Friday, January 4, 2013

Flip away, my friends. Flip away!

The bird, that is. At cops. At least if you live within the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (New York, Connecticut, and Vermont). Per that court, as of today, they have ruled that flipping the bird at a cop does not warrant an arrest. To which I say, "Umm... duh."

The man in question saw a cop on the side of the road with a radar. He stuck his arm out the window and let the officer know what he thought of the cop's actions. Presumably only after making sure that his wife, the driver, was not exceeding the speed limit. Because, boy, if she had been speeding and he called that kind of attention to the car, I can't imagine the resulting fight would go well for him. The cop didn't pull her over for speeding, but followed the couple at their destination. He told them he was conducting a traffic stop and asked for license and registration. He told the man he was in trouble. And he called for back-up, which brought him 3 other cops. But then an officer told the couple they were free to go. The man tried to voice his feeling that he was not being treated well and was then arrested.

The charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed, of course, because one is actually allowed to insult officers and express displeasure with one's treatment at the hand of officers. Today's ruling came in the context of a civil suit filed by the couple. A lower court dismissed the suit, buying the officer's explanation that he stopped the couple out of concern for the woman's safety. But the appellate court rejected that explanation, finding it unreasonable to conclude that a woman is in danger simply by being in the presence of a man who would flip off a cop.

And to this result, I say, "Huzzah!" As should we all because we need to hold police officers accountable for their actions. Most cops are good people and good cops. They do their best to do the job right. But there are bad ones, abusive ones, or just plain thin-skinned ones. Those officers need to be reigned in. I have a particular bone to pick with the kind of cop involved in this case, the thin-skinned ones who think they are entitled to bowing and scraping from the rest of us. We the people are not obligated to show these cops total respect at all times. We are obligated not to commit battery or assault, as we are obligated not to commit those crimes against anyone. But we can say mean things to them. We can ask them to explain themselves. And, yes, we can insult them with gestures. (As long as we don't make physical contact, as that would constitute battery.)

We should all want the best, most professional police force we can have. Part of that means they need to be able to suck it up and take it when the people they encounter aren't always that thrilled with them. If they can't take an insulting gesture from a passing motorist, then perhaps they should find another line of work.

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