Videotape sheds light on hidden problems

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

At first the videotape segment looked rather commonplace. A casual observer might mistake it for a snippet of the television show &uot;Cops&uot; or another such reality episode.

The video is a little gritty looking, some folks call it the &uot;48 Hours&uot; look, a tribute to the CBS News show which first popularized, the hand-held, almost amateur, video style.

Yes, the video begins rather typically. Police officers are standing behind a young suspect. The suspect is obviously handcuffed.

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In seconds, the video changes. And so does an observer’s blood pressure.

Suddenly, the hand behind the suspect’s back tenses and slams the young man onto the trunk of the patrol car. Before the shock of what just happened sinks in, a second officer steps forward and throws a fist at the youth’s head.

The amount of horror evoked is unfathomable. Anger, disgust, outrage. None of the words sum up the gut reaction such a video causes.

The videotape is a snapshot of what happened. It shows one angle on the action, but in this case that was enough. Some people have questioned what events led up to the violence. It doesn’t matter. No excuse exists for the behavior evident in the video. The suspect was obviously handcuffed and obviously no longer a threat to the armed officers.

Since the officers were white and the teenager was black, racism comes into question. Was it racism? Or was it simply police out of control?

Hopefully the legal system can decide.

If anything good can come out of such horrible acts, it must be an increased awareness of the problem of police brutality. How many times do such beatings occur when a video camera is not trained on the scene? No one may ever know. But we know it already happened one time too many.