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Breakdown: Does Video Show Reasonable Force or Not?

Breakdown: Does Video Show Reasonable Force or Not?

Video Screen Capture

February 10, 2011

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NEW BRUNSWICK – Before anyone gets any more exercised over a YouTube video that claims to “prove” a New Brunswick police officer brutalized a Rutgers University student: Watch the video yourself, preferably with the sound off. Read the state Attorney General’s guidelines on the use of force. Then decide for yourself.

On the YouTube video — titled “Rutgers student brutally beaten by NBPD” — a young man narrator provides “commentary” on the action, referring to the officers involved as “The Seven Dwarves,” only with names such as “Punchy” and “Batty.”

He even labels a screen shot.

Unfortunately, in a media-saturated world, this passes for “news.” It gets passed around, and people are influenced. And it’s not necessarily by what they see, but by what they hear a narrator say, as well.

“This is not what I do on a regular basis. I’m not, like, a professional criminologist or something like that. I’m a musician,” he says. He then notes that, at the end of the video, “I will provide links to some of my work, if you do actually want to see that….”


One of those links takes you straight to a collection of shots from behind of young women in various states of undress shaking their butts at the camera.

This from the self-appointed expert on reviewing a single-vantage-point videotape that, at its most critical moment, completely obscures 20-year-old Elliott Marx of Lindenhurst, N.Y., as a group of officers arrests him.

I’m not, like a criminologist or something like that. But I do know that one-two-three-four short-armed punches in rapid succession from an officer who is both kneeling and trying to hold a resisting suspect down with the other arm amounts to little more, physically, than getting whacked with a small stick.

The argument also could clearly be made that Marx was punched in the arm — not the face, as the narrator contends.

Another assumption might be that Marx was on his back. However, he’d actually been turned over and apparently was trying to tuck his arms beneath him in an effort not to be handcuffed.

That could account for the scratches that appear on his forehead in a photo released to the media. Being wrestled to the pavement because you won’t voluntarily go down when ordered to will do that.

But don’t take it from me.

“I was working the desk during this incident,” a dispatcher on duty said. “From everything I heard/saw that night, everything was by the book.”

Meanwhile, NJ.COM quotes Jon Shane, a retired Newark police captain who now teaches at John Jay College’s Department of Law and Police Science:

“The amount of force looks reasonable,” Shane said. While the student is on the ground, “he’s not in custody. Who knows what he’s doing or saying down there.” Officer didn’t know if the student had a weapon under him, he added. “You’re in grave risk of being harmed.”

Someone with a camera above the street made the video and posted it on YouTube. Next thing you know, it’s all over local television. Various copies were posted — including Stephan’s mini-analysis.

I am a HUGE fan of citizen journalism. I teach it, in fact. What I do not support is running, subjective commentary on what appears in a video.

Jamal Albarghouti, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, made history when he used his cellphone to capture footage of police officers responding to an on-campus massacre on April 16, 2007. The video literally speaks for itself. Albarghouti doesn’t.

In this case, Marx’s arrest followed a brawl — involving as many as 50 people — that continued even after police arrived and tried to break it up around 1 a.m. Saturday.

Police spokesman Lt. J.T. Miller said Joseph Keepers, 21, of Edison, was charged with disorderly conduct and released without bail.

Marx, meanwhile, was charged with resisting arrest, obstruction, aggravated assault on a police officer and possession of phony ID.

“He jumped on an officer’s back,” Miller explained.

His own attorney, in a rare type of disclosure, urged the public “not to prejudge the police officers or Mr. Marx."

NJ.COM reported that the lawyer said his client and Keepers were headed into a party when someone punched Marx in the face. Amid the melee that followed, Marx went after a man he only later discovered was a police officer, the attorney reportedly said.

Marx is free on $10,000 bail, pending further court action. Neither he nor Keepers filed a complaint with city police, said Miller, the department spokesman. Meanwhile, all of the officers in the video remain on active duty, he added.

The state mandates that police agencies investigate such incidents. So an Internal Affairs probe is under way. You can be sure the investigators will be looking closely at something neither you nor I have seen: The videos recorded by mandatory cameras mounted on the dashboards of police cruisers parked nearby. The overall picture will be fairly conclusive, I would guess.

Most sworn officers I’ve known have spoken of the responsibility that comes with the job. No matter what anyone may think, THEY understand that the use of physical force has to be only when necessary — otherwise, they will find themselves investigated by their agency’s Internal Affairs bureau, or perhaps even by a higher authority, including the federal government.

At a time in New Jersey’s history when their livelihoods literally are at stake, few — if any — are going to take a chance on a borderline action that could cost them their employment and pensions, not to mention a substantial payout in the event of a lawsuit.

That’s why there’s a special course at the various police academies statewide dedicated solely to the topic. That’s why police officers carry around a copy in their folders of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Guidelines on the Use of Force.

Only the narrator knows what he was trying to accomplish with his “dissection” of the video.

I say: Dissect for yourself:

Continue >>

  • 1984_v_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Bottom line......we are always being video taped. Conduct yourselves accordingly.......

  • Bald-eagle-in-flight_860_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Stupid is as stupid does. We weren't there, so mark it down as suspect noncompliance and an idiot amateur "journalist" doing a hack job on the video.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    The media at it's finest. Thumbs DOWN!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    These videos are getting really old. They have absolutely no idea what they are talking about when they make these.

  • Mil_policemourn_1__max50


    over 3 years ago


    They guy was drunk and wouldnt leave the area after being warned numerous times......I wasnt there but know a few NBPD LEOs. Of course....when you mix a young immature can only equal a big mouth that wants to be the center of attention. Well sonny, you got it. Too many times these videos are posted or recorded without any true evidence...meaning.....after the situation has escalated and the crowd has formed or as this shows...the police taking control of the situation by any means necessary and protection themselves and one another from a more potentially serious situation.

  • Female_bodysurfer_max50


    over 3 years ago


    1. You can't see the officer's fist connecting with anything.
    2. The video-maker totally deflates his already inadequate 'evidence' with a goofy voice-over and derogatory titles.


  • 45089_396847393722850_1055776862_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Me too Blueblood, I wasn't there...

  • 1393794_10151798561878138_392793313_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I cant say anything here, I wasnt there.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Glock what are you saying? The camera angle is literally a point of view, and I never said that the video showed all the information, I am saying that the video is what is used by the narrator to support what he is saying, and what he is saying is actually what happened in this video at this angle and all that stuff. I am not saying it is the right angle, and I never said all the information is there. If you read carefully I am just connecting what the guy says to what we see in the video that is all, he throws some opinions in there and some theoretical number crunching but nothing that is too extreme. Now I don't agree with what he says, but I do agree that it is a plausible way of looking at the situation. It goes along with that whole saying that "perception is reality". Like I said before I don't see anything wrong here on the officers part.

  • Justice-400_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Watched without sound. Very reasonable. Nothing to criticize or critique.

  • Thin_blue_line_horizon_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Compliance jabs...enough said...Highly doubt this musician has had to retrain anyone.

  • Cdcr_badge_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Hey, Mr. Musician. Dont Quit Your Day Job...What Do You Know About Taking A Suspect That IS Resisting Into Custody? NOTHING!! Looks Like Necessary Force To Gain Compliance To Me.

  • Dsc_0574_max50


    over 3 years ago


    What does this kid know. Compliance jabs...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Those look like compliance jabs to me!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    What a moron!!! I hope his music is better than his narration!

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