Ask A Cop


Illustration: Steve Thueson

Dear Cop,

There’s been a lot of cop bashing lately and I used to think corrupt cops and excessive use of force was something that only happened in other places. But the other day my friend witnessed something horrific right in our own city. Apparently, if you are taking a nap in the shade as a homeless person and the cops ask you to leave, while you are leaving peacefully, they can knock your bag of groceries out of your hands, tackle you so hard one of your shoes flies off, wrap their arms around your neck and slam your face into the pavement, and twist your legs into unnaturally awkward positions, all while you aren’t resisting and haven’t been visibly hostile for the entire altercation. My friend filed a report with Salt Lake PD, who denied there were any stops or arrests in that area, and suggested that that uniforms who kicked this guys ass were most likely federal officers. So my question is: in what possible situation is it ok to beat on a random homeless guy, and what are we, as citizens, supposed to do when we witness these things, especially if we report them and the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe deny that anything happened?
Concerned Citizen
Dear Concerned Citizen,

No, it wasn’t the Feds, unless the perp was on federal property—which has numerous rules and such about loitering or trespassing because of terrorism issues—and the random dude put up a fight about leaving. That’s doubtful, but then again, I have no idea where this occurred.

If it was SLCPD coppers—and it happened as your friend described—they’re walking, talking surveillance platforms and the story would be corroborated by their cameras. Also, numerous fixed surveillance cameras exist, public and private, all over SLC that could have recorded the event. If it happened as described, the cops would no longer be cops. Honestly, cops don’t go to work to beat down bums or the homeless—that’s just more cop bashing. Cops have a job to do, which does include dealing with street people who appear homeless but are just there to prey on you, your friends, your girlfriend (see recent letter about a girl trying to navigate Downtown) or to sell drugs. The street people and dealers battle the cops every day and night—because that’s what they do. They block crosswalks to give their pigeons more time to hit turning cars for money—they aggressively force money from passive, innocent folks, and drug dealers prey on the fragile. These are the people the cops don’t mind going to work to deal with each day.

The other option you didn’t consider is private security. They’re uniformed and operate for organizations that don’t have policy and procedure that must be followed, and they generally have no problem cracking the heads of the homeless. Their actions were also most likely captured on a camera somewhere. That always gets out. People don’t understand that the addition of body cameras onto cops is mostly going to vindicate cops, not the other way around. It documents the good work most street cops do, and if there’s a bad one out there, it makes sure that he’s no longer a cop. There’s also your phone, which you can use as a surveillance tool!

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