Ex-police officer: Supervisor should have been at beating scene
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(CNN) -- Outrage over a videotaped beating of a black teen-ager by a white police officer in Inglewood, California, have raised allegations of police brutality and civil rights violations. The town's mayor said Tuesday that the officer should be fired, and the Justice Department's Civil Rights division has asked the FBI to investigate.
Howard Robertson, the chief investigator for the New Orleans District Attorney's office and former SWAT commander with the New Orleans Police Department, discussed the incident Tuesday with CNN's Kyra Phillips.
PHILLIPS: You saw the tape. So what is your overall reaction, first of all?
ROBERTSON: Well, my overall reaction is, the tape is only the end result. The tape doesn't show me what happened -- what led up to the incident -- only the final result.
What I did see, naturally, if it was here in New Orleans, the district attorney's office would immediately start investigating because there's criminal implications. And the FBI has to immediately start investigating because they are civil rights violations.
The main thing that I did not see was a supervisor on the scene. You know, the first thing we look for is a supervisor to come in and make sure that he takes control of the scene, so that, once the subject is handcuffed, he is no longer touched.
PHILLIPS: Now, we are talking to you today, because, when you were a SWAT commander and with the New Orleans Police Department, you were very involved in cleaning up the corruption in that department. So, when you look at something like this, are these cops corrupt or are they just not trained well?
ROBERTSON: No, they are not corrupt at all. There is no -- you shouldn't put any correlation between the two. The thing have you to remember here is that, not knowing what caused the incident, people get -- especially police officers get -- their adrenaline starts pumping. They are all involved in what is going on. They are making an arrest. And, in this case, it looks like they are not sure what the arrest is about.
And the most important thing is, somebody has to step in and say: "Your adrenaline is a little too high. Step back." If somebody doesn't do that, the officer has an opportunity to overreact. When he does, he steps over the line.
PHILLIPS: And, especially, it looks like a scuffle did happen. He has a cut on the side of his head. He is bleeding. You see something with his shoulder. Put us in the mindset here of this officer, Jeremy Morse.
ROBERTSON: Well, I'm saying, not knowing what caused the incident and what happened -- all I know is what I have heard from the mother and from looking at the tape.
And when a police officer gives somebody an instruction, he expects them to follow it. When they don't follow the instruction, what starts going through the officer's mind is, this person is hesitating because he is thinking of a plan to escape, a plan maybe to draw a weapon to attack the officer. So, the officer gets very defensive.
In this particular case, this boy may have just been slow, where it is not that he didn't want to react immediately. He just was processing everything slowly. When he didn't react, the officer took aggressive action, which would be to handcuff him -- put him on the ground and handcuff him. You could see where the officer was bleeding from his head, and it showed another officer was injured. So, obviously, something happened, but I didn't see that on the tape.
PHILLIPS: Now, does this surprise you? Because, after the Rodney King incident, I know departments all across the country, even the departments within Los Angeles, officers were on guard. They had to be so careful about how they treated the public. So, does this surprise you that this happened?
ROBERTSON: It doesn't surprise me at all.
In every academy class I teach, especially supervision classes, the key to remember is, you know that when an officer responds to a call, the siren is on. The adrenaline gets pumped up that an officer is responding. He has -- there is always a possibility that he is going to overreact. And because of that, you teach the supervisor to respond to the scene. And his job is not making the arrest, but making sure everything is handled properly, and, once that person is handcuffed, that he is put into a police car.
And, actually, the police officer becomes a protector of the person they arrested once those handcuffs are on.
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