May 29, 2012 — Tom Downing, Susanville’s new chief of police, said being a police chief has been his ambition since he started his law enforcement career.
Almost from the beginning, only days into his new position, Downing’s been pushed from the frying pan into the fire after an incident in which a 24-year-old Janesville man was arrested recently outside a South Gay Street party in Susanville.
Witnesses and many in the community who know the young man and his character reacted with disbelief at his arrest for felony resisting arrest.
A video of the event — actually more like an audio recording — quickly went viral, and many people claim the responding officers tasered the young man repeatedly.
Some say they find it easy to interpret the recording’s contents, but others find it more difficult.
To further muddy the waters, the next day Bob Burns, Lassen County’s district attorney, ordered the young man’s release from jail and said he planned to pursue a misdemeanor charge rather than the felony.
A second man also faces a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge for his role in the incident.
Tuesday afternoon, Downing announced he had placed one of the officers involved in the incident on paid administrative leave and asked for an independent investigation by an outside agency.
Police brutality or excessive use of force is perhaps one of the easiest and most damaging charges to hurl at a police officer, and one of the most difficult for an officer to defend.
Excessive force, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder, but in such cases perception is king.
Downing may be new to his job as chief of police, but clearly he recognizes the pitfalls in such an incident and its potential impact of the public’s perception of his department, and in order to resolve the issues raised he needs to keep several balls in the air at the same time as a number of rights come into conflict around such an incident.
Placing the officer on paid administrative leave removes him from duty and protects his job rights while the matter is under investigation.
We should remember under our system of law, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The two young men arrested outside the party for allegedly resisting arrest will face their day in court soon. Again, we should presume they are innocent until proven guilty.
Finally, an outside independent investigation removes even the possibility an internal investigation could be little more than a partisan whitewash.
Tough times for the department and the community as the issues concerning this incident slowly resolve themselves.
One thing is for sure — Downing’s put the issues on a course that should satisfy everyone involved once everything is said and done.
Good job making a hard decision.
In the interest of fairness and justice, we encourage our readers to suspend their judgment until all the facts are known and the investigation and the court cases have run their course.
|< Prev||Next >|