We’ve all heard the excuse before: ‘I thought he was going to run.’ That excuse is usually the precursor for why an officer, or officers, decide to throw a citizen on the ground, which is usually followed by some form of police brutality. (For other excuses used by the SFPD, I would highly recommend reading this article.)
Normally, the citizens who are being referred to above have the ability to run; whether or not they were going to is usually a matter for debate. However, I find it hard to believe that 14 officers were needed to violently take down a one-legged homeless man on crutches. One could argue that even the heftiest San Francisco police officer would, in theory, be able to move fast enough to catch the man in the event the man decided to ‘run’ for it. (Statistically, at least one responding officer would have had the physical prowess to participate in a sustained foot-chase.)
According to one of the witnesses who recorded the video,
There had been a call about somebody waving sticks around (crutches). By the time I arrived where Joe Bland was (as we’ll call him), several officers had arrived on the scene, and forced this man to the ground, which is where this footage begins. And they held him down, much of the time half-naked, for at least half an hour on one of San Francisco’s busiest streets.
I would like to point out that not all of the officers on scene were dedicated to the situation at hand, but were there for ‘crowd control’ (blocking the public’s view and their ability to record with their video cameras).
Here is the timeline, as provided by the eyewitness:
5 seconds in, you can see a cop literally stomp this man’s real leg and prosthetic leg.
At 10 seconds, the manhandling of his head begins.
At 22 seconds the man says, “What the fuck is you doing this to me?”
Around 1:35, the “Blue Wall” begins to form to block my filming.
Around 3:11, you can see that the man is partially nude, his ass is exposed. You can also hear me responding to the things that officers are saying to me, even if you can’t really hear them. Among the things they said: “You don’t live here,” “What do you do?” and “Oh, you’re a journalist, right, for who?”
Around 3:55, you can’t hear him, but the man on the ground says, “they’re going to shoot me” and then you can clearly hear someone behind me say, “They ain’t gonna shoot you man, that’s why we have these cameras out here.”
4:00 the wall begins to deepen and you can also see his nude backside completely exposed.
Around 6:00 he begins saying how much it hurts — “this shit hurts” and at 6:44, he says, “ That shit hurts…I have a fucking sore, an infection, on my leg.”
Around 7:00 the man begins asking, “What the fuck is wrong with you, is this what you do? [inaudible? something “treat me”?] Is this respectable? When I say ‘no’, is this what you do to me?”
At 7:25 he’s explaining to them, as he has before — and other people in the background have also corroborated — that he was walking with the sticks that were confiscated from him.
The portrait that this video paints of San Francisco’s finest is vastly different than the police chief’s view of his men and women in uniform. Last year he was quoted as saying his officers are ‘becoming more and more charming.’ Perhaps Chief Suhr’s definition of charming means that an unarmed black man was brutalized, but wasn’t killed today?
Regardless of the chief’s views, it seems that more and more citizens are on the receiving end of police brutality. No longer do you need to pose an actual threat to officers to be a victim of their rage, violence, or utter contempt of anyone who doesn’t wear a badge. In fact, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of mentally and physically disabled citizens being victimized by those sworn to protect and serve.