Thrawn Rickle 43

Police Misbehavior

© 1993 Williscroft

When is a police officer justified in using force to apprehend a suspect? Is there a limit to the force a police officer can use?

In November, 1968, the nation witnessed a police force out of control during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. That occasion was especially disturbing, because the provocateurs were following a carefully planned agenda that was designed to show out of control police officers on national television. The plan succeeded beyond the demonstrator’s wildest dreams.

I witnessed youths cast to the ground to be beaten and kicked by several officers. I saw young women kicked and dragged by their hair across the pavement. Unfortunately, the nation at large remained unaware of the intense provocation these police officers underwent.

How would you react to being handed a sandwich spread with human excrement? How would you handle being drenched with human urine?

The good news is that you and I can react to situations like these with justifiable vehemence—the bad news is that police officers don’t have this liberty.

I would personally find it very difficult to maintain my cool while being handed a sh...t sandwich by a fowl-smelling, unwashed adult male who was screaming obscenities in my face. But if I were a police officer I would have no option, ever, under any circumstances. The operating principle is and must always remain: a police officer may use only the minimum force necessary to make an apprehension, except when his or her life or the life of an innocent bystander is in jeopardy.

It’s tough, it’s demanding, sometimes it seems impossible—but there can be no exceptions to this rule.

Recently, the nation witnessed another kind of police misadventure. As before, we have no idea what kind of provocation preexisted the incident we all witnessed on national television. Also, as before, we saw what happened. And we saw it over, and over, and over, and over, and....

The underlying operating principle expressed here cannot allow this kind of behavior by police officers under any circumstances. The evidence is clear—they will be found guilty of misconduct at a minimum, and could face felony assault charges.

The evidence is also clear that these police officers have been “lynched” by the media, and have been prejudged and executed by crowds of mindless goons who seem more intent on venting their own prejudices and in bringing down the senior law enforcement official in Los Angeles, than they are on ridding the system of this kind of abuse. Even some of the highest officials in the land have added their weight to the screaming mob.

On a recent Larry King Live broadcast, several alleged victims of police brutality squared off against the president of a national police fraternity. The already stated operating principle remains immutable—police misbehavior cannot be tolerated. Nevertheless, the individuals on this program were offensive, abusive, and gave every indication that they probably did whatever they could to incite the officers involved in the incidents. The contrast between them and the police officer was remarkable.

When police officers are out of line, the problem must be corrected swiftly and surely—within the law! It will always be far more difficult to reeducate undisciplined people who have never learned or don’t care about the salving, lubricating effects of civil behavior.