Friday, August 3, 2012

"Stupid and Disrespectful Is Not Against the Law"

I don't think any of us who have escaped negative encounters with law enforcement really appreciate what's happened to American police officers in the last decade.
I supposed he's lucky he didn't get tasered on some pretext and thrown into the hospital:
Robert Bell had just left a West Village bar last August when four New York City police officers walked by. A moment later, the Edison man "expressed his dislike and distrust for police officers by raising his middle finger toward them," according to a lawsuit he just filed.

In other words, Bell gave the cops the finger.

One of the officers noticed and confronted Bell, seeking an explanation.
"Because I don’t like cops," the financial services recruiter replied. He was then handcuffed, taken into custody and held in a jail cell for two hours before being released and issued a summons for disorderly conduct. Bell’s criminal case was soon dismissed when the arresting officer, Peter Play, failed to appear in court.

I believe this happens all the time, actually. Many of the tasering incidents I chronicle are the result of citizens failing to be properly respectful toward authority rather than threatening to the police or others. It's a fine line, I understand, and I suppose the cops can be forgiven for failing to see the difference in many cases. But that is all the more reason for not using pain compliance willy nilly.


The best cops don't react to "disrespect" and understand they have better things to do than police the attitudes of the citizens. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of officers who have internalized the military mentality that permeates our police agencies these days and feel that they are in a war zone where attitudes are a threat.

This case is pretty clear cut. And the victim is filing a federal law suit:
Legal experts and law enforcement officials say Bell has a case, and courts have generally backed his position in similar instances. What he did could be seen as offensive in some circles or defiant in others, they say, but it was not illegal.

"I can’t arrest you for giving me the finger, any more than I can arrest you for calling me nasty names," said Jon Shane, a retired Newark police captain who is now an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. "Sure it’s stupid and disrespectful. But it’s not against the law."
That's right, being stupid and disresepectful is not against the law. I wish more of my fellow citizens understood this, much less the police who are often far too quick to take offense and call it a threat.

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