Briefly, About Good Cops And Bad Cops
Way back in 2019, in the moments after the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title, Masai Ujiri assaulted Alan Strickland, a police officer. Strickland, tasked with guarding the Oracle Arena floor against overly exuberant fans, was simply trying to do his job when Ujiri rushed him, shoving him so hard that Strickland suffered injuries to his “head, jaw, chin, and teeth.” Strickland went on to describe Ujiri as trying to “storm” the court in the aftermath of the Raptors shocking upset of the dominant Warriors.
Strickland, unsurprisingly, sued Ujiri, claiming that Ujiri hit Strickland with “both fists as he attempted to reach the court.” Strickland was seeking at least $75,000, plus:
punitive damages, payment of all medical and incidental expenses, to date and in the future; all proven loss of earnings; and all legal costs of filing the suit.
Strickland also sued the Toronto Raptors, MLSE, and the NBA, alleging that all three had “failed to provide adequate safety and security measures to protect members of the public.” Among the lawsuit’s suggestions were that all three could have posted signs warning arena staff about “the danger of Masai Ujiri.”
Lest anybody doubt Strickland’s version of events – although he is an upstanding police officer, there are still those who criticize our brave boys in blue – he enjoyed the support of his boss Greg Ahern, the Alameda County Sheriff. Ahern insisted that Ujiri be charged with battery of a peace officer. And Strickland also enjoyed the support of his coworkers, none of whom came forward to claim that anything untoward had occurred.
Ujiri, of course, denied all of the accusations, but then, that’s what hardened criminals always do. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they shift blame to anywhere but themselves, demanding sympathy where none is warranted.
The District Attorney declined to press charges.
A funny thing happened yesterday: Ujiri’s legal team released bodycam footage of the incident. And, quite unexpectedly, the bodycam footage did not show what Strickland claimed it did.
Masai Ujiri's legal team has released body camera footage of his encounter with a security worker at Oracle Arena after the Raptors won the NBA championship. pic.twitter.com/56XWMpZy0P
— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) August 19, 2020
So perhaps the telling of this story ought to be started over.
Way back in 2019, in the moments after the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title, Alan Strickland assaulted Masai Ujiri. Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors team president, was headed onto the floor to celebrate with his team when he ran into Strickland. He showed Strickland his badge giving him floor access. In response, Strickland grabbed Ujiri by the jacket, shoved him backward, and told the team official to, “back the fuck up.” Strickland then shoved Ujiri again; at that point, Ujiri, having had quite enough, shoved back.
And then Strickland’s lying began.
When Black Lives Matters protests roared back to life in the aftermath of Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd, one of the defenses offered of police generally is that although there are bad cops – very few people could claim otherwise after the video of Floyd’s death became widely available – they are few and far between and shouldn’t be used to tarnish police generally. Police, we are insistently told, are good people doing dangerous work; the idea that the few bad apples have spoiled the barrel is criticism gone too far. But here is the Minneapolis Police Department’s initial release following Floyd’s murder. Its description of events is miles removed from what everybody could see on the video.
Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.
None of this is meant to compare Floyd’s murder to Ujiri’s mistreatment. They are separated by chasms. But the police response, in both cases, was to lie about what had happened in the exact same ways as one another, despite indisputable video evidence existing that showed the lies for what they were. So, sure, maybe it is unfair to assume the characteristics of an entire community based upon what its worst members do. At some point though, somebody is going to have to explain why it is exactly that police descriptions of events keep veering off so wildly, and so conveniently, from what actual video shows. And they are going to have to add something about why all of the other officers involved – the allegedly good cops that have not been spoiled by the bad ones – chose to go with the lies rather than the truth.
Update: The Alameda Sheriff’s Office, having seen the released footage (and having presumably seen it since the very start of the story) and facing a mountain of criticism for having claimed that it verified Strickland’s story, has decided to…checks notes…stick with Strickland’s version of events:
#UPDATE – Alameda County Sheriff's office tells @CP24 "We 100% stand by original statement that was released that Mr. Ujiri is the aggressor in this incident…don't be quick to judge based off of what lawyers are saying." @Raptors #Toronto
— Stephanie Smyth (@stephaniesmyth) August 19, 2020