These Are Your Cops on Drugs

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The NYPD responds to a complaint at a local community center, and somehow manages to turn a misunderstanding into a curb-stomping:


The video, posted online on Sunday night by CrownHeights.info, shows Officer Vega punching the head and body of Ehud Halevy, 21, and another officer from the 71st Precinct, Yelena Bruzzese, battering Mr. Halevy with a baton for more than two minutes last week as he tries to fend off the blows. 

According to a criminal complaint, the officers said Mr. Halevy had attacked them, causing one to suffer a sprained wrist, during an encounter on Oct. 8 in the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults on East New York Avenue in Crown Heights. Mr. Halevy was charged with a felony count of assault on police officers. 

But the seven-minute video seems to contradict the officers' account: It does not show Mr. Halevy striking either officer, though he does pull away from Officer Vega, using an arm to push off the officer and break free. The video was taken by a surveillance camera in the center's lounge.

The incident began because Halevy was sleeping on the couch and employee called the cops on him. But the rabbi who runs the center said it was actually a misunderstanding:

In fact, Rabbi Feiglin said in a telephone interview on Monday, Mr. Halevy had permission to stay overnight at the center. He needed "a place to crash for a short period," the rabbi said. Rabbi Feiglin added that it was unclear what had prompted Mr. Zalman to call the police, since Mr. Halevy had been sleeping in the lounge for about a month.

As shocking as this video might be, I think it's important to realize that the cops in the case evidently falsified a report. That might cost them their badges, something that almost never happens in police brutality cases. But it isn't as if cops changing a beat-down to self-defense is somehow new. 

I've basically quit blogging about this sort of thing. It's just too common. You could fill a blog with this stuff. Oh, wait.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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