Fort Worth Police Officer Lightly Reprimanded for Causing Brain Damage

The Fort Worth (Texas) city council approved a $120,000 settlement for a man beaten in police custody. According to a newspaper report, the victim received a broken nose, a shattered eye socket, and traumatic brain damage, while the officer responsible for the abuse received only a light reprimand for his actions.

In late 2008, Carey Cass Hudson was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a charge later dropped by prosecutors. Hudson initially only filed an insurance claim for his medical bills, which prompted an informal inquiry into the incident. The police did not release a video, and no disciplinary punishment was issued.

It was not until several months later that Hudson sued two officers, including Collin Harris, at the station where he was being held. Seemingly unprovoked, Harris can be seen in the video (above) slamming the handcuffed Hudson against a wall and then throwing him to the floor. Harris refused two paramedics and a nurse access to the once-unconscious Hudson even as blood can be seen coming from Hudson’s head area. It was only after Hudson had posted bail and was released several hours later did he receive medical attention, according to his lawsuit that incidentally was thrown out of court.

An official complaint was not filed until August of 2009, when Hudson sued, several months after the city had initially dismissed any allegation of misconduct. Only after Hudson sued did the internal investigation uncover video of the abuse. “During that time, the clock on the type of discipline that could be imposed on officers was ticking, and it ran out in December 2008,” said the Star-Telegram article.

According to the state’s civil service privileges, disciplinary complaints must be filed within 180 days of an incident. Instead of being fired, as the recently installed police chief had wanted, the officer was given a written reprimand and ordered to attend anger management classes.

The settlement offered by the city will not cover the medical expenses for Hudson’s injuries, which he estimates are $300,000.

Lessons to Learn

Police abuse is becoming a growing problem, and has been for a long time, in part because of the imbalance of power in the police’s favor and the deference they get from the public. Their word is the law. Nothing is more authoritarian (and ripe for abuse) than that, and they have a multi-million dollar organization behind them that can throw the book at you. I am sure that many officers get into this line of work to help the public. That is very admirable. But we can see how even well-intentioned people can become tainted by the disproportionate power they hold over others, particularly when the power is granted by an already aggressively violent institution. The police are wrongly granted special privileges but at least should be held to a higher standard because of it. The fact that they police their own only leads to greater infringements of liberty. It goes to show that when giving a monopoly the sole responsibility for providing a service, the quality of that service they provide will reflect the poorest of quality for an exuberant price.

Even if Hudson is fully restituted for the moral crimes committed against him, it will not be the officers responsible for his injuries who pay. It will be taxpayers who get the bill. With the city of Fort Worth already facing a historic $77 million budget deficit next year, or 15 percent of its general fund, it will give even more reason to push for higher taxes, already some of the most expensive in the state, to an even greater level.