Can you really get fit by working out with your video game?
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Several colleagues of an Alabama police officer recorded slamming an Indian grandfather to the ground testified about the officer’s training record Friday and said the move he used to take the man down was not taught by department officials.
Madison police officer Eric Parker swept one of his legs in front of Sureshbhai Patel, 58, to take the man to the ground face first during a suspicious person investigation in February.
Cheng Tao, the neurosurgeon who treated Patel, has said he suffered spinal trauma, which included bruising, bleeding and swelling of soft tissue. Tao said he removed one of Patel’s vertebrae to make room for his spinal cord.
Parker has said Patel defied orders and reached for his pockets. Patel has said through an interpreter that he doesn’t speak English, didn’t understand the officer’s orders and never reached for his pockets.
Patel was visiting from India and was out for a morning walk through his son’s neighborhood when he was approached by police. The encounter stemmed from a neighbor calling police about a thin black man walking through the neighborhood looking at houses.
Parker’s attorney, Robert Tuten, has argued the stop and use of force were reasonable considering the circumstances and that police are trained to make split second decisions in dynamic situations.
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division prosecutor Saeed Mody argued Friday that during the roughly two-minute encounter, Parker had enough time to stop Patel, take account of his age, determine he couldn’t speak English and a second officer was able to start a pat down before Patel was slammed to the ground.
Tuten has said video clips being shown to the jury — which cover the moments before officers got out of their patrol cars to after paramedics were called to the scene to lift Patel off the ground — don’t fully capture the circumstances surrounding the encounter.
Martial arts expert Johnny Smith of Cullman, Alabama, testified for the defense, saying Parker had received one of two levels of Strategic Self-Defense and Grappling Tactics training, a program Smith founded that has been adopted as the training regimen by the Alabama Peace Officer Training and Standards Commission.
Smith said the maneuver Parker used wasn’t part of the training program and that an officer’s use of force should be proportional to the perceived threat. He added that the perception of threat among officers is subjective.
“When an officer doesn’t know what to do they’re more likely to adapt and make something up on the scene, on the spot,” Smith said.
Mody argued that even if Patel had been suspected of a crime, he did nothing during his encounter with Parker to suggest that he needed to be thrown to the ground.
Video that was slowed down and enlarged for jurors showed Patel turn his head to look at Parker while he held his hands behind his back. Patel was slammed to the ground shortly afterward. The motion of Patel turning to look at Parker may have suggested to the officer that Patel was trying to jerk away, Smith said.
Several of Parker’s colleagues who were called to testify said during Tuten’s questioning that they saw nothing in video of the encounter that was contrary to police training procedures.
During cross examination by federal prosecutors, however, some said Parker’s takedown maneuver violated guidelines to use controlled methods to try mitigating injuries. The maneuver Parker used left Patel’s head and neck unprotected when he hit the ground, prosecutors said.
“I can’t put myself in his shoes, but in that situation I believe Mr. Parker did what he had to do per our policy,” said Russell Owens of the Madison Police Department’s street crimes unit who is also a field training officer. After being shown a slowed down version of the video during cross examination, Owens said Parker’s technique was inconsistent with training guidelines.
Another training officer, Sgt. Nicholas McRae, also initially said he recalled nothing from video of the encounter that suggested Parker acted outside of department guidelines. After being showed the slowed down and enlarged clip during cross examination, McRae said the takedown was improper because an officer’s use of force should match the level of a threat. Patel showed a low level of resistance, McRae said.
A Madison police SSGT training officer, Jamie Emerson, said he saw nothing in the video that was inconsistent with department policies, despite leg sweep takedowns not being included in the training program.
Emerson said Chief Larry Muncey showed him the footage “to show me what was wrong in the video, things he stated officer Parker did wrong,” Emerson said, adding that he disagreed with Muncey’s conclusions about the way Parker handled the encounter.
Parker is being fired by the city of Madison but has appealed and the termination process is on hold until criminal charges are resolved.
Parker also faces a state assault charge. Patel filed a federal lawsuit seeking an unspecified amount of money for his injuries.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley called Patel’s treatment a case of “excessive force” in an apologetic letter to the Indian government.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council is discussing imposing sanctions on two additional South Sudanese for continuing to fuel conflict in the world’s newest nation, diplomats said Friday.
The council called for an immediate end to fighting in a statement after a closed-door meeting and again threatened sanctions if the government and opposition don’t fully implement the peace agreement they recently signed.
Fighting broke out in oil-rich South Sudan in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his ex-vice president Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of trying to oust him. That sparked ethnic attacks and fighting that was supposed to end with Kiir’s reluctant signing of the agreement on Aug. 26. Machar signed on Aug. 17.
The Security Council welcomed the signings and commitments to halt military operations by the two rivals but expressed “deep concern” at recent reports of fighting.
Members stressed in a statement following a video briefing by the U.N. envoy for South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Loj, that they are ready to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions “to ensure full implementation” of the peace deal.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the council’s discussions were private, said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power raised the possibility of imposing and arms embargo and travel ban on one Kiir supporter and one Machar supporter.
The council imposed sanctions on six generals — three from each side — on July 1 for continuing the conflict which has killed thousands, created a humanitarian crisis and displaced over two million people.
The United States, which was an early and vocal supporter of South Sudan’s independence from neighboring Sudan, has tried to keep up pressure on the feuding parties first to sign the peace agreement and now to implement it.
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s police superintendent says an officer who made racially charged remarks in a video that included the taunt Michael Brown “deserved it” won’t be fired.
The killing of the unarmed Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri sparked protests, the “Black Lives Matter” movement and a national debate over police treatment of minorities.
Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Friday the unidentified white Chicago police officer will lose about a week’s vacation and undergo retraining.
McCarthy told WLS-AM the officer is “sick to his stomach” about his failure to “maintain his composure and his professionalism.”
During an apparent argument, the unidentified man shooting the video mentions Brown’s name and says he doesn’t trust police. The officer, after responding he doesn’t care he’s being recorded, says Brown “got what he had coming.”
Information from: WLS-AM.
ATLANTA (AP) — A football season begins, and with it comes religion on the gridiron.
Solemn prayers whispered before kickoff. Players from both teams kneeling together in the middle of the field when it’s over.
Nothing wrong with any of that. Everyone is free to express their faith, no matter what they believe.
But some universities and high schools have gone too far. When a college team hires a chaplain, it sends a clear message that everyone is expected to fall in line spiritually. When a coach takes part in a mass baptism at high school stadium, which happened recently in a small Georgia community, it doesn’t take a constitutional scholar to recognize the predicament.
So, before we get down to Xs and Os, let’s make sure we’re separating church and state.
“Football is like a religion,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Then you have religion in football, and it’s really combustible.”
Gaylor’s group recently sent letters to 15 major programs, nine of them in the Southeastern Conference, complaining that their chaplain programs are egregiously promoting religion within a public university setting.
“The coach has such immense power,” she said. “If you’re a player, you get in line. You want to please the coach. The last thing you want to do is stand out as rebellious.”
Georgia was one of the schools that received a letter from the foundation. The Bulldogs’ longtime coach, Mark Richt, has made no secret of his deep Christian faith. The team’s chaplain, Kevin “Chappy” Hynes, just happens to be the coach’s brother-in-law.
Richt said there’s nothing nefarious about mixing football and faith.
“We’re at a secular university,” he said this week. “I understand that. We don’t try to make anybody believe a certain way at all.”
Then, Richt went on to describe a coaching philosophy that can’t help but leave his players thinking their spiritual growth — whatever course that takes — is just as important as lifting weights, learning the playbook, and going to class.
“I believe we’re made of our body, we’re made of our mind, and we’re made of spirit,” Richt said. “We work hard on our body as far as getting them in shape and working on schemes and plays and lifting and running and all the things we do in nutrition and sleep. When we work on the mind, we care very much about them getting their degrees, the tutoring and academic appointments and all, the meetings. All those things are mandatory.
“But anything that has to do with growing spiritually, I encourage our guys to grow spiritually. I believe our spirit is going to live beyond our body. So I encourage them to grow spiritually, but I don’t tell them what to believe.”
But even that’s problematic looking at today’s society, in which there is a growing number of young people who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic.
At Georgia Tech, team chaplain Derrick Moore has been a visible part of the program for years, his fiery pre-game speeches even turning up on YouTube. He is employed by the Georgia Tech Athletic Association and, from all accounts, beloved by his players. It’s also worth noting that videos show him capping off his inspirational words with the “Lord’s Prayer.”
“He’s there for a lot of guys, just off-the-field stuff, just trying to lead them in the right direction,” said Justin Thomas, the team’s star quarterback. “Not necessarily with Christianity, but just in life. Making sure they’re going down the right path, doing the right things. Nobody is forced to do anything. But if you’re around him, he’s an uplifting guy. He’s someone you want to be around.”
Clemson was another school singled out by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their coach, Dabo Swinney, has been a familiar target of the organization, also receiving a complaint last year that charged him with promoting religion in violation of the Constitution. Swinney has denied any wrongdoing while making it clear he’s not about to shy away from his faith.
“It’s not tough to balance at all,” he said. “I am who I am. I don’t apologize for that.”
Religion in sports certainly raises some intriguing legal issues, according to Scott C. Idleman, a law professor at Marquette University.
The courts have generally held that public high schools can’t conduct any sort of activity that could be construed as promoting religion, since most students are still minors and more susceptible to the pressures to conform. That raises serious questions about a video showing a football coach and 18 players being dunked in a tub during what was described as a baptism ceremony at Villa Rica High School in west Georgia..
Idleman said the law is murkier when it comes to college football players, who are legally adults but still find themselves largely at the mercy of their coaches.
“The coach stands in relation to his players almost in a parental way, like a teacher. The courts are pretty sensitive to that. They’re going to hold the school accountable for that dynamic,” Idleman said. But he wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how the Supreme Court might rule if such a case ever reached the nine justices.
The potential for abuse is clear, however.
In 2003, a cheerleading coach at Georgia was fired after the school found she had demoted a Jewish student who complained about attending Christian Bible study sessions at the coach’s home. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster recently acknowledged that he’s an atheist and told of being forced by his college coach, Phillip Fulmer, to attend church services when he played at Tennessee.
Enough with the proselytizing.
Let’s focus on the Xs and Os.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s cabinet chief said on Friday that the South American nation is willing to welcome more Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s civil war.
Anibal Fernandez said that the government eased the entrance of Syrians through a program begun last year, but he didn’t specify how many of the refugees had arrived so far. He said the Syrians will be welcomed through the country’s tradition of helping out during humanitarian crises.
“When you do something like this, it’s a very honest act that springs from affection and solidarity,” Fernandez said.
He said he had been troubled this week by the image of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach. The photograph has drawn the world’s attention to a wave of migration fueled by war and deprivation.
Since civil war broke out in their country in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have sought refuge abroad, the largest number from any crisis in almost 25 years, the United Nations has said.
Juan Pablo Terminiello, legal associate at Argentina’s office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, estimates that the South American country so far has welcomed less than 100 Syrian refugees. Leaders of the Syrian-Lebanese community, with an estimated 4 million people in Argentina, have asked authorities to speed up procedures so more of the refugees can enter the country.
Neighboring Uruguay welcomed 42 Syrian refugees who arrived in October 2014. Under former President Jose Mujica, Uruguay initially agreed to receive a total of 120 Syrian refugees.
Current Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa has said that a second group of seven families will arrive later this year. He has rejected criticism by some Uruguayans who believe their country should not accept more refugees.
AP writer Leonardo Haberkorn in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report.