Saturday, November 06, 2010

What A Mess

I only commented on it in passing when it happened: a nasty altercation between police and a (corn-fed) 15-year-old boy, Brandon Johnson, that resulted his arrest, looking like an ad for a good, old-fashioned beating and a whole bunch of local police with egg on their face. After a hearty round of investigations, demotions and/or exonerations, officer Jerry Piland emerged as the source of some of the worst late hits; IMPD Chief Cielselski sent him home and recommended termination and there was much recrimination all 'round. The gears of justice ground on and the Police Merit Board unwrapped a decision from around the axles yesterday: by a vote of 6-1, they cleared officer Piland and he'll be keeping his job.

Ask me about it and I'm forced to admit I don't know. I wasn't there. When you see someone really beat up after an encounter with The Law, it generally means the responding officers lost control; the difficulty comes when you have to distinguish between losing control of the subject, the situation -- or one's self.

I do know we're left with a mess and one Officer Piland and his friends didn't help by high-fiving and hugs after the hearing cleared him, and local media made worse during the Mayor, Public Safety Director and Policice Chief's "Please don't hate us, we wanted him fired" news conference by juxtaposing it with footage of the post-hearing celebration and still shots of young Mr. Johnson's bruised, bloody and swollen face.

Yeah. Great choice. --Look, riots may be juicy to cover but some of use actually live in town, okay? Scurrying down the freeway to the 'burbs after inciting hostility is not responsible. If you want to cover both sides, get out there and cover 'em.

I have yet to pick a side. PSH -- er, PSD Straub and Chief Cielselski are promising more and better training but this may have been a battle impossible to finesse. A strapping teen-ager, boiling angry as his brother is being arrested and what looks to have been not enough LEOs on the scene until things were well and truly muddled is a receipe for having to throw someone overboard at some point -- either the police stage a strategic withdrawal at the scene (requiring inhuman restraint and superhuman insight), cause is found to charge the young miscreant with something serously serious (it wasn't), or one or more of the officers involved gets pilloried. The Police Merit Board wasn't going along with that and they spent 24 hours just hearing everyone's story. They have a lot more information than I do and it's likely they are right on the facts -- and wrong on the bigger picture.

The only sure thing is, there' s no right answer left, only damage control. City government is in full CYA mode and the rest of us? Outraged statements from family and clergy notwithstanding, this would be a damn good time to practice smilin' at everyone and sayin' "Please" and "Thank you" a lot. Maybe we can't all get along -- but most of us can, most of the time.

...And it might be time for IMPD to get serious about house-cleaning. From the top to the bottom.

8 comments:

JohnMXL said...

Would this be the same IMPD that failed to charge an officer with DUI due to a technicality after he killed a motorcyclist while driving an IMPD patrol car allegedly under the influence of alcohol?

D.W. Drang said...

And, FWIW, has recently been reported to the FCC for it's ossifers using unauthorized radio bands.

Roberta X said...

Yup.

Nathan said...

This really smelled like a setup to me from the start...and piling on Piland from the Mayor on down looked like nothing more than a scapegoat search.

As you say, nobody but the principals really know the facts, but somehow I lean to the side of the cops on this one.

The fact is that the kid would have avoided a beat-down and an arrest if he hadn't interfered with the arrest IMPD was trying to effect in the first place. At least some of the blame for the whole incident has to accrue to him. But nobody in his community wants to admit it.

Yet another poorly-handled public relations fiasco by IMPD and the city.

Fire Frank Straub.

Roberta X said...

Straub delenda est? Only as Step One!

...And have I mentioned the video of Officer OxyContin, weaving his way down the highway and ending up hitting a mailbox? Another triumph for our local police. --The guy's got a bad back, but that doesn't excuse DUI.

Anonymous said...

It was clear that the brass picked the wrong officer to summarily hang.

Piland was a sacrifical goat; I would have celebrated after the hearing too, but I would have added an end zone dance and partial de-pantsing.

Shootin' Buddy

Roberta X said...

And yet.... He was the guy the other responding LEOs fingered as the source of late hits.

I lean towards believing this is a case of Genuinely Obnoxious Punk vs. an Only One and while it is nice when a punk gets his comeuppance, we're not actually payin' policemen to administer Low Justice.

The outcome so far is the worst of all possible worlds: the choirboy in question gets sent home with an apology, the Chief, the PSH -- darn it, PSD, so hard to get that right -- and Mayor all get to do the We're So Sorry Dance, but Officer Piland is not, in fact, thrown to the wolves other than several nervous months, a long hearing and public disavowal. Nobody wins and the cops look like jerks.

Smoooooooooth.

Stranger said...

Back when Harry S was prez, hitting a man who was down was a firing offense. And shooting a man who was not obviously an immediate threat was a few years in the joint. No passes, no excuses.

Yes, the men hauled in a few with a sore jaw - and an escapee tried to pull a switchblade on the Sheriff. The doc asked why he didn't take a sledge hammer to him, it would have been gentler.

But by and large, even mouthy prisoners went in the cage in shape to go to work in the morning.

Now, we have so much training that it is downright hazardous to attract a police officers attention. It would probably be a good thing to un-train some of these youngsters.

Stranger