Sunday, August 17, 2008

Albany Police....

From the DH:

An Albany woman is seeking witnesses to an incident in which she says a police officer used excessive force on her 13-year-old son during Thursday’s River Rhythms concert.

Albany police say that any use of force was appropriate and that it was in response to the teenager not following an officer’s instructions.

I really hope that second sentence is a construction of the reporter and not what the officer actually said. Making a blanket claim that any use of force is appropriate is both really bad PR and a really bad idea. What if they had, say, Tasered him? Would that have been OK? What if they had broken a limb of his while restraining him? Would that have been OK? He's a 13-year-old with a skateboard, for fuck's sake.

The police point of view is reiterated in this quote later in the article:

“The force used was appropriate,” Carter said. “The force used was a result of the young man refusing to do what (the officer) said to do.”

That last phrase is the important part: Use of force is authorized explicitly because someone ignored a police officer, not because someone was endangering others. This should be raising a lot of red flags for people - it's a short hop from there to misusing a gun or a Taser or even a badge. In fact, I'd argue that's what happened here.

And no, I don't believe this is fundamentally new behavior. But I have noticed a distinct uptick in the number of times that failure to listen an officer is cited as justification for violence on the part of the police, rather than failure to obey a law. That it is implicit in the former that the latter is also present is not, in my eyes, good enough, because it's often not true.

Almost worse than the story are all the rabid commenters complaining about how unruly youth are. THE KID WAS 13 AND HAD A SKATEBOARD IN A PARK. Call me when he's chucking eggs at cars or stealing or something. Jeebus. And people wonder why kids dislike cops or other authority figures.

Update 8/18 @ 7:15 PM: I should note that there are two things going on here, and I don't want to conflate them. The first is that I think the use of force in this particular case is inappropriate. The second is an idea that I've seen more and more often, that the justification for the use of force is simply because an officer told someone to do something.


BlogReader said...

Sorry Dennis, going to go with the police on this one. Too many of these kids get away with way too much. If this was a common occurrence with the police I might feel different, but it's not. One kid gets scraped up after mouthing off to a cop, maybe he'll think twice about mouthing off in the future (doubt it though).

Dennis said...

blogreader, what makes you think the use of force in a case like this is even effective? You admit as much with your last parenthetical: That hurting a 13-year-old isn't going to teach anyone to be more respectful of police. In fact, the opposite is true.

What, exactly, do kids get away with? Skateboarding in forbidden places?

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