Unit 7 Group Assignment
Applied Criminal Justice Ethics – CJ340-01
In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a lecture at the University of Oslo in Norway in conjunction with winning the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in which he stated “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community.” (King, 1964) In our assignment this week, we were able to see how wise and true Dr. King’s words were as we analyzed two scenarios that involved police misconduct and one scenario which involved one kind police officer making an invaluable difference in his community.
In the first scenario, a Washington, D.C. police officer is shown pinning a very petite woman to the side of a police vehicle while her feet were dangling off the ground. The confrontation started when the petite woman and another man were having an argument. Officers showed up and it is unclear what her actions were towards the officers, but the result was her being pinned up against the police vehicle.
Due to only having the video to determine the incident’s classification, I would classify these actions as intentional misconduct. I am classifying this officers’ actions as intentional misconduct because it was obvious that he was intentionally pinning the women to the side of the police vehicle. It is also misconduct because the actions of the officer were not needed. It was not needed because no charges were filed against the women; which means she was not resisting arrest or a threat to the officer. It is hard to classify the situation based on the short video footage and not knowing all the facts, but an investigation will be completed.
Based on the lack of evidence and video footage, I would recommend that the officer be disciplined for the time being. The officer will be suspended with pay for 30 days while a full investigation is conducted. The women, witnesses, and both officers involved should be interviewed and body camera footage from the officers should be reviewed. I believe that by requiring the officers to be placed on thirty days of leave, attending additional training, and increasing supervision of these officers their actions will improve. Once the training and 30-day leave are complete, the officers should have regular meetings with their supervisor and be assigned to a partner that can assist them in future incidents.
Upon reviewing the video from the second scenario and the facts surrounding the actions of Officer White in response to a phone call regarding “kids playing loudly”, it was determined that not only was there no misconduct committed, but his actions were the epitome of how all officers should engage in situations like that. Officer White was called to address some kids who were “playing loudly” outside. When Officer White approached one of the kids and remarked on his disappointment that someone would call the police on kids who were just playing basketball. He then proceeded to start playing some hoops with the kid, after a few minutes another kid joined in, and they all had a little fun. There was video footage from the dash cam, that caught it all, which the departments social media manager decided to post on social media. This video quickly went viral and received a torrent of positive responses which praised Officer White for the way that he handled that situation.
Officer White’s actions demonstrated support for kids being outside and playing a game of basketball instead of causing trouble or being inside glued to their electronics. Additionally, he taught those kids that not all police officers are bad. It gave those kids (and everyone else that watched the video) an honest firsthand view of an officer displaying the utmost ethical actions. He not only chose not to harass the kids during their game but also took a few moments of his time to join in the fun. This simple but kind act spread across the nation and managed to raise $10,000 in a GoFundMe donation site, that was aimed to promote a new philosophy among police called #HoopsNotCrime. This new slogan helped to spread the word that encourages youth to get out there and play games like basketball, as opposed to getting involved in crimes. Officer White not only joined these kids for a rematch but surprised them by bringing NBA star Shaquille O’Neal with him. Donations continued to pour in from generous donors as well as local vendors which made it possible for Officer White to have basketball courts built near two different apartment buildings.
It is truly amazing how one small kind act from this police officer could spread so much positivity and form a bond between young kids and police. Officer White’s actions and behavior should inspire other officers to take that time to build a rapport with the community in some manner. It only took a few moments of his time and having strong morals and ethical values he was able to express that and show the whole nation a different side of cops at least a different side to what many people seem to think about officers.
In the third scenario, it is very difficult to determine which party is at greater fault because the viewer of the footage is not presented with all the facts surrounding the incident. I feel that the officers’ response was taken out of context; the viewer only sees a group of ten or so African American teens standing around in their bathing suits and then three police officers stormed in with one of them drawing his weapon. The video footage that went viral on the internet fails to mention that the teens were in a residential community’s pool that they were not authorized to swim in, that they were causing a disturbance, that fights were breaking out, or what events occurred that led a resident to call the police when private security guards were present.
While it is true that the children did not pose an immediate threat to the officers’ lives or anyone present in the pool area’s and it was unnecessary to draw a weapon, forcefully push a 15 year old girl to the ground, and pull her braids, it is also true that the teens were not being cooperative or respectful to the officers. The commentators of the news footage said it best when they said that “Corporal Casebolt ordered the teens to sit on the grass; some did, some didn’t.” (video.foxnews.com, 2015) There was more to this story that the video does not cover or Corporal Casebolt would not have drawn his weapon.
In my opinion, the incident would be classified as “misconduct but excusable.” The officer appears to have approached the scenario with force and yelling when he should have tried to de-escalate it with his words before elevating to violence. In reading outside sources, the community tried to make it a race-based offense given that the teens were African American and Corporal Casebolt is white, but the video does not show him yelling racial slurs or suggesting any sort of prejudice. (Hauser, 2016) To appease the community and allow the officer to learn from his mistake, I would recommend that the officer receive a formal counseling on-paper to be placed in his personnel file where alternative approaches to the situation would be discussed. Additionally, I would require that the officer attends de-escalation training which would teach him how to relate to people, use his words, and only use force when absolutely necessary. (Wolf, 2017)
As the reader can see, violence in police work does not always offer a comprehensive solution. In fact, it tends to cause more harm than good as relationships are irreparably damaged and rapport is broken between the police force and the community they serve. In the first scenario, we are unsure of what events led to the police officer picking a woman up and pinning her to the side of his police cruiser, but we do know with certainty that the officer was out of line and should have used a different approach. In the second scenario, we learned how much of an impact one police officer can have on his community just by being kind and treating teenagers with dignity and respect. As Dr. King put it, that officer was empowered by a “powerful and just weapon” because he chose a non-violent, civil approach over barking orders at rowdy children. He inevitably gained the trust and cooperation of his community and was able to mend relationships between his department and the people of his city by simply having some fun with some young people. The third scenario is quite unfortunate because any rapport that his community previously had with his department was likely severed by his violent, aggressive behavior at the community pool. While it is impossible to understand what goes through the minds of police officers during the heat of the moment, or what compels them to act the way that they do, it is important to note how unethical and damaging the violent encounters were and how positively the non-violent encounter was.