A few years ago my partner and I were on foot patrol around the bar district of my city. We got waved over by a doorman who was in an argument with an obviously intoxicated guy.
It turned out that the drunk was being refused entry and was unhappy about it. I tried to explain to him that the bar could refuse service to anyone and there were plenty of other bars nearby that he could go to. Of course he wouldn’t hear of it and just kept yelling that he knew his rights. I inevitably got tired of arguing and told him he was under arrest for being drunk in public.
Once I told him this he started to back away from me.. Well sorry but once that decision is made, I’m not going back on it. My partner and I both grabbed him and the fight was on. I didn’t expect a big struggle because the guy looked like a young business professional who had just had too many cocktails. He surprised me and started violently twisting and kicking.
I had a grip on one arm and my partner had the other. For whatever reason, the drunk was able to jerk his arm away from my partner and slug me in the mouth before I could react. My partner jumped on his back after that and we were able to get him in cuffs. Afterwards I noticed that my lip was busted up pretty good.
We booked the guy in for felony assault on an officer. He spent the entire ride yelling about what he would do next time he saw me. Nice guy. Witnesses were interviewed and photos were taken of my injury. At the end of the night another older veteran officer asked me if I had gotten any licks in. I told him that I thought about it but figured it wasn’t worth it since the guy was looking at serious felony charges that would be worse than anything I would have done. This veteran cop laughed and said that I should just wait and see what happens to these “serious” charges.
A few months went by and I received a call from the local DA. He told me that my assault guy was about to go to trial and he wanted my input before any plea agreements were reached. I was actually surprised that they were considering a deal since it was an open and shut case. What was there to argue? The DA started talking about how the defendant was a young guy with no previous criminal history and how a jury would be hesitant to convict him on the felony.
I pointed out that it’s not a matter of previous history. The guy punched a cop in the face. If he was willing to do that, what else is he capable of when he loses his temper? I also offered to show the DA my in-car video of all the drunken threats he made while enroute to the jail.
The DA replied that juries sometimes felt that as a police officer, it is considered part of my job to have to deal with threats and assaults from time to time. I was silent for a few seconds and then asked, “Did you just say that it is part of my job to be assaulted?”
He hemmed and hawed but repeated that juries often felt that way. I ended the conversation by saying that I would be happy if the defendant either plea to the felony and got probation or pled to a misdemeanor but served a few weeks of jail time. It was important to me that he didn’t get less that than. The DA thanked me for my input and said he understood.
A few days later I called down to the courthouse to check the case disposition. The guy pled to a misdemeanor assault and got probation with deferred ajudication. That basically means that he didn’t do any jail time and the charge will disappear if he stays out of trouble for a year. So the guy pretty much got away clean despite my conversation with the DA.
That incident really made me cynical about things. Since I’ve been a cop I have been spit on, punched, kicked, threatened, and shot at. While those things sometimes happen to police, that doesn’t make it any less illegal. My position is that if someone is willing to do that to an officer, what danger do they pose to the general public.
I will tell you this, I became much less gentle during the arrest process after this incident. I don’t abuse people but I sure don’t use kid gloves either. If you want to fight the police, be prepared for it. A lot of people have since learned that OC spray burns for at least 30 minutes. Street justice is sometimes the only justice we get.