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Cop Blanche

A few days ago, the sheriff of Palm Beach County in southeast Florida expressed defiance over criticism arising from a joint media investigation that found sheriff’s officers had shot at 123 persons since 2000, and one in four were unarmed. Despite those alarming figures, not a single officer has been criminally charged since 1993, the Palm Beach Post and WPTV News Channel 5 discovered.

Ric Bradshaw

The sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, addressed a Police Benevolent Association ball via video, asking, “Why should we be apologetic? Why should we kowtow down … just because they think it’s wrong, when it’s not?” He justified the shootings, saying, “This is a simple equation. If you don’t try to shoot us, if you don’t try to stab us, you don’t try to run over us with a car, and you don’t try to beat us up, then everything’s going to be fine.”

Sandra Bland

Really? On July 10, Sandra Bland was arrested near Houston, Texas, after a law enforcement officer stopped her for failing to switch lanes on a road that, a video showed, had almost no traffic. She did not try to shoot him, she did not try to stab him, she did not try to run over him with a car, and she didn’t try to beat him up. Everything was not fine. And three days later, she died in jail, purportedly from a self-imposed hanging. She was ordered out of her car at the point of a taser after she objected to the officer’s request/command that she put out her cigarette while she sat in her car and he stood outside writing a report.

Harassment — no getting around it

Painting of the apostle Peter

Painting of the apostle Peter

On Saturday night, an officer in North Palm Beach, Florida, harassed me after I inadvertently passed a road block. Lane restrictions imposed because of road work had continued for perhaps a mile, and then two flashing arrows pointed left and right. I had driven from I-95, and saw no sign reading Road Closed Ahead. So I thought the arrows merely indicated drivers had to go around them because work was in process in the center. I drove left, then forward past a police car with a flashing light. Obviously, I had no idea I was doing something wrong. Suddenly, I saw a blockade looming ahead, just before railroad tracks, and stopped. The officer put his siren on and drove perhaps 100 feet to my car. I explained that I was confused about what the arrows meant. There’d been no detour sign. He berated me and, standing above and several feet away, said he smelled alcohol on my breath. I said I’d had one drink of vodka. It has little odor. He ordered me out of the car and said I was in no condition to drive. I’d have to call a friend to pick me up, which would mean my car would be towed. I knew someone 20 miles away, and he said that was too far, so he’d have to call a cab for me. He wondered aloud if he should give me a roadside sobriety test. Three times I urged him to do so, knowing I would pass with flying colors, and three times he declined. Shades of Peter. At one point, the towering, strapping officer looked at me with a mean expression and said, “I don’t like the way you’re acting.” I asked him how I was acting, and he didn’t answer, but I grew fearful he was trying to provoke me into doing or saying something untoward that he could use as an excuse to taser or physically attack me. This is what has become of law enforcement in America. Notwithstanding Sheriff Bradshaw’s assertion to the contrary, we ordinary, law-abiding citizens have to be fearful of officers’ behavior. The sheriff’s condolence of such behavior is their signal that they have been given carte blanche to conduct themselves as they wish.

I remained unfailingly polite. Finally, he asked if I were able to turn my car around and drive back the way I’d come. I replied that I could easily do that – and did. He ordered me to leave and not proceed to the ballroom dance studio where I was headed. So I could drive, but I wasn’t allowed to dance. And, by the way, he never asked to see my driver’s license, insurance card, or registration. He knew I was unimpaired and was merely confused about where to proceed on the road. Yet he harassed me.

I didn’t try to shoot him. I didn’t try to stab him. I didn’t try to run over him with a car. I didn’t try to beat him up. And everything was not okay.

Copping a lie

Some years ago, I was driving a lawyer friend home after we’d had dinner and watched a football game at my apartment. He asked me to pull over to the side of the road, opposite of two police officers putting a woman through a sobriety test. She was a friend, he said, and he wanted to render legal assistance. He presented his card to one of the officers, who ordered him to leave. He insisted he had a right to talk to her, and the cop put him in handcuffs, deposited him in the squad car, and later jailed him. I testified at his trial, and learned that the two officers had told a bald-faced lie, claiming he and I had been at some nearby bar. So much for the trustworthiness of our law enforcement personnel.

Police officers’ job is to defend and protect people. The officer in my case was intentionally making my life difficult for no reason but to bully. It happens across the country, time and time again. It is a pox upon our society.

Put Bradshaw in his place.

If the elected commissioners of Palm Beach County had any moxie, they would not allow Sheriff Bradshaw to intimidate them. For years, he has increased his budget by far greater percentages than the other departments, and they grant him his demands. It’s past time for them to say enough. The department’s budget has grown 68 percent since 2005, a year after he took office, and accounts for about half of the county’s operational expenses. If we the voters do what’s right, we’ll vote him out of office when he runs for a fourth term in 2016. We need to show the police that they’re paid to serve us, not to have us under their collective thumb.

#policebehavior #apostlePeter #Houston #PalmBeachPost #SandraBland #SheriffRicBradshaw #WPTVNewsChannel5 #NorthPalmBeach #PalmBeachCountycommissioners

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