Monday, August 10, 2009

Just because it ain't smart, don't make it illegal

Washington, D.C. attorney Pepin Andrew Tuma was arrested last month for disorderly conduct after chanting "I hate the police." Mr. Tuma has admitted it wasn't the smartest thing he could have done at the time.

In expressing his belief that the justice system will see his conduct for what it was, Mr. Tuma has pointed out the dreaded "catch-all" charge that disorderly conduct is. Down here I think the actual "crime" is pissing off the officer.

Words, even hateful words, as long as they do not convey an explicit threat should not be criminalized. Ironically we all learn a verse in grade school that some of us seem to have forgotten over the years:
Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words can't never hurt me.

Had Mr. Tuma threatened the officer, had Mr. Tuma threatened another officer or a member of the officer's family, then you have criminal activity. It is not, however, and should not be, a crime to express one's dissatisfaction with our criminal justice system. Instead of arresting Mr. Tuma for expressing his opinion, maybe it's time we look at why the police are hated.

What happens between the time young children are taught to respect the trust the police and the time they reach adoloscence and adulthood? At what point do the police look at a young black male as a threat? At what point does the utterance of mere words become a crime? At what point do a people feel more threatened by their so-called protectors?

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