By now, most St. Joseph police officers should know that they are always potentially being recorded.
It’s not just law enforcement. If a store manager confronts an angry customer, or a government employee has to tell someone no, you can bet that a mobile phone will be pointed in their direction. You can bet that the results will be shared with the world on some sort of social platform.
What you can’t always assume is that the video clip will give a full account of what transpired, or that it will reflect what happened prior to the confrontation. Video can be edited and headlines can be crafted to slant the narrative in a certain way.
Is it any wonder the video of the off-duty St. Joseph officer berating a private citizen made reference to the cop’s Donald Trump hat? Or that it shows a brief, profanity-laced interaction but excludes lengthy footage of law enforcement officers trying to decipher a convoluted story about the origins of a vehicle that hit the off-duty officer’s truck?
Clearly, those who posted this video are trying to make a point, and it isn’t “let’s get all the facts.”
We are not absolving the police, the off-duty officer or the uniformed personnel of responsibility. At the very least, the original video is enough to make the average citizen a little more uneasy the next time he or she is pulled over. What if the officer has an anger issue or is having a bad day? What if a more experienced officer hadn’t arrived on the scene?
They shouldn’t have to worry about that. But they should understand that this isn’t another Minneapolis. The abuse was verbal, not physical, and it ended more calmly than it started.
A more complete picture emerged with release of an extended video, plus new details on a reckless driving and hit-and-run report that preceded the confrontation.
Police will have to get to the bottom of the matter in a way that builds public confidence. It’s something that’s difficult to do when your entire department is boiled down to a 60-second clip that only tells part of the story.
The images sparked a predictable protest outside police headquarters, where demonstrators make breezy statements about things like de-escalation training. They fail to recognize that police are, to a degree, bureaucrats with guns. That means they have binders and binders of training manuals and policies, some of which presumably cover de-escalation.
Amid the controversy, the police department issued a statement that seemed more lawyer-speak than cop-speak. This suggests that top officials are taking this seriously, and they appreciate the reality of operating under the watchful but incomplete eye of a citizen-surveillance society.