Why Special Prosecutors Are Needed in Police Misconduct Cases (Again)
May 20, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — An ongoing theme here at Fault Lines is that when there is an accusation of unlawful police actions, the local prosecutors cannot be trusted to adequately investigate and prosecute such cases. Our resident prosecutor, Andrew King, disagrees, and posits that local prosecutors can handle police misconduct cases. So here’s another example of why we need special prosecutors for police misconduct.
Eliel Paulino was arrested in August of 2015 in San Jose, California. Because police stated that he was “combative,” may have had a weapon, and refused to obey their “commands,” they had to beat the crap out of him, striking him 15 times with their batons.
Except that was a lie, a false report, you know, perjury, a mistake on the part of the police.
The problem is there was a video of the arrest—one not known about by the police. It showed that Paulino had been patted down for weapons and was standing calmly, unhandcuffed. It’s also blatantly false to claim that he may have had a weapon if you have already patted him down for weapons. The actual issue was that Paulino, who did not speak English, asked his father to lock up his truck if he were arrested. The officers commanded Paulino, in English, to shut up.
What happened to Paulino is that there were no Spanish speakers to tell him to shut up, to not talk in Spanish. It is understandable that the officers would not be comfortable with Paulino talking to his father in Spanish. That’s the same thing that happened in the Constable Darrell Lunsford murder.[i]
Some police officers (and other red-blooded Americans) believe that the way to make themselves understood to a non-English speaker is to speak English slower and louder. I had a Spanish-speaker tell the court that he couldn’t understand what the blond officer was screaming in English, but he understood the other officer who told him in Spanish not to move or he would be shot.
So here, after talking louder and slower, in English, an officer jumped on Paulino, running him into the squad car hard enough to break the mirror, and the beat down commenced. Paulino gets arrested, gets charged with DUI, driving without a license, and resisting. Only the video popped up, with the witness, and the District Attorney dropped all charges against Paulino.
They refused to file charges on the three rookie officers who lied, however. You see, the officers were concerned for their “safety” in a “bad neighborhood.”
Indeed, the DA’s Office thought so little about it, that they were going forward on another trial involving the same three officers, Marco Cruz, Gerardo Silva and Gurbaksh Sohal.[ii] In the other trial, the officers said that the arrestee appeared to be on drugs and resisted. But a subsequent blood test showed no drugs in Octavio Perez’s system. Perez was working overnight to get an apartment ready to move into, and was waiting for paint to dry when he was accosted by the officers.
Only when Paulino filed a federal lawsuit against the officers did the DA decide to hold off on prosecuting Perez.
What is concerning here is that you have three officers who have been shown by video to have problems with their veracity, yet the prosecutors were perfectly willing to use their testimony in another case. Another case where the evidence[iii] also called the veracity of their testimony into question, but you would call these officers as witnesses anyway?
Not to worry though, the San Jose Police Internal Affairs is now looking into the conduct of the three officers. In the last five years, there have been 683 excessive force complaints made by the public. Internal Affairs found that the allegations were “true” in two cases.
So what you have is a pattern where 99.7% of the excessive force complaints are not sustained by the police department involved, and the prosecutor will not file charges on the officers involved, either for battery or for making a false report.
Yup, we can trust prosecutors to handle this.
[i] The Lunsford video is widely used to teach officer safety, including the part where the suspects talked to each other in Spanish just before attacking and killing Lunsford.
[ii] You would think that with surnames of Cruz and Silva, that at least two of the officers would know enough Spanish to tell Paulino “silencio” instead of “shut up,” but the witness said none of the officers used Spanish.
[iii] The drugless blood test.