This story is courtesy of the Better Government Association:
A Quad Cities police officer brutally beats department-store shoplifter without apparent provocation, and it's caught on video. But officer escapes criminal charges – and keeps his job.
The Better Government Association has obtained chilling video of a male police officer beating a female shoplifting suspect – apparently without provocation – in a mall along the Illinois-Iowa border earlier this year.
The footage – originating from a department store security camera and forwarded to the BGA by a source – shows the much larger officer pummeling the 34-year-old woman in front of her infant daughter. After knocking the woman to the floor, the officer rains numerous blows to her face and head, according to the video, which was authenticated by authorities.
"I was crying and begging him to get off me," Brandie Redell, the woman who was beaten, says in a recent interview with the BGA. Her right eye was injured in the incident, and she says her vision is still impaired.
The incident occurred Feb. 18, 2013, in an interview room inside the Von Maur department store in Davenport, Iowa, one of five Mississippi River towns along the Illinois-Iowa border that collectively are known as the Quad Cities.
Police were called after Von Maur employees observed Redell attempting to steal $388 worth of women's clothing, including three tops, one skirt and one dress, according to interviews and public records.
Davenport Police Officer Scott Crow, seen on the video punching Redell, was disciplined for using excessive force, says Police Chief Frank Donchez. He declined to specify the punishment or say if this was Crow's first offense.
Crow was not criminally charged and remains in his $65,580-a-year job. He did not return phone calls from the BGA.
Redell didn't appear to physically provoke or attack Crow during the police interview gone awry. The video shows Redell seated in a chair while being questioned by police, apparently crying and talking on a cell phone when Crow moves toward her.
In Crow's version, he rushed Redell because her "hands were clenched" and she appeared "willing to fight," according to a copy of the case report obtained by the BGA under Iowa's open records law.
Crow also states that once on the ground Redell bit his finger and would not let up, the reason he started punching her head, according to the report. (Redell admitted to the BGA that she indeed did bite Crow after he tackled her. But the video also shows Crow striking Redell with both fists, so his finger wasn't always between clenched teeth.)
Another officer also is seen in the video scuffling with Redell but doesn't appear to strike her with his fists. That second officer was not disciplined.
In Chicago, allegations of police misconduct have been front and center for at least a decade, mainly the result of revelations that former Area 2 Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his underlings used torture to elicit false confessions.
While those cases continue to garner heavy media attention, many other excessive force complaints are handled quietly and without fanfare. Video of Redell's beating hasn't been publicly disclosed until now, so far as the BGA could determine.
Days after the incident Redell filed a complaint with Davenport police, alleging Crow used excessive force. Donchez says the department reviewed the allegation and in a letter, dated April 3, 2013, told Redell her complaint was "sustained." The department didn't specify how Crow was disciplined, but the video apparently played a large role in the decision-making.
Scott County, Iowa, prosecutor Michael Walton reviewed a video of the beating but decided not to press charges against Crow, citing a lack of evidence. "I don't think the video disputes" Crow's claim that he hit Redell because she bit him, Walton says.
Public safety expert David Bradford disagrees.
"At some point his hand is free [from her mouth] and he continued to pummel her," says Bradford, executive director of Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, who was shown the video. "He went overboard."
Redell was charged with two misdemeanors: Assault causing injury to a peace officer and shoplifting. She pled guilty to shoplifting, and the assault charge was dropped, according to interviews and public records.
She is to be sentenced Aug. 23 in Scott County Court. Her criminal record includes two previous shoplifting convictions, records show.
Von Maur, headquartered in Davenport, is a family-owned department store chain with 27 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and eight other states. A company spokesman had no immediate comment.
The BGA obtained a copy of the video from civil rights activist David Lowery. His suburban Chicago-based nonprofit, Living and Driving While Black Foundation, is advising Redell, who is white. Lowery, a former resident of the Quad Cities, didn't want to say publicly how he obtained the video.
The video shows that police misconduct affects people of all races, says Lowery, adding it can happen to anyone, in any town, not just urban centers like Chicago.
"Hopefully, by disclosing this video, other officers will think twice before they do this to people," he says.
"The Better Government Association doesn't usually shine a light on government in other states," says BGA President & CEO Andy Shaw.
"But it's important to support whistleblowers like the Chicago activist who gave us the altercation video by taking their findings seriously, and – given Chicago's sorry history – to demand that police officers who allegedly use excessive force on suspects be held accountable."
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association's Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at email@example.com or (312) 821-9035.
Help the BGA shine a light on government and hold public officials accountable by becoming a member, contributor or tipster. Details at bettergov.org.