We’ve seen a lot of ugly behavior by police officers since the Occupy Wall Street movement began. But why is it permissible, and when did it become permissible, for police officers to throw a man out of his wheelchair? This incident did not take place during a demonstration. As you can see on the video below, the incident took place on a quiet street.
Is it really necessary to take a disabled person out of their wheelchair to arrest them? How likely is it that the wheelchair-bound suspect is going to get up and run away, or out-race healthy young officers who have full use of their legs?
These two D.C. transit policemen apparently saw the need to pull Dwight Harris out of his wheelchair and throw him to the sidewalk on suspicion of public drinking. The incident took place back in May but it has now been reported by the Washington Post that the Justice Department “will not file civil charges against two Metro transit police officers” involved in the incident.
Watch the video from YouTube:
The Metro police had claimed that Mr. Harris had “had refused to comply” and resisted arrest, leading to his “falling out of his wheelchair.” Mr. Harris has been wheelchair-bound for 10 years, but the transit police wanted him to move on. When he was thrown to the ground he said, ‘What did you do that for? For what?’ The transit policeman’s answer: ‘You’ve got to move on’.
That’s some “fall.”
And if you’re wheelchair bound, it’s so much easier to “move on” if you are thrown out of it.
Amazingly, the DOJ finds insufficient evidence to pursue charges. From the video, the evidence looks pretty clear. Here is a wheelchair-bound man and here are two officers hauling him out of it and throwing him to the ground. Yet DOJ spokesperson Xochitl Hinjosa says, “Accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment are not sufficient to establish such a criminal violation.”
Really? Apparently those excuses only work for the police; try arguing them in court as a suspect. It’s bad enough you can get in trouble for filming officers behaving badly. It’s even worse to know that such film is meaningless to the authorities as they conduct their investigations of police misbehavior.
It’s also disheartening to know that no action is going to be taken against police officers who err on the side of overreaction in the case of the infirm, elderly, and disabled. All that happened to these two transit officers is that they were put on administrative duty afterward, but returned to their beats following the DOJ’s decision.