A Use of Force Report

Chief Ramon Batista from the Mesa Police Department in Arizona has released body cam videos and a report related to a violent arrest that he called a “mistake.”

On May 23, Mesa resident Robert Johnson, Jr. was arrested and taken into custody. A group of white officers punched Johnson repeatedly (he is black). You can read more and watch the video at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/mesa-police-release-report-body-cam-videos-arrest-black-man-10494818. An investigation is under way.

You can read the report at this link:  http://images.phoenixnewtimes.com/media/pdf/johnson_arrest_partial_report.pdf 

The report is lengthy, and it repeatedly tries to justify the use of force against Johnson. But specific graphic details are missing. Here’s how the report describes Johnson’s behavior:

“Johnson appeared to be confrontational and verbally defiant.”

“Robert continued to be completely belligerent towards us yelling and cursing.”

“continuous aggressive demeanor”

“Due to his aggressive behavior and refusal to calm down….”

“constant threats towards officers”

What did Johnson actually do that made the use of force necessary? The report doesn’t say.

What’s really regrettable is that much of this report is excellent. The writing is detailed, grammatical, and well-organized. Often the style is sophisticated and professional. Overall, it is an example of excellent police writing – with one huge exception: the lack of specifics.

Supervisors and administrators often bemoan the poorly written reports that come across their desks. It’s important to remember that there’s more to police writing than grammar and sentence structure: The facts have to be there, spelled out in detail.

 

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