The people of Cincinnati finally have a winning football team to celebrate. However, the recent death of a black man beaten by police officers brings back unpleasant memories of the disastrous city riots that took place three years ago. Last Sunday, 350-pound Nathaniel Jones died after being clubbed repeatedly by officers in a videotaped beating after he was uncooperative with officers whom responded to the public disturbance call.
An employee at a fast-food restaurant had called 911 early Sunday to report that a man had passed out on the grass outside. Emergency personnel arrived and reported that the man was awake and "becoming a nuisance," according to police radio transmissions.
The first two officers to arrive, Baron Osterman and James Pike, were shown on the video striking Jones after he ignored orders to "stay back," took a swing at an officer and put his arm around an officer's neck. Jones then fell forward onto the officer as the two momentarily went out of the camera's field of view.
The officers knocked Jones to the ground and fell on him, and jabbed or struck him with nightsticks at least a dozen times over several minutes until he was handcuffed. They kept yelling, "Put your hands behind your back!" as they struggled to handcuff him.
The videotape from a police cruiser's camera showed two white police officers landing at least a half dozen blows with their nightsticks on Jones and tackling him, while shouting at him to put his hands behind his back. But the tape also showed Jones lunging at one of the officers. The officers who were at the scene — five whites and one black — were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
The actual cause of Nathaniel Jones' death on Sunday was under investigation. But preliminary autopsy results showed that the 41-year-old man had an enlarged heart, and his blood contained cocaine and PCP, or "angel dust," both of which can cause bizarre or aggressive behavior, Hamilton County Coroner Carl Parrott said.
From what I've seen of the tape, I can say that the actions the police officers took were appropriate. Mayor Charlie Luken agrees, and rejected activists' demand that he force Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. to resign.
"What I saw was a 400-pound man violently attacking a police officer in a manner that put the lives of police officers at risk," Luken said. "While the investigations will continue, there is nothing on those tapes to suggest that the police did anything wrong."
But of course, the people are outraged. "How many of our people have to die before the city decides to do something about it?" said Nathaniel Livingston Jr. of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati.
That depends on how many people attack police officers! The Rev. Jesse Jackson put in his own two cents, and issued a statement Monday saying he wants state and federal authorities to investigate. "Police officers have options available to immobilize citizens short of death," Jackson said.
So what would you have done Mr. Jackson? Other options? Let's see, they could have pepper-sprayed the swinging subject. That would have probably worked on a punk teenager resisting arrest for drunk driving, but I don't think a little eye stinging is going to bring down a violent, drugged-up 350-pound man. The tape clearly shows the officers verbally commanding Jones to "back off" when he approached the first officer. The tape also clearly shows Jones lunging out before the first strike. As Jones was being barraged with clubs, he was repeatedly given the order to put his hands behind his back. But Jones ignored the orders; he fought back and for it, took the beating from the officers clearly defending themselves.
I have no tolerance for true police brutality, and incidents where unarmed suspects are fatally shot do warrant investigations, but the case of Nathaniel Jones was about officers defending themselves from an insubordinate and potentially dangerous man.
So today's lesson: if you are ever confronted with police officers telling you to obey a command, do it! It doesn't matter if you did anything wrong or not, that's what the courts are for. We need to understand that police officers are just as vulnerable as suspects, and have to look out for their own safety. Intoxicated suspects, such as Jones, can be especially dangerous. And when repeated orders are ignored, officers must take the appropriate action when they're being attacked.
It's time for activists like Jesse Jackson to put race behind him and realize the rationality of the situation. When we hear of white police officers beating unarmed black suspects -- in Cincinnati of all places -- we immediately accuse the officers of police brutality. With all political correctness aside, not all officers follow the rules. Many are corrupt, racist and abuse their power. But blacks can be dangerous too.