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.