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More Police Abuse in the Southwest?Tim King Salem-News.com
He has 12 complaints in his career; a suspension last year for violating procedures and neglecting duty, and a reprimand for unprofessional conduct; how could this El Paso Police officer not have already been deemed a liability?
(EL PASO, Texas) - Members of an El Paso TV news crew were treated like criminals April 20th by a cop who seemed to lose his mind for no apparent reason.
It was recorded by the news photojournalist's TV camera, until he was forced to the ground along with the expensive broadcast gear.
It is hard to be certain, but it appears as though the overzealous El Paso cop actually makes the guy drop the camera to the ground.
I'm not sure, but it seems clear from the video that this network affiliate shooter was able to soften the gear's landing as he was suddenly taken down by the cop, but I don't believe it was easy as Ramirez went totally physical.
The cop has been placed on a desk job but he's still wearing his badge.
Last week we told you about a Civil Rights crusading Baptist Minister who was brutally beaten and abused by U.S. Border Patrol agents and police from The Arizona Department of Safety. (see: Preacher Says he Was Beaten and Tortured by Arizona DPS & Border Patrol Agents - Social Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com)
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I personally don't understand how it is that officers who violate the rules forget that they are going to get caught by video cameras; the same tools they use in their own line of work to arrest criminals and secure prosecutions.
Police abuse; it's called "power tripping" by many who experience it, and abuse is a problem in police agencies all across the country.
In fact it always has been, but now society is changing, video technology is soaring, and officers, deputies and agents who use illegal tactics, are ending up on YouTube, to the great embarrassment of their respective agencies.
The use of video cameras in this regard, is going to increase, and police who don't toe the line will increasingly be exposed. I hope the ones who already need to restrain their behavior toward suspects, can use these reports as a wake up call so they can get their behavior in sync and keep their careers, and the people they arrest, in great shape.
Sadly, the comments that flow in over stories like these mostly originate from people in the law enforcement community, or who claim to be, who allege in each case almost without exception, that law enforcement was perfectly within its rights.
There there is always the line about "officer safety" which basically means cops can kill any time they feel "threatened".
I've seen this "deadly threat" end up being a man reaching for his wallet, and once it was a little black kid in Las Vegas gunned down as he ran away from a shoplifting incident, in the back, by Metro officers who said he pointed and fired a gun at them.
The problem that day was that the LVMPD officers didn't realize the NBC affiliate news helicopter was flying over the shooting as it happened, zeroed in like a hawk.
This of course led to a new press release from Las Vegas Metro PD, during which, somehow, that entire story from the police perspective about the little kid drawing down on them, changed.
In this recent Texas case, the news crew from TX 7 was covering a freeway crash where some local soldiers helped pull a man from a wrecked vehicle.
The TV crew says a pregnant woman was sitting on the side of the freeway after the crash, sobbing. Several men in military fatigues helped pull the driver of the semi-truck out of the cab, witnesses reported. That is the story this crew was trying to get; they wanted to give the soldiers credit for helping out at the accident scene.
But El Paso Police Sgt. Raul Ramirez had a different idea.
It is a fact that news crews are typically allowed to photograph and investigate crash scenes, but without an explanation, Ramirez told the ABC-7 crew to leave. It isn't an exaggeration to say that he was so hostile and aggressive, that the news crew couldn't get a word in edgewise.
The crew covering the crash on I-10 that Monday unwillingly became part of the news, as veteran journalist Darren Hunt and photojournalist Ric Dupont were handcuffed, read their rights and detained.
As the tape shows, both were willing to go and do whatever they could to avoid the officer's animosity. It didn't work, in spite of whatever excuse he will use, the "peace" officer was unwilling to show respect for another human being, even if that is all it was.
At this point any citizen who pays attention to the news, might be concerned that the officer would be tempted to abuse them with a high power electronic taser that can in some cases, be fatal.
Police are provided these devices to subdue dangerous suspects without guns and "lethal force".
But instead in some cases, as we learned in Arizona last week, they appear to become little more than torture toys for illegal, violent cops with no regard for the law they supposedly enforce. They attacked that minister for several minutes, shooting him "over and over" he said, with tasers. When it was all over, his body still had the wires hanging from the various shots.
We learned in Salem, Oregon a few years ago, that a taser shot can cause a person to receive a major head injury. That happened to a Salem Police Lieutenant during taser training and that was in a controlled environment, with fellow officers prepared to catch him and make sure he landed on a matt. He was seriously injured.
I'd hate to think of what Sigmund Freud would have to say about the cops who enjoy, or look forward to, applying extra force or otherwise generally abusing and hurting other human beings. I'd like to know how many times Ramirez has fired his taser at people.
Records show that in Ramirez' 18-year career, he has received a number of commendations, according to Mike Brooks, a former Washington D.C. Police Officer who works as a law enforcement expert for the station whose reporters were "jacked" by the police sergeant.
But he has also received 12 complaints; and last year he was suspended for both violating procedures and neglecting duty, and he was also reprimanded for unprofessional conduct.
Perhaps the best thing Ramirez did was keep his taser put away; that is worth noting.
"Excessive force" among irresponsible cops is really sad for the sake of all the good officers in America who live to see the actual laws of the land enforced, rather than the ones that some officers specifically choose to utilize, all too often based on their own skewed interpretations of what those laws actually are.
"It's unfortunate that any time the member of the public or the news media feels that they've been treated unfairly by any member of our department, and so, that's a very serious type of allegation - something that we have to ensure that we investigate completely, and that's what we're doing here and conducting an investigation," said El Paso police spokesman Javier Sambrano said.
Be careful when dealing with police but remember your rights. I'm not sure what law good old Texas might come up with that would have allowed the officer to get away with that; I wouldn't say it isn't possible.
Of course I take this violation of our right to record video from any public location we choose very seriously, that is our guaranteed right.
I've been hauled away by Mexican authorities for shooting video of the wrong things, and halted and questioned by French Gerdarmes while shooting video there.
I've lugged my TV camera through some pretty tough neighborhoods in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I'll be damned if I'll watch these brother journalists get treated like this without trying to do everything possible to get it out in front of people.
Too many Americans have died for this precious freedom of the press, for some cop in Texas to trample all over it.
For more coverage from the television station KVIA, follow this link: KVIA.com: Police detain ABC-7 crew covering crash
On the general subject of reporter access and press freedom, I don't know of any group on a worldwide level that looks out for journalists, especially those of us who travel abroad and cover war, than the Paris-based "Reporters sans frontières ", Reporters Without Borders
Here's the video:
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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