Peretz Partensky and
her his friend had just had a dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco's SOMA district when they happened on an injured woman who had fallen off her bicycle. They called 911 and performed first aid while they waited for emergency services. When the police got there, they beat up Partensky's friend and detained him, and when Partensky objected, they cuffed, brutalized and arrested him. Injured and in an holding cell, she asked to see a doctor, and the SFPD deputies on duty at the jail stripped him naked and threw him in solitary confinement and marked him as a candidate for psychiatric evaluation.
Partensky complained to the SF Office of Citizen Complaints, documenting him plight in eye-watering detail (Partensky works for a company that supplies software to the restaurant on whose doorstep the entire incident took place, and they were happy to hand him CCTV footage of the incident). The entire procedure then went dark, because in San Francisco, you aren't allowed to know what happens to police officers who beat you up, thanks to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights.
One of the officers who harassed, beat, and wrongfully arrested Partensky, Paramjit Kaur, is already the subject of a civil rights suit. The other SFPD personnel who attacked and arrested the Good Samaritans are Officers Gerrans and Andreott.
For Partensky, the take-away message is clear: if you see someone who needs medical assistance, don't call 911, because the police might come and beat you up. Instead, help that person get to the hospital in a taxi.
In the hope that it might help some other idealistic, nerdy people from following me down that rabbit hole, I conclude with several public service announcements:
* Don’t call 911. Obviously, there are exceptions, but the sad lesson is, there are fewer than you’d think.
* Call Lyft to take you to the hospital. (Worked well when I broke my elbow.)
* Take such incidents to trial, where justice isn’t veiled by the POBAR. It’s not a matter of litigious vindictiveness. It’s just the only available way. The SF Office of Citizen Complaints is not a valid alternative.
* Consider wearing a video camera at all times. It has been shown that when police wear cameras and are aware of being filmed, it moderates their behavior. As self reports of the need to use force decrease, so do complaints.
Good Samaritan Backfire: or How I Ended Up in Solitary After Calling 911 for Help [Peretz Partensky/Medium]
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.