VIDEOS HELP TO STOP POLICE BRUTALITY

A Federal Heights police Cpl. who brutally beat a handcuffed suspect, pleaded guilty to attempted assault and received a slap-on-the-hand sentence from the court (0ne year probation, with court costs), even though this is not the first allegation of assaultive behavior towards a civilian that has been directed against him. Cpl. Mark Magness can be seen beating, taunting and terrorizing Kent Lasnik on video outside the police squad, and later inside the police station. It is unclear why he was allowed to plead to an “attempted assault”, or not sent to jail, given the clear evidence of his guilt and violence depicted in the videos. Nor is it plausible that he received a sentence similar to those received by civilians convicted of such assaultive behavior. One need only ask whether a civilian convicted of beating a police officer the way Magness beat Lasnik would receive such a lenient sentence. What is clearly true is that crimes committed by police officers of this nature in the past, without the benefit of an incriminating video, would have went nowhere. The cops would claim that the suspect resisted and force was necessary and it would not be questioned. It would appear that we are at the very tip of the iceberg where detection of police brutality is concerned. Civilians who have claimed that they have been mistreated by the police have often lost their battles over veracity issues, including a possible criminal record. Even on a lessor, but important scale, police have been successfully able to point to a suspect’s state of intoxication from alcohol or drugs: Who you going to believe, a sober police officer, or a drunk driver? Add to this, the widespread acceptance of the police version of events by judges, who routinely have the same officers in their courtrooms, and only deal with the defendant once, victims of police brutality are almost always fighting against heavy odds. With videos, we no longer have to accept the word of the police, and judges, prosecutors and juries are finally getting the whole story. The next phase of concern is whether convicted police officers are still receiving favorable treatment when it comes to sentencing, a practice not extended to any other player in the criminal arena, including lawyers and judges. Fortunately, in this case, Magnass was fired, but that does not happen enough in the country- more often, the chief “will have his cop’s back”, and work to keep dangerous officers on the force. Videos are starting to reshape this ancient practice. We think all police should be required to video all aspects of the arrest and subsequent dealings with a suspect. Where cameras/videos malfunction, or are not activated, there should be a presumption that favors the suspect’s version. There is no valid reason why this should not be the case.

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