'Ferguson effect': Chicago police release video of beaten officer who didn't pull weapon

The Chicago Police Department released a video Friday of a man appearing to severely beat a female police officer on the street earlier this month — an attack the city’s police chief has suggested was an example of officers “second-guessing” themselves amid intense media scrutiny.

Police said the officer, a 17-year member of the force, was responding to a car crash on Oct. 5 when Parta Huff, the 28-year-old driver, punched her and slammed her head against the pavement until she passed out. The officer was hospitalized and treated for shoulder, wrist and neck injuries, the Chicago Tribune reported. Huff is charged with attempted murder of a police officer and aggravated battery to a police officer.

The incident received national attention when Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told a gathering of police officers and firefighters earlier this month that the officer did not use her gun to defend herself during the attack because she was afraid of the media attention that would come if she shot Huff.

Dashcam footage shows a squad car pulling past a liquor store on Chicago’s West Side and a sedan with the driver’s side door open, apparently crashed in front of the store’s entrance. Huff is seen walking away from the accident on the sidewalk, wearing red pants and a red shirt. Officers exit the car and approach him.

“Come here,” a male officer says. “I ain’t f—ing around with you. Get your hands behind your back.”

As the officers try to restrain Huff, the female officer calls for a Taser and shouts at Huff to “stop fighting.” Huff resists, pulling both officers into the street and out of the view of the camera momentarily. When they come back into view, Huff appears to punch the female officer in the face, then slam her onto the ground, falling on top of her.

Several officers rush to help. Body camera footage from one of the officers shows a grim close-up of them attempting to free her from Huff’s grip, punching him, shocking him with Tasers and trying to peel his hands back. Huff can be seen clutching a lock of the female officer’s hair.

“Let her go! Let her go!” a male officer shouts.

“He’s ripping my hair,” the female officer moans.

“We’re Tasing, it’s not working,” the male officer says. “He’s got her by her f—ing hair. He won’t let go.”

After several minutes, police manage to break the female officer free. Huff, seen bleeding from the mouth, screams incoherently as police shackle the assailant. More than a dozen officers and firefighters arrive on the scene and Huff is loaded into a police transport vehicle.

As the scene clears, the officer wearing the body camera tells a group of police and a firefighters that he was Tased during the fight.

“A couple months ago, you could have shot him,” a firefighter says to the officer.

As of Friday, Huff was ordered held without bail, the Tribune reported. It was not clear Monday if he had retained a lawyer or entered a plea.

Superintendent Johnson discussed the incident in an annual awards ceremony for police and firefighters the following night. He told the audience he visited the female officer in the hospital, where she recounted how she feared for her life but did not draw her gun because “she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news.”

Johnson’s description mirrors what has become known as the “Ferguson effect,” named after the St. Louis suburb where in August 2014 a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, sparking a fervent national controversy over race and policing. Many law enforcement officers have argued that being under the magnifying spotlight of videos and the regular controversies about them, has caused them to hesitate during confrontations, leading to spikes in crime in cities around the country. Criminologists, however, have yet to draw a definitive link between the surge in crime and police acting with increased restraint.

Johnson did not us the term “Ferguson effect” directly, but said intense media attention has caused his officers to “second-guess” themselves.

“This officer could [have] lost her life,” Johnson said. “We have to change the narrative of law enforcement across this country.”

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