What’s wrong here?
Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2012 1:00 am
I’ve been looking at some surveillance video: Two Meriden police officers are taking a man into custody in a parking lot at MidState Medical Center on Jan. 23, 2011.
The man, Joseph Bryans, is suing Officer Evan Cossette and four other members of the MPD in federal court, including Chief Jeffry Cossette, who is Evan Cossette’s father.
Lawyers for each side in the Bryans case claim that the hospital video backs up their position.
The video is also notable because there are enough other lawsuits, enough charges of brutality and departmental cover-up, that federal, state and municipal investigations are under way.
But what strikes me about the hospital tape is that the trouble began before Officer Cossette even arrived on the scene.
What we see first (the video can be viewed at www.myrecordjournal.com/video) is a man in a white T-shirt (Bryans) leaving through the automatic doors. Then we see an unidentified female hospital employee follow him outside and grab the back of his shirt in an apparent attempt to pull him back into the building. Bryans barely reacts; he shrugs it off and keeps going.
And what was the reason for this physical assault by the unidentified female hospital employee? Why did she evidently try to deprive him of his liberty, without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment?
Because he was drunk. We are told that she (presumably on behalf of her employer, the hospital) was concerned for Mr. Bryans’ safety. Really? Or was the hospital simply trying to protect itself from lawsuits? I’m no tort jockey, but I figure that if a patient leaves a hospital against medical advice — which is obviously the case here — then the hospital is on pretty solid legal ground.
But was he even a patient? If Mr. Bryans had not yet been examined by licensed medical professionals when he walked out, then who diagnosed him as too drunk to walk home, and what were their credentials? And why were the police told that Mr. Bryans had “escaped”? “Escaped”? Was he the hospital’s patient — or its prisoner?
Let’s accept that he was under the influence. But we can clearly see that he is not falling-down drunk. He is not staggering. In fact, he seems to have no trouble walking in a normal manner.
What then, pray tell, was his crime?
The next thing we see is the unidentified female hospital employee making a phone call. Did she tell the police that Mr. Bryans had committed some offense? It would be helpful to know, but the video has no sound track.
The next thing we see is the arrival of the police, who go after Mr. Bryans. The two officers wrestle him to the ground and one of them punches him a few times. In his incident report, Officer Cossette states that, having punched Mr. Bryans to “little to no effect,” he then used a Taser on him.
But this part of the tape is the least clear — sometimes the camera is aimed the wrong way, or out of focus, or not zoomed in, and the police cruiser blocks some of the action. I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from the tape alone.
Officer Cossette’s report says that Bryans assumed an “aggressive fighting posture” and attempted to engage him in a “physical altercation.” Well, maybe. But nobody talks like that, and there can’t be a police officer in the state who doesn’t know that those are some magic words you have to use to make it clear you didn’t use excessive force.
Did the cops overreact? Did the hospital overstep?
What’s wrong with this picture?