Houston burglar Chad Holley, 15, was already face down on the ground in a surrender position, hands behind his head, when Houston police officers stomped, kicked and beat him in 2010 in a now infamous Internet video. The four officers were quickly fired — then arrested and indicted. All four are currently awaiting trial. Two of them face civil rights violations charges.
Contrast that with the fate (so far) of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers who stomped, kicked and beat Malcolm Xavier Springs in March in Charlotte. Those officers remain employed, and will apparently face no disciplinary action by the police department.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Deputy Chief Kerr Putney took the highly unusual step of publicly admitting that the multiple officers beat and kicked Springs while he was down on the ground at a press conference last week. Putney then claimed it was justified because Springs wouldn't show the officers his hands before they handcuffed him.
"The officers used a reasonable level of force, and there's no evidence [Springs] was struck while he was handcuffed," The Charlotte Observer quoted Putney as saying.
Well, no evidence except for the eight witnesses the department interviewed who claim that multiple officers also beat Springs after he was handcuffed. But other than that, nope, no evidence.
The arrest and prosecution of the Houston officers shows just how serious a deal this could be — that and the fact that the FBI is investigating the case, something I've never seen them do here after questionable treatment of a suspect by police.
Admitting to beating a suspect and then shrugging your shoulders over it is a pretty unusual — and quite frankly cavalier — tactic for a police department. So far, the beating hasn't gotten a lot of attention locally. That's partly because like Springs, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Putney are black, so there's not much for the local or national NAACP to march over in terms of civil rights violations. The local NAACP is politely ignoring the situation, even though Springs had two bullet holes in his chest at the time of the beating from being shot by police. (It's a courtesy I doubt they'd have extended to a white chief in the same situation, but I digress.)
The other reason the situation hasn't gotten a lot of attention is because Springs, 20, seemingly deserved a beat-down by someone. Unlike Holley, who earned his thumping for merely running from police after a burglary, Springs is accused of robbing and then shooting one man, running from police, then shooting a pursuing police officer.
Taken at face value then, what has just happened here is that the police department has publicly declared that the new standard for not showing your hands when asked by police, even if you have two bullet holes in your chest at the time, is a beating by multiple police officers. That's fine with me if the state legislature wants to pass a law making that legal and defend it in court. But short of that, I'm wondering about the, uh, sustainability of this operating philosophy.
I don't know whether to praise Monroe for standing by his men when it would have been easier to throw them under the bus or to question whether he's running a Dukes of Hazzard-style, backwoods operation.
Editor's Note: In last week's Citizen Servatius column, Servatius wrote that "it costs roughly $40 million a year to keep the library system running." She based her figure on information found at cmlibrary.org, which reports that the FY 2009-10 library budget, that started July 1, 2009, was approximately $35,372,946 with more than $31.7 million of that amount coming from Mecklenburg County. But, in March 2010, the library received a $2 million reduction in FY 2009-2010 funding from Mecklenburg County. The FY 2011 library budget, however, which began July 1, 2010, is approximately $25 million with $23.3 million of that coming from municipalities: $21.17 million from Mecklenburg County, $1.4 million from the City of Charlotte, and $730,000 from five towns in Mecklenburg County. Still, Tara opines: "With a large county tax increase likely this year and the economy improving, they'll no doubt go back to funding libraries at a higher level in the future. You just don't know by how much."