The OK State Trooper, the EMT, and Two Simple Reforms

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State Trooper Daniel Martin, whose foul-mouthed, petulant assault on paramedic Maurice White, Jr. was recorded and widely disseminated on the Web, “is an Iraq war veteran who returned from the Middle East about a month before the May 24 incident in Paden, 40 miles east of Oklahoma City,” reports the AP.

Martin, who was speeding in a frantic rush to get nowhere in particular, had his feelings hurt when the ambulance — which was actually providing a useful service by ferrying Stella Davis to the hospital — didn’t pull over for him. He then compounded his useless rage by imagining that the driver flipped him off.

When he finally pulled the ambulance over, Mr. White — a man of amazing patience and dignity — intervened to explain that the ambulance was carrying a patient. This prompted a tantrum from Martin, who assaulted White twice and threatened to arrest both him and the driver. That attempt failed, but not before Martin actually placed a hand on White’s throat to choke him as the patient’s family looked on in stunned, disgusted disbelief.

Later, at the hospital, Martin actually said in the presence of witnesses that he was prepared to pull his gun and use lethal force against White.

This, according to Martin’s attorney, is  “a good man…. He’s not this ogre, this depriver of people’s rights.” Ogre he may not be. Petty tyrant with a gun he most certainly is. And both he and his tantrum make the case for two badly needed reforms.

First, assuming that we’re stuck with government police agencies, nobody who has served in the military should ever be permitted to work as a civilian police officer. Martin’s conduct is typical of a solider in an army of occupation; perhaps he thought that Mr. White, a black man, could be treated like a “Haji.”

Second, the states need to restore the legal protection for the common law right to resist unlawful arrest. If an actual criminal resists arrest, this could be taken into account for the purposes of enhancing the sentence for an actual crime against persons or property.

According to Gary James, Trooper Martin’s attorney, “One thing that police officers are taught is that a person that will fight a police officer is an extreme danger to the public.”

As to which party to this assault (called, in typical fashion, a “fight,” “scuffle,” or “altercation,” rather than by its proper name) is an “extreme danger,” the public can watch the video. To use the proper legal expression, res ipsa loquitir.

Mr. White’s calm, dignified resistance in the face of Martin’s splenetic, adolescent rage was genuinely inspiring. His was the conduct of a citizen, rather than a “submitizen.”

11:29 pm on June 15, 2009