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September 15, 2015

James Blake: Saying “I’m 100% Cooperating” May Have Saved His Life.

James cBlake arrest

A man—standing in the lobby of a hotel, minding his own business, reading his phone—is assaulted by another man without provocation or apparent reason.

Actually, it wasn’t an assault.

It was a police arrest.

My mistake.

In fact, it was a police arrest made by a plainclothes officer. At least “arrest” is what the police called it.

I prefer to call it what it was. An assault.

Turns out that somehow the man in question was a tennis star who looked just like another man wanted for identify theft; that somehow the plain clothes officer thought the man was dangerous or combative enough to warrant arresting him by taking him down.

Turns out that the police officer had no other options—or thought that he had no other options—such as approaching the suspect and, you know, identifying himself and questioning him.

Watch the video and tell me you think there was anything going on in that scenario that warranted the kind of take down that took place.

I read about the officer’s background and the record of multiple citizen complaints levied against him. He has been sued four times for allegedly using excessive force—all four cases are ongoing.

His record is enough to make me wonder why he is still on the force.

It is easy, however, to point to the police officer and say that there should be zero tolerance for officers with a history of behavior like this, but this incident is about much more than one violent police officer. It’s about the underlying problem with the police force that employs him and allows him to keep working in this way despite his record.

In this particular case, that police department displayed confusion, mixed messages, violations of rights and an inability to identify and solve problems. (1) Behind this police officer stands a corrupt, racist and dysfunctional police department. His behavior is enabled by the structure and behaviors of the system within which they manifest. (2)

The officer and arrest in question here are more a symptom of the problem than the sum total of it. As long as the emphasis is put on the behavior of individual police officers, the real, larger problems will be ignored,

Blake asks for:

“more officers wearing body cameras, better methods of supervision, a financial commitment to helping victims of police brutality and stronger punishments for officers who violate department policy.” (3)

None of these changes however will expose the underlying dysfunction. Like bad medicine, they will be addressing address only the symptoms rather than the source of the disease.

In plain words,

Proportionately, most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up something like this: 94% belongs to the system and 6% belong to the people in the system. (4)

An investigation needs to start at the top—the very top—and extend throughout the department. The top is where the cancer that has metastasized to the entire force began. That is where the tumor is. Examine that and we stop the further spread of the disease.

Thankfully, in the Blake incident, no one was seriously injured or worse, killed.

But the credit goes for this goes to Blake himself who had the incredible presence of mind during the assault to say out loud:

“I’m 100 percent cooperating. I’m 100 percent cooperating.” (5)

By saying this he prevented further harm or misunderstanding and quite possibly saved his own life.

I salute Blake for the coolness he showed under pressure, for his refusal to escalate the situation and for the dignified way he behaved throughout.

I salute him for possessing the very characteristics that a responsible public wants to see in their police officers.

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Sources:

(1) Alternet
(2) Silk and Spinach
(3) NY Times
(4) University of Kent
(5) Huffington Post 

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Relephant read: 

Online Tool for Police-Related Fatalities Could be the Most Powerful Weapon Yet.

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Author: Carmelene Siani

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: screenshot from video

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