Captured on Tape
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SAUL GONZALEZ: At a rally this morning in Inglewood, California, African American and civil rights leaders gathered to protest police brutality.
REV. KERRY ALLISON, Hope Community Church: We come from our different places and different residences all over Southern California and even in other states that – to tell Inglewood, to tell this nation, to tell this world, that we won’t stand for police brutality anymore.
SAUL GONZALEZ: The demonstration was sparked by last Saturday’s videotaped arrest of an African American youth at a filling station. In the tape, shot by an amateur cameraman, a handcuffed 16-year- old named Donovan Jackson is shown having his head slammed into a car by Inglewood police officer Jeremy Morse, who then punched Jackson in the face. The videotape has re-ignited the national debate over the scope of police brutality in America.
MICHAEL ZINZIN, Coalition Against Police Violence: This incident is a problem not with one bad police officer or one bad police department, but rather a systematic crisis being repeated time and time again across the country.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Family members of Jackson say they are especially infuriated because the youth has no arrest record and is developmentally disabled. Tabliah Shakier is Jackson’s cousin.
TABILAH SHAKIER: It’s bad enough that we get beaten simply for the color of our skin or our zip code, but it is even worse when you do it to a special ed student.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Inglewood, where the incident took place, is a predominately working class African American and Latino community bordering Los Angeles. Its mayor is Roosevelt Dorn, a former LA County superior court judge who’s led criticism of the alleged police abuse captured on tape.
MAYOR ROOSVELT DORN, Inglewood, California: What I saw was this officer commit a felony assault, assault with a deadly weapon by use the automobile, battery, child abuse and a violation of this youngster’s civil rights.
SAUL GONZALEZ: However, on Thursday, Inglewood’s police chief, Ron Banks, cautioned against jumping to critical conclusions in the case.
CHIEF RON BANKS: I do not agree that any such judgment can be made at this time without the investigation being complete.
SAUL GONZALEZ: The chief also asked the public and media not to condemn his entire department and brand its members as racist.
CHIEF RON BANKS: We serve a heavily minority community; we serve them on a daily basis well within the guidelines of our policy, and to take this particular incident and characterize it as an example of racial profiling to me is unwarranted.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Officer Morse has been placed on paid leave from the Inglewood Police Department and faces the possibility of criminal charges in the incident, which began when LA County sheriff’s deputies tried to arrest Jackson’s father at the filling station for expired license plates. Police say Jackson then became combative — actions not caught on video — forcing officers to restrain him. Along with the LA County District Attorney’s Office, federal authorities, including the U.S. Attorney, and FBI, have launched their own investigations to determine if excessive force was used in the Inglewood incident. The Justice Department has also sent its top civil rights attorney, Ralph Boyd, to Southern California to assist in the investigation. On Wednesday, attorneys for Donovan Jackson and his father filed a civil rights lawsuit against Officer Morse and the city of Inglewood.
JACK SWEENEY, Jackson Attorney: We want to send the city of Inglewood a message that we are going to prosecute this case as vigorously and as roughly as they beat our client.
SAUL GONZALEZ: And the videotape will be indispensable in the coming legal battle.
LAURIE LEVINSON, Loyola Law School: Videotape is terribly important. In fact, even in this one incident we know that no cop filed a complaint against the other officer until the videotape came out.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Laurie Levinson is a former federal prosecutor and criminal law professor who studies police abuse cases.
LAURIE LEVINSON: Once they have the police actions captured on videotape, no one can deny it. They can try to explain it away, but we know what happened.
SAUL GONZALEZ: However, Levinson cautions that even with video evidence, it’s often difficult to conclusively prove excessive force cases.
LAURIE LEVINSON: It is actually a very flexible standard. And even though you see someone in handcuffs and you think, “Don’t touch him, hurt him anymore,” police officers might still see something in his actions, in his hands, in the look in his eye that poses a threat. And law enforcement standards may allow them to react. So you can’t give one definition to what excessive force is because it always depends on the circumstance.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Officer Morse is arguing that he struck Jackson because the youth grabbed his testicles. The police officer’s attorney, John Barnett, says an investigation will vindicate his client.
JOHN BARNETT, Officer Morse’s Attorney: I’m not going to tell you what he told me, but I can tell you that I think that the evidence is going to show that the force used was appropriate to the situation.
SAUL GONZALEZ :As authorities investigate the most recent example of alleged police brutality in Southern California, many are comparing the case to the racially charged beating of Rodney King 11 years ago. However, the Inglewood incident has not elicited the same degree of community protest as the King case. Mayor Dorn believes that’s because the incident is more about excessive force than police racism.
MAYOR DORN: I think that this officer in the frame of mind that he was in, it would not have mattered what color that youngster was. He would have committed the same act. And that’s what’s so dangerous.
SAUL GONZALEZ: In a twist in this story, Mitchell Crooks, the man who’s videotape started the uproar, faces his own problems with law enforcement; he was arrested in Los Angeles yesterday for outstanding petty theft and DUI warrants. At this morning’s rally, speakers demanded that Inglewood’s police chief take quick action against the officers present at the Jackson arrest.
DEMONSTRATOR: We’re here to say that if you don’t give us this rogue officer, we’ll get rid of you. We’ll remove from you office!
SAUL GONZALEZ: More rallies are planned for this weekend.
DEMONSTRATORS: No justice, no peace!