These sort of stories—a deaf man allegedly Tased, beaten, and arrested by Hawthorne, California officers who mistook his attempt at sign language as a physical threat—generate the usual outrage over excess use of force. But there’s one detail consistent with nearly every excessive force incident that doesn’t seem to generate the outrage it should:
In February, Meister had been loading boxes of winter clothes and a snowboard that belonged to him at a friend’s house when a neighbor mistook him for a robber and called police. When officers Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow, and Mark Hultgren arrived on the scene, they encountered Meister and ordered him to stop. The only problem is that Meister is deaf and couldn’t hear the officers so he couldn’t obey their commands.
After grabbing his hand, a startled Meister began communicating the only way he can- by using sign language. As he desperately tried to make them understand him, the cops decided that Meister was trying to resist and assault them. So they jumped him, took him to ground, shot him twice with a Taser and punched and kicked the crap of him until they finally arrested him and charged him with assault.
This automatic charge of assaulting an officer and/or resisting arrest nearly every time officers assault a suspect is one of the more pernicious practices of modern policing. I understand that police use it to justify their actions, and that it gives prosecutors and city attorneys leverage in negotiating plea deals or in persuading victims to drop lawsuits (“We’ll drop our charges if you drop yours”).
But the officers are lying.
It is one thing to be so fucking stupid as to beat and arrest a deaf man for not adequately responding to verbal commands. But by the time those charges were formally filed, everybody involved had to be totally aware of what had actually transpired. And yet they filed the assault charges anyway.
If I were to knowingly file a false report with the police, it would be a crime. Officers who file false reports to cover their tracks should be held criminally liable too.