WARNING: EXTREMELY DISTRESSING VIDEO BELOW
Police Officer Uses Excessive Force Against Crowd
(WA) – A Tacoma Police Department officer is under investigation after an incident that occurred yesterday. Multiple individuals (articles have listed the number as up to a 100) gathered at an intersection watching cars perform dangerous and illegal maneuvers. Supposedly there had initially been some street racing. That seems to have turned into cars performing donuts in the street. The police were called and sent to break it up. It’s unknown whether the police SUV involved in this incident was the first to arrive at the scene, but for some reason, that vehicle appears to be the only police vehicle present. A crowd forms in front of the vehicle blocking its way. The officer driving the vehicle accelerates into the crowd, striking several and running over one person with both the front and back tires of the vehicle.
Tacoma P.D. Statement
The Tacoma Police Department put out a statement about the officers responding to an incident at the intersection and what occurred when they got there. The below is a paragraph from the statement. The full statement can be read here.
“During the operation, a responding Tacoma police vehicle was surrounded by the crowd. People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd. The officer had his lights and sirens activated. While trying to extricate himself from an unsafe position, the officer drove forward striking one individual and may have impacted others. The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown.”
Spin Doctors at Work
People who are paid to write will do so with a goal in mind. For the police public information officer it will be to shield the police department’s reputation. For journalists it will be to grab a person’s attention hoping they will read the article. I’ve read several articles that said there was a crowd of about 100 surrounding the car. When I look at the video, I see a much smaller crowd situated in front of the car. The News Tribune says “A crowd of three dozen people…” I think they are more accurate, but even they say the car was surrounded. That’s not what I see in the video.
The Tacoma P.D. statement and news agencies say the officer tried to back up, but couldn’t because of the crowd. Again, look at the video. The statement says the crowd was hitting the vehicle and windows. That does seem to have happened, but it only appears to be a small number doing it. None appear to have a weapon. We’re talking safety glass, people. It’s not that easy to break and even when it does break, it’s designed to fracture, not explode like regular glass.
Then there’s the usual extreme duress comments designed to put you in a frame of mind to view his actions as justified. The officer was “fearing for his safety,” “trying to extricate himself,” and in an “unsafe position.” Notice, also, how the police statement plays down what he did. He “drove forward” when what actually happened was he aggressively accelerated into the crowd. And I’m really amazed at the “may have impacted others,” comment. Do they not have eyes?
What the Video Shows
The video shows a Tacoma P.D. SUV that has been stopped by a crowd of people. The people are standing around the front hood of the vehicle. There does not appear to be anyone behind the vehicle, nor is the police vehicle “surrounded”. The video is a tight shot so we can’t tell if maybe there is a vehicle, out of view, behind the SUV that could be blocking it. The SUV backs up a bit, then you can hear the officer revving the SUV’s engine. The crowd does not move. The officer aggressively accelerates into the crowd knocking multiple people to the ground and running over at least one person. Once out of the crowd, the officer is seen driving off at a normal pace, not speeding away in fear for his life. He sure got over his panic fast.
Deadly Force was the Wrong Choice
It is possible this officer feared for his safety. It is possible that he panicked and overreacted. But that does not appear to be what happened to me. He’s going to a call about street racing and cars performing donuts, so what does he do? He acts in a similar fashion as those at the situation he is going to. He backs up a little, as if getting a running start, then revs his engine. That’s a threat. That’s saying I’m going to plow into you. He’s threatening to use his vehicle in a reckless and deadly manner. The people don’t believe he’ll really do it. They know they haven’t done anything that should result in deadly force. They have the belief that officers will protect public safety even when the public is acting like idiots. They were wrong.
The officer was in an enclosed, fairly well secured vehicle. He was also armed with, at minimum, a handgun, and possibly more. He had a radio to call for help and he knew other officers would be in the area, heading his way. He could have easily let the SUV move forward gradually, forcing people to have to step aside. They couldn’t have stopped the vehicle. We see what he chose to do.
Pierce County to Investigate
I would like to know more about the officer. Was he (or she) brand new? That could explain, but not justify, a panicked reaction to the situation. If he was not new, what is his disciplinary history? Has he stated any aggressive views on social media or to his co-workers? Have there been allegations of police misconduct against him, and if so, what were those allegations?
The investigation of this incident has been turned over to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT). That is done to give the impression of a fair investigation, but remember, they are still a law enforcement agency. They won’t want to find an officer guilty and will likely avoid doing so if they can find even a tiny shred of wiggle room to try to avoid filing criminal charges against him. My opinion is that they will find his actions justified and at the most, the officer will get a slap on the wrist for making a poor decision.