7.21.2014

California Highway Patrol Seizes Medical Records Of Woman An Officer Was Caught On Tape Beating

Today's demonstration of post-brutality scrambling is brought to you by the California Highway Patrol. First off, we'll take a look at the "alleged" brutality, which looks incredibly similar to non-alleged brutality. (Apologies for the watermark the person who recorded the incident slapped all over the video.)





This head-punching (David Diaz, who recorded the incident, counts 15 punches in total) was performed as an act of civil service, according to the CHP.
Speaking to the television station ABC7, the California Highway Patrol said that the officer had ordered the woman to stop walking, out of fears for her safety.

She failed to follow this order, possibly due to mental illness. After the unnamed officer's fists were finished ensuring her safety, the CHP sent the woman to a mental health facility and refused to allow her family to see her. The video surfaced shortly thereafter, forcing the CHP to make further statements about how "physically combative" the woman was, as well as expressing its utmost desire to find a way out of this to see justice done.
"We're looking at every possibility, every fact, every circumstance that have contributed to this situation, and we're going to try to come to a just conclusion," Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Chris O'Quinn said at a news conference on Friday.

"Just," in this context, seems to actually mean "exonerating." The investigation continues, apparently, albeit in unexpected (and terrible) directions.
California Highway Patrol investigators have seized the medical records of a woman seen on video being repeatedly punched by one of its officers on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.



Chris Arevalo, executive administrator for psychiatric services at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, confirmed that the CHP served the search warrant Tuesday for Marlene Pinnock's records.

Why the CHP would need to seize the records, rather than just view them, is completely inexplicable. The person served the warrant noted that it was issued to grab "property or things" as part of a felony investigation, which apparently included communications with her doctor about her well-being and "references to her attorney."



I'm sure the ongoing investigation will clarify the CHP's need to violate its victim's privacy before this debacle is wrapped up. That's how it works. But it looks like an uphill battle. The statement released by the CHP commissioner sounds like even he was caught off-guard by this bizarre, smells-like-a-cover-up records seizure.
"I think what they're trying to do is, they don't have a statement from her, and they're trying to find that out," Farrow said. "I don't think the CHP is trying to put her on trial or make it an issue about her. What I'm looking at is entirely about the circumstances, we all saw what happened. Our job is to find out the why and the how."

So, the CHP gets statements by hospitalizing someone and seizing their medical records. While these records may offer some insight as to why she didn't immediately follow the officer's instructions, they really don't fill the "statement" void -- unless the CHP is going to further violate her privacy by releasing a statement on its own behalf using information gleaned from the seized records. As it stands now, it looks exactly like the CHP is planning to "make it an issue about her." If it isn't, then perhaps it might quid pro quo with the release of the disciplinary records of involved officers.



Moving on from this larger wrongness, I'd like to take a little time to point to the complicity of the Associated Press in the low-level whitewashing of this latest development by using that famous law enforcement standby, the passive voice.



My first notification came to me via Officer.com, whose headline read:
CHP Seizes Medical Records of Woman Seen Punched

"Seen punched?" Punched by whom? By the CHP, of course, not that this headline indicates that. As far as this headline goes, it may have just been a random mugging. A more accurate headline would be "CHP Seizes Medical Records of Woman They Were Seen Punching." Clumsy, but more honest. Considering this AP story was reposted by a police-centric site, the passive voice is completely expected. But it's not just cop sites like Officer.com. It's other places as well.











The AP buries the lede and other media sites run the feed without even altering it. Of course, Police One took the AP's weak title and made it even worse.
CHP seizes medical records of woman in scuffle with cop

Not only does it side more with the CHP, but it also makes it appear as though the CHP seized her records during the "scuffle."



We expect this use of the passive voice from police officers. The media doesn't really need to assist law enforcement spokespeople in their blame-deflection efforts. When misconduct allegations arise, they're always followed by details of "weapons discharging" and innocent bystanders "receiving gunshot wounds" and officers never striking anybody but always "responding" to actions, movements or words from some person whose personal safety was ensured by hospitalization.



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