Wheels in Motion: Police officers
By Michael Kowis
CNN reported on Oct. 12, on the acquired bodycam footage of a paraplegic Black man being dragged from his car during a pretextual stop, sparking outrage from civil rights activists. According to PEW Charitable Trusts: “in a pretext stop, an officer pulls over a motorist for a minor traffic or equipment violation and then uses the stop to investigate a more serious crime.”
In this case, the officer pulled the victim, Clifford D. Owensby, over for a noted traffic violation. However, the detaining officers noted that his vehicle had come from a known drug house and had other drug related offenses. They detained his vehicle and called for a K-9 unit. Dayton Police policy requires that suspects remove themselves from vehicles before a search can commence.
To that end, officers asked Owensby to leave his vehicle upon which he informed the officers that he can’t on account of him being paraplegic. After a minor discussion, the restraining officer and his partner decided to drag Owensby from his vehicle by his hair.
What I found most disturbing was the callousness and disdain the officers had towards Owensby.
According to my partner Ashley, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, she requires either a trusted, strong family member or a trained medical person to effectuate a vehicle to manual wheelchair transfer. Assumedly, the same goes for Owensby. This is a poor execution of policy when said policy conflicts with motor disabilities.
Additionally, the Houston Police Department does not have a policy that would give officers the leeway to call for an EMS to effectuate the transfer of persons with a known and medically documented disability from a vehicle to a wheelchair.
Officer Honeyfield described what policies and procedures could have de-escalated the situation.
“Most agencies, especially in Texas, have policies that help officers de-escalate situations,” Honeyfield said. “The officers made a poor judgment."
“Sometimes the arrest of non-compliant citizens is not pretty,” the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police told CNN. “But, it is a necessary part of law enforcement to maintain public safety and is one of the fundamental ideologies of our society.”
However, civil rights activists aren’t asking for non-compliant arrests to look good for the camera. They’re asking officers to show civilians dignity and respect.
Either way, this was not a case of non-compliance. It was a case of disability. Officers should show patience when arresting those who are disabled and should call an EMS for assistance if necessary. Not having this level of patience is at least part of why there is mistrust between police and the communities they serve.
Police officers need to be held accountable for such acts of misconduct so that these instances do not occur in the first place.
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