An encounter between two Pasadena, Ca., police officers and a black motorist has reignited the heated debate over how police use force and sparked outrage in a city with long-simmering complaints about how law enforcement treats African-American men, the Los Angeles Times reports. Videos show one officer repeatedly hitting the unarmed motorist with a baton during the Nov. 9 incident at a gas station. Another officer screams at the struggling man to give up his hands and punches him at least five times before slamming his face into the asphalt. Finally, the officers manage to handcuff him behind his back.“I didn’t even do anything,” the handcuffed man whimpers as blood pools around his head.
The graphic images have made international headlines as many police agencies have trained officers on how to de-escalate encounters with civilians and avoid using force if possible. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called for criminal charges against the officers, describing their actions as “clearly unnecessary, excessive and unlawful.” Martin Gordon of the Pasadena Community Coalition compared the video to the 1991 recording of Los Angeles police using batons to beat black motorist Rodney King. In response to critics, Pasadena released six police recordings of the incident, the first time police body camera videos were made public since officers began using the equipment last year. City spokesman William Boyer noted that the motorist, Christopher Ballew, 21, initially walked away from officers when they approached him and pulled away as they tried to handcuff him. “You see the grabbing of the officer’s baton during the struggle and the officers’ subsequent actions to control the situation,” Boyer said.