An Ohio woman named Jessica Ferrato who was attacked by a Cleveland transit cop after pulling out her phone to record his unprofessionalism Sunday learned the power of social media when she posted about her altercation on Facebook. A transit cop asked for her pass which she showed him four times before he threw her to the ground.
Her Facebook post, which is reposted below, ended up getting shared more than 1,285 times as of this writing, coming to the attention of several local journalists, who began calling the Regional Transit Authority, seeking comment.
An update on Jessica’s Facebook page shows a link to an article where the RTA issued an apology. Here is a link to an article by the Cleveland newspaper describing the arrest as indicative of a pattern of excessive force in Cleveland by the police. The Justice Department has opened an investigation of the entire force after 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland police.
Jessica said she is now sacred to ever ride the public transit again not because of criminals, but because of the police that she thought were supposed to protect her.
I went to the CIFF closing party at around 9pm, had a complimentary glass of champagne and a brownie as I listened to the closing night speeches and award announcements, and then joined some old friends at the staff party, where I enjoyed a few light snacks and some conversation before leaving at 11pm, looking forward to curling up with my dogs and a good book. I had taken the RTA to avoid the hassle of parking downtown, and, having purchased an all-day pass with my credit card at the station at 117th and Madison when I started off for the 11 o’clock round that morning, I went to the basement of Tower City to catch the rapid back to that same station. I had a 23 minute wait, and whiled away the time looking at my Facebook feed and playing the Foundbite geography quiz game on my phone. My battery started dying while I waited so I plugged it into my backup charger, which I carried with me. Finally got on the train and enjoyed a pretty uneventful trip back to 117th and Madison.
I was still looking at my phone and carrying the plugged in backup charger as I left the station, and I got off the platform, in the door, down the stairs, through the lobby, and was pushing my way through the outer vestibule door to the crisp air of the parking lot when a transit cop who was standing in the vestibule arguing with a female passenger stopped hassling her for a moment and asked to see my bus pass. I smiled in kind of a cocky manner and said, “Bus? I just got off the train!” as I reached for the pass which was in my pocket. He said, “Ma’am, I said show me your bus pass.” I had already pulled the pass out of my pocket and said, “here you go” and showed him my pass as I walked past.
He said, “Ma’am, you have to show me your pass. I asked to see your pass.” I had already walked past him at this point and was outside in the parking lot, and I turned around, pass in hand, showing it to him, and said, “here’s my pass.” At this point he ran in front of me, blocked my path and closed in on me and said, “I told you you have to stop. You have to do what I say.” At this point I literally had the RTA pass two inches away from his face, and I was saying, “It’s right here! I’ve showed it to you! Here is my pass, it’s valid, it’s an all day pass, I bought it here this morning.” He was very much closed in on me, throwing his chest into my face and telling me that I had to do whatever he said, to which I replied that he was exceeding his authority and that he needed to let me go, that I’d already showed him my pass and at this point he was violating my rights by detaining me. I tried to walk past him towards my car.
He started ordering me to turn around and telling me that he was going to taze me, and that I should turn around and give him my hands. I looked to the phone in my hand, meaning to turn on the video app to record this instance of me very much being assaulted by this police officer, and he knocked it onto the ground. It was still connected to the charger in my other hand, and as I started to pull it up by the cord, he knocked me to the ground, shoved my face in the dirt, and told me that he was going to pepper spray me. At this point his voice was very high-pitched, and he called for backup as he continued to push my face into the dirt from on top of me. He struggled to pull my arms behind my back as I struggled to gather and hold onto my possessions, some of which had scattered – my phone, charger, purse, and RTA pass. His knee was on top of my back as he cuffed one of my wrists, and then he cut my purse’s handle in order to remove it from my grasp.
Several other officers arrived and I told them that my rights were being violated. I told them that the officer was making a mistake and that he was being an idiot (I was definitely using profanity at some point, but I was otherwise remaining calm and not resisting). They asked me if I’d even graduated high school. I informed them that I’d earned a master’s degree, and they asked me if it was in criminal justice, as I seemed to know so much about rights. At this point I thought I could feel the presence of more than one officer on top of me as they were securing handcuffs behind my back. Somehow I started to feel the cool crisp Lakewood air on my bare bottom, as they had somehow pulled my pants and underwear down exposing my bare naked butt to the wide open night. This had me completely terrified and I kicked back and up with my legs to get them off of me. I hit one of them in the shins, and then heard one of them say, “NOW you’re guilty of assault!” As I mentioned, my face was being forced into the dirt at this time, I was handcuffed, my pants down, and I couldn’t see what was happening behind / on top of me.
They were asking me questions which were not official questions (“you know so much about rights, are you a lawyer?”) and I just kept repeating that I wanted to be booked and taken to the police station and I wanted to speak with a lawyer. Finally one of them saw fit to remove the officers who were on top of me, pull my pants up, turn me over and take me off of the ground and put me in the back of the police cruiser. From here things started to cool down a little as the three officers who’d arrived on the scene asked their fellow officer for the story. As he told them his version very animatedly, I kept shouting from the back of the cruiser that this was insane, that they’ve f***ed up, that their friend had violated my rights. One of the officers opened the back seat on the opposite side of the car and asked me my name, and I told him that I was absolutely terrified, that I had just been innocently walking out of the train station with my valid pass which I’d showed the officer at least four times when I’d suddenly been assaulted by this officer, my face shoved in the dirt and my pants pulled down, and I just wanted to be taken to the police station and put in contact with a lawyer.
I was very much crying at this point. The other three officers slowly started to realize that maybe I had a point. One of them even started to apologize. But they still had to book me, and explained that they hadn’t seen what had happened but that the arresting officer was charging me with resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, and disorderly conduct. They explained that I could fight it in court and that everything had been captured on video. They took the time to complete the paperwork which included asking me where I lived, what was my occupation, my name, phone number, address, social security number, and if I was affiliated with any gang (I could see that this was one of the official questions on their booking form). One of them looked around the area for my RTA pass, and picked one up off of the ground and asked if it was mine. I asked him what the time stamp said, because I knew I’d purchased mine with my credit card at just before 11am that day, on my way to see the Jury Shorts Awards Program at 11:25. We both realized that the pass he’d picked up wasn’t mine, that mine had been lost in the tussle.
The other officer loosened my handcuffs at my request, and asked if I’d had anything to drink, and I mentioned the glass or two of champagne that I’d had around 9pm, at the closing night ceremony. (By then it was 12:30pm and they acknowledged that I didn’t appear to be intoxicated.) They filled out the paperwork, and I rode with two of the other officers to the RTA police headquarters, where they explained that I would likely have to be processed and that it would be a couple of hours before I would be able to leave. I noted that I’d left a party early, looking forward to letting my dogs out and curling up with a book, and that I’d probably have been better off if I’d stayed out all night. I asked if I’d be able to find a safe way to transport myself from wherever it was they were taking me back to my car at 3am, and the officer said they’d probably keep me until start of business. I informed them that my son would be getting dropped off before school at around 7am, and would I be home to meet him? Would I have the opportunity to make any phone calls? He just apologized and they kept driving on in silence. I again noted that I was just going home in a peaceful and unobtrusive manner and that what had happened to me was insane, that I wouldn’t have been in the back of their car if I hadn’t been a single woman walking out to her car on her own, that their fellow officer had appeared to be waiting outside the RTA station solely for the purpose of harassing single female passengers when it was in fact his job to protect those very passengers.
They turned off onto some alley off of the expressway, and for a moment I was very frightened and asked where they were taking me. They said that they were going to take me to see their sergeant before taking me to the justice department for booking. We pulled up to the transit authority police headquarters, and they rolled down my back seat window and I told two officers, including a second officer who was obviously older and of a higher rank, the story of what happened. They closed the window and discussed the situation – the arresting officer was not present at this time – and the older higher-ranking officer opened my door and explained that they were going to drop the resisting arrest and obstruction charges, but that they would have to keep the disorderly conduct charge, which I could fight in court. He also explained that instead of booking me and keeping me overnight they would cite and release me, and that the officers would drive me home. He clarified that my car was parked at Madison & 117th, and as I had had a couple of glasses of champagne earlier in the evening the officers would drive me to my house instead of my car.
They FINALLY removed the handcuffs that were pinning my arms uncomfortably behind me. The two substantially cooler-headed officers drove me home, asked if I’d suffered any injuries from being shoved to the ground (I told him that my arms and back and pride and dignity were hurt but otherwise no head injuries or anything), gave me my belongings, asked me to sign the citation for disorderly conduct, clarified my court date and reminded me to do what I felt was right as far as opposing it, and apologized for what I had been through. I thanked them for the ride home and for being cool-headed, and told them to watch out that their fellow officer didn’t get them in trouble.
So now my back and shoulders are killing me and I’m covered with dirt. No word yet on how I’ll feel about riding the rapid by myself from here on out. It’s insane that it no longer feels safe to me, and it’s 100% because of the transit cops.