To the People

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Mean Streets of Seattle

Jaywalking can be dangerous...You only have to be unlucky enough to run into the Seattle Police Department. From a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column:

As infractions go, jaywalking is minor. It's not the sort of thing anyone expects will lead to scrapes, bruises and a night in jail. But what happened to Benjamin De Jong and his girlfriend after a Mariners game Sept. 15 is more than a simple case of jaywalking.

"Police brutality is more like it," contends the 22-year-old, who was visiting from British Columbia when he got a lasting memory of Seattle, courtesy of police.


"As we were 5 to 10 feet from the curb, an unmarked vehicle sped toward us," De Jong said. "He hammered on his brakes. Two guys jumped out wearing dark clothing."


De Jong was tossed on the ground. His knees got bruised. Blood oozed from his elbows. He was handcuffed and taken to jail. He faces pedestrian interference and obstructing charges. His girlfriend, Kristen Heidt, also 22 and from Canada, was roughed up; bruises were left on her body -- and she has photos. She was not taken to jail or charged, even though a police report says she grabbed an officer during the confrontation. Heidt remains shaken up.
I'm willing to bet the victim was, if nothing else, a bit of a drunken douche bag when approached by the cops, and perhaps even exaggerated the details of the encounter. Of course, the broader point -- a broader point that is brought up repeatedly when questioning no-knock drug raids -- is that there is an appropriate level of force that should be used when police stop people for jaywalking, littering, or even just getting high. You shouldn't ever be throwing people on the ground, no matter how they react, for something as minor as crossing the street at the wrong place. And of course, this isn't how we see it, instead it's something more like this: [emphasis mine]

The Police Department encourages officers to contact jaywalkers, but not necessarily issue citations.

"It doesn't mean that a ticket has to be written, and it certainly doesn't mean that a pedestrian is going to be put on the ground," Brown said. "I think the pedestrian determines what the outcome will be."
But this is bullshit. Absolute bullshit. That is, unless this guy was pulling a weapon out or otherwise seriously threatening the cops; and it would seem in this case that he wasn't properly informed that these thugs were actually thugs police to begin with, which makes this bullshit smell even worse. But the outcome is primarily, or at least should be, determined by the approach or tactic the police use -- they are setting the tone. This is their job, they are supposed to be professionals after all. That's why it would be safer for all involved if police used aggressive force only when absolutley neccessary. But that wouldn't be fun, would it? Full article here.

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