Via Jezebel, the above is a video of a police office punching a woman in the face. According to the news report, the officer was trying to arrest a woman who was jaywalking, and the jaywalker's friend, also a woman, came over, intervened, and pushed the cop away. (Jezebel's post left out the push that precipitated the punch.) That's when he responded with a punch and arrested her.
The United States has an ongoing problem with police violence, especially in communities of color, and this video feels like further proof of the kinds of violence people have had to live with at the hands of those who are charged to protect them. Community groups have rushed to the woman's defense, while the police department has said that the officer acted appropriately.
The scenario raises a lot of questions, primarily because the woman pushed the officer first (which is why it's odd that Jezebel left that piece out). Most people are probably unfamiliar with police procedure manuals, but there's a point at which the use of force is justified. And that point comes sooner than people think. According to most patrol guide rules and legal precedent, officers can use physical force to arrest someone who is physically resisting, and they can use force to subdue someone who has become violent with them. That means officers are allowed to punch people. They're even allowed to punch women. Officers aren't obligated to get pushed around or injured when lawfully arresting someone, even if it turns out those arrests don't hold up in court. Should he have punched this particular woman in this particular instance? It's really hard to know without having been there. But I think we should, in all fairness, acknowledge that at the moment an officer is faced with two people who are ready to fight, he might not be able to have a mental debate over the subtle gradations of force that would be merited to get the situation under control -- he had to act quickly, and was trained to do so.
If it were a man, I'm not sure this instance would have made news at all, and there's something subtly sexist about the response. It's the flipside of the normalization of male violence; the idea that women can be physically violent with men. If a man pushed an officer who was trying to arrest him, and the officer punched him in order to arrest him, it would just be another day at work.
We've decided, as a society, that officers are authorized to use force to keep the peace. We've also decided that they can issue tickets for jaywalking, and then if that situation is escalated for some reason then they can arrest the jaywalker. Arrests are violent things. Women sometimes get arrested. We can't put them in a cocoon. Police departments are usually pretty bad about responding to allegations that they acted inappropriately, but they sometimes have a point in that many people don't understand what an arrest really looks like. Many more don't understand the procedural rules that dictate when and on whom police can use force.
-- Monica Potts
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