Stop judging police from out-of-context video clips
Reprinted from the New York Daily News, August 18, 2016
A 27-second clip from a seven-minute video, shot on May 4 in a Bronx McDonald’s, surfaced on social media last week showing two plainclothes detectives from the Bronx warrants squad struggling to arrest Darnell Simmons for parole violation and committing a series of burglaries in Manhattan and the Bronx.
As with all abbreviated and edited videos of police-involved incidents, it’s impossible to determine — and crucial to know — what really happened at that McDonald’s.
Short snippets that go viral tend to be the most incendiary and are intended to provoke and incite the viewer. It’s not enough to see the climax in isolation. What occurs leading up to a climactic moment provides context and helps to explain why a situation sometimes escalates to a life-or-death decision where deadly physical force becomes unavoidable by the officer.
In this case, by the time the detectives managed, with the help of a civilian, to handcuff Simmons, they had sustained multiple, serious injuries, including a broken nose, two herniated discs and a torn ligament. All of the injuries caused by Simmons happened in the unseen minutes of the video.
Regrettably, we’ve only seen 27 seconds. So I ask the person who shot the video to release it in its entirety so that everyone who views it can form a more informed opinion about the incident and not pre-judge the police.
But as we can see even from the short clip, the assault on the officers would have have been avoided if Simmons had quietly cooperated when they sought to place him under arrest. Instead, Simmons attacked, punching, kicking and biting the detectives and slamming an officer’s head against a counter. The officers required stitches and plastic surgery to repair the damage to their face and head.
It’s not complicated. Once an officer begins writing a summons for jumping a turnstile or a ticket for an illegally parked car, there’s no turning back. The wheels are in motion.
It’s the same with an arrest.
Black, white, Asian or Hispanic, when a cop places you under arrest, you don’t resist. You don’t mouth off. You don’t take a swing at the officer, kick him or slam his head into a counter. And you certainly don’t bite him.
It’s Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Strike an officer and you will be met with the physical force necessary to subdue and arrest you.
It is true that approximately 10,000 people a year in this country are falsely arrested and wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. That is a problem to be fixed. But whether being apprehended falsely arrested or not, a suspect must not resist when an officer places him or her under arrest.
It wasn’t up to Eric Garner to decide whether he’d be arrested that day for selling loose cigarettes. That decision belonged to the arresting officers. In all likelihood, Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Alton Sterling would be alive if they’d simply complied with a lawful order and allowed arresting officers to handcuff them when commanded to put their hands behind their backs.
Who, other than the arresting officers, knows how much force was required to subdue Simmons, Garner, Gray, Brown and Sterling when they resisted arrest?
I represent NYPD detectives and lieutenants. Many of them work in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods because they care about New Yorkers who most need protecting and serving. The same is true of police officers across the city, country and around the world.
Frydman is CEO of Source Communications, a communications firm in Manhattan.