A widely circulated dashcam video of officer Eric Parker shows him slamming Sureshbhai Patel to the ground causing possible paralysis in a brazen display of police misconduct. Patal, an innocent man, was simply out on a morning walk.
The excessive force used by Parker has shed light on a growing problem among law enforcement- police entitlement: belief that a badge grants license to make demands of innocent citizens under threat of arrest or use of force. The Patel video is a perfect example.
The first element of police entitlement is pretext: a reason, however, small, for the officer to involve himself. Here, Parker arrived at the scene based on a non-emergency call that described Patel as a “skinny black guy” who was “just wandering around” and “walking close to the garage.”
The caller failed to describe any illegal conduct, or threat posed by Patel, but the call gives Parker a reason to confront him anyway.
The second element is officer safety: police will attempt to justify their conduct– including excessive force– using this oft-repeated phrase. In the video, Parker is seen trying to pat-down Patel for weapons, even though Parker lacks the reasonable suspicion necessary to perform a stop-and-frisk.
Parker’s stop-and-frisk of Patel is in blatant violation of the constitution and the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1 (1968), which prevents the police from performing a stop-and-frisk unless they have reasonable suspicion that a person is committing, or about to commit, a crime.
The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed Terry in the context of anonymous tips. In Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683 (2014), the Court again recognized that “[e]ven a reliable tip will justify an investigative stop only if it creates reasonable suspicion that ‘criminal activity may be afoot.'” Id. at 1690 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 30).
In the case of Patel, nothing in the call to the non-emergency line suggested or even hinted at criminal activity. Being a “skinny black guy” and “walking around” are perfectly legal. So is being near a garage. Parker certainly needed something more before he could constitutionally initiate a stop and frisk.
The only person breaking the law in this scenario was Parker.
Police entitlement does not recognize the constitution. Police who harbor entitlement behaviors see themselves as above the law and will knowingly and flagrantly violate the constitution at the slightest hint of opposition to their authority.
Combating police misconduct begins with supervisory staff ensuring that police are properly trained and posses the proper temperament for work in law enforcement.
Increased use of excessive force and unnecessary injuries to citizens is often a highly predictable or plainly obvious consequence of a failure to properly supervise officers and discipline instances of police entitlement.
Police misconduct is a serious offense that can lead to tragic consequences, like in the case of Mr. Patel. If you have questions about police misconduct or excessive force, contact the Tulsa injury lawyers at Bryan & Terrill Law, 918-935-2777.