In Defense of Awful Police Work

Emily Good was arrested for video-taping a police officer--despite the fact that in Rochester, New York, video-taping cops isn't actually a crime. Accordingly the charges were dropped yesterday. Here's a defense of Good's demonstrably illegal arrest:


The action Monday by the District Attorney's Office showed that "basically it wasn't a crime," Stare said after court. Doorley said the decision to drop the charge should not be read as an  indictment of the arrest. "The police put their lives on the line for us every day," she said. 

Across the community, people who viewed Good as an agitator also commended the police, noting that the streets they monitor can be dangerous. In 2009, three Rochester police officers were shot, though those incidents were not the offspring of traffic stops. 

Rochester Police Locust Club union President Michael Mazzeo said he worries that the case could signal to people that they can interfere with a police stop or police action. "The last thing we need is people interfering or distracting officers in the middle of a situation," Mazzeo said. "It could turn deadly."

I'm really trying to wrap my head around this: In what world do we defend the right of people to be arrested for non-crimes? Obviously this one. But it can't continue this way. I deeply believe, that in a world of viral video, it slowly erodes the brand and legitimacy of law enforcement.

It's already happened in many black communities, where the police are simply viewed as another power to be contended with. I'm sure, like a lot of you, I've had some talks about my son about how he should interact with the police. "Trust" is a small portion of that conversation.

Oh yeah, and just for kicks, the cops decided to "put their lives on the line for us" by ticketing a bunch of people who protested Good's arrest. No, seriously. This is bigger than a few bad apples.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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