Police Stop

February 12th, 2007

There’s simply no justification for campus police inflicting bodily harm on someone whose sole infraction is stubbornly refusing to stop or to show a Brown ID (“Use of Force,” Elms, November/December). It’s exactly this kind of scenario that made me wary, as a Brown student in the late 1980s, of the desire on the part of campus cops to carry guns. There will always be late-night incidents in which one thing leads to another, and I’m just glad that in this case “another” wasn’t a gunshot.

That being said, I don’t understand why Chipalo Street or any reasonable person would refuse to show identification to a campus or city police officer. Even if you have a low opinion of police in general and know you’ve been targeted unfairly, what good is going to come from intentionally provoking these folks?

When I was a junior, I was stopped by campus police on Benevolent Street as I carried my computer across campus to get it repaired. The incident was embarrassing, as several friends saw me getting stopped, and the cop offered no apology afterward. I have no doubt, however, that twenty minutes of embarrassment could have turned into something much, much worse had I refused to stop or show my ID.

Jon Birger ’90
Larchmont, N.Y.

I was disheartened, though not surprised, to read about the protests against alleged police brutality and racial profiling.

Two men who apparently do not have keys to a building try to gain access anonymously. They are then seen inside the building making two occupants nervous. Shouldn’t the police be expected to investigate these two men to find out why they are there? Terry v. Ohio gives police the right to stop and question people engaged in suspicious behavior that could be criminal activity. The Brown police officers did just that, and one of the two men readily complied.

The second man refused to comply with lawful and legitimate directions from the police. Why are the police being blamed for his poor decisions? At any time he could have stopped, provided identification, and been on his way. Instead he resisted the police officers, and in the end physical force had to be used to restrain and arrest him.

The race of the individual and of the officers is immaterial. Based on the information in your article, the officers acted reasonably; the Brown police exhibited an unusual amount of restraint. The only person who appeared to be unreasonable was the student.

Jonathan F. Bastian ’89
Lexington, Ky

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Related Issue
January / February 2007