So, what do we make of this video? Here
is a news article written about the incident:
The South Seattle Police Department is investigating what they call "an assault of an officer" today. However, the video below may tell a different story.
The incident took place Monday afternoon when the officer witnessed four teenage girls jaywalking across Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S. According to police officials, the young women became "verbally antagonistic" when the officer asked them to step over to his patrol car. The officer zeroed in on one woman who started to walk away and attempted to physically escort her to the vehicle.
The woman resisted and an altercation ensued.
Shortly thereafter, a second young lady intervened to try to help her friend. According to Seattle police, the officer believed "she was attempting to physically affect the first subject's escape".
As seen in the video, the officer and the second young lady became entangled in a shoving match when the officer punched the girl in the face.
While both young ladies struggled to free themselves from the officer's grip, police backup arrived and the women were taken into custody.
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department told reporters that punching is a trained tactic and the department defends the officer's actions.
I can think of at least 3 or 4 different laws these girls broke before being socked in the face, all of which are arrestable offenses (unless Washington state law does not consider jaywalking an arrestable offense), including interference with police officers official duties, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer.
Still, I wonder if the officer's "punching" could or should be considered excessive? I could certainly make a case that it was not, but it still doesn't look good on video.
I suppose an even bigger problem is that most people will watch this video, including the offenders, and not understand what, if anything, the girls did wrong.
UPDATE 1: Here's more from USA Today
and NY Daily News
UPDATED 2: So, I looked up Washington state law regarding this issue, and I think these girls are totally screwed. (The officer may get in trouble, but I highly doubt it.)
The Revised Codes of Washington (RCW), in 46.61.240
, make it very clear that pedestrians may not jaywalk where there are appropriate crosswalks at designated intersections nearby. Further, RCW 46.61.250
makes it unlawful to walk in a public roadway when sidewalks are provided. Additionally, RCW 46.61.230
states that pedestrians are subject to all traffic regulations governing public roads (which means police have the authority to stop pedestrians for violations of traffic regulations).
From what I can tell, violation of these statutes by pedestrians is punishable by a fine ("Monetary Penalty Schedule"). However, police are allowed to arrest persons who violate the law in their presence even if the violation is so minor that the only penalty is a fine rather than imprisonment (Atwater v. City of Lago Vista
, 532 U.S. 318 (2001)
, Souter, J., for the majority).
Further, persons have a legal duty to comply with officers enforcing traffic regulations under RCW 46.61.015
and a duty to stop and identify themselves for the officer if requested to do so for violation of traffic regulations under RCW 46.61.021
. Failure to obey a police officer enforcing traffic regulations is a misdemeanor under RCW 46.61.022
It goes without saying (or citation) that resisting a lawful arrest by an officer, or interfering with an officer in the course of his/her official duties, is unlawful and will obviously be unwelcome by the officer (i.e., it will really piss the officer off). Also, officers may use reasonable force to subdue suspects they are arresting. So, while the officer would not have been able to shoot these girls, smacking them in the face after being pushed may look harsh, but be lawful under the circumstances.
Since the girls are subject to the traffic codes and by my count committed at least 5 arrestable offenses in the presence of the officer (jaywalking, failure to obey officer, resisting arrest, assault of a police officer, and interference with officer’s police duties)
, my guess is that this cop will get a slight reprimand (if anything at all) and the girls will get a criminal record, unless they plead out.
UPDATE 3: Great, in-depth article from the Seattle Times
. Turns out the girls had priors. Shocking.