The news: In the latest incident of police brutality caught on tape, a cell phone video posted to YouTube this week appears to show St. Paul, Minn., officers tasing a black man for doing absolutely nothing wrong at all.
Chris Lollie, a 28-year-old father, was waiting for his children in a skyway between two buildings after finishing a night shift at a local restaurant. Lollie was approached by a security guard asking him to leave, but because there was no sign stating otherwise, Lollie refused, wanting to wait for his children. The guard then contacted the police and things quickly got ugly.
As the cell-phone video shows, a female officer appears to be walking Lollie out of the skyway as he calmly explains that he believes he's being profiled. "What's the problem?" Lollie asks at one point, before answering his own question: "The problem is I'm black."
Things escalate almost instantaneously when another male officer arrives. Lollie asks him "What's up, brother?" before the cop unceremoniously announces "You're going to jail. You're not my brother" (for what offense is unstated). The officer then tries to grab Lollie, who repeatedly asks to leave. The male officer demands that Lollie put his hands behind his back.
The cell phone video goes black as the phone hits the ground, but as it continues the officers continue to scream at Lollie before the sound of tazers is clearly audible. "Can somebody help me?" he yells. "That's my kids right there, my kids are right there! ... I didn't do anything wrong! I didn't break any laws and you tase me? That's assault."
Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process, all of which were eventually dropped after surveillance footage and eyewitnesses confirmed that he had committed no crime during the incident. The police department is defending the brutal tasing, claiming that officers believed Lollie was a flight risk or could have attacked them.
The background: The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf confirms that Lollie had committed no crime and was complying with officers within his rights at the time of the incident:
Lollie is also absolutely correct that no law required him to show an ID to police officers. As Flex Your Rights explains, "Police can never compel you to identify yourself without reasonable suspicion to believe you’re involved in illegal activity," and while 24 states have passed "stop and identify" statutes "requiring citizens to reveal their identity when officers have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity may be taking place," Minnesota isn't one of those states.
Lollie's suspicion that he was profiled by the security guard was totally reasonable; officers did not take the time to de-escalate the situation, which Friedersdorf says would have been as simple as confirming his story or politely escorting him out of the area while explaining the area was indeed private.
Lollie told Pioner Press that he was "trying my hardest to maintain my calm demeanor just because I know if I do anything outside of these bounds, they could really do some damage to me. I really feel blessed I was in the skyway. If this had happened somewhere else, I might have ended up a little more hurt than I was."
Why you should care: Earlier this month in response to the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a police officer wrote an editorial in the Washington Post with the non-satirical title "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me," with the message that if citizens resist police authority in any way (even to assert their civil rights), officers are entitled to use force. HuffPo's Larrt Womack responded by calling the "idea that cops get to say when and where constitutional rights apply is so very, deeply misguided that I am shocked anyone could type it out without coming to their senses mid-sentence."
Fortunately, not every cop thinks this way. But enough do, apparently, that a black guy can get tased for no good reason and the officers responsible don't even get a slap on the wrist.