When you grow up in a small town, you are taught to respect the local police force and to expect similar respect in return. When everyone knows everyone, blatant disrespect towards officers and any sort of excessive force by police are both looked down upon and seen as a cause for public scorn.
So you don't expect to be pulled over, removed forcibly from your car, and shot with a taser as you are handcuffed for being someone you are not and committing a crime you aren't in any way associated with. On your birthday, no less.
That happened to a man in my home town in 2011. It was all caught on tape and, for better or worse, an ugly incident in the history of southern Delaware has finally come to a legal end. While the emotional and social ramifications will permeate for decades, its progress.
See the full video below the fold - along with more information and a bit of local insight.
In the words of the News Journal:
The incident that was the focus of Reginald Johnson's suit was captured on video and showed two Seaford officers – who apparently believed that Johnson was someone else – pulling over Johnson's car, demanding he get out and without allowing Johnson much time to respond, shooting him with a Taser and roughly handcuffing him.Unfortunately, excessive force by figures of authority is far too common in our society. We like to think it wouldn't happen in our community. Hell, I've known officers in this department personally for most of my life. But video doesn't lie.
Moments later, after Johnson protests that he has done nothing wrong, two officers can be heard laughing and one joking about planting drugs in Johnson's car.
Adding insult to injury, the day of the 2011 incident was Johnson's 43rd birthday.
Once a man has been arrested under false pretenses by excessive force and made it public, you have to wonder if any amount of money can buy back the faith in society and trust in humanity that were destroyed in a matter of moments. Not just for Reginald Johnson, who is impacted most deeply and for whom I have deep sympathy, but also for all of those in my community, the region, and those reading in other small towns thinking their police could never pull such a stunt.
Every episode of police brutality, excessive force, or similar misconduct has a detrimental effect on the social fabric of society by sowing seeds of distrust deep down to our core - to our children. Every incident damages far more than just those involved, particularly in the information age.
Although I hope it helps Mr Johnson find some peace, the damage far exceeds anything $270000 could ever buy.
"Someone drop the dope in here," followed by laughter.This is why you could give half the people in America $2.7 million and they still wouldn't trust very many modern militaristic policemen - or the fascist elephants they rode in on.