Please, Please, Please Sir: A License to Abuse

Abby Zimet

Okay, this is a bad one. An administrative judge in Chattanooga, Tenn. last week  reinstated two cops/thugs fired after surveillance video showed them choking, punching, tazing and beating Halfway House resident Adam Tatum so savagely they broke his nose and both his legs as he lay on the floor begging them to stop - an assault moving even the police chief to declare, "I personally would not subject the citizens of Chattanooga to these two officers." Citizens' groups fighting the city's history of police brutality blasted the court ruling, the city is appealing it and there's a petition against it.

At the start of the June 2012 incident, Tatum was high on cocaine and wielding a small knife, but through most of the attack he is curled and cowering on the floor, pleading with the cops to stop hitting him. He later faced assault charges - dismissed, duh - and has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city and police department. Almost as stomach-churning as extended video of the incident is what transpired in court. The cops argued they were just doing their job and Tatum "was almost sitting up a little bit"; his lawyers argued "these officers that night did nothing but patrol the streets of Chattanooga protecting our citizens and respond to a dangerous felon (who) was terrorizing Chattanooga citizens with a knife" and "the only misconduct in this sorry episode was that of Mr. Tatum and it was of his own making"; and Administrative Judge Kim Summers ruled the officers should be reinstated with back pay, benefits, and seniority because while "the number of baton strikes may have been extraordinary, so was the level of Mr. Tatum's resistance." The level of force was "not ideal," she noted, but "it would not be an acceptable ending to this situation to ruin the lives and careers of two otherwise unblemished and promising police officers" - jaw-dropping assertions once you see the video. Warning: graphic and disturbing.

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