It is often difficult to get actual charges against a police officer, but former St. Louis Officer Rory Bruce, 35, was an exception. After all, it was a police video that clearly showed him verbally abusing a teenager and then sucker punching him while handcuffed. One would think it would be an easy conviction, even without the testimony of the 16-year-old boy. That is if the judge watched the video. She did not. Judge Teresa Counts Burke showed no reason to actually watch the video before ruling and now the police union is demanding that the department rehire Bruce.
One the video from 2012, Bruce is shown on the left as he pulls the teenager out of the police van with the words “Stand out here with us…you lying piece of shit.” There are words and then a punch from Bruce decks the kids.
The police union appears to have watched a different video. Jeff Roorda with the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association insists that he can see the suspect moving in a threatening manner and Bruce defending himself: “It’s one forearm blow as he’s trained to do.” Bruce later on the video says “I told you I wanted to search you and you came out of the thing and started lunging at me.” There is no lunging that I can see on the video.
The police fired Bruce on the basis of the video and the prosecutors brought charges. However, Burke declined to watch the video. I am not sure why. Clearly it is a problem with no testifying victim but that does not rule out a charge or a conviction. If there is no witness to a bank robbery but a bank video, a judge would not simply refuse the evidence and acquit. There are various ways to authenticate a video that is taken by a police camera. If the prosecutors failed to authenticate, it is not referenced in articles but such a failure would itself be quite suspicious.
Roorda praises the judge for not watching the video which is describes as a “gotcha-head hunter” tool for cops. He inexplicably states, according to the article below, that such video should only be used to protest officials. Thus, it would seem that the video can only be used as a defense of officers in abuse cases and not as evidence against them. That would seem a bizarre claim but it appears close to what happened in this case.
Now that Burke cleared the officer, Roorda wants him rehired.
By the way, Burke’s partner David Wilson, 28, is also under investigation for striking another teenager in his custody. Both were probationary officers.