We frequently find ourselves reading or sharing stories about police officers abusing their power. Those who do are often harassed or threatened. Plenty of us hardly ever see these cases develop in the news as policemen and policewomen are still called “crime fighters,” “the feds,” or (in South Florida) “crackers.”
“Police officers think they have the power and right to be accusing anyone they want,” said Ashleigh Gamble, a freshman at Coral Gables High School, who has seen officers taking advantage of their authority in her neighborhood. “They are meant to protect us but instead they go around threating and hurting people for whatever reason: race, ethnicity, even gender.”
Not all “crime fighters” respect the law. In Seattle, Washington, The Stranger newspaper editor Dominic Holden was threatened by police officers for photographing them – he was standing on the sidewalk across from the officers, keeping his distance and avoiding interaction. In Seattle, taking pictures of cops is legal, just as it is in any other location in the United States.
According to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), “taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes…police and other government officials carrying out their duties.”
Sergeant Patrick “K.C.” Saulet approached Holden first and threatened to arrest him for taking pictures. Soon, Seattle Police Department officer John Marion also began threatening and yelling at Holden.
“I’m going to come to The Stranger and bother you at work and see how you like it, how about that? I’m going to come there on my time and come bother you at work… m’kay?” said Officer Marion. “Oh, he’s going to write about it some more. I’ll just come to The Stranger and find out… I’m sure your boss will love it when I just come in there and bother you while you’re trying to write your newspaper.”
This unmistakably sounds like a direct threat from an armed individual who plans on tracking him down for no other reason than to harass him on private property. If Officer Marion were a civilian and not a police officer, wouldn’t this be considered a crime?
Maurissa Holmes from Miami Gardens took her family and their new puppy to Haulover Beach for a Memorial Day picnic. Her son, Tremaine McMillian, was playing around with friends when two police officers approached him. The teen was ordered to take the officers to his mother. Mrs. Holmes said her son complied.
“They slammed him to the ground, they choked him, to where he couldn’t breathe and he urinated on himself,” said Mrs. Holmes. “I kept asking them to please get off my child because he can’t breathe.” According to Tremaine, one of the officers told him that if he was an adult, “all [his] bones would be broken.”
Police tell a different story. The officers said that Tremaine pulled away, clenched his fists, and told them to stop following him. Yet, he was still leading them towards his mother.
This is just another case of misinterpretation in Florida. In 2009, there was an altercation between some men in Fort Lauderdale. Joshua Ortiz was not involved in the fighting and was heading to the elevator with friends and girlfriend when an officer approached him.
“We just want to go home. What’s your problem?” Joshua told the police. The officer replied physically. According to the surveillance footage, the officer pushed Joshua into the corner of the elevator, beating him on the spot as other officers joined in.
Joshua suffered a broken nose and was charged with five counts of aggravated battery by a law enforcement officer when he had his hands in his pockets the entire time.
Police officers are supposed to stop crime and protect us from criminals. But it seems as if we need to be protected from the police as well.
However, there are policemen who go out of their way to do more than what their job requires.
New York City police Officer Larry DePrimo gave homeless 54-year old Jeffrey Hillman a warm pair of boots one night while on duty. Officer DePrimo noticed that someone was making fun of the homeless man, so he walked inside and asked for a good pair of boots. When asked about the event on Fox and Friends, he said,“…it’s freezing cold out and he has the heart to say God bless me, I just knew I had to help him.”
Some cases or opinions don’t compare to what has been done repeatedly over the years in other states as well as our very own. Police officers are still the criminals we fear in disguise of the crime fighters they are meant to be.