Tased And Confused

Yet another video has surfaced that shows that being a black man in America comes with special responsibilities, like, say, staying out of public spaces so as not to arouse the suspicions of white policemen. Depending on the day and the city, arousing the suspicions of white policemen may get you tased and arrested or, well, killed.

Fortunately for the guy in the video below, Christopher Lollie, he was only tased and arrested. I guess it was his lucky day.

I suspect that most of the readers of this blog will find the video quite disturbing, as it not only demonstrates how stupidly reactionary some cops can be, but how racial profiling works in the real world and why it is un-American. But I also want you to think about something else. Tea Party enthusiasts and sympathizers say they hate big government. Some of them even went so far as to defend militia types earlier this year when they took up arms against federal agents in Nevada, after Cliven Bundy decided he was entitled to graze his cattle for free on federal land and then would not recognize federal authority to stop him. Many people made the point at the time that had the New Black Panthers taken up arms to defend a black freeloader, the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world would have declared the end of civilization. But the Bundy case was a white man standing up against, let’s face it, a not-very-white Barack Obama. Thus, in that case big government police were the bad guys and gun-toting government-haters were the good guys.

To be at least somewhat consistent, if Tea Party conservatives—and they do most of the talking for Republicans these days—were genuinely disturbed by big government and its overreach, they should be outraged at what happened to Christopher Lollie at the hands of St. Paul, Minnesota, cops, who are, after all, government employees. But I doubt you will find too many of them who are willing to express outrage. My guess is that most of them will say that Lollie should have just done what he was told by the police and nothing would have happened to him. Because, ya know, black people have no rights that white policemen are bound to respect, and Lollie should have known and understood that reality and been willing to live with it. For his own good.

The truth is that when it comes to most conservatives, they don’t like big government when it is dispensing food stamps to black people. Oh, they hate that kind of government. But they like big government when it is dispensing Taser-powered electricity to black people just before hauling them off to jail. Or, as in Ferguson and elsewhere, shooting them dead in the streets.




  1. The White House runs a web site for citizen petitions relative to governance. Called We The People, it promises that if enough supporters sign any particular petition, it will duly give it appropriate attention. Yesterday I signed one called the Mike Brown Law which would require all cops to be equipped with individual video/sound mini-cameras. I first heard of this from Rachel Maddow. So far the petition has passed the current minimum threshold of 100,000 signatures and this morning stands at 151,650. I figured the more signatures, the better. It can be found at this link.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  August 29, 2014


    Here we go again, a situation where the allegation is law enforcement took action only because a man happened to be black. I see no way to “prove” that, at least based only on a video, most of which was no video, only angry language and argument coming from the black man.

    “I did nothing wrong” and “you are taking action only because I am black” was the gist of the first segment seen and heard. The rest is only words, containing orders from the police and angry responses from the man being accused by police of doing something warrenting arrest and “taking to jail”.

    I could ask all sorts of questions over what caused the police to show up in the first place. I assume someone called for police help but have no idea why they might have been called. But that is immaterial to your accusation of police over reacting to the situation.

    I heard (but never saw other than a hand waving) an angry black man protesting against police actions. Wrong place to argue is my first reaction. No argument, no tasing as I heard the “video”. Let the situation be sorted out by rational and “quiet” argument seems to be the solution in this case. Was the black man just “sitting there”, etc. or did something else happen. I have no idea and neither do you based only on a video.

    If any cop asked you do to something, like move from a bench, would you have taken your own protest to the point where tasing was required to force you to do something? I do know this. Calling a cop an “asshole” is taking a chance that further escalation might take place. And almost always when things escalate, cops win that particular confrontation, and may lose the “war” later on.

    Finally, I wonder if a white supremacist, shaved head and body piercings all over him, had angrily confronted police for asking him to do something, would such a video have gone viral? Should it?

    Of course the way to avoid such things is for citizens to not call for police help if they believe something untoward is taking place. Or when police respond to such calls, they just back off and let things settle themselves, without police taking a side, usually a side enforcing the law as they see it at least.

    You see racism behind most of such instances. I see it as angry citizens, and worried ones as well, sometimes calling for police when they are “worried” and angry, even potentially violent reaction, no matter what colors of skin are involved. That falls into the catagory of “dispute resolution” it seems to me, not blatant racism behind many police actions.



    • Anonymous

       /  August 30, 2014

      “Finally, I wonder if a white supremacist, shaved head and body piercings all over him, had angrily confronted police for asking him to do something, would such a video have gone viral? Should it?”

      It would go viral if the cops tasered HIM, to the great satisfaction of many, but are you seriously taking a white supremacist and making Lollie the other side of the dichotomy?


    • Anson,

      Thanks for making my point. You essentially said that this young black man should have simply done what he was told and let it go. In other words, he brought it on himself by not cooperating. He apparently has no legitimate reason to question an officer of the law without risking an overreaction on their part. I find that a sad state of affairs.

      And for the record, he never called anyone an “asshole” until it was clear they would not listen to him. They are supposed to be trained professionals and not overreact to a man who got a little bit angry because he felt he was being profiled in a public space. They should have known and acted better. And the fact that they did not charge him with any initial crime and the fact they dropped all subsequent charges tells us a lot.



  3. Anson has a point that the recording is not conclusive. A requirement for cops to record every encounter would probably have improved this situation. There seems to have been some kind of contentious encounter prior to the start of the clip and I don’t know whether it was with another cop or another individual. Lollie resisted a request to produce identification. Whether the request was was reasonable would depend on what we didn’t see.

    In both California and Maryland where the camera policy has been implemented the communities saw more than a 40% decline in the use of force by police and more than an 80% decline in citizen complaints about excessive force.


    • Whether the request for ID was reasonable is, I submit, not the point, Jim. I agree with you that all officers should be equipped with cameras, but the fact remains in this case that Lollie was not legally required to produce any identification (even though prudence, unfortunately, might have dictated that he should have), as far as I can tell. He had done nothing unlawful, nothing that should have resulted in the overreaction of the officers. How do I know that? No charges were brought against him, other than what happened after he was challenged and failed to respond as the officers might have liked.

      If we live in a country in which we are required to do anything an officer of the law asks us to do, no matter whether we think it is justified or not, then I am very concerned about the condition of our country.


      • ansonburlingame

         /  September 1, 2014

        “….. are required to do anything an officer of the law asks us to do….” A cop certainly is not supposed to demand an unlawful act by anyone. “Go shoot that man” would be an example. Few would say “Yes sir” and carry out that order. Like in Nazis Germany, both would be accountable later on.

        But any cop is permitted to demand compliance with the law. A speeding stop is a mild example. Whether you were speeding or not, you pull over when the cop demands you do do so, “or else”.

        The video is a classic situation where there is a question between the (alleged) “perp” and the cop as to whether or not any law was being violated. What to do becomes the question. Our system of justice clearly suggests the right way to hold that debate is in a court of law, not on the streets. And if the defendant called the cop an asshole in such a court of law he would not be doing much good for his case, before an impartial judge.

        Refering once again to the video, none of us know what preceeded the appearance of the cop. All we know is an argument ensued and force was used to settle the argument. I can envision a scenario where the alleged “perp” was talking loudly, maybe cussing, disturbing the environment of a library, for whatever reason. Thus a simple librarian called the cops. Of course I have no idea if that happened or a similar “distrubance of the peace”, or not. All I know is an argument between a man and a cop took place “in public”.

        Actually it seems the argument was between one man and THREE cops at some point. Well at least they did not “shoot him”, they “only tased him”. Too much force? OK, what if the three cops forcefully handcuffed the man, no tasing involved? Still an “outrage” right, to use force of any sort in such an argument? Well if NO force was used, is it possible that a man was allowed to simply distrube the peace, upset a librarian, etc. and suffer no admonishment for doing so.

        That is like saying that I should be able to simply NOT pull over in my car when a cop was chasing me with lights and sirens. I could just speed away and suffer no consequences, right?



        • Anson,

          Let me try this: Yes, cops have the right to detain you and question you, if they reasonably believe you have committed some offense. Please explain to me what the man in the video was, reasonably, supposed to have done? You say you don’t know. And that is the point. There was no legitimate reason for the police to suspect this man was doing anything wrong (whether some member of the public thought he was up to no good is irrelevant; police are supposed to be familiar with the law). Being black in a public space is not a reason to demand from someone that they produce documents to prove who they are and what they might be doing in a public space. At least the last time I checked the Constitution. And we know that he was not charged with doing anything illegal, prior to his objection to being manhandled.

          As for the asshole name-calling, which seems to be significant to you, any judge worth his weight in justice should not consider such talk (however dumb it might be) as part of whether the man is guilty of a specific crime. Again, last time I checked it isn’t a crime to merely call a cop an asshole. Maybe it should be, maybe we shouldn’t be allowed to talk back to police officers, but if that’s the kind of country people want, then count me out. We have a First Amendment for damn good reasons and the Supreme Court has determined that bad-mouthing a policeman is protected speech.



  4. Personally, I think the cop’s response to the man that “…I’m not your brother….” tells the tale. If you’re a cop and you don’t know that people use the term “brother” in an inclusive way, then you aren’t the kind of person I want to be a cop. At that juncture in the conversation, the man seemed to me to be trying to establish some kind of rapport with the police and they weren’t having any of it. They had already made up their minds about what was happening and were going to take the action they were going to take.

    “Protect and serve.” Not in this instance, not by a long shot. It was “me cop, you not” from the start of the video to the last sound.

    Personally, in the few times I encounter police, I am obsequious as hell. These guys have power over you, that if they choose to exercise, can ruin your life in minutes. On the other hand, almost every police person I have ever encountered has been polite and effective. The exceptions were when I was in uniform as an enlisted man in the US Navy in the sixties. In Norfolk, Virginia, some people had signs in their businesses that “Dogs and sailors not allowed” which made me part of the underclass in that place and time. I had several encounters with police then that were not pleasant at all, and I was lucky to escape unscathed.

    The old saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely is mostly true. Luckily, there are people who do not demonstrate that principle.


    • Nagarjuna,

      I thought that “I’m not your brother” comment was telling, too. It was said with a purpose in mind, that is for sure. There was a point to be made.

      I don’t think we should treat the police rudely, nor do I think we should treat them like their orders are infallible. It is a shame that the practical advice you give is probably the best way to stay out of trouble when one interacts with them, because it is a shame that we have to fear the people who are supposed to be protecting us.

      I have had a few unpleasant interactions with the police, including having a gun aimed at my face when I was a teenager. All of those unpleasant experiences stemmed from unprofessionalism, in my opinion. We forget sometimes that these people are supposed to be trained to a high degree of professionalism, and are not supposed to overreact to fairly common situations, like the one in the video here. And when they don’t act professionally, we should demand an accounting. Too many people excuse even the most egregious behavior.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  August 30, 2014

    I am more than aware of the signs in Norfolk in the 60’s. Frankly, I don’t blame people for posting them at that time in Norfolk (and Navy) history. Later, by the time I had command of a ship stationed in Norfolk, both the city and Navy had cleaned up their mutual acts.

    But in the 60’s, just step outside the base and tour the bars, strip joints, etc. all over that part of Norfolk. It was a haven for “drunken sailors” and frankly not a safe place to attend.



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