e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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When Police Misbehave

An Austin Police Department officer, who lives in a nearby town, got into an argument with an older female neighbor--he was off duty, out of uniform, not in his jurisdiction, you will note.  He came into her yard to confront her.   She told him to get out of her yard.  He didn't.  From the images of both shown on  TV last night, he is markedly bigger than she is--heavier and taller.   She said if he didn't get out of her yard she would spray him with a garden hose.   He continued to stay in her yard and argue with her.  She sprayed him with the garden hose.  He then physically attacked her, picking her up and throwing her onto the ground (I think it was the driveway, but am not certain) causing injuries for which she needed medical treatment.

An internal investigation by the Austin PD did not find he had done anything wrong, but the chief fired him.  Now the police officers' association is mad at the chief, claiming that the officer did nothing wrong, didn't break any laws, and shouldn't have been fired.  They claim he acted "in self defense."  (Against being sprayed with a garden hose...while trespassing.  Yeah, that really calls for a physical slam-down.  NOT.)

It's bad enough that a police officer who is not in his jurisdiction, not on duty, and is not in the process of apprehending a criminal--just having an argument with a neighbor who is older, smaller, and on her own property--would trespass, refuse to get off her property, and then pick up and throw down this citizen because she got him wet.

It is worse that his fellow officers--and supposedly his entire chain of command except the police chief--see nothing wrong in what he did and accept the trespass, the refusal to leave, and the injury to the property owner as justified by "self-defense."

Because if it had been two other neighbors--big younger man, small older woman--and the man had invaded the woman's yard to yell at her more effectively, and refused to leave when asked, and she had sprayed him with a hose (getting his clothes wet, I suppose--it was a garden hose, not a fire hose)  and he'd slammed her to the ground, injuring her, and she'd called the police...I will bet you that man would have been found to have committed the criminal offense of assault and battery, as well as trespass, as well as disturbing the peace (especially if he had been black and she had been white.   She had a reasonable fear of injury when a larger man came onto her property and yelled at her.  I believe police officers would see that if the perp had not been a police officer.   I believe that the police officer in this case simply lost his temper (something police officers do, with the excuse that theirs is a hard life) and threw her down because he could and expected to get away with it, because BADGE.

Routinely, internal investigations find no fault in situations like this where the reasonable and educated citizen knows that the same act committed by anyone else is a crime.  Routinely, law enforcement "stands behind" acts that are morally wrong, legally culpable, and indefensible except by those who, in their arrogance, claim the right to do anything they want any time they want no matter what.

And thereby are losing, steadily and inexorably, the respect of the populace.  The bad apples--the ones who do these things and the ones in the force who support what they've done--destroy the reputation of the whole.  Which is sad because there are still a lot of good, honest, law officers who are not like this fellow.  Not like the man in Ohio who shot a 12 year old without giving him time to obey and then lied about what happened.  Not like their chief and commissioner who suggested that the family should spend the settlement money on a program to teach black kids about the danger of having toy guns that look too real.  Not like the Texas state troopers who performed a roadside cavity search on young girls...right out there in full view of everyone...because I guess they wanted to cop a feel.   Not like the cops in New Mexico who--when a cavity search for drugs by a doctor came up with nothing ordered the hospital to give the man enema after enema just because they could...and then tried to lie about it.   Or the ones in New Orleans and elsewhere who kept a "ham sandwich" in the car so they could plant a gun in someone's car or apartment...or the DAs who hide exculpatory evidence from the jury in order to get a conviction of an innocent citizen.

One of the reasons policing is harder now is that law enforcement has repeatedly not only done bad things, but failed to admit that they were bad.  Coverups...excuses when the coverup is penetrated...the belief that sticking together, in a gang-like attitude, is more important than the oath they swore to serve and protect the population...all that has eroded citizens' trust in law enforcement, its willingness to work with them.   Precisely because law officers are allowed more leeway when on duty than ordinary citizens--to enter property, to order people around--abuse of those powers makes things worse for them in the long run.

Good police officers have got to quit protecting the bad ones.   They've got to start policing internally--seriously--telling jerks like the guy who threw an older woman down in "self-defense"  (a patently stupid claim)  that such behavior is wrong.  Trespassing on a neighbor's property is wrong, and if you're asked or told to leave--you leave.   Feeling girls up alongside the highway is wrong.   Raping girls at a traffic stop (as one county constable did here years ago) is wrong.  Planting evidence is wrong.   Hiding evidence is wrong.  Good officers need to be tough toward their own, and police chiefs are absolutely right to discipline or fire officers whose behavior brings the department into disrepute.  Departments need to be honest with each other when hiring from another department.  Police academies should flunk out, not keep in, cadets who--like the guy who shot Tamir Rice--are considered emotionally unstable and thus unsafe with firearms.

Additionally, officers need to have access to mental health care that will help them deal with the very real stresses of police work, and give them tools to manage their own problems--police officers have a higher rate of domestic violence than the average population, and often show signs of anger management  and control issues.  (A difficult shift before the current one is NOT a good reason to lose your temper, scream at a citizen, and beat on them.)   Mental health visits should be standard, required, for all personnel at regular intervals and after any incident where violence is used, be it on assignment or otherwise.
Tags: law enforcement, politics
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