A criminal past is important knowledge for law enforcement, but no excuse for beating a man while they’re holding him


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has a rule, No. 156, that requires mutual funds to remind potential investors of something those with common sense should have understood: past performance is not indicative of future results.

It’s fair warning, a hedge that reminds people that life is full of risks, not the least of which is losing your money investing in the stock market. But the fact remains that past performance, while not guaranteed, is pretty much the only information available to gauge what the future may hold.

We now know that Randal Worcester, 27, the man brutally beaten on August 21 by three law enforcement officers outside a Mulberry convenience store in an incident recorded by a bystander, has a full criminal behavior record. In 2021, for example, he pleaded guilty to felony battery after punching an Oklahoma police officer in the face. For the assault, he received a three-year suspended prison sentence.

In 2020, Worcester was sentenced to 120 days in jail for misdemeanor domestic violence after hitting his father, court records show.

It’s standard procedure in law enforcement, when there’s time, for officers to learn what they can about someone they’ve come into contact with who may have violated the law. This includes checking their criminal background. Why? Because past behavior is not a guarantee of future actions, but it is useful information to inform law enforcement what they should be prepared for.

Video of the August 21 incident shows two Crawford County deputies and a Mulberry police officer holding Worcester to concrete, one repeatedly plunging his knee into Worcester’s mid and lower body while another uses his clenched fist to pound Worcester’s head as it lay on the concrete.

The viewer’s video was posted on social media and quickly spread far and wide, grabbing local and national coverage.

Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante pointed out a reality with precision: As is almost always the case, a video like this doesn’t tell the whole story. It is reasonable to be aware of this before anyone jumps to conclusions.

Indeed, Damante says Worcester “assaulted” one of the officers trying to arrest him, banging his head against the concrete and causing a concussion. Worcester also hit the officer in the head, according to Damante.

“Citizen video is disturbing to watch, as is often the case when officers attempt to arrest a violent criminal with a history of assaulting police,” Damante said. “I understand that many people who have seen the video are concerned about the use of force.”

Yes, people do. This includes Governor Asa Hutchinson, who called what he saw in the viral video “improper conduct”. It includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas and the Department of Justice, as well as the FBI, which have opened a civil rights investigation. Damante also said he doesn’t condone any of the actions shown in the video, although he says there’s more to the story than what’s shown in it.

We believe it. And like everyone else involved, we look forward to the day when full details can be revealed.

We don’t yet recall seeing any information about whether the three officers knew about Worcester’s violent history at the time they took him to the ground, but here’s the question: does it matter, compared to the beatings they inflicted on him once he was down? , held by the three officers?

It’s important to note that no one we heard from suggested that Worcester’s behavior wasn’t worth stopping. No one we heard from suggested that law enforcement officers weren’t put in a position that required them to take control of a violently behaving man. They had, after all, a duty to protect the public from a man who allegedly brandished a knife and threatened an Alma gas station employee earlier.

Can the scene captured on the video that sparked all this public outcry, which some viewers called “sickening”, be justified by any of the details not yet made public? Once any suspect is restrained by multiple officers, is there a legitimate justification for law enforcement to continue beating the suspect with knees and fists?

It seems that the sheriff is simply suggesting that everyone wait until all the details are known, through the multiple investigations. Of course, that’s all anyone can do.

It will be shocking, however, if public policy and law enforcement procedures can offer a satisfactory reason for the raging beatings on a man – even one with a criminal history – pinned to the ground.


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