The “Thin Blue Line” is what cops will tell you they are. They say this because they feel they are the last line of defense between a chaotic society and a civilized one. Yet, anyone who’s spent any amount of time studying the police realize that the Thin Blue Line is nothing more than a brotherhood, a gang of sorts, that simply exists to protect from facing the same justice system they propel millions of others into.
Take the example of Gwinnett County Police Sgt Michael Bongiovanni, who was caught this week elbowing and kicking a man on video. From the blog post written and published here at CopBlock:
Videos recorded by bystanders first show Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni pull Hollins out of a red car as he stands with his hands raised before the Sgt. rears back and elbows him in the face.
Footage then shows a handcuffed Hollins on the ground before officer Robert McDonald is seen running up and stomping the defenseless man in the head. In a similar incident earlier this week, a Columbus, S.C. officer stomped a handcuffed man in the head causing his face to collide with the pavement.
Both officers in the Georgia incident have been fired as a result of their actions. Gwinnett County police chief A. A. Ayers said Sgt. Bongiovanni concealed his misconduct from investigators. The chief called the incident “inexcusable.”
While it’s a step in the right direction to hear the Chief say such events are “inexcusable” one has to wonder if those words are merely lip service. According to Slate.com it seems Bongiovanni has used excessive force in the past. The only difference seems that this incident was caught on video and impossible to cover up. From Slate:
Looking through those internal affairs investigations into Bongiovanni’s alleged public misconduct—all of which ultimately exonerated him—as well as his use of force reports makes for depressing and infuriating reading.
In multiple of the use of force reports stretching back to 1999, Bongiovanni admitted to punching suspects in the head (each event was considered lawful).
The actual misconduct complaints are even more troubling.
- In 1999, a black man alleged that Bongiovanni said this to him when he asked for the officer’s name during an incident: “Here is a card, you can report me you [dumb] mother fucker get your Nigger ass out of here.” The man’s account of Bongiovanni’s use of the slur was backed up by another witness. (The man also said this in his official statement: “The police officer[‘s] job is to serve and protect. This officer was very rude, aggressive, boisterous, and [did] not have the right mind nor heart to be a police officer on the streets.”) Bongiovanni wrote it up differently. The complaint against Bongiovanni was not sustained.
- Earlier that same year, an unarmed Haitian man accused Bongiovanni of choking him and accused Bongiovanni’s partner of choking the man’s mom after they had entered a private residence. Multiple witnesses described in almost the exact same way how one of the men had begun to use a racial epithet before cutting himself off. “God is my witness, that man almost said ‘nigger,’ I know he did,” one witness said of the incident. “He said ‘nig’ and stopped himself. He said ‘I’ll take you ni—in the house,’ just like that.” Another witness described things similarly: “He said ‘[…] I’ll arrest every, every, every, every nig’ and he, he corrected [himself], he was about to say ‘nigger.’” Bongiovanni and his partner wrote it up differently. The allegations of the choking and the racial slurs were determined to be “unfounded.”
- In 2001, a Hispanic man who was never charged with a crime in the incident accused Bongiovanni of brutality after he had to go to the hospital. Bongiovanni wrote it up differently. The internal investigation found him to be exonerated.
- In 2002, a white woman who was in a car with her black boyfriend accused Bongiovanni of fondling her inner thigh with the inside of his hand during a stop frisk, pulling the elastic band on the back of her sweatpants, and breaking a purse during a search. (“He didn’t pull them far,” she said. “He, you know, he pulled enough to where you could see the top, leg part of my underwear.”) Bongiovanni and his partner wrote it up differently. The internal investigation found him to be exonerated.
- In 2003, a black man accused Bongiovanni of striking him and choking him with a baton. Bongiovanni wrote it up differently. The internal investigation found the complaint was not sustained.
- In 2004, a black man who was eventually arrested on a drug charge claimed that he had his hands on the roof of his car when Bongiovanni punched him in the head and said “don’t look at me, or I’ll shoot you.” Bongiovanni wrote it up differently. The internal investigation found him to be exonerated.
- In 2006, a black man who was being arrested claimed that Bongiovanni choke slammed him on a car, punched him twice in the face, and elbowed him twice in the head. He also claimed that Bongiovanni said “I’ll fuck you up nigger.” Bongiovanni wrote it up differently. The internal investigation found him to be exonerated.
This is why you must always film the police.
Without clear video proof – or even audio – it is nearly impossible to have the word of a ‘civilian’ override the words written in a report by a LEO. The Gwinnett County Police Department released files showing that Bongiovanni had at least 67 use of force incident reports, 12 citizen misconduct complaints, and four administrative conduct investigations in the nearly 20 years he was an officer. In all of those times, he was apparently sanctioned just once. And that one time, wasn’t even for an act of misconduct against the public. (He was recommended for a demotion and ultimately a 15-day suspension in 2014 for the administrative crime of “failure to supervise and lead those under his command.”)
The only time Bongiovanni faced an actual punishment from the department is when he failed to brainwash others LEO’s into upholding the Thin Blue Line. So while it’s a good thing he’s finally off the force, one cannot praise the actions of the higher ups because it seems the buddy system is alive and well with the Gwinnett County. And before we can expect any real change we need to address the real problem. That’s cops refusing to out bad cops, as they did here for 20 years!