They are popular refrains amongst those that push for reform within America’s policing system.
“The blue will always protect their own.”
“How are there any good cops when they always protect the bad ones?”
Well, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office proved on Tuesday that neither apply in the case of the Manteca Police Department – an agency that reported the abuse of an inmate in the San Joaquin County Jail when they observed it last year.
According to the video that was released on Tuesday, two Manteca Police officers witnessed Sherriff’s Office correctional officer Matthew Mettler walk up to a man who was sitting on the floor – with both his legs and his feet handcuffed – and strike him in the head.
The man had been arrested by Manteca Police for being drunk and passed out in public.
In the video, the man falls over after being punched with a closed fist in the side of his head and Mettler pulls him back up to a seated position as second correctional officer from the Sherriff’s Office walks into the room. One Manteca Police officer who witnessed the strike can be seen turning away – seemingly in disbelief – when Mettler throws the punch, and both were left standing with the victim when he and the second unnamed officer leave the room.
Both of the officers from Manteca reported the incident to their supervisors, where it was relayed through the proper chain of command and ultimately led to a Sherriff’s Office Internal Affairs and criminal investigation.
Mettler was charged in October with one misdemeanor count of assault by a public officer and was arraigned shortly thereafter. He was immediately placed on administrative leave, where he remains to this day.
San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore thanked the Manteca officers for their professionalism, stating “we are very grateful to the Manteca Police officer who witnessed this incident and then immediately reported the matter up the chain of command.”
And while many would claim that the response of a law enforcement agency would be to circle the wagons against an embattled officer, Moore spoke out against the actions and supported the decision by District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar to press charges against the staffer.
“As Sheriff, I don’t condone the actions as portrayed on this video by our jail staff,” Moore said in a release posted to the Sherriff’s Office Facebook page. “It is inconsistent with the professionalism of San Joaquin County Correctional Officers, and of this department. The action taken by the DA’s office is appropriate and we support this position.”
This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it shows a level of integrity than one should expect from their local law enforcement agencies.
The unidentified man, who was contacted by Manteca Police back in August after responding to a call of an intoxicated person passed out in front of a local business, was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication. He was taken to the San Joaquin County Jail where he was going to be held until he was no longer intoxicated – reportedly becoming physically and verbally combative and spitting at officers.
A hood can be seen over the man’s head in the video released on Tuesday – to protect officers who came into contact with him – but he made no threatening movements or gestures towards Mettler or any of the other personnel during the 31 second video clip.
Kudos, I believe, are in store chiefly for the Manteca Police officers who reported the abuse, but also the Sherriff’s Office for launching a legitimate investigation and not sweeping this under the rug as well as the District Attorney for filing the necessary charges to discourage this behavior in the future.
“This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Verber Salazar said in a statement released alongside the video. “Individuals who abuse their power and position will be tried and punished to the full extent of the law.”
It would have been very easy to make all of this just simply go away – and odds are the man who was punched wouldn’t have much of a recollection of what happened anyway given the report of his condition at the time of his arrest.
That’s not what happened here, and as Manteca residents we should all be grateful that we have officers willing to call out bad behavior when it occurs.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.