Since the posting of the reprised Update 15 on 12-28-11, and since its original publication on 02-28-11, there have been many new developments in the Scott case and related matters. All Scott case articles, reprised and new, may be found in the SMM Erik Scott Case archive. This, the first of the new Scott Case posts at SMM, will focus on a related case in Henderson, NV. The next update will focus on the recent five-part series the Las Vegas Review Journal ran on Metro and its tendency to kill citizens under suspicious circumstances.
In 2011, Metro set an all-time record for citizen deaths: 12. It is now on track to beat that record in the new year.
Erik Scott Petition: The good folks at Change.Org have asked me to help publicize a petition to the Department of Justice urging a federal investigation of the Las Vegas Metro Police, particularly relating to the shooting death of Erik Scott. As regular readers know, I’ve been following that case for more than a year.
Why is such a petition necessary? It is federal policy never to confirm or deny the existence of such investigations, and while it is possible that one has been underway for some time, there is no reliable way to know with certainty. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to let the DOJ know that there is real interest in this case and in honest, competent law enforcement.
This is particularly true in light of the most transparent administration in history’s response—through the Holder DOJ—to the petition sent in my name:
Thank you for the copy of the email you sent to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The case of the shooting of Erik Scott does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Nevada Attorney General. It falls within the jurisdiction of the Clark County District Attorney.
Thank you for contacting our office.
CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
You’ll notice, I’m sure, that Ms. Cortez Masto’s response is actually a non-response, which is the default position of the Holder DOJ in the Fast and Furious scandal and the innumerable other debacles in which it is currently embroiled. The point of the petition, and the e-mail sent in my name to the DOJ, was that the Clark County DA and the Nevada AG were complicit in the cover up of the Scott killing. Is the Holder DOJ actually so dense as to be unable to understand plain English, or is this—ignoring the law, common sense and the interests of justice, merely standard operating procedure for them? I’ll leave it to you, gentle readers, to decide.
By all means, take the second link to sign the petition. Burying the corruptocrats at the DOJ in reality may eventually have an effect, particularly if Mr. Obama is retired to play golf on his own dime in November.
Continuing Clark County Follies:
One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered in researching and writing about the Scott case is also one of the most encouraging: many police officers, active duty and retired, don’t believe what I’m saying—at first. Professional officers, young bucks and old hands alike, find the theory of the case hard to accept, and this is a good thing.
I say that because what seems to be happening in Clark County Nevada on virtually a daily basis is so foreign to their experience it’s hard for them to imagine incompetence and corruption on such an unrestrained, overt, grand scale. In the agencies for which they work and worked, even the lowest levels—street cops—would not abide the kind of foolish, dangerous and deadly behavior that is apparently the rule rather than the exception for Metro. First line supervisors would surely eradicate it the moment it came to their attention, and if they did not, shift supervisors, division commanders and higher-ranking administrators absolutely would, if for no reason other than self-interest.
On first reading, many pros e-mail and say, essentially, “come on, this can’t be right. You’re reading too much into this.” Sadly, all I need do is direct them to the updates and they invariably write back, figuratively shaking their heads in amazement and disgust. After acquainting themselves with all of the bizarre behaviors, lapses of discipline and professional procedure, even blatantly criminal behavior on the part of Metro officers, supervisors and administrators, they realize that what they’re seeing is, in fact, real despite their fortunate experience to the contrary.
Again, this is a good thing in that it gives me hope that Metro is not the current norm in American law enforcement. Yet a recent article makes me wonder whether every law enforcement officer in Clark County Nevada is either a violent thug or an honest officer that has no option other than remaining silent about them.
The Adam Greene Case:
At about 0400 on October 29, 2010, Adam Greene was driving to work in Henderson, NV from his Las Vegas home. A diabetic, Greene’s blood sugar level suddenly dropped, plunging him into insulin shock. Greene’s driving became erratic and came to the attention of a Nevada Highway Patrol officer who began to follow, and at some point, used his lights and siren to signal Greene to stop. Greene was unaware of the officer, but did come to a stop at a red light. I’ll let the lawsuit filed in the Greene case tell the rest of the story (PDF available here):
Immediately after Adam stopped his vehicle, an officer approached Adam’s vehicle with his gun drawn and kicked the window of his vehicle. Adam was unresponsive to the officer’s drawn weapon, commands and kick to the window of the vehicle because of the insulin shock.
While the officer yelling at Adam maintained his gun pointed at Adam, another officer approached Adam’s vehicle and opened the door.
Without provocation, Adam was violently pulled from his vehicle and immediately swarmed by multiple officers who forced him face down on the pavement.
As Adam lay face down on the street, no less than five officers restrained Adam’s arms, legs, and body, rendering him completely defenseless.
In a completely defenseless position and posing no threat of harm to the officers, DOE OFFICER I kicked Adam in the face and head multiple times.
Simultaneously, DOE OFFICERS II and III struck Adam’s right side and midsection multiple times with their knees.
Video footage obtained from the dash cam of the officers’ cruisers confirms that Adam never resisted and remained completely unresponsive as multiple officers assaulted him, using excessive and disturbing physical force against him.
Excessive and disturbing indeed. The officers relatively quickly discovered insulin in Adam’s pocket. The highway patrolman that stopped Adam realized that he was in insulin shock and radioed this information with a request for medical help. None of the officer’s names were listed in the lawsuit, and with the exception of the Henderson Police Sgt. that gratuitously kicked Greene in the head and face—Brett Seekatz—none of the names of the officers involved have been made public. Seekatz is mentioned only in an article in the Las Vegas Sun by J. Patrick Coolican, about which article, more later.
Before continuing with my analysis of this incident, allow me to address a question some will surely and reasonably raise; what does this have to do with the Erik Scott case? As those who have been following the Scott case know, I’ve written about related incidents that help to illuminate relevant police procedures and culture, and the continuing corruption of the Clark County, NV system, particularly those occurring in Metro and Clark County. Remember that the Clark County DA’s office handles all of these officers, and decides whether they should be prosecuted when wrong doing is alleged. Some of these cases are:
(1) The death by multiple Taser shocks caused by Metro Officers Timothy English and Mark Hatten (update 9).
(2) The shot accidently fired by Metro Sgt. Darrin Densley that came within two inches of killing an innocent man (update 10).
(3) The unauthorized on-duty road trip to Arizona in a marked Metro patrol car by Officers Brad Gallup and Jake Grunwald (update 10).
(5) The ongoing attempts by the Metro police union to avoid adversarial questioning in coroner’s inquests.
(6) Most pertinently, the unjustified, harassing, multiple traffic tickets issued to Erik Scott’s girlfriend and material witness Samantha Sterner by Metro and Henderson officers, and the continuing, thuggish harassment of innocent citizens displaying Erik Scott remembrance ribbons on their vehicles (update 7 and update 7.2).
It would seem obvious that Metro and Henderson officers work closely together, and as in the harassing citations inflicted on Samantha Sterner, support each other in corruption. By this, I do not mean that every Metro and Henderson officer is corrupt, however, there is more than sufficient evidence to believe that many are and that many, by their silence, abet them.
The dash cam video of the Highway Patrolman that initially approached Greene is available on You Tube and through other sources.
Notice that I did not say the Highway Patrolman “stopped” Greene. It is clear from the video and subsequent testimony that Green was in insulin shock and quite out of it. He stopped not because he saw and heard the flashing emergency lights and siren of the Patrolman’s vehicle, but because he came to an intersection with a red light. If he was that out of it, how could he stop for the red light? Conditioning over many years. We all unconsciously respond in a variety of ways to this sort of conditioning. We see a stop sign and, without conscious thought, begin to stop. The time frames listed in this analysis are taken directly from the time clock of the linked video and may be off by a second or two in places.
00:00: As the video begins, a police siren is audible, and the Highway Patrolman (hereinafter: trooper) is heard calling in the location.
00:00-00:14: The trooper, who is apparently at the open door of his car, can be heard quickly and loudly yelling something—three times–unintelligible that sounds like “eh-uh!” In fact, he is yelling “driver.”
As he approaches the closed door of Greene’s car, his handgun is drawn and pointed in (extended straight at Greene). He raises his right leg and fully extends it, pushing the sole of his shoe flat against the window twice in quick succession. He has stripes on his uniform sleeve, but due to the slightly fuzzy quality of the video and my lack of familiarity with Nevada HP insignia, I can’t tell if they are corporal or Sgt. stripes.
As he does this, he twice and loudly tells Greene “Do not move.”
00:28: The trooper opens Greene’s door and takes several steps backward, keeping his handgun pointed in. He tells a fellow trooper outside of camera range: “Hey, come over here,” followed by “hands up, hands up!” Greene responds very slowly, raising his hands.
Speaking to the campaign hat-wearing trooper that walks into the frame (the HP officers are wearing striped pants), he says: “Take him in a wristlock and get him out.”
He then says: “Do not move! Hey driver, do not move.”
The hat-wearing trooper, who was holding his handgun (he’s left-handed), holsters it, and pulls out a set of handcuffs. As that trooper and two Henderson officers reach into the car and begin to pull Greene out, the first trooper lowers his handgun to low ready.
00:37: As the officer pulls Greene—who is not resisting—from the car, the first trooper says “Shit! Car’s movin’!”
A Henderson officer says, “I got it, I got it.”
The first trooper says “go ahead,” and the officer slips behind the wheel and promptly stops the car.
As the car is moving, Greene is pulled onto the pavement and is on his right side, unmoving and not resisting the officers. His left wrist is handcuffed, and the hat-wearing trooper is holding it and pulling upward (he obviously handcuffed Greene’s left wrist before pulling him out of the car).
The first trooper holsters his handgun and within seconds, both troopers and three Henderson officers have monkey-piled Greene who is not consciously resisting but is obviously reacting to being brutally handled and forced to the ground.
It is obvious that the hat-wearing trooper has Green’s left wrist in a handcuff-which he applied before pulling him from the car–and is pulling upward on that cuff—a very painful technique–which is making it impossible for the other officers—who are probably unaware of what the trooper is doing—to take Greene fully to the ground. Even if Greene is sufficiently conscious to hear and respond to their commands, he can’t do it.
00:40: At least two officers can be heard to say—a total of four times—“Get on the ground.” As five officers are now piled on top of Greene, an officer is heard to say—at least twice—“stop resisting motherfucker.”
00:49: Sgt. Seekatz walks into the frame and nonchalantly begins to kick Greene—with considerable force–in the head and face, twice with his left foot and three times with his right. This appears to be the only portion of Greene’s anatomy he can reach; a clear view of the rest of Greene’s body is obscured by the five other officers. He then casually walks around the pile of wriggling officers to Greene’s feet, stands there several seconds observing the pile, and saunters back to Greene’s head (Greene is prone on the ground, parallel to his car, his head toward the rear of the vehicle).
At this point, two of the officers wrestling Greene are Highway Patrol officers and three are Henderson officers, not counting Sgt. Seekatz’s contribution to their efforts.
00:52: Two Henderson officers kneeling on the ground at Greene’s right side begin delivering at least five very forceful strikes—in quick succession–to his side with their knees. It is obvious they are generating all the force they can manage from that posture. The officer furthest from the camera strikes Greene once, the officer nearest the camera strikes Greene twice, the officer furthest from the camera, once again, and the officer nearest the camera strikes at least once more. It is somewhat difficult to make out every move the officers make in the video due to officers moving between the camera and action.
As he is being struck, Greene moans and cries out pitifully, obviously in pain, and at 00:54, officers step aside so that Greene’s head, face and shoulders can be seen. He is crying out in pain, but it is quite clear that he is essentially catatonic and is not actively resisting the officers, but merely reacting in pain to the assault. The hat-wearing trooper still has hold of the handcuff on Greene’s left wrist and is twisting it painfully while pulling Greene’s arm up and backward. Because Greene is so close to his car, the trooper cannot sweep Greene’s arm out and to the side, and is pulling his arm in an unnatural and painful manner.
1:09: The officers succeed in cuffing Greene. Greene’s pitiful moans will be audible until about 1:18. The officers begin to search Greene while he is on the ground. Greene is limp, unresisting and obviously in pain.
1:21: The hat-wearing trooper appears about to call the dispatcher, but the first trooper says “I got it, I got it. Worry about him,” and walks toward the door of his car, out of the frame.
1:38: The trooper is heard calling his dispatcher and says: “Alright, we got him. Roll me a uh, uh, 51.”
2:12: The HP asks his fellow officers if any of them are hurt. They reply: “I don’t think so,” and a few seconds later he will say—for reasons unknown–“…medical.” He will ask again a few seconds later and all officers will affirm that they’re unhurt.
2:25: The trooper calls his dispatcher and tells her: “alright, we have a…we found some insulin in his pocket…roll 52, tell them to expedite… he’s semi-conscious.”
2:44: The officers lift Greene from the ground. He is clearly unaware of what is happening around him. One Henderson officer walks him toward the HP car, out of the frame of the camera. What appears to be a large bruise or abrasion is visible on Greene’s right cheek.
For the remainder of the video, Greene and most of the officers cannot be seen. The officers can be heard, but the trooper wearing the microphone is heard most clearly.
3:01: The first trooper radios for medical assistance saying: “Alright, Let’s get medical out here. He’s a, a diabetic…he’s probably in shock…semi-conscious.” He then confirms his location for the dispatcher.
3:47: The first trooper is leaning in the open driver’s door of Greene’s car, apparently searching it. The hat-wearing trooper approaches and speaks so quietly to the first trooper he can’t be understood. The first trooper replies: “yeah, I’ve seen this before, but…” They do not speak intelligibly again.
5:13: The first trooper, who is not in view of the camera, is laughing loudly. Another officer observes: “he’s not a small guy.”
The trooper, still laughing, replies: “Right. I coulda taken him by myself.”
The video ends shortly thereafter.
Greene was eventually examined by paramedics at the scene and was released without any charges. He drove himself to the hospital where his broken ribs and multiple other injuries were diagnosed and treated.
The HP trooper is obviously excited when he begins the confrontation. However, it’s not clear why. The sources available, including the lawsuit, do not specify the length or nature of the police “chase” before Greene stopped for the red light. However, what is suggested is anything but a dangerous, lengthy, high-speed chase. Apparently the trooper saw Greene’s vehicle being operated erratically, but not obviously dangerously. There is no mention of speeding or endangering anyone or anything, nor is there mention of a lengthy chase. If any of this had been present, the officers involved would surely have taken pains to put it before the public.
In any case, there is no reason for any officer to be so obviously excited in this situation as it is currently known. Remember that the police are expected to remain calm and in control of themselves in these situations. They’re expected to be able to deal with such stresses.
The trooper generally acted appropriately, but strangely indeed in his initial approach. People under stress do odd things, things they don’t remember doing later, things that they can’t imagine doing in the first place. In this case, the trooper yells to get the driver’s attention, but is doing it so loudly, so quickly, that even the single word he is speaking—“driver”—is unintelligible. This is not unusual. Excited officers often find their voices rising an octave or more in pitch—making them sound like Mickey Mouse on helium–speaking at comically fast speeds, and saying things they wouldn’t normally think of saying. In this case, the trooper is dropping the beginning and ending consonants of the single word–“driver’–he is shouting.
Even knowing well the kinds of things officers routinely say in such situations, I had to listen to the tape four times before I realized what he was saying. Even if Greene had been fully conscious and aware of the officer’s presence, with his car window rolled up, he almost certainly would have had no idea what the officer was saying—if, considering his condition, he heard it at all. As you listen to the recording remember that you’re hearing it at the source—the officer’s mouth is only inches from his microphone.
What is obvious is that the officer—who is in a better position to see into Greene’s car than the viewer—realizes that Greene is not even aware of his presence, to say nothing of responding to him. This causes him to rush to Greene’s door, and this is where he makes his first potentially dangerous mistake.
For police officers in potential danger sufficient to require their drawn and pointed in handguns, distance and cover are life itself. The trooper surely knew others would be there to help him within seconds, in fact, considering the video, they were pulling to a stop even as he was approaching Greene’s car. He had no tactical reason to leave cover, yet he rushed to the door, standing at arm’s length, directly facing it, which officers are taught from virtually their first day in uniform is an excellent way to get shot.
Inexplicably, while continuing to point in, he raises his right leg, fully extends it, and plants his foot flat on the window! He is clearly not striking the window with anything like the force sufficient to shatter it; he is essentially tapping on the window—twice—with the sole of his foot in an apparent attempt to get Greene’s attention.
This—as well as his unnecessary rush from cover and his knowing exposure of himself to potentially deadly danger (as he at least initially perceived it)—is a clear indication that he knew—or strongly suspected—that Greene presented no real danger to him, perhaps even that he suspected that Greene wasn’t a common drunk driver. Planting his foot like that put him dangerously off balance. If he slipped or if the car began to move, he could have easily fallen and injured himself, or accidently fired his handgun and shot himself in the leg or foot, as well as shooting Greene. If he didn’t suspect that Greene really wasn’t dangerous, he needs a tactical traffic stop refresher course.
He is more than close enough to see that Greene presents no real threat, and pulls open his door and calls in another officer to remove Green, lowering and holstering his handgun as he does. By abruptly pulling open the door, the trooper removed the only cover between himself and Greene. Why would he do that unless he wasn’t truly worried about Greene presenting a deadly threat? Despite his tactically odd behavior, the HP officer has done nothing unreasonable to this point. None of them have.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal gets this portion of their story wrong. They wrote:
The trooper, his gun still raised, then gives Greene conflicting commands. He first tells him not to move, then tells him to come forward.
Clearly, the trooper’s commands were consistent, and when near Green’s car, they were much slower and more intelligible. The R-J probably made that error because when the Trooper says “hey, come in here,” he is speaking to the trooper in the campaign hat that immediately comes into the frame thereafter. The trooper does not turn his head to speak to the hat-wearing trooper, but keeps his attention properly focused on Greene, who is obviously oblivious to his presence.
After the few seconds necessary to stop Greene’s rolling car, the Trooper joins the five-man monkey pile on top of Greene. Some observations:
(1) Physical confrontations in the real world are nothing like those on film. Police officers virtually never get into choreographed martial arts dance sequences with spinning helicopter kicks and Kung Fu-like grace. Most physical confrontations are brief, sweaty, grunting, cursing wrestling matches that often end up on the ground.
People often see several officers wrestling with a suspect and cry foul. They misunderstand; the truth is quite simple. Officers must use the minimum necessary force to make an arrest. By using several officers, they’re avoiding fistfights and doing their best to avoid having to hurt someone—if they’re doing things correctly and in good faith, that is.
That said, too many officers piling on actually hinder rather than help. Officers call such things “monkey piles” and other colorful terms because they’re disorganized, ineffective, and an example of “me too!” police work where an officer sees another doing something exciting and jumps in with no real idea what’s going on to get in on the fun.
An example from my police experience: As a young supervisor, I assisted my officers in dealing with an angry and combative drunk driver. Moments after I arrived, the four officers present had him face down on the ground, one on each limb, but like a bucking bronco, he hadn’t worn himself out yet and was still screaming, spitting and bucking like mad. I didn’t join the monkey pile but stood back waiting to see if I was actually needed. Within a minute, the man was cuffed and in the back of a car, exhausted and panting like a horse ridden too far too fast.
Their adrenaline pumping, several of the officers were upset I didn’t jump in. So I asked them: “And what would I have done? Put him in a nose-lock? Give him a Three Stooges eye gouge? Give him a noogie? You were grabbing and controlling him everywhere he could be grabbed and controlled. You even had knees on his back and neck. All you had to do was hold him until he wore himself out. Did you realize that after I arrived, it only took you 45 seconds to cuff and stuff him?” Caught up in the excitement, they hadn’t thought of that, and time–for them–moved very slowly. It provided a training opportunity and my guys—and girls—went forth and monkey-piled no more.
In this case, remember that the officers were actually—probably unknowingly—working against each other. The hat-wearing trooper was actually keeping Greene from going to the ground—quite painfully—while the others were trying—equally painfully–to force him to the ground. This is one of the problems with monkey-piling. All coordination of effort is lost. Greene was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, and the officers didn’t have a clue.
(2) An officer is yelling “quit resisting mother*****r.” This seems to be a universal constant in Clark County and it is commonly found in any physical confrontation in which officers involve themselves. The brutal and unprovoked beating of an innocent citizen by Metro officer Derek Colling (Update 10.2) is a case in point. Even though there were no obvious witnesses, Colling repeated that phrase as he beat his helpless victim, as though it was just another part of Metro procedure. It would be interesting to know if this is taught in the various academies local officers must attend, and how it’s taught and intended to be used. No doubt the Scott family attorneys will be interested in this and similar matters of training and procedure.
When properly used, when someone is actually actively resisting a lawful arrest, it is nothing more than officers hoping to protect themselves against false or unjustified brutality charges. However, when it is misused, as it appears to have been here, it is a cynical attempt to avoid punishment for unprofessional, even criminal officer behavior.
Again, remember that because his left arm is being painfully wrenched upward, Greene can’t go flat on the ground. Giving the officers involved the benefit of the doubt, which they may not deserve, perhaps it is Greene’s failure to immediately do what they are expecting him to do that provokes their assault—at least the knee strikes.
(3) Knee strikes are a legitimate tool, but only when employed when necessary and only when applied to the proper parts of the body, such as nerves at the outside of a thigh. Any such strike should be accompanied by a loud and clear command and should be followed by a brief (seconds) assessment period to see if the strike and command have had the desired effect. This is particularly so when the person being arrested is under the complete control of officers. Greene was going nowhere. There was no chance of escape, no chance he could harm any of the officers. Repeatedly striking someone without commands or waiting to assess the effect of the technique is utterly ineffective and amounts to mindless brutality.
Any rational officer has to know that full strength knee strikes to the ribs of someone rigidly held in position—and these were forceful indeed–will result in broken ribs, perhaps even punctured lungs or other internal organs. These officers are lucky not to have killed Greene, particularly considering his already fragile medical condition.
(4) In every police agency for which I worked, and about which I have a reasonable amount of knowledge, Sgt. Seekatz would be looking for another career. The nonchalance with which Seekatz strolls into the frame, delivers five kicks—two with his left foot and three with his right—to Greene’s head and face is simply sickening, though certainly not without precedence in Clark County as in the thuggish beating of a handcuffed, helpless man administered by Metro Officer Derek Colling.
Not only does this represent mindless brutality, it is tactically ineffective. Striking, in the face and head, a man who is already under effective restraint can only shock and stun him, making him incapable of listening to and submitting to the officers restraining him.
How do you possibly defend strolling into a situation where no fewer than five officers have a man restrained, helpless, on the ground, and you decide to add your contribution to the monkey pile by kicking him repeatedly in the face? What tactical goal did you hope to accomplish? How did your actions help to restrain him or protect the other officers? How can you characterize what you did as anything other than stupid, ugly, criminal brutality?
(5) In every police agency for which I worked, and about which I have a reasonable amount of knowledge, the moment any officer discovered that Greene was likely in diabetic shock, his status would have immediately changed from suspect to patient. He would have been released and treated. Of course he would have been closely watched, just in case.
The HP trooper clearly had his doubts before the insulin was found, and from his behavior and tone of voice, it’s clear he’s experiencing the “aw shit” factor. He knows they screwed up and was a party to the others beating the hell out of an innocent man, yet he doesn’t immediately deal with it. He doesn’t immediately do simple things such as smell Greene’s breath—those in insulin shock commonly have a fruity odor on their breath—or ask questions and make observations that would help him to quickly rule out alcohol intoxication. He allows Greene to remain in handcuffs, in pain, until some time after they are able to make him blow into a portable breathalyzer. Then, despite their beating, one officer apologizes for beating him and they apparently make no attempt to get him to a hospital. Any rational officer would want to do this if for no other reason than to limit their potential liability. Professionals would want to ensure he didn’t have a punctured lung or internal bleeding that would kill him hours later.
The HP troopers generally acted with professional restraint and unlike the Henderson officers, did not blatantly use unwarranted and unreasonable force against Greene. The hat-wearing trooper was quite slow to handcuff Greene, but this is likely because he had such a poor angle due to Green’s proximity to his car. He likely had little or no leverage and due to the monkey pile, couldn’t move Greene or maneuver him self into a better position. Still, his predicament contributed to much of the pain, and even injury, Greene experienced.
The first trooper, apart from his initial armed ballet performance, was essentially blameless, but was very slow to correct their mistakes even when he knew and reported to the dispatcher that Greene was a diabetic in Insulin shock. His early “medical” comment is suggestive of his knowledge of Greene’s condition. His comment to the other trooper at 3:47: “yeah, I’ve seen this before, but…” is a telling indicator that he realizes that Greene was clearly impaired by his diabetes and that he has seen people impaired in that way before. They do not again speak intelligibly–they’re very aware the screwed up and don’t want to verbalize that on the video.
Perhaps the trooper is feeling badly that he failed to recognize Greene’s condition for what it clearly was. If so, even as he was potentially revealing that regret, he still allowed Greene to remain handcuffed and forced to stand. Perhaps the trooper didn’t act promptly because he didn’t want to make the other officers look bad on camera, or perhaps he simply didn’t think very quickly, but his inaction caused Greene additional and unnecessary pain and anguish—and he clearly knew better.
Another issue the Review-Journal got wrong is the trooper’s laughing. The R-J reported:
One of the harsher moments in the video comes near the end of the clip, when one officer can be heard laughing loudly.
One officer notes that Greene ‘was not a small guy.’ An officer laughs and says, ‘I couldn’t take him by myself.'”
The trooper actually said: “Right. I coulda taken him by myself.’
While the officer’s levity would seem to be cruel and inappropriate, black humor is very common in police work. It is an absolutely essential safety valve, allowing officers to deal with stress and unpleasant, even horrifying duties. However, every professional officer knows that the public won’t understand or appreciate it, and that it’s important to keep it from them.
In this case, it is possible the trooper’s response is ironic, meant to communicate that he could not have taken Greene by himself as four additional officers were involved. However, since none of the officers speaking are visible, it’s not possible to read their visual, non-verbal cues to determine exactly what they meant. Much of communication is non-verbal, particularly where humor is involved.
As reported by the Review-Journal, a settlement was approved by the Henderson City Council only on February 7, 2012. The video was released by Greene’s lawyers on the same day. Under the terms of the settlement, Henderson paid Greene $158,500 and his wife, $99,000 for a total of $257,500. The state also paid Greene &35,000, bringing the total to $292,500.
The officers involved, with the exception of Sgt. Seekatz, remain unidentified, which was likely an unannounced condition of the settlement.
According to the Las Vegas Sun Seekatz was “disciplined,” but apparently did not lose his rank, and no details of the discipline of Seekatz or of any of the other officers—if indeed any were disciplined–involved has been made public.
A portion of the statement Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen released:
What happened to Mr. Greene was wrong, and we regret the pain and suffering that he and his family endured because of it. As a result of what happened a year ago with Mr. Greene, our police department modified their training on the use of force. As a result, we have already seen the numbers of those types of incidents go down.
Another odd and disturbing part of the entire affair is that the Henderson City Council apparently didn’t learn of the incident until shortly before they approved the settlement. By “shortly,” I mean hours or days. J. Patrick Coolican, writing for the Sun:
Henderson City Councilwoman Gerri Schroder only learned Monday that a Henderson Police officer was caught on tape kicking a restrained man in the head five times during a botched traffic stop in October 2010 that wound up costing the city $257,000.
Other members of the Henderson Council were equally uninformed. Police Chief Jutta Chambers is not talking, except to claim that training instituted after the Greene debacle has reduced police use of violence.
The parallels between this incident and the many similar incidents next door with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are striking. In every case of Metro misconduct of which I’m aware, there appears to have been no effective first line supervision. In professional law enforcement agencies, first line supervisors—Sergeants—are always the backbone of discipline and professionalism. Their experience and authority are so respected–and backed by higher ranking officers–that officers fear making mistakes and have no doubt that dangerous and unprofessional behavior will not only be reported by their colleagues, but promptly dealt with by supervisors. Compare that normal reality with what the video reveals to be Henderson’s supervisory situation.
Extraordinary too is the parallel of lack of civilian oversight in the Henderson Police force and in Metro. In both cases, civilian overseers seem to be very much in the dark about what is happening, and very timid and reluctant to deal with those incidents about which they have knowledge. J. Patrick Coolican’s article makes that more than clear. The power relationship seems to be exactly backward.
In all of my police experience, I had no doubt that the elected city councils and the people they appointed to manage the agencies for which I worked were in charge. I did not for a moment imagine that I was the master of any citizen or that I could get away with doing anything questionable, let alone illegal. No police chief with which I ever worked would dare keep the city manager or council in the dark for more than a year about a case like Greene’s. In the same way, the kind of thuggish brutality on display in this incident, by the Henderson and Metro officers that harassed Samantha Sterner and other Scott supporters, and that is daily perpetrated by Metro would have been unthinkable.
How can such things occur? Only when the proper relationship between the police and the community and its elected and appointed representatives is completely dysfunctional. There is more than sufficient evidence—those reading this article have seen it—that’s the case with Metro and the Henderson Police.
Notice that the Henderson police are stonewalling the public, and that the names of the officers involved aren’t being released. While Metro generally releases the names of officers, it’s not always willing or prompt, and Metro virtually never releases the whole story about police misconduct.
This too is extraordinary. Professional agencies always promptly release such information, and within the boundaries of personnel management and privacy laws, identify the officers involved. That this is not being done is indicative of a serious lack of respect for the proper police/public relationship.
In a democracy, this proper relationship is absolutely vital. When it is breached, life becomes very uncertain and dangerous, not only for the public, but for the police. When the public cannot trust police officers to be calm, rational and professional, when they fear the police as much as, if not more than, criminals tragedy is inevitable and imminent.
Such is the continuing state of affairs for the residents of Clark County, Nevada. Just ask Adam Greene who is, in very many ways, lucky to be alive. What resident of those parts does not realize that what happened to Adam Greene and Erik Scott could easily happen to them? Who can blame them?
And the beat goes on.