Ex-Cop Expert Witness Says Unarmed Black Teen Who Had Committed No Crime Was “Illogical” To Run Away From the Three Cops Who Nearly Beat Him to DeathFriday, December 30th, 2011
Lucy Steigerwald has an update on the beating of Jordan Miles, a case I wrote about in January. Miles was beaten nearly to death by three Pittsburgh police officers who say they mistook a bottle of Mountain Dew in Miles’ pocket for a gun. (The Mountain Dew bottle disappeared after the beating.) The cops claimed they confronted Miles because a neighbor had complained that the music student with no criminal record was skulking about her property. That neighbor denies ever making such a complaint. The cops also say Miles should have known they were cops, and say he’s responsible for his own beating for fleeing them. Miles is suing.
Which brings us to the update:
In response to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Jordan Miles over a beating he suffered from Pittsburgh Police in January 2010, a “law enforcement expert” has declared that the cops’ version of events is true. The aforementioned expert was hired by the city to fight the lawsuit from Miles, so it’s not exactly surprising that he came to some familiar conclusions about why the cops just had to do what they did.
The officers have consistently said that they identified themselves as such and displayed badges, wrote Joseph J. Stine, who ran Philadelphia’s Police Training Bureau and served as chief for New Britain Township, in a report filed in federal court. And Mr. Stine suggested that Mr. Miles couldn’t have logically reached the conclusion that the men were common thugs.
“It is my opinion that in order for Jordan Miles not to have known that the males who attempted to stop him and whom he eventually struggled with were police officers, he would have had to believe that three adult white males had come into [a] predominantly Afro-American community in order to rob him,” Mr. Stine wrote, despite little precedent for such an attack. “He would have to have not heard any of the constant repetition of ‘Police. Stop. Police.’”
Is there really no precedent at all for several white guys to visit an African-American neighborhood and want to make trouble? There’s certainly precedent for people impersonating police officers in order to commit crimes. Maybe the men did yell police and even flash badges, but so what? It was 11 p.m. in one of Pittsburgh’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods. And if the men grabbed at Miles while identifying themselves (or not), a logical fight or flight instinct still would have kicked in. Miles also said that the cops yelled “Where’s the money? Where’s the gun? Where’s the drugs?” at him, which made him believe he was being robbed, then abducted, when the men initially put handcuffs on him.
Stine says that it wasn’t “logical” for Miles to have thought that the officers were criminals, yet cops are often forgiven for reacting in the heat of the moment to an apparent threat, be it a human being with a three-inch carving knife or a dog which maybe bares its teeth at a stranger in its home. So why is then-highschool senior Miles not to be forgiven for his nervousness when adult, theoretically highly-trained cops are so often forgiven for theirs?
You could also argue that even if Miles did know they were cops, he was justified to run. For example, he might have recognized that he was a black teenager walking alone at night, he may have heard enough stories about cops who sometimes tend to assume the worst in those sorts of circumstances, and he may have consequently feared that something bad would go down if he stuck around. Something like—just hypothetically speaking—the cops mistaking an innocuous bulge in his coat for a gun, beating him to a bloody pulp, then arresting him for resisting them.
Two of the three cops have been the subject of prior excessive force complaints and lawsuits. Yet thanks to police union clout, all three were not only suspended with pay, they were also paid for the overtime they might have worked had they not been suspended. All three are now back on the force. The union also deemed the three cops “heroes” for beating the hell out of an unarmed, 150-pound viola player. When a local prankster put out a hoax press release mocking the union’s absurd celebration of Jordan Miles’ beating, the Pittsburgh Police Department launched a full-on raid of the video store where they thought the fake release was created.