Tuesday morning, very much before the Chicago Tribune or Sun Times picked up the story, The Windy City Citizen had posted the video with the caption, “A man gets tossed from a bus by a Chicago Police Officer – does the punishment fit the crime? Looks pretty harsh, but I’ll let you decide.” Clicking through to the original YouTube Posting, I was among many people who posted my comments about the video taker’s presumptions. Much to his credit, he did try to politely respond to every posting despite the overwhelming majority of people like me who had no sympathy for a person who had not only not paid his bus fare but was drunk and on the bus.
My issue with the video, by Spencer Thayer, was that his take was that there was unnecessary force. As of Thursday morning, the comments posted were all deleted and no comments can be left. When I watched the video, what I saw was a tough old cop who told the drunk, “Let’s go” and “Get off the bus” and he ordered the guy off at least 14 times before he used force. We are not talking about a drunk who is sitting on a park bench not bothering anyone; this is a case where the drunk refused to pay his bus fare and the CTA driver called the Police. We are looking at a drunk who is unable to respond to verbal commands and therefore, to be removed, he must be physically handled. In the video you can also hear the Police Officer ask the drunk, “You want to fight me?”
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Thayer said he believed the officer should not have touched the man before backup arrived. But he was reluctant to assign blame either way. His Web site, chicagocopwatch.org, is part of a network aimed at increasing vigilance on police issues.” I thought that was interesting, given the fact that the title page of his video states: “the officer was excessively violent and did not wait for the appropriate backup.”
Last year, Police Officer Richard Francis lost his life to a deranged woman who killed him when he removed her from the bus, also at the behest of the CTA driver. Two years ago, Mr. N was flagged down by a CTA bus driver when a disturbed man threatened passengers on a bus. When Mr. N showed up, he said all the passengers ran off the bus. Apparently prior to that, they were all too fearful to move, but the presence of a Police Officer allowed them to feel safe enough to flee. Of course when that happened, there went all the witnesses. The CTA driver, of course, was relieved. The passenger was clearly disturbed but he talked him into beginning to get off the bus on his own. Fortunately, mentally disturbed or not, the passenger was able to understand Mr. N’s explanation of what would happen regarding actions other than peacefully getting off the bus. Each situation is different.
Did I think the Officer used excessive force? Considering the situation, no. Was his language crude? Obviously it’s not how most of us would normally greet each other, but most of us would not get on a bus drunk and not pay our fare. Do all cops handle thing things with a torrent of cuss words? Not any more than the average civilian would given a similar situation when you have to be tough. And obviously this wasn’t the dialogue that your television cops would use, but then again, unlike your television cops, our CPD men and women start their day off by putting on a bullet proof vest, see more dead people in a month than you will ever see in a lifetime, see the gruesome sights of murdered people, suicides, beatings, battered women, sexually abused children, gang crimes, and the everyday issues that occur when the Police are called.
Surprisingly the comments to the story in the Chicago Tribune were generally very favorable towards the Officer. My favorite comment, “The guy deserved it he had plenty of warning to comply. He was resisting. What was the police officer supposed to do offer him cookie.” Well the Girl Scouts are selling…