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Friday, January 4, 2008

The "Simple" Case of Marcel Richardson

Video Frame taken a second before SPD Officer Fired Taser Into Marcel's Back

Ken Schram, with KOMO 4 TV, has an opinion piece entitled “It’s Simple, Don’t Run From Cops” where he talks about the case of Marcel Richardson.

Marcel was tasered on the ground while surrounded by police with nowhere left to run… after police chased him as a result of nothing more than a verbal dispute. Sure, Schram insists he shouldn’t have ran, but also admits it seemed there was no reason to “juice him” (as he describes it) in the back after they had already punched him numerous times until he was already down and compliant... as shown in the video here.

Now, I agree in an idealistic sense that it’s not a good idea to run from the police, in a simple world this is the best advice and I’ve given the same advice to people before. However, it’s not that simple since not running from the police in Seattle does not mean you won’t still get beat down, as we’ve seen so many times in the news when story after story bears this out.

But running only gives them a verifiable excuse.

Sure, they can manufacture an excuse if you don’t run, but as I posted elsewhere the only hope you have when being assaulted by the police is that there is a camera somewhere capturing the fact that you never ran and never resisted, even though the police will claim that you did.

So, Schram is somewhat right, you shouldn’t run, but he’s wrong about the simple part.

However, Schram asserts one more point of interest in that he claims that the police are a gang that people hire and authorize to go after the “bad guys”.

Indeed, a great many gangs start off this way, as a group of people that are supposed to protect themselves and their neighborhood from bad guys. But a funny thing happens to these gangs, they draw people attracted to unaccountable power and those people are prone to abuse it under cover of being against the bad guys… even when it’s not the “bad guy” that they end up attacking or killing.

See, the bloods gang started out as such a gang, a merger of two smaller gangs that were started to protect neighborhoods from gangs affiliated with the crips, now they are just as much a threat to public safety as that which they were brought into being to defend against… and indeed that is the threat behind what will happen if we fail to keep that gang we hired to “chase the bad guys” accountable for when they put public safety at risk by not following the rule of law themselves.

...and that rule of law includes that authorized use of force allowed by the police does not include retributive strikes made after a suspect is already compliant as they did to Marcel. All gangs grow beyond their intended purpose when not held in check by the rule of law, the police are no different.

Indeed, again, Schram is right. Yet not in quite the simple way in which he intended.

addendum: As for why Marcel bolted, we'll likely never know the real reason, could be the police used their oft quoted phrase; "You're under arrest, we'll figure out the charges later." But seems to me that a verbal exchange, the quoted reason for the chase in the article, is not a legal excuse to chase someone down, beat him, pepper spray him, and then taser him in the back when he's already down. thing is for certain, if having a verbal dispute with an officer merits this sort of over-the-top reaction, I do not even want to think about what the SPD will do to me for writing about their misconduct.

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