The Camera Continues to be the new Gun…

This new video from Seattle shows a police officer punching a 17-year old girl in the face (check out 0:30).  Lots of talk around the blogosphere are circulating around who is at fault here. I personally think that the armed adult police officer used excessive force, but that is the nature of police work… they will always use the maximum amount of force they can without getting in trouble. The real discussion should focus around how these kinds of confrontations can be avoided.

The primary issue for me is the original law that was violated that lead to the interaction. In this case the law was jaywalking. Yep… jaywalking. These teenage girls crossed the street at a place the state determined is unlawful. The heart of the problem is the police are being told by politicians to enforce laws that do not harm anyone but the person who committed the act, they are victimless crimes. We all know that the police officer could have ignored the jaywalking law (as they often do), in this case it was an excuse to talk to youth he probably thought were causing trouble.

A secondary issue here is that the woman was charged with “Assaulting an Officer”, a crime that I see as unconstitutional. If all people are created equal and are viewed as equal under the law why is the penalty for assaulting one person greater than assaulting another? Why is the life and body of a police officer of greater value than a teacher, store clerk or homeless person? This mentality of special status for some groups only serves to re-enforce the idea that the general population is somehow subservient to the police and other public servants.

So what should happen, but won’t? This case should be given to a prosecutor for the county (not the city where the officer works) and charges should be filed for assault. The officer should get his day in court, but he should not be allowed special treatment where he will be reviewed by his colleagues and at worst get a slap on the wrist. A message should be sent that the police are not special and that a crime is a crime.

Post Script: Something else that stood out to me was the reaction of the crowd. There were about a dozen people standing around who all seemed to feel that the officer was wrong and literally attacking a 17 year old girl but none of them stepped in. Undoubtably they would have prevented the attack if the offender was not wearing a badge, this just goes to show you that good citizens will do nothing to stand up to the police out of fear, even if the officer is doing something terribly wrong and harming another person. Edmund Burke was right… and unfortunately good men continue to do nothing when the evil wears a badge.

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5 Responses to The Camera Continues to be the new Gun…

  1. Speedmaster says:

    And all for jay-walking?! Wow.

  2. Damian921 says:

    Bottom line- Put on a badge yourself- then judge the officer. When you are charged with representing the law – and you deem it necessary to enforce a law- and you meet resistance- alone, on the street- with a crowd gathering around you, the person we see in the video is already resisting arrest- the persons with them are interfering with police business- you be the person in that officer’s position- and THEN you criticize. Otherwise- mind your business or better yet- show a little gratitude if not just plain understanding to those who do a job much more difficult than yours every day- and in fact- they do it to be able to afford you the luxury of sitting on your ass and criticizing them when theyre in a difficult situation.

    How dare you quote Edmund Burke in this situation! Evil wearing a badge? This isn’t Rodney King. This is a beligerent little girl surrounded by other beligerent people all of whom can wear the badge of bigotry- NOT HELPING 1. THEIR OWN “SISTER” TO GET THROUGH THE SITUATION WITH THE OFFICER IN A PEACEFUL WAY I.E. ASSITING HER TO CALM DOWN AND COOPERATE SO AS TO GET THROUGH IT AS QUICKLY AND EASILY AS POSSIBLE- AND 2. HOW ABOUT HELPING THE WHITE OFFICER WHO SEEMS TO BE ALONE OUT THERE AND SLOWLY GETTING SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO WOULD RATHER CRITICIZE AND INTIMIDATE THAN HELP EITHER PARTY.

    I dont know about you- but I would be getting a little nervous. And now what is the officer supposed to do- just let her go after she committed an offense enough to call his attention to it? AND she openly diregards the representaiton of the law? Hmm, let me see… what if someone snatched her purse, the cop is supposed to what? Say “oh well miss, he’s ran off, what are ya gonna do? Let it go.” Because if he runs the guy down and tackles him and the guy turns out to be 17 years old, and he has to use force to subdue the kid- since the kid is resisting arrest- then youre gonan critique the cop for doing his job that way too?

    Point is- I bet she wouldt have a problem with the officer aggressively doing his duty if she were the one in need- but because she’s the one offending- you and she think she is all of a sudden exempt? Get off it. There are a dozen differeint arguments against your bullsh*t attitude to this video. Only it seems youre one of those people who needs so badly to be PC, you cloud your own mind to what’s just plain right and wrong.

    She is 17 years old? get on her parents for not teaching her how to behave or how to respect the law and its officers.

    Did you see the young man pull away the other young woman before she got HERSELF in trouble too? Smart guy! Cops have a job to do- let them do it- help them by cooperating and believe me- they won’t bother with wanting to do the paperwork if you don’t MAKE them!

    In NY for example- if you’re stopped by police in your car- don’t get out of the car- if you act rash- you’ll get shot. Why? Because unfortunately officers have been attacked in those situations before. If they let their guard down for you, me or anyone- they’ll invite the same danger again from a real criminal. A percieved threat to law enforcement is to be responded to with force first. Otherwise you invite other threats.

    This officer doesnt know if he’s going to get slashed across the face or hit with something or shot in the next minute. My critique of him is that he didnt subdue the young lady faster. If ANYTHING- he showed TOO MUCH restraint.

    Where do you REALLY stand in this situation I wonder? What would you say if the officer was then attacked by a mob and beaten half to death? Would you say it was justified because you saw him defend himself on a video like this?

    You certainly make it sound like thats where you would stand.

    What if you learned that the officer was assigned this post because “jay walking” had been causing accidents involving pedestrian injuries at that location?

    You say in your comments that jay walking should be overlooked? Really? What else should we overlook? What other law that’s been put in place because a group of people decided it was a necessary law- and lets be specific here before some asswipe uses an unrelated law to make some contrary point- what law governing the safety of pedestrians when it comes to traffic- can we overlook for you- to make it ok for a young lady to be beligerent to a police officer and so you can have your way and let the girl get off with a warning?

    Better question- what balls or right do you have questioning an officer of the law on what law they can or cannot enforce at their discretion?

    Your opinion is a luxury afforded you by the work law enforcement does.

    You can hear the person taking the video asking repeatedly- “seriously?- seriously?” and honestly , shouldn’t he be asking that of everyone around the situation AND the young lady for having resisted arrest?

    You gotta give me a break. I’m not going to join you in making excuses for people who simply do not know how to behave.

    If it were me in the situation- first of all- I wouldnt be giving any officer of the law any reason to WANT to arrest me no matter how ridiculous I think their reason for approaching me may be! Second of all- if I DO make the mistake of meriting an arrest- then I better be smart enough not to let myself get carried away and make it worse for myself by acting like a fool.

    This is the problem with your attitude…

    You make excuses for people who should take responsibility for their own actions.

    You want to point your finger at the badge but youre too chicken sh*t to take up the responsibility yourself.

    I doubt you’ve ever been in a position to have to make decisions that MAY or may not have immediate real life or death consequences- without the privilege of even knowing which decisions those may turn out to be from one minute to the next.

    This didnt have to be this way- what we see in the video…

    But not because of the officer.

    • Aaron says:

      I’m less interested in what constitutes a reasonable reaction by an officer in such a situation, than in asking why do police abuses like this, and the kinds that journalists like Radley Balko have made entire careers out of detailing, keep happening.

      They’re normally passed off as “isolated incidents”, and they might be in any particular department or jurisdiction (although, as Radley has repeated shown, not necessarily). But they clearly aren’t isolated in the aggregate sense.

      So there’s something at work in our society, either personally psychological with officers or the public, or institutionally with the way our society approaches law and order.

      Your response to blame the public is too easy to be the real answer. It’s likely a combination of all of the above factors. Given that, is it easier to adjust human nature, either on the part of the public or officers on the force, or is it more likely we can tweak the institutions, duties, and responsibilities of public safety?

      If you (that is, the plural you, not Damian specifically) argue that “society” or “the people” need to change, than what you’re really saying is “clearly, we have the wrong sort of people for the society I THINK WE SHOULD WANT and they need to conform”.

      That argument is arrogant, patronizing, and silly. Individuals are the way they are, and “the people” is just the sprawling mass of them added up. Instead, it’s time to rethink the way we approach policing in this country, with respect for our ideals of rule of law, public safety, and the motto of ‘Protect and Serve’.

  3. Prodigal Son says:

    Wow, where to begin… I guess I will start at the end.

    I would say two combat tours as an infantry paratrooper in the United States Army means I have been in a few life or death situations, for both me, my friends and strangers. You don’t know my past. You don’t know my history of working for and with law enforcement. I have put on a badge and it is from this insider perspective that I offer criticism of the way law enforcement is done in this country. You can make assumptions all you want, but these assumptions are just proving your ignorance. I am not some snot-nosed brat who just hates the police. I am an adult who does not hate police officers, but hates the institutional arrangement that puts them unnecessarily in conflict with the public on a regular basis.

    I am a big believer in personal responsibility but I also believe it is our duty to fight injustice and violate bad laws. I will not obey a law simply because it is a law. There are, and always have been, bad laws that infringe on the individual liberties. The only just laws are those in response to harm against an innocent person, and even then the police should only get involved if it cannot be handled through civil courts. Jaywalking does not fit into that category, the person who gets harmed jaywalking is the pedestrian and the government should not restrict actions that we can do that would harm ourselves. To do so is to imply the government has greater ownership of our bodies and lives than we do.

    The officer put himself in that situation and he could have easily deflated the situation by walking away. This wasn’t about jaywalking though, this was about establishing authority. This was about proving to the people in the community that as a police officer he was the one in charge, he would use violence as he pleases and they are subservient to him. This was about power, not law.

    I feel sorry for this country if you are representative of the undying loyalty to the badge instead of what is right. I will ALWAYS question authority. I will ALWAYS fight injustice. You say that you would never do anything that would make an officer want to arrest you, then you are a sheep. Open your eyes to the injustice in this world and do something instead of acting as nothing more than a “yes-man” for the men in power. If everyone had the mindset of you there would never be change in the system and we would just drift into tyranny.

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