A Tale of Two Arrests

By | April 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

London Bobby, 1872, note truncheon

When I was in training as a physician, I looked for role models. I found to my surprise that I learned as much, and perhaps even more, from the negative role models as from the positive ones. I learned what not to do and how not to behave. I believe the same is true in other aspects of life. We can learn from what should have happened and did, but we can also learn from what should have happened and did not. Why didn’t it happen? What inhibited those concerned from doing what they should have?

The arrest that happened.

Unless you have just been rescued from a desert island, you have heard of the Starbucks incident. Accounts differ, but apparently this happened. On April 12, two African American men entered a downtown Philadelphia Starbucks and sat at a table. One asked for the number code for the restroom. He was told that the restroom was only for paying customers. This is understandable, in view of the many homeless persons who occupy restrooms and even bathe themselves. But the two did not buy anything.

The female manager then approached their table, which she is not required to do, and asked if she could bring them a beverage. Again they declined to order, and explained that they were waiting for a third person. The manager told them that if they did not order anything, they would have to leave. Again they refused to order. How many times this happened is in dispute, but it did happen.

Finally the manager told the men that if they refused to order or leave, she would call the police. Again they refused to order or to leave. After some time the police arrived. They explained to the men that since the manager asked them to leave and they did not, they were trespassing. The police then ordered the men to leave, but they refused. The men were arrested and taken to the police station. But when Starbucks declined to press charges, they were released. A nationwide media storm developed.

The police commissioner at first backed his officers, explaining that when a homeowner or business manager asks you to leave, and you remain, you are trespassing. If police are called and order you to leave, and you refuse, you will be arrested. The commissioner noted that his officers simply backed up the Starbucks manager in her request that the men leave.

But soon the commissioner was forced to reverse himself and apologize for his officers’ actions, and apologize for his backing them up as well. And Starbucks corporate management made an even more abject apology, promising to close all Starbucks stores nationwide for a day of sensitivity training ‒ you know, what the Chinese communists call “re-education.” That is, you will attend, and you will learn the lesson, or you will be punished.

Only a fool would believe that this national-media lesson was lost on police officers, or that it applied only in Philadelphia. Only a bigger fool would believe that, having learned the lesson, police behavior would be affected only for the better. And only a complete fool would believe that the public would not pay a price for this lesson.

Anthony Mele Jr. with daughter

The arrest that didn’t happen.

Ventura is a pleasant city of 106,000 on the Southern California coast. On April 18, less than a week after the Starbucks incident, 35-year-old Anthony Mele Jr., a branch manager at ATT, was dining with his wife Hana and five-year-old daughter Willow at a restaurant on the popular boardwalk.

Meanwhile, 49-year-old Jamal Jackson, a homeless African American man, was walking outside. Jackson was known to police for repeated disturbances, but apparently had no serious criminal record. Bystanders called 911 to report that a man was acting erratically and frightening people. Nearby units were busy, so dispatch watched the man for about 20 minutes on a security video. The man committed no crime, so police were not dispatched, and the man walked out of frame.

What Jackson did when he went out of frame was to walk into the restaurant at stab Anthony Mele Jr. in the neck, reportedly while five-year-old Willow was sitting on her father’s lap. The carotid artery was severed, and Mele bled to death before paramedics could do anything. News reports did not note whether Willow was drenched in her father’s blood, but this seems likely. PTSD seems too feeble a term for such horror.

When Jackson exited the restaurant he was reported to raise his arms, as if he had scored a goal or done something else that was praiseworthy. He was followed by bystanders and arrested by police. Citizens expressed outrage that the police had done nothing after the initial 911 call, and that the homeless situation is worsening.

But what did they expect?

Suppose the police had not been busy ‒ or pretended to be busy ‒ and had responded to the initial 911 call. What could they have done? The man was acting erratically and shouting at people, frightening them. I see people doing that at least weekly here in Los Angeles, and police are rarely called ‒ and even more rarely respond. The police would merely have warned the man and departed.

Or suppose the man had screamed at the police, and they had arrested him. Almost surely, a passerby would have filed a complaint or called the media to report the poor homeless black man being harassed by police.

Or even suppose the man had pulled his knife and lunged at the officers. Probably they would have shot him, only to face a media barrage of criticism ‒ why didn’t they just talk to him, why didn’t they knock the knife out of his hand, why didn’t they retreat to their patrol car and get a beanbag, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Why risk being called a “racist”? Why risk ruining your career? Why risk suspension, dismissal, or even criminal charges? It’s much safer to report being “busy.” No, not safer for Anthony Mele Jr. and his family. But when you vilify and punish people for doing their job, and you vomit epithets of “racism” on them, you shouldn’t be surprised when they no longer do that job with vigor and dedication, but merely do the minimum necessary.

It’s not just a question of whom do you support: the police or criminals? It’s also a question of with whom do you sympathize: Jamal Jackson or Anthony Mele Jr.? But you can’t answer both. You have to choose. If you remain silent, the choice will be made for you, and you will have to witness more Anthony Mele Juniors bleeding out on their five-year-old daughters.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.


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