Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Police Beating Caught On Tape (…or, “Your Tax Dollars At Work.”)

Once or twice, I’ve had the unfortunate duty to have to shine a light on police misconduct on Beyond The Political Spectrum’s sister page on You Tube page. But in what seems to be a seasonal occurrence in the realm of journalism, a Las Vegas newspaper is reporting the beating of citizen videographer, Mitchell Crooks (yes, I know…an ironic last name).
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Las Vegas police officer Derek Colling is under continual investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, after having been found to have violated several department policies. The sustained complain found that on March 20th of this year, Officer Colling used excessive force (among other violations) on the 36-year-old Crooks, who was confronted by Colling after being ordered to stop recording a police investigation of a burglary from across the street in his own driveway.

According to the internal review (and what the video tape seems to indicate), Colling used more physical force in a situation where a confrontation was simply not warranted. Department procedures mandate that findings stemming from the incident go through an arduous process which includes further review by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, recommendations for suggested disciplinary actions from Colling supervisors, and hearing from an internal board of review.
Las Vegas police officer Derek Colling during a previous court testimony
The possible penalties include everything from no action—if his actions were found to be questionable but not in violation of department policies—to suspension or termination. Colling is currently on paid suspension and has been since April 1st.
In all fairness, it should be reported that both Colling and Crooks have both been a part of controversy prior to this incident. Colling has been involved in 2 fatal shootings, both having been ruled justified.

In 2006, he and four other officers shot Shawn Jacob Collins after the 43-year-old man pulled a gun at an east valley gas station.

In 2009, Colling shot and killed Tanner Chamberlain, a mentally ill 15-year-old who was holding a knife at his mother's neck and waving it at officers.

For his part, Crooks made headlines in 2002 when he videotaped two Inglewood, Calif., police officers beating a 16-year-old boy. In addition, he has been arrested on drunken driving and petty theft charges, both charges being dated.

I have several problems with this entire incident. First, a paid suspension since April 1st amounts to a paid vacation, the likes I never got, even after my surgery.
Second, what was the officer’s level of training? Being a police officer, a public servant where government, people, and the courts place so much trust with, should require much more than a since-childhood desire to want to be one. Public servants with so much power and so much of the public’s trust should have more rigorous requirements, both professionally and personally. There should be at least an associates degree/2-year college degree requirement, with target focuses on Sociology, Psychology, Criminal Justice, and Civics. In addition, background checks should not be confined to sterile records checks. There should as much a level of scrutiny performed in the background checks of police officer candidates as there is for those wanting to FBI agents or similar occupations; personal interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances would be nice.
Finally, psychological testing is a must! There has to be a psychological weeding out process for police officers to limit the number of control freaks, power trippers, and other questionable types who seems to gravitate to that particular career choice.
Its something of an indefensible double-standard that police officers, with whom we place so much public trust in, have so much in the way of procedures and organizational bulkheads which prevent them from being summarily dismissed for obvious outright abuses of power, while the rest of us must live and work under the specter of “at-will” employment. We can be terminated for no given reason other than our employers feeling like it, justified or not.
Crooks’ misfortune illustrated that we need to be Watching the Watchmen!


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