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'Contempt of Cop'

Date: 06-25-11
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: George DeAngelis

On May 12, Rochester resident and activist Emily Good was arrested for 'obstructing governmental administration' after refusing to obey a police officer who ordered her to leave her front lawn while she was filming his traffic stop (related video). Good's friend and eyewitness to her arrest, Ryan Acuff, appeared in the first half-hour to share his account of the event. According to Acuff, there is "a lot of racial profiling" by police in their neighborhood, and this particular traffic stop "looked very suspicious at best." The man in the car was questioned about drugs, removed from his vehicle, handcuffed, and placed into the back of a police cruiser, he explained, noting that the officers did not find anything and eventually let the man go. Acuff said officer Mario Masic began the first verbal engagement with Good, claiming that he did not feel safe with her standing behind him. Acuff suspects Masic may have been uncomfortable with being videotaped by Good due to the "unlawful" appearance of the search.

The Good case speaks to a larger phenomenon known as 'contempt of cop,' which occurs when an officer who feels his authority is being challenged uses unnecessary means or trumped-up charges to control a situation. George DeAngelis, former assistant chief of police in El Paso, TX, and professor of criminology at Park University, joined Ian through hour three to discuss this issue. "There is no official contempt of cop violation anywhere on any state criminal statutes, yet people are still going to jail for [it]," he explained. Referencing his own police training in the 1970s, DeAngelis recalled how officers were taught not to take any backtalk, as it's a sign of weakness and a threat to one's authority. In the Good incident, officer Masic seems to have taken it personally and become infuriated by Emily's refusal to obey him, he added.

Police work is very stressful and departments have early warning systems in place to detect officers who may be developing a propensity for contempt of cop issues, DeAngelis continued. They look for those with higher incidence of charging citizens with disorderly conduct/public intoxication, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer, he explained. DeAngelis also commented on how videotaping the police going about their work is illegal in three states, a fact he finds quite disturbing. We need greater transparency, he said, pointing out that there should be no reluctance for departments to have their officers recorded, as long as it does not put them in jeopardy. Police car dashboard cams actually exonerate officers 97% of time, so they really should have nothing to hide from the community, he said.

The final hour featured Open Lines.

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