On February 13th, 2013 West Chester Township decided to settle a lawsuit brought against it by Jeremy Lewis winning the victim of police brutality $265,000 of tax money because of the over zealous work by four officers who called to a bar fight as a sports bar was closing. Because of the large settlement, West Chester Trustee George Lang wanted to provide an explanation to the portion of the community most concerned over waste in tax expenses—the West Chester Tea Party. In the video below Lang explains in explicit detail the now famous video in slow motion and why he felt the township should settle out-of-court rather than risk showing it in a court of law.
Watching that video no matter what the official comments of the police force were, it is easy to conclude that the second officer who arrived on the scene, the one who sprayed the pepper spray in Lewis’s face, would have done much better to express more logic. Since the video has no audio we will never know what Lewis might have said to the officer to provoke being sprayed in the face with repellant, but logic would dictate that the officer used excessive force that was not necessary. If the training that officers are given instructs them to be such panicky primates, then the training needs to be re-evaluated quickly.
To my eyes if I were on a jury watching this video I would have to agree with the assessment of Trustee Lang—the second officer with his adrenaline pumping wanted to show his authority over Lewis in a way that would make Cartman from the cartoon on Comedy Central South Park proud. If the officer had been comfortable with his position of authority he could have easily handled the situation differently waiting for his back-up to arrive in mass and hand cuff Lewis for an uneventful arrest. Rather, he chose aggressive domination of Lewis behind the authority of the law for reasons that appear to exceed the situation which deserves ridicule. It is in those actions by the police that the cost of $265,000 was levied against the West Chester tax payers.
The situation exacerbated once the other two officers arrived on the scene and through collective recourse they felt entitled to beat Lewis into submission with gang like imposition. In spite of what the unified front from the police department stated in defense of their officers they were obviously more concerned with protecting their own than the merit of true justice. There were officers who felt guilt over the incident and reported to Lang later the information that the police who conducted the beating were bragging about the incident at the station, much to their disgust. In my assessment the officers who were upset by the bragging are the kind of officers I have no reservations of employing. But the officers who conducted the beating and the administrators who wished to shove this incident under the carpet with flimsy explanations and malicious intent are those who make me feel terrible to learn that West Chester police make more money than any police force anywhere from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis, which is quite a statement. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT WEST CHESTER POLICE MAKE.
The police union has already shown displeasure with Trustee Lang because he recently did not vote in favor of their recent contract increase. Lang is trying to reel in costs for the police department the way he should, but that doesn’t stop administrators from using other measures to apply pressure against Lang. As Lang spoke at the Tea Party meeting an undercurrent of fear emerged that was almost audible during the silent portion of the video viewing the first run through. The reason came from not desiring to be on the wrong side of the law. Politicians like Lang have a good reason to fear the same police they employee because the collective force behind law enforcement is one where it is well-known that police will look out for their own as a collective unit, and this is what makes them dangerous. If they get caught doing something wrong—as in the case of the police beating, the police force expects the trustees to just pay the money and make the problem go away. Internally, there was no disciplinary action, no recourse, and no punishment of any kind. There was just a hope that the trustees would pay the money and make the problem disappear with the same audacity that the police force expects trustees to blindly approve pay increases for them without question, even when they are already the highest paid officers in this part of the country.
In my assessment of the video looking behind the shell game of blame, I see in the actions of the police force a desire to occasionally beat people like Jeremy Lewis so that the authority of police is asserted on the public so that when levy time comes, there is the gentle nudge of intimidation that puts in the minds of voters a fear that they don’t want to find themselves on the wrong side of the police. Even as Lang spoke, it ran through my mind that he was taking a risk, because word would get out in the station house that one of the West Chester Trustees was speaking out negatively in regard to the police action. The hot-blooded youth in the modern police force do not see the logic or cost implications behind the out-of-court settlement, they will only see that Lang is not with them right or wrong—and that makes Lang a target. The same fear came from people directly related to the case who didn’t want their names revealed least they find themselves pulled over by the same police officers at midnight and treated the same way that Jeremy Lewis was. The public tendency of norm including the other two trustees in West Chester has been to ignore these kinds of problems and throw money at them to go away and hope that those of authority are not angered so that the officers do not cast their revenge upon the tax paying citizen. The fear is real and was put there by cases like the one that occurred with Jeremy Lewis over a long period of time.
In the audience at the end of the video George Lang presented, was the former assistance chief of police from Union Twp., which is what West Chester used to be called. This man held the position as far back as when the great tornado of 1974 hit Mason causing him to work 7 consecutive days without sleep because of the massive damage done. All cops are not bad, in fact many of them are very good people. But…………when they function as a “collective” entity, they can be dangerous. Many of them are only 25 to 30 years old and do not have much life wisdom about them yet, so when 4 hot-blooded males in a police uniform with the power of the badge behind them show up at a bar at 2:30 in the morning, the ability to beat an unarmed man into submission to prove their manhood and overcome internal insecurities is very tempting. The old assistant chief of police testified before the Tea Party his experience with violence and the tendency of new officers to escalate a situation instead of exercising de-escalation procedures due to their modern training. The training officers receive is largely approved by FOP organizations that have contained within them a desire to put political posturing in such confrontations to escalate a level of fear and respect that has aims beyond righteousness. The aims behind the beatings is to create a level of perceived danger that ultimately hopes to influence the public when police levies come due, in direct reaction to contracts that are often approved by trustees who fear falling out of favor with their employees, the police. In West Chester the scheme has worked, police are paid more than anywhere else in the Midwest—yet the danger on the job is less than just about anyplace else. So there is pressure to “create” dangerous situations from time to time and a drunk fighting at a bar at 2:30 in the morning is an easy target. Unfortunately for the young officers who participated in the beating, they didn’t think that the action would be captured on a security camera—since normally the situation would have been contained and rumor from the mouth of Jeremy Lewis would have moved through the community without the court system regulating the authenticity.
The lesson of this incident is that police should do a better job of controlling their personal fears and not let their anxiety get the better of them. They should also not use the unfortunate position of people like Jeremy Lewis to impose their authority on the public in general with such force. The police should also not take out their wrath on trustees who do not agree with their labor contracts, or speak out against the actions of the collective because they feel they need to explain why the bad decisions of the police force cost West Chester tax payers $265,000. But on a larger scale, the public in general should come to understand that police should not be given absolute authority over the lives of private citizens. The failure of the police in the Jeremy Lewis case is exactly why the new federal NDAA Act will never work, and cannot be imposed upon American citizens. Police are only human beings, and can never be given so much power to violate the lives, liberty and pursuit of a good life of any person. The aims of their collective organization do not supersede the rights of an individual even if that individual is a drunken malcontent shouting obscenities at authority without discretion. The first and second officer at the scene knew they had a gun on their hip and other weapons on their bodies that could easily subdue a person of such staggered appearance. The officers are expected to be cooler than that, and they are paid well to be the best. They are not paid to be thugs in the streets of West Chester and to give in to boyish desires to prove their manhood. And because they weren’t West Chester is not only out the cost of their salaries, but also a hit to our community reputation, and the cost of the court settlement—which are all excessive just because the personal valor of the officers was lacking.
To review this case as it appeared in the West Chester Buzz, click the link below:
To see the union response against Lang in the Middletown Journal, which provoked this explanation by the trustee, CLICK HERE: