Wow, this really worked out well. Last week I decided to let all of you comment on a video before I did. The response was wonderful: Lots of different opinions, and all well articulated. As promised, here is my take:
1. I never judge a video on its face. Never. I don’t care how good it looks, there could be some misconduct there. I don’t care how bad it looks, there are things we might not know.
2. Based only on the video, there are some good things and some bad things about the deputies’ actions.
GOOD: It seems like she kicked one shoe at them. No need to take a second one, so some sort of ballistic take down is probably okay.
ALSO GOOD: It seems like she is not compliant on the ground, so as bad as they look, the punches might be in policy in many large police agencies.
BAD: I have never understood picking someone up by the hair. If she is non-compliant there are wonderful techniques to do so. If she is violent, leave her on the floor for goodness sake. No reason for that, except anger and loss of temper.
ALSO BAD: I am not a custody expert, but have worked a bit in that environment. If, as the news said, this is a Sheriff’s department, I am guessing there were more deputies not that far away. Why not wait for help and do a proper “team” takedown and securing of this suspect? I know I always try and separate the officer who is angry from the suspect and let others deal with him or her.
So, while it is human nature to lose it once and a while, this was not a great video for the police. Take the suspect down for kicking the shoe (to protect from another such kick) and then cuff her. Call for backup once she is cuffed, and then have a new team lift her up.
Again, this is making a multitude of assumptions, such as the availability of backup, my guessing what preceded the video, etc.
Overall the most important thing is to remember never to judge completely based on what you see in one video clip. It simply cannot tell the whole story.