Mimesis Law
8 July 2020

Agawam Police Jail Beat-Down Video Released

January 17, 2017 (Fault Lines) – On June 19, 2016, David Desjardins, Jr. was intoxicated at a bar in Agawam, Massachusetts, to the point that the bartender refused to serve. As is normal in these types of cases, Desjardins was offended by this, and the police ended up being called. Desjardins wasn’t happy about that either, and expressed his feelings by resisting arrest and generally fighting with the police officers who showed up to arrest him.

This is all normal and routine; it is what police have been doing for decades. But at the jail, Desjardins got “tuned up” and it was caught on closed circuit surveillance cameras. The chief placed the officers involved on administrative leave, and by October 19, 2016, the three officers were fired for using excessive force.

Of course, the three officers, Sergeant Anthony Grasso, Officer Edward Connor, and Officer John Moccio, don’t agree that they should have been fired, and have appealed their termination to the State Civil Service board. There were some good things about this incident. First, the city did not conduct their own investigation, but hired an outside firm to conduct the investigation. Second, the criminal part of the investigation was handled by the Hampden District Attorney’s Office.

Although the officers were fired, the DA declined to prosecute or take criminal action against the former officers. The officers’ attorney, John Connor,[1] has pointed out everything that Desjardins did, from fighting at the bar, to being pepper-sprayed without apparent effect, and so on, until he wound up at the jail. So on January 12, 2017, the DA released the video of the incident. This is where the video comes into play.

At the very start of the video, you see the sergeant talking to Desjardins with his hands. You can tell by his posture and hand movements that he’s telling the drunk how things are going to be, and at about 0:22 in the video, the officers have made the decision to move Desjardins into his cell.

So far, so good. I’ve seen this scenario play out dozens of times, where you try to talk to a drunk and it is just pointless, so you put him in a cell to sober up. It’s good policing, as practiced by Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry whenever Otis was arrested.[2]

It is when they get Desjardins to the cell that the officers screw up. If you pause the video at 0:30, you’ll see that they have Desjardins in the cell. All they have to do is let go, his forward momentum will carry him further into the cell, and close the door. Done that dozens of times myself.

Instead, a second later the officers have followed him into the cell and let him start to turn around on them. By 0:32 the sergeant has started to apply force to Desjardins right arm, and it appears that Desjardins is starting to defend himself, especially after his head bounces off of the brick wall. At 0:39, Desjardins has the sergeant in a headlock, as noted by the officers’ attorney, but what the attorney doesn’t mention is that Desjardins is on the bottom of three officers. It really looks like Desjardins is just holding on for dear life, not actively assaulting the officers.

Next you’ll see the bald-headed officer striking Desjardins with the baton. Look at how he strikes him, with the handle end of the baton, into the ribs of Desjardins, then later making shin strikes, holding the leg of Desjardins and making further strikes. None of those were legitimate striking areas or techniques. Hell, in that enclosed area with that number of officers, I wouldn’t have even deployed my baton, were I able to do so (at our jail, batons were locked up with our pistol before we entered the jail). Of course, shoving Desjardins back onto the bed and wall at 1:39 was pretty much uncalled-for too.

After that is pretty much just a beatdown of Desjardins.

I understand why the officers’ attorney is making the comments he is, if I were in his position I would be making the same or very similar statements. But I also understand why the chief fired the officers, and why the DA declined to prosecute. It’s very simple, really.

The chief, like I did, viewed the officers’ conduct as unnecessary and excessive. There’s no place for that in police work, and the officers should have been fired. The DA looked at it and did not see anything that was so violent that it shocked the conscience, and knew he would have problems obtaining a conviction. Despite what attorney Connor said, that is not an exoneration of the officers, nor is it a statement that the officers did nothing wrong.

Now we just have to wait and see what the results are from the Civil Service hearing. I think that they should stay fired. Of course, the guys at PoliceOne.com disagree with me, but what’s new about that?

[1] No relation to Officer Edward Connor.

[2] I do feel obliged to point out that Otis was not a mean drunk, and did not fight.

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