Friday, February 13, 2015

OPINION: Complete Transparency Needed in Case Against Madison AL Officer #EricParker Accused of Injuring #SureshbhaiPatel

First let me applaud the Madison Alabama Police Department and Chief Larry Muncey for their response in arresting officer Parker and in their attempts to remain above board and transparent in the aftermath of Parker's alleged abuse of Sureshbhai Patel, the Indian grandfather who was engaged in taking a walk when he was detained and apparently injured.

Let's read the Madison City Police Department mission statement as it appears on their website: 

"The Madison City Police Department is dedicated to protecting and serving our community to the highest standard attainable. Our goal is to enhance the quality of life of every citizen through professional police services."

Now let's take a few minutes to view the video which was provided by the Madison City Police Department, taken from the dash-cam of officer Parker's car. Watching the video in its entirety, although perhaps enough to make a person cringe, will at least provide the context needed to understand what happened. 

Bear in mind that police had been called in to investigate "a skinny black guy" that the caller had reported for "kind of wandering around in driveways."  No weapons, violence, theft, harassment, disturbance of the peace or any crime whatsoever had been reported.   

Please watch the entire video:

Eric Parker
When you take the time to view and listen to the video above, it's very difficult not to be disgusted. 

Although police and those who reflexively sympathize with them in any case of abuse almost always claim the public can't understand what it's like to face the world police face, approaching potential criminals who could turn on them at any time and living in constant fear for their life, watching this video certainly makes me question that notion. 

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that, although Parker is innocent until proven guilty, this video offers fairly damning evidence. If, somehow, miraculously, this video shows exactly what happened, then Parker is, and should be in big trouble. 

Who can know the mindset of someone who overreaches their power? Does this type of behavior indicate lack of training, lack of proper screening, poor oversight or just a rogue officer slipping through the cracks?

The Madison City Police website opens on a page with a horizontal scroll reading "How are we doing? Any ideas? Use the Police Suggestion Box in the FAQs list." 

A slide show of a racially diverse police force engaging in multiple acts of service to the community shows officers handing out stickers to kids, running in marathons, being tough, but being friendly. Obviously a major PR campaign to reach the community they serve. 

In 2014 they even won the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Cisco Systems Community Policing Award.

"This award identifies and rewards best practices in community policing by recognizing police organizations that use the power of collaboration and partnerships to make local, national, and global communities safer from crime and terrorism."

One has to assume they take pride in their community relations.

One would also assume they would do everything in their power to live up to, or at least present this image. 

Now my mother raised me right. 

She taught me to try and understand what makes people tick. She taught me to understand the reasons behind the decisions people make so they can be helped. She taught me compassion and how to be constructive. I cherish these traits very highly. So when I see this kind of thing, I just see multiple failures. With the exception, that is, of an old gentleman just taking a walk.  

I feel the most sorry for Sureshbhai Patel and his family. As a citizen of Alabama I offer them my most sincere apology for the treatment they received while inside the borders of our state. I would like to assure them that the treatment they received, although indicative of the ignorance of some people, does not, and should not represent Alabama as a whole. When presented properly, Southern hospitality is the hallmark of our ideals. Throughout history, we as a state, have battled with those elements of ignorance in Alabama and have made much progress over the years. Any self respecting Southerner, regardless of his political leanings and regardless, even of his concept of racial or ethnic notions, should feel shame at the beating of any innocent person, especially an old man. Given the history of racial strife and intolerance our state has been known for, we should be exceptionally cautious and concerned.     

But I also feel sorry for the officers involved. Watching the video raises so many questions about how we allow our officers to deal with the community. The timing of the body slam Officer Parker inflicted on Mr. Patel was suspiciously close to the arrival of the second police car. Was there showmanship involved? Did Officer Parker want to show-off for the camera, for the other officers? Was he just trying to find an excuse to use his training? How could he not realize the potential for serious injury when he, a large, fit, trained police officer took it upon himself to body slam a comparatively frail, aging Indian man?

Is there something in the camaraderie of fellow officers that bolsters a certain type of action which could lead to abuse? And if so, wouldn't this type of incident then reflect on the entire force? I believe that is the face Chief Larry Muncey presented when announcing the firing and arrest of Parker. 

Muncey announced that the FBI will be launching a parallel investigation. Let us hope that both of these investigations reach conclusions similar to those one must reach after watching the above video. Hopefully Eric Parker will be appropriately punished. 

But what then? 

Situations like this only lead to muddy the waters of humanity. This officer, whether harboring some deep down hatred, or some frustration, or just childish rage or need to boost his ego, has messed his life up. He damaged the trust of people toward police. He has physically damaged an old man...for taking a walk. He has psychologically damaged a family, and strained relations with many of those from an entire nation. 

For what? One impulsive, bad move. 

At this point, jail or no jail, job or no job, future or no future, this poor kid's one move would be to beg and plead for forgiveness at the foot of Sureshbhai Patel's hospital bed. 

And Madison Alabama... Well they need to pay Mr. Patel an obscene amount of money and create a program or fund to address police sensitivity, using his name, and in his honor. 

Sureshbhai Patel... he just needs to get back to feeling safe to walk down the sidewalk. But first he just needs to be able to walk. 

What a shameful moment.           


1 comment:

  1. Very sad. The way police has been handling situations lately is shameful for human rights. It is clear after watching this video that person was already handcuffed... there was no need to throw him on the ground after checking him .....

    Is this what police training teaching at the school? Very shameful... Erip Parker should be charged strictly and should be the example to entire police community that they are treating humans...