The Punch Seen Round The Internets

Max Read at Gawker:

If you’re a police officer, how do you handle an angry confrontation with a 17-year-old girl who you’ve stopped for jaywalking? One thing you maybe shouldn’t do is punch her in the head. Which is what one Seattle cop did.

On Monday, a police officer patrolling south Seattle caught a group of young women committing the serious offense of jaywalking. He asked them over to his patrol car, at which point they became “verbally antagonistic.” One girl tried to walk away, and the officer grabbed her to escort her back to his patrol car; the other girl then attempted to separate the office and the girl. So the officer punched her.

Sounds like a totally normal, everyday interaction with the police, right?

Radley Balko:

Both women are overreacting here. Obviously the cop is as well. Make up your own mind about whether the punch was warranted. I think you could make a case that by the time the punch was thrown, the cop justifiably felt he was losing control of the situation. (And hey, at least he didn’t use his Taser.) Seems to me that the mistake came earlier: This started as a jaywalking citation. Was it it really so important that the woman get a jaywalking fine that she needed to be chased down and thrown against the patrol car? Even if she was trying to avoid the fine, seems like at some point you realize what’s at stake here (a single incident of someone undermining your authority to get away with a petty crime), and just let it go.

Weasel Zippers:

Female teenager assaults police officer in the line of duty

Pays with her face.

Chick had it coming.

More here.

UPDATE: Thanks to JCM for this link to an uncut version of the vid.

Frank James at NPR:

Because the young woman who pushed the officer is African-American and the officer white, the case has taken on the obligatory racial element, with some blacks saying race was an issue.

Who knows? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. It could have just as easily been racial on her part as his.

What’s certain, however, is that it’s almost invariably a bad idea to lay one’s hands on a police officer. Nothing good can come from that.

Better to say, politely, “Yes, officer, you’re right. I was jaywalking. I’ll never, ever do it again.”

Yes, that’s called fibbing. But most reasonable people would probably agree that a small lie is better than having a police officer hit you with a hard right and then arrest you.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has plenty of details on the incident and the aftermath.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

The problems here for Seattle’s police (no matter what emerges in the police’s investigations findings) are twofold.

One is that there have already been two major controversies in Seattle involving police and videos recently. One is over another incident involving police and a video — specifically a video that showed a 15-year-old African American girl being roughed up in a cell in November by a policeman who later pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree assault in March. The other, which broke last month, involved an April incident when a video showed a Seattle Police officer kicking a Latino man and vowing to beat “the Mexican piss” out of him. Both sparked lots of news stories online and You Tube videos.

Meanwhile, the latest in this case is that the Seattle Police now seem to be inching away from the initial suggestion put out in news reports that the force was justified:

Confronted by another incident caught on videotape, Seattle police have ordered a sweeping review into a jaywalking stop in which an officer punched a 17-year-old girl in the face after she shoved him.

Interim Police Chief John Diaz ordered the review of the department’s training procedures after a videotape of the incident was repeatedly broadcast on Seattle television stations and media websites.

On the video, Officer Ian P. Walsh is seen punching the girl in the face after she tries to intervene in the arrest of a 19-year-old friend near Franklin High School on Monday afternoon. Police arrested the girl, Angel L. Rosenthal, and her friend, Marilyn Ellen Levias, both of whom have criminal records.

The department’s response to the incident in Rainier Valley came as Mayor Mike McGinn is nearing a decision on a new permanent chief: either Diaz or East Palo Alto, Calif., Police Chief Ron Davis.

It also comes as the department is conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of two other officers who were caught on videotape April 17 kicking a prone Latino man, with one using ethnically inflammatory language.

Acting Deputy Chief Nick Metz, speaking at a hastily called news conference Tuesday morning, expressed concerns about Walsh’s conduct, saying the department was “withholding judgment” pending a separate internal investigation into the officer’s action by the department’s civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability.

His comments represented a stark reversal of the department’s preliminary statement Monday night, when a spokesman said Walsh had acted appropriately.

As we’ve increasingly seen in the political world, it’s now a reality that if there is a cellphone, videos capturing bad behavior or language will be out there for all to see — online within minutes, viewed by potentially millions and in many cases viewed unedited so viewers can make up their own minds on what they see.

For differing reasons people will see it differently. In the case of the Seattle police, the cumulative imagery of three controversies involving force will not help its image or attitudes towards it in parts of the city.

The other problem is the issue of how a video that at first glance seems clear in its meaning can actually seem clear in its meaning in two or three ways, depending on who is viewing it and what beliefs, perceptions, experiences and preferences or biases they bring to the table before they view it. This is being seen now in political videos that become controversial and in other videos. Perhaps the most famous instance is  the 1991 Rodney King case.

UPDATE: E.D. Kain at The League here, here and here

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2 Comments

Filed under Crime

2 responses to “The Punch Seen Round The Internets

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