Pretext Stop, Beat Down To Follow
Sept. 21, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — This week’s episode of Highly Questionable Police Beat Downs Caught on Video takes us to Stockton, California, where a citizen filmed Stockton a police officer using a police baton to take down 16-year-old Emilio Mayfield for the dastardly offense of jaywalking.
[Mayfield] was downtown trying to catch a bus to his high school on Tuesday morning when he wandered into the bus lane.
“When an unidentified Stockton police officer told Mayfield to exit the bus lane, the teenager allegedly shot back with some choice words that led to a scuffle, a baton strike to the face, a viral video, angry protests and accusations of police brutality.
Prior to the beginning of the video clip, Stockton Police allege that the officer had warned Mayfield to stop jaywalking, and was told “Fuck you, I’m not stopping for you.” Naturally, the officer did not take well to this, so he grabbed Mayfield by the arm, and a struggle ensued.
This is where the video picks up. During the course of the video, it is clear that the officer is using the baton to press down on Mayfield. Ultimately, Mayfield puts his hands on the baton, which is when the officer begins jerking the baton back and forth. During one of these movements, the officer strikes Mayfield in the face.
As the crowd becomes increasingly hostile, the officer called for back up and it arrived quickly. Approximately eight officers came to the rescue, and four of them helped throw Mayfield to the ground. The takedown seems unnecessarily forceful, although no more egregious than other police videos that have recently gone viral.
Although the Mayfield video is certainly violent and reflects poorly on the Stockton Police Department, it does not appear that any of the officers broke the law. Quite frankly, it is doubtful that the officers even violated any departmental policies. Police officers have a tough job and ugly things happen during the course of that job. The public may be shocked, but no one with any level of familiarity with law enforcement should be surprised at the way Mayfield was treated.
The fact that Emilio Mayfield is only the tender age of sixteen should have absolutely no bearing on how he was handled by the police. Anyone who works within the criminal justice system knows that juveniles can be every bit as dangerous to a police officer as an adult offender. If a violent confrontation has arisen between a suspect and an officer, that officer has the right to secure his arrest and protect his own safety, regardless of the age of the suspect.
The fact that the original arresting officer struck Mayfield in the face with the baton is also unsurprising. Mayfield is seen grabbing the officer’s baton and grabbing a police officer’s weapon is about the most foolish thing a suspect can do. As Stockton Police public information officer Joseph Silva noted, a police officer will beat the living hell out of must execute a “weapon retention technique” on a suspect who attempts to disarm him.
The fact that the officer called for backup and seemingly half of the Stockton Police Department came running should not be surprising, either. It is very clear in the video that the arrest of Mr. Mayfield is occurring in front of a large number of people and that crowd is hostile. One can’t fault the original arresting officer for calling for help in case the crowd decided to act on that hostility. Although, the four officers who throw Mayfield to the ground may be pushing the boundaries of reasonable use of force, that will probably be found justified given the hostile atmosphere.
The fact that Mayfield was charged with criminal trespass and resisting should come as no surprise at all. Almost every case where an officer uses force will result in a criminal charge for the person on the other end of that force. A charge for (or better yet, a finding of guilt on) resisting arrest goes a long way in illustrating that the force was necessary should a pesky lawsuit get filed.
What is offensive about the Emilio Mayfield incident is what occurred before the camera started rolling. The confrontation between Mayfield and the Stockton Police Officer started when the officer decided to detain him for something as petty as jaywalking. Of course, the way the police department didn’t exactly phrase it that way in their summary.
“An Officer asked him to use the crosswalk for his own safety but the suspect ignored the officer,” according to a Stockton Police Department report. “Due to the continued safety hazard, the officer attempted to detain the suspect by telling him to stop.”
So, basically, you see, the officer was just trying to save this kid’s life by preventing him from getting hit by a bus while jaywalking, but the ungrateful kid went off on him and all hell broke loose. Right?
When looking at the tension between police agencies and non-white citizens, it doesn’t occur because police officers roll into neighborhoods and begin to indiscriminately beat people. It is because they roll into those neighborhoods and start detaining or arresting them for minor legal infractions like jaywalking. They arrest people for offenses that white people don’t typically get arrested for in their neighborhoods.
The underlying motive, obviously, is that the detention or arrest entitles the officer to search the offender. If the police officer finds drugs or weapons, then it will be a clean search. Even though the original stop was just a “pretext” for searching them, the Supreme Court found that to be perfectly legal in the Whren decision of 1996. However, frequent and regular pretext stops sure do begin to feel a lot like harassment after awhile, and it is small wonder that some people, such as Mr. Mayfield react negatively towards them.
From a prosecutorial standpoint, it’s embarrassing to argue a “pretext” case to a jury. Having to explain why some members of the community get detained and arrested for offenses like jaywalking, bicycling without a light, or (my personal favorite) walking in the street where a sidewalk is provided, becomes very awkward. When a pretext stop results in both a beat down and charges being filed on a suspect, that awkwardness gets magnified exponentially.
Sadly, it’s all legal, though.
The Supreme Court said so.