Matt Walsh Blames the Victim

There’s been a lot of media coverage of the footage from Mckinney showing a police officer brutally throwing a young teenaged girl in a bikini to the ground and drawing his weapon. I mention the bikini because it underscores that she was absolutely no threat; it’s not like she could have been packing a concealed weapon. Just before I had to leave for work yesterday afternoon, I saw that Matt Walsh had apparently done his homework on the event and determined that the officer wasn’t really to blame: “even if I believe the officer was a little too emotionally charged,” concludes Walsh, “I still put the blame on the individuals who caused the disturbance, and so should you.”

 

 

What I found so stunning about Walsh’s article are the reasons he found so compelling that he would enjoin us all to share his opinion. Look at the footage: a very angry man, with a deadly weapon and plenty of training in how to use it, brutally subdues a young girl who’s clearly not capable of harming him. If I were the father of a young girl so roughly treated, I would definitely be seeking some reasons why this took place. So what reasons could be strong enough that we should be putting the blame not on the officer but on the victim of this excessive force?

Well, Matt himself summarizes his reasons on his Facebook post introducing his article. Below, I’ll copy and paste those reasons from his status using italics for his words, with some quick responses of my own interwoven in normal font.

Reason One: There were “100 teenagers with little adult supervision

I’m glad school teachers or day care providers don’t think there’s an upper limit of children to be present in the vicinity before it becomes excusable to abuse any given one of them.

Reason Two: “In my experience — and I admit to having some experience — nearly every teenage party ends with the cops getting called. To categorize that as racism just because the teens were black is just ridiculous.

Completely irrelevant. Do you think it would have made a difference to this girl if, while being slammed around and quite possibly fearing for her life, she was reassured that at least it wasn’t because of her race? A crime’s a crime, whether or not it’s racially motivated. Besides, anecdotal evidence has some limitations, dude. I’m sure we could find a white counterpart for every one of the crimes we’ve been seeing police officers committing against African Americans. But does the justice system disproportionately target and incarcerate minorities? What do the data say? That’s really a better approach to the question of race and law enforcement than excusing cops who mistreat African Americans by saying, “Well when I was a white boy the cops came after me too.”

Reason Three: It was “held without proper permission” and “According to many residents… it featured loud vulgar music, drugs, alcohol…

Again, irrelevant to what happened to this one victim in particular. If it was a matter of searching for drugs or alcohol, where would she have been hiding them? In her bikini? What about her rights against warrantless search and seizure? If it was a matter of keeping the public peace then the response of singling out and roughing up this girl was a disproportionate act for keeping a bunch of rowdy kids in line. I don’t know what his definition of “vulgar” music is, but I’m glad we have a first amendment so we don’t all have to listen to his own preferred nonvulgar music (which I have a feeling might be a small sliver of the spectrum).

Reason Four: “many of the teens were not listening to or respecting these officers

But if you’ve seen the footage, it’s hard to believe they posed any real threat of harm. Any officer who would react to that level of threat with that degree of unhinged aggression, especially with children involved, should probably be off the force. Will he be able to control himself next time or will someone’s son or daughter finally be injured or killed?

Reason Five: “Some of these people were over the age of 18. The woman who organized the event is 20.

But the victim wasn’t twenty, so I don’t care if there were supercentenarians there. What the officer did to that girl is still not justifiable. Besides, now he’s making it seem like it would have been ok to do that to a twenty year old.

These are seriously the reasons Matt Walsh has for urging us all to share his opinion in blaming the victim of this unnecessary roughness. I don’t find them compelling. Somehow, I doubt she or her family finds them compelling either.

What I find most disturbing is how quick he is to dehumanize her. This is about the girl. She’s the clear victim here. I keep expecting him to talk about her, but instead he just keeps talking about them, the others, the riff raff, the horde of rowdy young teenagers whose presence somehow makes this a faceless incident and a justified act of aggression. How quick is he to forget that a real, angry, and dangerous man is lashing out at a real young girl with a face and a personality and a family who love her, and to focus on how it was ok because she was one of the riff raff. That’s not ok. She’s a person! No, Matt, that trained police officer is responsible for his own troubling actions, no matter how many teenagers and twenty year olds were there pissing him off. And no, I shouldn’t blame the crowd for what one dangerous man did to one vulnerable girl. Neither should you.

P.S. I’m glad to see that the police force involved seems to be taking the officer’s out-of-line actions more seriously than Matt Walsh would.

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2 thoughts on “Matt Walsh Blames the Victim

  1. Clint

    Nathan, greetings! You may remember me as one of your classmates in college, Clint Norris, but as it has been over 10 years since, no biggie if you don’t. I must confess, I take issue with your conclusions on the McKinney incident. First, may I set the stage a little. My own biases are clear: I am a cop, and I am conservative. I’ve been in law enforcement now for 7 years, and I am as proud of my profession now as I was when I started. That being said, I am nowhere near so naive to think cops are all angels. There are certainly those within my profession who have absolutely no business pinning on a badge or carrying a firearm. I don’t believe (at least based on this incident alone) Officer Casebolt is of the later.

    Admittedly, I watched the video of this portion of the incident from a different perspective than you. I watched it from the vantage point of one who has had to deal with situations not dissimilar to this. Context certainly is important to the discussion. As I understand the facts, there were many young people gathered for this party. Certain aspects of this gathering were in violation of HOA rules and agreements and may also have been illegal (such as drug use, underage drinking, trespassing and what we in NM would call public affray or fighting). These officers arrive and are charged with the task of establishing order and control and figuring out what is going on, is any of it illegal, and who needs to be held responsible. That these are teenagers is immaterial in that they can be just as dangerous and just as deadly as a full-grown adult. In fact, the argument can be made that a greater danger can exist given the initial thought that hey, they’re just kids! What’s the big deal? Here’s where I disagree with the officer and where I agree.

    First, I believe his emotions were running high and, to an extent, got the better of his professionalism. We are first introduced to this officer as he is running through the scene, tripping, rolling and continuing on. What his sense of urgency is I don’t know nor do I intend to speculate beyond the nature of the call. When he returns, his demeanor is in direct contrast to the officer to whom was given Officer Casebolt’s flashlight which was dislodged in his fall. Is that right or wrong? I’m not sure, but it seems on the surface that he is pretty hyped up. Second, and closely connected, I’m not sure I agree with his use of language. On the job, dealing with the public, I don’t believe I have ever used that level of language—I just don’t see its use most of the time. That is not to say I haven’t developed an alternative vocabulary as compared to 10 years ago, but it is rarely used. I will say, though, that there are those times and there are those people to which you absolutely have to respond in such a way. Is this one of those, I’m not sure, but it does seem a little excessive. Did the emotional state of the officer directly influence how he dealt with the female? Perhaps, but as I will explain below, I don’t believe it was excessive.

    Nathan, I don’t know what your experience or interaction with law enforcement is. I don’t know if you have close friends or family who are part of the profession, but I feel compelled to explain what cops have to face all the same. Gone are the days of Mayberry where communities lend whole-hearted support to the local law enforcement. Society as it stands has a growing segment that is lawless, self-entitled, disrespectful of the Law and those who enforce it, and, in some cases, lethally antagonistic towards the enforcers of law. You may argue it is a direct result of the injustices of some within law enforcement, but that would be inaccurate. Then, again, you may not. In any event, the situation exists, and we know it. We are taught, told, trained and impressed with this reality everyday of our academy experience, and we see it to varying degrees out in the field. I have read articles on how academies train their recruits/cadets to have a “warrior mindset” and how this detrimental to an officer’s interaction with the community. I wholeheartedly disagree with the one caveat that some officers need to do a better job of integrating such a mindset.

    Getting back to McKinney. There is a mob. Merriam-Webster defines a mob as “a large or disorderly crowd; especially: one bent on riotous or destructive action.” Perhaps they were not bent on riotous or destructive action, but it was certainly large and disorderly. Officers are called to respond, restore order and ferret out any illegal activity. Regardless of his emotional state and use of language, Officer Casebolt is attempting to do just that. Does his emotional state and use of language work against this goal? Perhaps, but that is the benefit of hindsight.

    I find it interesting that the girl who gets subdued later is first seen running along with some others from the scene only to group up later. Indicative of wrongdoing? I don’t know, but it is curious. When we next see her, Officer Casebolt is dealing with two males and she has returned to a relative active part of the scene. Officer Casebolt is giving clear and concise (albeit profane) directions: to some, they are to remain on the ground until dealt with; to others, they are to leave. That is an appropriate response (sans the language in this case). She inserts herself into the scene (calling to others across the way, walking through the scene, etc.) and thus increases her chances of having to deal with the cops. Were her reasons legitimate? I don’t know, but I do know that if I had given her (and others) a lawful order leave the scene, I would have become more insistent having seen those orders disregarded. I don’t know that he was talking to her specifically or someone else, but the group she was in should have left the scene.

    Alas, they didn’t. As the officer interacted with the two males he had handcuffed and others who were detained, the female was within a group that Officer Casebolt addressed and told them to stop “running their mouths” and leave. Perhaps they had valid reasons to stay or perhaps they had valid questions to ask. That particular time and place was not the best, and they should have left and readdressed concerns later or with another officer at a different, less active part of the scene. Again, hindsight. As they started to leave, he readdressed them and singled out the female in question. The appearance is she said or did something we couldn’t hear/see, and he felt compelled to deal with it. When you have this many people milling around, you are much less likely to go after an individual unless they must be addressed. Is it possible it was someone else and she didn’t do anything, perhaps. Officers do not always have the luxury of time (especially in these kinds of situations) to conduct a thorough investigation hence, detention and questioning once the situation is sufficiently diffused. In large, unruly groups such as this, you have to separate those who would continue to provoke disorder.

    When he went to bring her back to where the others were sitting to be detained, she resisted. It is always ill-advised to resist. Cops make mistakes. We deal with the information we have at the time and sometimes our conclusions are in error. Regardless, we are making do the best we can, and we have plenty of court rulings upholding our good faith efforts. She resisted and he raised the level of interaction. It is completely inadvisable and tactically unsound to continue arguing with someone after they begin to physically resist. You must subdue them immediately or risk the situation metastasizing beyond your ability to control it. Swift and sometimes violent movement is necessary to stop the action, especially when you are that outnumbered. “But they’re just teenage girls!” Females are every bit as capable (especially in a group) to cause harm as males. We are trained to respond the same whether they are male or female. Did she hit the ground hard? Yes. Could it have been avoided? Yes. She could have left when she had the chance and should have left when she was first told. He dealt with her as he would have dealt with anyone else, and I believe he did so, by and large, reasonably.

    About the gun. Two males rushed up on his flank as he was dealing with the female. He had no way of knowing their intentions. Common sense dictates that you do NOT engage an officer when he is subduing a person. Officers are trained to protect themselves from threat. If our tools (such as our gun) gets into the wrong hands, the results could be tragic. Furthermore, there is a growing body of research and science that seeks to truly understand what happens in use of force incidents. I highly recommend you look into the site http://www.forcescience.org. There is a tremendous amount of research that shows just how far behind the curve officers are. It should not be used to excuse clearly wrong behavior, but it serves to show that what may seem questionable on the face often has an explanation. For instance, those males approached the officer in a clearly aggressive manner. The individual in the khaki/camo shorts and blue shirt (who ran and was brought back in handcuffs) kept bringing his left hand to his waist. From the videographer’s vantage point, it looks like he could be pulling his pants up. From the perspective of the officer, however, as he is being surrounded by a yelling and hostile group of people, this guy who would be in his peripheral vision could be trying to get a knife or gun, either of which is deadly at that range. The officer’s response to stand and draw his weapon was, I believe, within a reasonable scope. He never once pointed the gun directly at the kids; it was in a low-ready position and pointed at the ground. He holstered once the threat (perceived or actual) was gone. I would not call this “unhinged aggression.” Emotionally charged? Perhaps, and that would be on the officer. Unhinged? Hardly.

    I understand your concerns about an unfettered police state. I don’t believe that is what is on display here. May I reiterate that when officers do wrong (and some do) they should be held fully accountable. This officer admitted to being overly emotional before he even arrived on scene. He had dealt with a suicide where a father killed himself before his (the father’s) family. Following that call, he responded to another call where a teenager was threatening suicide. Does this excuse an officer from responding to yet another call in such an emotional state? No, we are trained not to do that. But it does shed a contextual light on the whole situation. There is more that I suppose I could discuss, but neither time nor space will allow that for now. In sum, I would ask that you consider the totality of the circumstances rather than a segment that, frankly, does look bad. But, as I’m sure you would agree, context goes a long way in sifting truth from sensationalism.

    Respectfully,

    Clint

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  2. exetazon Post author

    Thanks, Clint, for bringing a calm, reasonable perspective to the issue (would it be hitting below the belt to point out that’s pretty much the opposite of what Matt Walsh did?). Seeing another perspective is very helpful. I can definitely see that there are a lot of ameliorating circumstances. I’m sure the officer may not be a bad person, he was just too worked up. But I still think the force he used was excessive and I think it’s important that society reacts to such videos the way that society did react to this one. It’s important to help safeguard our rights against what I see as a growing police state. Yes, cops have a hard job, and the good ones are very much to be thanked. But there are also bad ones who engage in a lot of violence (which happens to be racially disproportionate) and keeping their power in check is very important to a free society. We live in a society where one person can throw another to the ground, physically restrain them, and eventually, through all the processes of the sometimes ironically named justice system, cage them like animals in dehumanizing circumstances for years or even a lifetime for something as nonviolent and non-criminal as choosing to own a harmless plant. The system itself makes abuse inevitable, and like it or not, the cops are a part of that. They protect and serve (some of them), yes, and that’s needed and vital; but they also abuse and dehumanize (some of them), and that needs to be called out and stopped. I believe that every cop who has arrested a nonviolent drug offender has engaged in a crime against freedom and humanity. I think it can be a mistake to put too much blame on an overworked officer who takes his life into his hands every time he steps out on the street. But I still think this girl is a victim of unnecessary roughness, and that calling out the cops on issues like this can be important to keep our rights from being further infringed upon. By the way, I certainly do remember you from college. 🙂

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