Louisville, KY — Louisville police have been receiving some much needed attention recently after several of their officers kicked in the door to an innocent couple's home and murdered Breonna Taylor in her hallway. Since then, the country has learned how far the system will go to protect cops who violate the rights of citizens. However, as the following incident illustrates, Taylor's case is just one of many in which police engage in deceptive tactics to justify their violence to the public.
Body camera footage was released this week which contradicts the reasoning given by officer Jason Burba and other officers for using violence against 25-year-old Princeton Brown. In their report from the incident that unfolded in October 2019, police claimed that when they approached Brown, he "took a fighting stance" and officer Burba had no other option by to punch the mentally ill man in the jaw before he was slammed face first into the concrete.
But as the newly released footage shows, that is not how the scene unfolded. Brown showed his hands as requested and never once took a fighting stance.
According to police, a woman called 911 because Brown — who is a diagnosed schizophrenic — asked for her keys to her car in the parking lot. He did not harm the woman, but frightened her when he allegedly tried to get in her car, enough to where she sped off and called police. Obviously, attempting to take someone's keys and get in their car is not okay but the force used against Brown in the subsequent beating and take down was not okay either.
As the video shows, Brown is compliant until he's told to get on the ground. Despite refusing to get on the ground, Brown was not violent and only passively resisted by grabbing a nearby fence as police attempted to force him down.
“Get off the fence,” Burba shouts before slamming the mentally ill man into the concrete face first. The impact sent Brown's tooth piercing through his lip and fractured his cheek bone.
Only after police injured Brown did they find out he was a diagnosed schizophrenic.
Since the incident, Brown's family has retained an attorney and filed a lawsuit against the LMPD.
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“People don't need to be treated this way to go into custody,” Attorney David Johnson said. “They don't need to be beat up.”
Highlighting Brown's state of mental illness that day, when police questioned him, he told officers what he did, noting that he was "trying to get a car." He clearly had no idea that what he was doing was wrong.
“Schizophrenia, that's what he's been diagnosed with,” Brown's mother Rosa Brown said, pointing out that her son has been this way since he was 17. “He's probably had about 20 procedures and surgeries on his brain.”
This case highlights two problems. The first problem is that police lack the training to be able to deal with mentally ill people without resorting to violence. This is problem that needs to be addressed but is not an easy one to solve.
"That officer on the street is doing his or her job, and (mentally ill people) don't wear a scarlet letter saying 'I'm mentally ill,'" retired Judge David Holton said in regard to Brown's arrest. "They look like you and me."
The second problem is a much easier one to address. Police who lie about what happened during an arrest need to be fired and if the lie leads to unsubstantiated charges against a suspect, they need to be charged with a crime. Unfortunately, this problem does not appear to be going away any time soon.
“LMPD treats every incident with aggression and excessive force just by nature,” the Brown's family attorney said. “It's always 'beat up or shoot and ask questions later,' and it’s just out of control.”
Indeed, as this case and the case of Breonna Taylor illustrates, LMPD officers are quick to use unjust violence and even quicker to cover it up.