I’m usually the first one to stand up for the cops. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen good cops get maligned on the news for wrongs they never committed. I’ve even seen cops I knew not to be in the wrong accused of racism, brutality, and a slew of other charges and a sliver of video footage provided as proof – only to be later proven wrong by witnesses, both officer and civilian alike, because the footage failed to capture the aggressive actions of the accused leading up to what was captured on video. Having lost two friends and two professional acquaintances to line-of-duty shootings, it irritates me when the public is so ready to lash out at the police over something when they don’t have the full story. I’ve even seen people lie about what they witnessed to malign good cops. What happens when the officer is proved innocent? Nothing. The media loses interest and the public almost never hears the truth. I don’t want to be a cop because I’d never be able to keep myself from blogging the injustices I see. Even as an EMT, it’s hard not to. A lot goes on once I leave a scene, though, so there’s a lot that I gladly miss.
Every once in a while, though, we do get verifiable evidence that a cop really is a jackass and doesn’t deserve to wear a badge. The League City Police Department has targeted a friend of mine for a crime she documented that she couldn’t possibly have committed and most other Houston-area police departments consider them a running joke. In Canton, Ohio, however, an officer has done his level best to prove the myth that all cops are thugs in dire need of a serious attitude adjustment.
On June 8, Canton police officer Daniel Harless and his partner, Mark Diels, pulled up behind a stopped vehicle that a passenger was exiting. One other passenger and the driver were still inside. As soon as the officers exited the vehicle, Harless started yelling at the passengers. Diels never did anything to calm his partner, who, over the course of half an hour, became so enraged he was screaming threats to execute the driver for being stupid. It has to be seen to be believed. CAUTION: the video is long, but worth the watch, and it is peppered with profanities, all coming from the officer. It is not safe for viewing at work or with the kids around.
According to Ohio CCW law, a licensee is required to “promptly notify” officers that he has a weapon and then not touch the weapon. In this case, officers make a mistake that even a piss-ant former CO like me could spot: they start searching with the driver still inside, unsecured. If I were turning down a cell, there is no way I would do it with the occupants still inside and no backup nearby to cover me if the occupant standing outside decided to go after me. Were I a cop, first I’d never search a vehicle without a warrant or the driver’s permission – and then, I would only do it with the driver secured outside the vehicle with my backup watching him intently.
Maybe it was the outrageous stupidity of their error in judgment that caused Harless to go over the edge. Whatever it was, the driver is told by the officer searching the vehicle to “shut up”, so he complies. As he is being taken out of the vehicle, he has his CCW card in his hand and tries TWICE to tell Harless that he’s licensed and armed. Harless repeatedly interrupts him.
Then, when he finally does clue in, he snaps.
While I’m the first to stand up for officers wrongly maligned, I cannot allow an injustice like this to go uncalled. Officer Harless is the poster child for the way an officer should never behave when dealing with the public. I get the feeling this dashcam footage will end up being shown in police academies in the future, and well it should.
I’ve learned in my life that when a person loses control and has an extended angry outburst that they simply refuse to let go of, they have serious issues. I promise that this is not the first time that this officer lost his cool and he probably learned over time that this kind of behavior was acceptable. Your authority alone should be quite enough to speak volumes; the gun you carry is plain for all to see. If you need to yell at a person multiple times about what you could or should have done with it, you shouldn’t be allowed to carry it. As a civilian and a CCW holder, if I were to threaten anybody with deadly force without just cause, I’d not only go to jail, I would immediately be stripped of my right to own a firearm and it would be a cold day in hell before I got it back.
I asked one of my police friends what she thought of it and she was, at first, speechless. I asked her to watch the video and then call me. When she finally did find her voice, she said, “I kept waiting for that cop to go postal and beat the crap out of that poor guy.” She said that she’s gotten angry with people from time to time, but in nearly a decade on the force, she knew that self-control is paramount – and this guy displays no self-control at all. Lack of control will get an officer in big trouble far more quickly than a naive gun owner.
I didn’t even have to become a cop to learn that lesson. I hope the City of Canton strips Harless of his badge. It is extremely rare that I say this, but he doesn’t deserve the honor and shouldn’t be allowed to continue sullying the names of the good cops out there who know how to conduct themselves properly.