Over the course of the last couple of years, we have had a number of videos and stories here at RedState about cops grossly overreacting to having their authority challenged. We’ve had videos where cops have beaten, tased, and dragged out of cars people who were doing things like demanding to know why they had been stopped, asking for the officer’s badge number, trying to film police officers, and so on.
Inevitably, these stories provoke comments and tweets from conservatives saying that the person who got beaten/tased/shot/whatever basically deserved what they got. “The right thing to do,” these people insist, “is to be nice and polite to the cop and do whatever he says, and then later sue him if he violated your constitutional rights.”
Of course, this argument misses at least three salient points. The first is that we ought to reject the idea that a condition of not having excess force used against you is bowing and scraping before cops. One of the key differences between a free society and a totalitarian one is that in a free society, being a jerk to someone in a uniform isn’t legally punishable by summary physical abuse meted out by the person wearing the uniform in question.
Second, the people most often targeted by bad police behavior are the least likely to be able to afford a lawyer. Accordingly, they are dependent on lawyers who are willing to take their case on contingency – which, if you politely obey the cop and accordingly don’t get abused and/or don’t end up on television, means you won’t find anyone to take your case. And the at risk communities here know it.
Third, this “solution” ignores what happens when private citizens take cops to court – which is, pretty much inevitably, that servile juries take the cop’s side pretty much no matter what. Case in point, Lisa Mearkle, a Pennsylvania cop who last year was indicted with murder for shooting an unarmed suspect.
Right there, just based on what I’ve already said, you know this was a pretty special case, given that an astonishingly small number of cops are ever indicted for anything, including deaths involving unarmed suspects. And indeed the facts concerning Mearkle’s case are pretty astonishing even to people who cover this sort of story pretty regularly. Mearkle stopped a 59 year old man (who was white) for a traffic violation, and the man (named Kassick) fled the traffic stop on foot. Mearkle responded by tasing him in the back repeatedly, causing him to fall face first into the ground.
The video from officer Mearkle’s taser camera has been released and you can see it here. It is disturbing, so use your discretion if you wish to watch it. Mearkle is seen repeatedly shocking Kassick (you can hear the clicking noises when she is applying shock). As you might expect, when she shocks him, it causes his arms to bunch together close to his body. You can hear Kassick repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” and “I don’t have a gun” but every time she shocks him, as a physiological response, his muscles contract and spasm, and his arms clench to his sides and quiver.
If anyone doubts that what Mearkle was asking the suspect to do was physically impossible, I would encourage you to lay flat on your stomach and attempt to keep your arms extended straight above your head while someone tases you repeatedly. It cannot physically be done.
Of course, the suspect’s inability to follow Mearkle’s nonsensical commands ended up getting him shot twice in the back, while he was face down in the snow, and unarmed. This is what it takes for a cop to be even indicted in this country. Unfortunately, it is not enough to get a cop convicted:
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A small-town police officer who fatally shot an unarmed motorist in the back as he lay face down on the ground was acquitted Thursday at her murder trial.
A Dauphin County jury acquitted Hummelstown Officer Lisa Mearkle of third-degree murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges in a shooting captured by a camera attached to her stun gun.
The video, which was played to jurors, showed Mearkle shocking 59-year-old David Kassick after he fled from a traffic stop before shooting him twice in the back as he lay face down in the snow in February.
* * *
“I feel relief right now, but it’s going to take a little bit for me to get back to my normal self,” she told reporters. “This has taken a toll on me that nobody understands.”
I don’t know about that, but I would wager that the toll it has taken on Kassick and his family is possibly somewhat worse.
Here’s the reality – juries in America still show cops a level of deference that no one else in the country gets, and that most definitely includes plaintiffs who sue cops. The patronizing advice, “Wait until later and sue the cop” is worthless for the reasons outlined above. And the only thing that will change the unfair weighting of the current system is for more and more people to see that sometimes, cops really do lie and abuse their authority.
And the only way for that to happen is for people to assert their constitutional rights and to capture the response of cops on tape. The longer conservatives continue to look down their noses at people who choose this path, the longer the problem will persist.