At approximtely 8:30 on the evening of Monday, Aug. 13, I was purchasing gas at the Murphy station across from the Walmart in Eastgate Center. As I waited for my tank to fill, I noticed a young woman, nicely dressed in a white skirt and dark top, walking across the Walmart parking lot. A police car came up a few yards behind her and sounded their siren for a moment, no doubt to get her attention. The woman kept on walking - she apparently was unaware that they were trying to get her to stop; at no time did she run or try to evade the officers.
I still can't believe what I witnessed: The two police officers exited their vehicle, and came up behind the woman - who was still walking at a normal pace. They could easily have gotten hold of one or both of her arms if they wanted to stop her without even breaking into a run, but no, they grabbed her and violently slammed her to the ground, face down, in a manner that had to be painful, cuffed her from behind, and put her in the police car. Several people around me expressed their shock at what had happened, so I'm obviously not the only one who was disturbed by their inappropriate actions.
Their method of apprehension was totally uncalled for; as I said earlier, she was not running and was making no effort to avoid them; she certainly was not armed, nor was this normal sized woman any threat to two grown men who were carrying guns. The fact that she was walking away from Walmart might indicate that she was a suspected shoplifter, but even if she was guilty, the police officers' treatment of her was completely unwarranted.
I looked at the police blotter here on the Chattanooga for both the 13th and the 14th, and saw nothing about this incident. Does anyone know what's going on?
* * *
Mr. Fann, years ago I had the opportunity to do a "ride-along" with local police over a couple of days. It may come as a surprise to you and to others, but police officers who patrol sectors of our city can ride down the street and know who has been in trouble with the law, who is an asset to the community, who has a history of mental illness and may need help, those involved in prostitution, burglary, alcoholism, drug use or dealing, domestic or child abuse, shop lifting, armed robbery, attempted murder, gang activity, and so on.
They also have to protect themselves from those who carry certain diseases and who have attempted in the past to injure officers and medical personnel when confronted. They've worked the areas so long, there's little they don't know about their assigned sectors and it's people. And you should never think they are unmoved or unaffected by what they see, because they most definitely are. That ride-along showed me the dirty underbelly of this city that I never knew existed, a situation that has only grown worse with time, and that few people ever get to see - nor would they want to. It changed me forever, and it would change you, too.
No, you don't know the reason for the take-down, and you probably never will. The fact that she was well-dressed is irrelevant. I also learned during my ride-along that well-dressed shoplifters with hundreds of dollars in their wallet or purse and a prestigious home address can be found among us. From their actions, it seems that the officers did know this person, were aware that she was involved in some criminal activity or had an outstanding warrant. She also may have resisted arrest in the past and they knew it was going to take force to apprehend her.
I don't know what happened and either do you. Just remember that things are not always as they appear.
* * *
Mr. Fann, I have family members, present and retired, in law enforcement all the way up to and including the federal level. We were discussing what you described and they agree with you. There was no reason for those two cops to take down that woman the way you said she was violently approached by those two cops. It doesn't matter if she had a history with cops or not.
They also stated it's cops like the ones you described that give the good, honorable cops a bad name and place the lives of good cops in danger. It also destroys the public trust in what policing was really meant to be. That is, to serve and protect the public. That would include all the public, even those they arrest and have a dislike for, and not just a select few friends, neighbors and other associates.
Police reform is sorely needed all throughout this nation. As the "gatekeepers" of law and order, or lawlessness and disorder, like good or bad parents running a dysfunctional or functional household, they set the tone for either a peaceful or chaotic and volatile society.
* * *
In order for anyone to know whether the force involved in the observed takedown was reasonable, one would have to know what alleged crimes had occurred, what information was known by the arresting officers, whether the suspect was reported to be armed, what lesser means of force had been tried and failed, and assorted other important facts Mr. Fann simply does not have.
One cannot fully understand the Christmas story by simply driving past a Kmart on Dec. 23 and a casual observer to a takedown is likewise ill-prepared to pass judgment on the reasonableness of the officers’ use of force.