Last June there was a demonstration held in Concord N.H. Both sides of the gun debate were in attendance. There were a few tense incidents as reported in the, New Hampshire Union Leader, which is not surprising with such a highly charged issue. And, while my affinity and affection are staunchly embedded with the pro-Second Amendment folks, one incident I watched on a video of the event disturbed me. The incident involved a pro-gun participant who refused to cooperate with the police to the point where officers applied a Taser, arrested, and then hauled, Daniel Musso, 52, of Brentwood, off to the station. Sadly, all of this was avoidable, and once again, the cops are the scapegoats for someone else’s bad behavior.
The problem is that many pro-gun folks are nearly as ignorant of police procedures as those in the gun-control movement. To convey the environment into which the police arrived, one needs to see the video of the interaction and altercation. From the police officer’s manner and words, it appears the cops were not particularly keyed up. The officer informed Mr. Musso that they had received complaints regarding his belligerent behavior. When an officer does this, he is presenting information that he has received and which he or she is duty-bound to investigate. The officers are not clairvoyant; they didn’t magically appear; they were investigating a complaint received from a citizen.
At one point, Mr. Musso grasps the officer by his shoulders—BIG MISTAKE! You never put hands on a cop in this manner while he or she is investigating an incident. NEVER! Now, of course, the totality of the circumstances comes into play. Mr. Musso was a good sized man, and though I have little doubt, watching from the comfort of my desk, at my leisure, that Musso likely intended no harm, he both physically contacts the officer and attempts to turn him in another direction—away from Musso. Mr. Musso may know he means the officer no harm, everyone else may believe Mr. Musso means no harm, but the officers cannot afford the luxury of guessing at Mr. Musso’s intent. Never touch a police officer while he or she is performing their duties.
The situation escalated from here. Mr. Musso, who appeared to me, by his countenance and expression, to know exactly what he was doing (because it’s happened to me), employed what seems like passive resistance. However, I’d ask that one look closely. Musso was actively doing two things: He was refusing to comply with the officers‘ simple instructions to place his hands behind his back, and he was physically resisting the officers’ attempts to place Musso into handcuffs.
Here are three officers, surrounded by a hostile crowd, attempting to control a large man who is refusing to cooperate with the police, and yet there are still people who criticize the police, though they haven’t an ounce of police training. I heard one man in the crowd yell repeatedly, “Hey, he’s not fighting you.” I understand the man’s confusion as TV, movies, and videogames have taught many that it’s not a “fight” unless it’s a knock-down-drag-out. Well, when a police officer is conducting his or her duty, he or she has a right not to be touched, and the citizen has an obligation to comply with an officer’s instructions. If Musso feels he has been mistreated, there is a time and place to address that later.
When I use the term, ignorant, when referring to the average person’s knowledge of police procedure, I’m not trying to be insulting, although I can see how some might bristle at the description. Hell, watching incidents on video, or from a distance, I know there are even some cops who succumb to the knee-jerk reaction because it just looks so damned bad.
However, if one takes the time to dissect what actually occurred, piece-by-piece, one may become enlightened. One still might not like it, but one may be willing to give the officers—the people actually involved and whose safety is at risk—the benefit of the doubt that most police officers have earned and deserve.