Let me start by saying that there is a great deal to discuss regarding this story, let alone this subject. I may not be able to address everything I should, but I will try my best to cover all my bases. Before I delve in, I just want to say that I absolutely do not blame Zikomo Peurifoy for any of this, but I do think there were some things he could have done to handle this situation better.
OK, so let’s begin by laying out what exactly happened as shown by the video and news reports.
- We know that Zikomo Peurifoy indeed jaywalked in the presence of the police officer.
- We know that the officer asked for identification.
- We know that Peurifoy considered the order to self-identify unlawful.
- We know that when the officer tried to detain Peruifoy he physically resisted.
- We know that the officers at the .46 second mark of the video told Peruifoy he was under arrest.
- We know the officer threatened to tase Peruifoy several times before actually doing it.
- We know Peruifoy asked for a supervisor several times.
- We know Peurifoy asked why he was under arrest several times.
- The women operating the camera refused to identify herself after the fact and also refused to answer questions.
There is probably more I could have added to this list. In the interest of keeping this as concise as possible this will have to do.
I’m not a lawyer or a legal expert, but I do have some basic knowledge from Know Your Rights clinics that I help facilitate from time to time. And in my time as a facilitator I have learned some basic guidelines to operate under when dealing with the police. Whenever you are engaged with an officer, you should always keep the following in mind:
- Police can lie. Meaning officers can threaten to arrest you, or threaten to bring canine units to smell for drugs (they can do it, but it’s unlikely).
- And finally we cannot control what the officer does; we can only control what we do. This means even if you have done nothing wrong and everything right during your interaction, the police officer may still arrest you.
- Officers will engage in friendly conversation to phish for information.
Now that we have some points to go off, let’s examine the officer. This officer seemed to start the conversation politely, but the fact that he stopped a pedestrian for jaywalking seems to me like he was out looking for someone to harass. It’s absolutely an issue of arbitrary enforcement. It reminds me of Jay-Z’s 2004 hit song “99 Problems” wherein the officer pulls Jay-Z over for doing 55 mph in a 54. Most police officers are not concerned with enforcing these types of laws strictly. Yet, the officer is in a full legal right to enforce these laws. I doubt that a judge would up hold a speeding ticket for speeding one mile over or jaywalking for that matter. I also have a hard time believing that if the person jaywalking was a white male in a suit rather than the young, black male we see in the video that the officer would have had the same reaction.
The officer absolutely used excessive force. By no means is it excusable to taser someone for jaywalking. Tasers are sometimes made light of in our media, but the reality is that tasers can kill, like in the case of Alonzo Ashley. The fact is that tasers should only be used to replace lethal force (that means if the officer feels his life is in danger). Far too often are tasers used like toys, and officers use them at the first sign of resistance. And all the while their departments sanction this type of behavior.
It’s important to note that even if Peurifoy would have complied with the officer’s requests that wouldn’t have made him any less of a candidate for arrest. But it would have raised the odds of winning a legal case. Peurifoy engaged in some risky behavior. Let’s remember: we can’t control what the officer does, but we can control what we do.
- It never helps to raise your voice to an officer. Keep calm. You don’t want to inadvertently escalate the situation.
- At the very least you should identify yourself (if you don’t want to give an ID, your name and address should suffice)
- Never physically resist. It gives the officer perceived reasons to use excessive force, and yes walking away from an officer is resisting.
If you find yourself in this situation, here a few magic phrases and actions:
- If an officer stops you first thing is first be friendly but ask for a business card and badge number. (If he or she doesn’t have any, make sure to write it down on a piece of paper.
- Ask “what seems to be the problem officer?” Be ready for the common question, “do you know why I’m stopping you?,” often asked in hopes that you will admit guilt.
- Ask “am I under arrest or being detained?” FYI, being detained does not mean you will be arrested.
- If the Police officer says you are, you should probably stay put (fight it out in court).
- If the officer says you are not, you should then ask “am I free to go?” If the officer has no good reason to keep you detained, he or she will most likely let you leave.
- Always refuse to consent to a search. Whether it is at a traffic stop or on foot you never have to let a police officer search you. It’s a violation of your privacy and you should always ask to see a warrant if the police officer wants to search you or your car. Repeat after me “I do not consent to a search.” Now this doesn’t mean that an officer won’t search you or your belongings after deny consent, in which case, don’t physically interfere with the search. (if it’s an illegal search, then fight it in court).
- Never give more information when answering a question than is needed. You don’t have to answer any questions an officer makes; you have the right to remain silent! Even if you were already talking to the officer you don’t have to continue to do so, you can stop at any time.( If officers continue to harass you and ask questions, ask to see your lawyer, they should stop after this request)
What happened to Mr. Peurifoy was unwarranted and unjust; the officers had no reason to use force. But because of the way the situation unfolded, Peurifoy probably now faces charges ranging for disobeying a lawful order, resisting arrest, and possibly assault on an officer. Once the victim of street level harassment from police officers, he now may fall victim to the justice system, as well.
People: Zikomo Peurifoy