This video depicting Sgt. James Kuehnlein terrorizing a young motorist has erupted on the internet, shocking the nation, and providing a poignant reminder that police lunacy is alive and well in the USA.
It all started when 20-year-old Brett Darrow left his cell phone at a friend’s house. They made plans to meet at a public parking lot, but upon entering the lot after dark, Darrow was confronted by Sgt. Kuehnlein. When he asked the officer what was wrong, Sgt. Kuehnlein flew into a frenzied rage, hurling threats and obscenities.
Sgt. Kuehnlein: Ever get smart mouth with a cop again, I show you what a cop does. You understand me?
Brett Darrow: Yes Sir
Sgt. Kuehnlein: Try to talk back, talk back to me again and I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something. You wanna come up with something? I come up with nine things.
There’s plenty more where that came from, and Sgt. Kuehnlein is now on unpaid leave. His superiors are in full damage control mode, distancing themselves from the officer’s behavior and assuring the public that this sort of thing will not be tolerated.
As an advocate for civil rights and police accountability it is upsetting to know that such gratuitous misconduct still comes easily to some officers. These events persist despite decades of social justice activism and systemic reforms aimed at increasing police professionalism. Moreover, the outrageous actions of the worst officers undermine our efforts to inform the public about basic constitutional rights that really do still protect most citizens most of the time.
That said, it is certainly encouraging to see forums like YouTube and Google Video blossoming into powerful tools for exposing and combating police misconduct in the 21st century. Through these venues, unfiltered images can enter the public consciousness with remarkable efficiency. Once the video went online, it became successful on Digg.com, a site that ranks stories through a democratic voting system. In sum, internet users broke this story and forced the mainstream media to pay attention. That’s exciting to see.