“My hands are behind my head”

ICDP Watch
3 min readDec 8, 2014

University of Iowa Police violently handcuff a student for reaching into his pockets

“My hands are behind my head” — that’s what Grayson Scogin, a student at the University of Iowa, kept repeating over and over again, as one, then two, then three, then four cops piled up on top of him, apparently trying to handcuff Scogin, who was already laying on the ground, terrified, with his hands behind his head, not knowing what to expect next, or why he is being placed in the handcuffs in the first place:

To put what you just saw into context, courts have consistently held that handcuffing is a use of force and as such must meet the reasonableness requirements of Graham v. Connor, the three-part test that looks at (1) the severity of the offense; (2) whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the officer or others; and (3) whether the suspect was actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

It’s clear from the video that, contrary to the police report, Scogin did not pose an immediate threat to anybody and should have not been placed into handcuffs. Also contrary to the police report, Scogin did not continue putting his hands in his pockets after initially being told not to, and he was never told he was being detained. In fact, as detailed in this motion, the detention itself — that started when the officer told Scogin that he was not free to leave — was clearly unlawful.

The video becomes hard to watch after Scogin is violently thrown on the ground and, obviously terrified by what’s happening, starts frantically chanting “My hands are already on my head, my hands are already on my head, my hands are behind my head”, all while more and more cops are piling up on top of him in attempt to “restrain” somebody who has obviously surrendered all control.

To top it all, the senseless, sickening, and ultimately illegal use of force displayed in this video is not an isolated incident, but rather something that seems to be deeply ingrained in Iowa City’s police culture (UI Police patrols Iowa City streets under a shared jurisdiction agreement with ICPD). In fact, this particular incident happened on Sep 12 — less than a week after a video of an excessively violent “party bust” by the Iowa City Police Department went viral and forced the ICPD to put out a cover-up press release on the matter.

We don’t know what it’s going to take to change this culture, but we do know that staying silent won’t.

Update: Q & A with Grayson Scogin

Outraged by this blatant police misconduct? Let the UI Police know!