On August 14, 2017 St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer Adam Feaman used excessive deadly physical force against Jamal White as White emerged from his apartment to determine why the police were towing his car. White was eventually arrested for peace disturbance and resisting arrest-both misdemeanors.
It is unclear on what charges Feaman originally intended to arrest White but it is clear White posed no threat to Feaman as he first ran and then walked away. The first thing Feaman thought to do when beginning his pursuit of Smith was to retrieve his flashlight from his back pocket. Feaman first struck White in the jaw with a flashlight-breaking his jaw which had to be wired shut for more than two months. According to White’s attorney White’s ear had to be sewn back on. Feaman again struck White on the back of his head with his flashlight while White was on the ground even though White was complying with Feaman’s order to get on the ground.
Much of the encounter was captured on cell phone video. This video clearly depicts the incident in context. It wasn’t until one year later that Feaman was charged with second-degree assault and armed criminal action. You can read Jamal White’s lawsuit here.
If a non-police officer struck someone, who posed no threat to them, on the jaw and head with a flashlight and the cell phone video was available (as it was in this case) you can bet that that individual would be arrested immediately and would have a good view of a cell block for some time. Alas, the offender in this case is a police officer. And so the process of charging and arresting Feaman took more than a year. The wheels of justice move ever so slowly when the accused is a government employed police officer. We see it all the time. This case is no exception.
Will justice be served in this case? I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to our criminal justice system-especially in cases of police brutality. But we can only rein in police brutality by convicting those brutal officers who have tarnished an entire profession. In this case there were other officers on the scene who saw no need to brandish weapons or use deadly force against an unarmed man posing no threat to anyone. But those cops must be held accountable for their actions. The other officers present did not try to stop Feaman and did not report him to their superiors. Although this will never happen-they should have arrested Feaman.
It is only when the police are held to this standard that we will see true justice and remove systemic police brutality from the criminal justice system. Am I optimistic that this will occur? Unfortunately I am not. As an expert in criminal investigation and police policy and procedures I am well aware of the enormity of the problem we are facing. And I don’t see anything changing in the near future.
Baeza is a retired NYPD Detective.