James Mandarino, an officer with the Streamwood Police Force in Illinois, was convicted this week by a judge who watched his videotaped beating of a motorist. He was found guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct.
"Any rational analysis [of the video] will show that the conduct of the defendant was wrong, just plain wrong, unprovoked, unnecessary and unacceptable," said Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Fecarotta Jr.
In the video, Mandarino is seen hitting Ronald Bell (pictured) several times with a metal baton. Mandarino had originally followed Bell to the home of his brother, when he asked Bell to get out of the car. During the 15 strikes of the baton to Bell's face and body, it appears that Bell is trying to cooperate with the officer and he is also unarmed.
Stacey Bell, Ronald's brother, made the point that every officer's car should be equipped with a dash cam, because if his brother had not been recorded during the incident, it would have been his word against the officer's. As a result of the conviction, Mandarino could get either probation or up to five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for April 25.
Mandarino's attorneys are attempting to argue that the officer followed procedure and that Bell was stopped because he and his passenger appeared to be intoxicated. He also claims that both men acted aggressively. Bell and his passenger, Nolan Stalbum, deny the allegations.
Even though the judge believes that the passenger and driver were both drunk, he still thinks that Mandarino crossed the line:
"But if a picture speaks a thousand words, the video speaks a million," he said.
The James Mandarino beating of Ronald Bell says a great deal about where we stand as it pertains to the police treatment of American citizens. Currently, the state has a tremendous amount of power to abuse and disrespect people, even when they've done nothing wrong. I've seen people go to jail after simply asking the officer a question. Countless citizens have been beaten, shot or incarcerated in incidents that could have easily been avoided.
The recent police tasering of Jonathan Zimmerman in New York is a perfect case in point. Zimmerman was simply sitting in his car with a woman, when an officer decided to confront him, asking him to get out of the car. While Zimmerman was double parked, there was no reason for the officer to do anything other than write him a ticket.
As a result of Zimmerman simply speaking back to the officer and asking why he was being harassed, he ended up having to have taser prods surgically removed from his back.
The point in the Zimmerman case, as well as the case of Ronald Bell, is that simply coming into contact with the police can be hazardous to your health. It can also jeopardize your freedom. Given that black men are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, we are also the ones who are most likely to be either harmed or killed by the hands of an officer.
People in wealthy communities also commit crime, and if they were subject to the same degree of police scrutiny, they, too, would find themselves behind bars more often. Many charges placed on innocent people are simply the result of their interaction with the officer -- and nothing else.
A quick point to also be made is that the administrative officials who took Mandarino to task for his behavior should be applauded. Good officers are harmed by police misconduct as much as the rest of us. Therefore, we all have an incentive to get bad cops off the street, and I am glad they were diligent enough to secure a conviction.
Watch Ronald Bell's beating here:
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Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.