You’ve no doubt seen the story by now of this Seattle police officer caught on videotape. The headline reads “Seattle officer punches girl in face during jaywalking stop,” which is a bit sensationalist, but does sum up the salient points. Watch the entire clip on YouTube, however, and you’re provided with some context for the events that transpired. I find myself having sympathy for all parties involved.
The cop is easily the bad guy in this story. Considering the entire incident stemmed from his attempt to enforce a law against jaywalking, it is especially sad. Jaywalking is not a crime, and there should be no laws against it. Choosing to cross a street at an unsafe point is foolish, but people have a right to be stupid. Just like they have a right to drive without seatbelts or motorcycle helmets. Why do we, as a society, continue to allow pointless laws such as these to be passed, and then, more importantly, why do we continue to task cops with enforcing the stupid things?
Given all of that, resisting arrest in this particular case was warranted, in my opinion. No crime occurred, no one was harmed, so no one — including the cop — has any reason to involve themselves in the lives of innocent people just trying to cross a street. Now, do I believe that these individuals were taking a principled stand against what they viewed to be tyrannical behavior on the part of the local legislature and constabulary? Hardly. I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess that their resistance was based on other factors. Nevertheless, objecting to unwarranted searches and seizures is justified, and they have my full support.
There is also the larger matter of the cop’s use of excessive force. There should be no question in anyone’s mind that punching an unarmed woman in the face, even under those circumstances, is completely reprehensible. This officer should be required to publicly apologize to all parties involved, and then promptly be fired from his job. Having said that, I can certainly recognize that he found himself in a very difficult and stressful situation. His training seems to have kept the situation from escalating any more than it did. But just like the folks who chose to cross the street, he made a choice too — when he decided to enforce an unjust law. So the situation was largely his own making. Maybe next time he will think twice about attempting to enforce a stupid law, and maybe they will think twice about their own safety.