A few months ago, I was at Corpus Christi’s City Hall to find some information. As I walked in, I must have looked lost because a man with a clipboard and a big smile noticed me and offered to help. I thought that was a nice approach, so I made it a point to ask his name, which was Floyd. He tried to help and even enlisted the help of another worker at city hall. In the end, he couldn’t help me, but he certainly tried. I was left with a good impression, though, and I thanked Floyd, making sure to call him by name. It was very nice to meet Floyd.
A couple of days later, I was surprised to see Floyd gracing the front page of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper. As it turns out, “Floyd” was Floyd Simpson, Chief of Police for the City of Corpus Christi.
Floyd displayed a service-oriented attitude toward me, a stranger to him, and he never gave me any indication of the weighty position he holds. In my experience, people who have high-quality traits tend to have others, too. Since then, I wondered whether his trait of helpfulness would carry over into his job and show itself in other contexts. To me, he’ll always be Floyd, the friendly, helpful guy I met that day.
He appears to have uncommon integrity
Floyd impressed me again in the past week by doing something almost unheard of for a police chief; he announced discipline against two officers under his command for brutalizing a person who was in custody.
No complaints were publicly lodged for the victim, nor did any protests occur, nor did any riots erupt or threaten. Instead, Floyd made a public comment about beginning an investigation when police dashcam video of the brutalization made news. The video showed the suspect was calm, compliant, and handcuffed; he was perfectly cooperative and non-threatening to the officers, who had him under complete control. Two officers then proceeded to brutalize him about his face and head.
Up to that point, I don’t recall hearing anyone demanding an investigation or being particularly upset about the police brutality. It appeared to bother Floyd, though, and it should have.
To put this in more context, understand a key point about the public’s perception of the events: the victim was a man who apparently killed three people and seriously injured a child a few minutes earlier. There was no bandwagon, no support in the community for him. In fact, the community at large likely had no sympathy for him and thought he got better treatment than he deserved. Such a mob mentality is to be expected, but it has no place in a free society governed by laws.
The victim later hanged himself in jail, which is another disgrace entirely, but not the subject of this blog entry. Unbridled police encouraged to skirt law and exact vengeance as happened in this incident is a recipe for a disaster.
The impressive thing about this situation is Floyd appears to be concerned about the rights of a man who committed one of the most violent acts seen in Corpus Christi for a very long time. Outside of criminal defense lawyers and enlightened, unbiased judges, few people show any concern for the rights of “criminals”. Police, in particular, regularly disregard people’s rights and violate laws inconvenient to the pursuit of their goals.
Police should revere individual rights, but extremely rare among police is the attitude a person’s rights are more important than the mission of “getting the bad guy”. It’s good to know Floyd is mindful of the fact police have no license to disregard the law, even when arresting someone who has committed a heinous crime.
According to reports, one of the officers in question resigned instead of being fired, and the other was placed on unpaid suspension for an undisclosed amount of time.
Kudos to Floyd for taking a stand, albeit measured, against police brutality/misconduct. Consequences of any kind are rare, and these are relatively meaningful.
It’s not quite enough to satisfy me
I wish my appreciation could be unequivocal, but it isn’t. Floyd made a statement lamenting how difficult it was for him to take these actions, that it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his career, even pointing out what the victim had done. Well, that’s a shame because it should be a very easy thing to do, despite what the victim did. His officers’ behavior was absolutely outrageous and without any doubt criminal. Make no mistake, those two cops are CRIMINALS. Criminals should not be cops. Floyd should have done more.
Floyd should have fired them both without a chance to resign. He should also refer the matter to the District Attorney for prosecution.
Whether the District Attorney would choose to prosecute cops for crimes they commit in uniform or would decide cops are excused from committing crimes while in uniform is unknown, but I seriously doubt prosecution would ever be entertained, despite the fact the crimes were caught on video and are absolutely undeniable.
The District Attorney should be asking for reports and charging the officers, on his own volition, if justice is to be served. The District Attorney should make clear to cops they are not above the law and will be prosecuted when they commit crimes in uniform.
Floyd should make sure his officers know there is no room for lawlessness and brutalization in his department, and consequences will follow for those whose actions are unworthy of the badge and uniform.
Police misconduct appears increasingly routine, and police administrations typically defend whatever atrocious behavior occurred. Prosecutors are loathe to take any action, no matter how egregious police misconduct is, no matter how strong the evidence. Until police are held accountable like everyone else, the problem will continue to grow.
I have some hope for CCPD
I am mindful of the tension between rank-and-file police and management, and that relationship can become strained and make for a hostile situation. However, what those two cops did was inexcusable and indefensible. Even the most ardent supporter of police officers must acknowledge the obvious and egregious transgressions in this case. To protect officers from discipline, including termination of employment, effectively condones and encourages the misbehavior.
Taking baby steps is better than no steps. Floyd took a baby step with obvious consternation. When future police misconduct occurs and becomes clear for all to see, and it certainly will, perhaps Floyd will feel more comfortable doing the right thing without reservations, compromise, or regret. I look forward to it.
Footnote: Floyd Simpson died May 3, 2015, after a motorcycle accident, so we won’t be able to see what else he might have accomplished.