Police in Long Beach, California are in hot water after a video surfaced of them using excessive force to take a man into custody Monday night. A video of the arrest of Porfirio Santos-Lopez was uploaded on YouTube this week and caused the Long Beach Police Department to launch an internal investigation into the incident.
Police responded to an incident Monday night after receiving multiple 911 calls about a fight outside of a liquor store. When police arrived they say that Santos-Lopez was acting irrational and combative. Santos-Lopez is seen on the ground after being tasered by police with four officers towering above him, hitting him with their batons. Parts of the video show the man kicking at officers between baton hits. Officials say officers hit Santos-Lopez in his arms, legs, and torso during the arrest.
Long Beach police released a surveillance video of the suspect before his arrest and say that he was very combative and the officers followed procedure:
“That individual seemed to be irrational. He was combative,” Long Beach police Sgt. Aaron Eaton said Tuesday. “In the video that is on YouTube, he can be seen kicking at the officers.” [SOURCE]
Indeed Santos-Lopez can be seen kicking police officers but only after they begin beating him with their batons. One woman, who didn’t want to be named, stood by and recorded the incident with her cell phone. She told KTLA News that after being tasered he lay on the ground for a minute and took the officers blows but then started fighting back out of instinct.
“In the beginning, he was not fighting back. He was just laying there, taking the Tase and the baton hits. I guess it’s just a typical reaction that anybody would have — just start kicking around.” [SOURCE]
After finally being taken into custody, he was transported to a local hospital to be treated for injuries suffered during the arrest. Lee Ann Hernandez, Santos-Lopez’s longtime girlfriend told reporters that he suffered a broken arm, partially collapsed lung, and had to get stitches in both legs as a result of the officers’ attack. Hernandez also says that her husband (she refers to him as such) has not been acting the same recently. She has called police and tried to have him placed on a psych hold but officers told her that he was not a danger to himself.
All of the officers involved in the incident are still on active duty while the department conducts the investigation. The video is very disturbing and in my opinion the actions by Santos-Lopez do not justify the force used by officers. Once he was tasered they should have immediately placed him in handcuffs. I completely understand the need to use non-lethal force on a combative suspect, however once the suspect is on the ground the kind of force the used was uncalled for. Clearly an extreme amount of force had to have been used to cause to type of injuries sustained by the suspect. A collapsed lung doesn’t just happen.
Larry Smith, a use-of-force expert and retired Fontana police sergeant and former training specialist, had a similar opinion and told the Los Angeles Times that he believed the officers were excessive as well. He asked why officers didn’t use pepper spray or move to handcuff him right after he was tasered; why did they immediately go for their batons?
“To me, he must not have been that violent, because otherwise the other officers would have jumped in,” Smith said. “They could have always just dog-piled him and then you’re not hitting him with a baton.” [SOURCE]
Police officers are supposed to protect and serve the people of their communities not beat the sh*t out of them. I am a very big law enforcement supporter, but in cases like these the officers should at the very least be put on leave until the investigation is complete.
When officers use excessive force it not only damages the victim of their force, but also the community as a whole. In order for police officers to successfully perform their duties they need to have an amicable relationship with members of their community. Incidents like this cause the community to distrust law enforcement. This is precisely the reason police have such a hard time getting information about crimes in largely minority neighborhoods; they do not trust the police, because the police give them plenty of reasons not to trust them. It is a vicious cycle and ultimately everyone suffers.
Here’s the video: