Typically when I post cop-beating-civilian videos, there is plenty of indication that the cop is in the wrong. This isn't one of those videos.
The Youtube poster titled the video: NYPD Cop Viciously Punches A Man In The Back Of The Head While He Was Pinned Down!
A more accurate description would be: NYPD Cop Punches Man Who Has Another NYPD Cop Pinned To The Ground.
The entire video is 2 1/2 minutes long. It begins with the cop on top struggling with an uncuffed man in a white T-shirt who has his arm pressed over the neck of a pinned down cop. Remember when Eric Garner died after an NYPD officer choked him? People were outraged. I was outraged.
So it appears to me that White T-shirt Man is trying to murder a police officer or, at the least, trying to inflict serious bodily harm on the officer. If I'm the cop on the bottom, pinned by White T-shirt Man trying to choke me, I want the cop on top to do what ever he can to put an instant end to the attack.
Within 15 seconds, of being punched, White T-shirt Man does release the choke hold, but I'm not sure the cop on top can clearly see that.
At 30 seconds, the cop on top should be able to see that the choke hold is released because White T-shirt Man is protecting his head with his choker arm. But then a citizen who looks like he was trying to help the cop on top starts to restrain the punching cop's arm. At that point, the cop on top probably feels like he's potentially losing control of White T-shirt Man.
Then another civilian joins in, also trying to restrain the cop's punching arm. If I'm that cop, I'm feeling like I still don't have control over the guy in the middle because now I'm struggling with White T-shirt man and two people grabbing my free arm.
At 1 minute, a civilian is restraining the the arm of the man in the middle, and the cop on top tries to grab the other arm of White T-shirt Man, but White T-shirt Man won't give the arm up. Maybe that's a reflex to protect himself, but this is happening fast, and I think the cop on top must still feel like he hasn't gained control over White T-shirt Man, so the cop on top resumes punching White T-shirt man.
Within 15 seconds, the cop on top tries again to grab White T-shirt Man's arm. Then at 1:20, it looks like the cop on top is trying to reach back for his handcuffs.
At 1:23, we see that a 3rd police officer has engaged, and a cuff has been placed on White T-shirt Man's wrist. At that point the cop on top gets one more head punch in before Cop #3 restrains his punching arm. Then the cop on top is able to grab White T-shirt Man's other arm and together they pry White T-Shirt man's arms back and into cuffs. White T-shirt man does not make it easy, but by 1:52, they've got him cuffed.
Altogether I counted 11 punches delivered over 1 minute and 25 seconds. The first 10 punches were delivered in bursts of 2 punches as opposed to a sustained beating.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a volatile situation that unfolded quickly, and I believe the cop doing the punching really was trying to protect the cop on the bottom of the pile, while struggling to gain control over White T-shirt Man.
Now about White T-shirt Man. He is 16-year-old Albert Burns, so I guess he's White T-shirt teen. The story is that he was stealing a bicycle in front of a store. The store owner saw it happen and flagged down the police. When the police confronted Albert, he rushed one of the cops, tackled him and began to choke him. Presumably, that was the cop who was pinned under Albert for the duration of the video.
We also learn from the Daily News article linked above that Albert was wanted in two hold ups in the prior two weeks. In one hold up, he is accused of robbing a cabbie at knife point. He got $75, a cell phone and an iPad. On the day of the video, Albert is accused of an attempted robbery using a box cutter. Maybe he's innocent in the hold ups, or maybe Albert is a very dangerous young man.
Sometimes policing isn't pretty. Cops aren't omniscient, and when a violent situation they haven't initiated is unfolding, their actions every second of the way may not be optimal. They're human. So in this particular situation, I think the cop on top deserves the benefit of any doubt. Let's save are outrage for people who really are abused by police officers.