...

What makes me as mad as the "bad apple" brutes that tend to do this sort of thing is the fact that the cops that don't do it maintain that notorious "code of silence" and won't speak out against or work to improve their more bullying colleagues. I understand that they may legitimately fear for their lives if they do, but still.

I really wonder why so many police officers have been doing such a horrible job. Don't they receive proper training or do the bullies unfortunately have reason to think they can get away with everything or...? Because such horrid grievances will not come without reasons. There are always some idiots around but if things get that bad, there might be structural reasons as well, I guess...

I always think, if the problem really is "bad apples" - individual rogue cops, not a systemic culture of brutality - then all the good cops should want to isolate, ostracize and force out the bad apples that make them all look bad.

We always hear that most cops are upstanding, want to do the right thing, not inclined towards violence, etc. etc. If that's true, why let these few problem people ruin everyone's reputation? Why hide and support them by circling the wagons? If they want to enhance a reputation, or preserve what shred of credibility they might have left, they're taking the complete wrong approach.

Which only furthers our conclusions that police abuse is not about bad apples or violent individuals. Although some people are undoubtedly worse than others, the job itself - uniform, badge, authority, weapons, license to use them, fear of the public - and the culture of "us against them" are the problem.