When body-camera footage of an aggressive or abusive police officer goes viral, the response from law enforcement groups is often to caution that we shouldn’t judge the entire system based on actions of a few bad apples. That’s fair enough. But what does it say about the system when the cops gets away with their bad behavior? What if, despite video footage clearly showing that the cops are in the wrong, sheriffs and police chiefs cover for them, anyway? What if local prosecutors do, too? What if even mayors and city attorneys get into the act?
Adam Finley had such an interaction with a bad cop. He was roughed up, sworn at and handcuffed. When he tried to file a complaint, he was hit with criminal charges. The local police chief turned Finley’s wife against him, which (according to both Finley and her) eventually ended their marriage. The fact that video of the incident should have vindicated him didn’t seem to matter.
Finley’s trouble — first reported by the Jonesboro Sun and Stan Morris at NEA Report — began in December 2016 in Walnut Ridge, Ark. It’s a small town of about 5,000 in the northeast part of the state — its charmingly humble claim to fame is that the Beatles once changed planes there. Officer Matthew Mercado of the Walnut Ridge Police Department pulled Finley over, near the railroad yard where Finley works. But Finley hadn’t committed any traffic infraction. Instead, Mercado apparently suspected that Finley didn’t really work for the railroad and therefore was trespassing, or perhaps engaged in some sort of criminal mischief.
The encounter quickly escalated. But as you can see in the video below, the escalation was entirely due to Mercado’s behavior, not Finley’s.