General Question

RocketSquid's avatar

In a situation like this, to what degree can you physically defend yourself from a cop?

Asked by RocketSquid (3465 points ) August 18th, 2010

This man is basically beaten to a pulp by two Denver police officers. His face is beaten severely while he’s restrained, his head is rammed into the concrete, hell, within the first 30 seconds of the video an officer’s knee is rammed into the man’s crotch.

These officers aren’t trying to restrain a suspect, they are outright assaulting a civilian with legal rights, with intent to do harm.

What would the civilian’s rights be when it comes to defending himself? What if one of these cops decided to do permanent physical damage, or even toss him off the bridge? What if another civilian saw this happening, would he be able to intervene?

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30 Answers

mrmijunte's avatar

If you intervene you will be charged with aggravated assault to a police officer, and will be in big trouble. Now, because a video exists let’s say that I’m a good samaritan and try to defend that guy, I´m going to jail. Now depending of which judge I get I might take it to trial or not, depending on which city as well. Now Denver is kinda progressive so I might win the trial, but worst case scenario I’m just going to get probation and the charges reduced to simple battery.
I’m probably wrong (lol), but sadly I’ve being in prison and I think that’s how it would go down.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I hate when shows edit videos around instead of just showing them straight through. From the story, it sounds like the guy got involved and then when asked for his ID, he didn’t want to give it. When he walked up to the driver, he got himself involved as a witness and I believe the police were entitled to question him. His resistance seems like stupidity to me. We probably won’t ever get the real story of what was said between him and the police after they asked him for his ID.

That being said, as much as it sucks, I think the best thing anyone can do when the police come to them is to stop moving. The more you move and resist, the more physical they are going to become (even if you are in the right and they are in the wrong). The sooner someone stops fighting back, the sooner the situation can get calmed down and figured out. Continuing to fight only leads to excessive force being used at some point. I honestly don’t get why people have a hard time just cooperating with the police (especially if you are going to throw yourself in the middle of something like this guy did).

RocketSquid's avatar

@Seaofclouds Even if he were resisting arrest or interfering with an arrest, that would call for restraint, not a beating. Despite both cops having him pinned to the railing and his lack of weapons, they continue to punch and kick the man around his face.

frdelrosario's avatar

What would the civilian’s rights be when it comes to defending himself?

Civilians have no rights. The military is in place to defend rich people’s interests abroad, while the cops are in place in defend rich people’s property locally, and beat the shit out of anyone that looks at them sideways.

tinyfaery's avatar

The video below the story is the raw footage with no sound.

From the link: Police charged Ashford with interference and resisting arrest. Hart says, the charges were later dropped because the officers violated Ashford’s 4th amendment rights, “they had no reason to stop him, take his ID or detain him.”

The police violated this man’s rights and he is supposed to just let it happen? Bullshit. What’s the point of having rights if we can be threatened by the police with no recourse? I’m not going to cooperate when I know my rights are being violated and there is no reason that I have to.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@RocketSquid Even when they had him pinned, he could have been struggling against them. I really couldn’t tell if he was standing completely still or if he was still moving. It looked like he was still moving in my opinion. I agree that the cops shouldn’t be using excessive force, but I guess I look at it as they are doing what the feel is necessary. This guy walked up in the middle of them giving someone else a ticket. They didn’t know what he was up to and then he refused to identify himself, even though he was speaking up as a witness. It is just a bad situation and I really think people should know better.

@tinyfaery Why risk letting a situation get completely out of hand when the cops merely started asking for your (general your) ID because you stated you witnessed the incident? It just seems like you (general you) would be asking for trouble to throw yourself into a situation, but then refuse to cooperate.

tinyfaery's avatar

You think it’s refusing to cooperate, I say it’s exercising my rights. As you see in the video, the guy did give id.

As a side note: Poor puppies. They look so confused, trying to protect their human.

Response moderated
Seaofclouds's avatar

@tinyfaery I didn’t see where he gave ID in the video I watched (I’ll watch it again). I still think it was a bit stupid for him to walk up to where the police had someone pulled over and get involved. He could have waited until the police were done and they talked to the driver that got pulled over. EDIT: I watched it again and see in the beginning of the raw video were they give him his ID (I am guessing) and then a ticket. At that point he could have just walked away. Instead he pulled out his phone and started saying something (I’d love to have the audio with it). Whatever was said, lead to the cops detaining him. When the had him pinned, I could see him still grabbing onto them and swinging at them and then at the end when he was sitting on the ground, when the cop reached down to get something from him (I’m guessing his phone again), it looked like he tried to bite him. I get that he felt he was defending himself, but as far as I know, assaulting a cop is illegal. It probably would have been best if he just walked away when he had the chance. No, they shouldn’t have detained him, but him fighting back just made it worse. That’s the point were I think it’s best to just stay calm and let it get worked out on it’s own. Once you swing at a cop, you make things 100 times worse (even if it gets dismissed after the fact).

I agree about the puppies. At the end I felt really bad when he was laying on the ground and his dog was down by his feet.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Seaofclouds According to the law, cops can’t detain someone for what they say – unless it was a direct threat to their safety. In this case, I’m betting that all the man did was complain loudly, to whoever was on the other end of the phone.

More and more, there are cases of police who abuse their power and choose to think of themselves as gods simply because they have a badge. It’s ridiculous. Regardless of what words were exchanged between the man and police, using excessive force once someone is restrained should be the loss of a badge, period.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I agree that the cops were wrong, but the question was about civilians defending themselves against cops. I personally think it’s just smarter not to do that because it’s only going to make matters worse (even if you were defending yourself, they are going to arrest you for hitting them and then you would be cleared after the fact). That’s the only point I’m trying to make. I agree he shouldn’t have been detained, I just really think he should have walked away when he had the chance and he made matters much worse for himself by not dropping it when he had the chance (I believe he brought his phone out to record the cops doing something, but who knows what considering it looked like they were done with him up until that point).

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Seaofclouds That’s the really crappy thing, though. If the guy was being honest and actually saw the original driver stop, it would be important that he let the driver know he was a witness and that the police wrongfully ticketed him. Once the person drove away with the ticket – even if they were actually innocent and did stop at the sign – there’s no way (in most cases) that they would get out of the ticket. The fact that the cops tried to stop the second man – after they had already ticketed the original person – point to corrupt behavior in general to me, because it’s none of their business why someone chose to walk up to the car and talk to the other person.

Sure, the guy could have avoided a beating if he had just walked away, or not walked up in the first place. But that’s crap, because he didn’t break the law and police can not think they have that much control. If people allow it to happen, it will never stop.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I agree it’s really crappy, but I really doubt the cops would have decided to not give the first guy a ticket for running a stop sign just because someone walked up and said he didn’t do it. They would’ve still given the guy the ticket and he would have had to fight it in court and hope that the second guy showed up as a witness for him. I agree it sucks, I just think we all know that hitting a cop is not a good idea and will only lead to more trouble. Hitting a cop is going to lead to him hitting you back and arresting you, plain and simple. Then it’s up to a judge to determine if you were justified. Either way, you are going to go through a major hassle because of it.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Seaofclouds No, the guy walking up wouldn’t prevent them from giving the other person a ticket, of course not. What I meant was, if the guy hadn’t walked up to the driver, the driver would have been out of a witness – because there’s no way the guy walking his dogs would have known the driver’s court date. The only way he could have found out if the driver wanted him as a witness was to walk up to the car before the person drove away.

I get that you think the cops had no right to detain the guy – our main difference lies in the fact that you don’t think it was worth the risk, but I do. When it comes to someone’s rights, people have to stand up for them. If they don’t, they’re taken away, simple as that.

Edit: Jeez… Lots of typos today. Try to ignore them. :-/

ratboy's avatar

Given the general contempt of many law enforcement officers for the law, it’s amazing that the person behind the video camera hasn’t been hunted down and arrested.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@DrasticDreamer No, I said I don’t think they should have detained him up until he laid his hands on them. Defense or not, it is illegal to assault a police officer. There are ways to stand up for ones rights without using physical force.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Seaofclouds If you’re being beat – especially for no reason – it’s not exactly easy to simply keep your hands to yourself by that point. It’s human instinct to protect yourself, and I don’t know many people who would simply take a beating, especially if they hadn’t done anything wrong to begin with. Cops or not, people have a right to defend themselves.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I understand what you are saying. I guess I just look at cops a lot differently then some people. If a cop questions me, I answer his questions. I don’t say I don’t have to answer his questions (even though it is my right). I just think it’s easier and better to cooperate. If I think they are wrong, they aren’t the ones to argue with (because obviously they think they are right and arguing with them will only make things worse). Instead, I give my side of things to my lawyer, their boss, and the judge. Arguing and fighting the police is only going to make things worse.

I guess my point is that just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision in every situation.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am almost always on the side of the cops but that is appalling! It looks as if the guy had a big mouth and I am sure was giving the cops a ration of shit but they are to be professionals and there is absolutely no excuse for their behavior. And yes the dogs could have been run over, they (the cops) were totally irresponsible there as well. Oddly enough I applaud Fox (just this one time) for making this public. I hope those cops are severely punished. One would think that in these days where everyone has a phone which contains a camera and video, cops would be more circumspect since the other big brother is probably watching too.

ipso's avatar

If some pedestrian comes up to a scene and starts saying who knows what?

“Fuck you cops – you suck dick – I’ll stop you from giving that guy a ticket even though he didn’t come to a full stop – because I hate cops and I hate you – and I’m a Liberal and can say and do whatever I want because I’m an American damn it – in fact, I’ll come over there and kick your stupid cop ass and take your gun away from you and shove it up your ass if you don’t let him go – now.”

In such a case (which perhaps we will never know) I feel the boy got exactly what he deserved. However, if the guy was just some innocent/honest/taxpayer, trying to help, then the cops will get exactly what they deserve – thankfully.

You’ll note the one big cop was vigorously writing on the back of his ticket what the guy was saying.

As @Seaofclouds pointed out above, this video has been edited to elicit emotions, and thus is ridiculous to try and determine legitimacy of force.

Some lame ivory tower notion that people can say whatever they want to a cop should go ahead and try it.

I’ll go further – I would not be surprised if the victim and the video maker in the OP were friends, where the victim purposefully goaded the cops to catch it on tape and make tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t think that is the case, but I would not be surprised.

“Fuck with the bull, get the horns” – exactly as it should be.

john65pennington's avatar

I just saw this video. first, i was not there and you were not there. each situation has two sides. i would have loved to have heard the video of this incident. we really do not know what what said. i will say this, based on what i have seen and the news reporters and attorneys statements, it appears on the face, that the officers were wrong. yes, the man was interferring with the officers. sure, he had a right to talk to the stopped driver, but this should have taken place after the officers left, not in front of them. i have never condoned police excessive force.

RocketSquid's avatar

@ipso Your answer is absolutely horrifying.

Cops are given an incredible amount of power. They need it to do their jobs properly, because if every thug brought in was able to claim police abuse with no evidence and yet have it be on equal footing with the police officer’s word, everyone would get off scott-free, guilty or not.
They are trusted with this power because they are expected to handle it appropriately. They are trained in the law, they are trained how to restrain a suspect without excessive force, and they are trained WHEN to use force. A vulgar gesture or a verbal insult is not one of those times.

The basic point here is that the cop is supposed to be the better human being, in all circumstances. The better combatant, the better shot, and most importantly, the better man morally. Yes, it can be hard, but that’s his job.

The “Fuck with the Bull, get the horns” comment is ridiculous, because the horns should belong to the judge, not the officer. Yes, the guy in the video you posted was doing something incredibly stupid. And at first the officer may have been acting in reasonable self defense, however, waiting till the guy turns to pull the billy club or proceeding to beat and kick him on the ground leads me to think otherwise. The moron should have restrained, booked for threatening a police officer, and sentenced by a judge.

And, well, yea, this is America, damn it. We have a couple of things here we really like, such as free speech and due process. I’d like to think those are conservative ideals just as much as liberal ones.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The rights of individuals in the USA were seriously eroded by legislation under the Bush administration. Asserting your “constitutional” rights can get you arrested, beaten and charged as a terrorist, depending on your skin colour and the national origin of your ancestors.

Apparently, Americans are supposed to live in fear and never speak out against abuses of police or the government.

ipso's avatar

@RocketSquid – your answer is absolutely banal.

And the OP is self-promotion, since you have such an axe to grind on the matter.

Reports of abuse can be made by any citizen against any law enforcement officer they come in contact with, and it does not leave their record. If a law enforcement officer shows repeated instances, they will be summarily dealt with. Fact.

The system works.

The emotional hand-wringing you’re dealing out here is not an uprise of malevolent jackboot clad fascist police enforcement – Scorpio Rising – but a backlash of paranoid Liberal hatred of Bush policy.

Justified as that may be, there’s a big difference.

@Dr_Lawrence’s last post is a great example of getting your emotional wires crossed.

I suggested that the OP “victim” is NOT allowed to say anything he wants to a law enforcement officer, just walking up into a scene – and that we do not know what was said to promote the officers actions.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – I lived in the USA for over 50 years and never lived in fear or was afraid to speak out against anything I considered wrong.

This was an isolated incident, not an every day event. Think of the millions of cops who confront millions of people all over the country in one day and the number of situations such as this that occur.. I am in no way condoning it but your leaping at every opportunity to spew your anti-american sentiments is highly offensive.

RocketSquid's avatar

@ipso I fail to see how my answer is emotional hand wringing. First off, who’s the OP? Me, or the man in the video I posted?

mowens's avatar

OH NO YOU DIDN’T!!!!!!!

RocketSquid's avatar

@mowens Sheeeeit. Let’s keep this PRO-FESH-IN-AAAAL.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

My comments were inappropriate. I did not meant to condemn all or even most police officers.

It was the previous administration that promoted an atmosphere of fear to justify an invasion. The police had nothing to do with that.

I will try to be more fair and specific in my comments.

AshlynM's avatar

You have to remember, cops are more likely stronger than you and they have guns.

Sure, you can defend yourself, but the chances of you getting shot or killed are probably high.

I’ve had mixed feelings about cops for awhile, but this video may have sealed the deal.
I once saw on the news a cop viciously kick a subdued criminal’s head hard with his foot. He was on the ground, handcuffed but yet, the cop felt it necessary to teach him a lesson while incapacitated.

If a criminal is on the ground or fully subdued, I honestly don’t see the reason to continue to attack them. Regardless of their previous actions towards the cops or what they did that led up to the arrest or capture, there is absolutely no excuse for police brutality.

I also saw a video where a guy filming a police chase got ticketed for putting others safety in jeopardy. The guy was going literally, five miles an hour. They were chasing drunk man on a crane or tractor, I forget. Some vehicle you don’t normally see on the highway.

Most cops are good and decent, but unfortunately, there are the corrupt few who abuse their authority and take it too far. (the Rodney King case is a great example)

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