The Chad Holley Lexicon

One cop, Andrew Blomberg, was acquitted last year in the beating of Chad Holley. Will the same happen for another Houston police officer, Drew Ryser?  A trooper and Texas Ranger took the witness stand in his defense to explain why it should, using a vision and language that only they know.  From the Houston Chron :

Jess Malone, a former state trooper who has assisted in the investigation of more than 100 police misconduct cases, said that Ryser’s hand strikes in the arrest of Holley, then 15, were justifiable given the situation.

Ryser admitted striking Holley during the arrest. However, he denied kicking Holley, saying a move seen in the video was a rugby maneuver called a “stab step.”

Malone testified that while he does not believe Ryser kicked Holley, doing so would also be within the confines of police protocol. “Kicking is perfectly legal,” Malone said. “It may be distasteful, but it’s legal.”

A kick becomes a “stab step.” Either way, perfectly legal.

Malone testified that the arrest scene was “very chaotic” and very risky. When asked by prosecutors if the risk dissipated when Holley was on the ground and being struck, Malone continued to defend the officers’ actions.

“There’s no obvious position of surrender until you are in custody,” the ex-Ranger said. “Anything’s possible.”

Lying on the ground, flat on one’s stomach, hands above one’s head. It could be a “fighter’s stance” because “anything’s possible.”

Former Texas Ranger Chief Maurice Cook, the second witness called by the defense in Friday’s trial, reiterated the sentiments of his fellow Ranger on the stand.

“(Ryser) did act as a reasonable officer based on the totalitary of circumstances,” Cook said, calling Holley “an active resistor.”

Cook, who teaches law enforcement at Alvin Community College, said Ryser’s strikes to Holley’s head were permissible and identified them as “pain compliance.”

If you punched or “stab stepped” somebody’s head, it would be a beating, but when Ryser did it, it was “pain compliance.”  It certainly looked painful.

Prosecutor Tommy LaFon showed the arrest video to Malone on the stand and asked whether there was an attempt to arrest Holley before he was struck.

“The first contact that happens with Mr. Holley is several officers putting feet on him,” LaFon said referring to the kicks and knee strikes in the video. “Have you ever seen a police officer handcuff someone with their feet?”

Obviously, LaFon doesn’t understand the language of cops, at least when it comes to Chad Holley. One can’t handcuff someone who hasn’t surrendered, and since there is “no obvious position of surrender,” and anything can happen, the police were left with no choice but to execute cop moves with cool names upon his head and body.

But this all happened three years ago, so you probably don’t recall that Chad Holley was then a 15-year-old being chased for a burglary. He was subsequently convicted of it in juvenile court and sentenced to probation. He had already received the requisite whoopin’. And this is the video of  his arrest.

See? Completely legal. Totally justified. Frankly, shocking that the kid wasn’t prosecuted for attacking the cops’ boots with his prostrate body, his “fighter’s stance” head.  If you explain it with the learned eye of the Texas Ranger, attributing highly technical names to head kicks and providing context to a beating like “pain compliance,” it changes everything.

Or maybe they just make that stuff up right there on the stand, or perhaps they brainstorm it in the lawyer’s office, coming up with cool sounding words to describe when a police boot meets a perp’s face.

But if there is no position of “obvious surrender” — because it surely looks as if Chad Holley had obviously surrendered before he started attacking the cops’ boots with his head and body — then there is no conceptual ledge where the opportunity for “pain compliance” stops and the perp is deemed in custody, safe enough to hand cuff and, well, stop painfully compliance-making, so that the First Rule of Policing is satisfied and the Third Rule has been fully vindicated. 

The Third Rule, you ask?  That’s the one where the cops give the perp a good tune-up to remind him who’s boss and that making them run, before they’ve fully digested the earlier eaten donuts, and otherwise engage in physical activity, is unappreciated.  The tape has no audio, but if it did, my guess is you would hear someone screaming, “take that for the Boston cream, take that for the jelly.”

And yet, the lexicon isn’t solely dedicated to recreating the beating of Chad Holley so that the defendant, Drew Ryser, doesn’t look like a cowardly thug beating a downed kid for kicks and to pretend he’s a tough, Texan hombre cop. 

There is also the testimony of Former Texas Ranger Maurice Cooks who explains that you have to look at  the “totalitary of the circumstances.”  I bet he learned that from a federal court decision, where judges have long appreciated that these magic legal words mean that if you can find anything, any excuse whatsoever by broadening out one’s perspective to include utterly irrelevant, totally unrelated, completely disconnected, claims, then you can reach any outcome you want.  It helps to know the lingo, which makes videos like the one of Chad Holley getting beaten pain compliance completely understandable to those of us who don’t appreciate the terrible risks of police work.

12 comments on “The Chad Holley Lexicon

  1. C. N. Nevets

    So if there’s no position of surrender until I’m in custody, there’s nothing I can do to forestall pain compliance until officers have stab stepped me enough that their legs are getting tired and they decide to put my person in custody?

  2. SHG

    No, no, no. If you’re still capable of movement, then they must continue to stab step you into submission no matter how tired their legs may be. It’s a very tough job, being a cop. You have to suffer to protect and serve.

  3. James

    Americans don’t play much rugby, huh? Neither subjects of the queen nor Google are aware the term ‘stab step’.

    It’s called ‘rucking’, like horses do and men don’t. Or shouldn’t at least.

    Must feel great to just make shit up then refuse to answer questions on the stand. GO LONGHORNS!!!

  4. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    Greenfield, the cops are doing it all wrong with this “pain compliance” nonsense . . .

    Because “pain compliance” will not guarantee results with 100% certainty. What they really need to rally around is something I call “Death Compliance”, as only death, and not even taxes, can provide the goods necessary to deliver on the promise on the First Rule of Policing . . .

    In mathematical terms, “Death Compliance” is both a corollary and a proof to the First Rule; this makes it sound so official, doesn’t it?? . . .

    I would bet you dollars to maple-bacon donuts that “Death Compliance” plays well in Peoria . . .

  5. SHG

    There’s only one real problem with death compliance. It doesn’t leave much work for the defense lawyers to do.

  6. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    Always the eternal pessimist. Just think of how much time it would free up for you to pursue your dream of practicing family law!! . . .

  7. tshless New

    Our rugby coach never taught us stab-stepping. Perhaps because it doesn’t exist. Our maybe because if it did “exist” it would get you kicked off the field, expelled from college, and arrested for aggravated battery.

    Moving on, “totality of the circumstances”…that’s no policing term. Why was the opposing counsel not destroying these cops lies with motions for directed verdicts and/or making them look like redneck charlatans on the stand?

    And why did the defendant (juvenile) agree to probation? You would think God might punish Texans with explosions or tornadoes or something…

  8. Dr Q

    Remember Rodney King? That wasn’t a brutal beating with metal batons. It was “bursts of power strokes.”

    I love the circular justification for police violence. We can beat him because he wasn’t in custody, but we decided not to take him into custody because we felt like beating him.

    By the way, one of the best parts of this story is how after the surveillance video was released, the police chief gave the media some bizarre, inexplicable comments to the media where he implied that people recording police would lead to cops being killed: [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

  9. SHG

    So you didn’t bother to click on the link in the first sentence? I don’t allow links in comments, but they are included in the posts for a reason.

  10. Jack

    You have to be sure to blackout and go limp as quickly as you can, especially if you live in New York. Without a doubt, a leg cramp would cross the line of annoying and possibly pass into the realm of serious injury – and you wouldn’t want to assault a police officer executing a lawful stab-step now, would you? Though, when you black out make sure you arms are behind you and not protecting your head, you don’t want to resist arrest either.

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