Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

August 19, 2009

Another Genuine Case of a Police Officer ‘Acting Stupidly’ (So where’s Obama?)

by Stephen Littau

A 38 year-old mother of three, who posed no threat to the police or anyone else, was tasered right in front of her children in January of this year. Yet to my knowledge, President Obama has failed to address this genuine case of the police “acting stupidly.” Maybe it’s because Audra Harmon cannot help the president make his case about the “history” of race relations and the police since Mrs. Harmon appears to be a Caucasian woman.

No, Mrs. Harmon doesn’t have the ability to claim she was racially profiled for DWB but this does not make the actions of Deputy Sean Andrews any less shameful.

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I’m not sure I agree that tasers should be banned from police use altogether but with every incident like this one that occurs tends to strengthen such an argument. As citizens, we need to hold law enforcement accountable when unnecessary or excessive force is used. When an individual poses no threat to a police officer or anyone else, no force should be used*. Tasers should not be a weapon to be used against an individual who does nothing other than annoy a police officer.** I imagine that even the most authoritarian bootlickers would have been outraged had the deputy used a nightstick on the woman, so how is tasering somehow more acceptable?

But there is even more at play in this case than unnecessary use of force which should not be overlooked. Mrs. Harmon was charged for talking on a cell phone while driving (though in the search of her vehicle, no phone was found), speeding (a charge that was added only after the deputy was unable to find a phone and without the aid of a radar gun), resisting arrest (Is calling bullshit on an arrest now considered ‘resisting’?) and of course the obligatory ‘disorderly conduct’ (a.k.a. ‘contempt of cop’). All these trumped up charges were dropped by the DA’s office.

I know, I know, if Mrs. Harmon had stayed in her car and hadn’t failed to ‘respect the deputy’s authoritah’ she would never have been tasered or arrested. Perhaps she should have had more control over her emotions despite doing nothing else wrong. Perhaps she should have waited for the deputy to return to her car and politely ask to see the video replay then or wait to have her day in court***.

But nothing Mrs. Harmon did that day merited a taser or arrest. The deputy should have acknowledged that he had made a mistake and moved on. Now Mrs. Harmon is suing the department for the deputy’ s conduct (and hopefully she will prevail).

President Obama did no favors for those like Mrs. Harmon who have legitimately become victims of police misconduct when he decided to turn the whole overblown Gates situation into a race issue. Like I said before, race did not need to be part of the discussion – at all. But when the president and others use a mild example of police conduct as an example of the current state of policing, it seems to others that those of us who have legitimate arguments to be taken less seriously.

Hat Tip: The Agitator

*If there is good reason to place an individual under arrest, only the minimum amount of force required to perform the arrest should be used.

**In this case, Mrs. Harmon demonstrated the officer was wrong when he could not find a cell phone in the vehicle. I’m sure that hurt Deputy Andrews feelings; that’s just too damn bad.

***I think sometimes the police write tickets and/or charge individuals knowing full well that most people are unwilling to go through the hassle of going to court. My wife was given a ticket for failing to come to a complete stop before turning right at a red light. She maintained that she did in-fact stop and went to court to contest the ticket. From there the judge offered to reduce the offense to a broken tail light rather than set up another court date. Though I was disappointed on principle that she accepted the deal, I certainly understand why she did; she already went through the hassle of appearing once in court, how many more days would she have to set aside to fight a bogus charge?

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  • Diana

    This has NOTHING to do with the president. This has to to with a stupid cop with big time mental issues. He probably beats his wife. There are too many cops who become police officers so that they can have power and authority…which many of them abuse, just as this jackass did. He should be fired and she should sue for pain and suffering!

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    Obama didn’t say anything about the Gates case until someone asked him about it at a press conference. He correctly though timidly pointed out that the cop acted stupidly. In truth, the cop actually abused Gates’ civil rights and ought to be fired and lose his pension.

    As for the race issue, Gates appears to have made it a race issue first, although it looks more like a simple police abuse of authority. Obama used the moment to point out, entirely correctly, that racial minorities suffer undue discrimination by the police.

    Perhaps Obama made political errors in speaking, but he noted two absolutely correct facts:

    1. The police treat racial minorities unjustly.
    2. The cop acted stupidly.

    If anything, he was more timid than a factual statement of the history and current events of American police work.

  • John222

    It is unbelievable to me that we tolerate this sort of behavior from those that are sworn to “serve and protect”

    In this instance the only thing I can be glad of is that neither the victim nor the offender appear to be of “minority status”. Now we can truly see that this could happen to any one of us.

    I once knew a police officer who told me that if you are ever pulled over, all you have to do is crack the window and slide out your license, registration and proof of insurance. I have never tried this, but I suspect it would not go over too well with most law enforcement officers. It seems like they all insist on a verbal exchange. Exercising my rights in a jail cell is none too appealing.

    It would be great if we had some kind of “bill of rights” we could go by in our dealings with government officials.

  • itsalljustaride

    Is the president required to comment on each and every arrest in the country? Why even bring him into this? As Joshua said, Obama didn’t comment on the Gates case until someone asked him about it.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Of course I don’t expect the president to comment on every arrest. It’s more of a rhetorical question. The point I was trying to make with respect to Obama is that its not just minorities who find themselves victim of police violating their civil rights and that the situation he decided to comment on, while serious, was quite mild compared to cases like this one.

    The only reason why Obama responded to the Gates question is because Gates is a personal acquaintance of his.

  • http://www.policehow.com Jack

    Obama is probably inviting him over to sit back and drink some brewskies :o

  • southernjames

    Chris Rock gives some very good advice on how to avoid police brutality:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gCCjFbFXn8

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