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Casting judgment

Elmira Independent Editorial

By now, most of our readers will have seen it — a one-minute video on YouTube, labelled “Police Brutality Elmira.”

The video contains a scene where officers subdue a young man — using force to do so.

One officer is holding the 23-year-old Elmira man, while another uses two knee strikes and a hand strike, to get the man to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

The man, who appears agitated in the rather grainy image, says “I can’t breathe,” and later pleads for a drink of water.

The so-called “violence” takes all of 13 seconds.

Judging by the online comments, most viewers felt the use of force was unwarranted, as did eyewitness Dave Craig, who said that the second officer arrived on the scene, and “immediately started kneeing the guy.”

But was it really unwarranted?

It’s hard for us to compare this incident to others we know about — the infamous Rodney King incident comes to mind, as do numerous others.

In many of those cases, the attacks from officers appear to be racially motivated, and go on at length.

That isn’t the case in the “Elmira incident,” for want of a better phrase.

According to information obtained from Waterloo Regional Police, the individual involved had actively resisted arrest — first by running away, then by refusing to place his hands behind his back for handcuffing.

The second officer had been called the scene as backup, after the first officer had struggled at length with the man.

And, in this case, concealed hands could mean concealed weapons. Officers are trained to respond to these situations by ensuring compliance, as quickly as possible.

When officers are facing potentially dangerous circumstances, they have to act decisively, to ensure the safety of themselves, and those around them.

That appears to be the case in this incident.

The officer in question acts quickly and decisively, and then stops from going further.

Two knee strikes, and one open-hand thrust.

Thirteen seconds, barely the time it takes to read a paragraph or two of this editorial. Even if we add on the additional time estimated by Craig prior to the start of the video, the entire incident lasted 30 seconds.

As police chief Matt Torigian put it at this week’s council meeting, “once in awhile, we encounter disagreeable people. We are trained to use as little force as possible, but that doesn’t mean no force.”

Was it absolutely necessary?

Perhaps not.

But is it brutality? We don’t think so.

If the officers had continued using force after the man was subdued, we might think otherwise.

After all, there is no indication that this man required any medical attention after the incident. There was no ambulance called to the scene, and, even in the video, he doesn’t complain of pain after being restrained.

In reality, there are likely countless other incidents similar to this one, where officers have to make quick decisions when dealing with the less-savoury (or simply intoxicated) individuals in our region.

It is easy for us to judge when we have a short video clip — one that only shows part of the incident, and gives no context to explain even why the individual was being arrested — that suggests violence.

It’s not so easy to put ourselves in an officer’s shoes, and to know what we would do in a similar situation.

2 Responses to “Casting judgment”

  1. sam6302 says:

    Rodney King incident was an example of psychotic journalism . The tape was edited. The full tape showed Rodney King to be at fault. Must of been on Prozac.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. scoopAA says:

    This is just a lousy excuse of justifying what the cops did when in fact you and everyone else knows they were in the wrong! They had NO clue they were being videoed and so they thought they were safe! Was born and raised in this town and for many more years than any of these kids!! I have witnessed stuff like this for years on end and there’s always some stupid excuse! I can prove this beyond any doubt!! How about getting the facts straight for one!! The kid’s hands were NOT in his pockets…he was in the *fetal* position PROTECTING HIMSELF FROM THE BLOWS!!…yes…I know this FIRST HAND! Problem with news reporters etc. They color coat it to make it look totally opposite from what actually is the truth! Also..WATCH the video yourself…you missed a hit in your count…also the person who took the video stated very clearly there were more prior to starting the video. DON’T SUGAR COAT IT!!…if you’re going to write about it? WRITE THE FACTS!! All this kid was doing was walking across the street…it’s not difficult to get the actual facts…however it’s quite clear there’s favoritism here. You only reported on one side of this story…a TRUE REPORTER gets BOTH!! One of the reasons I never get this paper. I can at least *trust* what I read in the other one!! Sad report at best!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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