By now you’ve probably heard about the case of the woman who acted just a little bit too frisky for her own good, attempting to bug out after being stopped by New Mexico state police officer on a routine speeding violation. Oriana Ferral didn’t like the vibe of the officers, and neither did her 14 year old son who attempted to defend his mom when the officer became threatening during the stop. After which, the officers became so enraged over her second attempt to leave the scene, they broke out windows on the car with a baton, and subsequently fired three shots at the woman and her vehicle loaded with her five children.
Granted, Ms. Ferral probably shouldn’t have tried to elude the police, however, the brutal and dangerous over reaction of the New Mexico state police is obviously completely inexcusable. Now, according to Al.com, and in an apparent attempt to turn the tables in the public eye, Ms. Ferral is being charged not just with aggravated fleeing from an officer, which is ultimately debatable, but also with willful abuse of a child, which is absolutely outrageous.
The New Mexico state police are sending a message. They have no contrition for their outrageous and criminal behaviour. And, they have no sense of responsibility for the reality that THEY are the ones who abused and endangered the children in the vehicle. The New Mexico state police have demonstrated yet another example of what seems to be a growing problem in local law enforcement agencies, where they believe they have absolute authority to use any means of deadly force they deem necessary, regardless of how trivial the offense.
Ms. Farrel has chosen to fight back, wielding first the mighty pen instead of a sword, and from her jail cell has written an op-ed response that the Taos News has published:
Suffice it to say, the New Mexico state police who broke out the window, and who fired the shots at the moving vehicle, should be immediately dismissed. They can fight their loosing civil battles later. In the mean time, this case is so egregious, it must surely come under some federal jurisdiction. Either way, criminal charges should also be filed against the officers involved.
In the not too distant past, many jurisdictions passed legislation imposing penalties more harsh for infractions against police officers, than for infractions against ordinary citizens. That was a mistake. It isn’t that the police should be targets, however, their grandiose, godlike, authoritarianism should not be encouraged. As the country has become split down the middle, many extreme right-wing police agencies have taken on a Gestapo like approach to law enforcement, which has been enabled by the legal mollycoddling that they now receive. They often inflict their methods with impunity, setting the stage for authoritarian actions which resemble what we more often think of in third world dictatorships – Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein come to mind.
Another such example where the “cure” has done more harm than good, is in New York City where mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” policy ruled for a day too long. Courts have now stricken down the blatantly unconstitutional practice, which might even be cited as empowering the abuse of power and excessive force by the New Mexico officers. In short, Bloomberg and New York may have special problems, but as of yet, they are not an independent country who can make up it’s own system without regard for the US Constitution and government. They don’t get to run their own show, because it has an effect on the rest of us.
In Huntsville, and Alabama, we’ve had our own share of contraindicated “police worship.” God bless the many officers who act in good faith, risk their lives, and even give their lives for the community. Unfortunately, however, there is almost always another side to the story that is never told. Sometimes you have to read between the lines. Like when Farron Barksdale got fed up with police in Athens who apparently refused to acknowledge and act on his complaints in regard to harassment. Barksdale bought a rifle, set a trap, and in 1994 killed two Athens police officers. Not to say the two officers involved individually deserved his retribution, but then, was it just a case of excessive force gone backwards?
In Huntsville, police are also less than perfect, and by no means are they infallible saints. I once had an encounter with Danny Golden, who was killed on duty during a domestic dispute call in 2005. I immediately assessed him as an impetuous “hair trigger,” if an otherwise honorable officer. In my opinion, he simply wasn’t cut out to be a police officer. Likewise, I once met William Eric Freeman who was killed during a traffic stop in 2007. I know first hand he was directly involved in a an extortion and identity theft scheme. Whether either would have been termed as rookies, neither were seasoned officers, and may have been mislead by their senior partners. There have been other, more recent cases, of inappropriate police tactics in Huntsville.
Oriana Ferral did something wrong, even still, she is not incarnate evil waging war on New Mexico. Her kids certainly are not. The sharp contrast between the “bad guys” and the “good guys” simply doesn’t exist. Law enforcement should not regard themselves as being in a war every-time that they happen to find cause for legal correction. The point it, police cannot be above the law, and they cannot be allowed to run rough-shod over the legal and civil rights of the same people they are charged with serving and protecting. The “Us vs. Them” mentality is for the football field. Law enforcement is not a damn game.
© 2013 – Jim Casey
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