You know, I was a police officer, corporal, and sergeant for over 20 years, and from time to time, I had to talk to people that were pissed off at what I was doing. The departments I worked for thought that maintaining a good rapport with the citizenry was important, so from time to time we were sent to classes and training on how to talk to people, how to deescalate confrontation, and in general, to be a Sheriff Andy to the community. Now it seems that having a Taser on your belt means that you don’t have to talk to the public at all.
Yeah, I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve been on the street, but things haven’t changed that much. Or rather, they shouldn’t have changed that much, but apparently they have in North Enid, Oklahoma. Do not confuse North Enid with Enid, which surrounds the small town on three sides. North Enid has less than 1,000 people living there, and is about 2 square miles in size.* According to PoliceOne, it has a total of three officers.
One of those officers, John Miller, is a jerk. On the first part, I’m not going to comment about the officer issuing a parking ticket,† for all I know the town has had a bunch of complaints as it appears that it is near a school or a similar structure. If so, the officer may have been told to take a hard line on enforcement–I’ve been there, directed to go write pedestrian tickets, parking tickets, all sorts of enforcement actions that are kind of feather-legged, but that are sometimes necessary. The problem is that the officer is just rude. And it’s on body cam.
The officer stops a green jeep, where the female driver has stopped to talk to a friend who was mowing his front yard. Miller stops and is going to issue a parking ticket, and the lady’s friend, Gary Duckworth, protests that she’s not parked, her car is still running.
At 1:35 in the video, Duckworth has just pointed out that the motor was running and that to be parked the motor should be off. Miller blows him off, saying “I’m not arguing with you.” Right here, a few seconds to explain that standing is also a violation could help defuse this. Instead, Miller writes out the citation, comes back and issues it to the woman.
Duckworth then asks a simple question and Miller basically goes off on Duckworth, telling him that Duckworth has been nothing but rude. Huh? Duckworth has been direct, but hasn’t come close to being rude. It’s not rude to question police officers, and believe it or not, the badge does not mean that citizens have to act subservient to officers. This is where it really starts to go downhill.
At that point, Duckworth starts to tell the officer what his position is, what he thinks that the officer should have done, and then Miller visibly and intentionally ignores Duckworth. Yeah, that’s a good move. So Duckworth tells the officer that he wants to talk to him, and that’s where Miller goes off the rails. He pulls his Taser at Duckworth, who is clearly shocked.
I was too. Duckworth was upset, but he was also not doing anything that would indicate that he was a threat, he had not bowed up, not done anything to indicate that fight or flight was kicking in, and generally was not a threat. He damn sure wasn’t a threat that would need to be Tasered.
And Duckworth sums it up perfectly:
If you think you’re justified to pull a Taser on me just because you don’t want to answer my question, that’s a bunch of crap.
The police chief, Rick Dominic, is backing Miller, and said that a police committee reviewed it and determined that what Miller did was fine. They released the video, on their Facebook page. That backfired. It went viral, all over the net. Hell, the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom even covered it. Within a day, they deleted their Facebook page because of the comments that were flooding in. Dominic said that:
My officer didn’t shoot him with the taser.
Oh, OK. Does that make it all better?
Chief, this is why we are losing the support of the public. Miller was a jerk, was rude, and obviously viewed Duckworth as a threat instead of as a citizen. There is nothing that you can say to convince me that pulling the Taser on Duckworth was justified. Absolutely nothing. I’m not expecting you to change your position, you’re locked into your story now. But I wish you would really look at what happened here, and then look at what it does to your department’s relationship with the community.
*Enid is about 50,000 population and is about 74 square miles in size.
†From what I can tell of Oklahoma law, it doesn’t matter if the vehicle is running or not, illegal parking includes both parking and standing (which is normally defined as stopped with the engine on).