locally owned since 1854

Video shows police doing their jobs: Editorial

Posted 5/31/17

Sometimes videos of police doing their jobs show just that — police doing their jobs.

Because we see so many videos nowadays that show police officers behaving badly, it is easy to forget that …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Video shows police doing their jobs: Editorial

Posted

Sometimes videos of police doing their jobs show just that — police doing their jobs.

Because we see so many videos nowadays that show police officers behaving badly, it is easy to forget that most of them go through a day, a week, a month, even more, doing their jobs well, with little fanfare and little controversy.

A brief video posted on Facebook last week by a passer-by showed four members of law enforcement arresting a man in the 900 block of Vine Street in Londonderry Township shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 24.

The video, since removed from the social media site, shows the officers being quite physical with the man, identified as Michael Christopher Morton, 29, of Harrisburg.

If the reports are accurate, this is clearly a case of a man who was a risk to himself, and potentially to others.

The physical force being used by the two Middletown officers and two State Police troopers — one who was off-duty — in no way seems inappropriate for the situation.

Yes, the video shows officers struggling with a man on the ground. Yes, they outnumber him four to one. But let’s remember what the officers were facing.

Morton himself, after the arrest, told police he had taken “a large amount of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.”

His pupils were dilated, his heart was racing, and he was having trouble catching his breath, according to arrest papers.

In the video, you can hear them repeatedly telling Morton to “stop resisting.” Morton doesn’t comply.

He hit the on-duty state trooper in the head, Middletown Officers Rebecca Hulstine in the arms, and the other Middletown police officer, Officer Christopher Miller, in the shins.

Hulstine uses a Taser to subdue Morton. Still, he keeps struggling.

Prior to the scene shown in the video, Middletown police say that Morton caused a disturbance in the area. They say he approached a woman and had become “irate,” telling her that he was being chased by men who were trying to beat him up with baseball bats — although no such men were found.

Later, as Middletown officers looked for him, a passing motorist flagged down one of the officers to tell them that a man matching Morton’s description was “dancing and pirouetting in traffic on Vine Street near Rutter’s” convenience store. He was “acting extremely erratic” and yelling and running in and out of traffic along Vine Street.

During the incident, Morton told police that he is HIV-positive, according to arrest papers. He is charged with spitting in the eye and face of Hulstine. What a horrific thing for the officer to have to go through.

It’s clear: He needed to be subdued.

He now is charged with five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of resisting arrest, four counts of disorderly conduct, and one summary count each of public drunkenness and harassment.

The person who took the video had every right to take it. It shows public employees doing their job in a public area. It isn’t evident that they were trying to get the officers in trouble, because the video doesn’t show anything damning. And it doesn’t show the entire story, just one segment of a much longer incident.

That’s the world we live in.

There is no doubt that police are caught on tape being overly aggressive on a regular basis.

Sometimes, as in the case of Officer Adam Tankersley, it works the opposite way.

Earlier this year, he was caught on a cellphone video in an impromptu game of basketball with some kids in Oak Hill. Mayor James H. Curry III singled out Tankersley for a proclamation during the Feb. 21 borough council meeting.

As police body cameras become the norm and even more video of police actions are accessible, maybe an arrest like the one involving Morton won’t seem as unusual. It’s physical, yes, but that was necessary in this case.

Television shows cater to these very types of incidents, the most well-known being “Cops.” Another new one is called “Live PD.” However, it’s certainly more jarring to see it right here where we live.

Let’s not forget the most notable arrest video from this area: that of then-Hummelstown Officer Lisa Mearkle shooting and killing 59-year-old David Kassick in February 2015. It’s proof that even video can’t answer everyone’s questions. You can watch the video of that fatal incident and still not be sure if she was justified in her actions, although she was cleared of the charges against her.

This won’t be the last arrest video we see involving area police. Of course we hope all of them show proper actions by officers, even if that hope is not likely to come true.

In the Morton case, interim Middletown Police Chief George Mouchette said the officers showed “remarkable restraint and professionalism” in attempting to subdue him.

We aren’t sure it was remarkable. After all, we hold our law enforcement members to high standards — and rightfully so. Most of them wouldn’t have it any other way.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment