Marshall Frank is a retired captain from the
Metro-Dade Police Department in Miami, Florida,
where he spent the majority of his thirty years
investigating murders or commanding those
The fine line between a cop doing one’s duty or
overdoing his duty is once again in the grip of
Monday morning quarterbacks to judge. Meanwhile,
a pair of police careers are on the line. Two Los
Angeles cops are being investigated by federal
authorities for their conduct in the arrest of a
wanted felon back in August of this year.After
running from police, the thief was taken to the
ground. As the cops tried to restrain him, it
appears he resisted. It also appears he was a
A bystander’s video depicted one officer punching
the man in the face while his arms were being held.
The amateur video showed up on YouTube.com and
then found its way into major newspapers and, of
course, network television for all to decry.
Turns out, the suspect, William Cardenas, 24, is an
alleged member of an L.A. gang with a past record
for attempted murder and carrying a concealed
weapon. And now, the watch dogs want the cops
In my 30 years on the job in Miami-Dade, I was
never accused of brutality. In truth, I was less
physically adept than many of my comrades and
knew my limitations. But there was one incident
which, if videotaped today, would probably have
landed me in the midst of a similar brouhaha.
We had just arrested Big Tony Esperti for a Mafia
killing at a Miami Beach night club. Esperti was well
known in crime circles, big and mean, a former
heavyweight boxer who once lost to Cassius Clay
and a known killer. At 245 pounds, he towered and
powered over me and my partners.
Upon advice of his mob lawyer, Esperti refused our
request to let us swab his hands for gunpowder.
We had the law on our side, so we decided to use
whatever force was necessary. He resisted. The
brute threw the three of us around like rag dolls. My
partners grabbed his arms and took him to the
floor where he wrestled us all. We were about to
lose this fight. Not only that, we feared Esperti
escaping. Adrenalin surged. We, the cops, were
In a moment when the other detectives were on the
floor grappling with his arms, sweating, panting, I
stood up and kicked him in the testicles. How’s that
for a mea culpa? Then I leaned with all of my 180
pounds into his groin with bended knee. Voila, the
job got done. Esperti instantly turned pussycat. His
hand yielded a flake of fresh gunpowder.
Good thing YouTube.com and CNN wasn’t around
then. My police career would have ended, and all the
good I ever did for many years would have gone for
Such is the case that these two officers are now
facing. I watched the video with interest. Clearly,
Cardenas was a tough and rugged young man who
elected to resist once he was taken to the ground.
Cardenas had powerful arms, which presented a
daunting task to the two cops trying to restrain him
lest they be injured in the fray. Cops are ever aware
that their firearm is a tempting lure to such
nutcakes in a fighting situation. When the one
officer saw that the grappling effort was going
nowhere, he reared back and punched the felon in
the face, in an attempt to subdue. From everything
I saw, it was totally justified, and the media is dead
wrong for replaying the video over and over and
over again, as though they were airplanes ramming
the World Trade Center, in order to create
controversy and sway public opinion.
Police Chief William Bratton said he that found the
video “disturbing” but stressed that the 20-second
clip amounts to only a fraction of what transpired.
The Los Angeles Times since reported that a
Superior Court commissioner viewed the video
nearly two months ago, heard the officers’
testimony and concluded their conduct was “more
than reasonable” because Cardenas was resisting.
The trends are frightening. More than ever, police
officers in the U.S. are becoming the targets of
federal investigations in order to grease the
squeaky wheel, particularly where minorities are
Stephanie Mohr was a decorated K-9 officer for the
Prince George’s County P.D. One night, she was
called to a scene where two illegal aliens were
caught at 1 a.m. atop an office building. As the two
thieves were surrounded at ground level, she claims
it appeared one of the Guatemalans made a move
as if to start running. She released the dog. The
thief was bitten.
Prosecutors said it wasn’t justified. One cop, in
need of a special favor, turned state’s evidence and
testified against the female cop. The feds went after
her with a vengeance, claiming she was a bigot and
released the dog for folly. It took two trials. The
devoted mother of a small boy is now spending 10
years of her life in a federal prison … for a dog bite.
It’s out of hand. The numbers of incidents of good
police officers who have become targets on the
federal firing line are too many to list in one short
article. The trend is clear: Cops represent a
prosecutor’s plum in cases where a fine line exists
between performing a duty or committing a crime.
Not a blind defender of wayward officers, I’ll be the
first who will lambast brutal or crooked cops. The
last arrest I ever made was that of five other police
officers who had beaten a man to death. No regrets.
But it’s a national disgrace when drug smugglers,
crooks, rats and social parasites are coddled while
civil heros are buried away in prison cells in order to
satisfy a vocal minority. Police officers today are
ever wary, not of criminals but of the convoluted
legal system they work within. In confrontation
situations, who can blame them when — given an
option — it’s more prudent to do nothing rather
than face the standing army of condemnation. And
in the long run, it’s we, the citizens, who lose.
And we wonder why thousands of police
departments have such a hard time recruiting.
Voracious prosecutors and sensational media
should heed a message: When a nation turns on its
protectors, so goes the nation.
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker