By Jeremiah Bannister, editor of PaleoRadio.us & host of PaleoRadio
The Michigan State Police (hereinafter referred to as MSP) has concluded its investigation into whether Battle Creek Police Officer Christopher Hug used excessive force while arresting Kenneth Moye, a resident of Battle Creek. Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert summed it up with a word the Enquirer later chose to emphasize in their title: “justified.”
So sums up the controversy… well, for some, I suppose.
Afford me an indulgence here. Permit me to pull from Trace Christenson’s piece in the Enquirer, entitled, Prosecutor: Use of force by B.C. police Officer Christopher Hug “justified”, with each pull followed up by some questions and considerations of my own. My questions differ in their value and significance to the story but each is worthy of reflection and all of them seem to fit the journalistic criteria of relevance. If nothing else, I’m hoping that merely asking these questions publicly may afford readers with a more robust (and realistic) context from which to decide for themselves if the MSP investigation sufficiently answered whether excessive force was in fact used by Hug when attempting to arrest Moye.
So with no further ado, let’s begin with the official statement from Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert:
“The video supports what the state police investigator claims in his report.”
So far as I’m aware, the video Gilbert and the MSP are referring to is the one first obtained & published by PaleoRadio — something the Enquirer never felt a need to disclose to their readers. Personally, I find their use of that video to be worst than problematic — more on this in a moment; but Christenson doesn’t appear bothered by this, not in the slightest. Whether he pressed officials on how they reached such a conclusion from an objective observation of the surveillance video may forever remain unknown. What is plain to see, at least from my vantage point, is the willingness of Christenson & Gilbert to unquestionably follow the MSP in accepting Hug’s narrative at face-value. Lest you think this a harsh criticism, look for yourself as to whether Christenson, Gilbert or the MSP provided readers with even one meaningful insight as to how the MSP concluded from the available surveillance footage that Hug’s self-attestation was in fact verifiable & true, not just hearsay swaddled in conjecture.
So what exactly did Hug have to say? As reported by the Enquirer:
“In his interview with the state police, Hug said he told Moye several times to put his hands on the car. Hug attempted to move Moye’s foot to keep him off balance and said Moye moved his foot back and then attempted to kick the officer… Hug said he could feel Moye start to stiffen and push off the patrol car and it was then that Hug attempted to place Moye in handcuffs… Moye pulled his arm away, Hug said, and then attempted to turn and strike Hug with his elbow… Hug said, according to the report, that it was obvious to him that Moye was resisting and attempted to strike him with his elbow.”
Fair enough, so much for Hug’s claim. But doesn’t that beg a handful of questions? For example…
Where in the video may viewers witness Moye moving his foot back?
Where in the video may viewers verify whether Moye attempted to kick Hug?
Where in the video may anyone see Moye attempting to turn and strike Hug?
What bit of evidence at-hand did investigators invoke to meaningfully conclude one way or another whether Moye stiffened up his body with the intent to do harm to Hug?
On what grounds should we trust that Hug properly executed any technique that day?
And pardon my ignorance, but wouldn’t such actions qualify as attempted assault rather than mere resistance to arrest?
Was Moye initially charged with attempted assault on an officer as well as with resisting arrest?
If so, what were the charges, and why did the BCPD & prosecutor allow Moye to get off with simply resisting arrest?
Did Moye ever admit to such an attempt?
For that matter, why is Moye never quoted for public record in relation to the official investigation?
Hell, now that all is out in the open, why did the city ever issue 40 fully-blank pages to PaleoRadio’s Autumn Smith in response to her Freedom of Information Act request regarding “Statements from officers made in regard to incident number 1248315 (the Hug/Moye incident) including statements made by Rivera and Woolfolk”? She was charged $17.11 for 48-pages, 37 of which were completely blank! They weren’t even redacted!
Frankly, I’m entirely unsure how anyone could answer any of the questions concerning what may or may not be visibly verifiable within surveillance video given the angle of the camera capturing the incident. I could be wrong, and I’m entirely willing to admit as much, but I just don’t see how such a conclusion could be rendered from the camera angle available to investigators, and no one seems interested in detailing the “Here’s how!”
(Insertio – Christenson’s sequence of events & evidences notwithstanding, I think it’s entirely reasonable for people reading the Enquirer’s piece to conclude that Hug’s self-attestation of the incident stands out from all other available evidence as the singular clincher for the MSP & Gilbert to conclude that Hug was “justified” in his use of force.)
Then there’s the matter of Battle Creek Police Officer Tom Rivera. Quoting Christenson again:
“The state police also said that a description of the incident from another officer arriving on the scene was incorrect… The second officer, Tom Rivera, said he was unsure if Moye attempted to elbow Hug, said he was struck in the left side of the face and that Moye was down, got to his feet and was taken down a second time. Detective Michael Spring wrote that Rivera was not in a position to see the complete incident…”
But there’s more to this story, isn’t there, Trace?
Is it not also true that Rivera admitted to the possibility of inaccurately describing the incident?
Did Rivera not approach BCPD leadership, requesting to view the video?
Did Rivera not insist that seeing the video may help clarify/correct what he believed he had seen?
Was Rivera not barred by brass from seeing the surveillance video?
Is this not relevant?
Did the Enquirer’s excluding that bit of information (inadvertently?) paint Rivera in an unfair light?
And how does Detective Michael Spring’s assertion that, “Rivera was not in a position to see the complete incident” not also hold true for MSP investigators relying upon the surveillance video from the Liberty Mart?
Once again, and stated differently, how is any or all of this not relevant to those readers relying on the Enquirer as a local paper of record?
Lastly, and back to my original point: May people reasonably disagree with the conclusion of the MSP investigation?
I only ask this rhetorically as the Enquirer has provided an answer within the quoted opinion of Dr. Darrell Russ, chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Tragically, and as a potentially important side-note, Dr. Russ refused to comment on the MSP investigation. Nevertheless, when asked whether he agrees with Gilbert’s Monday ruling, he replied with seven words: “Two people can come to different conclusion.”
In light of the myriad of questions currently left unasked & unanswered, I’d concur…
For questions, comments, and inquiries regarding interviews & public speaking, contact me at email@example.com or at 269.317.1263. And don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter @Paleocrat! And don’t forget, PaleoRadio is on Facebook, too!