Police continue to go berserk and torture, arrest or shoot people who exercise their free speech rights. People have been maimed, framed and jailed because police were given the idea that they have the authority of a dictator in a police state. Sheer stupidity on the issue of Constitutional Rights is what makes the average police officer so dangerous.You can thank dumb police commanders and Hollywood for that.—Ronald David Jackson
|Adapted from Photo by Aaron Gustafson.|
Everyone Has the Right to Mouth Off to CopsBy Daniel Denvir
"Fuck tha police!" The protest refrain provokes feelings of sympathy, ambivalence, or dismay, depending on the listener. It is also a song by the rap group N.W.A., and a young man named Cesar Baldelomar was blasting it from his car last Thanksgiving when Hialeah, Florida, police officer Harold Garzon took offense.
"Really?" Garzon allegedly said to Baldelomar. "You're really playing that song? Pull over."
Police response to perceived disrespect is not unusual, as the tragic case of Sandra Bland, who died of a reported but disputed suicide in a Texas jail, has reminded us this week. Bland was driving when she was pulled over on July 10, and a video from arresting State Trooper Brian T. Encinia's dashcam released this week shows that the officer appears to have escalated a simple traffic stop into a violent arrest—all because he didn't like that Bland admitted that yes, she was annoyed at being pulled over.
"Newsflash: people don't like getting pulled over," says Jason Williamson, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. "People don't enjoy interactions with police if they can avoid it."
Encinia's reaction, however, didn't surprise him either.
"The police officer in the Sandra Bland case and police officers everywhere often respond in kind when they think people are being disrespectful to them," says Williamson.
Such police responses can be dangerous. Bland's offense appears not to have been rudeness but rather her failure to be sufficiently deferential to Encinia's authority and ego. In short, she did not grovel. Bland was well within her right to speak out. And Trooper Encinia's escalation of the situation appears to have been in retaliation for her exercising that right.
Uninformed Cop Claims Freedom of Speech Does Not Give Citizens the Right to Question Police.
"The police officer is supposed to be the professional in this situation and he could have very easily deescalated that encounter, and we would't be talking about this today," says Willamson. Instead, "he took it to another place."
The right to be rude to cops is well established. "People generally have a right to mouth off to (or give the finger to) members of law enforcement, as long as they do not interfere with (i.e., obstruct) ordinary law-enforcement operations," emails Ira Robbins, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law and the author of the law review article, "Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law." "This doesn't necessarily mean that it is a wise thing to do, however, as many police officers are thin-skinned and have not been trained well enough to let these slights roll off.