Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is The Opportunity To Handout 5 Jaywalking Tickets Worth Punching A Child, Potentially Starting A Riot, or Losing Ones Life?

A Seattle police officer punched a teenage girl in the face Monday afternoon. It was captured by a witness on video. The video above, a longer version of the incident, gives more clues on how this whole thing started.

From what I saw on the video, the whole thing was a comedy of errors that could have been FATAL for all involved (in no particular order):

  • He did not tell her initially she was under arrest or being detained, he simply grabbed her. If he did, her friend did interfere with a lawful arrest in progress. If he did not, that is an issue. The longer youtube video also shows both the girl he later struggles with and the girl he punched being initially complaint. Verbal complaints from a suspect do NOT constitute resisting.
  • He didn't wait for back-up when he saw he was outnumbered.
  • Her friend has the heart and courage to physically resist authority (specifically ARMED, local-level, imperialist authority), which is hard to find amongst black people in Seattle (or in amerikkka, generally), however she is fortunate (as are the bystanders) that he didn't draw his weapon and fire on her or the rest of the crowd.
  • Due to the adrenal dump the officer was experiencing, and all the emotions bound up with the body's physical response to perceived danger, chances are he probably would have been unable to draw his sidearm, let alone his pepper spray (as if that is a better alternative), let alone use either weapon effectively.
Police officers are taught what is called the Use Of Force Ladder. Aside from their personal politics and beliefs, or that of the department they serve, or even the state itself, this is a guide they use for determining how to respond to the actions of a "suspect".

The first level is officer presence. It is a societal expectation that once a uniformed officer arrives on the scene (or a plainclothes identifies himself as such) that whoever they want to speak to will comply with whatever they ask of them, based upon the position of authority that comes with being part of law enforcement.

The second level is verbal commands. This is the part where we see if the officer is "fair, friendly, and firm" or "foul-mouthed, fascistic, and looking for a fight", regardless of what the suspect is saying or doing. Depending on how the officer manages the encounter on this level, will greatly determine how the next levels play out; or whether or not those next level events even occur at all!

From what I read about it, it was a stop for jaywalking. The incident occurred near an area where two major arterials intersect, and there is a bridge that spans over both. The officer saw an 18-year-old man jaywalk across the busy street about 15 feet from the overpass.

After the officer stopped the man, he saw four women jaywalk at the same location and ordered them to come over to his car. At that point, the women became "verbally antagonistic, and one turned and began walking away", police said.

When the officer approached her and began escorting her back to his car, the Times report says, she tensed and pulled away, ignoring his order to put her hands on the patrol car. By then, a crowd had gathered. Police said the officer then began trying to handcuff her.

On one level, this whole thing could have been avoided. To the SPD officer in the video: Is it really necessary to attempt to coral 5 people at the same time by yourself, for jaywalking? Is the opportunity to handout 5 jaywalking tickets worth punching a child, potentially a starting a riot, or losing ones life?

Beyond the obvious, there are also the larger issues of capitalism, white supremacy, and police terrorism in communities of color. Really, it is these larger issues that this incident, stood next to the video taped stomping of a Mexican suspect two months ago (but only revealed to the public a month ago), that far too many sleep on.

They, along with other apologists for the way the world is, instead try to find ways to justify such acts (along with attempting to justify larger legal and legislative "brutalities" that further erode civil 'rights' [click here for an example of this], further erode our collective ability to peacefully redress our grievances; and give law enforcement greater latitude to terrorize us), and in doing so their lack of moral fortitude and outright cowardice is put on display.

It is because of these issues that this incident, and thousands of others like this one, and some that are even worse, in reality could not be avoided for very long.

One does not have to agree with what Christopher Morfort or Maurice Clemmons did, but anyone who has ever been threatened, brutalized, and/or terrorized by police has to agree that fear can quickly evolve into rage of that type, and we all know what that feels like.

What is key is how you use it. Do you strategize your anger or do you throw a temper tantrum and take a butt-whuppin' from friend and foe alike? All efforts to confront state power (in this case, as represented by SPD) will be for nothing if we do not attack the problem scientifically and systemically; with a clear understanding of who we are, what we are dealing with, why we are dealing, with who we are dealing with, and what our ultimate end goal is.

We must ask ourselves: is our goal reform...or revolution?

And let's be clear on the difference between the two. Put simply, reform seeks to fix a society that was built with the specific function to oppress and exploit. Revolution seeks to smash that society, and replace it with a society that does not!

Posing the above question in the context of this single issue (one of many symptoms of a dying imperialism), reform seeks to punish the officer, pay the victims (and their lawyers), and give the community more empty promises from city leadership and the police department. Revolution seeks to punish the officer, punish the city leadership, pay the victims, and give the community a strong social/political/economic/cultural/spiritual/ vehicle designed specifically to ensure that things like this never happen again!

1 comment:

  1. Your Right of Defense Against Unlawful Arrest.

    "Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting
    officer's life if necessary." Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306.

    premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the
    case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529. The Court stated: "Where the
    officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally
    accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with
    very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right
    to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What
    may be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter
    in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been

    "An arrest made with a defective warrant, or one issued without
    affidavit, or one that fails to allege a crime is within jurisdiction,
    and one who is being arrested, may resist arrest and break away. lf the
    arresting officer is killed by one who is so resisting, the killing will
    be no more than an involuntary manslaughter." Housh v. People, 75 111.
    491; reaffirmed and quoted in State v. Leach, 7 Conn. 452; State v.
    Gleason, 32 Kan. 245; Ballard v. State, 43 Ohio 349; State v Rousseau,
    241 P. 2d 447; State v. Spaulding, 34 Minn. 3621.

    More here: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=525869390&blogId=532320218


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