Social media is filled with photos, videos and posts of workers' wrong-doing. Still, when a video was posted to YouTube on July 30 apparently showing a group of Georgia law officers threatening to "kill" and "tase" a terrified family, it was so stunning that it went viral -- and prompted the local authorities to announce an internal investigation.
According to CBS Atlanta, it all began late in the evening of Friday, June 26, when a group of eight officers from DeKalb County in Georgia reportedly appeared at Natania Griffin's house at 1:30 a.m., and threatened to break inside while banging on the door with the gusto of actual intruders.
Griffin's 23-year-old son Donovan Hall whipped out his cellphone and videotaped the incident, later posting the 19 minutes of footage to YouTube. On the video, men can be heard making statements like, "I am going to kill you," "I am going to tase your a**," and, ""I wish I could cane both of y'all" when the family resisted the men. Griffin can be heard breaking into hysterics while shrieking, "If I'm dead in the morning, you'll know why. Do not trust DeKalb County police."
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office has not denied the video's authenticity and has conceded to CBS Atlanta that the officers used "inappropriate language," as the local outlet put it. The county also maintains that no excessive force was used in trying to arrest Griffin for not paying a $1,000 civil fine that was 15 days late. (Reports did not mention the reason for the fine.) The county also says that it had a warrant for her arrest. Griffin and her family are planning to press charges and are currently seeking legal representation.
After calling 911, Griffin and her family eventually agreed to allow the officers to enter their house. Once the law officers were inside the home, both parties calmed down before the officers lectured the family on resisting their entry. "You put everyone's safety in jeopardy 'cause you want to play games, and big boy wanted to make a make a videotape," one officer can allegedly be heard saying on the video.
The video -- which now has more than 300,000 page views -- has mostly attracted sympathy for the family since Hall posted it. YouTube user Emily Eason, for instance, noted that "these cops are embarrassing themselves ... by antagonizing and terrifying a well educated, peaceful family." Some commenters, however, have questioned the behavior of the family, like Solomon 29710, who wrote, "Isn't the obvious solution to this problem to simply open the door?"
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office has told The Huffington Post it has launched an internal investigation in the matter. And in speaking to the news site (part of the AOL media group), Sheriff Thomas Brown said that he was personally "disgusted" by the comments made by his officers, but added, "we did not hit anybody with a pistol. ... [w]e did not place our foot on anybody's head for no apparent reason.
Police misconduct has been a source of public interest well before smart phones, most famously on the hit television show, "Cops." And according to the Cato Institute's National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, there were 4,861 reports of misconduct during the 2010 calendar year. But as former Texas police captain and law enforcement commentator Catherine Smit-Torrez told AOL Jobs, "it makes all police officers look bad when even one of us loses it."
Indeed, Hall told the Huffington Post that he shared the video on the Web in the hope of trying to attract public support for his family so that they can press charges. He said that they currently can't afford legal representation and are hoping for pro bono help.
Griffin, for her part, claims that she never was read her Miranda rights. She's also since paid off the $1,000 fine, according to The Huffington Post.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to DeKalb County as located in Florida, not Georgia.
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