Law Enforcement in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

On July 8, 2004, in my new home state of Tennessee, five Campbell County Sheriff’s deputies used torture and intimidation to try to get a warrantless search form signed. For more than two hours, they beat and threatened Eugene Siler with, among other things, genital electrocution:

“…until you sign that form, its fixin to get ugly, because them batteries right there, I’m fixin to go out there and get some wires and hook ’em up to your fuckin balls. And if you don’t think I will, you don’t sign that form and watch what happens. So you best git signing.”

When Mr. Siler continued to refuse, they beat him for a while longer and then began to offer an ambulance as a trade for signing the form. Still he refused to take the trade, so one of the officers explained the situation:

“Eugene, let me tell ya how this is gonna work, ok? We got here and guess what you did? You ran out the back door. We chased you ok? You fought with us, ok? We end up fighting with you. You ’bout whupped all our asses, so we had to fight back, ok?”

How do I know, you ask? Criminals lie about their crimes, after all. Why would I take the word of a felon drug dealer over that of five representatives of law enforcement? Because Mr. Siler’s wife left a tape recorder running when the officers arrived. (Link contains transcript) All five officers were convicted and sentenced last July.

The question remains: how often does this happen without proof? How often do the Eugene Silers of the world relent, sign the form, and go to jail for illegal searches, with a bloody nose, bruised ribs, and maybe a broken finger or two? How often do police officers justify post-arrest beatings by inventing resistance? Personally, I’ve seen enough cases where 120 lb. weaklings “bout whupped” two or three 220 lb. cops to last a lifetime. Most of the time, I couldn’t prove that they were lying, because their accuser was a felon. Many people decry the growing surveillance society, and they’re not wrong to worry. But I suspect it may cut both ways.

Strong stomach? Listen to the audio.

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