Florida cop charged for violent arrest of black woman who called 911 on gun-wielding neighbor

A Florida cop is facing criminal charges following an investigation of a 911 call that went awry.

Dyma Loving, a black woman, called police “to report Green’s neighbor for allegedly threatening them with a gun,” according to Huffington Post. When cops arrived, she and Adrianna Green, a friend and witness (and also a black woman), tried to explain what happened. Loving was agitated, but not aggressive or confrontational, and one of the cops told her, “you need to calm down.” When she didn’t he put her in a headlock, violently threw her to the ground, and handcuffed her.

That cop, who is Hispanic, is now facing felony and misdemeanor charges of misconduct and battery. The investigation found, among other things, that he lied in his official report about his reasons for arresting Loving, none of which were backed up by videos of the incident.

Read story here and here and watch the video below. Commentary follows the video.

Comment: The officer, of course, is entitled to a trial on these charges and a presumption of innocence unless and until he is found guilty in a court of law. His attorney says the videos don’t tell the whole story. Meanwhile, Loving has an attorney, and the cop and police department likely will be sued. Ultimately, it’s up to the legal system to sort out what happened in this case, and whether the officer’s actions were legally justified.

But there can be no doubt that America has a policing crisis. Overt racism exists in many police departments. More than 1,000 people are killed by police in America every year, and a significant number of these shootings are highly questionable. There is a steady flow of news stories about incidents and lawsuits involving police using excessive force — and disproportionately against black people.

Police departments simply need to do a better job of screening applicants for police jobs, training officers, supervising them, and disciplining those who violate departmental policies. It’s not enough to pay civil judgments to victims of police brutality, then stick innocent taxpayers with the bill. Police departments must get rid of bad cops, but that alone isn’t enough, because bad cops often bounce from one police agency to another; so other police agencies must be discouraged from hiring them. Rogue cops and racist cops must be weeded out, and not rehired elsewhere. Dishonesty, such as lying in official reports or court testimony, should disqualify a person from police work.

It’s also been too easy for cops to get away with rogue behavior. Control over police discipline needs to taken away from police unions. They have a right and duty to represent their members, but police departments should never accept contract terms that weaken their disciplinary authority or insulate misbehaving cops from discipline. It’s been far too difficult to prosecute cops who kill or assault citizens without just cause, because of laws that give cops more immunity than is needed to enable them to do their jobs, which encourages rogue behavior. Washington recently took a step in the right direction toward correcting this by passing legislation that makes it easier to prosecute cops for unjustifiable homicide, and other states need to do the same.

Unfortunately, it’s often tempting for police departments — especially small ones with meager training budgets — to hire other police departments’ castoffs because it saves on training expenses. It was just such a cop, fired for unsuitability, who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice shortly after being rehired by another police department. (That case cost taxpayers $6 million.) For this reason and others, being a police officer should require an occupational license that can be denied or revoked for misconduct or unsuitability, to prevent them from working anywhere as cops again.

Being a police officer is a demanding and sometimes dangerous job. Because an officer on the street holds the lives of citizens in his or her hands, we must insist it be done right and that police departments hire and employ only the best, and hold them to high standards of ethical and professional conduct. But demanding the best of our police is a two-way street; as taxpayers, we should pay them well, and give them the resources they need for proper training, supervision, staffing levels, and equipment to do the job we expect of them.

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