A longtime Worcester police officer was arraigned this week in Worcester Superior Court on an allegation that he beat a man who was in custody and handcuffed. The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office at the request of the Worcester County District Attorney.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Officer Michael Motyka, who has been a police officer for 17 years, was indicted by the Worcester County grand jury last month on one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a shod foot). A 48-year-old black man complained that while he was in custody, Motyka called him a racial slur, punched him, threw him on the floor, and kicked him. The incident occurred as the victim was waiting to be transported to court. The Worcester Police Department concluded that the charges were true following an internal investigation, and Motyka was arrested last April. He was initially on paid administrative leave following his arrest but placed on unpaid leave after he was indicted. At his arraignment, the judge released Motyka on personal recognizance and ordered him to surrender his firearms and firearms identification card. At his initial arraignment in district court, Motyka’s attorney suggested that he might have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Motyka is reportedly a military veteran of two wars.
There is a video of the alleged beating, but it has not yet been released. The city of Worcester settled out of court with the victim, paying him $150,000 (and paying his attorneys $75,000) to avoid a lawsuit. If the defendant is convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, he faces up to 10 years in state prison.
Criminal defense attorneys hear endless stories from clients about being roughed up by the police. Until recently, it was difficult to prove the stories of police brutality. However, given the increased number of surveillance cameras in public places, it has become easier for victims of police misconduct to prove they were abused. If this alleged crime had happened 20 years ago, there probably would not have been a surveillance video and the officer probably would not have been charged with a crime.
Victims of police brutality have also been aided by amateur videos taken by people with their cell phones. There have been many cases where suspects have been beaten by the police and the beatings have been documented by videos recorded by passersby. Police departments initially fought back against people who videotaped them in public, often arresting them and charging them with crimes such as disorderly conduct and wiretapping. The First Circuit Court of Appeals put a stop to that, ruling in 2011 that private citizens have the right to videotape police officers who are performing their duties in public. As a result, more and more police officers are captured on video acting in inappropriate, and often illegal, manners in investigating crime and effectuating arrests.
If it is proven that Motyka beat up a handcuffed prisoner, he should go to prison. The majority of police officers are honest, hardworking public servants. When a rogue cop violates the public trust by beating a suspect, it does irreparable damage to the relationship between the police and the community.