Los Angeles jury stands up to killer cop

The mother of Cesar Rodriguez, Rosa Moreno, addresses the crowd gathered by Long Beach City Hall in February, 2021, in front of an altar made in honor of her son.

By V. Valentino, Red Phoenix correspondent, California.

The family of Cesar Rodriguez, a police brutality victim in Los Angeles, forced a civil jury trial and won on January 20th after a grueling fight that lasted five long years. Despite what should be considered a victory with a unanimous decision by the jury, Long Beach officer Martin Ron will likely walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist. The failure of the courts to convict killer cops – as we have seen in the cases of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, and countless others – and the continued enabling of police brutality, is exactly why Americans must establish community control of the police. It is clear today that based on the public mistrust of police, now is the time for real effective change in order to not only hold officers accountable for their crimes, but to set policies to prevent such abuses from happening in the first place.

In 2017, Long Beach police officers confronted 23-year-old Cesar Rodriguez after he failed to pay the $1.75 fare to board the Blue Line train at Wardlow Station. The officers attempted to conduct a search and seizure of Rodriguez whereupon a struggle ensued after the victim strove to flee the scene. Officer Martin Ron tackled Cesar near the platform, leaving his legs hanging over the ledge. The northbound train struck him and he was trapped between the train and the platform for 25 minutes until firefighters finally freed him, but Rodriguez’ life could not be saved.

Local activist and community organizer Cliff Smith, who attended the court proceedings in support of Rodriguez’ family, observed that “of 53 potential jurors, some 15 openly stated negative experiences with the police.” One person was acquainted with Paul Rae who was killed by East L.A. Sheriffs in 2019, another was kicked in the back and onto the street after being arrested for marijuana possession, and another was a doctor who dated an LASD deputy who cheated on her three times. Despite many vain attempts to rationalize the actions of the accused, Smith reported that the jurors felt that those who took an oath to serve and protect were also subsequently trained to lie. Half of the potential jurors raised their hands when the defense attorney asked whether or not Cesar’s family was deserving of compensation.

An LA County Superior Court jury issued a $12.2 million compensation to the family in a verdict against officer Martin Ron for negligence that lead to Rodriguez’ death. Arnoldo Casillas, attorney for Cesar’s family, shared the following statement online: “Ultimately, although the verdict is historic, it’s a hollow victory for Cesar’s mother, Rosa Moreno, and his family. Despite that the jury unanimously concluded that the cop’s negligence killed Cesar, the officer will not be punished meaningfully.” A life was taken for a crime amounting to a $1.75 fare theft, and yet the person responsible will be unlikely to ever see the inside of a jail cell.

This is precisely why we have a need for community controlled police. A directly elected civilian council would likely ensure that persons like officer Martin Ron are not only stripped of their badge, but also subject to the same consequences as everyone else. This can only be achieved if we the people have final authority on legal recourse and full access to all investigations regardless of the degree of misconduct. Furthermore, all current and former law enforcement agents must be excluded from serving on such a board. A system of checks and balances enforced by civilians would reassure the populace that they have the last word regarding who is entrusted with the duty of keeping them safe. Hiring and firing power of all law enforcement officials must be subject to the discretion of said council as well as determining policy and budget.

The fact that the majority of police brutality cases are settled out of court and never brought before a jury is an affront to the justice system. Cesar’s case would not be making headlines if those entrusted to uphold the law were not in a position above the law. A gross revision of policy is sorely needed to make law enforcement subject to the will of the people and not vice versa. Every dollar spent must provide assurance that our wishes are honored. Furthermore, every superintendent, chief, and police officer must be elected by civilians to ensure that cases like Cesar’s don’t continue to multiply as they have been for decades. Perhaps the verdict carried out in LA County Superior Court this January will serve as a sign of better things to come. The time is long overdue.

Categories: Police Brutality, U.S. News

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