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The Three Levels of Corruption in the Buffalo Police Assault Video

The assault on a 75-year-old man by Buffalo police demonstrates exactly why people believe law enforcement is in need of large-scale reform.
June 5, 2020
The Three Levels of Corruption in the Buffalo Police Assault Video

1. Three Levels of Hell

It’s Friday so we’re supposed to talk about happy things.


I’d like you to watch this video. It’s from an incident in Buffalo yesterday and it’s very short.

Now take a breath look at this press statement from the Buffalo Police Department about the incident:

“[A] 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”

What we have here is a perfect distillation of the three levels of corruption that exist in law enforcement.

The first is the violence of the police themselves. In this incident they are in total control of the situation. I can count 28 law enforcement officers, all of them wearing armor of some sort and carrying weapons.

They are approached by an unarmed 75-year-old man. It is unreasonable for any of the officers in this situation to have felt as though they were in clear and present danger. But if they had felt threatened, they could have restrained him.

Instead, they assault him, shoving him backward violently. Go back and watch the video again. Listen to the sound the man’s head makes at the 0:06 mark when it hits the ground. Look at the blood coming out of his ear. Watch how motionless his body is.

At best, this is a terrible accident by law enforcement officers who are not competent at their jobs. At worst, it is criminal assault.

The second level of corruption comes in the reaction of the officers who did not shove the old man. None of them rush to his side. None of them confront the perpetrators of the assault.

Instead, the first two actions we see from the other police are these:

(a) One of the officers who pushed the man seems surprised that he fell and makes a move to check on him. The officer behind him directs him to keep moving and leave the man alone.

(b) Other officers immediately move to clear witnesses out of the area. There appear to be two civilian witnesses who try to tell the police that the man on the ground is bleeding. One of the other officers says, “Grab these two guys right now.”

These two witnesses put their hands in the air and offer no resistance. We see one of them handcuffed.

Another officer goes after the credentialed media present and orders them to leave the scene.

What you’re seeing here is, in the immediate aftermath of police misconduct, a large number of officers working in a coordinated manner to cover it up and witnesses to the misconduct being detained for no discernible reason.

Which brings us to the third level of corruption: The press release.

With the benefit of time to react, the Buffalo police department portrayed this assault as a mere accident resulting from a “skirmish” in which a civilian “tripped & fell.”

This is a two-part outright lie being fed to the public the police department is supposed to serve.

2. Insidious

This may sound strange, but I view the actual assault on the old man as the least worrisome of those three corruptions.

Police are human. They will make bad decisions sometimes even if they are good cops. You can understand how a bad decision gets made in snap-encounters.

Do I think these police should be prosecuted? Yes.

Do I think that, regardless of the outcome of criminal prosecution, they should ever be allowed to put on the uniform again? Absolutely not.

However, I am open to the possibility that these are good men who made a terrible mistake and simply lack the faculties and temperament to be professional law enforcement officers.

But what about the police around them who see what has happened and do nothing?

These officers are witness to an assault that they were not a part of. They have no “heat of the moment” excuse. And their first move is not to help the citizen they have sworn an oath to protect, but to cover up for colleagues who have just committed what may be a criminal offense.

It is hard to view these officers as anything but fully corrupt. Every one of them should lose their badge.

The deepest corruption, though, is the press release.

Because this is not the act of a single person operating under constraints of time and space. It’s the product of an organization.

That means multiple sets of eyes and multiple lies. It means people had the luxury of time to deliberate before acting and their choice was to deceive the public.

When you find a bad cop, it means that he can’t be trusted.

When you see a gaggle of cops covering for a bad cop, it means the culture is corrupt.

When you read a press release issued by the department claiming that a man who was assaulted by cops “tripped & fell” as a result of a “skirmish,” it tells you that the entire institution is rotten.

Thank God the local NPR station caught this assault on tape. Had they not, then the police department’s lie would have been the official truth.

3. Baseball

Trevor Bauer has taken is Live At Bats series to the next level by pitting San Francisco Giants Ryan Halstead against . . .

His sister.

Halstead’s sis is UCLA softball star (and now pro player) Paige Halstead. And the trash these two talk at each other is inspired.

It’s not going to get the taste out of your mouth from this week. But it may help your spirit a little.

Pro SOFTBALL Player Paige Halstead Faces Her BROTHER Ryan Halstead from the SF Giants | Live At-Bats

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.