In St. Louis, a 12-year-old girl, Dejamon Baker, was at a Victoria’s Secret with her mother, Charlene Bratton, when police arrived with warrants for Bratton’s arrest. Baker apparently got physically involved when her mother was tackled to the floor, and she was tased twice. The original reason for the arrest: unpaid parking tickets.
There are many who will immediately pick up on this story for its sensational character, and, as is often the case, no one will really have all the facts. But at first blush, this report is disturbing. On a few levels.
First, the police were tackling an unarmed civilian in a retail store for little more than asking for a reason why she was being arrested.
Second, police tased a twelve-year-old girl… at least twice. Maybe this girl was a genetic anomaly or something, but I hardly think the whole “I-was-in-fear-for-my-life” routine’s gonna fly in this situation. Do you even need to know the circumstances? I hardly think any encounter with unarmed assailants can justify this amount of force. But using such force with a 12-year-old girl? What’s worse, the police spokesman trying to avoid a public relations crisis said he thought the officer’s actions were “justified.” Really?
If this were an isolated event, I could chalk it up to nerves or inexperience or just plain stupidity. But it’s not. Unfortunately, these kinds of stories are happening every day. But we shouldn’t just get angry with the offending police officers (who, incidentally, are giving a bad name to the more cool-headed of their colleagues who are still committed to doing their job in a reasonable fashion). Police officers are allowed to behave this way, even if they choose not to. In fact, in many cases, they are encouraged to act this way. Many of the laws they are required to uphold are ridiculous. Their position is becoming less and less respectable as the laws they are required to enforce become more burdensome. My generation has less respect for police officers than the one before us by far. And the one after us? Well, they don’t even respect police enough to keep a safe distance when their mom’s getting arrested. Should the police have been arresting a woman for unpaid parking tickets? No. Are they required to by law? Yes. Is it their fault? Not really.
And I’m sure lots of people out there think these police officers and the legislators that give them license to bully the public are “justified.” Because a lot of people think we’re still living in Mayberry, and they still trust the civil government and its enforcers to do right by us. But this trust is becoming less and less warranted as time goes by. We need to stick up for our rights and the rights of others now. We shouldn’t be required to have any but voluntary dealings with police officers unless we have done damage to someone else’s life or property. Period. After all, I thought their motto was “Protect and Serve” not “Collect and Unnerve.”