Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dept. of First Times

I'm basically with the Huffington Post's Nick Antosca about the behavior of the police as they grabbed U. Florida student Andrew Meyer, wrestled him to the ground, and then tasered him. And then accuse him of the ludicrous charge of trying to "incite a riot."

Meyer appears to be not totally balanced, but unless the videotapes are missing some important context--he has a history the officers are aware of, there's some other action we can't see--then this looks like terrible police work. Maybe even criminal--surely smart lawyers will be able to more accurately judge whether or not the officers crossed legal, and not just prudential or ethical, lines.

I know the conservative impulse is to laugh, since Meyer appears to be an unbalanced lefty conspiracy guy, but this is the sort of police action that should make you wary.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

There was more to it than you saw on the video. Note that the cops were already hovering around the guy when the videos began. For some reason, the video is edited (or began late) so you can't see the entire sequence of events. Check out Michelle Malkin for emails from students that were apparently in attendance.

http://michellemalkin.com/2007/09/17/student-tasered-at-john-kerry-forum/

Yes, the guy got tazed, and that sucks for him. But he could have prevented it at any point. First, by acting reasonably. Second, by not asking offensive and/or psychotic questions. Third, by leaving in an orderly manner. Fourth, by not resisting arrest. And fifth, by not trying to fight the cops.

You don't get to decide whether or not you're going to be arrested. You can challenge the charges after arrest. But you don't get physical with cops.

Anonymous said...

Please. First of all, the videos being shown by the MSM this morning have been severely edited to make the cops look worse. Second of all, like the above poster says, you don't get to decide whether or not you're going to be arrested. Even if the arrest is completely erroneus, you still are not allowed to resist. It's dangerous for the suspect, the cops, and the populace at large.

Anonymous said...

You'll notice he wasn't grabbed by the police until the words "skull and bones" were spoken. Some lines must not be crossed. Isn't that covered in ninth grade?

And Kerry, ever presidential, just looked on. "It's okay, I got the question, just sit down up here in front and I'll do my best to answer you," or a hundred other possible statements could've defused the situation. The vacuum that was filled by overly ruly police was of Kerry's making. IMO.

Put all the candidates in the same situation and see which ones just shrink away. Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, and Romney, I'm betting, all say something to calm things down. (You don't need to boss the cops around, that would look bad, but you can make it easier for the young man to climb down.) So does Hillary. So does Obama. Edwards, I'm not sure, but leaning yes. But Kerry, something is fundamentally lacking with that boy, and he almost became President.

Anonymous said...

p.s. BushMcChimpHalliHitler as well, would have dealt with such a situation competently. IMO. Another reason he defeated Kerry. The public can sense such important differences.

Anonymous said...

C'mon JVL, don't be an idiot. If anything the cops were wrong because they didn't deploy the Taser earlier when he was resisting, pulling away, and running about the room. At that point based upon my training and experience as a police officer, they were completely justified in taking him to the ground at that point either by physical force or by Taser. It's Policework 101 to take resisting subjects to the ground as hard and as fast as possible for your safety as well the safety of the perp. And yes, he was resisting. At that time, he had been asked to leave, refused to do so, and was a trespasser. he had made the leap from "annoying goofball" to "perp."

Instead the officers chose to dance around the room with him for several seconds, no doubt thinking the whole time about all of the cameras and liberal goofballs watching their every move. I'm not condemning them for it. I've done the "suspect shuffle" myself many times when I should have just faceplanted the guy and gone on.

Once the suspect was on the ground, he was still non- compliant and a danger to the officers. Again, it's Policework 101. After the fight goes to the ground. The suspect needs to be immobilized quickly and put into a position where he is the least threat to your person. That means on his belly (so he can't kick you) with his arms out to the side (so you can see his hands at all times and he can't draw a hidden weapon from his waist area)or placed behind his back (for handcuffing purposes and so you can see his hands at all times) and with his face away from you (so he can't see you well enough to time an attack.) You can clearly hear the officers ordering him multiple times to roll over onto his stomach and place his hands behind his back in order to be handcuffed. He refused to comply with their lawful commands of arrest.

At that point, what could the officers do? They could muscle him into position and you can see on the tape that they made multiple attempts to physically roll him over onto his stomach and he resisted. They could use joint locks, empty hand strikes, and other forms of pain compliance to get try to get him to comply, which would have injured him and possibly injured the officers. They could use their batons to subdue him, which is kind of hard to do in close quarters without striking another officer or a bystander on the backswing, not to mention the firestorm that would have erupted THEN. They would have also run the risk of permanently injuring him at worst and temporarily injuring him at best. They could deploy pepperspray, which would have cleared out the room quick enough and probably resulted in some of the other students getting trampled.

Given the totality of the situation, the Taser is the best option. It applied the force necessary to get the suspect to comply without injuring an officer or any of the bystanders. This jerk earned the right to ride the lightning and could have avoided it at anytime. The officers should be commended for their restraint.

Instead they're being condemned, even by people like you who should know better. If this kind of video scares you, then you are a worldclass pussy.

Anonymous said...

And this from the man who defended the Empire? The guy's lucky he didn't get his larynx crushed, IMO!

Anonymous said...

If Tazering is a severe police action, then why are we equipping police with this gun alternative?

Also, Kerry was and might still be a presidential candidate (well he said he was still considering). The jacka** was agitating for quite a while and I am SURE these security guys were briefed big time for Kerry's appearance and probably by secret service to boot.

Seriously, never thought I'd hear myself defend a Kerry situation, but this character has an MO - make a huge scene, act way improper, make an even bigger scene when punished.

Jonathan V. Last said...

Dear Anonymous Super Trooper,

You're leaving anonymous comments insulting people on a blog, but I'm the "worldclass pussy"? Awesome. Another reason to love our friends in law enforcement.

I kid! Look, because of my wife's job I've spent a lot of time with people in law enforcement and I'm probably even more fond of them than most. Nearly every one that I’ve met is good people.

All of that said, good police work entails the defusing of potential conflicts where possible, rather than escalating them. As I said in my post, the videos certainly makes it seem as though it is the officers who escalate the situation at nearly every turn, particularly in the beginning. Maybe they knew something we didn't. Maybe they saw this fellow twirling a pocket knife in the lobby before the event. We may be lacking context. But based on the video so far, it sure looks like the officers are the ones stoking the developing conflict, rather than defusing it. Maybe they had good reasons. Or maybe they handled the situation poorly. Even good people make mistakes.

Once the officers have wrestled Meyer to the ground and begun to place him under arrest, yes, he has a legal duty to comply. But I wonder why so many people are non-plussed that the reason the officers later give for arresting him are, at least on their face, not particularly convincing. At worst, they seem ridiculous. I suspect that it’s this, and not the deployment of the taser, which will be the most salient issue for the officers going forward. Whatever the case, this sort of questionable flexing of the power of the state used to be the sort of thing that made conservatives uneasy.

People keep saying that Meyer "got what he deserved," which I find disturbing. Matters of law enforcement aren't questions of people "getting what they deserve." That’s what the legal system is for. Law enforcement is about protecting the public and keeping the peace. People can act poorly. But cops are held to a different standard than are badly behaving citizens. If someone is being a jerk, but not breaking the law, the police are the ones being paid to act like adults. That’s part of the job. And that burden is, rightly, one of the reasons the rest of us normally think so fondly of law enforcement professionals.

But when someone claiming to be a cop calls me a “worldclass pussy” for being disturbed by the image of police acting at least questionably, maybe badly, perhaps criminally, well, let’s just say that ultimately, I don’t think it’s very helpful to his cause.

I wouldn’t want to be ungrateful to Super Trooper though, so, whoever you are, thanks for protecting and serving. Even us world-class pussies appreciate the work you do.

jim treacher said...

"But based on the video so far, it sure looks like the officers are the ones stoking the developing conflict, rather than defusing it."

If that were the case, they'd have zapped him as soon as he cut to the front of the line. Or during the 60 seconds' alloted speaking time he stole. Or when he went over it, and they asked him to leave and he told them, "I'll finish my question, thank you very much." Or when he started screaming and flailing his arms and trying to get around them. Seems to me he was the one doing all the escalating.

wheels said...

"I know the conservative impulse is to laugh ..."

I've seen this story at several conservative sites today (haven't been to Malkin's), and I haven't seen anyone laughing about it. It could have occurred in the comments, I suppose, but I haven't seen any gloating posts anywhere, yet.

jim treacher said...

One gloating post, comin' right up!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the student was asked to leave, and refused to do so. If the police ask you to leave, you do it. Doesn't matter if they were right or wrong in asking him to leave, at that point you really don't have any options. And in such a situation with so many other people around, they aren't going to sit and try to chat with him until he calms down. He chose not to follow police orders, then when they tried to pull him away from the microphone he started resisting. The police have a duty to think about the safety of the other people in that room. I know that if I had been in the room I'd have been scared the moment I saw someone starting to resist. With so many violent incidents taking palce nowadays, who wouldn't have that running through their mind in that situation?

Had he not resisted he would have been escorted calmly out of the room and nothing else probably would have happened. I most certainly am not advocating the use of excessive force, nor do I condone the willye nillye use of tasers. In fact, I believe that since 9/11 police are indeed more prone to go to extremes and overreaact. But there are times when such use is appropriate and I think this was one of them. Now the 70 yr old lady who was arrested in Utah for having a brown lawn? Yeah, I won't argue with you on THAT one!

Jeremy said...

yes, the guy was unhinged, but it doesn't change the fact that kerry did roll over for bush. i think everyone from conservatives to liberals can agree on that.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o76WQzVJ434

Come see the violence inherent in the system.

-Supertrooper

Anonymous said...

So your problem is more that the jerk got charged with inciting a riot for his disturbance than with the fact that he got tazed? Spend some time with Google. Generally speaking, it takes three or more people to have a riot, but only one to incite it. The penalty in Florida for being the one guy inciting it and the three guys participating in it are the same.

Florida Statute 870.01 Affrays and riots.--

(1) All persons guilty of an affray shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(2) All persons guilty of a riot, or of inciting or encouraging a riot, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

There's also:

Florida Statute 877.13 Educational institutions or school boards; penalty for disruption.--

(1) It is unlawful for any person:
(a) Knowingly to disrupt or interfere with the lawful administration or functions of any educational institution, school board, or activity on school board property in this state.
(b) Knowingly to advise, counsel, or instruct any school pupil or school employee to disrupt any school or school board function, activity on school board property, or classroom.
(c) Knowingly to interfere with the attendance of any other school pupil or school employee in a school or classroom.
(d) To conspire to riot or to engage in any school campus or school function disruption or disturbance which interferes with the educational processes or with the orderly conduct of a school campus, school, or school board function or activity on school board property.

(2) This section shall apply to all educational institutions, school boards, and functions or activities on school board property; however, nothing herein shall deny public employees the opportunity to exercise their rights pursuant to part II of chapter 447.

(3) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Any way you cut it, the guy committed a criminal offense. Policework 101 again teaches you to charge the highest appropriate offense given the particular circumstances of the situation. It's up to the prosecutors, judges, and juries to determine if the suspect gets pled down or found guilty of a lesser included offense.

And then there's this:

870.04 Specified officers to disperse riotous assembly.--If any number of persons, whether armed or not, are unlawfully, riotously or tumultuously assembled in any county, city or municipality, the sheriff or the sheriff's deputies, or the mayor, or any commissioner, council member, alderman or police officer of the said city or municipality, or any officer or member of the Florida Highway Patrol, or any officer or agent of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, or beverage enforcement agent, any personnel or representatives of the Department of Law Enforcement or its successor, or any other peace officer, shall go among the persons so assembled, or as near to them as may be with safety, and shall in the name of the state command all the persons so assembled immediately and peaceably to disperse; and if such persons do not thereupon immediately and peaceably disperse, said officers shall command the assistance of all such persons in seizing, arresting and securing such persons in custody; and if any person present being so commanded to aid and assist in seizing and securing such rioter or persons so unlawfully assembled, or in suppressing such riot or unlawful assembly, refuses or neglects to obey such command, or, when required by such officers to depart from the place, refuses and neglects to do so, the person shall be deemed one of the rioters or persons unlawfully assembled, and may be prosecuted and punished accordingly

The bottom line is that inciting a riot was absolutely the correct charge as defined under Florida law. I apologize for calling you a pussy. You still should have known better.

Jonathan V. Last said...

Our brave anonymous police officer is back!

Look, Super Trooper, I gladly accept your apology and there are certainly no hard feelings on this side of the table. And I understand the impulse to side with your professional peers. As I’ve said before, police work is more a calling than a profession. It’s hard work and most of the people who do it are in it to serve, not because of the (meager) paychecks or because they want to taser college kids for fun. As a group, cops deserve our admiration and goodwill.

But Super Trooper’s argument still doesn't make sense to me. The statute he’s leaning on, 877.13 doesn’t appear at all on point; none of the sections seem applicable to the situation at hand. I suppose you could really stretch to say that subsection (d) might fit, but so far as the video suggests, Meyer is asking a question, John Kerry is attempting to answer it, and the audience is sitting quietly listening to the exchange and the event is drawing to a close. The only people who seem to perceive a disturbance which rises to violation of the law are the police. Because of that, I’d say that this charge doesn’t seem applicable by any reasonable standard.

Section 870.04 only applies if you have unlawful, riotous, tumultuous assembly which, again, seems not to have been the case. If you can’t reasonably allege (a), there is no recourse to (b).

Again, I understand the Super Trooper’s urge to stand by his fellow officers, no matter what.

But I’ve seen situations almost exactly analogous to the one of the University of Florida scores of times—cover enough political rallies and events and you see all sorts of unbalanced people trying to get attention. (This sort of impetuous questioning happens more often than not.) A few of the ones I’ve seen have resulted in arrests, although, if memory serves, all of those seemed to be of the civil disobedience variety. The vast majority ended with the cops keeping the peace, the crank moving along, and the event continuing. That’s what good police work is: Defusing situations where an individual is behaving badly but not necessarily breaking the law and not escalating them to a point where the unbalanced individual does break the law by resisting an unwarranted arrest. And I’ve never seen police officers handle one of these situations so poorly that it results in the level of force usage we see in this video.

Contrary to Super Trooper’s insistence that this is all so elementary that it’s just “Police 101,” I would note that two of the officers have already been placed on administrative leave. Which suggests that the people closest to the situation have at least some cause for concern.

dylan555 said...

Wow, reading the comments frightens me. This guy was a little weird but not deserving of such force. The police in this case need to be fired and likely arrested. And Kerry, he's lost ALL respect I had for him. 100% of it.

I don't care how goofy his questions were or how weird he has been in the past. HE DID NOT DESERVE THIS!!

Jonathan V. Last said...

Not to pile on Anonymous Super Trooper, but the two officers in question have now been downgraded to mandated leave, with pay. Again, a full investigation may determine that they did not break the law, abuse their power, or act imprudently. But this suggests that, pace our anonymous law enforcement friend, this was certainly not a clear-cut case of the perfect execution of duty.

Anonymous said...

He created a scene, but no riot. He only got attention, not a riot.

Anonymous said...

Show your support - get Don't Tase me, Bro shirts and other items at http://www.donttasemebro.biz

Bob McDowell said...

Since I am a citizen of the United States, my point of view might be a little bit skewed, but I think the First Amendment to the Constitution trumps pretty much anything you learn in 'Police 101'.

The young man was PARTICIPATING in a 'peaceable' assembly prior to the police action.

Proper conduct would have been for them to wait and see if any laws were broken.

Instead they entrapped him into resisting arrest by violating his constitutional right to ask politically charged questions in a public forum.

Is the guy a clown? Yes.

Was this a stunt? Yes.

Did the police behave in the most un-American manner conceivable? Absolutely.

Please don't support attacks against America just because the enemies are dressed in blue...

Wrong is wrong. Is it not?

Anonymous said...

http://www.aele.org/law/2007-04MLJ501.pdf

http://glocktalk.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=758305

http://author.nationalreview.com/latest/?q=MjIyMA==

This will be my last attempt to present the police side of things and I'll let better men than I make the arguments.* I wouldn't care so much except that I really enjoy Galley Slaves and hate to leave without at least making a final attempt to change your mind.

I don't know what "mandated leave with pay" means to U of Florida PD, but here it means that the circumstances require that the officer be removed from duty so that the situation can be reviewed. It's reserved for situations that are labeled "critical incidents" and include shootings, car accidents where death or serious physical injury occur, or some traumatic event such as responding to a plane crash or something. It's not meant to be disciplinary in nature and absolutely does not mean that the officer has done anything wrong.

I also predict that once the dust settles, the officers involved will be exonerated. Should this incident ever go to trial the prosecutor will take each one of the videos that are now in the public domain, slow them down frame by frame, and point out to the jurors each violation of FL statute, each act of aggression by the suspect, and how each response by the officers was reasonable based upon their training and perception. If the suspect brings a civil suit against the University or the officers, the defense attorneys representing them will do the exact same thing.

-AST

*Well, the first and third links are to better men than I making better arguments. The second link is to an unguarded discussion where folks are saying what they really think. There are some good points in it, however, particularly when it comes to FL law.

Jonathan V. Last said...

The Anonymous Super Trooper is back!

I appreciate Super Trooper's trying to bring a "police perspective" to this case, and I think he's done an admirably comprehensive job at doing so by:

* Saying that "If anything the cops were wrong because they didn't deploy the Taser earlier" . . .

* Saying that the entire situation is so obviously beyond reproach that it's "Policework 101" . . .

* Calling me a "worldclass pussy" for being bothered by the events we saw in the video and daring to raise questions (while allowing that a full investigation could find that the officers in question did perform their duties well) . . .

* Quoting statutes of Florida law and claiming that Meyer violated them. (A reminder to anyone still following along that on closer inspection, these statutes were not at all on point; no observer could reasonably allege that Meyer was in violation.)

Thanks Super Trooper! We all know exactly how you believe police work should be done. I'd be interested to know if your employer shares your understanding of the norms of police behavior. Care to tell us who you are and who you work for, or are you more comfortable hiding behind anonymity?

What really disturbs me about this exchange is that I hope Super Trooper isn't giving us "the police side" of things. The "police side of things" is the truth and the fair and judicious application of the law. What Super Trooper is giving us an at-all-costs defense of the officers in question. That's very different from "the police side." Or at least it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s not in Super Trooper’s district.

To further muddy the waters, Super Trooper gives us this non sequitur:

I don't know what "mandated leave with pay" means to U of Florida PD, but here it means that the circumstances require that the officer be removed from duty so that the situation can be reviewed. It's reserved for situations that are labeled "critical incidents" and include shootings, car accidents where death or serious physical injury occur, or some traumatic event such as responding to a plane crash or something. It's not meant to be disciplinary in nature and absolutely does not mean that the officer has done anything wrong.

Watch what he's doing: He tells us that he doesn't know what mandatory leave means in Florida, but in his jurisdiction it is triggered by a bunch of situations that have absolutely no correlation to the case in Florida. This is on par with him citing the Florida statutes that didn't actually apply to Meyer's actions.

Then, as a final flourish Super Trooper predicts that the officers will be exonerated when the dust settles. Maybe. Maybe not. But again, the very idea that they need exoneration stands in contrast to Super Trooper's complete and total insistence that the officers' actions have been, from the very start, beyond any reproach.

It's an amazing sense of certainty he has, isn't it?

Anyway, Super Trooper, please go ahead and leave. There's nothing on Galley Slaves you can't get better and funnier at 100 other sites. Bookmark Pajiba, WWTDD, and AICN and I promise you'll never miss us.

Somehow we'll muddle on without you.

Anonymous said...

Super Trooper confused me with the following description of basic police work:

"It's Policework 101 to take resisting subjects to the ground as hard and as fast as possible for your safety as well the safety of the perp."

I get the fast part, but not the hard part. Why does it need to be as hard as possible, and how does this promote safety?

Are trainees graded in police school based on how hard they can drive people into the pavement?

Anonymous said...

taking in account of the information presented in the video and the posts avbove . . .

Did he deserve to tased? Yes though deserve is a very bad word as it is more a question of what my personal opinion is. At the point he was tased, he was in melee with police and was endangering their safety.

All the police really need to detain you is probable cause and from the video, my opinion is they had at minimum just that.

From my viewpooint of the video (and others of this event) the officers in question had cause to beleive that he was trying to be disruptive as his comments adressed the audience as well as Kerry, and they were trying to prevent escalation. He became violent and they did what was necessary.