Police Brutality, Close to Home

Close to my home, that is.  On August 10, a woman crashed her SUV into a house in my neighborhood, less than three blocks from my house.  A video that apparently has received national attention (here is a story in the New York Daily News; warning: graphic content), shows the Tallahassee Police on the scene to investigate, and eventually charge her with DUI and other charges.

After putting her in a police car, they ask her if she will consent to take a breath test.  She agrees and they take her out of the car, and after a brief argument, they smash her face into the police car, and then the pavement, breaking bones in her face, rather than giving her the breath test.

The local news coverage on this story, in addition to noting the woman’s injuries, discusses the lengths to which the TPD and the City of Tallahassee went to suppress the story.  After a State Attorney raised questions about it with one of the city commissioners, the city attorney advised the other commissioners not to watch the video.  Only after the story broke in the local news, the Chief of Police said he will undertake an internal investigation, and only after the story broke, he placed the two officers who injured the woman on paid leave.

The TPD was trying to keep the story, not only from the news media and the public, but also from the City Commission.  The local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, to its credit, is calling this a cover-up, and doing some very good investigative reporting.

For each of us on a personal level, one lesson in this story is that if you are interacting with the police, remain calm and follow their instructions, or you could get beat up.  This was a tiny woman, certainly no threat to the police officers at the scene.  This is also one of many examples showing that when police abuses occur, police departments will do what they can to cover up their activities and deny any wrongdoing.

Law enforcement abuses happen all the time.  I did take special note of this case because it happened so close to home.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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