Why I hate cops

There are two things I hate about this video:

1. Even if I grant that this dude was doing something wrong (which I won’t…he’s nude at an outdoor festival, claiming he loves his body), I still don’t think tasering him makes any sense at all. If you can’t get a compliant, naked dude to put on his clothes or leave the event by talking to him, then you’re a crappy excuse for a public security officer.

2. The hundreds of people watching this abuse of power, content to document it with their cameras and phones. If you hadn’t figured out the futility of it all by then, the dude shouting “the world is watching” should be a blunt lesson in the power of the police state.

Sorry for the nudity, except I’m not.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Why I hate cops

  1. I would argue that cops don’t even bother trying to “talk people into doing” whatever they should be doing (putting some clothes on or signing a speeding ticket in another video) BECAUSE they have tasers. The whole PR on tasers is that they’re not deadly and don’t cause damage (HA!), ergo, it’s easy to just tase anyone who doesn’t comply.

  2. Someone’s probably going to take away my ASA membership card for the following comment, but what the hell.

    Cops have done some dumb things; and I do think the taser was used excessively here. Yet I can’t completely condemn what this crew did. I clicked on this video expecting to see one of those shocking display of police brutality (ala Rodney King). Instead, what I saw was:

    (1) A person violating an ordinance (e.g., public nudity)* and creating a disturbance. [My guess is that if the officers would have used their discretion to ignore the behavior, their assess would have been reamed by a supervisor; I further guess that someone at the festival complained about this guy, or would soon]. This man was asked at least 4 times to put his clothes back on; in fact, the big bald dude (who I take to be the Sgt) was rather polite in the way he asked. Naked guy refused each request.

    (2) The crowd was egging the man on emboldening him. He refused to remain stationary, he started to put his clothes back on and then threw them… A reasonable interpretation of this behavior is escalation. The situation is becoming unsettled and more dangerous.

    (3) The officers attempted to take him into physical custody and he resisted.** (Whenever a cop puts his (or her) hands on you, you might as well assume that you’re under arrest and begin exercising your rights… e.g., shut up and ask for a lawyer. Of course that does not mean that you accept the legitimacy of what’s being done to you; but anything you do can and will be used against you. Whereas you may think you are debating the finer points of probable cause that they are using to take you into custody, in fact you are giving a creative cop license to add a resistance charge.)

    (3a) Every police department in the United States has a General Order book that is supposed to guide the officer’s response. Most police departments use an escalation of force model (begin with friendly commands, escalate to more aggressive commands, moving to closer physical proximity, attempt to take into physical custody. If the person resists you then work your way through your options of non-lethal force ***.

    (3b) Watching the film, the naked guy clearly resisted arrest. The general orders are written to try and avoid injuries (to either the person being arrested or the officers). Notice how his arms get bent when they try to take him down. That’s a good way to break an arm, tear a rotator cuff, etc. That’s also a good way to get a brutality complaint. The police clearly stepped back and used the weapon.

    (3c) The first taser blast actually struck me as a reasonable thing to do (insofar as I don’t generally think tasers are reasonable instruments; personally, I think baton strikes are more humane). It stopped the initial resistance. I don’t know what this department’s General Orders dictate, but many general order books dictate that after a taser strike, you go back to the lowest level of escalation and attempt to get the person to cooperate. Clearly these guys didn’t do that. They hit him multiple times. Perhaps their orders dictate that you continue to shock the target until the target is incapacitated… I don’t know.

    (4) Now, they had a whole crowd of people surrounding them and unhappy with them. Clearly not a comfortable situation to work as a police officer.

    Again without having all the details, the police’s behavior does not strike me as being beyond the pale. It’s not like they were jacking people up looking for drugs. They did follow an escalation protocol. etc. I’m not sure I can say I would do things radically different if I was in their shoes.

    In regards to: f you can’t get a compliant, naked dude to put on his clothes or leave the event by talking to him, then you’re a crappy excuse for a public security officer.

    I suppose I didn’t see evidence of compliance. Perhaps they were too quick to put on the gloves and use physical force… (an easy judgment call to make if you’re not surrounded by a group of people who don’t care for your presence). I don’t envy these guys; that was a crappy situation to be in. Yet, that’s their job.

    All of this is not meant to justify police brutality. But if you view the police officer as a situated actor embedded in social context (immediate as well as organizational) the setting defies a simplistic characterization as brutality.

    Having said all that… Jen I love your blog and I point my graduate students to your ASR piece as an exemplar of clear qualitative writing. You don’t know me, but I hope we can be friends.

    * I’m not debating the validity of the ordinance. Try to see this from the role of the police officer.

    ** Perhaps they were too hasty in escalating this step. But once they put their hands on him, the scenario was destined to become violent.

    *** I agree that the safety of these taser weapons are overstated and personally would like to see Police Departments phase them out. SocProf is correct in that the officer may be less willing to esculate force if the next option of force is the baton rather than a taser.

  3. Jenn Lena

    Corey–I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter (and the compliments!). As I read them, your claims defend the behavior of the police officers:

    (1) in so far as they are consistent with their department’s General Order book.

    (2) in so far as they meet your own standards of reason (e.g., you argue (a) “The general orders are written to try and avoid injuries” and (b) “The first taser blast actually struck me as a reasonable thing to do”…”It stopped the initial resistance”.).

    (3) for another reason I can’t immediately identify, but represented in your claim (#4), “Now, they had a whole crowd of people surrounding them and unhappy with them. Clearly not a comfortable situation to work as a police officer.”

    The first defense meets a legal and professional standard of behavior but not–in my mind—an unimpeachable one. I am under no obligation to agree with my government that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were “not torture” simply because they have (re) interpreted them so. Moreover, I do not subscribe to the belief that individuals are absolved of culpability for wrongdoing, independent thought and humanistic action simply because they are employed by some government, corporation, etc.

    Your second defense is slightly more compelling, although it will ultimately resolve in a pitched battle between our life experiences. In your experience, you see resistance and the risk of bodily injury as a result of that resistance. From my experience, I see this dude enjoying himself but bothering some other people. Since I assume he is tripping, I’d think the reasonable course of action is to send over his friend (or just some nice non-uniformed person) to help dance him away to a medical tent where he can come down and won’t annoy fellow festivalers. Since I’ve seen exactly this happen dozens of times, it seems like a reasonable, likely successful, and eminently humanistic response, to me. But I’m willing to grant my perspective issues from my experience.

    The third claim is pretty much a mystery to me, because I don’t particularly care if police officers are “comfortable” in their workplaces. Many of my students are unhappy with me, some of the time, but I still manage to use my best judgment (…most of the time). And, in the case of police officers in California (you brought up King, after all), I’d argue they earned the dislike of the public.

    You rightly challenge my language in my original post (“If you can’t get a compliant, naked dude to put on his clothes or leave the event by talking to him, then you’re a crappy excuse for a public security officer.”). I agree that the dude was not compliant with their requests. However, he was naked, obviously unarmed, and obviously (to me, but I’ll grant this is the weakest of my three revised claims) not a physical danger to the four (?) armed police officers.

  4. This is an interesting dialog…

    Before I continue, let me establish that is my personal opinion (personal value system, whatever) that someone tripping and dancing nude at a music festival is not something worthy of state intervention. (It would be a different matter if this was taking place a truly public place where, say, I might encounter it along with my young children after a church outing). From what I saw on the video he didn’t seem to be a danger to himself or others. In fact had he been left alone he probably wouldn’t have persisted. Like you, I do not always agree with our government’s laws or policies. And, my defense of the police in this case was not intended to be a justification of those public order ordinances.

    What I did intend in this weak attempt to defend the police in their use of force was to offer a different perspective. As a sociologist, I believe it is my job to try and understand (or make sense of) situated behavior. Why would someone behave like that in that situation? I tried to work through what that scenario might have looked like to the three police officers.

    Regarding your point #2, yes we have differences of perspective. Again, I was trying to grok what the police officer might be thinking. They did ask the man several times to put his robe back on; to walk to the tent; to come with them. And another man (perhaps the dancer’s friend) also compelled him to listen to them. It wasn’t working.

    Now this brings me to my third point (which was not written as clearly as it should have been). These three guys have been tasked with “maintaining order” at this festival. They find themselves with this happy naked dancing guy that they have either been ordered to intercept, or who they feel was being a public nuisance and must be stopped [which of course is a debatable judgment call]. As time elapses in their efforts to control this situation, their authority with other festival goers becomes more precarious. Now you may not care about their a-thor-a-tay (channeling my inner Eric Cartman) but projecting authority is key to the police officer successfully managing his role. [You might be interested in Peter Moskos’s excellent ethnography, _Cop in the Hood_ where he much more ably than I articulates the perspective of a patrol officer… after all he was one for a while, I’m just an egghead academic].

    As their ability to project authority wanes, their situation becomes more dangerous. They are surrounded by a large group of people, many under the influence, who view them not as public servants but storm troopers. I’m rather certain they are concerned that a riot is possible and they want to get naked guy under control as soon as possible so they can get out of there. Hence the escalation (hands on, to take down, to zap). But that was my point about being surrounded by people unhappy with their presence. As they perceive the danger increasing, they behave as if the danger has increased. [I believe the Thomas theorem is one of the most powerful concepts in the sociologist’s toolbox].

    Here’s the problem (I think) from the officer’s perspective. “We can physically subdue him but are likely to hurt him in the process.” (Watch the take-down, most people immediately stop resisting when their neck is pinned; this guy didn’t). That’s where the general orders kick in. They are supposed to use the the least amount of force necessary to subdue. They are not supposed to hurt the guy. If they do hurt this guy, without justification, they are likely to be investigated by internal affairs, go on unpaid leave, or be fired. This is not the sort of high profile sexy, exciting police work that macho cops are willing to risk their pensions over. So the general orders are followed.

    Anyway… this was an unfortunate incident for everyone involved. I offered my perspective not as an apologist for the police state, but as a sociologist who tries to render situated behavior sensible. With that I return to my cowardly lurking.

  5. genghis

    i swear some cops put on their sirens just to get to dunken donuts quicker

  6. josh stratman

    cops do over use there power.. i’ve seen cops speed and put there sirens on to go thru lights and then turn them off once they get thru… cops are just butt holes and trying to get money for the county or city.. they don’t care about our so called “justice” system. i’ve always wanted to become a cop since i was six but now i hate them! cops themselves do more law breaking then the average person but they get away with it cuz there friends are the police and thats b.s. As for the video they shouldn’t have tazed him, if they would’ve asked him nicely and try to get him to then he probably would’ve done it.. and if not then those three big cops can take down a little dude like that easily!

  7. Johnny Law

    Wow Josh, can I get one of those crystal balls you seem to have? How do you know why the cops put on their lights to go through lights? Maybe they are going to a 911 call? Police sometimes get those you know.

    I would like to see some of the academics on this site subdue a naked man high on drugs without causing any injury. The police here did what they had to do and did a good job with it. It is obvious Josh and Jenn have no practical experience and are talking out of their rears.

  8. joe

    Ice Cube said it all with his Cop Killer album….

  9. Vito

    Fuck the pigs. I’m a city cop and those rural assholes dont show me professional courtesy.

  10. Anonymous

    I HATE COPS BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL POWER STARVED IDIOTS WITH GUNS. THIS COP THAT WORKS ON CROPSY AVENUE IN BROOKLYN AT NIGHT IS SUCH A LIAR, TO DAY HE STOOD UP IN COURT AND LIED TO, A EQUALLY POWER HUNGRY JUDGE. I THINK THAT ALL THE COP IN THE STATION ON WEST8 STREET IN BROOKLYN ARE RACIST AND IDIOT, INCLUDING THE JUDGE THAT WORKS IN COURT ROOM #5. HE IS a idiot

  11. Anonymous

    ice cube said it best……………………………………..

  12. The festival is in a public place. Some adults don’t want themselves or their children exposed to public nudity. Don’t people who are against public nudity deserve to also have their values appreciated? The guy was breaking the law. The police were nice enough to ask him to put his clothes on. I see no problem here since they gave him multiple opportunities.

  13. Anonymous

    Obviously the guy was breaking some type of public ordinance if not just a social norm that make people uncomfortable. No offense, but if I were at that festival and I had to see those gyrations in person, honestly it was nauseating enough watching the video. I would, along with most people I’d presume, prefer to be at a festival enjoying the festivities, not watching some guy’s anatomy swinging free for all to see.

    As for the whole “to tase or not to tase” (Shakespeare said it best, not Ice Cube and if you’re trying to make a poignant argument for “Cop Killer” at least get the rapper right – The band is “Body Count” with lead vocalist Ice-T (not Ice Cube)) I don’t think tasering is that bad. I have been tasered and I would much rather be tasered (most tases last 5-7 seconds) because the pain goes away almost instantaneously as opposed to mace which sticks to your skin so you can’t get it off, can burn for up to a few hours and is extremely difficult to control in a crowd situation and you better pray the wind isn’t blowing or a whole crowd can be affected. So you’re probably against mace as well, but I would still rather be tasered than being subdued physically. Again the pain goes away almost immediately instead of the possible bruise or other injury you may have sustained that may be visible and/or you may need to take a few advil and ice it. If I were a fleeing suspect or didn’t want to wrestle around with some naked guy’s anatomy rubbing on me I would vote tase.

  14. bklyn

    I used to have this in vinyl.

  15. Deivid

    Cops are the worst kind of bandits, yes bandits (To fair God’s Laws)! They kick everyone’s ass with no reason, and still being the right guys according to the system’s laws. See it? Cops are bandits that have law’s support, they are the worse, everywhere, any country, same farded pigs…In their prefered crimes are: Kicking kids, kicking ladys, kicking outnumbered and unarmed groups even with no reason, treatening peacefull citizens as bandits, and many other lowlife’s actions.

  16. I like the comment above me the best. Its true, cops are just regular people, with regular problems, regular moral beliefs, with regular inclinations for violence and bullying. They are no better man or woman than the guy selling hot dogs on the street corner. They contain no better moral compass than your average high school kid with a B+ average. With their shiny new badge and boom stick they become evil. Evil for the glory of power that now surges through their veins, unchecked, unbalanced and they grip their night stick with white knuckles, praying, hoping that someone crosses the street with out a green light, that someone looks crossways at them, and if they can’t find a victim tonight, they will MAKE their victim come true.
    They will plant drugs that they were just doing in your car and call it evidence. They will taze you in your sleep. Cops will be master and you will be slave.
    So what the HELL do we do about it? WE FIGHT BACK. REFUSE TO SIGN THE TICKET, REFUSE TO COME TO JUSTICE. You see, their system is not the only system that man has to choose from. We each have our own responsibility to create a safe environment on our own. We each have the right to bare arms, patrol our own streets, and do good as its meant to be done. WE don’t have to answer to their system of corrupt police and lawmakers. This is a free world. Many world empires have fallen to rogue groups of bandits who refused to be bullied by the empire’s system and laws. Let’s make this happen with America. Right now. Today.

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