Police brutality caught on tape, again
The video out of Arkansas highlights, yet again, the importance of bystanders recording police — and being able to do so. Gov. Asa Hutchinson referred to the violence as a "local arrest incident."
As the week gets underway, I expect much more — including in the Biden administration emergency abortion care cases — but I didn’t want to let this Monday morning pass without drawing attention here to the law enforcement brutality seen in Arkansas over the weekend.
POLICE BRUTALITY, ARKANSAS: On Sunday, Aug. 21, law enforcement officers were recorded brutalizing a man in Mulberry, Arkansas, in Crawford County. Mulberry is about an hour south of Fayetteville, and the county runs along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. The officers involved were later identified by Arkansas State Police as two sheriff’s deputies from Crawford County and one police officer from Mulberry, per the Arkansas Times.
After a person with the person filming the violence got out of the car they were in to say something to the officers, two of the officers look over.
“Back [or shut] the fuck up,” the officer who had kicked the man on the ground appears to have said in the video.
The officer who had been hitting the man on the ground in the head then looked up and pointed at the car. “Get in your [or the] car,” he appears to have said in the video.
The Arkansas State Police is investigating, and the officers involved are suspended (the deputies) or on administrative leave (the officer), per KATV.
The sheriff’s office stated on Facebook the the two deputies are suspended “pending the outcome of the investigation,” which the office said it requested. (The post is written in the first person, so presumably it is coming from Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante.)
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, meanwhile, referred to the matter as “the local arrest incident” in his first response to the brutality caught on tape. He said the video was part of the reason for the state police investigation. He also said, however, that the local prosecuting attorney had asked for that investigation.
Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Rinda Baker is currently the head of the office, but did not run for re-election earlier this year. Kevin Holmes, a former city deputy prosecutor, won election in May and will be the next prosecutor for the county.
Bryant, who heads up the Arkansas State Police, worked with Hutchinson when the governor ran the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under former President George W. Bush. He worked for the DEA for 30 years before retiring in 2014. A year later, Hutchinson appointed him to run the Arkansas State Police.
We still don’t know a lot of what happened here, but what we do know is that we might never have known about it — or if and when the brutality would have stopped — had bystanders not stopped what they were doing, filmed the ongoing violence, and interjected.
Little Rock’s KATV reported that the person in the video is a 27-year-old South Carolina man who was charged on several counts, including resisting arrest and refusal to submit, and is being held in a local jail after being treated at a local hospital.
The station also reported that the state police’s review will be quite limited:
State police told KATV the investigation will be limited to the use of physical force by the deputies and police officer. Once complete, the case file will be submitted to the Crawford County prosecuting attorney and she will determine whether the use of force by the law enforcement officers was consistent with Arkansas laws.
As such, unless the Arkansas State Police moves more quickly than elsewhere, it’s likely that Holmes, and not Baker, will eventually be responsible for this.
This video — not the first at all and it won’t be the last — is yet another awful reminder of how much police brutality goes on outside of the public’s eye. These officers apparently thought they were alone and seemed to have no fear about how the situation would be viewed within their departments had the “incident” not been caught on tape.
Even when they realized they were being watched and their actions were called out, their immediate response was to begin cursing and yelling orders at the bystanders.
This violence and the reaction to being filmed show why efforts to stop people from being able to record such encounters are so troubling. The most prominent recent example of those efforts is the Arizona no-filming-within-8-feet of police law due to go into effect next month.
FOLLOWING UP ON THAT, AN ABORTION-RELATED NOTE: In a May 10 interview before the May 24 election, that now-incoming Crawford County, Arkansas, prosecutor, Kevin Holmes, was asked what state or federal law or rule could be changed to increase community safety.
He first inaccurately characterized the Biden administration as having an “open border policy.” (Here’s the most recent annual U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement report from the Biden administration.)
Holmes then switched to abortion, telling Talk Business & Politics that “the leaked Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade will result in abortion being a state issue which may result on the Prosecuting Attorney’s office being on the front lines of prosecuting abortions.”
Holmes also highlighted on his campaign website being legal counsel for the 1st Choice Pregnancy Medical Center in Fort Smith, which Arkansas Right to Life lists as a “Crisis Pregnancy Center.”
Arkansas’s trigger ban is in effect, making all abortion illegal with only a narrow exception if the life of the mother is at risk and including a felony penalty of up to 10 years in prison for anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion.
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