People in Austin were outraged recently when Amanda Jo Stephen was arrested for jaywalking – a crime that ultimately required four officers and left Stephen sitting cuffed and crying on the ground in front of onlookers. The video is below. However, it was the response of Austin police chief Art Acevedo made this even more bizarre and disturbing.
When people objected to the treatment this woman and over-reaction of his officers, Acevedo responded that “In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas.” At best, that sounds like a flippant dismissal of abuse and at worse almost sounded like Stephen was lucky to get away without a gang rape by officers.
Acevedo was inundated with calls and later apologized for the “poor analogy” and insisted that “I attempted to place the arrest into context by bringing attention to the fact that law enforcement deals with many acts of serious misconduct.”
The problem with the apology is that it still misses part of the problem. Putting aside the basis for this arrest, everyday and casual abuses are a major problem of police misconduct. This woman was left cuffed and sitting on the ground in public and then arrested and charged. Four officers participated in the arrest. Arbitrary and over-the-top police enforcement that creates fear of police and a sense of impunity for officers. Then when a chief of police shrugs it off as still better than a rape, it sends a chilling message to citizens and the wrong signal to officers. It is much much worse than a “poor analogy” in my view.
By the way, the original Acevedo interview contained other comments from the Chief in dismissing objections from cities. Stephen was charged with “failure to identify” and “failure to obey a pedestrian control device.” Acevedo says that his officers were merely trying to change the behavior of citizens and issued seven citations that day to reduce traffic deaths. He then noted that she was handcuffed after telling the officer not to touch her and “All that young lady had to do when she was asked for her information was to provide it by law. Instead of doing that, she decided to throw [herself] to the ground – officers didn’t sit her down – and she did the limp routine.” He indicated that she got off easy: “Thank you lord that it’s a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually have the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them ‘oh my goodness, Austin Police, we’re trying to get your attention.’ Quite frankly, she wasn’t charged with resisting, and she was lucky I wasn’t the arresting officer because I wouldn’t have been quite as generous.” Generous. Well, it appears that she got the nice Austin officers. It seems that she should be counting her lucky stars that she was not raped by officers in other cities or ran into the Chief of Police as a jaywalker.
Source: Daily Texan