Police brutality is not a new concept to this nation. We’ve seen tragedies happen all over the country, some ending in fatalities and some ending in minor injuries. Most cases of police brutality result reportedly from the claim of the use of excessive force. Officers, at times, have overstepped the boundaries of their authority and taken advantage of their duty to serve and protect. This misuse of power has most recently touched the FSU community.
It is true under constitutional law, for police safety reasons, that an officer may order the driver, and/or passengers, to step out of their vehicle during a traffic violation stop. By law, citizens are to comply with this command. But as citizens, we are entitled to protection against use of excessive force.
Kyle Knapp, a 21 year old Junior here at FSU, (20 at the time) was pulled over on December 22nd 2013 for allegedly burning out as he accelerated, and having an expired tag. In the video below, it is evident that Mr. Knapp is not complying with the officer’s command of law to step out of the vehicle, but it is also evident that he is not in a combative state.
Here is the full footage caught from the dash cam of the FSU police officer who pulled Mr. Knapp over.
And here is the story as reported on CBS New York, with brief statements taken from police and Mr. Knapp:
Excessive force is not concretely defined, but ABC News says according to experts, “it’s any force beyond what’s necessary to arrest a suspect and keep police and bystanders safe.” Police officers are only to use the same amount of force that they themselves are being threatened by. The goal of officers, when faced with the task of detaining a subject, is to gain the subject’s compliance without resist of arrest. If the subject resists, action and force must ensue, but only to the degree comparable to the danger of the situation.
Knapp, although not in compliance with the officer’s initial command to step out of the vehicle, did not try to combat the three officers who subdued him. In the video above, after being punched in the face and removed from the vehicle, Mr. Knapp is forced to the ground. As Knapp is on the ground we hear the sound of the release of a taser being used along with screams.
This is a prime example of a situation where police action escaladed beyond the boundaries in which it should have remained. I do believe that police have the right to defend themselves as well as use force in the face of dealing with dangerous subjects. However, Mr. Knapp was clearly not a danger to these officers. The use of a taser after Knapp was already on the ground and unable to move due to three men on top of him was unnecessary.
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In lieu of this situation, I must admit that I, too, recently encountered an officer overstepping the boundary. Waiting in the McDonald’s line after the strip closes on a Friday night, as you can imagine, takes an eternity. There wasn’t much service going on, so I decided to try and get the attention of the employees by goofing off. I admit, putting my heel twice on the counter for a split second just to make them look over probably wasn’t the best way to get an employee’s attention, but it certainly got the attention of a state trooper who happened to be standing behind me.
After my second attempt at the shoe show on the counter, I laughed a little, and then felt a very strong grip on the back of my right arm. I turned to meet the face of very serious state trooper who warned me that if I did any such nonsense again, we were going to have a problem. He continued to grip me until I responded, “I understand, can you please let go of me?” He proceeded to release his grip and hold a stare.
Thinking to myself about what had just happened, I thought about Kyle, who is actually a friend of mine from high school, and proceeded to approach the officer. I asked him if I could ask him just one simple question, and he responded yes. “Why did you feel it was necessary to put your hands on me,” I asked the officer. Thrown off by my reaction to his use of force, he proceeded to avoid the question and began to interrogate me about what I had done that evening. I redirected the conversation by asking the officer to only answer the question I had asked, because he had agreed to. He finally said to me, “I did it to make my point clear that I was going to take action if you did it again.” I rebutted his response by asking why he thought his uniform was not enough to convince me that I was to take his command seriously? He had no response.
An officer’s authority is blatantly understood through their uniform and their badge. An officer’s job is to serve and protect. Police are a representation of the community in which we reside. Beyond the uniform, police officers are citizens just like you and I. This misuse of power happens every single day, and hopefully as the community recognizes stories such as Mr. Knapp’s we can help put an end to the use of excessive force and other such examples of police brutality. It is not to be denied that there are situations in which police officers must defend themselves, but it is also not to be denied that this defense can be unnecessary at times due to adrenaline and/or aggression in a given situation.
We thank the hard work of the men and women that serve the civic duty of what it means to be a police officer, but we must also recognize that as citizens we are entitled to be treated with respect and only be subjected to serious force when a situation calls for such action.