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Citizen videos of police misconduct are eroding the presumption that police do not commit misconduct

Good news out of Delaware this week. A video of an encounter in 2013 between a white police officer and an unarmed black citizen who was in the process of dropping to his knees when the officer kicked him in the face, breaking his jaw, has resulted in the officer being charged with second-degree assault.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting,

A Dover, Del., police officer who faced no criminal charges in 2013 for knocking a surrendering man unconscious with a jaw-breaking kick could face jail time, after all.

In 2013, then-attorney general Beau Biden (Vice President Joe Biden’s son) failed to get a grand jury indictment against Cpl. Tom Webster for injuring Lateef Dickerson without cause. But a judge in a civil rights lawsuit recently ruled that a video of the event could be released publicly, and current Attorney General Matt Denn brought the case again, resulting in an indictment for second-degree assault Monday.

/Snip/

The Delaware video shows an officer responding to a fight possibly involving a gun. The officer pulls up to the scene, where a black man in a ball cap is standing. The man raises his hands as Corporal Webster can be seen approaching from the left side of screen, ordering him to the ground. As Mr. Dickerson in the process of complying with the order, Webster kicks him, knocking Dickerson unconscious, sending his baseball cap flying, and breaking his jaw.

This case illustrates the important role that citizen videos of police misconduct are playing in eroding the presumption that police do not commit crimes when they injure or kill unarmed black suspects.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Let’s just redo the criminal code and unless there is a video then no crime was committed. How many people in prison convicted without a video and only testimony of “witnesses”. Could solve that prison overcrowding problem.

  • Chris Maukonen

    This case illustrates the important role that citizen videos of police
    misconduct are playing in eroding the presumption that police do not
    commit crimes when they injure or kill unarmed black suspects.

    Which is why they hate it of course and abuse the photograher/vidiographer.

  • GreatLakeSailor

    If you record police, stream the vid off your device so it can not be deleted.

    ACLU makes app that sends phone video of police misconduct directly to ACLU servers
    http://boingboing.net/2015/05/06/aclu-makes-app-that-sends-phon.html
    https://www.mobilejusticeca.org/
    https://youtu.be/zrjJI1bBalM