Police brutality or doing their job?

Too soon to tell with COD lawsuit

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The Internet is chock full of videos of police brutality. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. The minute an officer gets hostile, there’s bound to be someone recording the whole thing on a cell phone, only to be uploaded to YouTube and debated by the general public later on. It’s 2015, and this is our reality.

So when a video surfaced of a College of DuPage student being dragged out of her desk by two COD police officers, it wasn’t anything we all haven’t seen before. Now the former student, Jaclyn Pazera, is suing COD for an excessively forceful arrest. However, unlike some of the other videos of alleged police brutality, featuring batons, Tasers, and swearing, the video of Pazera’s arrest, which was taken by a COD teacher, is fairly ambiguous. It leaves us wondering who was truly in the right.

The chain of events all started with a cigarette. That December day, officers spotted Pazera smoking on school grounds, despite COD having a strict tobacco-free campus policy.  She was let off with a warning, but was followed to her philosophy class by campus officers James Tamburrino and Raul Valladares. The rest was caught on camera, with Pazera being taken out of her desk and to the ground by the officers and repeatedly told to “stop resisting” while she exclaimed, “you’re hurting me.” No batons. No Tasers. No swearing.

What can’t be seen on film is the real issue. Pazera refused to show her identification to the officers, who were initially going to let her off with a warning. While the footage may appear to some like straightforward aggressive force, the officers were attempting to detain someone who broke the law and resisted arrest long before the camera started rolling. That one video, which offers just one angle of the arrest, is all the public has to go by, and it’s not enough.

What we do know is that not following police orders is a form of resistance. Trying to stand while an officer holds you down is a form of resistance. The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that the officers pushed Pazera to the ground; the problem is that we can’t tell if Pazera was truly resisting or not. Police brutality is a huge accusation, and we shouldn’t point fingers until all of the facts are on the table.

We at the Courier had our chance to speak to Pazera firsthand just days after the initial incident in December. She came into our office and spoke to former staff members about the arrest that is now in question. However, we are sorry to say we wrote nothing, despite also hearing about an earlier event in which campus police made Pazera take down her Constitution Day booth for not following school guidelines. While we do not write about lawsuits until they are actually filed, we also didn’t see the significance of the arrest until recently.

Now with the lawsuit underway, there is much more difficulty in reaching both Pazera and COD police. We are doing everything we can to get more information on the case, including filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act. With the limited amount of evidence currently available to the public, there’s no way of knowing if Pazera was a victim of excessive force or not. And with a subject as serious as police brutality, there is no room for gray area.