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When the power of arrest corrupts cops

May 22, 2009 When the power of arrest corrupts cops

If a cop is going to arrest a reporter and news camera operator for covering something as non-political and non-controversial as an overturned truck from the opposite side of the highway, imagine what the same cop will do under the cover of the night passing by people doing "oink, oink" pig sounds. That is, unless the cop gets demoted to a desk job.

Former El Paso police sergeant Raul Ramirez went on a power trip last April, manhandled the reporter and cameraperson, and arrested them, while letting the onlooking civilians to continue to watch the scene. His misdeeds were caught on camera and audio. How many people has he manhandled worse when he thought nobody was videotaping, watching, or witnessing?

Mr. Ramirez was demoted over a previous police abuse incident. For his mistreatment of the reporter and cameraperson, the police chief this month concluded that he "somewhat overreacted." Is that not like being a little bit pregnant?

The First Amendment guarantees press freedom and freedom of expression. Raul Ramirez either did not know that, did not give a crap, or both.  Were the police not here for the purpose of serving the public, rather than the other way around?

What juror who sees the above-posted video of this incident is not going to downgrade his or her reliance on the truthfulness and judgment of Mr. Ramirez next time he testifies?

Isn’t this video enough to convince many more people finally to join my call to shrink and improve the police function and the rest of the criminal justice system, by legalizing marijuana, heavily decriminalizing all other drugs, eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing, eliminating the death penalty, and eliminating per se rules of intoxication based on minimum blood alcohol levels? I’ll drink to that. Jon Katz

ADDENDUM: Of course, the recently-revealed Birmingham, Alabama, police brutality tape is even more stomach turning.

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