Just because the officer has the discretion to do something, it doesn’t mean that’s the tactic that should be employed. If their own department “has concerns,” why are some of us so quick to justify the officer’s actions?
Where I really agree with Latoya is her headline, which reads, "Punching People and the Perils of an Increased Police Presence." This is exactly what happens when you officers flood into neighborhoods: They're more likely to have interactions with civilians than turn bad. That's especially true when the city, as like Latoya explains with Seattle, has a really bad history with officers in communities of color.
Increased police presence invariably means more arrests. There's really no such thing as an offense that you can't be arrested for: Some offenses can be dealt with by a summons -- a promise to respond to the accusation in court -- and it's within the officer's discretion to just issue a citation or arrest someone. That discretion leads to problems. I don't know why the officer in this instance decided to arrest an alleged jaywalker and I really wish we didn't live in a world where people could be taken into custody for something as simple as that, but we do.
One of the worst things for an officer to do is to escalate a situation that otherwise would not have warranted an arrest; for example, getting into an argument with someone over a minor infraction or even, in a lot of cases, over nothing, then arresting that person for disorderly conduct. But we don't know if that that's what happened in the incident in Seattle, and if the woman was already jaywalking it was within his purview -- even if it seems uncalled for -- to take her into custody.
After the officer decided to arrest the jaywalker, it was the friend, who didn't appear to have anything to do with the incident, who decided to come over and become violent. Whatever happened before, she escalated the situation further. He was a lone officer surrounded by upset people, one of whom had just become violent. I think judging the issue in fairness means we have to acknowledge that he was in a bad spot, and one that probably merited force. (He probably technically could have used more force against the first girl.) And trust me, I'd take a punch in the face over pepper spray any day.
Overall, it's as good an argument as any for questioning the ways in which we enforce things like jaywalking, and how much of the police force is a presence on the streets. Having officers around means someone could be arrested or hurt, which is a bad thing even if it's technically justifiable.
-- Monica Potts
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