Why Are Police Trained To Be Cowards?

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Melissa Greenfield appeared to be a slender, ordinary 20-year-old woman wearing a neck brace. The device in her hand appeared to be a commonplace cell phone.

But viewed in light of the paramount law enforcement concern, “officer safety,” Greenfield was transformed into a potential SMERSH assassin. So the heroic Sgt. Jonathan Burke of Ohio’s Delaware County Sheriff’s Office simply had to arrest her, confiscate her property, and hold her in jail for three days, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

At least, that’s how we’re supposed to view what was done to Greenfield and her boyfriend, Colton Dorich, on July 9 at a Flying J truckstop near Columbus.

Like many others their age, the vacationing couple was funding their trip across the country by soliciting donations from other travelers. While this could be called panhandling, it isn’t a crime.

Dorich’s sign — which he displayed while walking his dog — triggered a passerby to call the police. When Burke arrived, he demanded that Dorich produce ID.  Melissa withdrew her T-Mobile phone and announced that she was quite sensibly making a record of the event “for legal purposes and our own safety.”

Unfortunately, Greenfield didn’t understand that in any encounter between an armed agent of state coercion and a mere Mundane, it is only the former who is entitled to protection.

“When a sheriff’s deputy encounters an individual holding something in his or her hand, the deputy will take action to identify the item. This is done for the safety of the deputy, the involved parties and the public,” insisted Delaware County Sheriff Walter L. Davis III.

Of course, “safety” in this context supposedly means unqualified submission to those wearing the habiliments of the state’s punitive priesthood, who are indoctrinated to believe that they are compassed about by countless potentially lethal threats.

“Not knowing what the item in her hand was and having prior knowledge of all types of hidden weapons, including a cell-phone gun, I asked her several times to place it in her pocket and to keep her hands free,” wrote the timid Sgt. Burke in his official report.

Several years ago, .22-caliber pistols disguised as cell phones were  seized in raids against organized crime syndicates in Europe. This generated a small wave of alarmist stories about this new threat to “officer safety,” one that supposedly changed the “rules of engagement” in police encounters. The disguised pistols are heavier than common cell phones; the chamber is loaded by twisting the “phone” in half. To date, not a single “deadly decoy” of that kind has materialized in the U.S.

Burke demanded that Greenfield surrender the camera. She properly refused that demand. So the armed stranger abducted Greenfield under color of supposed law by arresting her and charging her with “obstructing official business and resisting arrest.” (Dorich wasn’t charged.)

The young woman, who was wearing a neck brace following a traffic accident, was held in jail for three days before pleading no contest to the spurious obstruction charge, for which she was fined twenty dollars. The equally bogus resisting arrest charge was dismissed.

After it became clear that the mysterious object Greenfield carried was a common cellphone and not exotic Eastern European spy tech it was returned — but the video record of the police stop had been erased. Fancy that.

As he Burke drove Greenfield to jail, he lectured his kidnapping victim about the supposed danger she posed to him. The sergeant insisted that it was “unacceptable for me to be filming his activities,” Greenfield told the Dispatch.

It may have been “unacceptable” to Burke, whose mind was cluttered with paranoid, self-serving fantasies, but as Greenfield observes, there was no actual law against making a video record of police carrying out official tasks.

Because Burke was armed, he was able to impose his will on Greenfield. This is precisely the kind of bullying that the rule of law is supposed to prevent. Like too many others supposedly entrusted to enforce the law to protect the public, Sgt. Burke has been taught to act in the service of his unreasonable fears, in the interest of his own self-protection.

10:12 am on July 30, 2010