FPP Update February 20, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Front-page-post followup: Patrick Pogan--the New York police officer who was videotaped shoving a Critical Mass cyclist to the ground--has been fired.
posted by mattdidthat to MetaFilter-Related at 1:19 PM (90 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Good.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Awesome. So everyone got what they deserved! (kidding! kidding!)
posted by Eideteker at 1:22 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or he resigned. Hmmm... NYPD vs. Criminal Cop's Lawyer. I wonder who's telling the truth?
posted by ob at 1:25 PM on February 20, 2009


I have a friend who was fired once from Burger King for forgetting to take the garbage out like he was asked. It happened an hour after the garbage was supposed to be taken out. One hour.

Didn't this cop shove the guy, like, 17 years ago? It feels like it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, when can we expect he'll be turning himself in for his mandated prison sentence for, you know, assaulting someone?
posted by adipocere at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can't fire me, I quit!
posted by box at 1:30 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yay! That's the best police news I've heard in some time.
posted by Mister_A at 1:31 PM on February 20, 2009


"They make errors all the time,” Mr. London said of the Police Department’s assertion that Mr. Pogan had been fired. Mr. Pogan resigned “to concentrate his efforts on fighting the criminal charges that are against him,” Mr. London said, “so that when he is ultimately acquitted he can reapply to the Police Department.”"

Good luck finding the real killers, P.P.!
posted by box at 1:31 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck YES. Nothing usually happens to those bad cops. Thank god for YouTube.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Box beat me to it. "You can't fire my thuggish client, he quits!"
posted by scody at 1:38 PM on February 20, 2009


The sad thing is, he'll probably get hired in another city, and he'll continue being a loose cannon until he's caught abusing someone else... Then he'll get fired again, move on to yet another department... Lather, rinse, repeat.

My husband is a police officer and his department has gotten rid of bad cops only to hear about them quickly finding a position in another jurisdiction. Until more police departments start taking the issue of bad cops seriously, the offending officers will continue to inflict themselves on society. They are not only a danger to citizens, they're a danger to other cops everywhere because they cause the public to lose faith in the police and to distrust every cop they encounter, even in benign situations. Officers who abuse the public trust make my husband's job more dangerous than it already is.
posted by amyms at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


only to hear about them quickly finding a position in another jurisdiction

Like Galveston, for example.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


You'd think that, like the idea of a national criminal database that exists to help Police departments catch interstate criminals, there'd be a national Policeman database to thelp Police departments avoid rehiring bad cops.

Here's to his position being filled by a good one.
posted by davejay at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know, I know! He could be a BART cop!
posted by desjardins at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2009


Aw, desjardins beat me to it!
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on February 20, 2009


more like a crooked cop beat you without provocation to it amirite
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:04 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Didn't this cop shove the guy, like, 17 years ago? It feels like it.

He's a public employee, so he gets due process when the department moves to remove him. Its to prevent political patronage or other political considerations from influencing the decision to remove a public employee.

Looks like the system worked here.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Happy news day 20 FEB 2009. Cyclists unite!
posted by buzzman at 2:19 PM on February 20, 2009


One down, too many to go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:36 PM on February 20, 2009


I plan to throw myself off my bike in celebration.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2009


"I plan to throw myself off my bike in celebration."

Make sure you have someone tape it!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:56 PM on February 20, 2009


ow! ow! cortex pushed me off the internet! someone get a camera!
posted by rtha at 3:11 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have cameras?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2009


Looks like the system worked here.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:08 PM on February 20


He got fired; who gives a shit? When will he stand trial for assault?

People get fired for fucking showing up late. Meanwhile this honorable public servant shoved an innocent guy off his bike, could have fucking killed him, and then lied about it. And his friends on the force helped to cover it up. The only reason he ever got fired is because there was a video.

Fucking Christ, you are so predictable.

THE SYSTEM WORKS NOTHING TO SEE HERE HE GOT FIRED NO NEED FOR THE HASSLE OF CHARGING HIM WITH ANYTHING LET'S NEVER TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:47 PM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


He's on his way to Nasau County to investigate those car accidents, y'know, best of the web FPP?
posted by fixedgear at 4:05 PM on February 20, 2009


Fucking Christ, you are so predictable.

He is not the only one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2009 [14 favorites]


So they recovered the audio from the recording?
posted by DU at 5:27 PM on February 20, 2009


That's good news. Now watch that Gumbel piece on HBO about Bobby Tolan's son and watch your bp go up again. Sickening.
posted by Zambrano at 5:41 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have cameras?

pix.metafilter.com. don't tell anyone

posted by lysdexic at 5:45 PM on February 20, 2009


Thats SOME justice...but WTF happened to that MoFo Cop who shot a man in the back while other cops were holding him down? Can anybody help...I can't find an update
posted by hal_c_on at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2009


Johannes Mehserle resigned from BART, fled to Nevada, and was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. He's currently out on bail. Related: MeFi Projects.
posted by mattdidthat at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2009


Being a police officer is a job that inherently authorizes the use of physical force. When that's abused, firing is the appropriate response and a sign of the system working. Saying he should be charged with assault ignores that the line is necessarily shifted based on the nature of the profession, whether you like it or not.

Or do you also think that football players who get penalized for a late tackle should be charged with assault?
posted by Riki tiki at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2009


posted by Riki tiki Or do you also think that football players who get penalized for a late tackle should be charged with assault?

Do you think police officers who randomly assault people should be penalized for unnecessary roughness?
posted by mattdidthat at 6:21 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


mattdidthat: if you mean like the football penalty, then no... physical force by a police officer is not part of a game and not subject to those rules. I don't see how that's in any way a refutation of my point.

That said, I will add that this only applies in the context of situations that might suggest physical force but where the circumstances never reach the level to justify it. I'm adding this to head off the "well killing people is also inherently authorized, right riki?" counters... most situations do not suggest deadly force and so I'm not saying firing is a sufficient response to, say, the BART incident.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2009


Being a police officer is a job that inherently authorizes the use of physical force. When that's abused, firing is the appropriate response and a sign of the system working. Saying he should be charged with assault ignores that the line is necessarily shifted based on the nature of the profession, whether you like it or not.

Wow, you're an idiot.
posted by The Monkey at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, for corn's sake. You know as well as I do that question and yours are so ridiculous they don't merit serious answers.

I don't know if you've watched the videotape of (former) Officer Pogan assaulting the cyclist, but if you haven't, I urge you to do so. Pogan had absolutely no reason to shove the cyclist to the ground--in fact, the cyclist clearly steered to avoid Pogan. When Pogan shoved the cyclist, he ceased to act as a law enforcement officer because his actions were not warranted as such--and then he lied in his report to justify his actions. Therefore, Pogan was acting as a civilian, and he should be charged with assault like any other civilian who shoves cyclists to the ground.
posted by mattdidthat at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, you're an idiot.

Wow, somebody needs a hug. You don't have to agree with me (despite my "whether you like it or not" posturing), but at least put together an actual rebuttal.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:09 PM on February 20, 2009


Maybe he should be shoved from his bike, optimus chyme? An eye for an eye, a debikistration for a debikistration...
posted by Mister_A at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2009


I'm adding this to head off the

But you didn't head it off at all, Riki tiki--you just predicted that people would point out the absurdity of your position. Pushing him without provocation is the same sort of act as picking up a baseball bat and swinging it at the rider or drawing a gun and shooting him in the leg--or the face. The latter two may be prosecuted as aggravated assault, or murder, rather than merely assault, but it doesn't matter that it was a police officer doing it. Assault, like all crimes, is an act done by any person with the appropriate mindset (negligently, recklessly, or willfully), and without excuse. Cops are just people. When they do things like this their profession doesn't shield them from criminal liability, and any statement to the contrary is dead wrong as a matter of criminal law--even if on the ground they routinely get away with it or are not routinely prosecuted.

The primary reason that football players, boxers and ultimate fighters are not charged with assault is the concept of informed consent. But a boxer on the street can't punch someone in the face, break their jaw and then say "Hey! I'm a boxer. This is how I roll." In New York we would call that second or third degree assault--cop, boxer, phlebotemist. The context is everything.

Police officers can legitimately do things that would otherwise constitute the physical act that normally forms the predicate for an assault in the lawful pursuit of a suspect, or in subduing a dangerous person. But because of the last part of the preceding sentence, it's not a crime. E.g. Suspect is on a bike in a crowded pedestrian mall riding around at top speed whacking innocent bystanders in the head with his messenger bag. Doesn't stop when asked. Alert cop knocks him off his bike and makes the arrest. Not assault! But it also wouldn't be assault if you did it!
posted by kosem at 9:11 PM on February 20, 2009


there'd be a national Policeman database to thelp Police departments avoid rehiring bad cops.

I doubt they are lying in their interviews. The departments that hire them are either in need of people or think a violent asshole would fit in well with their other employees.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:12 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


An actual rebuttal would look something like, "The force spectrum is authorized not when you're hired, or when you put on your badge for the day, or when you're on the street, or even when you're feeling a little peeved about a bunch of cyclists, but only in highly specific circumstances, which this situation did not meet in the slightest."

If the system worked here, he not only would have been fired (rather than given a chance to bow out, that is, ankling), he would have been barred from working in law enforcement related positions in the future for such a clear failure of judgment, as well as abuse of power. We will cheerfully bar Mitnick from coming near a computer and sex offenders from living within a thousand yards of a church, but keeping guys with rage issues away from carrying around guns and a loaded sense of entitlement all day? Naaaah.

If the system worked here, he would have been fired for "filing false paperwork" in conjunction with the incident, which is an essentially the intro to the enormous coverup machine serving "our boys in blue" many people feel the current system is. Nailing him on this, and rather publicly, might help restore faith in the system, which you can clearly so many on MetaFilter lack, as is so often bemoaned by the various police apologists. You know, the guys who are always talking about "sending a message" about being "tough on crime."

If the system worked here, the Manhattan Police Department would have never brought charges of attempted assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct on the cyclist. Again, it's a chance to smear the victim and defend Officer McShover by claiming justification for his actions.

If the system worked here, he'd currently be in jail for assault. A lengthy trial is not required here, as we have a nice video of him committing the crime. Should take a few days, tops. Deliberation should run about five, ten minutes.

Instead, it's pretty much "with great power comes HOLY CRAP I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT AND JUST THROW IN A RESISTING ARREST! AND MY BUDDIES AT THE DEPARTMENT WILL TOTALLY BACK ME!"
posted by adipocere at 9:20 PM on February 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


If anything, charges laid against cops who commit crimes should be even greater than for civilians. For an officer of the law to break that law damages the social contract in ways that random citizens breaking the law doesn't- it's not just damage to society, but damage to the idea of the society.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:35 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


If anything, charges laid against cops who commit crimes should be even greater than for civilians.

Agreed, and then some - in a recent case here in Canada, two guys who gave a gun to a man who told them he intended to use it to ambush the RCMP and went on to kill four officers before taking his own life were respectively sentenced to 12 and 15 years after pleading down to manslaughter from initial charges of first degree. While the convicted were obviously complicit (They claimed they were scared of disobeying the killer, which is sorta understandable) and the Criminal Code clear on the liabilities of being a so-called party to the offence, it was pretty obvious from the sentences that they were the whipping-boy scapegoats for the guy who actually pulled the trigger but was beyond justice. They could have raped someone and gotten less. If they had actually killed a civilian, they would have gotten less.

Long story short, the police are given privileges because of the role they serve in the community, and if targeted because of that role, they are granted protections above and beyond that available to civilians. It is only fair that the beneficial exceptionalism they are entitled to is balanced by higher levels of scrutiny and codes of conduct and far more severe ramifications should they violate the public trust.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:16 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


THE SYSTEM WORKS NOTHING TO SEE HERE HE GOT FIRED NO NEED FOR THE HASSLE OF CHARGING HIM WITH ANYTHING LET'S NEVER TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN

He was indicited in December. I think that you don't do even a modicum of research into the subjects you love to get outraged about, and instead I think you use them as a springboard to spew ignorant vitirol against other members you have some disagrement with. I believe that it makes you look ignorant and disengenious.
posted by Snyder at 1:30 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good, damn right. Now what about the other 75 percent who are *just like him*?
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:55 AM on February 21, 2009


Meanwhile this honorable public servant shoved an innocent guy off his bike, could have fucking killed him, and then lied about it.

Could have killed him? Shoving him off a bicycle? Hysteria and utter exaggeration does not help your point, it just makes you sound hysterical and exaggerating the severity in an attempt to foster support and harness outrage.
posted by Brockles at 9:12 AM on February 21, 2009


If he does get hired elsewhere, here's hoping he has to be a bicycle cop.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:08 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if he refuses the bicycle, he gets a Segway.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


In New York we would call that second or third degree assault--cop, boxer, phlebotemist.

Hey, not to derail, does anyone know a good phlebotomist in New York?
posted by Rumple at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2009


Brockles, buddy, have you ridden a bike since grade school? The amount of force involved in a human body travelling at upwards of 20 mph can be lethal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 PM on February 21, 2009


He got fired; who gives a shit? When will he stand trial for assault?People get fired for fucking showing up late. Meanwhile this honorable public servant shoved an innocent guy off his bike, could have fucking killed him, and then lied about it. And his friends on the force helped to cover it up. The only reason he ever got fired is because there was a video.

The trial is upcoming. Any public employee has a right to due process regarding his firing. As indicated above, this is to prevent political pressure to be used to effect a firing. Imagine, if you will, a black cop arresting the rich kid of the white mayor for say, rape. The mayor could not just fire the cop to discredit him.

As for officers not being charged with assault because of their profession? No way. Some officers do commit assault. They must be punished as the rest of us are. The only aspect involves the application of qualified immunity.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on February 21, 2009


If anything, charges laid against cops who commit crimes should be even greater than for civilians. For an officer of the law to break that law damages the social contract in ways that random citizens breaking the law doesn't- it's not just damage to society, but damage to the idea of the society.

This is some very un-anarchist thinking which I agree with in regards to sentencing where it can be shown that the officer was acting with particular malice or with personal gain in mind. Mere overreaction should not trigger enhanced sentencing. (I do not know the facts here, so I am not advocating for anything in regards to this case.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:54 PM on February 21, 2009


The amount of force involved in a human body travelling at upwards of 20 mph can be lethal.

Cite examples, then (Ignoring the fact that it was extremely unlikely his speed was 'upwards of 20mph). Ones that don't include falling off onto a sharpened spike or into an oncoming car. The speed the guy was cycling at is nowhere near enough to be potentially lethal barring freak circumstances. 'Could have killed him' is a gross exaggeration and has no realistic basis.
posted by Brockles at 1:54 PM on February 21, 2009


posted by Brockles The speed the guy was cycling at is nowhere near enough to be potentially lethal barring freak circumstances. 'Could have killed him' is a gross exaggeration and has no realistic basis.

You're ignoring the fact the cyclist was violently shoved and fell to the ground while in motion. The most common injury from this type of crash are head and brain injuries, both of which are often fatal. Source: Department of Transportation/NHTSA.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:12 PM on February 21, 2009


And to provide a perfect example of political pressure to fire a public employee: imagine you have a dumbass small-town mayor named Palin. Palin's sister used to be married to a state trooper named Wooten. Wooten did a few bad things and the department punishes him for it by suspending him. Now, the dumbass mayor named Palin wins the governor's race and becomes Wooten's top boss. Palin, wanting revenge for her sister, decides to try and get Wooten fired. She puts pressure on Wooten's boss, trying to get Wooten fired for the same things he was already suspended for. She gets her husband and staff involved. When the boss of the troopers explains it is illegal to do this and advises her to stop, he gets fired. The governor lies about it and her husband defies subpoenas.

Now, I hope everyone fully understands why every public employee gets due process rights. Because if you believe in equal rights under law, the NYC cop and Trooper Wooten should each get the same rights.

Here, the cop in question was fired and will stand trial for assault. Outrage addiction aside, assuming that the facts are as many have assumed here (I don't know them as I haven't seen the case file), then this is exactly the result we should get.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:29 PM on February 21, 2009


Brockles: "46Could have killed him? Shoving him off a bicycle? "

This was Glen. Glen fell off his bike when it wasn't even moving and hit his head. Glen is now dead. Of course you can be killed falling/being pushed off of a bicycle.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:44 PM on February 21, 2009


Cite examples, then (Ignoring the fact that it was extremely unlikely his speed was 'upwards of 20mph). Ones that don't include falling off onto a sharpened spike or into an oncoming car. The speed the guy was cycling at is nowhere near enough to be potentially lethal barring freak circumstances. 'Could have killed him' is a gross exaggeration and has no realistic basis.

If Pogan had knocked Christopher Long off his bike in such a way that he hit his head into the curb or the pavement, he could have easily died. Brain injuries are a pretty common killer of cyclists, and this is well quantified in medical literature.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:38 PM on February 21, 2009


He is not the only one.
posted by jessamyn at 5:26 PM on February 20


boom, roasted
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:44 PM on February 21, 2009


Am I the only one who saw that video and thought the officer *wasn't* a monster??

He shouldn't have done what he did, but we can't see what the bicyclist was doing while he was out of frame. You could make a case that it was obvious the officer was heading for the curb, and the bicyclist headed right for him. That's what it looked like to me. And pedestrians have the right of way...
posted by gjc at 8:07 PM on February 21, 2009


posted by gjc Am I the only one who saw that video and thought the officer *wasn't* a monster??

No, several other delusional people like you blamed the victim, too.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:00 PM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, you're an idiot.

Wow, somebody needs a hug. You don't have to agree with me (despite my "whether you like it or not" posturing), but at least put together an actual rebuttal.

Let's just say that I suspected that trying to reason with you would be like trying to reason with an eel.

I find it very illuminating that you haven't responded to any of the people that did waste their breath rebutting you.

Illuminating, but not surprising.
posted by The Monkey at 9:07 PM on February 21, 2009


Listen, The Monkey, obviously you've imagined me as some sort of fascist-leaning forum troll, and that's fine. Not accurate, but you're welcome to your opinion. For future reference, not everyone has an opportunity to check MeFi every hour on the hour and compose a thorough response to every point they disagree with.

I did watch the video at the time, and while I remember it appearing very damning I also remember thinking it didn't show enough to draw a complete conclusion. I just watched it again and I encourage you to do the same.

From the time the officer starts walking to the time he shoves the guy, about 2-3 seconds pass. No more than two seconds with the bicyclist in the actual shot. The camera angle shows only about ten yards from cyclist-appears to cyclist-on-the-ground. You think you can say, with 100% certainty, that the officer's actions were 100% unjustified given the available information?

Let me pose an alternative scenario. Imagine a cyclist who really hates cops. He decides to play chicken with one who's standing in the middle of the street in front of him, and starts biking towards him. The cop, seeing this but not knowing any malicious intent, politely moves out of the way. The cyclist changes trajectory and continues on an impact course with the cop. The cop, realizing what's happening, prepares to defend himself. The cyclist, who after all was just playing chicken, swerves at the last second... however, the cop is already in defensive mode and tackles the cyclist anyway (an act which is still fully justified despite the last-second swerve, just like you can't take a swing at a cop and stop your fist right before his or her head).

Now I'm not saying this is what happened. I'm just observing that this scenario would play out on the video in EXACTLY the same way, and we simply don't have the perspective to affirm or deny it. It's not delusional to recognize that you don't have information that you don't actually have.

Yes, the officer seems to have falsified information in his report. He doesn't appear to have been "knocked to the ground" as a result of the tackle, although the view is obstructed immediately after it so he may have briefly fallen after following through it. It's definitely a questionable claim at best. We can't speak to the validity of the officer's other claims because they're not shown on the video.

So he loses his job, fine. But assault charges? Based on your interpretation of three seconds of a video with a very restricted view? I hope it's comfy in that armchair.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:30 AM on February 22, 2009


Let me pose an alternative scenario. Imagine a cyclist who really hates cops. He decides to play chicken

If so, why did the DA drop assault charges against the cyclist? Your alternative scenario doesn't make any sense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 AM on February 22, 2009


My alternative scenario is hypothetical, and I made that as abundantly clear as I could (with bold text, even). Here's another one: hypothetically, the DA might've dropped charges because despite its limitations, they believed the video would make it practically impossible to get a conviction against the cyclist. Moreover, they realized it would just draw further controversy to an already-embarrassing situation.

This is hypothetical this is not what I'm saying happened I don't know why people do the things they do IANA psychic or forensic specialist or lawyer.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:01 AM on February 22, 2009


My alternative scenario is hypothetical, and I made that as abundantly clear as I could

Sure, but I could make up any number of hypothetical reasons why the event happened as it did, all of them entirely implausible. Maybe there was a hurricane gale of wind strong enough to toss Pogan with enough force to throw Long off his bike, for example.

If Long had a history of "really hating cops", that would easy enough for the DA to use as ammunition in a countersuit. The lawyers would have both agreed to drop their cases to spare the other party long, costly and embarrassing trials.

At the very least, there's no way that the DA would have dropped an assault charge against Long if there was the barest hint of evidence of what you just hypothesized. I mean, NYC never goes against police. Never.

If there was any chance Long came after Pogan deliberately, Pogan would still have his job. It's just not plausible to suggest otherwise, given how the city has handled prior police misconduct.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:13 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me be clear since I guess I'm being pegged as the police apologist troll here. I think there's every possibility this cop was just another testosterone-addled sociopath with a badge, and that he picked this innocent cyclist at random to do some good ol' fashioned ass whupping.

But I don't know that for sure, and you don't know that for sure. It's within the realm of possibility that the tackle was justified and it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that the situation suggested the threat of force and this officer was simply too quick to exercise force in response.

Based on that, charging the police officer with assault is ludicrous. Cops need to have the authority to exercise force, I hope you agree. Along with that authority, in my opinion, comes an adjustment to the standards for abuse of force. I certainly don't believe (as I made clear earlier) that cops should be utterly immune to prosecution for their actions, but as far as I'm concerned the evidence has to be beyond a shadow of a doubt to justify that level of response.

Otherwise we are in practice taking the authority of force away from police, because they can never be sure that they will never exercise it in a way that looks bad for a few seconds from a particular angle.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:18 AM on February 22, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: I'm not sure you're understanding what I mean by "hypothetical." There's a spectrum of explanations here, not a simple dichotomy between "evil cyclist/cameraman conspiracy" and "police brutality against a poor helpless upstanding cyclist."

In other words, your logic is this:

1. If the cyclist had a long history of hating cops, the charges would never have been dismissed.
There are many, many ways for this to be false including but not limited to someone who always hated cops but it was never documented. Also, your assertion that "NYC never goes against police" is invalidated by the fact that they did go against a police officer in this situation... just not to the degree you want.

2. Therefore, since the charges were dropped, he had no history of hating cops.
Does not follow because of invalid premise.

3. If he had no history of hating cops, then every piece of my hypothetical fails.
Does not follow. For example, the cop could've reasonably perceived a game of "chicken" when it was really just one of those situations where everybody moved in the same direction to avoid each other.

4. If my hypothetical fails then the only valid scenario is unjustified police brutality.
Does not follow, there are a million other explanations in which force was authorized that don't require a cop-hating chicken-playing cyclist.

Why is everyone to eager to assume they have all the facts and perfect cognitive faculties here?
posted by Riki tiki at 1:44 AM on February 22, 2009


(sorry about the spam)

And yes, I'm saying that there's a spectrum of plausible explanations here. I don't think you can say, based on your apparently-infallible assertion that "NYC never goes against cops, never ", that my proposed scenario is no more plausible than unexplained gale force wind. Seriously, come on.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:00 AM on February 22, 2009


Also, your assertion that "NYC never goes against police" is invalidated by the fact that they did go against a police officer in this situation... just not to the degree you want.

I think you're being ridiculous at this point. I'm sorry I responded.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:01 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


With all due respect, Blazecock, I feel exactly as frustrated.

It's not about the fact that you disagree with me, I'm fine with that and I fully recognize that you all may be right about this situation, it may be textbook police brutality. I certainly understand what the video shows: a police officer tackling a cyclist with no obvious reason for doing so.

But we're all usually so eager to be skeptical, to challenge our assumptions, to take things with a grain of salt. Then there's this, here, we have a situation where three seconds of grainy, poorly-framed video has given many of you absolutely unwavering certainty that there are no missing pieces to the puzzle.

Force is inherently an ugly solution to a problem. Consequently, there are fully justified uses of force that can turn out, from the birds-eye view or in retrospect, to be wrong. Decisions must be judged by the standards of the context in which they were made; we must recognize that the decision makers can't see every angle, and that we haven't always seen what they've seen... and recognizing further that they don't always have the time to ruminate on the decision like we do.

Criminal charges for assault against a cop are a vote of no confidence for his or her ability to measure a situation. Three seconds, ten yards. If you think you can conclude, with certainty, that his actions had no possible justification based on three seconds and ten yards then I resign. I feel that your conclusions were reached before this incident even happened. I've been wasting both of our times arguing, and I'm sorry I responded.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:14 AM on February 22, 2009


Based on that, charging the police officer with assault is ludicrous.

None of us know the facts. This video isn't the facts. It is part of the facts. I don't understand scenarios where the cyclist "hates cops" anymore than the ones where all cops are terrible. We don't know the facts.

Having done dozens of these cases, I can tell you what the facts look like. That video, plus interviews with the officer, his partner, the victim, the reports filed by the officer and his partner, medical reports relating to the condition of the injured cyclist, and the prior record of the officer in question.

The reports likely tell six different stories. They never match up, because eyewitnesses get it wrong.

Figuring out what happened from a single video isn't what usually happens. So we shouldn't engage in it here.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2009


No, several other delusional people like you blamed the victim, too.

Wow dude. I don't think any of those words mean what you seem to think they do.
posted by gjc at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2009


What I don't get about this whole story is when did the NYPD run out of blacks to bash? But then I think, pizza's pretty good, but could I eat it for dinner every night? and then I kinda understand.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:45 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I don't get about this whole story is when did the NYPD run out of blacks to bash?

Please don't do that here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Being a police officer is a job that inherently authorizes the use of physical force. When that's abused, firing is the appropriate response and a sign of the system working. Saying he should be charged with assault ignores that the line is necessarily shifted based on the nature of the profession, whether you like it or not.

So he loses his job, fine. But assault charges? Based on your interpretation of three seconds of a video with a very restricted view? I hope it's comfy in that armchair.

No no, I didn't call you an idiot because I disagree with you about this particular case, I called you an idiot because you seemed to think that police are allowed to beat people up, and that the worst punishment that should befall them when they do is firing.

This is clearly not the case. They are not allowed to beat people up. And when they assault people, they should be charged with assault.

When they're going about their legal day-to-day duties, they are sometimes required to use reasonable levels of force, this doesn't constitute assault, so they should not be charged - and no doubt this represents the majority of cases where the police are forced to resort to action.

Building a system with the nuanced understanding of reasonable and unreasonable force (though it is usually incredibly bloody obvious to everyone that isn't a member of the "thin blue line" and seemingly obsessed with solidarity at any expense) is very challenging, but that's the price we pay for trying to build civilised societies where not all of the members of our communities are good and decent people.

In this specific case - that I'm less interested in than the whole system in general - the officer's behavior seemed to be clearly out of line. Enough so that an investigation and charges seemed like the obvious result.

What are the chances that this would have happened without the video footage? I think they're about nil. This is because of a problem with the system. Police just aren't very good at policing other police.

Being a police officer is a role of considerable trust, when a few bad apples abuse that trust, and then the large majority of "normal" police hide that abuse - whether through action or inaction - that's bad for all of society.

It's clearly true that our police officers sometimes find themselves in situations where they have no choice but to resort to violent action, and in these cases I don't have a problem with their doing so, because they only do it so we don't have to.

If an individual represents a clear danger to the life of an officer, or any other citizen, then they should be pacified by whatever means are required by the situation - this might mean talking things through, direct action with a truncheon, tazing, pepper spray, trained dogs, or shooting.

But we only allow our police to use these graduated means, which we've so generously put at their disposal, where the situation requires it. Political activists probably don't need to be tazed, even if they're being dicks. People caught walking while black probably don't need to be shot for reaching for their wallet. And cyclists probably shouldn't be tackled off their bikes, just because they're dirty smelly hippies.

There are of course borderline cases, the officer finds himself in a rapidly escalating situation, and doesn't have our benefit of hindsight, so uses force that is later deemed more than required, that's where the nuance comes in, and where professional investigators, with all the facts at their disposal, are required - i.e. not us, and not the media.

I don't think we can say that of the case with this cyclist.

The people who immediately leap to the defence of the police, regardless of how terrible their behavior can be, are being as unreasonable as the "fuck the police" crowd.

My expectation is that cameras will go a long way to fixing the system.
posted by The Monkey at 7:28 PM on February 22, 2009


Me: "Being a police officer is a job that inherently authorizes the use of physical force."/"...this only applies in the context of situations that might suggest physical force but where the circumstances never reach the level to justify it... I'm not saying firing is a sufficient response to, say, the BART incident."

The Monkey: "I called you an idiot because you seemed to think that police are allowed to beat people up, and that the worst punishment that should befall them when they do is firing."

Do you see a discrepancy? Do you notice that your version of what I'm saying is in direct contrast to what I actually said? Let me condense it further: I explicitly stated that firing is not always the maximum appropriate response. You then claimed I was saying that firing is always the maximum appropriate response.

There are two problems here, as I see it. First, you're using this incident as representative of police brutality and as a whole. I feel I've made a very reasonable case that unless you saw the situation from a much more comprehensive angle, the video alone does not show whether it was or was not police brutality. You want to have an argument about police brutality and the "thin blue line", there's an open thread with a much more clear-cut example than this one.

Second, you're being very reactionary. Calling me an idiot, besides hurting my widdle feewings, was an empty contribution to the thread. Your subsequent responses have been more detailed, but as I indicated above you have been responding to the fascist forum troll you assumed I was instead of the statements I've actually been making. I've been right here except for the 24-hour period I wasn't checking MeFi, there was no reason to construct a straw man except that it was easier for you to argue against.

As I said to Blazecock, I am very sorry I responded here. I realize how arrogant this sounds, but other than some overly strong wording in my original comment I feel like I've been arguing from the assumption of skepticism about my own opinions. Meanwhile I've been arguing against people with a religiously anti-police viewpoint... in the spirit of the Oscars I'll paraphrase Doubt: you don't seem to need evidence, because you have your certainty.

So respectfully, I'll take my leave of this thread. I'm not taking my toys and going home; I'll check my recent activity in case you folks want to get in the last word, but I won't respond. I'll save my energy for threads where I hope I can make a more constructive contribution.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:28 PM on February 22, 2009


Please don't do that here.

Oh please, it was tongue-in-cheek, just delete it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:10 PM on February 22, 2009


pfft - tongue-in-cheek. i've heard that one before. you're worse than a bloody Zemblan in your racist attitudes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:01 PM on February 22, 2009


Do you see a discrepancy? Do you notice that your version of what I'm saying is in direct contrast to what I actually said? Let me condense it further: I explicitly stated that firing is not always the maximum appropriate response. You then claimed I was saying that firing is always the maximum appropriate response.

I don't feel much desire to go over this line by line, suffice to say that the detail of your position came up only in subsequent posts to the one that I initially quoted & responded to.

Second, you're being very reactionary.

It's a character flaw that usually works out pretty well for me.

Meanwhile I've been arguing against people with a religiously anti-police viewpoint.

I'm not one of them.
posted by The Monkey at 10:19 PM on February 22, 2009


Let me be clear since I guess I'm being pegged as the police apologist troll here. I think there's every possibility this cop was just another testosterone-addled sociopath with a badge, and that he picked this innocent cyclist at random to do some good ol' fashioned ass whupping.

But I don't know that for sure, and you don't know that for sure. It's within the realm of possibility that the tackle was justified and it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that the situation suggested the threat of force and this officer was simply too quick to exercise force in response.


Ah, I think I see the problem. You obviously haven't seen the video.
posted by null terminated at 12:36 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, I think I see the problem. You obviously haven't seen the video.

The police officer was on roller skates and couldn't stop. It's hard to tell that from the footage.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:58 AM on February 23, 2009


Ah, I think I see the problem. You obviously haven't seen the video.

I'd forgotten how blatant it was. Christ.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:06 AM on February 23, 2009


The video itself proves nothing, as I said earlier. This case, according to the published reports, turns on the fact that what was shown on the video directly contracted the officer's report.

Everybody is reading stuff into the video that they want to see. Some want to see some sort of anarchist throwing bombs from his biken who is valiantly stopped by the officer. To them, it is obvious the Ayres-terrorist had to be stopped. Others want to see a jackbooted, Limbaugh-loving thug attacking an innocent. It is obvious to them that this peace-lover was brutally attacked.

None of us were there. The Manhattan DA wasn't there. The Internal Affairs investigators weren't there.

These people have the everyday job of trying to figure out what happened. They see what is actually depicted on the video: A police officer shoves a man off a bike.

What they did was compare the statements of the officer with the video. They didn't match up. This is what they do every time and is how the vast majority of criminal cases and police misconduct cases happen. Its also why police officers have to write reports. So they can be checked up on.

What everybody here does is reads the article, sets their assumptions based on that, sees their assumptions validated and then calls for the guy's head. They can't understand why it took so long.

It took so long because good professional investigative work requires setting aside assumptions and looking for what is actually in evidence. All of that has to be collected. Everyone is interviewed. Once they have a working theory, they look at the documents and obtain more if they are needed to prove the theory.

Then they go back and interview again. Based on what they have learned, they ask questions to see if people's stories match up.

From the newspaper articles, it appears that the officer's stories did not match up. That is the red flag they are looking for. They don't tell the officer about the inconsistencies, they write it up and send it to the lega counsel's office, HOUR, and the officer's commander. These people get together. HOUR and legal counsel make recommendations and the commander makes the call on discipline. In big publicity cases, the chief or the mayor will make known what they want.

My point is this: what seems totally obvious to many is really a newspaper reporter or someone's hatred for cops or anarchist hippies telling you what to think.

The fact is, we don't know anything about this case other than a short video and everything we've been told by others.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, this damn blackberry--Its not HOUR its HR. Also contradicted not contracted.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 AM on February 23, 2009


posted by Ironmouth The video itself proves nothing, as I said earlier.

Sure it does. It proves the officer shoved the cyclist for no reason at all and then lied. But hey, I guess the Rodney King video didn't prove anything, either, since what seems totally obvious to many is really a newspaper reporter or someone's hatred for cops or anarchist hippies telling you what to think.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:31 AM on February 23, 2009


Sure it does. It proves the officer shoved the cyclist for no reason at all and then lied.

You've proved my point. Where does the video on its own have any information proving the officer lied? And where is the "no reason" on the video?

All you see is the officers standing in the middle of the street, the officers head towards the side of the street, the cyclist come into frame, the cyclist start to try to avoid the officer, the two get close, then the officer shoving the cyclist off the bike.

You don't see the officer lie about anything. You don't see him speak, you don't see him fill out a report, you don't see him do anything other than shove the cyclist. The tape does not include a mind-reading device telling you about what the officer or the cyclist was thinking.

Nor does the video tape tell you what happened as the cyclist approached, nor what was in the cyclist's mind, or the officer's mind. We don't know if the cyclist had a gun in his belt, a knife, or was just trying to get around the officer. You don't know if he matched the description of a serial rapist the officer was supposed to be on the lookout for, nothing.

What happened was that the officers report (which no one here has seen), according to press reports, contradicted the video. That is what the investigators were looking for and after the interviews and research, that is likely why they concluded that there was misconduct. When they fully investigated the case, they presented it to the DA, who decided to prosecute.

Call me a stickler for detail, but I do these cases for a living, and the courts are nothing but sticklers for detail. To prove something in a court of law or police administrative proceeding, you have to do a hell of a lot more than show that tape. The tape tells you nothing other than the encounter occured. For court or administrative purposes, you must do more than just show the tape. You would get a near-immediate dismissal of the case by a judge without showing that the officer wasn't acting properly. You assume it from the articles or the outrage expressed by others here. That tape itself isn't evidence of misconduct. It requires assumptions not on the tape to conclude misconduct. Because every police officer using force to stop someone isn't automatically doing so illegally. It appears, from what the press reports say, that in this case, the officer had no valid reason for stopping the cyclist.

Making assumptions like we all do in everyday settings is one thing. Proving something in a court of law is another. To do that you must marshall actual facts, not assumptions. What you think "proves" something does nothing of the sort.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:04 PM on February 23, 2009


I guess the Rodney King video didn't prove anything, either.

A jury acquitted those officers of wrongdoing. So, from a legal standpoint, it didn't prove anything.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on February 23, 2009


You've proved my point.

I've done nothing of the sort.

Where does the video on its own have any information proving the officer lied? And where is the "no reason" on the video?

Christopher Long (the cyclist) was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. We see none of this on the videotape. Specifically, we see nothing on the videotape that justifies Officer Pogan shoving Long to the ground. In fact, we see the exact opposite: Long steers to avoid Pogan, who then steps forward to shove Long to the ground. If Pogan had a reason for shoving Long to the ground, he would have noted so in his report.

We don't know if the cyclist had a gun in his belt, a knife, or was just trying to get around the officer. You don't know if he matched the description of a serial rapist the officer was supposed to be on the lookout for, nothing.

But Pogan didn't give any of those reasons why he arrested Long. So again, Pogan lacks a reason for shoving Long to the ground.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:20 PM on February 23, 2009


posted by Ironmouth So, from a legal standpoint, [the Rodney King video] didn't prove anything.

Well, it's certainly proved that some of us know an atrocity when we see one.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:26 PM on February 23, 2009


Christopher Long (the cyclist) was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. We see none of this on the videotape. Specifically, we see nothing on the videotape that justifies Officer Pogan shoving Long to the ground. In fact, we see the exact opposite: Long steers to avoid Pogan, who then steps forward to shove Long to the ground. If Pogan had a reason for shoving Long to the ground, he would have noted so in his report.

You're not getting my point. The video does not contain any charing documents for Long, nor Pogan's report. It, alone, proves nothing. My point is that all of the speculation about what happened from the video tape is just that, speculation, because the only actual evidence you or I has seen in this case is the tape. You have not read Pogan's report, and you have not read Long's charging documents. Nor have you read any dismissal of Long's charges. You have read what a reporter told you about the story. You applied a second-hand report to what you read to what you saw in the video to draw your conclusion.

Well, it's certainly proved that some of us know an atrocity when we see one.

Really? So your judgment is better than 12 people who sat and heard hours and hours of evidence on that case and then came to the unanimous conclusion that three of the officers were not guilty? Why do you, a person who saw only the video tape on the news, and who was not in the court room and did not hear the evidence in question, know better than 12 people who did see the hours of evidence, including testimony from everyone involved, know better than the jury? (A fourth suspect got a hung jury).

This is the point I'm trying to make. From the video, we do not know the facts. The investigators do. They reviewed the tape, they reviewed the reports. They interviewed the principals. They came to the conclusion, based on all of that evidence, that this officer did wrong. The DA agreed.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:40 PM on February 23, 2009


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