Home Assault and Battery A criminal past is important knowledge for law enforcement officers, but no excuse to beat a man as they hold him down

A criminal past is important knowledge for law enforcement officers, but no excuse to beat a man as they hold him down

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has a rule, No. 156, that requires mutual funds to remind potential investors of something those with common sense ought to have figured out: Past performance is not indicative of future results.

It’s a fair warning, a hedge that reminds people life is full of risks, not the least of which is losing one’s money by investing in the stock market. But the fact remains that past performance, while no guarantee, is just about the only information one has to gauge what the future might have in store.

We now know that 27-year-old Randal Worcester, the man brutally beaten Aug. 21 by three law enforcement officers outside a Mulberry convenience store in an incident a bystander video-recorded, has an extensive record of criminal behavior. In 2021, for example, he pleaded guilty to felony assault and battery after hitting an Oklahoma police officer in the face. For the assault, he received a three-year suspended sentence.

In 2020, Worcester received 120 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse after striking his father, according to court records.

It’s a standard procedure in law enforcement, when there’s time, for officers to learn what they can about someone with whom they’ve come into contact and who may have broken the law. That includes checking their criminal histories. Why? Because past behavior is no guarantee of future actions, but it’s useful information to let law enforcement officers know what they need to be prepared for.

The video from the Aug. 21 incident shows two Crawford County deputies and a Mulberry police officer holding Worcester down on concrete, one repeatedly plunging his knee into Worcester’s mid- and lower body while another uses his closed fist to pound Worcester’s head as it lay on the concrete.

The bystander’s video was posted on social media and spread quickly, far and wide, grabbing local and national coverage.

Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante has, accurately, pointed out a reality: As is almost always the case, a video like that doesn’t show the whole story. It’s reasonable to be aware of that before anyone jumps to any conclusions.

Indeed, Damante says Worcester “aggressively tackled” one of the officers trying to arrest him, slamming his head to the concrete and causing a concussion. Worcester also punched the officer on the head, according to Damante.

“The citizen video is troubling to watch, as is often the case when officers are trying to arrest a violent criminal with a history of assaulting police,” Damante said. “I understand that many people who have seen the video have concerns about the use of force used.”

Yes, people do. That includes Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has called what he saw on the viral video “reprehensible conduct.” It includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas and the Department of Justice, along with the FBI, who have opened a civil rights investigation. Damante has also said he doesn’t condone any of the actions shown in the video, even as he says there’s more to the story than what’s shown there.

We believe him. And like everyone else involved, we look forward to the day that all the details can be revealed.

We don’t recall yet seeing any information as to whether the three officers knew of Worcester’s violent history by the time they had taken him to the ground, but here’s the question: Does it matter, relative to the beating they inflicted once he was down, held by all three officers?

It’s important to note that nobody we’ve heard has suggested Worcester’s behavior didn’t merit arrest. Nobody we’ve heard has suggested the law enforcement officers weren’t placed in a situation that required them to gain control over a man behaving violently. They did, after all, have a duty to protect the public from a man who had reportedly wielded a knife and threatened an employee at an Alma gas station earlier.

Can the scene captured on the video that started all this public outcry, that some viewers have called “sickening,” be justified by any of the details not yet made public? Once a suspect of any kind is restrained by multiple officers, is there any legitimate law enforcement rationale for continuing to pound the suspect with knees and fists?

It sounds like the sheriff is simply suggesting everyone wait until all the details are known, through the multiple investigations. That, of course, is all anyone can do.

It will be shocking, though, if public policies and law enforcement procedures can offer any satisfactory reason for the beating unleashed on a man — even one with a criminal history — pinned to the ground.


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