The Fort Lauderdale police beating video in the elevator of a office building downtown is a must-see.
It shows officers, after breaking up a fight in the lobby, walking into an elevator and breaking the nose of 22-year-old Joshua Ortiz. Ortiz wasn't involved in the fight but had been yelling at the cops. Police charged Ortiz with felony battery and prosecutors, after seeing the video, dropped the charge, which had already been reduced to a misdemeanor.
Let's break this down. The video shows that the first officer in the elevator, Derek Lade, walked up to Ortiz in aggressive fashion. Basically, the officer looks like he's itching for a fight.
Ortiz reacts by making what cops always call a "furtive" motion toward Lade. There's no mistaking it -- Ortiz stepped up to the officer. And once Ortiz made his move, the guy needed to go down. I'm not going to bicker over Lade pushing Ortiz into the corner of the elevator. The problem is that while taking down Ortiz the second cop comes in from behind and starts wailing on Ortiz's face like a madman, apparently breaking his nose in the process. At that moment, it looks like a gang fight.
Lade wrote in his report that Ortiz yelled at him and "walked right up to me, hitting his nose to my nose."
Okay, that seems designed to make it look like Ortiz was an unprovoked aggresser, which is misleading. But Lade also writes, "As I approached Ortiz to take him into custody, Ortiz spun around to face me and assumed a fighting stance (both left and right hand clenched into fists and body bladed.)."
"Body bladed" -- I think that's the first time I've seen it put that way, and I like the description.
I've watched the video about 20 times and it's very possible that Ortiz's nose did indeed hit Lade's nose when he stepped up to meet the officer. I wouldn't say he assumed a fighting stance, but I suppose that in that split second the officer could conceive of it that way. His body did blade, after all.
I'm not going to say that Lade falsified the report. But I also am not going to agree with Fort Lauderdale Police Department brass and say everything the officers did was kosher. The Pulp's suggested punishments are as follows: .
If Lade had acted more professionally and less aggressively the entire incident could have been avoided. So I'm calling for a written reprimand and a one-day suspension without pay.
The second officer, who did the wailing, should be suspended without pay for 10 days. Make him think about it long and hard and set up the certainty that if he does anything like that again, he's out of a job. The guy clearly used excessive physical force and caused unnecessary bodily harm. And his actions, because they were caught on video, have brought disrepute to the department.
The real disrepute comes from the department brass, though, who look the other way.
(By the way, while you're looking at the first video, check out the second, which shows the fight that preceded the elevator scene. "If you take off your shirt in the lobby of an office building in anticipation of a good scrap, you just might be a ...").