Looking at the media and social media it seems like there are two basic positions that have developed after the video of a McKinney, TX police officer, identified as Corporal David Eric Casebolt, taking an African-American girl, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton, to the ground and drawing his weapon on two other juveniles. One extreme is injecting race into the discussion since the incident involved a white police officer and an African-American female teenager. We can’t just assume racism. The other extreme is to automatically excuse the police officer because of the poor behavior exhibited by the teenagers that led to the police being called in the first place. Police are human and they make mistakes.
Context is king. Here is what I have been able to ascertain watching the interaction several times and from reading various accounts.
- The initial call to police wasn’t racially-driven. It was in response to a security guard being overwhelmed by a group of party chasers too large for them to handle by themselves.
- We don’t know what was reported to the police in the 9-1-1 calls.
- There was also at least one fight before the police arrived.
- The video in question doesn’t start with the initial interaction police had with teens upon arriving on the scene so we are lacking the full context.
- In the video before the controversial incident we can see juveniles running instead of obeying a lawful order. Police officers were trying to have these juveniles sit down in order to ascertain what was going on.
- From what I was able to gather Casebolt appeared agitated prior to his interaction with Becton who he later took down to the ground.
- Becton and others were told to disperse, but stayed and were verbally interacting with the police officer (we can’t tell what was said from the video). I’m not sure Casebolt singled Becton out.
- Becton appears to resist the restraint the police officer was trying to put her in which escalates a physical altercation.
- The police officer’s amount of force appears excessive, but he was also experiencing resistance.
- During the physical altercation people surrounded Casebolt.
- Prior to drawing his weapon two young males approached Casebolt. I can’t ascertain what they said to the police officer.
- Casebolt then stood up as the boys backed away and drew his weapon.
- At that time two other police officers came over. One of the officers appeared to pull Casebolt back.
Casebolt is on administrative leave while the incident is investigated. This was a fluid and complex situation. Certainly there were teenagers present who exhibited delinquent behavior that exhibited a lack of respect for authority – for the adults present at the party prior to the police arriving and towards the police when they arrived.
When a police officer gives you a lawful order like get on the ground, sit down, or leave when they arrive it is simply in your best interest and theirs to comply. Period. If the police acted unjustly then deal with that after things cool down. You also don’t help yourself when you run your mouth… exercise your right to remain silent at this point and comply with the lawful order.
The police officer in question was clearly agitated. His language was abusive and unprofessional. His actions did not help to deescalate a tense situation (a judgement made from years of experience working with juvenile offenders) quite the opposite – he escalated it. When he drew his weapon the youth were in retreat and did not have any type of weapons drawn.
I’m not sure whether he complied with his department policy or not when drawing his weapon, but there didn’t appear to be an imminent threat when he did so. The teens were retreating and then ran away. We may be lacking pertinent information. From what I could discern from the video it would be inappropriate to offer a knee jerk defense of the police officer. On the other hand it’s not fair to play the race card since we can’t read the police officer’s mind.
Hopefully we’ll get the full picture as the investigation unfolds, but in the meantime let’s not jump to conclusions.
Additional Note: Regarding the police officer pulling his weapon – it will likely be found that he was justified to draw his weapon. The threshold for that is far less than actual use of force. The timing seemed off to me, but the two men approached him in a threatening manner which precipitated that. I know that I would never approach a police officer in such a manner. The primary point I want to make instead of getting in the weeds over that is this – what could he have done differently? Did he escalate the situation? I’m excusing the teens at all, their behavior was completely out of line. Is it reasonable to find the police officer’s conduct blameless? I don’t think so. I’m not calling on him to be fired or anything like that, but it is reasonable to hold our police officers to a higher standards in tense situations like this.