Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Police officer punches jaywalking teenage girl: sometimes police (and teachers!) allow issues of control to distort their perspective

The teenage girl detained in this story clearly broke the law by jaywalking and then ignoring a police officer. My question: what is the best way to deal with teenage girls who violate the law by jaywalking and then ignoring a police officer?

How do police and teachers maintain respect and authority? I'm not an expert on police, but I would like to suggest that as teachers we do so by sometimes letting things go, by recognizing when a confrontation will actually damage our authority.

In the grand scheme of things, there are important problems that require the use of physical force. A teenager jaywalking is not one of these things. The officer allowed several jaywalkers to leave; why not one more? Why get physical with a teenage girl? If I'd been in this officer's situation, I might have called after the departing girl, "We're worried about the possibility of an accident at this intersection. Please cross in a safer place next time."

I'm afraid we give young people the wrong message about the proper use of power when police (and teachers) overreact to young people who don't comply with our directives. The goal is to mold young people into responsible citizens, right? The specific goal in this case is to prevent a traffic accident.

Somehow I don't think this is the way to do it. It just makes kids think that the adults are abusive and can't control themselves when they get angry. Some adults can't identify a situation in which a confrontation will damage their own authority. This officer did not enhance his own authority by using physical force in this situation.

Police: Officer reassigned after punching incident caught on camera

(Includes video)
By Gabriel Falcon, CNN
June 16, 2010

A Seattle police officer who was recorded on a cell phone camera punching an alleged jaywalker in the face has been temporarily reassigned, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

Ian Walsh has been taken off patrol duty and placed in a training unit to review police tactics, Detective Mark Jamieson said.

Walsh, who joined the force in November 2007, has not been disciplined in the Monday incident, which remains under investigation, Jamieson said. The event has been referred to the police's Office of Professional Accountability for review, he said.

According to a police statement, Walsh was on patrol and in uniform Monday afternoon when he stopped a young man for jaywalking.

While interacting with the man, Walsh observed four women jaywalking at the same location and ordered them to step over to his cruiser, police said. The department described the women as being "verbally antagonistic toward the officer."...

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