Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 11, 2012

HOPKINS: There's a right way and a wrong way

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When I was in college I watched two friends, who were drunk at the time, get arrested by police in Herkimer, N.Y. They were shooting off bottle rockets and they never noticed the cops sneak up on them.

They were having a great time breaking the silence of the night with the airborne explosions. Suddenly, two flashlights were shining in their eyes and one of the cops — almost gleefully — said, “Guys, you’re under arrest!”

What happened next is a good blueprint for the under-25 set to follow if they find themselves on the wrong end of the law after doing something stupid.

One of my friends ran. Bad move. The other immediately complied and was respectful. After he was ‘cuffed, he brought the officer inside the apartment and handed over the rest of the fireworks. He was laughing and the cop was pleasant enough.

The officer said my friend would be booked and he’d be released around 5 a.m. It was about 1:30 a.m. when they got nabbed.

My other friend made it about half a block before the other cop tackled him. He then cooperated. However, the second officer wasn’t too happy that he broke his watch tackling my friend. (Note to the police, it’s probably not wise to wear something expensive when you’re on duty.)

Still, because he wised up and apologized for running the cops went fairly easy on him as well.

I’m telling this story because it came to mind after we got ahold of a police report from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Deparment.

The story was too incredible not to give it plenty of space, and it received plenty of attention on our website and our Facebook page as well.

A 19-year-old man — a kid, really — was arrested last week by deputies who were investigating a loud party in Hartland. Making the matter worse for him, and what got him tossed in the clink with bail set at $10,000, was his disrespect toward officers.

The police report tells of finding the intoxicated man hiding in an upstairs closet. Instead of complying with deputies’ directions to go into the kitchen, he began an obscenity-laced tirade. Naturally, the deputies followed him. He was, after all, ignoring their orders.

At one point, the report indicates he shoved a deputy. That’s the wrong thing to do. Two deputies tried to bring him under control, but he allegedly swung at (and missed) a deputy. A deputy responded with a blow aimed for the gut but because the man ducked, he took a punch to the face.

In the end, the man continued his tirade in the police vehicle, pounding his head against a partition and kicking the doors and partition. He ended up being arraigned in the parking lot of Hartland Town Court.

On Facebook, a reader challenged some of the story. We asked for proof and the reader responded with a link to a shaky video of the incident on You Tube. The footage lasts less than two minutes. Most of the comments on You Tube are too explicit to repeat here, but it’s obvious that some at the party felt the deputies went too far.

After viewing the video, I disagree.

Although most of the video is dark, it seems fairly obvious that the man is acting belligerent toward the deputies. They ask him if he wants to go to jail and he responds by asking the deputy, “do you want to take your badge off?” The rest is difficult to make out.

However, it’s fairly clear that the man pushes a deputy. That’s when several deputies tried to arrest him.

Had he simply complied with a simple request, he’d probably have been released on an appearance ticket. Instead, he’s facing a felony charge for assaulting a police officer.

Some may think it’s excessive to have several officers restrain a suspect. Don’t count me in that group. Police officers can’t afford to take chances. They have been hired to serve and protect and they won’t be doing their job if they go easy on an aggressive suspect who then pulls a weapon on them.

I was once told by an editor that you could be 100 percent right on something, but if you challenge a police officer you’re going to lose. He noted that you might have the First Amendment to back you up,but it won’t do much good if you’re tossed in jail. He has a point. There are other ways to win.

It’s not worth fighting someone in law enforcement. If you do, you’re going to lose and you’ll be much worse off than if you had simply complied.

The man in Hartland was described as 19 years old. That was the age of my friends when they got arrested in Herkimer several years ago. Even though they were drunk, they handled their situation with much more poise.

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I want to use this last little bit of space to thank all of our veterans for all of the sacrifices they made while serving our country. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, and God bless all of you.

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.