It pains me to watch the videotape.
(from the 25-year old officer’s dash cam, after some back and forth about whether or not NFL player Ryan Moats stopped or rolled a couple of red lights)
Officer Robert Powell: (Moats’ SUV) is not an emergency vehicle. You do not have the right to control the traffic.
Moats: All right … just go ahead and check my insurance so I can go ahead and go. If you’re gonna give me a ticket, give me a ticket. I really don’t care, just …
Powell: Your attitude says that you need (a ticket).
Moats: I don’t have an attitude. All I’m asking you is just to hurry up. Cause you’re standing here talking to me.
Powell: Shut your mouth and listen.
Moats: Shut my mouth? Is that how you talk to me, too?
Powell: Shut your mouth and listen. If you want to keep this going, I’ll just put you in handcuffs, and I’ll take you to jail for running a red light.
Moats: OK. All right.
Powell: I can do that.
Powell: State law says I can.
Moats: Yes, sir. Go ahead.
Powell: If you don’t settle down that’s what I’m gonna do.
Moats: Yes, sir.
Powell: All right, If you don’t settle down, your truck’s illegally parked – I’ll tow that as well.
Moats: Yes, sir.
Powell: OK, I can screw you over. I’d rather not do that. Your attitude will dictate everything that happens, and right now, your attitude sucks.
Moats: Yes, sir.
Powell: OK, I turned my red and blues on as you were going over the bridge …
Moats: You think I’m gonna stop when my wife’s mother is dying?
Powell: You are required to stop. What you’re doing does not matter. Red and blues, you have to stop. I can charge you with fleeing right now.
Moats: Yes, sir. …
Powell: I can take you to jail. I can tow your truck. I can charge you with fleeing.
Moats: Yes, sir, you can. I understand.
Powell: I can make your night very difficult.
Moats: I hope you’ll be a great person and not do that.
How many times can Moats say ‘yes, sir?’ How many times can he say ‘Ok?’ How often can he agree with the officer and still the officer lays out the myriad ways he can ‘screw’ Moats over? (yeah, a great conversation for a white officer who has stopped a car full of blacks). Or was it that the cop knew he had an NFL star on his hands and wanted to show what a man he was?
That entire exchange is nothing but a young punk with a hard dick.
Yes, he’s a cop. Yes, I’m a cop. But he and I are made from completely different cloth.
This happened a few days ago in Dallas. Moats was, with some of his family, rushing to a hospital where his mother-in-law was dying. With his flashers going, he ran some stop signs.
Absolutely. Completely illegal.
Worthy of a ticket? Absolutely fucking not.
If he’d rolled red lights without his flashers or without slowing down to check on-coming traffic, and if he’d stopped outside of a strip club, then yeah, write his ass. But that’s not what happened. Moats went to a hospital. He had his flashers on and while those don’t make a private car an emergency vehicle, that is standard and accepted practice for American drivers with emergencies.
How many clues can this cop miss?
So in the face of clue after clue after clue that this was legitimate, the officer decided to play King Cobra and detain Moats, whose mother-in-law died while this penny-ante panty-waist son of a bitch made sure he got his ticket written.
And, oh, by the way, the ticket was dropped. Why? Because it was a bullshit ticket. Circumstances and context point up the crap quotient of this ticket. Again, we’re outside a hospital, not a strip club or a grocery store or a damned brothel.
Now, in the officer’s defense (which makes my bowels hurt to have to do), a part of the beginning of the traffic stop was legit. He stopped Moats and immediately at least two people jumped out and came toward him.
I’ve been there and it’s fucking scary.
As an officer, you have no idea who these people are, no idea what they’re doing or why they’re coming at you. And more officers are hurt and killed in traffic stops than anything else we do. Remember…the first two officers killed last week in Oakland were murdered on a routine traffic stop. Speeding. Or failing to signal. Or running a red light.
So when the Dallas copper ordered them back in the car, I had no problem. Nor had I a problem with the fact that his gun was drawn at the beginning of the incident. But you get that thing put away quick when you understand you are not facing a deadly threat situation. Up until then, it was good tactics (if you can get past all the clues he missed that he should never have made the stop to begin with).
But after that, after the point at which everyone in the car tells him what’s going on, after he gets a face full of their obvious distress and emotion, the cop went Sarah Palin rogue, doing his own thing and stewing in his own sense of righteous.
There is a Thin Blue Line in law enforcement, a sense that One shall not speak ill of Another and to a degree, I understand that. Until you’ve stood in a kitchen and had a PCP junkie attack you, take your gun, and fight you for nearly 12 minutes, you have no conception of what most officers face everyday.
So I try to not criticize officers until I know exactly what they were facing. But sometimes, everything you need to see is right in front of you. In this case, it was all on the videotape.
Here’s something else: the officer had the SUV.
Get it? Even if it had been a righteous ticket, the officer had the SUV. They had to come back to it at some point. They weren’t going to walk home. They weren’t going to take a damned taxi. Was the SUV stolen? Could have been, but how many car thieves slow down for red lights and drive with their flashers on? The basic premise of auto theft is to NOT get caught; drawing attention makes getting caught more likely.
The officer should have let Moats and his family deal with their issue. Then, once that was done, he could have dealt with his issue with them.
But the traffic ticket doesn’t matter. Powell’s interaction with Moats doesn’t matter. A young cop, probably scared, trying to control a situation he created and which got out of hand damned fast, doesn’t matter. All those things are window dressing for the larger problems.
First: The Big Listen.
Almost everything we do as police officers hinges on what I call The Big Listen. You have to hear what comes out of people’s mouths. If you don’t, then everything else you try to do – arrests, citations, investigations – is just wasted time.
This cop didn’t listen to a single word Moats said. Nor did he listen when a hospital security guard and a nurse came out to explain the situation to him.
Everyone told him what was going on and he hunkered down and concentrated on writing that ticket.
Siege mentality. Everyone on the planet was telling him at that moment – and every moment since – that he’d screwed it up. I’d bet he felt bombarded with criticism and probably self-doubt and so he stuck to his metaphoric guns. There are officers who believe with absolute certainty there should never be any apologies or any backing up once they take a stand and that’s the stand he took.
Second: The Big Rule.
This is my biggest problem with the entire incident. That kid stood tall behind his badge and then hid behind the rules.
When questioned, he said he followed the rules and said he believed he acted appropriately. In other words, his hands were tied. There are rules and policies and procedures for just such an incident and he followed them to the letter.
In other other words, he gave over his situational judgment to something written down in a dusty manual.
Yeah, that’s a problem.
We want our officers making judgments and using common sense. We want them to take into account every bit of information that comes their way. We do not want them slavishly following every single rule that some suit wrote only after it went through ten or fifteen committees.
Said this kid’s chief, at a press conference: “(Powell’s) behavior, in my opinion, did not exhibit the common sense, discretion, the compassion that we expect our officers to exhibit.”
Common sense and discretion.
The chief went on to say, when asked what officers are trained to do in such a situation, that even someone with no police training should have known better than to do what Powell did.
“I don’t know how you train for these circumstances, other than to hire people with common sense and good people skills,” he said.
This kid in Dallas, scared to death by the can of crap he’d opened, chose to hide behind the rules rather than coming out and saying he’d screwed the pooch and apologizing.
I’ve been there. When things start to move so fast you can’t really control them. And it is incredibly difficult to stop events and do any sort of evaluation. Yet officers have to be able to stop the train, in a situation where there are no lives in jeopardy, and see if the train needs to be put on a different track.
This kid will never be a good officer. He needs to leave the profession and sell hotdogs at the ball park.
Do I say that based on this single incident? Based on a situation that got out of hand where he lacked common sense and made unwarranted threats of arrest? A situation that he didn’t have the life or career experience to stand up to?
No. I say this based on the fact that, after the incident, while the tape was still recording, he mentioned to another officer that he had ‘worded’ a report to justify a police chase he was involved in back in January.
Turns out this punk may have lied about how the pursuit began.
In other words, it was another situation that got out of control too quickly for him to fix. And rather than fixing it afterward, rather than talking to his command staff, he ‘worded’ a report. So when the shit was thick, his instinct was to lie rather than to solve the problem.
I do not like criticizing officers without all the information, but when you do this to Moats, and then you tell another officer that you wrote a report a certain way so as to hide certain facts, you need to get the fuck out. This kid is making all of us look bad. He is undermining everything I do on the street.
This kid, with his bullshit ‘I’m the boss and I’ll take you to jail and if it ain’t right I’ll just lie on my report,’ is making things more dangerous for me. The Thin Blue Line can’t – and shouldn’t – condone that kind of bullshit.
Turn in your badge and gun, you schlub, and grab some extra mustard for the people in section 312.