Two Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs have been videotaped hitting a woman with unspecified mental health and other disabilities. The incident happened Monday night, on a Metro bus in Bellflower. Jermaine Green and his fiancee Violet Roberts boarded a bus and noted another passenger, a woman with a stroller full of pillows who clearly had “special needs.” Two deputies, one male and one female, boarded the bus at the next stop and confronted the woman, grabbing at her and telling her to get off the bus. The male deputy punched her — and Green recorded everything on his cell phone video camera.
Said Green, who had just returned home after serving in the army for six years with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan:
I couldn’t believe it. He seen me taping. He looked up at the camera a few times, and he still hit her like that, and I can’t believe he didn’t try to diffuse the situation at all.
In the Army, they gave us extensive training for rules of engagement. There’s proper protocols and steps you take. This lady didn’t do anything, she wasn’t combative and he actually turned combative on her.
When Green refused to hand over the video, the deputies told him he could be arrested and asked if he had any warrants. Green answered, “I said no, I’m a veteran, I just came back, I have six years, I have no record, and he said ‘We’ll see about that.’”
On Wednesday, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the woman, who has not been identified, has had four prior convictions for assaulting law enforcement officers. Sheriff Lee Baca said the woman is homeless and had mental health issues and has a history of “verbal conflicts with people in the community” as well as officers. Another passenger on the bus had called 911 about her, saying that “She’s trying to pick a fight with anybody, she almost hit an old man. She was talking about how she got out of prison and ‘I’ll beat up all you guys.’” Neighbors said she had often been seen sleeping behind a local CVS and was “habitually aggressive.”
Besides Green’s video, the bus’s surveillance system recorded still images of the incident.
While the deputies had reason to be concerned about the woman, physically assaulting her was simply unnecessary. As Green pointed out, there are appropriate ways to engage someone in a crisis situation.
Furthermore, the woman’s situation — homeless and having mental health issues — points to another kind of crisis, the disintegration of services and programs for the mentally ill who end up living on the street and subsisting without any kind of care or support. The woman has been placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, but it sounds too likely that she will end up back on the street, back riding the bus and then back in difficulties with law enforcement. Is this what now passes for care for those with mental health disabilities?
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