Thursday, December 16, 2004

Seattle Policeman Scrapes Bottom

About a week after the planes hit the two towers, on a Seattle street, an officer tried to stop a suspect fleeing in a Cadillac by hanging onto the door and being dragged several yards before his partner put a bullet into the head of the car's driver.  The inquest found no fault on the part of the policeman who shot the driver.  For a full rundown on the case please see the Seattle Weekly site.

Now, by and large, I'm against the police shooting African-Americans to death.  It happened to a friend of mine in Los Angeles, when a policeman shot him by mistake at a Halloween party, thinking that the gun my friend was holding in his hand was real, rather than a plastic replica. 

However, the case of Officer Neubert suing the shooting victim's mother in civil court reaches new lows of bad behavior by those entrusted to protect society, and gives the Seattle Police Department a bad name.  Under various theories of tort law, when you give permission to someone to drive your car, then your insurance coverage extends to that person.  So far, so good.  However, no insurance policy underwrites intentional acts.  Otherwise, you could set fire to your own home and hope to collect on your fire insurance.  Putting your foot down on an accelerator while a policeman is hanging onto your door is an intentional criminal act, one which would not be covered by your mother's insurance policy.  An injured person also has a duty to mitigate damages.  Mitigation of damages in this case might include something like, oh, I don't know, letting go of the door.  However, the police officer did not let go of the door, he hung on, because it was his intent to apprehend the offender and arrest him.  Thus, hanging on was an intentional act that failed to mitigate damages. 

This case does not belong in any civil court.  If a policeman is injured in the line of duty, it is up to the state to compensate him for his damages, not to seek damages in a civil court.  To allow this case to go forward would be to harm public policy.  We all know that hyperbole is far more frequent in civil matters than it is in criminal ones--just look at Officer Neubert's testimony.  Calling it a hate crime.  For God's sake.

This case should be dismissed in order to preserve the fundamental trust the public has with its police force.  Policemen are routinely required to testify in criminal matters.  If they are allowed to testify with these kinds of hyperbolic flourishes where does it end?

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