Opinion

Greater Seattle's dialogue about social justice | Firearms Lawyer

Most of America heard about the Seattle cop that punched 17-year-old Angel Rosenthal during a jaywalking incident. James Kelly of the Urban League was quick to call Walsh's punch an “overreaction.” Watching the video will show any reasonable observer a great deal of aggression displayed toward the officer.

The fact that Officer Ian Walsh decided to arrest the young woman as a result of her aggressive conduct could raise questions about the officer’s priorities. The officer punched the woman under circumstances that clearly justified use of force. Nevertheless, the Seattle Police Department is continuing to investigate Walsh’s actions and will review training procedures. Expect recommendations related to de-escalation techniques.

Walsh wrestled with Ms. Rosenthal and repeatedly tried to get the cuffs on her. The officer was surrounded by onlookers that could have easily taken his weapon and used it against him. Rosenthal herself could have grabbed the weapon. This was exactly the situation in 2003, when a domestic violence suspect shot and killed Federal Way Officer Patrick Maher. Maher chased a suspect that had been involved in a domestic violence incident. Officer Maher caught the fleeing man and struggled with him. The suspect grabbed the officer’s weapon and shot the officer.

There was a time when officers used clubs to subdue unruly individuals. In modern times, the old-fashioned “sap” has been replaced by high-tech batons. Judging by the dancing around in the Walsh video, officers are much more reluctant than they used to be when it comes to sapping people that clearly need it.

The modern legal environment is such that we have to be grateful that anyone is willing to go out every day and risk all the liability that comes with fending off chaos in the streets. The United States has become a legal minefield where lawyers seem to await our every move in order to uncover a claim or discern some new theory out of which to weave a cause of action.

Seattle’s interim police chief thanked Rosenthal for apologizing to Officer Walsh and spoke of renewed commitment to a conversation about race and social justice. Let’s also discuss how “social justice” differs from justice in which crime earns serious penalties. The officer could have let Rosenthal walk away until backup arrived, or started a dialogue about race and justice.

Apparently, social justice is the kind of justice where victims are identified based on race, religion or ethnic origin. Victims may often belong to groups of people that are oppressed by poverty or other negative social environments.

Ms. Rosenthal was charged in November with second-degree robbery. Prosecutors allege she punched a 15-year-old boy in the face in South Seattle. The boy told police that his cell phone and $20 were stolen. Rosenthal was with a group of friends during the incident. The victim refused to testify so the case against Rosenthal was dismissed. Thanking Angel Rosenthal for her apology may have been helpful, but a baton swiftly applied at the right time and in the right manner also could have helped a great deal.

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