When video emerged showing Deputy Ben Fields of Richland County, South Carolina assaulting a 16-year-old female high school student, Sean Hannity of Fox News turned to that network’s in-house expert on police conduct to explain why the deputy’s actions were “justified.” As expected, Mark Fuhrman, a disgraced ex-LAPD homicide detective, convicted perjurer, and documented bigot, conferred his benediction on Fields.
“I’ll tell you why it’s not excessive,” Fuhrman told Hannity, who is always eager to exonerate abusive police officers. “He [Fields] verbalized, he made contact, he verbalized, he was polite. He requested her. He verbally did that.”
When the emotionally troubled – and recently orphaned – teenage girl remained sullenly uncooperative, the “next level is he put a hand on her,” Fuhrman interpreted. “She escalated it from there” – which means that she tried to pull away from the armlock that had been applied to her by an apparently steroid-enhanced, armored, gun-toting male stranger twice her size. “He used soft control. He threw her to the ground, he handcuffed her” – and in doing so inflicted injuries that required hospitalization.
For all that the girl endured as summary punishment for being uncooperative in class, she should be abjectly grateful that Fields was restrained, according to Fuhrman: “He didn’t use mace. He didn’t use a Taser. He didn’t use a stick. He didn’t kick her. He didn’t hit her. He didn’t choke her. He used a minimal amount of force necessary to effect an arrest.”
If Fuhrman were a more literate man, in his blithe endorsement of Fields’ conduct he might have heard an echo of Edward Gibbon’s trenchant comment in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their master who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the last extremes of injustice and oppression.”
From the perspective that Fuhrman represents, the relationship between cop and citizen is that of owner and property, and the latter must submit to whatever the former sees fit to inflict on him – and the former is entitled to “level-up” as necessary in order compel submission. Sure, there are rules – but they are for more mundane specimens of humanity than the uniformed elite who supervise them, from Fuhrman’s point of view.
“This job is not rules,” Fuhrman explained thirty years ago in tape-recorded conversations with film producer Laura Hart McKinny. “This is a feeling. F— the rules; we’ll make them up later.”
So comprehensive was Fuhrman’s contempt for rules – both official and informal — that he broke one of the most sacred rules of the Blue Brotherhood by condemning his partner in a conversation with a mere civilian – but only because the younger officer apparently believed that police were bound by the same rules that everyone else has to follow.
“He doesn’t know how to be a policeman,” complained Fuhrman. “’I can’t lie.’ . . . Oh you make me f—— sick to my guts. You know you do what you have to do to put these f—-ing a—holes in jail.”
Fuhrman considered lying not only permissible, but indispensable to his role as a police officer. This eventually led to his conviction on felony perjury charges for lying, under oath, during the murder trial of O.J. Simpson.
As the key investigator of the hideous double murder of Simpson’s estranged wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman, Fuhrman was suspected of planting evidence at the crime scene. During a tense exchange on the witness stand with defense counsel F. Lee Bailey, Fuhrman denied – four times – that he had used vulgar racist language to describe black people for at least a decade. This was proven to be untrue when Simpson’s defense team located, and was allowed to play for the court, excerpts from his recorded conversations with McKinny that were riddled with racist and derogatory comments about black people and Mexicans, casual denigration of women, and – most seriously – abundant disclosures of routine abuse of force as a patrol officer.
“How do you intellectualize when you punch the hell out of a n-gger?” Fuhrman mused in what for him was a reflective mood. “He either deserves it or he doesn’t.” In another exchange, Fuhrman explained his melanin-based approach to the concept of probable cause: “N-gger drivin’ a Porsche that doesn’t look like he’s got a $300 suit on, you always stop him.”
As a patrol officer, Fuhrman was especially eager to detain black drivers with white, female passengers. During her testimony in the Simpson trial, Kathleen Bell, who had met Fuhrman in a social setting, described a conversation in which the officer told her that “when he sees a black man with a white woman driving in a car he pulls them over. I was taken aback a little bit, and so I kind of paused and … I just said, well, what if they didn’t do anything wrong? He said he’d find something.”
Unfortunately, not everyone was as proactive as Fuhrman in protecting decent society from suspiciously dark-skinned people. As a result, he lamented, “Westwood is gone. The ni-gers have discovered it. When they start moving into Redondo and Torrance–that’s considered–Torrance is considered the last middle-class white society. When that falls. . . .”
Fuhrman, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, clearly saw himself at war with a large segment of LA’s population, and he apparently fantasized about fragging superior officers he considered weak and ineffective.
“Commander Ken Hickman … should be shot,” he ranted to McKinny, referring to the head of the LAPD’s Westside Bureau, who in the mid-1970s had to deal with a huge scandal involving sexual exploitation of teenage female Explorer Scouts by officers in the Hollywood division. “He wanted to be chief. So he wants the City Council and the police commissioner and all these n-ggers in L.A. city government–and all of ’em should be lined up against a wall and f—–g shot.”
Fuhrman disclosed to McKinny that he belonged to a secretive clique within the LAPD called MAW, or Men Against Women. Among Fuhrman’s reasons for opposing the integration of female officers into the LAPD was his belief that they had neither the physical skills nor the emotional inclination to abuse suspects into order to make them talk.
“See, if you did the things that they teach you in the academy, you’d never get a f—— thing done,” he said in the recorded interviews. “You split up two suspects and you say: ‘Where’re you from? What’s his name?’ That’s great, but if he doesn’t tell you, you give him a shot in the stomach with your stick and say: ‘Listen boy, I’m talking to you, and you better give me some attention or I’m gonna f—— drop you like a bad habit.’ Now can you tell me a female you see doing that?”
He also offered a race-specific approach to determining if a suspect was telling the truth:
“Now you’re–when you are talking to somebody it is not like you are really listening into their words because you’ll key on what is the truth and what isn’t. First thing, anything out of a ni-gger’s mouth for the first five or six sentences is a f—–g lie. That is just right out. There has got to be a reason why he is going to tell you the truth.”
In dealing with black people, Fuhrman summarized, his attitude was: “You do what you’re told, understand, n-gger?”
After being recalled to the witness stand during the Simpson trial to face questions about the recording, Fuhrman — as every citizen has the right to do – repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. It’s worth pointing out that Fuhrman, according to his own first-person account, would use torture to overcome a suspect’s refusal to answer potentially incriminating questions. One method to which he referred was the “77th lie detector test.”
Fuhrman referred to that technique as something the “old-timers” knew about, but younger, inexperienced officers wouldn’t recognize: “You keep choking [the suspect] out until he tells you the truth,” Fuhrman explained. “You know it is kind of funny. But a lot of policemen will get a kick out of it.”
As the investigator who discovered the “bloody glove” on Simpson’s property, Fuhrman was the tent-pole witness for the prosecution, and once his perjury was proven that case collapsed. In an all but unprecedented desperation move, the prosecution denounced Fuhrman in closing arguments, referring to him as a “bad cop,” but this did nothing to dispel the reasonable doubt that led to Simpson’s acquittal.
Anyone who believes that Simpson benefited from racially inspired jury nullification should consider the circumstances: This was a capital case involving a black defendant accused of murdering his white ex-wife, in which the lead police investigator was a documented bigot, militant opponent of “inter-racial” marriage, and proven perjurer. If O.J. Simpson did get away with murder, Mark Fuhrman was the one who facilitated his escape.
In October 1996, Fuhrman was indicted on felony perjury charges. Facing a potential four-year prison term, he accepted a deal in which he was given three years of probation in exchange for a no-contest plea.
Dan Lungren, who at the time was Attorney General for California, offered an unflinching assessment of what that deal meant:
“It is important to understand that, as a result of these charges, this plea and this sentence, Mark Fuhrman is now a convicted felon and will forever be branded a liar. By pleading to a felony, Mr. Fuhrman will never be a police officer in the State of California again. He is also now the ultimate impeachable witness – a convicted perjurer.”
Someone who is convicted of felony perjury has distinguished himself from the common run of flawed humanity in a way that permanently disqualifies him for any role in which truth-telling is essential. This is particularly true of someone who is presented as an “expert” regarding the lawful use of force. The comments about which Fuhrman committed perjury included not only promiscuous use of disgusting racial epithets, but detailed discussion of his routine abuse of force as a patrol officer and detective.
Fuhrman is akin to a physician who was banished from the medical profession over culpable malpractice in the precise area in which he is presented as an “expert.”
His criminal history notwithstanding, Fuhrman has a steady gig as “a forensic and crime scene expert” for the Fox News Channel (which has also been a professional haven for convicted felon and terrorist-facilitator Oliver North). As the go-to “authority” on use-of-force issues, Fuhrman plays an indispensable role in sculpting Fox’s standard narrative: The police officer is always right, the “perpetrator” invariably got what was coming to him (or to her), police brutality and similar misconduct are rare to the point of invisibility, and people demanding reforms in police conduct are waging a “war on cops.”
In the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Fuhrman played an important role in propagating the idea that Officer Darren Wilson had been “beaten” by Michael Brown shortly before fatally shooting the suspected jaywalker and petty thief. Recapitulating rumors that had been fed by selective leaks to the public, Fuhrman insisted that Wilson had received severe, near-life-threatening injuries, including a fractured eye socket and head trauma that left him “almost losing consciousness.”
Although he wasn’t on the scene, Fuhrman insisted that he had “visualized the event” and knew that as a result of being attacked by Brown, “this officer almost lost consciousness.” Given “the weight and size differential” between Brown and Wilson, the overmatched officer had no choice but to use lethal force, Fuhrman maintained.
In fact, Brown and the 6’4” Wilson were roughly the same height, and the officer – who weighed about 225 pounds at the time of the fatal encounter – was in better physical condition than the 18-year-old suspect. The all-but-unmarked face that can be seen in medical examination photos taken just hours after the incident is difficult to reconcile with the claim that Wilson endured a beating that left him clinging desperately to consciousness. It’s similarly difficult for rational people to credit Wilson’s claim, in his grand jury deposition, that after initially fleeing Brown – who was, in the officer’s words, a “demon” – could be seen “bulking up to run through the shots” in an attempt to kill him.
It’s not necessary to see Brown as the distillate of youthful innocence (he pretty clearly was not) in order to have misgivings about the disposition of this case by a prosecutor notorious for favoritism toward the police. Fuhrman’s role as an “expert” on Fox News was to reinforce the political prejudices of its audience and fortify the network’s preferred narrative – including an unmistakable subtext of racial animosity.
Last April, roughly thirty years after Fuhrman had lamented that black people were infiltrating Westwood and other previously exclusive sections of Los Angeles, he allowed hints of the same attitude color his commentary regarding the unrest that ulcerated Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
“There’s something here that’s deeper” than mere discontent over police misconduct, Fuhrman opined, tacitly adding “sociologist” to his resume. “Ninety-nine percent of these people don’t know Freddie Gray and they couldn’t pick him out of a crowd of three people. They don’t know who he is. This is an opportunity to act out the disappointment of their own life, the disappointment of their lack of whatever they want, which seems to be going into a liquor store and getting alcohol, getting a new TV, getting a microwave, taking a check cashing facility where they cash their check and destroying that. Destroying a store or pharmacy. It goes on and on. There’s absolutely no reason for it.”
At a time when property owners had been abandoned by the police, and street gangs were actually carrying out the role of peace officers by protecting businesses against looters, Fuhrman didn’t bother to define what he meant by “these people.” He didn’t have to. His audience knew what he meant.