The video of Julie Nelson, 42, on an LA area bus who was elbowed by a sheriff’s deputy is making the usual Internet rounds. A Mr. Green took the video from his cell phone. He tells a reporter that he is shocked by what he saw and cites military rules of engagement to criticize the deputies.
All due respect to Mr. Green, but military in-theater rules of engagement and police protocols in a closed in space like a city bus are two different things entirely. Military rules of engagement have no bearing whatsoever in this situation. Individuals who do not understand the difference are dangerous. In this setting, officers are not able to use a taser or an asp to control a citizen’s behavior without a strong potential of hitting other passengers.
Mr. Green sees a woman who is complying. I do not. Mr. Green is African American. I understand that he may have a different perspective from mine, due to issues on the part of Los Angele area law enforcement agencies and people of color. I see a woman who is extremely large, belligerent, and resisting arrest. I also see a video clip which appears to be edited to show only the most severe looking aspect of the incident… as usual.
Look at the video very closely and you will see that the scene appears to change in the split second just prior to the elbow throw. What happened and why isn’t it on the footage? The deputies appear very reserved and then suddenly their demeanor is different with no escalation shown. A video can be edited to show a lot of different things as truth. This is why a complete impartial investigation must occur to examine the entire situation.
Clearly, the police had a reason to go on to a city bus looking for Ms. Nelson. KTLA posted a 911 call from citizens at a bus stop requesting help with Ms. Nelson. According to the caller, the homeless woman was attempting to provoke fights with other bus passengers. Mr. Green also stated that it was obvious that she has special needs. He wanted police to reason with her.
LA County Sheriff Lee Baca called the video “disturbing,” but also noted that this individual was well known by law enforcement to be mentally ill and highly disruptive. Ms. Nelson has 4 convictions for assaulting police officers. Sounds like your upstanding, non-violent citizen, right?
Reporters from KTLA contacted Ms. Nelson’s mother who stated that her daughter has long suffered with bipolar disorder and was currently off of her medication. Mrs. Nelson expressed hope that her daughter could receive the help she desperately needs.
For once, could we possibly give the two officers the benefit of the doubt? Could we wait until the entire footage has been reviewed? A previous LET article demonstrated that the UC Davis Occupy video was deliberately set up to discredit officers. We have now become a nation of people who make snap decisions based on Facebook entries, 30 seconds of videotape, rumor, innuendo, and uninformed opinions. Let’s hold off until Sheriff Baca’s investigation is complete and then decide what is truth and what is cleverly-edited video.
Lt. James P. Gaffney, MPA and Bruce C. Bremer, MBA, ETC (SS/SW),USN, Ret. also contributed to this article.