Ryan Moats Saga an Unfortunate Reality: Police Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent

BHLCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2009

Over the past few days, public outcry has reached its peak in reaction to Ryan Moats' recent altercation with a Dallas police officer, while Moats and his family were desperately trying to reach his dying mother-in-law in the hospital.

I might find myself on an isolated island on this one, based on the reactions I have seen on TV, in the newspapers, and on talk radio shows.  In my eyes, of course officer Robert Powell was in the wrong when he didn't know when to call it quits, and allow Moats and his family to enter the hospital. 

For that, he should admit fault.

Where I find issue with all of this is part of what I think is wrong with America today.  Police officers, who we as a public have entrusted with protecting our society and enforcing the law, have come under intense scrutiny in recent memory.

And typically, the American public refuses to see things through the officer's eyes before passing judgment.

Police brutality is a hot topic, and far too often when a police officer enacts force, the general public reacts harshly toward the officer. 

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Does the average person truly understand how challenging it is to be a police officer, needing to maintain a respected level of authority while simultaneously tip toeing the line of being a "nice [guy]"? 

I don't believe so. In fact, I think the average American takes officers of the law for granted, and jumps at the opportunity to criticize these hard working men and women at the drop of a hat.

Officer Robert Powell was undoubtedly following police procedures on the night of Mar. 17, when he attempted to pull over the vehicle Moats was operating, due to Moats running a red traffic light.

I have not read the Dallas Police Department's written procedures recently, but I am assuming that it must instruct officers to stop a car if it passes through a red traffic signal. I don't think it's far fetched to make that assumption.

If we take things one step further, if a police officer attempts to pull over a vehicle which illegally passed through a red traffic signal, and the vehicle continues driving thereby disrespecting the police officer's authority, I think any rational individual would understand if the officer grew irritated and suspicious at this activity.

I am in support of Officer Powell up until the point where a nurse came out of the hospital, and informed police that Moats' mother-in-law was in the process of dying. It is then that my support withdraws.

In spite of disagreeing with Powell's decision to continue after the nurse informed him of the situation, I can still step back and objectively understand what was going through Powell's head during the pursuit and ensuing confrontation.

It is with some shock that I've read the reaction of fellow police officers in Powell's department, and the Dallas Police Chief, as they have done nothing to stand by their fellow officer.

I find that a bit outrageous, certainly demotivating to fellow officers, and encouraging of similar questioning of police officers by the general public.

Had the occupants of the Moats vehicle remained inside the vehicle, and calmly and respectfully spoke to Officer Powell, perhaps this could have been avoided. I believe Powell was performing routine procedures to determine the situation, before allowing the law breaking Moats to move on.

Upon reviewing the videos taken from Powell's cruiser, Powell makes this very clear during the altercation with Moats.

I understand what you’re saying. I’d rather you get up there...Next time you do this, you stop, you tell whoever it is what’s going on, more than likely they’re going to check you real quick and let you go about your way. Alright? That’s better than doing all this.

As any average American knows, if you follow the proper protocol when a police car is behind you with its lights on and during the ensuing traffic stop, your odds of being treated fairly escalate infinitely.  It appears as though the Moats family was not aware of this protocol.

Powell:  "I turned my red and blues on as you were going over the bridge.  This is when you stop."

Moats:  "You think I'm gonna stop when my wife's mother is dying?"

Powell:  "You are required to stop.  What you're doing does not matter.  Red and blues, you have to stop."

If the Moats family had stopped the car immediately, pulled to the side of the road, and waited inside the vehicle until Officer Powell approached the driver side window, one has to assume that this whole evening is no longer newsworthy.

I was trying to change through the sirens to get his attention, but he just kept goin’.”

Powell drew his gun at one point of the confrontation, which has also drawn scrutiny, but I believe this to be standard procedure. Especially when law-breaking individuals are reacting unfavorably towards an officer.

Let's take a minute here and flip the scenario around, for objectivity purposes.  Let's say Officer Powell sees a car pass through a traffic signal, illegally.  Officer Powell attempts to stop this car, and it proceeds on without stopping.

The occupants of the vehicle get out of the vehicle, and confront the officer stating that someone is dying in the hospital. 

Officer Powell lets the individuals go, and it then turns out that these same individuals were dangerous criminals, and they proceed to later commit a crime (or crimes) that same night.

Would the general public criticize Powell, saying that he should never accept such an excuse for breaking the law, without first performing some due diligence?  And that its his lack of due diligence which lead to further crimes being committed?  I am assuming so. 

But the general public doesn't acknowledge this painful double standard.

The situation with Moats and Officer Powell reminded me of a night out after work, as some co-workers and I stood witness to a long-distance high-speed police chase on TV, while talking shop at a local watering hole. 

As we watched, cameras followed a car in the midwest speed down a public highway for over 30 minutes, weaving in and out of public traffic at speeds of over 90 miles per hour.

Lives were put in danger by these criminals, and several vehicles narrowly missed being hit by the speeding get-away car. When police finally caught up to the vehicle, the officers were not "nice" to the assailants.

In fact, the officers in question used a small amount of force in throwing the criminals to the ground. 

Upon seeing this force, some co-workers of mine reacted unfavorably. 

"Police brutality. They shouldn't be treating those people like that!"

My jaw dropped. These two dirt bags just drove through traffic at over 90 miles per hour, nearly took the lives of many innocent bystanders all while disrespecting the authority of police in leading them on what seemed like an endless chase.

And the police should be "nice" and "gentle" to these jerks? Are you kidding me?

I'd be all for the officer pummeling someone in this scenario, and even shooting them.  If you're willing to drive your vehicle at over 90 miles per hour, running away from the police, through public, you do not deserve to breathe another minute, let alone be treated "nicely" by the police.

Similarly, when Cedric Benson was arrested for boating while intoxicated in 2008, the public's reaction was to believe that Benson was sober, and that police were in the wrong. The public didn't need any facts, the public simply drew a conclusion due to the public's lack of respect for police officers.

These examples are not close to the Ryan Moats scenario. I understand that, and I am not saying these are remotely close to the same. I am simply supplying these examples to enhance my observation that the American public fails to see things objectively, from the police officer's perspective.

That's the difficult and rigid double standard police officers are held to. Their work is far from easy, presents on-the-fly tremendously difficult decisions which can be life-or-death. Yet Americans don't care. 

It's become painstakingly obvious: Americans don't appreciate or respect police officers. Americans are a me-first, "he must be in the wrong" type society in this day and age. As a result of this, police officers are the first to be criticized when being involved in a controversial situation.

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