Some People Shouldn’t Be in a Position of Authority

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At a time when police are being attacked on all sides for brutality, racism, recklessness and all sorts of social sins and criminal acts, I hesitate to write this column.

I hesitate, not because I think that what I am about to say is wrong, but because words have been used as weapons and in the wrong hands, they misfire and they wound. I hesitate, because the very last thing I want to do is wound the good men and women of the fragile blue line.

On December 5, 2020, Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was kicked and pepper sprayed when he refused to get out of his car during what turns out to be an illegal traffic stop.

The reason we are only hearing about this now after four months is that Nazario has filed a lawsuit against the small Virginia town where the assault took place. He’s seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

The video of the incident is unassailable proof that the two police officers involved in the traffic stop, allegedly due to Nazario driving his SUV with a missing license plate, don’t deserve my support. If I were to extend the benefit of the doubt to them, I’d never again have the right to stand up for an officer who, in the course of putting his life on the line, is attacked by a raging mob.

One of the officers involved, Joe Gutierrez, has been fired. There’s still no information on what’s happening with his partner, Daniel Crocker.

Race should not be an issue, because Nazario is Afro Latino, and Gutierrez is also Latino. Race is going to be an issue, because in this climate, it’s unavoidable.

But I am a white woman who knows of white men and women who have also had problems when the police have stopped them, people who cannot be characterized by their epidermal attributes. I have witnessed some extremely unreasonable acts by those who wear the uniform, abuses in attitude and authority. None of them were justified, but none of them rose to the level of actual abuse.

Making this about race obscures a greater problem if we excuse the actions of Joe Gutierrez. And those of us who don’t believe the police should be defunded and who honor their presence in our lives and communities need to speak out.

There are people who should not be in positions of authority over the rest of us. Either because of their temperaments, their lack of self-control or empathy, their inability to calmly assess a situation or their sense of Nietzschean supremacy, they are unfit to hold the societal imprimatur that commands “obey me.”

And that’s why the people who have said to me something along the lines of “Well, if you do what the police say you won’t have a problem” just don’t get it.

That is not supporting the police. That is enabling the bad ones to do the things that the good ones find abhorrent.

That must be what it’s like to live in, say, Myanmar.

Some have said that the officers were justified in their actions because when they put their sirens on, Nazario didn’t initially stop. And I understand that argument.

But the circumstances of that “stop” turned out to be illegal, since the officers were aware that Nazario had temporary plates and still pursued him. The circumstances of that “stop” were also charged because there was no reasonable suspicion that the driver had done anything wrong, that he was weaving, that he was speeding, that he was causing a threat to other drivers. They apparently had nothing other than their subjective sense that this car was not his car.

And the worst thing about it is that the driver of that car was in the military. Here you have a man wearing the uniform of his country being treated as if he was a second-class citizen, by a brutish officer who – when told by Nazario that he was afraid of getting out of the car – was told “you should be afraid.”

“You should be afraid.” No American should ever say that to an American soldier, an Army medic. The fact that another man in uniform said it is reprehensible.

I hate that I have to write this column, at this time. But if I remain silent when this sort of thing happens, I have no right to shout out my support for the honorable warriors who police our streets competently, courageously and with humility every day, every hour, every minute. And I have no intention of ever giving up that right.

In my daily walks, I pass by the memorial plaque that commemorates the place where Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia abu Jamal. I also walk by the memorials to Charles Knox, and the mural to Sgt. Robert Wilson.

I hope they’d understand why I wrote this column.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)