At Law Office of Peacock & Le Beau, we are keenly interested in what is going on in the relationship between law enforcement and the local community. As Long Beach criminal defense lawyers, we have the duty of helping to defend the rights of people who fall under the crosshairs of police officers and investigators. In many cases, our work involves investigating the circumstances of an arrest to determine whether the suspect's rights were violated. This often takes the form of investigation mistakes such as conducting a search without a warrant. In other cases, the officers commit acts that can only be characterized as outright misconduct.
Last week, video surfaced online of an incident in which several LBPD officers were shown beating a 46-year-old unarmed and shirtless man on the pavement near the intersection of Locust Avenue and South Street. The video was recorded by a bystander who recognized that something bad was happening, and it begins after the suspect has already been under attack for some time. Running for four and a half minutes, the video depicts the officers standing around the suspect and taking turns to kick or strike him with a baton. The audio includes the sound of a Taser being discharged.
Police Can Use Force, but Only When Justified
Police officers are authorized to use force against a suspect, but only to the degree that is necessary to subdue the person, prevent harm to themselves and others in the vicinity, and to get the suspect into handcuffs. It happens all too often, however, that law enforcement officers will exceed their prerogative in the use of force and will abuse their power to carry out a beating on the streets. This is, evidently, what happened in the video. Throughout most of the duration of the clip, the suspect is not being violent toward the officers or anyone else, and is not even resisting arrest. Instead, he is seen laying supine on the asphalt, while the officers do not move in to put him in cuffs but instead decide that another kick or another hit with the baton is necessary.
Did the officers really have to beat the suspect?
Of course, the video does not present the full picture of the incident, and it should not be assumed that the officers simply jumped the suspect like street thugs. They were responding to a call concerning a fight on the sidewalk in front of a liquor store. Surveillance footage shows that the suspect had punched another man in the head, and a police report states that the man was behaving irrationally at the time when the officers arrived at the scene, such as by punching the ground and telling an officer to shoot him. He is reported to have initially resisted the arrest, including by trying to punch and kick one of the officers. By the time the video starts, however, the man seems to have been fully subdued, and the beating that the man receives on tape does not appear to be warranted.
LBPD Response to the Recent Police Beating
An attorney representing the suspect in civil action against the police officers claims that the man suffered a broken arm and leg, as well as a gash on his head and a lung injury. Requests have been made for the local U.S. Attorney to investigate the situation with the possibility of legal action from the federal Department of Justice. Jim McDonnell, the Long Beach Police Chief, has gone on the record with the LA Times as saying that the footage causes "a level of discomfort," though he supported the officers' actions as following protocol. It is possible to sue a police officer or law enforcement agency for excessive use of force or other types of misconduct, but in all too many cases the officers get away with violating the rights of a suspect.
Using Video Footage and Other Evidence to Expose the Truth
When we defend a client against criminal charges, we investigate to find any and all evidence, including surveillance footage and any other video that may be useful in bringing to light exactly what happened during an arrest. Whether our client was beaten by police officers or if the officer is lying about the reasons that he or she arrested our client, we work to expose the truth so that the department cannot get away with claiming that the offices' actions were "within protocol" when they were in fact a miscarriage of justice.