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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Editorial: Police State? Officers Calmly Did Their Job
Title:US CA: Editorial: Police State? Officers Calmly Did Their Job
Published On:2011-11-23
Source:Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Fetched On:2011-11-30 06:03:48

It was a shocking sight: As a middle-aged man took the podium at the
Redding City Council chambers last week to speak against the proposed
new medical-marijuana ordinance, two police officers climbed the
stairs and stood close behind him, plainly on alert. As his allotted
three minutes expired, the officers quickly grabbed him and
frog-marched him out of the room, closing the door behind them.

The speaker had been impassioned, but much of the crowd was outraged.
"What about free speech?" several cried. One critic went so far as to
declare, in a letter published in the Record Searchlight on Sunday,
that this is "what the new police state looks like."


It is extremely rare - and should be - for the police to remove a
speaker at a City Council meeting as they did last week.

But even if it wasn't clear to everyone in the moment, the police had
good reason to act as they did.

The speaker, John Prinz of Cottonwood, was carrying a set of screws
attached to a bolt that looked like nothing so much as a set of spiked
brass knuckles. It turned out to be what Police Chief Robert Paoletti
called "an artful memento" of back surgery, but in the charged
atmosphere of last Tuesday night, anything resembling a weapon
deserved a careful eye. Violence is rare at political meetings, but it
does happen. In the circumstances, not to be on guard would be a
dereliction of duty.

Outside the meeting, Prinz explained to police why he had the screws,
and he was neither arrested nor charged with any crime.

Some saw the unusually heavy police presence at last week's meeting as
itself some kind of intimidating show of force, but given the overflow
crowd and the raw hostility between pro- and anti-marijuana camps, the
police were exactly where they belonged. Indeed, after the meeting,
vulgar shouting and shoving matches broke out outside the Council
Chambers. The police were a welcome set of cool heads, including Chief
Paoletti, who spoke with collective operators about the meaning of the
ordinance and its potential enforcement at great length after the
council's vote.

Thanks to ubiquitous digital video and its rapid spread on the
Internet, clips of police officers breaking up recent "Occupy"
protests have shown unfortunate and sometimes abusive use of force -
not least in Friday's infamous pepper-spraying of apparently harmless
students sitting on and blocking a sidewalk at UC Davis. Police
officers make mistakes.

But last Tuesday in Redding, RPD did exactly what it should have.
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