Can't believe it took me till now to comment on the traffic stop involving now former Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell and Ryan Moats, but I had to chew my cud for a while and think.
If you don't have time to follow the link, last week 26-year-old Ryan Moats, his wife, her grandfather, and her aunt, ran a red light en route to a Dallas hospital where Moats's mother-in-law was minutes away from dying from breast cancer.
Moats didn't blow through the light. He came to a stop, then turned on his hazards, rolled down the driver's window, waved his arm frantically at on-coming traffic, paused to see if the cross traffic understood his I-have-an-emergency! signal, and only then proceeded through the red light.
Ofcr. Powell tried to pull Moats over, but Moats didn't stop for another block or so, till he was in a parking space at the hospital's emergency room entrance.
The abbreviated version is that Moats and his relatives pleaded with Powell to let them go inside to see Mrs. Moats's dying mom. Powell declined. The women ignored him and went inside anyway, getting to Mrs. Moats's mom's bedside moments before she died. Moats and his grandfather-in-law were not allowed in, and even after begging Powell to just write them a ticket so they could get in doors, he still dragged the traffic stop out to nearly 15 minutes, stopping periodically to berate Moats and threaten him with arrest and with having his vehicle towed, since the flustered Moats couldn't find the registration.
Even after a hospital cop (or security guard?) accompanied by a nurse came outside and told Powell that the story was true and not a BS attempt to get out of a traffic ticket, Powell's best response to them was that he was almost finished with Moats.
Moats and his grandfather-in-law made it inside, Moats's mother-in-law had died.
Was Powell justified in pursuing Moats's vehicle? Sure, he saw it go through a red light.
But everything that came afterward was handled miserably by Powell. Law enforcement isn't just dotting I's and crossing T's. It's having good sense and knowing when to bring down the hammer and when to give a pass.
I've seen tough cops give lectures to people they could have arrested, because they determined a stern talking to would do as much or more good than handcuffs and a jail cell.
A few weeks ago I was pulled over during a traffic stop, in which the cop was also justified in stopping me. My plates were expired. I'd forgotten to renew. That stop also took nearly 20 minutes - about 15 minutes beyond the point that the officer had checked me out in his on-board computer and called my ID in to check for warrants and determined that I was clean. I wasn't on my way to see a dying relative, but I was on my way to an appointment. Even after I acknowledged that the officer had every right to ticket me if he wanted to, he continued to linger and sort of lord his badge over me, reminding me every few minutes that if he wanted to he could ticket me. It was only at the end of the 20 minute drama that another officer drove by, saw me, waved, said hi, and asked how Mrs. B was doing, did the first officer decide to wrap up the traffic stop. But first, he had to put on another display of power for me by asking the second officer if he knew me and I was a friend or if I was just a passing acquaintance. When the second officer said friend, then called the first officer over to his car to explain that I'd just written a large article about his police department's efforts in my area, the first officer gave me pouty attitude and said I should have told him who I was and none of this would have ever happened! Why should I have had to drop names and leverage my friendship with another cop? I didn't ask out of my ticket. I just asked for the cop to give my ticket and let me go about my business, unless he had a good reason (beyond bragging rights) to keep me there.
The badge is supposed to be an honor, not permission to be a bully. I'm glad Powell resigned today. If he hadn't I'd say he should be fired, 'cause he obviously has down the part of his job that involves enforcing the letter of the law, but he clearly has no clue about discernment.
Still, do you think the hubbub over how Powell treated Moats would still be ongoing if Moats, a Houston Texans running back, wasn't a professional athlete?