Friday, March 27, 2009

Great Debaters

My wife has a good heart. She cares for others in a way I do not. She tends to err on the side of those in a weaker or subservient position. Me? I tend to side with those in authority. Not always, but usually – unless of course, we are talking about Congress…then, neither of us is a real supporter.

That being said, we often debate things that are going on in the news. The current debate is whether or not the police officer in the Ryan Moats traffic stop incident acted improperly..

At first, from the short clips I saw of the video, I was completely on the side of the officer, PO Robert Powell. I understand that cops are necessarily cautious during traffic stops. I also understand that four cops were just killed in Oakland, CA. So, I saw a cop handling a traffic stop, carefully, forcefully and within the law. Yes, HE was being a jerk, but he had people running from the car, the driver pleading with him, and he was trying to control the situation. The truth is that the driver ran a red light and then did not immediately pull over. I’m sure if every police officer had a dollar for every sob story they hear during a traffic stop, they would all be millionaires. I have no problem with him ordering passengers back in the car and threatening towing and other punishments for not following directions.

I would imagine that being a police officer is a hard job – not one that I would like to have, that is for sure (although carrying a weapon seems somewhat enticing) They have to protect themselves, control situations AND treat the people with which they interact with respect. That is sometimes very hard to do – particularly for a 25-year old man.

Ultimately however, especially as the whole video has become available, it would also seem that the officer did not exercise common sense after the situation was clear as to what was happening. Once it became clear that there was no threat to the officer, he should have been more understanding. He could have let them go at that point. I give credit to the driver for listening to the police officer and following directions.

Angie asked me what I would do if it were her in the hospital. (I did NOT take the obvious opportunity for a joke), but instead informed her that I would have sat there, with my hands on the wheel (so as to not frighten the officer) and plead mercy on him to let me go see my wife – the whole time knowing that he is well within his power to detain me while he writes me a ticket. However, I was once taught that the best way to get out of a ticket is to do nothing that could frighten the cop – probably why I only get warnings and usually do not get cited when I get pulled over.

I don’t know if that police officer is going to lose his job, or not. He may, and that is the price that public servants pay for making mistakes. For 90 seconds he did the right thing. But for the 11 and a half minutes he made serious mistakes he may pay with his job…However, I don’t believe this case is as cut and dry as the media is making it out to be.

Or, Angie, for that matter…but when it comes to issues like this, I’ve learned that she is usually more right than wrong, so I listen to her carefully.


1 comment:

Scott Lessard said...

UPDATE - Today's paper has a small article saying that the officer, PO Robert Powell has publically apologized for his actions. He said, "I wish to publically and sincerely apologize to the Moats family, my colleagues in the Dallas PD, and to all those who have been rightfully angered by my actions."

Sincere remorse, or damage control? Based on his actions during that stop, I would guess the latter.

What do you think?