'For Your Own Protection'
William Norman Grigg
Recently by William Norman Grigg: Meet
Ed Flynn – Milwaukee Crime Lord, Citizen Disarmament Advocate
There is no
situation that cannot be made instantly and immeasurably worse through
police intervention. A splendid illustration of this principle is
found in a recent ruling from the the
Arkansas Court of Appeals.
the court, police were entitled to arrest, taze, and beat a teenager
who had done nothing more sinister than speak to his mother on the
street in front of their home. A police officer accosted the young
man – who, as a juvenile, is identified only by the initials "R.R."
– after he saw him approaching a woman who was walking a dog.
who belongs to a social cohort of people who are distinguished primarily
by their timidity, claimed that he was "concerned for the woman’s
safety." His fears should have been allayed when it was established
that the woman was the teenager’s mother.
If the cop
had been an actual peace officer, he would have tipped his hat and
left. But he was a law enforcer – that is, someone through whose
dark ministrations innocent people are transformed into "criminals"
– and so he insisted on detaining and interrogating the entirely
harmless youngster. To that end he sent for "backup,"
and a thugscrum soon coalesced around the puzzled and terrified
As the Court
of Appeals summarizes, R.R. was "tasered several times, removed
from the backseat [of a police vehicle], thrown to the ground, tasered
again, kicked, handcuffed, and arrested." All of this was done
because the young man "moved around and wrestled around while
the officers held him on the ground, making it difficult for the
officers to put the cuffs on him."
didn’t permit himself to be shackled like a slave in front of his
own home because he had been seen speaking to his mother, the teenager
committed the supposed crime of "refusing to submit to arrest."
The trial court
in the case also acknowledged that the victim was "a fine young
man, an excellent student, and active in sports, clubs and church
activities." The judge reportedly expressed dismay that "an
innocent situation … just completely got out of hand" – which
is, once again, the familiar and entirely predictable outcome when
members of the State’s enforcement caste materialize. Despite these
superficial expressions of regret, the Judge sentenced the victim
to serve one day in detention – thereby leaving him with a criminal
record because he had been on the receiving end of a state-aggravated
Like most communities
in its section of the country, Pope County, Arkansas, where that
incident occurred, is thickly populated with Evangelical Christians,
whose numbers probably include most elected officials, prosecutors,
judges, and police officers. At some point in Sunday School they
probably read the 22nd chapter of the Book of Acts, which
describes how the Apostle Paul, accused of disturbing the peace,
was arrested by Roman occupation soldiers and taken to a local barracks
to be questioned under scourging.
As the interrogator
was preparing to whip the apostle, Paul pointed out to the centurion
in charge that it was illegal to flog a Roman citizen unless he
had been tried and convicted of a crime. This objection caused the
interrogator to desist immediately, and prompted the officer in
command to express the fear that he could face criminal charges
because he had chained – that is, handcuffed – a Roman citizen.
in this supposedly free country, police
commit an act that was impermissible for their antecedents in imperial
Rome: In the name
safety," they handcuff
American citizens who are not criminal suspects while conducting
investigations. Police also routinely inflict summary punishment
– using batons, Tasers, pepper spray, or other means – against those
who resist being detained without cause. Within a few years police
will have at their disposal handcuffs
that can impart electrical shocks to detainees.
In an 1894
published by The
Strand Magazine, Inspector Maurice Moser of Scotland Yard
wrote that the earliest historical mention of handcuffs was in the
fourth century B.C., "when soldiers of a conquering Greek army
found among the baggage of the routed Carthaginians several chariots
full of handcuffs, which had been held ready in confident anticipation
of a multitude of prisoners."
experience of handcuffs is small, because I dislike them,"
Inspector Moser of the restraints. He pointed out that in Belgium,
which at the time was the seat of a substantial empire, "the
use of handcuffs by police is entirely forbidden."
police officers of his era, Moser was a relatively civilized man
who found the act of shackling another human being to be barbarous
and punitive. Handcuffing a human being certainly doesn’t enhance
the safety of the person being restrained. Nor does it relieve police
anxieties about the all-encompassing threat to that most sacred
of considerations, "officer safety." Witness the large
and ever-growing number of cases in which officers – almost always
in the plural, of course – beat, taze,
and even shoot
suspects who have already been handcuffed.
in Aurora, Colorado indiscriminately handcuffed and detained scores
of people for the space of more than four hours following an
armed robbery at a branch of Wells Fargo bank.
Officer Frank Fania, drivers and passengers in the vicinity "were
handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for
permission to search the car. They all granted permission, and once
nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed."
Once the victims
were handcuffed, of course, they had no choice but to grant "permission"
for their abductors to paw through their vehicles. What if they
had withheld consent? What if they had refused to endure the indignity
and injury of being handcuffed in the first place?
that the mass arrests were necessary and justified because it was
a "unique" situation. But it’s more honestly described
as mass application of the standard approach to "protective"
detention of individuals who are not criminal suspects.
Owing to the
semantic deviousness of police and prosecutors, citizens are increasingly
unsure of their status when they are accosted by police: Are they
under arrest, or subject to "investigatory detention"?
If the citizen isn’t formally under arrest, is he free to leave?
Can police draw their guns and threaten a citizen with lethal force
if he is not formally under arrest?
That last question
has been addressed in a recent ruling by Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeal, which held that those circumstances do not constitute
a formal arrest – at least when the legitimacy of that arrest is
questioned by the defendant.
On June 8,
2010, Robert Carter of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana parked outside
a convenience store. Acting on a tip from a snitch that Carter would
soon arrive at the location to conduct a drug deal, two undercover
detectives had kept the lot under surveillance. After Carter parked
his car, the detectives used their unmarked vehicles to cut off
his escape and approached him with guns drawn.
In a panic,
Carter threw his car into reverse, severely damaging the unmarked
car behind him.
bench trial, Carter claimed that the arrival of two armed men –
one of whom admitted in testimony that they didn’t clearly identify
themselves as police – made him fear for his life. After being convicted
of felony malicious property damage, Carter – a second offender
– was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On appeal, Carter insisted
that the arrest was unlawful.
In a remarkable
achievement in judicial sophistry, the
appeals court ruled that what it called an "investigative
detention" is not an arrest – while insisting that Carter
had no right to leave what the trial judge called "the arrested
place [where] he’s supposed to remain." In practical terms
this means that cops are permitted to detain any citizen at gunpoint
without such an action qualifying as an "arrest" – and
therefore being subject to the restrictions supposedly guaranteed
by the Fourth and Fifth amendments. Once the individual is detained,
he can be shackled at the discretion of the officer – and then beaten,
jailed, and prosecuted if he objects.
act of handcuffing another human being is a serious injury. When
not done to restrain someone who has actually harmed another human
being, handcuffing is a morally impermissible form of aggressive
violence. It is meant to be a tangible demonstration of superiority
that requires the victim to submit to the supposed authority of
the aggressor. It is designed and intended to humiliate the victim.
This is why it is done even to six-year-old
inmates of government
schools who are dragged
away by police officers, nonagenarians
who are abducted at gunpoint for neglecting to pay traffic tickets,
female inmates who are chained while giving birth.
This is also
why police who are charged with crimes are often spared being handcuffed
out of "professional courtesy" – which in some cases has
actually imperiled the arresting officer.
In the American
Soyuz, any of us, at the whim of an armed stranger in a government-issued
costume, can find himself being treated in the same way that the
Carthaginians treated captured prisoners of war. At least Carthaginian
soldiers didn’t insult the intelligence of their victims by insisting
that they were being shackled for their own "protection."
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program.
© 2013 William Norman Grigg
Best of William Norman Grigg