Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Unjust Arrest of a Raven
Like many of us I am a Ravens fan, and followed the hullabaloo over the arrest of newly signed linebacker Rolando McClain in Alabama with mild interest. I have heard him condemned and called names (like "punk") on sports talk radio, and some have called for the Ravens to cut him.
Then I read the actual police report posted by the Baltimore Sun on line. McClain's crime? Disrespect of police.
If you've never heard of that crime, it's because it doesn't exist. On the streets, however, and apparently no matter where you live, disrespect of police calls for arrest. It's what police call a "humble."
The Alabama police report states that police were called for a disturbance at a park, but when they got there the disturbance, if any, was over. So they decided to disperse the large crowd of people. As McClain walked by he said "F___ the police." So they arrested him for disorderly conduct. He protested that he was told to move on, that he was moving on, and he swung his arms as they tried to complete the arrest. For that they piled on a charge of resisting arrest.
What struck me immediately was how the officers so boldly stated that they arrested McClain for what he said. Baltimore police would put something in there (true or not) about him disturbing the peace or hindering the police in their duties, which might actually give them probable cause to arrest. In Alabama police apparently feel emboldened to violate the First and Fourth Amendments with impunity.
From what I hear, they are now scrambling to interview other witnesses, no doubt to come up with more evidence or charges to justify the arrest of an NFL player. But had they let him walk by, as they should have, there would be no further investigation. What a waste of time.
The incident provides insight into the everyday tension between citizens and police. Police have a hard job, and feel they need to enforce their authority in order to function effectively. Citizens, rightly or wrongly, get mad at police, and feel like they should be able to express this. How far they go in expressing their feelings determines whether they cross a criminal line.
Here, in the words of the police officers themselves, the line was not crossed. But McClain faces the possible termination of his employment with the Ravens anyway because the incident comes on top of other arrests and problems. A case of guilty based on background.
The young man, who reportedly grew up in very hard circumstances, clearly has anger issues. He needs help with his problem. How far the Ravens wish to go to do that is up to them. But it's too bad that the final straw may be the failure of the police to ignore an irritated McClain, and to arrest him illegally.
That's not justice.