A video circulating as in going viral shows a California Police Officer holding a gun on a passenger for nine minutes until backup arrived. Was this the professional thing to do? What the officer acting in line with the mission of law enforcement? Or was he, as some have claimed, acting in cowardice?
Opinion by C J Oakes
In the moments leading up to the video, the Campbell Police Department motorcycle officer who is not identified has pulled the car over for speeding — 85 in a 65. This is 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, which in most jurisdictions results in automatic arrest and impounding of the car. The officer asks the driver, a female for her license, etc. She complies.
The police officer notes that the man beside her in the passenger seat is not wearing a seat belt. So, the police officer asks for his ID. He states he does not have it, so the officer asks his name and date of birth. The passenger initially refuses, then complies.
We should note here that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that, whereas a state many not require an ID, police are justified in requesting a name and date of birth from a suspect. Because the man was not wearing a seatbelt, he was committing a crime and was required to comply. He did.
It was after the police officer said he was going to return to his motorcycle that he noticed the man lean forward as if reaching under the seat of the car.
Reaching under the seat created probable cause.
Although reaching under the seat could occur for many reasons — grabbing a coke that rolled under just before the stop, pulling out a notebook, or even some criminal purpose — the law enforcement officer on the scene was faced with a situation of probable cause.
One of the missions of a police officer when pulling someone over is to control the situation. If the situation for any reason escalates, the officer is responsible. Every patrol officer knows this. So, they must control the situation and prevent any unnecessary escalation. Some do not do so well at this, but the Campbell, California police officer in this case performed well.
He told the man to sit back and when he did not immediately comply, the officer drew his service pistol. He then held it on the passenger and immediately called for backup. That was the right thing to do.
Further, he held the man at gunpoint for nine minutes.
Now, nine minutes is a long time in a standoff situation. For this officer to hold his stance for that length of time is unusual. Even more remarkable is that he did this for nine minutes. And, he did so with no escalation of the situation. He did so and kept control of the situation.
In short, the officer did his job and did it well.
He is to be congratulated for his professionalism.
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