I am a big fan of the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Yet, when an officer’s body-worn camera captures an incident, it can make it hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Our criminal justice system dictates a trial with a jury of our peers. Even so, there are certain cases where you must believe that a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion.
One such situation occurred on the 4th of July in Newark, New Jersey, when a woman was caught on body cam video stabbing two officers as they tried to take her into custody.
Officers were sent to a home in Newark’s Central Ward area around 1:20 a.m. for a report of an emotionally disturbed person who had been acting violently and irrationally. When officers arrived, they found the woman, whose identity has not been released, sitting outside a home. Police say she began threatening the officers and yelling obscenities at them. The woman said she did not want to talk to police because she had previously been a victim of police harassment, according to the video. She also said she wouldn’t go to the hospital because she keeps “being put in the mental ward.”
The officers called an ambulance, but before it arrived, the woman attempted to leave. When the officers tried to stop her, the woman allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed one officer in the forearm and stabbed the other officer in the leg.
The 31-year old woman was arrested without further incident and was taken to a local hospital for crisis evaluation. She is facing aggravated assault of a police officer and weapons possession charges. Both officers were also taken to the hospital to receive treatment for their injuries.
On the video, shown by a local New York City CBS affiliate, the woman is heard screaming “get the f— off me.” As one officer struggles with her, the other officer can be heard saying, “She has a knife.” Another woman in the video tells the suspect to calm down and stop, saying, “You cannot swing on a cop, baby.” After the second officer was stabbed, it appears that she drops the knife. An officer confirms it, saying, “She dropped it.”
According to NJ.com, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose complimented the two officers for “exercising calm, respect and professionalism in the handling of this incident.”
“Their exemplary demeanor is documented via their body worn cameras and clearly reflects the core values of the Newark Police Division, serving as a credit to the entire agency,” he said. Newark Police did not identify the officers involved in the incident.
As mentioned, the suspect will face a crisis evaluation. In this day and age, with police attacks and planned ambushes being more frequent, one has to hope that there are underlying conditions that led to her outburst and the subsequent attack on the responding officers. If there is a clinical diagnosis, hopefully this woman can get the help she so badly needs.
However, if it turns out that she was assaulting officers in an attempt to resist and evade, then the evidence is damning.
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Once again, we see a situation where officers have a split-second to respond in life-threatening situations. Last week, we ran an article about two officers from Athens, Georgia who were responding to a call. Upon arrival, the officers found a man with a knife. The man advances towards the officers. Their body cam footage shows them pleading with the man to drop the knife so they can help him.
The suspect walks toward the officers as they scream repeatedly for him to drop the knife. The suspect can be heard screaming, “just do it!” over and over while continuing to advance on the officers. The officers continue to yell back, “no!” as they retreat, begging him to drop the knife.
Officer Harrison can be heard yelling, “no, no, no,” before opening fire on the suspect five times. The suspect initially falls to the ground but then gets back up and charges toward Harrison again. The video shows him grabbing the officer and wrestling with him, dragging him to the ground in a headlock. That’s when Officer Bidinger fired three times, ending the struggle.
Fortunately, the situation in New Jersey did not end with shots being fired. While these officers should be praised for deescalating the situation without loss of life (while sustaining injuries themselves), we are more likely to see outbursts from some demanding that these officers face charges for brutality. Someone will inevitably edit the video to show only the woman screaming that they are breaking her arm and choking her, removing the fact that she’d already stabbed them both with a knife.
We have detailed stories of officers being attacked after acting with sound reason and judgement in the handling of an altercation. We have seen recently that some would rather ask cops to leave an establishment because someone felt “unsafe” with them in the building (I am looking at you Tempe, AZ Starbucks).
These attacks on officers, both on their character and their physical persons, must stop. Whether it is coming form the media, the general public, or the politicians who seek to delegitimize officers authority, capability and functionality, enough is enough.