Marlene Pinnock’s Freeway Beating Revives Talk of Officers’ Responsibilities

By Julianne Hing Jul 11, 2014

Civil rights activists have met with California Highway Patrol representatives, but questions still swirl around CHP officer’s violent beating of Marlene Pinnock, a black woman from Los Angeles.

Pinnock had a history of homelessness and interactions with law enforcement officers before July 1, when Pinnock was found walking barefoot on a busy Los Angeles freeway, the Los Angeles Times reports. A CHP officer, whose name has yet to be released, caught up with her and tried to subdue her before pulling her to the ground, straddling her and pummeling her with repeated punches to her face. The beating was caught on video by a passing motorist.

Pinnock’s beating has revived a longstanding conversation about the expanded role of police officers in the face of the dwindling mental health and social services. Police and law enforcement officers aren’t trained social workers, but they’re often the first to respond to crisis calls. Law enforcement agencies have been slow to adapt to this reality, though, and all too quick to resort to violence when they encounter people in crisis. People like Pinnock have gotten caught up in that gap. 

The Los Angeles Times reports:

To some experts, the incident was tragically familiar. The incident, they say, speaks to the ever-evolving, uneven and imperfect encounters that take place daily between law enforcement officers and people in crisis.

"Law enforcement officers are now street corner psychologists," said Carla Jacobs, a prominent advocate for an effective mental health system. "Some are trained well. Some are not. But the reality is that they are cops. They are not psychologists."

Read the rest at the Los Angeles Times.