It is easy to forget that the real-life implications of false arrests go beyond just time served behind bars. An excellent story by Mike Newall, of the Philly Inquirer, really drives home the fact that the aftereffects of these cases are much more far-reaching than most people realize.
In May of 2013, Najee Rivera, a 21-year-old father, had worked as a janitor at a Philadelphia children’s hospital for a month. His girlfriend, Dina Scannapieco, got him the job and he was finally able to support their 5-month-old daughter Jayliana. One terrible night, however, changed all of that.
Rivera was riding his scooter when he spotted a police cruiser. The officers waived him on, but a moment later they began to follow him with their lights on. Panicked, Rivera sped away until the officers caught up with him. They reportedly slammed their cruiser into his scooter. Surveillance footage then captured officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson throwing the young man against a wall, then onto the ground. They then began to beat him brutally with batons.
The officers later claimed that Rivera attacked them, but their claim was proven to be false and the two were fired, and charged with aggravated assault. Justice had seemingly been served, except that the incident might have cost Rivera the job he worked hard to get.
At the time of the beating, Rivera was on a three-month probation at work — meaning that he wasn’t allowed to miss a single shift. He reported to work after the incident with an eye patch and bandages, telling his boss that he’d been in an accident. “If I had told him I had been locked up, he would have thought I was a bad guy,” Rivera said. “I can’t have you working like this,” his boss allegedly told him. He was given three days leave to heal.
On the last day of his probation, his boss handed him a termination letter that offered no explanation whatsoever. Rivera was shocked — his supervisors had been praising his work and his boss even complimented him right before terminating him. He later found out from an HR rep that he’d been let go because of the three days he took off. A union rep said that there had been no other incidents besides the beating on his record. “The only thing was the police beating,” the rep said.
Cases like Rivera's make it clear why, in a Pew/USA Today poll conducted in August 2014, Americans from every racial group gave "relatively low marks to police departments around the country for holding officers accountable for misconduct, using the appropriate amount of force, and treating racial and ethnic groups equally.”
The media only tends to follow police brutality cases in the immediate aftermath of a particularly violent incident, and only when there is enough bloodshed to keep the general public’s interest. Hopefully stories like Rivera’s serve as a reminder that these are real lives at stake, and even when people are cleared, the ramifications of simply being accused of a crime can be very damaging.
Source: Philly.com / Photo Credit: philly.com/WikiCommons