A year and a half ago a black woman at the Miami airport yelled at an office with an Hispanic surname that he was really black. She yelled at him, and may have been drunk.
The officer, Antonio Rodriguez, “snaps and punches the woman in the face. He then throws his hands on her and brings her to the ground as officers in the background shout ‘Woah, woah’.” He then claimed “she headbutted me” though the video shows that wasn’t true.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) July 2, 2020
After the incident the question of whether to prosecute the officer for assault fell to the State’s Attorney – whom I noted at the time had never charged an officer for an on duty fatal shooting in 27 years – so, I said, “good luck with that.”
The police union president, defending the officer, claimed that the passenger was at fault, and deserved the beat down, since (1) she was asked to leave and (2)
attacked his fist with her face “pushe[d] her face right into his face.”
She initially faced charges of felony battery of a law-enforcement officer, but those charges were dropped. Publicly available video clearly established there was no basis for the charge. The officers that supported the charge should have been disciplined for doing so.
The passenger isn’t blameless here for provoking a confrontation, of course. The problem is that police officers can be given a pass because they take on potentially dangerous duty, rather than being held to a higher standard because they’re entrusted with force of law (‘with great power comes great responsibility’). Qualified immunity is a problem. So are contracts that wipe disciplinary records on renewal and procedures that hide disciplinary records from defense counsel.
No one should be surprised – since I told you to expect it – that the State’s Attorney declined to prosecute the officer, determining he wasn’t obligated to retreat from the situation and could have believed he was in danger though the video shows no reasonable physical threat. Slapping her appeared to be a response to her insult rather than any threat.
We ask a lot of police officers – but that’s exactly what we should expect. In the U.S. they carry guns, and we saw one drawn a the Miami airport just this week. We should expect restraint and de-escalation – and accountability, at a minimum when an officer trumps up charges against someone that they hit first in order to justify their own misconduct.