Patterico's Pontifications

11/17/2006

A Plausible Explanation As to Why the LAPD Report May Have Misstated the Number of Punches

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:01 am



This morning I noted a story that explains a possible reason that the LAPD report on the punching video says that there were two blows, when in fact there were five:

In his testimony, Schlegel [the author of the report] said he left out of his report the “three times’’ [LAPD Officer] Farrell struck [the resisting suspect] Cardenas because he was calling dispatch and didn’t see the blows struck. After watching the video in court, however, Schlegel testified he had seen Farrell hit Cardenas. The video, however, clearly shows Farrell striking Cardenas five times.

Schegel is the author of the report.

Now watch the video again. Pay close attention to what the officer on the left (Schlegel) is doing during the first three punches.

Clearly, Schlegel is using his radio when the first three blows are administered. When the punches begin, he turns his head and notices something is happening. He might have seen one or two punches in his peripheral vision. But he also is having to deal with his radio, and is clearly distracted by that. It could be that, during the first three punches, he saw that there was something happening, but he didn’t know exactly what it was.

Does he definitively see any of the first three punches? I can’t say for sure that he does.

He definitely sees the final two. That’s all you can say for sure, based on the video.

I noticed this when I first watched the video, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. My thinking was: surely these officers talked to each other before the report was written.

But, on reflection, I’m not so sure.

Speaking about the case with a random cop today (one from the Sheriff’s Department, as it happens), I was reminded of something that I have long known to be the case, but had forgotten in the context of this video.

And that is: when there is a use of force, it is common for supervisors to quickly arrive on the scene, and to order the involved officers not to talk with each other about the use of force.

Although it was a Sheriff’s Deputy who reminded me of this, I know, based on years of experience, that this is a common practice in the LAPD as well.

You see, police agencies want to conduct credible investigations of their officers’ uses of force. The idea is simple and laudable: don’t let the officers “get their stories straight” before they are asked about the use of force.

But there are costs to such an approach. One is that officers may have had different perspectives. And any differences in their accounts may be blown out of proportion.

Did this happen in this case? I have no idea. Did Schlegel, the author of the report, simply miss the fact that his partner had delivered five blows instead of two? And was he separated from his partner and forced to write his report based on his own independent recollections, without any input from his partner, the officer who actually punched the suspect?

I don’t know. But it’s a real possibility.

I still think that Farrell, the officer who administered the blows, would have been asked to complete his own report. But that report might not have been part of the standard discovery. It could have been segregated into a separate “use of force package.” Often, such reports should (in my opinion) be included in the standard discovery packet, but aren’t. I have had discussions with a Sheriff’s Department individual about this very issue — and the guy I have talked to is a reader of this here very blog. (I have commonly called him up to ask for a use of force package, only to have him ask how Glenn Greenwald is doing nowadays.)

The point is: there could be a completely innocent explanation for the discrepancies between the report and reality. Do I know this to be the case? Not at all. But, based on my experience, it’s a very real possibility.

Good luck getting the L.A. Times to tell you about any of this, however.

P.S. By the way, it’s also not entirely clear that the fifth punch actually landed. The suspect may have blocked it with his hand, as several commenters here have noted. Are we talking about four punches instead of five? I can’t tell you for sure.

4 Responses to “A Plausible Explanation As to Why the LAPD Report May Have Misstated the Number of Punches”

  1. Also if one is distracted by needing to ensure that a verbal report is being given the visual attention is not fully integrated into the thought stream. Thus, giving a radio request or report will take conscious attention from the visual, even if it is happening right in front of you if you see that a problem is being handled and the visual attentiveness will only cue for more conscious attention if something appears to be of sudden note or danger to you. If training has stressed getting a verbal call in for help, then that would be the case.

    The stream of conscious thought is *not* infallible and some real-time observations that were not made by attentive perception are re-created via memory. The entire memory encoding and decoding process tends to degrade those memories due to where active attention is being placed.

    That being said the non-conscious attentiveness is quite high and far above that of mere random chance. A study done on image changes being flashed below the conscious perception level revealed that when respondants answered that there was ‘no change’ between images and were then asked ‘if there was could you guess at what the change was?’ answered correctly 57% percent of the time. They had no conscious memory, and yet the non-conscious perceptive areas are well attuned to such things and can stand in when the conscious mind is distracted.

    Even with that in mind, concentration plays a huge part in perception as witness the famous video clip of individuals juggling between them and the large percentage of people who do not see a large being walking through the very same scene that is distinctly different from the jugglers, background and has high contrast with the scene. Sometimes your concentration just doesn’t let you see the Gorilla walking through the juggling act. Once made aware, it is obvious, but if your concentrational focus is *elsewhere* then even something huge and intrusive is mentally edited out by the conscious mind.

    Consciousness and perception are things we take for granted, but they are not always what they seem to be even when you *swear* that the film clip must be a substitute… how could you miss a Gorrilla walking through a juggling act? And yet, a large percentage of people, far above 30% and often at 70% or more do just that. Stage magicians are *masters* at this.

    So I am not surprised that an officer, trained to call for back-up in a violent situation that was more or less under control might not have counted the number of punches. That he *registered* that they were being thrown is a good indication of his training being excellent so that he could mentally tag that information as a ‘happening’ during the event. Once done the *number* is less important than the noted first occurance.

    ajacksonian (87eccd)

  2. are you still obsessing over the number of punches thrown? sheesh. this case isn’t going to turn on the number of punches, it’s going to turn on whether technical standards for keeping the underclass docile were exceeded.

    assistant devil's advocate (c54f35)

  3. And relevant to that issue will be whether the officers filed a deliberately false report. Goes to their state of mind and whether they truly felt there was a justification for the force.

    Patterico (de0616)

  4. There’s also uncertainty over why it took weeks to look over the tape and what the predicate was for the now-dropped felony counts.

    The video, which only now publicly surfaced, was in the hands of Los Angeles County prosecutors for nearly two months, but was not turned over to the LAPD until last month.

    ..The video was presented by Cardenas’ attorneys Sept. 14, during his preliminary hearing on two felony counts of resisting arrest.

    But LAPD spokesman Paul Vernon said prosecutors didn’t notify the department’s Force Investigation Division about the video until Oct. 17 – more than a month later.

    District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said prosecutors’ efforts were hampered when technical problems prevented them from viewing the 20-second video. The delay was the result of interoffice investigative work, she said, including efforts to retrieve more video.

    http://www.dailynews.com/ci_4634557

    steve (6830b3)


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