Sirenita Lake

Sirenita Lake
San Francisco, California,
November 04
I am married in a committed, open relationship that is the anchor of my life. I'm a former high school English teacher, former software technical writer, and graduate of the late, great public interest law school, New College of California School of Law. I'm now on permanent disability from conditions that have finally eased up enough for me to begin exploring the world, at least that part which I can access emotionally, with the recklessness of a teenager. An important part of my life remains my work as a counselor for tenants with legal problems. The rest of the time, I indulge in outrageous adventures in sex and love, which I occasionally write about.


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JUNE 19, 2009 5:40PM

Disturbing UPDATED

Rate: 30 Flag

Since I published this, I found a story in a local blog page describing what this guy and his partner were reported to have done. Apparently, there was a belief that a cop had been injured, though I have not seen anything to confirm that in the local rag. There are a few comments from citizens who had close brushes with the fleeing suspects:

I was sitting at my table working on my computer when I heard yet another car crash on the thoroughfare near my house. Yesterday, a couple of injured cars stood in the middle of the street for hours. We watched as the driver of one of them fled. We called the police and gave what little information we could about the guy who ran. He creamed some poor immigrant's taxi, possibly with a stolen car, and it was clear whose side we were on.

Today, I heard the sound of screeching tires and an impact again. Somewhat bored, I went to look out my front window, assuming it was in the deadly intersection by my house. I saw no crashed cars, but I saw a guy on foot turn on my street and run up the street past my house heading south. A police car with siren turned the other direction at the corner. I hesitated a moment. Another fleeing hit and run driver?  I had an impulse to pick up the phone. I suppressed it. What did I know? He could be late to something. The cops had gone the other way. 

I heard more sirens. A cop car came screaming down the street from south, and the guy slowed and turned, He started to walk back, trying to look slow, relaxed. Definitely fleeing. Another cop came around the corner from the other direction. They spotted him. Cops jumped from cars, running toward him.  The guy ran a few steps, then slowed in defeat. He was practically standing still when they tackled him.

There was no shout, no order. The first cop hit him squarely from the back, another hit him from the side. They knocked him face down on the pavement, hitting his head on the neighbor's motorcycle fender. More cops jumped on top. There was no resistance from the guy at all. Now there was a lot of hollering, which seemed to be about handcuffing the guy. It sounded like the cops were saying to each other to get the cuffs on him. There were so many of them -- five cops -- on the guy, I'm sure it was difficult to do even the simple task of handcuffing an immobilized, unresisting suspect. The guy must have had an even harder time breathing. 

The mass of cops heaved and swayed, not because the guy fought but because they were so crowded as they performed various tasks. The cops looked like  a pack of animals feeding on a kill. They seemed to be grinding the man's face into the sidewalk. One cop started fishing in the guy's back pockets, pulling his pants down and leaving his ass exposed, though the pants had not been particularly baggy. The cops kept knocking into the motorcycle and I felt an absurd urge to yell at them to be careful with it. 

Finally they started to climb off the guy. One cop stayed on him, lying on top of him, pushing him into the ground, saying something in his ear in a parody of sex. Finally, another cop eased him off. The man, who had not moved once, was hauled to his feet. His face was a horrible shade of purple. He was pulled to a police car.

 Later, the cops stood in front of my house and talked about what had happened. My street's too noisy for me to hear much, but it seems that the man and another guy were fleeing in a car, perhaps from an accident, or perhaps from something else, and in the process, they hit a cop car.

I got it. This was payback. What the cop was saying in his ear was probably along the lines of never fuck with a cop car. The guy was driven away and a lot of happy, satisfied cops hung around in front of my house congratulating each other. 








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I know there are some good cops out there, and I know that some good cops have bad days, and I'm glad someone is out there "protecting and serving," but still . . . disturbing.
Disturbing indeed Sirenita, and unfortunately a way too common occurence. For every case of police brutality that makes it's way into the news there are thousands that go unremarked, and God help you if the cops feel, as they did in this case, that a little payback above and beyond the normal abuse is necessary. And they wonder why people don't like pigs....
Thuggery ... I've never met a cop that didn't have some semblance of personality and some good qualities. But, get a group of them together, especially if they perceive you've been "fucking with them" then watch out.

Poor bastard...
Yes, disturbing! Police officer should not also be vigilantes.
This is indicative of "to protect and serve" being applied as a means of payback for only those who should know better. There are good police officers as there are also bad ones. This incident your write of makes the good ones invisible.
There seems to be a pattern of behaviour in cops when they get together in a pack, acting with impunity, as in this corporate "vendetta" . It happens in Argentina a lot too; very disturbing as you say.
Good to read you often, Sirenita.
That's a hell of a thing to witness.
Guys, thanks for coming and reading. I had to go to physical therapy and I was shaking so much I wrote this to get it out of my system. I feel like I have an adrenaline hangover now. I knew there was nothing I could do and who knows what kind of asshole the guy was, but I felt very bad about doing nothing.

I do agree that there are good cops.
perfect title to your post
I agree with Lulu, seems like too much steroids adding to the cop mob mentality. The MSM is all over Sammy Sosa and others for steroids use and abuse, as they should, those guys are as dumb as a box of rocks usually, but why not do steroid testing among the police? I'm just sorry you didn't have a vid cam...that seems to be the best tool at hand for us citizens.
What was so disturbing was the obvious pack mentality, everybody piling on unnecessarily, not giving the guy a chance to surrender, humiliating him by pulling his pants down, and so on. But it's not even clear to me that anything the cops did was actually against the rules. He fled, they tackled him. They didn't have to, but they could probably justify it. Yet it was clearly unnecessary and very satisfying for them.
good post. there are good cops and bad cops, just as there are in any profession. my brother's a lieutenant and has come up through the ranks so i know the other side very very very well. i'm not defending anyone. this behavior was wrong and outrageous. policepeople are out there and in potential danger all the time. this keeps the adrenaline pumping, the same adrenaline that enables a woman to life a car off her baby can lead other people to jump on a perp when they've had some harsh days. im' no defending anyone. just 'splaining a little. my brother has seen unspeakable things: a 12 year old child kept in a closet her whole life, the dead and maimed left after a plane crash in San diego -- one that caused many officers to quit that year, he has 60 or more people in Iraq at any given time or more, etc. no excuses, just explanations. i did a ride along with him and saw what he saw. he wanted me to join the PD too. i could not do that. ever.

what you saw was horrifying. what we don't see is the domestic violence scenes and the dead bodies and the starving children and blah blah blah blah blah that cops see every day and the people they rescue and protect. cops have saved my life several times. sorry, this hit a nerve, i guess.
Yes, Teddy, it's totally the adrenaline. And the guy may well have been an asshole. I later saw the car he or his friend had crashed, but I didn't see the other car. I think they hit a police car, but not in the enormous crash I heard because cop who said "he hit me" was standing. Going to PT after posting this, I saw the suspects car adn it was totalled, wheel off, spun around in the wrong direction. I think this guy might have hit yet another car while fleeing.

I was totally adrenalilzed myself. Got the andrenaline hangover afterwards. Actually felt sick. I know the techniques used are a result of the danger of the job, and as I said, these cops didn't beat or tase the guy. It looked personal, though, and was rougher than necessary.

I like cops. Usually, cops like me. Even the Highway Patrol is civil to me when they give me tickets for going 90 mph.
one possibility to decrease this-- anonymously videotape it and upload it to youtube.
are you saying the guys face was purple because he had been beaten face first into the pavement? hmmmm
vzn, the guy was tackled and held face down and the cops were on top of him, so I imagined that he would have trouble breathing. I guess I concluded that because his face was flushed so dark. But they did not beat him. They just tackled him more roughly than necessary. In fact, I did not think it necessary at all, as he stopped.
sorry you saw that and hope that you are feeling better now.
What an ugly scene you witnessed. I'm not surprised at your reaction, because just reading about was upsetting to me.

I like and appreciate the police and realize that they deal with horrors every day, but I think what you saw was due to a lack of training. They need to learn to deal with the adrenaline surge in moments like that.
There are good cops, but most of them get way overshadowed by the bad ones.

Like they say, a few bad apples ruins the barrel....

Rage sickens me to watch - and now I feel it welling up from within.
And at my blog this post got nothing: ER Doctors Suspect Excessive Police Force.

Yes, welcome to the police state... At least in Dirty Harry, all the offed guys deserved it...
I lived upstate years ago and got rather used to hearing that screeching and crunching. We averaged an accident a month. Now, probably due to PTSD, I freak. The epinephrine skyrockets...

It's a weird feeling to know that someone died in your driveway...
Gonzoid, I read your January post. Now, that is disturbing, and worth reading.
I like to think most cops most of the time are probably trying to do the right thing, but they always close ranks around the most brutal and lawless of their fraternity in a kneejerk us-vs-them reaction, where "them" is all the rest of us citizens, they don't to seem to realize that by protecting the worst from accountability, they trash the reputations of the whole profession

cops scare the shit out of me because you never know which ones are the mad dogs
No, Jane, I did not report it. I played it out in my head and it went like this: Me: The cops tackled a man unnecessarily roughly. Answer: He was fleeing, they're allowed to tackle him. Me: They didn't all have to climb on top. Answer: He was a dangerous suspect, they detaining him. Me: His face looked terrible when he stood up. Answer: He'd been running and had been in a bad car crash, of course he looked bad. (I saw the car later, it's a miracle he was able to walk, much less run, from that wreck.)

So, I agree that it's a moral responsibility to report police abuse, and I recently wrote a letter to the Oakland internal affairs division over an incident with a young man who was treated as a dangerous suspect, had rifles pointed at him, without reason. That case is being investigated. This was far more ambiguous. Even if, as some people suggested, I had videoed this, all you would see is cops trying to handcuff a suspect. You could not know, if you hadn't seen the actual take-down, that he was not resisting.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this is that the cops are covered. Watch an episode of "Cops." This is ordinary police roughness.
Man, Sirenita, I should NOT have read this before bedtime. Very disturbing. Damn. I wonder if its...well, can't you submit this story to The Guardian (I forget the SF papers now) or something? Or send it in as an editorial. Make it publicly known in SF. People should know. That's a ridiculous abuse of power. And a waste of tax dollars. And needless traumatizing.

I feel badly for you too. I swear, I think I'm still recovering from some incidents I accidentally witnessed in NYC. Too many awful things for sensitive types like me. I can tell by the way you described it that you're traumatized too. Something about the description of his pants and the purple of his face...
I thought that I'd already commented on this, but clearly didn't. I think it must have been because the story was so disturbing. What an awful thing to witness!
I thought since the Rodney King fiasco that most police jurisdictions had adopted the practice of always having a senior officer get to the end of a police chase as soon as possible, in order to talk the others down out of the inevitable adrenaline high. I know all LAPD officers are trained (though whether the training sticks is another issue) to recognize the phenomenon of all the participants, including themselves, being in that hyped up state, and guarding against getting carried away.
Force is disturbing no matter or or why it's applied. Quite a few years ago I was walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at noontime, streets full of people, and suddenly some guy tore in front of me running like hell. Before I could jump back, two uniformed cops caught up with the guy and slammed him bodily into the marble facade of a bank building. The threw him so hard you could all but feel the impact. Then hands forced behind him, cuffs on, down on his was one motion. I have no theories on this, but certain activities seem to carry an inherent violence quotient, and copping is right up there along with being a physical force thief, which I gather was the "perp's" occupation. I never have personally witnessed cops going over the top on someone in custody, but I am not naive enough not to believe it happens. However, as law enforcement personnel go, street cops take their lives in their hands every day: assholism may be a reaction of pressure. The bottom drops out when you get to county jail Corrections Officers: I have worn cuffs twice in my life and found the arresting officers to be gentlemen. The CO's, however, were foulmouthed scumbags who had no problem stealing an inmate's possessions. I don't know how you fix a system built that way.
Good analysis, Ken. I don't really think my cops were breaking any rules, it's just the inherent violence, and in this case, the hint of personal vengeance. The take-downs are always disturbingly violent. The perps are not necessarily innocent victims, they may well be violent criminals. You would hope that there could be some concept of the police not being just another gang or an occupying army, that they could be trained to recognize the humanity of the suspects and minimize the violence inherent in these situations. That would be asking for a level of psychological sophistication and control that is at odds with the immediate emotions of the chase and take-down. And yes, that should be achievable by training.
This is despicable. And you live in SF. In Chicago, it's a bazillion times worse. I joke and tell people that I live in Gotham. But it's true.
My mom's friend's son was a city cop (white guy). One night, a fellow officer (black gal) was shot and killed during a routine stop.

The guy and his partner thought they had the perp (a black guy) and roughed him up at the station, spraying him with pepper spray to restrain him.

Turns out the "perp" had asthma, and he died right there of an asthma attack. It also turned out that they had the wrong guy. He was completely innocent.

As the city had a large minority population, the cops' actions were seen as racially biased, even though they were acting on behalf of their black female colleague.

They went to trial, were found guilty, and each got ten years. They also lost their badges and pensions.

When cops are in "payback" mode (even good cops), their judgment and violence level can really go off kilter. And too often, everyone loses as a result.
High speed chases are dangerous for everyone and I think their usage should be curtailed (I said curtailed - not banned). How many people with warrants, on parole, or trying to run from a ticket could just be picked up later. As far as car theft, what hunk of metal - even if its a Ferrari or whatever, is worth more than human life?
Oh, and before everyone goes all "Yeah but it could be this and the perp could be that or this could be what they find etc. - I know, I know - but that still doesn't address how many times it just isn't that dangerous
Fifty odd years ago when I was a little kid in Miami, on our way to the beach a cop car crashed into us . No injuries just bent metal, so my Dad did his thing, the cops did their thing and we parted ways. It took nearly a year for the City of Miami to send my Dad a check... he used it to buy my Mom her first car, a brand new 1958 Chevy Bel-Air, two tone, white and turquoise blue. Still I remember the hostility in the cops attitude as my Dad dealt with them. R&R