May 19, 2011

"Just obey what I'm saying or I will fucking shoot you."

This case is really something else. A guy is questioned, arrested, and held by cops for legally carrying a legal firearm, a law of which the police are ignorant; a harsh confrontation develops in which the police become hysterical and threaten to kill him; he is released when they learn their error, but the guy is later charged with "reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct" anyway. And of course, there's a tape. And of course, the only disorderly conduct is on the part of the police.

Police spokesman:

Evers said the department decided to take a second look at the case after learning about the recordings.

Any number of things could have gone wrong during Fiorino's confrontation with [police Sgt. Michael] Dougherty, Evers said.

For one thing, Evers said, Fiorino could have been shot. Cops who raced to the scene could have gotten into a car accident or injured pedestrians.

I guess the legal theory here is that the citizen-perp ought to have been able to predict that the police would be ignorant of the law and thus would instigate a confrontation that would endanger the public in their mad scramble to detain him illegally? Well, that is quite obviously the case, but Fiorino is the one person in this situation who is not at fault.

And Balko's right: the district attorney who brought the charges is a menace to society and ought to be (but won't be) stopped. Also, some of those cops sound dangerously unstable.

Posted by Dr. Frank at May 19, 2011 05:11 PM | TrackBack

"one of the officers could have tripped over his shoelace and cracked his skull open!"

Posted by: aaron at May 19, 2011 06:33 PM

The police have a saying; 'If you wanted to be liked, you should have been a fireman'. I thought the open carry guy came off like a jack ass. Why didn't he just cooperate?

BTW, they aren't unstable. They are trained to scream and intimidate you so that you will comply, so they won't have to use force. They treat everyone this way. Would you rather they treat everyone the way it is only effective to treat non-criminal thugs, or would you rather they profile and treat likely thugs different from likely citizens? I'd go with the latter, but that only leads to more law suits.

Posted by: josh at May 20, 2011 03:01 PM

I agree that the guy is kind of a jerk, but being a jerk isn't against the law. What should have happened is, they question him, learn their error, apologize, and send him on his way. But the worst part is the retaliatory criminal prosecution. (Which doesn't stand a chance, it seems to me. Whether he was a jack ass or not, he was the law-abiding one and the police were not. The most likely result of this is that the city of Phila. pays him an outsize amount of money.)

As for the second point, I don't think it's too much to expect that keepers of public order conduct their duties without constantly screaming obscenities at everyone. It's as likely to escalate violence as de-escalate it. And the default assumption shouldn't be that every citizen is a "perp."

Posted by: Dr. Frank at May 20, 2011 04:31 PM

I agree with almost everything you said. Civilization shouldn't be too much to ask.

Unfortunately, as things stand today, screaming may be necessary, and I don't agree that it is likely to escalate a situation.

The problem as I see it is that our "formal laws" do not match up with our "actual laws". The creates uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to violence and corruption. I could explain myself, but I'm too tired right now. Perhaps another time.

Posted by: josh at May 20, 2011 06:35 PM
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