A man who stole a bicycle off the Rice University campus was pounded repeatedly with nightsticks by campus cops while they arrested him in August, and now the school is refusing to make video of the incident public.
A Houston TV station obtained a short portion of what is reportedly a seven-minute dash-can video of the arrest and beating, but despite requests, the university police continue to refuse to release the full video. Now a Texas state senator wants changes to the law to force police departments at private universities to be subject to the same public records laws as other police departments.
The brief portion of the video obtained by Houston’s Local 2 News can be seen in the station’s report, below.
Ivan Joe Waller rode off on a “bait bike,” planted by university police to attract and catch bicycle thieves. Unknown to the 37-year-old Waller, the bike was equipped with a GPS tracking device.
When three university officers caught up to Waller they say that he did not respond to their commands, and when he had been forced to the ground, refused to offer his right hand to be cuffed to his left.
So they clubbed him over and over again with their nightsticks.
Waller pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor over the bike theft and spent 15 days in jail. He has a prior criminal record that includes assault, burglary and forgery.
But he says, "I didn't deserve that beating.”
There have been no allegations that Waller was on drugs or was drunk at the time.
"We need to make certain we stop police officers from being able to hide behind their private institution status," said state Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston. "Does stuff like this happen every day and they're able to withhold it?"
"After repeated attempts to gain control of the suspect with verbal commands and physical control techniques were unsuccessful, two officers deployed their batons and struck the suspect's legs," the university explained in a statement. "The officers are trained to strike the legs in an effort to subdue a resistant suspect without causing serious bodily harm."
Waller (pictured) was not hit in the face during the beating.
Rice University officers are overseen by the same state commission that provides oversight to public police departments. Rice officers have the same authority to arrest, use force or even discharge firearms at suspects that regular police have. Yet they are not subject to the same public disclosure requirements.
That is the law that Whitmire wants changed, and he says if Rice refuses to cooperate, he’ll make sure they pay for it.
"If they think they don't take taxpayer money: One, watch what I do to their budget," Sen. Whitmire told the Houston Chronicle. "And two, watch what I do to their police department."