November 10, 2023
From The Real News Network
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The Bermudez family of Childress, TX, were spending the day enjoying music together at home when the sudden appearance of local police turned their day, and their lives, upside-down. Responding to a noise complaint, Childress police swiftly escalated the situation into a warrantless raid of the Bermudez household that ended with the arrest of the entire family. Texas cop watcher Manuel Mata joins Police Accountability Report for a breakdown on what occurred, the state of the Bermudez family after this harrowing experience, and how this all fits in with the behavior of police across the state.

Studio Production: Stephen Janis
Post-Production: Adam Coley


TRANSCRIPT

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Taya Graham:

Hello, my name is Taya Graham and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I always make clear, this show has a single purpose, holding the politically powerful institution of policing accountable, and to do so, we don’t just focus on the bad behavior of individual cops, instead, we examine the system that makes bad policing possible, and today we will achieve that goal by showing you this video. It depicts an unwarranted and aggressive raid on a house over a noise complaint, but it is how police escalated the encounter and what they did when the occupants pushed back that we will be unpacking for you today, a clear example of how police power can be abused and the consequences when it is not put in check, but before we get started, I want you to know that if you have video evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at [email protected], or you can reach out to me at Facebook or Twitter on Taya’s Baltimore and we might be able to investigate for you. And please like, share, and comment on our videos.

It helps us get the word out and it can even help our guests, and of course, you know I read your comments and appreciate them. You see those little hearts I give out down there, and I’ve even started doing a comment of the week to show you how much I appreciate your thoughts and also to show off what a great community we have. And we do have a Patreon called Accountability Reports, so if you feel inspired to donate, please do. We don’t run ads or take corporate dollars, so anything you can spare is truly appreciated. All right, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Now, if there’s one trend we’ve reported on consistently on this show, it is the continued assault on our constitutional rights by the overreach of American police. In story after story and incident after incident, law enforcement constantly encroaches on the rights that are bestowed upon us for offenses both trivial and mundane, and in doing so, they have both diluted and in some cases eliminated many of the most important protections that were deemed essential 225 years ago, but not so much today.

And no encounter with police is more exemplary of this erosion of our rights than the video I am showing you right now. It depicts police entering a home based solely on a noise complaint and then using that pretext to assault the occupants. The troubling abuse of police power that we have learned was based upon shaky legal ground and has continued to have severe consequences for the people who experienced it. The story starts in Childress, Texas when a family was spending time in their home committing the horrifying crime of listening to music. Apparently though, Childress Police felt it was too loud, so they took time from more urgent crime fighting duties to take a visit. Just watch.

Speaker 2:

I just got here. What’s the problem? Go inside, now.

Somebody called and complained about loud music and I talked to…

It’s not 10 o’clock, so I mean…

It doesn’t matter, it’s disorderly conduct.

Yeah it does.

Oh, it does?

It does because…

You want to go to jail for it?

I can’t go to jail for that. I know the laws.

Yeah, you can. It’s disorderly conduct. You think I don’t know the law? 213, meet me over here. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.

You can’t arrest me on this[inaudible 00:02:59].

Yes, I can.

No, you can’t, sir.

Oh, yes I can.

You cannot…

Taya Graham:

And just a note, during the daytime, an officer would need to measure more than 65 decibels on an approved sound level meter at more than 50 feet away from the source. Did you hear any music? And you may have noticed that the resident actually knew the hours he was allowed to play the music and shared that with the officer and then simply chose to return indoors as he wasn’t under arrest and standing on private property. However, the officer took serious issue with his exercise of his rights. Take a look.

Speaker 2:

You cannot come in here.

Yes, I can.

No, you can’t.

We’ll turn it down.

No.

No.

You’re under arrest.

No, [inaudible 00:03:34] sir. You cannot step in my house.

No.

This is the first time…

Get in here.

You got to have a warrant to come in.

Hey, don’t push me.

You got to have a warrant to come in here.

Hey, you got to have a warrant.

She just had a fucking baby.

She just had a baby.

Taya Graham:

Now, it’s important to point out that yes, officers generally do need a warrant to enter a private residence. However, that requirement can be waived if someone is in immediate danger, evidence is being destroyed, or they’re chasing a suspect who has committed a crime, otherwise known as fresh pursuit. However, I think it’s questionable. You know what, scratch that, implausible that any of the actions by this family met that threshold, but I’ll let you decide as you watch, take another look.

Speaker 2:

She just had a baby.

I’m trying to give you…

… Up, but way.

You can’t come in.

… Get out of the way.

You can’t. That’s what…

He goes in custody.

You got to have a warrant to come in.

He goes in custody.

You got to have a warrant to come in.

No, you can’t arrest…

You have a camera. Fuck this shit.

You got to have a warrant.

Come here.

You got to have a warrant.

Hey, my baby’s right there.

Hey. [inaudible 00:04:36] The baby.

Taya Graham:

Now, what happens next is precisely what I highlighted in the beginning of this video. One of the occupants of the home did what any American has the right to do, that is petition the government, so to speak, to recognize his rights, and just because his particular representative has a badge and gun does not automatically diminish that, right, but unfortunately, this officer was having none of it. Just watch.

Speaker 2:

Look what you’re doing. You harming a baby.

Settle.

No, no.

Settle.

No. I know my laws, I’ve been to jail. I read the book and everything. You have nothing to go treat her… No, no.

Turn around.

I’m not going to turn around for what?

Because I’m putting you in custody.

For what?

Because I’m detaining you.

For what?

You hurt my baby.

I just told you.

For what? No, you don’t even got a search warrant to be in here. You need a search… Bring a search warrant. Until I see a search warrant.

209 Childress send us another unit.

Where’s the search warrant? You’re in the house. You’re in the house.

Taya Graham:

Finally, after literally failing to state probable cause for entering the home and pushing a recently pregnant mother of a newborn to the ground, the officer again escalates by deploying his taser. Take another look.

Speaker 2:

And you just went…

Get back.

I’ll get back. You’re in the house. You get back. Get back.

Send us another unit.

Get back. You’re over here. You’re making me scared. You’re taking a taser. You’re pointing a taser at me.

Because you were getting in my way of trying to detain…

You’re pointing a taser at me. You have to have a search warrant to be in the house.

Yes.

You have to have a search warrant to be in the house.

No, I don’t.

Yes you do. Where is the search warrant?

Get down.

Where is the search warrant? Why am I going to get down? You’re in the house. You came in…

Get down.

… Without no search warrant. Without no search warrant. You could go over there and taze me, but one thing, you’re being wrong. You’re being wrong right now. You’re in the house without a search warrant.

All I’m asking. All I’m asking.

I’m asking you to [inaudible 00:06:36].

Get down. Get down. Put your hands behind your back right now, or you’re going to get it again.

Taya Graham:

Now, the chaos you’ve just witnessed was just the beginning of the fallout for this family as police and prosecutors have continued to pursue them, a struggle we will be discussing with Texas cop watcher Manuel Mata shortly, but before we do, I want to go to my reporting partner, Steven Janis, who’s been reaching out to police for comment and looking into the case. Steven, thank you so much for joining me.

Stephen Janis:

Taya, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Taya Graham:

Now Steven, how are the Childress police justifying the raid? What are they saying?

Stephen Janis:

Well, Taya, we actually have some breaking news on that question because we found some more video that gives a different perspective on what went on inside the house, and we’re going to show it to you now. This shows what happens when police entered that room and started arresting the woman who had just recently given birth to a child. Take a look.

Speaker 2:

He didn’t do anything.

I’m in shit, because I’m playing my fucking music. Because I’m playing my music.

My baby is right there. Look.

You see my scars? I just had surgery for fucking [inaudible 00:07:33].

Hey, why did you push me like that?

Because you were getting in my way of trying to detain him.

So you pushed me?

Yes.

So you pushed me all the way to the ground?

You have to have a search warrant to be in the house.

Stephen Janis:

Now as you can see, the officers go beyond just arresting her for no reason, they then threatened to take her children away from her with child protective services. Take another look and watch it, and just, I want to look this sink in a little bit about what they were threatening her with.

Speaker 2:

Because you’re the police.

Turn around.

Best believe all this shit is going on fucking Facebook.

Turn around.

All we were doing was playing music.

Look, look, look, my baby’s right fucking here and this mother-fucker.

Hey, hey, calm down.

I’ve had surgery. I had surgery on my…

Get down. Put your hands behind your back right now or you’re going to get it again.

What the hell? Y’all can’t come in my house like this.

When I tried to arrest and detain him…

No, no.

… For disorderly conduct.

He didn’t do nothing. He didn’t do nothing. All they were doing was playing fucking music. He didn’t do nothing wrong.

Yes he did.

What did he do?

Disorderly conduct.

What did he do?

I told you.

What did he do? Explain it. Explain it. Hey, hey, hey.

Take them off me.

What?

Turn around.

My baby’s right there. I didn’t do nothing. What did I do?

No.

I did not.

Do you have anybody to call?

No, I don’t. I didn’t do anything. What did I do?

Notify CPS.

No, I’ll call my mom.

Stephen Janis:

So as you can see, the video does not lie. The video tells us that this arrest was just worse than you can even possibly imagine in the sense of being destructive for this poor family that had to deal with it. I am being a little biased here because I just don’t see how a noise complaint should lead to multiple arrests and separating someone from their children, regardless. So it’s very disturbing.

Taya Graham:

Steven, what does Texas law say and the Constitution say about entering someone’s home without a warrant? What does the law actually say?

Stephen Janis:

Taya, as you said in the opening of the show, there are very few reasons why you could actually storm into someone’s house. You have to have a warrant, generally speaking, unless someone has committed a violent crime or there’s a safety issue, I don’t think any of those laws apply to this situation. I mean, if it is exactly how it seems on the video that this was a noise complaint, I don’t see any reason that this is justified legally or constitutionally. It’s just not right.

Taya Graham:

So what do you think is problematic about this use of police force? What concerns does it raise for you because I know you’ve done a lot of reporting on tasers?

Stephen Janis:

Taya, what I see here is something I’ve seen in policing generally called rapid escalation, where police simply ratchet up the intensity of the situation when people don’t automatically comply. Remember, we have constitutional rights that allow us to push back, that give us certain rights when we’re in custody of police, and police here just rapidly escalate into use of force for no reason at all. There was no threat, no imminent public threat, nothing that would’ve justified this, so really to me, this is an absolute abuse of power and why we have to keep producing this show.

Taya Graham:

And now to discuss what has happened to this family since and how police are continuing to disrupt their lives and what the fallout has been because of this questionable raid. I’m joined by Texas Cop watcher Manuel Mata. Manuel, thank you so much for joining me.

Manuel Mata:

I’m glad to be here with you again, and glad this time it’s not really about something that happened to me that I’m able to bring something else that needs to be put out there. And also I’d like to thank you and appreciate the work that you and Steven do, and hopefully you let him inside more.

Taya Graham:

So you’ve spoken at length with Juan Bermudez, the gentleman in the shirt, in the video. Why did the police approach his home?

Manuel Mata:

They alleged that a neighbor had called a noise complaint. The officer responded to the noise complaint. If you notice, that’s really the officer’s frustrated because Lewis wasn’t like standing, he said, “Okay, fine, I’ll turn it down. Sorry.” So when Juan comes home, he doesn’t have time to talk to his brother and he has the time to get told him that, “Hey, the cops just came. They said to turn it down.” So he just puts his phone and turned it up like nothing happened. He just came back from the store and that’s when the cop wasn’t even that far. He said he was routed around the corner and pulls back up and it’s like going, now I’ve experienced one to a hundred, but this was like… I’ve never experienced to where they go snap like that quick.

Taya Graham:

I was also surprised by how quickly police escalated the situation.

Manuel Mata:

Well, whenever he walked, stepped back in, that’s when he was trying to explain to him what was the issue. The whole explanation was valid. There’s no, the actual noise complaint thing is after 10, and literally he had to use a decimal reader. So what this police officer does, he crosses their threshold and that’s when the girlfriend, the brother comes out and she doesn’t understand what’s happening. That’s why she says, “I’ll turn it down, okay, okay?”, like Tyna could snap the officer and try to deescalate, but the officer takes it as a form of aggression or interference, and it’s just like she’s trying to calm everyone down. And she doesn’t even get a chance to do that because as soon as she does that, he literally uses his arm to… First he’s trying to put distance and then she’s like, “Hey man, what are you doing?” So then you see him, what my problem was when his arm came back and that’s when it was like to get a grip and push her.

If there was a camera behind him, that’s what it would’ve showed, how he pulled his arm back, and when he went forward, he took it, I’m pretty sure he put his foot behind him to take that stance to push forward, and that’s when the sofa was right there and she was knocked off balance. There wasn’t no way she could have caught herself and he didn’t even, it’s like, here, push her out of the way, and then you see him focus on Luis. I had to watch this a couple times because it turns from he wants to arrest Juan, which is now inside of the room where the other officers are already trying to arrest him on the bed. So he’s focused on Luis in front of him, telling him he’s interfering. Why don’t he just turn around. Turn to the right and go in the room and arrest the brother like you’re saying.

Taya Graham:

So I heard Juan say in the video that he went into the other room to get something to record the encounter. Do you know what happened in that room?

Manuel Mata:

That’s when the other officer, I don’t remember his name off the top. That’s when the other officer that’s in there with him literally rushes him and completely pushes him through the door. And that’s when you see him try to turn around and explain, “Hey, my baby”, and he doesn’t get a chance to say baby, because that’s when he literally throws him on the bed and the officer didn’t even look to see if there was an actual baby, which it was, there was a sleeping baby on the bed, and his whole reason for resisting them isn’t because he is trying to get away from them, he’s trying to explain to him there’s a child right next to him. And all it was is he was going to get something to film. The good thinking of the girl. She grabbed her phone and started filming that interaction because I didn’t even know they made a video on Facebook that got a little bit of attention to, I didn’t even know that because what I found was the actual body camera footage.

Taya Graham:

So there was another young man, Juan’s brother, Luis, who was understandably upset by the way, the new mother, the mother of a newborn baby was pushed and he correctly said that the officer should not be in the house without a warrant or permission from the owner. Now, he was obviously upset, but he obeyed when the officer asked him to step back, what happened to him?

Manuel Mata:

The officer continued to… He never deescalated. If anything, he escalated even worse because exactly when you see him addressing him, he’s explained to him, “Hey, well there you go, turn your”, he’s even making sure he understands is it recording? That’s why he’s trying to get him to turn around and go in there if that’s his issue, but he’s focused on him, and then you hear him give him these unlawful and illegal orders of get down, comply. And it’s like his brain was functioning on this guy’s a threat, and to me, if someone’s standing with their hands behind their back, how is that a threat? And you’re the one that has your, and the whole time you’re shaking. That’s what got me nervous watching this because imagine if it wasn’t a taser and he had this in his hands like this and his hands like this, and he literally had to put his other hand over it to steady his aim.

That in itself is a problem because he was complying, he was trying to get you to deescalate and you chose not to. He was asking you, “Please get out of my house, show me a warrant”, which anybody which is inside of their home has the right to tell anybody that they do not want their out to get out. Right? And people are offended that this young man asserted his rights against tyrannical police officers. He’s literally telling them, his hand’s not even coming at him in a threatening manner. He’s saying, “I just need you to show me the effing…”, and then boom, he gets hit.

Taya Graham:

So what was Juan charged with?

Manuel Mata:

That day he was charged with interfering, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Taya Graham:

And how is Juan fighting these charges?

Manuel Mata:

Well, he explained was that he literally had to come up with money to bond out, but he was working at the time, so he was able to. The only thing he had to raise money to get Lewis out, it was kind of crazy because he stated that they didn’t see a magistrate. They weren’t told how much a bond was, just somebody gave him a piece of paper and said, “This is how much you’re going to have to pay to get out.” And they paid that, and he hired an attorney. I’m not a hundred percent sure if he’s on probation right now or it’s already over. That’s how he explained to me, it was either a little bit of time, probation, community service and something else he agreed to, but he said he didn’t know.

And while he was telling me his story, the only frustrating part was, “I didn’t know how to fight back. I was young and I was scared what they were going to do to me and my brother. And it was just this whole thing and it was just like I didn’t know how to fight back and I didn’t know how to fight back for my brother.” And that was the whole thing. They took advantage of two brothers that didn’t understand the law or the criminal system.

Taya Graham:

So the young man, Luis, who was tasered, what was he charged with? I believe he was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. I think you said these charges were dropped, but he’s still in prison now?

Manuel Mata:

They were dismissed. They weren’t even on the paperwork that I’ve seen on the appeal. It was stated that those charges were dismissed. I tried to figure out how this could be possible and talking to Juan and I wanted to go talk to the actual person that they’re saying that he’s allegedly on the probation floor because he dropped it. I know there was no case between them, but looking on the paperwork, it clearly states a law enforcement officer claimed that Lewis aggravated assaulted him by cutting him, but they filed that a month after he was in jail. The lawyer that Lewis had, he sent him up the river thinking it was a good thing to sign this piece of paper without reading it. It was basically he got 18 years because he admitted to using drugs and drinking underage. That’s the extent of the evidence that they have to give this young man 18 years for violating that four year probation.

It all stems from this arrest. He would’ve never got in court. He would’ve never had to bond out if them officers would’ve never did what they did to him that day. They knew they were in the wrong with this disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and interfering in all this. So instead of admitting wrong, they convinced a young man to plead guilty to him using drugs and drinking. And in the little fine print it says, by the way, we’re charging you with this, this, this, this. And he didn’t pay attention to the little fine print. It was just the taking advantage of two kids that were in a small neighborhood because they don’t have their parents. They don’t, sad to say certain situation created where they don’t have both of their parents and them brothers, that’s all they had, each other.

Taya Graham:

Have you heard of other incidents of excessive force with this police department?

Manuel Mata:

There was a couple other cases too where Nancy, this is the thing because we’ve tried to screen record a lot of these hearings and I think when we started posting about Childress, Texas and all that, now the guy that does the YouTube, he’s taking all the videos off of YouTube and they won’t give the body cam footage to the people that are requesting it, and this is a confusing little town because that’s what I went to go do. And it was like, you can’t even find the police station. It’s literally attached to the back of city hall on the side, and if you don’t know exactly where it is, I literally passed it walking twice.

Taya Graham:

So how do you think they should have handled this alleged noise complaint?

Manuel Mata:

The officer first and foremost should have recognized that he was talking to two different people. Then he would’ve addressed it a different way because he would’ve known that, “Hey, I didn’t tell him, so let me go in and tell him too.” “Hey, by the way, hey, I just came here. I noticed you’re not the same person I talked to, but if you wouldn’t mind just turning the music down and everything will be fine.” And if the response would’ve been, “Hey, I don’t have to until 10 o’clock”, and then the officer could’ve been, “Yeah, you’re right”, or it would’ve been room for an open discussion to come to an understanding and there was not. He literally shut that door to where there was only… Well, look what happened. He wanted the young man to match his aggression because he didn’t like his response, and when the young man tried to retreat, he still didn’t like that. The thing that was frustrating the most is when he’s sitting here arguing and grabbing it. The music was off the whole time.

Taya Graham:

I know in your work as a cop watcher that one of your goals is to help protect people’s civil rights and help educate them on their rights. What do you hope will be the result of helping Juan and his family get their story out to the public?

Manuel Mata:

I hope it does two things. It gives the reunification of this, his family, because I think that that young man shouldn’t be in prison. If he did violate it, I think it should be accordingly, which is the four years that he agreed to be on probation for, not 18. And secondly, I hope this brings sort of a protection to people that are considered not part of people they should respect their rights. Well, you never know that, them cop watchers might come back. Now they know that they’re somewhere close. They’re somewhere around because they hide behind the fact that no one knows. So if they’re able to intimidate two brothers, because I understand the, “Hey man, this, this, this”, but when you’re sitting in a building in a cell in a room and there’s two people telling you this is what they’re going to do to you for the next 18 years of your life, it’s like you break down from the tough guy image and you’re like, “How did I get here?”

And I could never, I know what he’s feeling, sitting there thinking, “They just gave me 18 years, man. Wow.” And it’s like the whole time you’re screaming to the top of your lungs, “It’s wrong. It’s wrong.” And no one listens, no one’s hearing you. And it just makes me feel like doing this. “We hear you. I heard you.” Even if he got silenced and he’s in prison, I heard it. I saw it, and I want to give that hope to everybody, man, that not everything is always going to stay in the dark.

Taya Graham:

And finally, can you update us on any of the cases that you’re currently facing?

Manuel Mata:

Well, all of them are dismissed. All my cases got dismissed. I was facing seven. Those got dismissed. I pled guilty to a trespass because technically by the law, the only argument I would have is if I approved something in civil court and that’s irrelevant in criminal court. And when I understood that I had to be real with myself. So they gave me one day credit time served, and then the two cases that I have on appeal now is my lawyer. He’s a good dude. I actually talked to him. He’s pretty all right, my appeal lawyer, he says that he don’t understand how they were able to do that. So I’m pretty sure we’re going to win with these two other ones in the appeal. Then it starts suing them, man. And a lot of people have tried to criticize me about that, about that I did all this for the money, but they don’t understand, I’m only going to take money for a few of them.

The rest of them is going to be to force them to change their policies, the way they investigate crimes. What happens when you get arrested, when you go to jail? I want to change that way. That way everything’s fair across the board because the only ones that get special treatments are cops that break the law, and I don’t think that’s right. I think they should hold everybody to the same form of accountability treatment and the same degree of the law. I don’t think nobody should be above or under it. I think everybody should be at the same line and it’s all to leave something behind to show that even though that I started wrong, that I ended in the right way.

Taya Graham:

Okay. Normally at this part of the show, I do a little rant about a troubling facet of American policing. In other words, I drilled down into a flawed part of our law enforcement process to facilitate a broader discussion about what needs to be changed and what needs to be entirely overhauled with the system, so to speak, that makes bad policing possible, but today, instead of focusing on one specific example, I want to ask perhaps a broader question by instead focusing on a state, namely Texas, and specifically why do we keep finding ourselves reporting on it? I mean, just over the past year, we have covered roughly half a dozen troubling stories from the Lone Star state. Briefly, we have recounted how Manuel Mata was arrested in Fort Worth in a courtroom for attending the trial of a cop convicted for murdering Tatiana Jefferson. We covered the ongoing legal fight of HBO Matt and Corner’s News who happened charged, again, with organized crime for simply videoing police in public.

We told you the story of Texas resident Rigoberto Barrientos whose leg was severed during a domestic dispute, which left him in a wheelchair even though he was neither violent nor uncooperative. We also investigated in detail the questionable DUI arrest of veteran first responder Thomas C, whose life altering encounter with three Denton Texas Sheriffs led to his firing from his job as a Dallas firefighter even though charges were dropped and prosecutors told us, “They have no evidence of the case.” Of course, I can’t leave out one of the recent reports that showed how Brittany Trevino was arrested by a New Braunfels police officer for, and I’m not kidding, for giving him the finger. Of course, we can’t forget Julie Clark and her husband Robert, who pulled over for failing to signal soon enough, 100 feet before a turn, and for that heinous crime, Robert was violently arrested and pulled out of his car.

All of these cases point to a very specific problem in a very specific state, a state that often professes its allegiance to law enforcement but doesn’t seem to hold the same affection for the citizens they have chosen to protect and serve. Well consider a special program in Texas that recently came to light in a small town that I think certainly explains in part why the state produces so many seemingly questionable arrests. It’s called the Step Program or Selective Active Enforcement Program to be specific, and thank you for the tip, Hamlin, Texas, you know who you are. It’s a grant-based funding plan that is based on a simple premise. The more cops pull people over, the safer we will be and to incentivize that it offers overtime to officers who do just that, pull people over mostly for minor traffic infractions. Now it’s interesting, if not perhaps coincidental, that almost all the questionable arrests we have reported on, involved, you guessed it, traffic stops except of course, for the horrible case of causing permanent injury to Mr. Barrientos, the rest of all the front encounters start with a traffic stop.

The consequences of this incentive to intervene came to a head, as I mentioned before, in a small town called Hamlin, Texas. So according to the coverage of the conflict over the policy there to meet the grant requirements and obtain funding for overtime, Hamlin officers had to stop roughly two cars per hour. That’s regardless if the motorist had broken the law or done anything wrong, cops had to pull someone over. The program led to a steep rise in traffic stops in the town. That increased prompted a local businessman to confront the city council. His complaint, officers kept pulling his employees over even if they hadn’t committed traffic offenses, disrupting his business. So the program has caused a deep division in the town, where residents have called for the town to withdraw from it.

But I think this type of incentivized policing is part of a broader problem. I think it’s indicative of a culture of law enforcement that is in part responsible for the Texas brand of chaotic policing we have witnessed on this show. I mean, think about it. Think about what it means when you tell a cop he or she can make money as long as they catch enough fish. Consider what happens when cops can use their extraordinary power to line their own pockets. Well, the first thing that happened is that the integrity of the entire system became not just questionable but laughable. If you turn policing into an opportunist and capitalist driven enterprise, then you might as well resign yourself to the dystopian world depicted in the 1987 movie, Robocop, where police work for corporations and the law is for sale.

But secondly, I think you turn all the justification that has been hammered into us by police partisans on its head. I mean, aren’t we always told that car stops are the most dangerous form of policing? Aren’t we constantly being browbeaten that cops can’t be held accountable because they’re constantly risking their lives on our behalf? Well, if that’s true, then why on earth would you pay them to pull more people over? Why would you give them an incentive to engage in deadly behavior? Why would you fatten their paychecks to take death-defying risks and the benefits seem at least negligible and the consequences potentially fatal.

And if you’re a cop on the other side of the equation, the officer who now indeed sees motorists as dollar signs, exactly how does this change your perspective on your profession? Your job ostensibly is to enforce the law, but now you’re trolling for minor infractions. You’re literally fishing for suspects. Your job has suddenly been transformed from an agent of the law to proactive enforcer of arbitrary rules in service of a dollar sign. It’s literally paying for play and it’s policing at its worst, but even with all those aforementioned pitfalls, it’s clear that driving for dollars has even more serious consequences. Consequences we can prove by recounting our previously mentioned reporting because while we don’t know for sure if step incentives cause these incidents, it’s certainly possible the mentality it engendered among Texas law enforcement could explain the veritable litany of overreach we have reported on regarding the state.

So let’s do a little inventory and accounting of the actual consequences for the people who serve as the means to fatten the paychecks of Texas police officers. In the case of Thomas C, the lifelong first responder was forced to retire, shunned by his fellow firefighters and abandoned by his union. Oh, and he almost missed his father’s funeral because bail restrictions imposed on him. And then there’s Robert Clark, who allegedly forgot to signal a hundred feet in advance of a turn. He was forced to pay $500 bail, missed two days of work, was denied medical treatment and all of this while living in his camper after struggling after a life altering eviction. And let’s not forget, Brittany Trevino, whose horrible crime of allegedly failing to signal a lane change led to a near arrest. All of this harassment was proceeded by another arrest two years prior for having a CBD pipe in her car, an encounter that caused her legal fees, bail, missed time at work, and also injuries that continue to cause her pain.

And finally, we cannot forget Rigoberto Barrientos whose arrest can’t be tied to overaggressive traffic enforcement, but certainly overaggressive policing in general. Police took him to the ground during a domestic dispute and literally severed his leg. The former construction worker is now permanently disabled. He has been forced to sue the police department simply to cover his medical expenses and his life has been irreparably altered for the worst. And the examples I’ve recounted are just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, I think for every case that finds its way into our inbox, there are hundreds if not thousands more that are just as bad, that we never see. And if that’s true, I want you to think about what that means for people who are subjected to it. The point is that there are undercurrents that drive policing that have nothing to do with safety, law, order or any of the other ubiquitous platitudes that define the debate over it. Imperatives that don’t get enough attention but need to be exposed so we can understand why the mayhem we witness is happening in the first place.

And to that point, it’s revealing that the step program, however it is constructed, has a basic idea underlying all of it. A driving conceptualization that shows, not tells us, how policing can sometimes go truly awry in America. Put simply the program is based on money, namely overtime, more importantly, making cops richer, and this is where bad policing and bad policy intersect. This is why a country addicted to punishment finds itself at odds with its own people because as my accounting of the previous consequences show, the idea to turn cops into cash cows ignores the other side of the ledger that turns people’s lives upside down in order to fatten their paychecks. What I mean is just like other types of government intervention, the other side of the coin is often ignored at the expense of the people. I mean, think about the personal devastation and lifelong disruption, those minor arrests will cause.

Think about the direct costs and the court imposed financial extractions that result from the law enforcement overreach we just recounted to you. It’s all just another down payment on the theme that we often return to on this show, that over-policing and aggressive law enforcement is an instrumental part of our country’s historic economic inequality equation. A major facet, so to speak, of the concerted effort to create a 1% so wealthy and so powerful that the rest of us simply become non-player characters in a game which is rigged to make sure we lose no matter how many times we play. This is why we have to keep delving into simple car stops, even if they seem inconsequential on the surface. That’s why we have to unpack ostensibly routine police encounters that as we have demonstrated, are not so routine for the people who experience them.

And I assure you, we will not stop doing so until every single innocent person in this country has been heard and that the elites responsible for this injustice, have listened. I want to thank my guest, Manuel Mata for coming forward and sharing the Bermuda as his family story as well as for his cop watching that he does for his community. Thank you, Manuel. And of course, I have to thank Intrepid reporter Steven Janis for his writing, research and editing on this piece. Thank you Steven.

Stephen Janis:

Taya, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.

Taya Graham:

And I have to thank friend of the show, Noli D and Mod Lacey for their support. Thank you both. I appreciate you and for my patreons, I’m going to thank every single one of you personally in our next live stream, and thank you for staying to the end of this video. I want you to know that I appreciate you and that if you have video evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate. Please reach out. You can email us tips privately at [email protected], ensure your evidence of police misconduct. You can also message us at Police Accountability report on Facebook or Instagram or at Eyes on Police on Twitter. And of course you can always message me directly at Taya’s Baltimore on Twitter or Facebook. And please like and comment, I read your comments and appreciate them. And we do have a Patreon link pinned in the comments below for accountability reports.

So if you feel inspired to donate, please do. We don’t run ads or take corporate dollars, so anything you can spare is greatly appreciated. And if you can’t, that’s okay. Subscribe and leave a like and a comment because that helps too. My name is Taya Graham and I’m your host of the Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there.

Speaker 5:

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