I'm furious to read (courtesy of a link by Earthbound Misfit) about a grandfather and his granddaughter in Austin, TX, who were allegedly the victims of some very heavy-handed and highly unprofessional conduct by that city's Police Department. The grandfather blogs at 'Grits For Breakfast', and tells us what happened from his perspective. Here's a brief excerpt.
We stopped to look back, and there was a dark silhouette crossing the street who Ty thought was calling out to us. We waited, but then the silhouetted figure stopped, crouched down for a moment, then took a few steps back toward the rec center, appearing to speak to someone there. I shrugged it off and we walked on, but in a moment the figure began walking down the path toward us again, calling out when she was about 150 feet away. We stopped and waited. It was a brown-suited deputy constable, apparently out of breath from the short walk.
She told me to take my hand out of my pocket and to step away from Ty, declaring that someone had seen a white man chasing a black girl and reported a possible kidnapping. Then she began asking the five-year old about me. The last time this happened, Ty was barely two, and I wasn't about to let police question her. This time, though, at least initially, I decided to let her answer. "Do you know this man?" the deputy asked. "Yes," Ty mumbled shyly, "he's my Grandpa." The deputy couldn't understand her (though I did) and moved closer, hovering over the child slightly, repeating the question. Ty mumbled the same response, this time louder, but muffled through a burgeoning sob that threatened to break out in lieu of an answer.
The deputy still didn't understand her: "What did you say?" she repeated. "He's my Grandpa!," Ty finally blurted, sharply and clearly, then rushed back over to me and grabbed hold of my leg. "Okay," said the deputy, relaxing, acknowledging the child probably wasn't being held against her will. (As we were talking, a car pulled up behind her on the bike path with its brights on - I couldn't tell what agency it was with) Then she pulled out her pad and paper and asked "Can I get your name, sir, just for my report?" I told her I'd prefer not to answer any questions and would like to leave, if we were free to go, so I could get the child to bed. She looked skeptical but nodded and Ty and I turned tail and walked toward home.
. . .
As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)
I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my "story." One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn't made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say "we've only been here two minutes, give us time" (actually it'd been longer than that). "Maybe so," I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, "but there are nine of y'all milling about doing nothing by my count so between you you've had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y'all can figure out you screwed up." Admittedly, this did not go over well. I could tell I was too pissed off to say anything constructive and silently vowed to keep mum from then on.
As all this was happening, the deputy constable who'd questioned us before walked up to the scene and began conversing with some of the officers. She kept looking over at me nervously as I stood 20 feet or so away in handcuffs, averting her gaze whenever our eyes risked meeting. It seemed pretty clear she was the one who called in the cavalry, and it was equally clear she understood she was in the wrong.
There's much more at the link.
Obviously, we've only heard one side of events here; but if even half what he relates is true, I believe he should file a civil rights lawsuit at once. He describes so many breaches of his constitutional and legal rights (not to mention generally accepted police procedures and practices) that I think his case would be a slam-dunk in court. If his allegations are proven to be correct, it seems to me that the entire Austin PD will need a top-to-bottom overhaul and re-training (not to mention dismissal of all those involved in such egregious violations). On the other hand, if the allegations are proven to be false, then the grandfather needs to answer for his accusations.
I hope that pressure will be applied to get to the bottom of this situation. Why haven't the mainstream news media in Austin picked up on it? Perhaps readers in or near that city could draw this matter to their attention, and/or write to their council representatives, asking them to investigate further. Also, if any of my readers are in personal contact with Radley Balko, I'd be grateful if you'd please inform him about this matter - he might be interested in following up. I don't think this should be allowed to fade away. The issues it raises are too important for that.