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Indybay Feature
Police Injury of Homeless Man Still Unresolved
by Steve Schnaar
Wednesday Feb 18th, 2015 7:41 PM
Nearly two years ago, a Santa Cruz police officer injured a homeless man who was already in handcuffs, slamming him face-first into the ground. Caught on video by a bystander, the incident got a lot of attention and the SCPD promised to do a formal investigation. However the results of that investigation have been kept secret, and meanwhile the offending officer is still on the job with no apparent consequences.
As the issue of police accountability continues to spark protest and discussion around the country, Santa Cruz has its own unresolved incident of police violence: the aggressive take-down of Richard Hardy by Santa Cruz Police Officer Nathan Vasquez in 2013. Although the incident was captured on video and widely circulated, after well over a year the SCPD’s internal investigation has not been made public, no apology has been issued to the victim, and Vazquez remains on the job without any apparent consequences.

The incident in question occurred just after midnight the morning of April 22, 2013 on Pacific Ave, where Richard Hardy and a friend, both homeless, were sitting on a bench. Although the men were intoxicated, neither was causing any harm or disruption when Officer Vazquez approached. Brent Adams, a homeless advocate and videographer, witnessed the exchange and began filming. His footage, later viewed widely on Youtube, shows Officer Vasquez declining backup from other officers, and later detaining and cuffing Hardy, who did not resist. When Vasquez tried to push Hardy into the police car, however, Hardy became agitated and started kicking the vehicle. Although Hardy was already cuffed and his kicks directed towards the car, Vasquez responded by wrapping an arm around his neck and performing an aggressive take-down, slamming him face-first into the ground. The blow opened a large gash across the side of Hardy’s face, requiring eight stitches.

Although the police did call for medical assistance, they declined to explain how the injury occurred. The video shows an exchange in which an EMT treating the apparently-unconscious Hardy asks what caused the injury, with Officer Vasquez responding vaguely, “I don’t know, I just kind of spun him,” and then walking away. Although the video was edited for length, witnesses including the videographer confirmed that neither Vasquez nor any other officer shared further information about the incident. This is a departure from standard practice, in which law enforcement share relevant information about an injury to help medical personnel best treat the victim.

Within days of the incident, the SCPD stated that they would perform a formal investigation into the use of force against Hardy. The investigation is said to have been completed several months later, but was neither made public at the time, nor was it released in response to a California Public Records Act request. The author made multiple calls and emails to the SCPD received no reply. Richard Hardy did agree to an interview, saying that he never received an apology nor restitution from the police, and that he would like to sue the City for injuring him, but has yet to find a lawyer. Hardy also stated emphatically that he was not doing anything wrong in the first place, but that, “we were just sitting there” when Officer Vasquez approached, and that, “it’s not fair for police to harass homeless people for things other people do at home.”

Some observers in Santa Cruz have noted similarities between this incident and the police takedown of Eric Garner in Staten Island, which led to Garner’s death and widespread protest, and which was also caught on video. Irene O'Connell, a youth organizer with the Resource Center for Nonviolence, highlights the fact that Garner was approached for selling loose cigarettes, while Hardy was simply sitting on a bench. “This is not about protecting public safety,” she says; “it's about policing ‘quality of life’ crimes that are disproportionately used against people of color and the homeless.” Courtney Hanson, a member of Sin Barras, points out that neither man attacked a police officer, nor posed any immediate threat, yet both were themselves assaulted and injured by officers. “The whole world can see what these officers did,” she says, “so how is it that they continue to operate with zero accountability?”

Part of the answer to that question lies in the close relationship between police and prosecutors. Because police are responsible for gathering and presenting evidence against alleged criminals, they work very closely with prosecutors—including the very officials responsible for deciding whether or not to bring charges against an officer. Due to the potential bias inherent in that situation, many are calling for independent prosecutors to be used in cases involving police violence, an idea that is overwhelmingly supported by the American public.

Here in Santa Cruz, while there has never been an independent prosecutor, there was for many years a Citizen Police Review Board charged with investigating complaints against police officers. This board, which was already fairly limited in its power to respond to such complaints, was disbanded by the City Council in 2003, leaving the role of police review to the City’s Independent Police Auditor. Currently filled by Palo Alto attorney Bob Aronson, the Auditor reviews internal police investigations like that of the Hardy incident to ensure that they are done adequately, but his reports are internal City documents. The public is left in the dark, unable to see any information to demonstrate that police are being held accountable for their actions. With the only available evidence in the Hardy case being the shocking video of his injury, it’s easy for citizens to conclude that police in Santa Cruz are not held to the same standards as everyone else.
§This was supposed to be a Good Times story, but the editors killed it.
by Steve Schnaar Wednesday Feb 18th, 2015 7:54 PM
FYI I wrote this story originally as a freelance writer for the Good Times, but after I spent over 25 hours on this and another story--both of which I was invited to write, and had kept in contact with the news editor about as I worked on them--they suddenly and rudely pulled the offer.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Razer Ray
Thursday Feb 19th, 2015 8:35 AM
And here we are again with the same hand-me-down unverified police brutality story

If this is the incident Brent Adams filmed there's NOTHING to indicate the officer was unusually rough with Hardy. The ONLY thing I saw in the video that was 'out of line' with most police department policies was when the officers let one of the detained, OBVIOUSLY SHIT-FACED DRUNK, attempt to stand without assistance and the person fell down.

Falling down while shit-faced would be a good accounting of how Hardy injured his face before the police ever contacted him at that bench.

I'm NOT going to comment here about the disinformation value of Adam's footage except to say just as the officer was going to put Hardy in the car Adams conveniently DID NOT FILM THAT EVENT, but instead pointed the camera in the air as if being jostled by a crowd and shouted something to the effect of how the police were brutalizing Hardy, but that IS NOT captured on film, which is why, perhaps, the police feel no need to respond to it.
by Steve Schnaar
Thursday Feb 19th, 2015 11:47 AM
The video clearly shows that the police's PR claim of "dropping" Hardy does not hold water. Around minute 3:45 you can see Hardy is solid enough on his feet to not need to be held up, and is in fact kicking the vehicle when officer Vasquez wraps an arm around his neck and uses his body weight to pull Hardy back, spinning him on the way down so that his face slams first into the pavement.

by Razer Ray
Thursday Feb 19th, 2015 4:16 PM
...and what you see is the officer putting his knee behind the detainee's leg to take him down (That IS the way you do it "according to the book") as the detainee is bracing himself against the car door frame to keep himself from being put in the car.

If you saw anything else you need to post that video because I SAW the video Brent originally posted and viewed it a number of time.

What YOU DO NOT SEE is the detainee hitting the ground. You see the camera point upward with Brent shouting like a fool as if a riot just bowled him over, and then you see the detainee on the ground.

That IS NOT EVIDENCE OF ABUSE. That was Brent SAYING the gent was abused.

Personally (and I practice Aikido, using other people's energy to disable themselves, with a now 20 year rusty green belt), it's easy to see from the velocity of the officer's motion HE DID NOT 'slam' the guy into the ground (albeit if the guy let go of the doorframe he could have hit his head which WOULD BE the officer's responsibility.) Personally, If I were attempting to get that drunk in the car I would have waited for the other officer to assist. THAT may be a disciplinary thing, but still not "Police abuse" in the 'brutality' sense of the phrase.

Stop parroting other people bullshit. Don't be the guy who cries wolf. That's RN's and BA's gig. It discredits any legitimate efforts to end what little abuse by the SCPD does occur.

by Robert Norse
Friday Feb 20th, 2015 12:04 AM
...for reviving concern about this abusive police incident and subsequent coverup.

I hope you publish the other story that the GT killed.

At Brent's request, after "Razor Ray" trashed his video and account two years ago, I tried to introduce Brent to Ray so that there could be a productive exchange of views. In response I was denounced and threatened by Ray, whose irrational fits of anger have on occasion been followed by physical threats, which tend to discredit Ray's perspective more broadly

This is unfortunate. I have appreciated Ray's broader social analysis and his discussion of his own personal history in Santa Cruz but not here.
by Razer Ray
Friday Feb 20th, 2015 7:54 AM
You outed me to the thug from "The Clean Team", a TBSC vigilante operation, who helped Brent make the Sanctuary Camp video (You read that right folks, Brent and someone from TBSC worked on a documentary about homeless 'solutions' together) when I questioned the also fraudulent "Homeless Bashing Porn" incident where one of their own members sat under a blanket acting like a druggie (at an abandoned encampment in the ravine behind Emiline street afaict).

Your promotion of that fraud on Indybay allowed TBSC to 'distance itself' from that sort of behavior and frame themselves as 'a kinder gentler TBSC'

You "Introduced" me to that surfer thug half my age and twice my size WITHOUT MY PERMISSION OR KNOWLEDGE, and had already told the thug my FULL REAL NAME AND MY SCREEN NAME.

Some people call that SNITCHING Robert, and you potentially endangered me.

That's the "Introduction" you speak of... The ONLY one... except the time, at the Occupy anniversary in Louden Nelson Center park, where you did the same as recited above with a fellow neither of us knew who was asking if you knew who might be interested in committing a potential felony trespass.
by more to the story
Friday Feb 20th, 2015 4:42 PM
[Here's more of the story, which was first published elsewhere]

So my stint as freelance writer for the Good Times is already over. Their news editor Jacob Pierce invited me to write two stories, and kept in contact with me as I worked on them, but then suddenly and rudely declined the offer after I put in over 25 hours.

Here's one of the stories, which I posted on indybay:

FYI in case you're interested in the details, I had several positive interactions about this story but when I submitted a draft to Jacob Pierce, he wanted to drastically cut the story, removing any detailed description of the incident based on the idea readers would remember the article he wrote 18 months ago; removing all mention of broader national contexts for looking at police violence; and cutting it more than in half, which also means cutting my fee more than in half (and the fee is barely anything to begin with).

I responded politely with some questions, e.g. "The incident is almost 2 years old, and I don't think we should expect people to remember much at all about it from a GT article written at that time.", and, "With these issues of police accountability being a top story in the US for many months, it seems natural IMO to mention that in exploring a local example. What is the reason you have for not wanting to mention it?"

This is the reply I got, in its entirety: "You just should start your own paper or submit this to the Sentinel. Good luck." No answers to my questions, no explanation for why he invited me to write the stories but won't publish them, and no compensation for my time. What a douchebag!

PS The reason for all this rudeness may come from a few months ago when I had asked to write a story about racism in SC County and got the reply from Jacob Pierce and his boss Steve Palopoli that it was not local enough of an issue. To which I replied:

"If the Good Times does not want to run that story, that is your choice but I don't get the 'not local enough' concept. Racism pervades our entire social fabric, and to imagine Santa Cruz is immune to racism frankly strikes me as something only a white person would say. (Which is not meant as a personal attack, it is just the reality that for a white person race can seem invisible, which is not a luxury black and brown people have... just as for men sexism can be invisible, but a woman cannot ignore it.)"
by Steve Schnaar
Friday Feb 20th, 2015 7:26 PM
Hey anonymous person who posted what I wrote on Facebook:

Well I guess it's not a big deal, Facebook isn't exactly private, and I don't necessarily need Indybay to remove the post. But it seems like common courtesy if someone is publishing in a not-entirely-public place, to ask if it's OK to share.
by Neil Mick
Saturday Feb 28th, 2015 4:47 PM
Razer Ray: you're full of it. 20 years practicing aikido?? Well gosh: as a yudansha with 30+ years under MY belt...your expertise sure does come off as a surprise to me! How come I haven't seen you on the mat, like...ever?

Oh right. You no doubt have "mastered" the Art enough to hold an "expertist" opinion on a police attack vid.


(and incidentally, to anyone else...a "green" belt is usually a rank reserved for kids. Almost all aikido dojo's nowadays use the "white-brown-black" belt system. Poseur!)
by G
Friday Mar 6th, 2015 5:13 PM
Razer has a history of unapologetic mistatements and ad hominem when his 'analysis' well runs dry. But hey, at least he dropped MSWin for Linux and seems to be noticing the important role of source code in security. :)

"It's a UNIX system! I know this!" -- Jurassic Park

Meanwhile, back at the topic; why is it so difficult to get a copy of the formal investigation of use of force? Just look at Ferguson; the cops can execute people, leave dead bodies in the streets, get pay raises for citation extortion, and all the Department Of Justice will do, after a while, is declare the crimes unprosecutable. What is SCPD scared of?
by Watcher
Wednesday Mar 11th, 2015 2:39 PM
Cops Slam Unarmed Woman On The Pavement, Killing Her In Front of Family

Cleveland police officers recently killed a 37-year-old African American woman who died after police slammed her head on the concrete, just outside of her family’s home.

Her brother explained that Tanisha Anderson was pronounced dead at Cleveland Clinic after the assault by the Ohio cops. The pronouncement came early Thursday about two hours after the police “take down” caused Anderson to bash her head on the concrete outside of her home.

“They killed my sister,” Joell Anderson, Tanisha’s 40-year-old brother said as he fought back tears. “I watched it.”

Officers came to the house after a call from a family member who thought the police could calm the bi-polar Tanisha down, during an argument.

Police came, responding to the situation as a “disturbing the peace” call. It seemed that everyone agreed Tanisha should undergo an evaluation at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, police sources told us.
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