The latest police outrage being passed around the internet is this case from Madison, Alabama. A 57-year-old Indian man (Sureshbhai Patel) was walking down the sidewalk in his son’s neighborhood when the police pulled up, questioned him, and within 90 seconds, threw him to the ground and partially paralyzed him. The brutality was so obvious, that the police chief was forced to “recommend termination,” and the police officer has been arrested.
Naturally, much of the response to the incident has focused on the brutality of the police. This is good, as far as it goes, but there’s another player in this who should be condemned at least as much as the police: the person who called the police.
At the beginning of the video, one can hear the voice of a male who has called 911 to report what he thinks is a suspicious person walking down the street. This helps illustrate that in many cases, the problem with police abuse and police overreach lies with citizens who are so lazy and pusillanimous that they call the police for every little thing. 911 is an emergency number, mind you. So, you can just picture the 911 caller — we’ll call him Bubba — peering out his window and being filled with mortal dread at the sight of someone who did not appear to belong in the neighborhood. Bubba ran to the phone and dialed 911 fearful that he might be killed or robbed by this 57-year-old shuffling down the sidewalk.
Bubba breathlessly describes how Patel is “just wandering around” “just on foot.” Yes, the horrors of people taking a pleasure stroll down the street. The fact that he had no vehicle was a tip-off as to the unlikeliness of Patel being a threat. This is why the 911 operator asked about a vehicle.
Now, if Bubba were less fearful of every mild change in his suburban environment, he could have gone out into the yard and had a closer look at Patel or walked right up to him and asked him if he could help Patel find something. Bubba’s watching way too much television if he thinks he was likely to put himself at risk by approaching someone walking down a suburban sidewalk in broad daylight. Just making his presence known to others walking through the neighborhood would have made it clear that this is a neighborhood where people are at home and alert. That should be sufficient for any mentally well-balanced resident who doesn’t assume everyone is out to get him in the middle of Suburbia, USA.
Other news stories said that someone reported that Patel was “looking in garages.” Well, if one doesn’t want others glancing in the general direction of the innards of one’s garage, there’s a simple solution to this: close your garage door.
So many of these police overreach and brutality cases begin with a paranoid or control-freak resident calling the police. Those cases where the police arrest moms for letting her children play in the front yard? They’re usually responding to someone on the street who called the cops first. The cops come by to cite someone for having a vegetable garden in the front yard? Thank the neighborhood residents who can’t stand the thought of a neighbor having some actual freedom. Remember that case of a man who was shot dead without warning because he was holding a hose nozzle in a private back yard? Yep, someone called the cops on him.
It’s impossible to know, but I wonder if Bubba fancies himself some kind of “limited government” “freedom-loving” American. If so, he certainly seems to rely on government a lot. On the other hand, people who actually value freedom don’t call the police at every turn. They get to know their neighbors. They approach people on the sidewalk to assess risk. They arm themselves in case of actual violence, and they take the time to tend to their own neighborhoods instead of calling tax-funded union labor to harass peaceful citizens while the caller watches everything from his living room window. If they’re too fearful of everyday live to handle life in an open neighborhood, such people should move to a tightly-monitored gated community or apartment complex with 12-foot-high walls instead of making life miserable for ordinary people like Patel and driving up tax rates for the rest of us.12:55 pm on February 16, 2015