Police thug used an excessive amount of discretion
Based on an article from The Telegraph
A distinguished British historian was knocked to the ground by an American policeman before being arrested and spending eight hours in jail, because he crossed the road in the wrong place.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto said he had been the victim of "terrible, terrible violence" after he inadvertently committed the offence of "jaywalking" in Atlanta, Georgia, last week and failed to realise the man telling him to stop
was an officer.
The slight, bespectacled professor said that five burly officers pinned him to the ground after Kevin Leonpacher kicked his legs from under him as he hesitated to show his ID.
He was left "traumatised and disorientated" and with a gashed forehead as he was taken to the local jail and charged with pedestrian failure to obey a police officer and physical obstruction of police.
The academic, professor of global environmental history at Queen Mary College, University of London, and a member of Oxford University's modern history faculty, said he had been subjected to "very humiliating procedures" and even had
his box of peppermints confiscated.
The man appeared in court the next day, "tortured" by the fear of getting a criminal record that would wreck his chances of getting a green card allowing him to work in America. But prosecutors dropped the charges.
Atlanta's police chief ordered an inquiry after the mayor raised the incident.
Prof Fernandez-Armesto said he was crossing the road and became aware of a rather intrusive young man shouting at me telling me that I shouldn't have crossed the road there. Because he was wearing a "rather louche" bomber jacket
that covered his uniform, the professor did not realise he was a policeman.
I thanked him for his advice and went on , said the professor. When Officer Leonpacher tried to stop him and demanded to see identification, the professor asked to see his, which he didn't take kindly to . He said 'I am
going to arrest you', In the culture I come from this wouldn't mean that the conversation was over.
Nor would it mean that you were about to be subjected to terrible, terrible violence. This young man kicked my legs from under me, wrenched me round in what I think is a sort of a judo move, pinned me to the ground, wrenched my arms behind my back
and handcuffed me.
Naturally I was bridling at this moment and he called his colleagues to his assistance. I had five burly policemen pinioning me to the ground, pressing my neck with really very severe pain. I'm a mass of contusions and grazes.
I was traumatised, disorientated, my conference programme was in the gutter and I was begging them to give it back to me and to give me my spectacles back. I still find it incredible that an ageing, mild-mannered professor of impeccable antecedent,
should be the subject of such abominable treatment.
The professor was handcuffed to another suspected criminal in a "filthy, foetid paddy wagon" to be transported to jail and had his fingerprints and mugshot taken. With his bail set at £720 but with no way to get the cash, Prof Fernandez-Armesto
remained incarcerated, until he eventually got out with the help of a professional bail agent.
In court the following day he explained to the judge and charges were dropped.
Officer Leonpacher denied that he overreacted, saying the historian repeatedly refused to co-operate: I used an excessive amount of discretion.
Atlanta's mayor, Shirley Franklin, said: We want everyone who visits Atlanta to find Atlanta to be friendly and helpful.
Update: Belligerent Prosecution
7th July 2007
When the case came to court, an embarrassed prosecutor accepted that a man in a bomber jacket might not look to a visiting European like a police officer. He suggested a plea of nolo contendere (no contest) but Professor Fernandez-Armesto feared
a stain on his record might put his green card in jeopardy. Eventually, all charges were dropped.
But now an internal investigation by the Atlanta Police has backed Officer Leonpacher. A police spokeswoman, Judy Pal, pointed out that Professor Fernandez-Armesto was not arrested for jaywalking but for disobeying a lawful order from an officer.
The police interviewed witnesses, including two civilians, who backed the officer's version of events. They accused the professor of being belligerent.
Professor Fernandez-Armesto dismissed the investigation as "profoundly incompetent" and said the investigators never sought his side of the story. He still bears scars on his head from the scuffle. He said he may sue.