When police brutality cannot be covered up or dismissed by blaming the victim, the next official line is often the “bad apple” defense. The popular phrase “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” generally means that one person’s behavior can negatively reflect upon or influence others. When used defensively, however, the phrase “bad apple” is meant to suggest that it is unfair to focus on a single miscreant and imply that his behavior indicates anything true about a larger group to which he belongs.
On July 5, when an unarmed, homeless man named named Kelly Thomas was beaten and tasered by a group of Fullerton, California, police officers, the brutality could not be covered up because of the presence of witnesses and a recording that went “YouTube.” The police department’s standard attempt to blame the victim was unsuccessful. The officers referred to car break-ins for which Thomas may have been responsible but for which he was not arrested; then they added “resisting” to his crimes. Unfortunately for the police, witnesses and the recording testified to Thomas’s lying submissively on the ground, crying out poignantly for his father, while the police officers beat and tasered the life out of him. A total of six officers were involved in subduing him.