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Beatriz Paez is just one of the many recent victims of what I like to refer to as "Contempt of Cop." Fortunately for Paez, she lived to talk about her encounter.

Paez witnessed plain clothes officers detaining several individuals at gunpoint and decided to record the incident on her cell phone. One of the officers, a U.S. Marshal, told Paez to stop recording. When she failed to obey his order, the unidentified marshal charged towards her, snatched her phone out of her hand, and hurled it to the ground. But he wasn't done. The marshal then stomped on the phone and punted it down the sidewalk. Luckily, Paez had someone else recording her as she recorded the officers.

As a retired 20-year veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department, I understand that some police officers have an absolute expectation that if they tell you to do something—you better do it. When you don't, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Police officers have tremendous power. That small group of officers who have garnered so much of the public's attention lately have the ability to take hours out of your life. One favorite technique is an unlawful detention on a Friday followed by a weekend in jail if you don't have the financial wherewithal to make bail.

An errant officer could cost you hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars by issuing a traffic citation and having your vehicle towed. An overzealous officer can stop you, drag you out of your car, and beat you—possibly requiring expensive follow-up medical treatment once released from jail on that bogus "resisting" arrest and battery on a police officer charge. Or you just might lose your life.

Contempt of Cop is not real, you say? Ask Floyd Dent of Inkster, Michigan, who was recently exonerated of charges after he had been brutally beaten by Inkster Police Officer William Melendez—aka Robocop—after Dent allegedly committed a traffic infraction. Melendez was fired, arrested, and charged with two felonies in the Dent assault.

Ask Mario Givens, who was yanked from his residence by fired South Carolina Officer Michael Slager, who was investigating a burglary at Givens' home. (The same Slager who killed Walter Scott during a traffic stop.) Givens was tasered and booked for "resisting" arrest when Slager decided Givens did not live there. The criminal charge against Givens was later dismissed. Givens filed a personnel complaint against Slager and Slager was found not guilty of wrongdoing. Really Chief?

Some police officers will initiate a traffic stop or their other favorite—an investigative stop—escalate a seemingly benign encounter to a use-of-force incident and then arrest the citizen for either resisting arrest or battery on a police officer. Both charges are difficult to refute without a video recording.

Sadly, these incidents are commonplace. Some police officers will initiate a traffic stop or their other favorite—an investigative stop—escalate a seemingly benign encounter to a use-of-force incident and then arrest the citizen for either resisting arrest or battery on a police officer. Both charges are difficult to refute without a video recording.

Here are just a few more examples of contempt of cop. Remember Marlene Pinnock, the homeless grandmother walking along the Santa Monica freeway in Los Angeles? California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew straddled her mixed-marshal arts-style and punched her repeatedly in the face and head when she failed to obey his order. CHP settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million.

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Then we have San Bernardino County Sheriffs who chased, tasered, and kicked Francis Pusok as he lay prone on the ground. The San Bernardino Sheriff subsequently paid Francis Pusok $650,000.

Pinnock and Pusok were the lucky ones. They lived.

Tragically, during a traffic stop for a broken third tail light in North Charleston, South Carolina, 52-year-old Walter Scott exited his car and ran away on foot, eluding a much younger officer, Michael Slager. Scott paid with his life. Slager must have been pretty upset when he could not catch Scott—so much so that Slager pumped five shots into Scott's back. Apparently, when you run from a police officer (Contempt of Cop) and the officer lacks the physical stamina to catch you, death is the penalty.

Need more proof? Reputed gun dealer Eric Harris ran from Tulsa deputy sheriffs during an undercover sting operation. As he took what were probably his last breaths, one of the deputies told him, "you f*cking ran". So, let's be clear, if you run from the police, there may be a heavy price to pay. Death was Harris' penalty for contempt of cop. Gun dealer or not, when did police become judge, jury, and executioner?

I could go on. Contempt of Cop is real. There does not appear to be any other explanation for the loss of life in these next incidents:

  • Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man in Los Angeles, who did not want to "talk" with LAPD gang officers during an "investigative stop;"
  • Kelly Thomas, another mentally ill man in Fullerton, California, who was beaten by a police officer who was allegedly overheard saying, "I'm gonna f*ck you up" as he placed black leather gloves on his hands. Thomas later died from his injuries and a jury acquitted the officers involved.
  • A Marana, Arizona, police officer used his patrol car as a battering ram when an apparently suicidal man, Mario Valencia, refused to drop a shotgun he had been pointing to his head as ordered and was run over by a responding officer.
  • And most recently, Freddie Gray in Baltimore—described by some as a "career criminal"—made eye contact with an officer and then ran. Gray was captured, detained, and thrown in a police van as he screamed in obvious pain. Gray later died from a partially severed spine and broken vertebrae. Career criminal or not, you don't get to kill him, officer.

My thoughts: Bad police tactics can lead to bad shootings. Poor planning and a lack of communication between partner officers can lead to excessive or deadly force incidents. An inability to empathize and relate to the community served can also lead to devaluation of a human life.


During my 20-year career while working South Central Los Angeles, I had my fair share of alleged criminals run from my partner and I. That's what criminals do. Most don't want to go back to prison. So if an officer understands that fleeing suspects are inherent to police work, get ready to exercise, officer.

Why would an officer feel justified in shooting someone simply because they ran? I'll tell you why���because over the years these officers have been able to get away with murder, literally. Police chiefs circle the wagons, the department begins to craft a [fish] tale, and then the victim or suspect is vilified.

Bad guys do bad things, I get that. Whether a suspect is a so-called "thug", a drug user, a gun seller or just dumb in public [for running], police officers should not be allowed to shoot and maim or kill them on the spot for a perceived slight.

When police officers become personally involved; when police officers believe the failure to obey an order is a direct affront to them, excessive force and sometimes deadly force follows. Be clear, it’s not about overcoming resistance to effect an arrest, it’s about punishment.

Fire Cynthia Whitlatch

I understand that if sense was common everybody would have it. I understand that common sense is not something that can be taught. I understand that compassion and empathy is not a learned behavior. That's who you are at your core. Police officers found wanting in this regard should be plucked from the rank and file and banned from serving on another police department. Recurring and intermittent psychological evaluations might help identify those troubled officers. Let's start there.

Cheryl Dorsey
Black & Blue