Body Cam Footage Of Cop Hitting Handcuffed Man Leads To Firing Of Three New Orleans Police Officers

from the the-accountability-unicorn-makes-a-rare-appearance dept

Body-worn cameras as a tool of accountability is an idea whose time has come, but so far, the implementation has been less than ideal. Lawmakers -- pressured by law enforcement agencies and unions -- have frequently pushed legislation that makes it almost impossible for the public to get their hands on recorded footage.

In other cases it's been shown that camera placement results in highly-subjective footage -- where the "first-person" perspective can obscure what's really happening. One notable case resulted in two sets of footage. The body-worn camera footage gave the impression that officers were dealing with a highly-combative arrestee. A nearby surveillance camera showed something completely different: several cops beating a non-resisting suspect.

So, it's somewhat a surprise to hear that body camera footage has resulted in the firing of police officers. For one, officers generally don't get fired. They get suspended. Or, if the misconduct is egregious enough, they're allowed to resign.

In this case, however, multiple officers were fired in connection with the same incident. (h/t Techdirt reader Nathan F)

Three New Orleans police officers were fired Wednesday (June 15), and a fourth suspended, for their roles in a September 2015 incident in which a handcuffed man was hit several times while seated inside the department's French Quarter station.

Officer Alfred Moran's body-worn camera showed him using his hands to strike the man, who had been arrested for public intoxication shortly before midnight on Sept. 30, NOPD said.

[Worth noting here is the fact that the writer has chosen to use police lingo and exonerative passive phrasing while writing about the incident. Officer Moran hit a handcuffed man multiple times. An "incident" didn't just occur wherein a man "was hit." Furthermore, "using his hands to strike the man" is needlessly descriptive and gives the impression that there still might be some legal use of force contained in Moran's actions -- which were, let's not forget, hitting an unarmed, handcuffed man multiple times while in the presence of other officers who did nothing.

The writer then goes on to point out that the beaten man had "argued" with Moran earlier, again skewing the narrative slightly towards the police end of the spectrum. I don't believe these are even conscious decisions on the part of the writer. I think this sort of exonerative reporting is just as ingrained in some journalists as the blithe acceptance of misconduct is ingrained in some police organizations.

These firings are notable. This is something that just doesn't happen. When it does, it's usually only after an extended period of deflection where police spokespeople say things about "ongoing investigations" and "wanting to get all the facts first," while berating the media for reporting on the incident in a "one-sided" fashion and causing the public to "rush to judgment."

Also notable is the fact that this agency proactively reviews body cam footage, rather than simply uploading it and hoping it's overwritten before anyone files a complaint against an officer.

The incident came to light the following day during a supervisor's routine review of body-worn camera footage, said NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble.

Even better, it wasn't just the abusive cop who was fired/punished. It was also those around him who not only did not intervene, but lied to cover up the misconduct.

NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau launched criminal and administrative investigations. But Moran, Simmons and Jennings were "untruthful" during the investigation, Gamble said. Tyler, meanwhile, answered honestly when questioned.

This is a very good -- and very rare -- thing. Law enforcement agencies tend to encourage bad behavior by delivering minimal punishment and allowing other officers present at the scene -- who didn't intervene and/or participated in the cover-up -- to walk away from it completely unscathed.

The inadvertently hilarious response to these firings comes from the police union -- which believes officers' testimony should outweigh video footage that directly contradicts their statements.

"Among many others, we have warned numerous times that video evidence only has value in context of the officer's perception of events and other measurable factors," [police union attorney Donovan] Livaccari said. "In this case, the video evidence, which was inconclusive, was relied on entirely in spite of testimonial evidence to the contrary..."

In other words, don't believe your eyes. Believe what you're told. Video footage should only be viewed in the "context" of assertions made by officers seeking to avoid punishment for wrongdoing. And only a police union rep could make the assertion that "officer's perception" is a "measurable factor" with a straight face. Yes, there's nothing more quantifiable than subjectivity, especially when it conflicts directly with more objectively-obtained evidence of wrongdoing.

Filed Under: accountability, bodycams, new orleans, police


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Jun 2016 @ 11:37pm

    "was relied on entirely in spite of testimonial evidence to the contrary..."

    I await perjury charges.

    Also one wonders if they have farmed out the review of punishments, via contracts, to some outside arbitrator who will magically decide the video & truthful officer were the liars and these upstanding cops should be back on the job with back pay.

    Far to often the testimony of officers is accepted as the gospel truth, this case might suggest that they are just mortals who will do what it takes to protect themselves at the expense of someone who doesn't really matter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 12:17am

    "Please withhold your appluase until after the encore."

    While it's nice to see a department get it right for once, disgusting but entirely expected to see the union involved pull the classic 'Police can do no wrong, and any evidence to the contrary is mistaken', I can't help but think 'How long until they are re-hired thanks to pressure from the union, or simply shifted to another precinct?'

    Firing a cop is rare enough, keeping them fired is significantly more difficult, and if someone fired for abuse of authority or some other reason is hired right back on a few days or weeks later the only message it sends is 'Do whatever you want, worst case scenario you have to go on unpaid leave for a bit while your buddies in the union get your job back, with backpay if you're lucky.'

    So yeah, call me cynical, call me experienced, but I'd hold off on popping the champagne until it's clear that the firing stuck and doesn't end up as nothing but a harmless slap on the wrist, as happens so often.

    Also just have to bring up this gem:

    "Among many others, we have warned numerous times that video evidence only has value in context of the officer's perception of events and other measurable factors,"

    Translation: If video evidence contradicts what the police said happened, then the video is lying. I seem to recall there's already been at least one judge who bought that idiocy in agreeing that video evidence takes secondary priority over police claims, but really how much arrogance and contempt for those you're addressing do you have to hold to say something like that with a straight face? How much of an idiot do you have to think the other person is to believe that they'll buy something like that, and even more worrying, how often does that actually work to the point that they still think it makes a compelling argument?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Jun 2016 @ 2:40am

      Re: "Please withhold your appluase until after the encore."

      Translation: If video evidence contradicts what the police said happened, then the video is lying.

      No, that's not what he said. We get:
      In this case, the video evidence, which was inconclusive, was relied on entirely in spite of testimonial evidence to the contrary...

      He is not saying that "the video is lying" but rather that the video evidence was "inconclusive" so would have required viewing in light of additional information.

      That may still be bollocks but is not per se a logical fallacy without actually looking and considering at the video evidence.

      Now where we are getting into forehead-slapping realm is when we consider "testimonial evidence to the contrary": if we really wanted to push the "inconclusive" angle, the wording would have to be "supplemental testimonial evidence" or "without even attempting to reconcile the information given in the officers' statements with the superficial incriminating impression the raw video coverage appears to convey".

      Yes, that's pure wordsmithery, but the whole point of a union is to lend support to their constituents that they aren't able to provide for themselves. And what amounts to "we fully stand behind the proven lies of our members" is not helping them. At all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 5:09am

        Re: Re: "Please withhold your appluase until after the encore."

        In this case, the video evidence, which was inconclusive, was relied on entirely in spite of testimonial evidence to the contrary...

        The bolded part seems to be saying that the video evidence, despite being 'inconclusive', contradicted the claims made by the police in the case, and he's miffed that given the difference between the two that the video was given higher 'priority' as far as determining what happened. That video was trusted to be accurate and tell the truth of what happened more that the paragons of virtue and honesty otherwise known as the police in question. That too me at least reads as him saying that if video and police testimony differ then the latter should be given priority as being considered more reliable and accurate.

        And what amounts to "we fully stand behind the proven lies of our members" is not helping them. At all.

        I imagine there would be more than a few police who only retain their jobs thanks to their unions that would disagree with you there. To those kinds of police having a union that's willing to overlook if not flat out defend anything means they've got a hefty defense against any potential consequences of their actions. Sure it screws over the reputation of the handful of honest or 'good' cops, but they are very much in the minority and the majority seems perfectly content to settle for 'respect me or else', so it's not like they care what the public thinks of them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        rhizome (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re: "Please withhold your appluase until after the encore."

        He's saying the camera didn't record Jennings' thoughts.

        What the camera did capture was him standing right there with his head facing the arrestee. The fallacy, so to speak, is to contend that, I don't know, he was sleeping at the time? If the officer has evidence other than recollection (proven imperfect) to counter the video and prove he didn't see anything, he should have provided it.

        Gotta love Moran not even remembering the start of the beating. Rage blackouts must be a fun hobby of his.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    aidian, 21 Jun 2016 @ 12:26am

    'only a police union rep could make the assertion that "officer's perception" is a "measurable factor" with a straight face.'

    I wish. Most judges, almost all prosecutors, and, worst of all, a solid majority of jurors in most jurisdictions will also fall for this.

    And yeah, many, many professional journalists also have a default position of believing police. It's really kinda sad. Solid reporters, skeptical about everything, will write a story as if the cop's statement is what actually happened.

    It's largely a cultural issue. Within living memory American Journalism was full of oddballs, misfits, rebels of various stripes. No it's populated by bright young things who lived in nice suburbs and got good grades at good high schools before attending elite colleges. They've never known anyone who was beaten up by the cops. They are far more comfortable hanging out with the DA than the defendant. It's not really their fault for being raised this way, but it's their fault for not finding ways to overcome this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 12:39am

    I maintain that the police unions in the US are the single most toxic aspect of law enforcement there. There is no accountability, and they have stupid amounts of power.

    The police unions should be the first people decrying criminal behaviors in the execution of the officer's duties. But instead, they cry about how those officers are right, and it's the victim's fault for not complying hard enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Jun 2016 @ 12:56am

      Re:

      The police unions should be the first people decrying criminal behaviors in the execution of the officer's duties.

      Nonsense. They are paid by police officers, likely including the ones fired here, for representing them and are not a neutral party. But if they were a bit more selective about picking their fights, they might be considerably more effective in lending believable vocal support to those of their members who are not as far gone as these ones.

      They still could fulfill their obligations by ensuring that the officers get a fair representation and deal in court. Forehead-slapping story-telling hour does not really help the officers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re:

        Do you suppose the police unions will expand to advocating for the rights of the mob if they get paid enough for it. I mean they are very good at justifying crimes that would get anyone else the chair.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toestubber (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 4:54pm

        Re: Re:

        But if they were a bit more selective about picking their fights, they might be considerably more effective in lending believable vocal support to those of their members who are not as far gone as these ones.

        The police unions are extremely selective in the fights they wage. They will defend the most horrific criminal behavior when it's committed by an LEO. However, if the rare honest cop comes forward to expose a violent police crime or uncovers the thug culture of a department, that same union will subject the whistleblower to the most scathing public attack they can muster.

        Defending corrupt police officers is just a subsidiary mission; the union's main role is upholding the privilege of cops to violate our rights.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 5:21pm

          Preservation of the law enforcement caste

          Maybe the union officials who are pushing for above-the-law police privilege would be appropriate targets of a SWATting campaign, if we were the kind if people that would resort to such mischief.

          You get that we're totally not the sort who'd do that ever. That we'd never even think of actually engaging in such malice, yes?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 5:46am

      Re:

      ALL UNIONS for public/government employees should be classified as 100% illegal!!! The interests of "The People" can never be possibly served by a public sector union.

      Unions should only be possible for people working in the private sector.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 9:04am

        Union Boogeyman

        "The interests of "The People" can never be possibly served by a public sector union."

        Any union, public or private, servers the workers it represents, not the CEO or “The People”. “The People” are severed/represented by the politicians they elect. It is the politicians’ job to negotiate with the public unions.

        Are their problems with public employee unions sure, but the malfeasance of politicians and their cronies at top levels drive the cost through the roof. I suggest you look into the cost associated with government contractors, e.g. the industrial-military complex and ROI on those contracts if you want to address cost. That is a gravy train of tax dollars. The union propaganda is just a distraction for the rubes, so they do not look at the issues with big boys at the top.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 2:52am

    Oh boy. Whatever is not going to like this. Not at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 3:49am

    Cops are thugs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 8:52am

      Re:

      I'm willing to believe that not all cops are thugs.

      However thugs ARE attracted to law enforcement work.

      You can see it as a future career possibility for the bullies in high school. They realize they have grown up with no useful talent or skills. That means there are only two career possibilities:
      1. Marketing
      2. Law Enforcement
      Item 2 is selected because item 1 is not for a real "man's man". (Ironically not realizing one possible meaning of "man's man".)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 5:17am

    Perception is reality

    we have warned numerous times that video evidence only has value in context of the officer's perception of events

    I guess the officer had the perception that a handcuffed drunk needed a good beating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 6:18am

    Contempt of Cop

    Is so very ingrained in cops during their training and when they become part of "the brotherhood' that they don't appear to comprehend that some things are simply and plainly illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 6:48am

    > [Worth noting here is the fact ...

    The closing square bracket is missing. I'm so triggered right now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 7:10am

    Remarkably Good...

    This is an egregious outcome.

    We have to wait and see what else is in store for these amoral Bullies...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 7:14am

    Forgot to ask...

    What does "[h/t] Techdirt reader... " mean?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 21 Jun 2016 @ 7:59am

      Re: Forgot to ask...

      "h/t" means "hat tip", which in this case means "thanks to the person who told us about this story".

      Some specifics from From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hat_tip :

      In the 2000s, the term "hat tip" (often abbreviated to "HT", "H/T" or "h/t") rose to prominence in the blogosphere to acknowledge someone who has made a significant contribution toward an effort, or someone who drew attention to something new or interesting. It is considered good netiquette when sharing a link or news item to give a hat tip to the person from whom you learned of the item.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 7:59am

      Re: Forgot to ask...

      Hat tip. In other words, "thanks to"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 8:07am

    Advice for Police Unions

    Dear Police Unions,

    You need to change your tactics. When video evidence contradicts the testimony of known liars or police officers, your PR stance should be: "the video camera equipment was malfunctioning and cannot be trusted".

    I sincerely hope you will thoughtfully consider this advice. For the pure hilarity of it. For the children!

    Thank you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 9:28am

    "Among many others, we have warned numerous times that video evidence only has value in context of the officer's perception of events and other measurable factors," [police union attorney Donovan] Livaccari said. "In this case, the video evidence, which was inconclusive, was relied on entirely in spite of testimonial evidence to the contrary..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 9:58am

    Unions

    Regarding police unions (and public sector unions in general), in spite of their obvious problems it is important to remember that one of their functions is to serve as a countervailing force to the political whims of the politicians who employ them.

    Every law enforcement officer ultimately answers to a politician. Whether it's an elected Sheriff, a mayor, county board, State's Attorney, Governor, ect. Unions enable cops to enforce the law without fear of losing their job for writing the mayor's nephew a DUI or arresting a prominent business man for domestic battery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 10:09am

      Re: Unions

      That may be true, but comes at a cost that far outweighs the benefit. In effect, many (not all!) police unions demand that the police are by definition above any reproach. This means that they actively work against the interests of the general public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 10:11am

        Re: Re: Unions

        Just to be clear, I am in favor of well-functioning unions, even for public servants. I am also opposed to corrupt organizations, even if they happen to be unions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 21 Jun 2016 @ 10:48am

    Unions?

    It was my perception, having worked for a large private corporation with a union - that essentially, employers get the union they deserve.

    As anyone who watches Law & Order or a myriad of cop shows knows, the only thing worse than the police union which defends crooked cops (their job) is the Mayor's Office and Chief of Police who will happily hand any officer out to dry, innocent or guilty, if it serves their political purposes.

    Similarly friends of mine who are teachers have fascinating stores about the school board politics that put to shame any stories of university faculty politics; no wonder teachers' unions are so activist.

    As for industry, when the bosses treat the workers like a bunch of kids and act arbitrary, the unions dig their heels in and act even more arbitrary. Just as most laws are a reaction to what people have tried to get away with, most union positions are in reaction to employers trying to screw the workers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 4:20pm

      Re: Unions?

      Yes, my experiences are similar. The fish rots from the head, and the "head" is the company (or police department) itself. I've even worked at non-unionized places where the employees were treated decently in every way, and there was no appetite to have a union at all.

      Unions are employees acting in concert to try to balance the inherent power discrepancy with employers. That's a vital function.

      But still, that doesn't excuse any actual misbehavior on the part of unions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    amberb (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 11:46am

    Why no arrests?

    Why was there no arrest for assault and battery with added penalty for under color of law? It's not enough to simply fire them. They will simply move someplace else. That's what the Catholics used to do with their pedophile priests. Just allow them to move someplace else while they ignored the abuse.

    When are we going to hold police officers to a higher level of conduct than the average person instead of a lower standard? That's what should happen. If you have license to use lethal force against people, you should be punished much more swiftly and harshly than others for wrongdoing.

    People, when dealing with police in any capacity, even when you call them, remember that they do not care about you at all. They do not care about your life, or what consequences to you or your family their actions have. Even when they are doing their jobs properly, they are still to be treated very, very cautiously. Do not casually chat with them or offer any more information than is necessary for the situation at hand. Don't worry about seeming rude by saying 'That's my business' to their nosey questions. They are not your friend. When their shift is over, they will forget all about you and whatever problems they caused you. Keep in mind that they are trained on how to better manipulate and lie to people to get what they want out of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Peter, 21 Jun 2016 @ 12:56pm

      Re: Why no arrests?

      What about the whole raft of 'see what sticks' charges we expect from the Prosecutors.

      Assault and Battery, perjury, Filing a false police report, Impeding an investigation, Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice etc etc

      But apparently "Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, did not find enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against any of the officers". Ah well. thats all right then.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 1:35pm

      We need to start teaching the contemporary response and justice system to our third-graders.

      You know, when kids are old enough to start learning government.

      ~ Our three-tiered justice system (Us serfs beneath the law, the justice system for those who can lawyer up, and the police and officials above the law)
      ~ Police departments work more like Prussian Freikorps in that they solve problems by annihilating anyone who disagrees with them. Also they'll take whatever they want and kill anyone who objects.
      ~ Our prison system which is not only teeming with rape, violence, insufficient care and inmate abuse and forced labor, but also holds the largest inmate population per capita of any nation in the world.

      At this point, street gangs may be safer, more humane responders and enforcers of justice than any agencies of the state.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Jun 2016 @ 1:22pm

    I suspect our fired officers will get re-hired in another precinct within the year.

    After all doing any less would be a waste of perfectly good training.

    (And it's not like the violence caught on camera is not standard operating procedure in most precincts now, is it?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 2:05pm

    I hate to say as happy as I am with this result. It is not going far enough imo. Those offices should be charged with assault as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2016 @ 3:41pm

    "...in spite of testimonial evidence..."

    That statement must be coming from a compulsive liar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Blowhard, 21 Jun 2016 @ 7:54pm

    Good

    It's hard for people to rat out their coworkers. Good riddance to every unprofessional thug on the police force. I doubt it will ever be like when I was a kid and my mother said I can ask a policeman for help if I needed to but it would be nice if we didn't have to worry about being beaten or murdered by the police.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justme, 22 Jun 2016 @ 4:35am

    Slight modification. .

    "Among many others, we have warned numerous times that video evidence only has value in context of the defendants perception of events and other measurable factors,"

    The video may appear to show the defendant robbing a bank, but in the defendant perception, the bank was just giving him 100 years of interest payment's in advance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2016 @ 6:31pm

    Those "police officers" should go to prison.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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