Melina Harris, a professional, union carpenter who lives in Kent, Washington, had a get-together with friends at her house on October 29th, 2011 Two officers were called to the house in regard to a noise complaint and as Melina explains below, the situation immediately turned violent as she tells here:
The photos you see, are of me moments after a short minor noise complaint call, I spoke to the older officer and refused to speak to the younger officer, as he was hyper aggressive and threatening.
I and the older officer concluded that just shutting the windows would suffice. That as well as turning down the stereo had already been done, as guests had noticed the police and I talking in the yard.
The older officer told the younger cop, “We are done here” and turned to leave and walked to his car, I turned and walked quickly toward the front door, before I made it, the younger cop, stepped into my path, accosted me with his flash light and then assaulted me, hitting me hard enough to leave a hole in my face 3/4″. The older officer could not and did not see the assault, as he had made if far enough down the drive, and with the slope, trees and a car parked in the way, his view was blocked. He came back up the drive in answer to a yell, (my scream for help) . To find me on the ground with the young officer straddling me.
But for Melina the story didn’t end there. Instead of being able to bring to light the fact that the officer had hit her hard enough as she stood with her arm over her eyes, trying to block the flashlight, held close to her face, to put a 3/4 inch hole through her face. She was charged with assault on a police officer which is a felony charge. She attempted to fight the charges in court, but lost.
According to Melina, “The crime of being assaulted by a cop is a felony. Any time a situation gets out of hand and “Force” is used, the officer charges the citizen with assault, resisting or obstruction to cover their ass. Unfortunately this is also true if the officer doesn’t like what you have to say, or in this case, don’t say, and they reach out and knock you off your feet, for no better reason, than, they can. The County Prosecutors then press the charges and play the plea down game, to cover the ass of the city.””Reality sucks that King County Washington is actually one of the worst in the nation for protecting bad cops.”
Of course those who follow cases of police brutality and have suffered it know full well that the “thin blue line” symbolizes not only solidarity among their job, but all too often also symbolizes the tendency of cops to protect their own, even in cases of abuse or transgression of authority. To many cops, the ethical difference between protecting to save each other’s lives or protecting to save each other’s reputation has become blurred, or even invisible.
Worse, in an effort to cover their tracks, as Melina mentions above, officers will all too often rationalize or belittle the damage done to not only justice, but to the victim’s life. As if the assault itself didn’t do enough damage, the victim must also face the bizarro world possibility of the cops claiming that the victim made an assault, or threatened them in some imagined way. This leaves the victim to defend themselves up against a group that has already established authority within the system; oftentimes cops that know the local prosecutors and judges and often have mutual respect for each other. Judges and prosecutors will most often believe those they know and trust, no matter how outrageous the claims or the evidence to support them (in this case the pictures that Melina had of her injuries).
Melina is facing the possibility of being sentenced to a number of years in prison; she already has a felony charge on her. As she states, “The maximum sentence for Assault of an officer is 5 years, maximum for obstruction is 3 years. I have no prior Felony so of course sentencing will be much less than that. ”
As Melina says, “I was asked to stand and take it as far as I could to address the issue of an officer who should not have a badge. If he decked me for ignoring him, imagine what will happen when someone in Righteous indignation tells him off?”
All too often people naively think that “taking a stand” and “going as far as you can” will somehow magically make the halls of justice ring out loud and clear. Unfortunately that does not happen as the wheels of justice will only move if someone in power to move them decides to. Unfortunately, by casting Melina not as the victim, but now in court as the defendant fighting to disprove happenings and actions that never existed, thus left to her to refute (try proving that something doesn’t exist if someone else, especially someone with credibility, insists it does).
Melina adds, “I was also asked to try to take the civil case for the assault and maiming, and resulting medical costs, as far as I can. Truth being, I cannot address that until the criminal case has been dealt with. I will be lucky to do so before the statute of limitations runs out. The appeal will likely take 2 years to come around.”
But Melina reminds that she cannot move on with a civil case until she the criminal case is out of the way, “I cannot, until I deal with the criminal charges, and then only if I win, put in a federal civil rights complaint that I was falsely arrested, falsely charged, and assaulted. Filing charges against the citizen narrows those pesky complaints down to about the same odds in our state as winning the lottery.”
Presently, while Melina waits for her sentencing which will be coming up in 3 days, she asks everyone to write to the persons listed below to at least draw attention to the case. “There are example letters now posted on the event page.” (http://www.facebook.com/events/501885959845258/).
“If you wish to write a letter, saying how you see me as a human being, to be given to the judge before sentencing.” Melina also encourages people to write to the mayor of Kent, Washington, ” on your feelings about this incident and the out of control issue of police brutality.” She also has about 20 or so folks who have started a letter writing campaign to the governor asking for clemency in this case.In the interest of further drawing attention to the issue of police brutality, Melina suggests that people write to the Department of Justice Civil Rights, pointing up the need for a more thorough investigation into the Kent, Washington police department.
“It need not be fancy, Melina says, “it need not be long, but it will take hundreds to rattle cages to expand and up the priority of the subject of Police Brutality. Just make sure it’s from the heart, and that you add your name and mailing address. Please feel welcome to add your title, trade, local, etc. If you have a story of police brutality or misconduct, please share it in the letter.”
Melina says, “I am grateful for those of you writing in, it is the only thing that is bringing this case, into the light, with others of it’s kind. Welcome are letters from near and far, those who know me just enough, and those who know me all to well.”
Melina would like those who write a letter to send her a copy that she can archive for her hearing and appeal and she requests also that people cross-copy their letters to each of the different politicians and state and federal agencies responsible for over seeing and handling police abuse of authority and power. “One bad cop can seriously screw up thousands of lives in his career. So stand I have and this is what that means and what it takes. None of this has been pleasant. I am still stuck with the fact I was maimed that evening.”
“I cannot lift more than a pound or 3 above chest height, and I can’t do that very long, so of course, I cannot work as a union carpenter, until after I have surgery on both shoulder joints and then recuperate. Jobs with medical are slim at this time and so I am stuck in a common limbo, hence the work being done to address Americans lack of medical.”
Please cross-copy your letters to the following people:
Melina says, “I greatly appreciated those of you who can take a few moments to write in, it will at least help shed light on the issue of Police Brutality, it is prevalent here, and in my county, the Seattle Police are under investigation as well as the County Sheriffs office (who investigated two use of force complaints in the prior whole year) for excessive use of force, and lack of reporting it.”
“If you could copy and paste your letter on the event page to share with others to use as an example, it would be helpful. Some are better than others at letter writing, and seeing examples helps much.”
Melina Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Suzette Cooke, email@example.com
Chris Daniels, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Clarridge, email@example.com
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas at, KThomas@kentwa.gov
Kent Internal Investigations, Patrick Lowery, firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Defender Kristen Gestaut , Kristen.Gestaut@acapd.org
Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board, CPBoard@atg.wa.gov
WW DOJ Civil Rights, Special.Litigation@usdoj.gov
Governor Christine Gregoire Fax: (360) 753-4110