Cops And Union Rep Lie About What Video Shows Because Judge Never Allowed Recording As Evidence
from the sometimes-evidence-isn't-evidence dept
The video recording of St. Louis police officer Rory Bruce’s unprovoked attack on a handcuffed suspect speaks for itself. Within the first 15 seconds of the video captured by the police van’s camera, Officer Bruce slams a forearm across the face of his arrestee. The attack was “unprovoked” in any legal sense of the word. The audio quality is negligible but it appears to be a response to the handcuffed teen’s contemptuous (of cop) laughter.
For this action, Officer Bruce lost his job. Not only was Bruce fired by the St. Louis PD, but he was charged with assault, something rather uncommon in the police world. Of course, Bruce was still in his probationary period, something that made his firing much easier.
What’s captured on the video doesn’t mesh with statements made by Bruce’s lawyer.
Bruce’s attorney, Joseph Hogan, said his client was squatting down, performing a search, when the “guy makes a move,” and Bruce jumped up and hit him with a forearm.
This clearly isn’t true. The suspect makes no move and neither officer is squatting at any point before Bruce struck the handcuffed teen. Hogan also suggested police officers shouldn’t be held accountable for actions performed under the influence of “adrenaline.”
Hogan complained that police and prosecutors didn’t take into account the shooting before the teen’s arrest, saying that adrenaline must have been pumping for both officers.
This shooting involved Bruce’s partner Jacob Fowler (another rookie who was fired for this incident) firing his weapon at the suspect after the teen pointed a gun at him.
While this video clearly shows an attack on a handcuffed suspect, this recording was never viewed by the presiding judge, Theresa Counts, who found Rory Bruce “not guilty” of assault. Plenty of outrage has bubbled up over this fact, but Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice details the events that led to a crucial piece of evidence being ignored.
There was nothing life or death about the decision Rory Bruce made to pound this cuffed teenager in custody. Yet, he was acquitted by Associate Circuit Court Judge Theresa Counts Burke. Not because she found this conduct acceptable, but because she never watched the video.
“Prosecutors had also tried, but failed, to get the teenager on the stand. First they couldn’t find him, then when they did, he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
But the video never made it into evidence because the law required prosecutors to authenticate it with someone who had personal knowledge of the events. Bruce refused to testify against himself, on the same constitutional grounds as the teen.”
The teenager involved was never charged, leaving the prosecution with nothing to trade off for his testimony. As for doing the right thing against Bruce, well, the right thing on the street can sometimes be a bit different than what some of us might hope for.
But what of the other officer present, Bruce’s partner, Jacob Fowler?
“That left Fowler, who claimed the same but was forced to testify after prosecutors granted him immunity from charges and obtained a last minute order from another judge.
When Fowler viewed the footage, he testified it differed from his recollection of events.”
Maybe he recalled rainbows and unicorns. Who knows? What he clearly didn’t recall was anything that could be used against his partner. What a surprise.
“Burke ruled she thus couldn’t authenticate it. That left only the testimony of a few police employees, who couldn’t say much because of hearsay rules.”
So, now we know, if we weren’t clear before, a recording of an event sometimes just isn’t enough evidence. It may be crystal clear in the court of public opinion (and it certainly seemed “authentic” to the St. Louis PD, which fired Bruce and his partner) but can turn absolutely useless when it catches in the gears of the justice system.
But the most troubling (read: repulsive) aspect of this whole debacle isn’t the fact that Bruce wasn’t charged, or that Judge Theresa Burke didn’t watch the video. It’s the words of Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, who not only flat out lies about the events clearly captured by the camera, but claims this sort of footage is being used the wrong way.
Words are exchanged and then; “It’s one forearm blow as he’s trained to do,” said Jeff Roorda with the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association.
Roorda says he can see Bruce crouched down and the suspect moving forward. He says Bruce was only defending himself.
Again, at no point before Bruce hits the suspect are either of the officers “crouched down.” Both are completely upright for the entire 15 seconds before Bruce’s attack.
Roorda says the judge did right—he told News 4, police videos like these should be used to protect police. “Now, it’s become a “gotcha-head hunter” tool that we’ve seen internal affairs go over-board with.”
That’s the most disgusting sentiment. Roorda feels video captured by police cameras should only be used when what’s recorded justifies police actions. If St. Louis cops can’t behave themselves, despite knowing they’re on camera and despite believing internal affairs is prone to “going overboard,” the problem isn’t with the cameras or internal affairs. Roorda wants these two officers reinstated, even though the St. Louis PD itself doesn’t want them around. After all, they’ve been exonerated by the court, so in Roorda’s mind, there’s no reason to keep two bad cops off the street any longer.