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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
One of the false story lines championed by the mainstream media is how police are guilty of rampant misconduct and brutality. An alleged example comes to us from a 2017 Boulder, Colorado, case that is receiving publicity now. A 34-year-old woman by the name of Lauren Gotthelf was arrested in a pedestrian mall on three counts: walking a dog, smoking, and littering. All three were prohibited.
It began when Boulder Police Department Officer Ryan McAuley approached Gotthelf and told her that she was not allowed to walk her dog on the mall and could not smoke a cigarette that she had recently lit. Gotthelf replied that her dog was a service animal and therefore was allowable under the Americans with Disabilities Act. McAuley responded by telling Gotthelf that she would be receiving a summons for walking with a dog, for lighting a cigarette, and—after she put the cigarette on the ground—for littering.
Gotthelf had a clear opportunity to walk away with nothing more than a written citation. She could have contested it later in her day in court. Instead, she refused to sign the ticket, gave the officer a hard time, and caused him to call for backup. Officers subsequently arrested Gotthelf and transported her to Boulder County Jail for processing. She violated three laws, wouldn’t accept responsibility, then resisted the cops, who seemed to be incredibly polite considering her recalcitrant behavior. Two videos of the incident are being offered as proof that the police used excessive force. I watched the videos and saw a completely different scenario.
If she had followed their instructions, even after they brought her to the jailhouse, Gotthelf would have been released without incident. THEY EXPLAINED THAT TO HER A SECOND TIME, BUT SHE DIDN’T LISTEN. There is a significant gap between the end of the first video and the start of the second. During this time, according to the Boulder Police Department, Gotthelf “continually made negative, vulgar, and racist comments to deputies. She continued to yell insults for forty-five minutes. As the video depicts, Ms. Gotthelf continued to be resistant and disruptive.” Ultimately, she had to be restrained and tased. On the video, one of the cops yells at Gotthelf to “sit down” and “stop resisting.” She refuses.
A statement released by the Boulder Police included these comments: “Staff tried to de‐escalate her behavior, but Ms. Gotthelf was argumentative and unrelenting. She refused to comply with repeated commands from two separate deputies.” Gotthelf was uncooperative and refused to enter a cell. “She planted her feet and braced her legs to prevent movement,” the statement continued. “She was wearing socks and deputies had to slide her across the linoleum floor into the cell because of her resistance and refusal to move. Due to her resistive behavior the restraints on the chair could not be secured. She was given several verbal commands to sit in the chair and stop resisting but continued to buck her body and be physically resistant.” I repeat, she could have avoided the unpleasant experience simply by complying with the officers.
This is the same scenario we have seen in numerous high-profile cases where the perpetrator resists arrest. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, similar behavior would have landed Gotthelf in a world of hurt. The police obviously have improved their methods since then. My compliments to these officers, who were doing their job with restraint in spite of Gotthelf’s combative behavior. From my perspective, she was lucky.
The Gotthelf incident is worthy of two important observations. First, the public’s inclination to blame the police can be traced to a rash of police brutality allegations made during the last six months. Second, the public is so accustomed to the refusal of police to arrest violent rioters that we are surprised when someone is actually arrested for committing a crime.
Thanks to the notorious cases of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rayshard Brooks, and others, when a suspect is treated harshly the knee-jerk response is to blame the police. Yet all of these cases have two things in common—the suspect resisted the police and the incident received an avalanche of negative publicity. The group known as Black Lives Matter has made a fetish out of accusing the police of brutality. Attempting to blame the Boulder police in the Gotthelf case—despite the facts—can be attributed to this tendency.
Because police departments have been prevented from arresting criminals during this year’s many riots, we are surprised when cops actually do their job. That is what happened in the Gotthelf case. The videos exist as proof that the officers made every effort to treat Gotthelf with respect and courtesy but the bottom line is that they were enforcing the law. We can’t support a justice system where criminals are allowed to avoid responsibility for their behavior.
**Warning Graphic Language**