Daniel Von Fange

Life, Code, and Cool Stuff

Analysis of the Policeman's Actions

Lisa Rein likes getting her news from as it happens, and sharing it with the rest of the world via her video camera. It’s a great way of doing things, and it would be fun if more people did likewise. However the text of a piece on a cop attacking a protester is way out of line with what we actually see in the video she shot.

Okay, for starters, open up the video in another window, so later you can scroll through and watch the frames I’m talking about. It’s only 1.2 megs. I’ll wait for you to come back. :) You can also get another view from a camera right next to Lisa’s here.

Now here is the text of what was written:

bq. …then turned to see a cops throw a girl into a newspaper machine. I turned the camera on her in time to see her try to stand up while a cop confronted her and she tried to back away from him while he hit her with his club (med res) (hi-res and small) and was about to do it again when she ran off screaming. (I interview her here.) (Hi-res version of interview.)

From a video of her afterward, we know her name is Sonja. Just for fun I’m going to call the officer, “Pete”, since he needs a name too. :)

At the moment tensions are running really high, as police teams are arresting people, while a few police, Pete included are trying to keep the path into the crowd open so the the arrest teams can get back. The police holding people of the street are spread really thin. From looking at the videos, Pete is trying to keep about 15 feet of people on the side walk. In addition, at the beginning of this incident there are no police covering the road immediately opposite side from him, leaving him open from the back. With the riot helmet eliminating his peripheral vision, he has to turn his whole body around to see what is happening behind him. Pete is in a really tough spot. Probably the most difficult of any of the policemen in the few seconds of that video clip.

And then a woman comes running out of the crowd, right into the area that he is trying to keep clear. We don’t see what happens, but Lisa says she was thrown into the newspaper stands.

bq. …then turned to see a cops throw a girl into a newspaper machine.

As the camera pans over towards the commotion, Pete is looking away from Sonja, checking his back. Sonja is down on the ground in the midst of tipped over newspaper stands. At first glance it looks like the force of her coming backwards flipped them over. Looking closer though, they are all tipped over toward the street, which is to say, toward the police. Probably done by some rioters earlier on during the day. In all likelihood she tripped over them while coming backward. A portion of the crowd is coming off the side walk accross the street, and coming toward them. Most of them hold video cameras, and are just looking to get close to the action, but they are moving towards Pete’s vulnerable side, and, like Sonja, into the area he is trying to keep clear.

bq. I turned the camera on her in time to see her try to stand up while a cop confronted her and she tried to back away from him while he hit her with his club.

Sonja stands back up and takes a step out into the street, out away from the crowd, and bringing her toward Pete again. He takes a step forwards as she approaches and he yells “BACK OFF”. Sonja leans forward, as if to argue with him. Pete realizes she is not backing off, glances down at her leg, and begins to swing his baton. The swing hits her leg (and I hate the sound it makes).

His choice of where to hit Sonja is instructive. He is aiming for the place that is least likely to injure her. The upper leg is a big, “padded” area, and the upper leg bone is really, really hard to break. He is trying to get her back in on the side walk in a hurry so he can push back the other side of of the street that is moving in on him, not to break bones or send her to the hospital.

bq. and was about to do it again when she ran off screaming.

Pete yells, “BACK OFF” again the moment the club stops swinging from the first blow, and she spins around and heads back into the crowd. Pete already has the baton back in the ready position before she has even completely turned around. No sign of his even of thinking of a second strike. He takes a half step backwards.

Total time from Sonja getting up, to turning back into the crowd: Three seconds.

What he does next shows Pete is not a rookie. He quickly turns his head to the left looking for threats, and then to the right. It’s not human nature to do this immediately after giving a blow. Humans like to fixate on the things they are doing, especially when the going is stressful. It will get you killed in a gunfight though, and Pete is trained enough to scan constantly. He is fighting to remain aware of the entire situation, and what is happening on all sides of him.

Watch as he sees out of the corner of his eye the boy in black running toward him from the left. Pete reflexively crouches down about two inch, and prepares to defend himself. A split second later, he realizes the boy is not going at him and he straitens back up, even before you see the boy on the camera. It’s easy to miss seeing it.

Pete then turns to deal with the people on the other side of the street, and moves away, leaving this part of this side in the hands of the two officers coming up to help him.

Pete did what he was trained to do, did the job he had to do while operating in a difficult spot, immediately moved on to other things the moment Sonja turned back. He was making decisions every second. I’d be proud to know “Pete”. Sonja, while perhaps not a foolish person, definitely behaved in a foolish manner, twice moving out toward Pete, and the space he was keeping open.

It will be interesting to see if Lisa updates her post on this. She usually tries to be accurate, and is widely trusted. Oh, and thanks for giving me the video to critique your write-up from, Lisa. :)

PS: -I just watched through the sections of the full video, before and after, and I think hear Sonja’s voice about ten seconds before the commotion, screaming at the Police to “Take some F###### pride in what you do”. Later on the quick interview with Lisa, Sonja also seems to use “F######” before many words, and the voice does sound like hers.- I could be wrong, many people are screaming. [Update: looks like I am. Lisa says that’s not Sonja. I blame me being up too late. :)]