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Thursday, February 12, 2015

How NOT to Improve Trust Between Police and Public - The Abuse of Resisting Arrest Laws

From Ferguson to New York and many more places and cases, there's widespread situations where police are using force against unarmed citizens that result in injury or, even worse, death.

Locally, Aurora Police Department's so-called Commander Kristen Ziman has argued that all this attention recently to the issue is unwarranted.  She believes all is generally well.

She's wrong.  There is a very serious problem that might be getting more attention, but it's because the problem has existed for too long.

Resisting arrest is a crime that is often a matter of perspective.  Trying to run from a police officer who already has a legal basis to arrest you could be a legitimate reason to charge you with resisting arrest.

A citizen questioning the police while standing in front of them often is charged unjustly as resisting arrest as well.

However, even worse, many times the charge of resisting arrest is to cover up the use of excessive force.  After all, if the citizen was resisting arrest, that would then justify the police officer's physical force.

Too often, it's the case where police officers who engage in excessive force are charging citizens with a crime.

So, what does NYPD Chief Bill Bratton suggest is the solution to improving and resolving this?

They say resisting arrest should be an automatic felony.

What?  Make what is most often a subjective crime even more serious?

Let's take protesters as an example.  Many times, in an act of civil disobedience, they will sit on the road or sidewalk, knowing they will be arrested.  If they fail to "cooperate" they could easily be charged with resisting arrest, usually a misdemeanor.

What if all those same people were charged with a felony?  Would that be appropriate to ruin their lives, hinder their job prospects and so on because they "resisted" arrest?

By no means are we saying legitimate acts of resisting arrest should be tolerated.  In fact, in cases where someone violently injures or harms a police officer, they should be charged with not just resisting arrest, but assault.

There is a real problem of police conduct in our society.  Bad cops are making it very difficult for the good cops to get the credit they deserve.

However, an even bigger problem is the lack of good police leadership.  Whether that's Bill Bratton in NYC or Kristen Ziman in Aurora.

The only way to insure the police on the street are using their authority in a responsible manner is to have very ethical and professional police leaders.

Maybe we should make it a felony for a police leader to say or do something stupid.

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