On Monday morning's edition of Fox & Friends, host Elisabeth Hasselbeck proposed the police officer who arrested Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who died in a Waller County, Texas, jail following a minor traffic stop, was correct to threaten her with a taser and remove her from her vehicle because she refused to put out a cigarette.
In the segment, Hasselbeck said Bland's lit cigarette was a potential danger to the officer — so dangerous that it would justify subsequent use of force, Media Matters reports.
"But, what if, I mean, there are times, I'm sure, someone has, in the history of this land, used a cigarette against a police officer, maybe chucked it at him, pushed it at him?" Hasselbeck asked guest and former NYPD officer John Rafferty.
"Absolutely," Rafferty responded.
"If he indeed felt it could be a potential threat, was that the wise thing to do?" Hasselbeck continued. Rafferty responded, "It happens. I guarantee, you speak to many cops out there," but also criticized the officer in the video for taking her refusal to put out the cigarette "personally."
It's true that pretty much anything could be used as an improvised weapon against officers. But applying that logic so loosely would grant law enforcement officials instant justification to escalate virtually any interaction between police and the public to the level of physical force.
Progressive critics of police violence have long pointed out law enforcement often seems to treat perfectly innocuous behavior from black suspects with hostility. Extending the cigarette-as-a-weapon argument to all police encounters devoid of context could lead to "smoking while black" being treated like a crime.
Watch the video below:
h/t Media Matters