‘Protect and serve’ now has become ‘comply or die’
A foundation that specializes in fighting for civil and religious rights across America has come out with a warning that police now have been given the go-ahead to use force against suspects who already have surrendered.
“The old police motto to ‘protect and serve’ has become ‘comply or die,'” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of “Battlefield America: The War on the American People.”
“This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat ‘we the people’ like suspects and criminals.”
The situation is a result of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to accept a case that could have been used to hold police accountable for using force on unarmed individuals who already have surrendered or complied with police orders.
“Despite a series of high-profile incidents involving the use of unnecessary and excessive force by police against unarmed individuals, the court declined to narrow the scope of qualified immunity granted to officers who assault non-violent suspects who have ceased to resist arrest,” the institute reported.
Its lawyers, joined by those from the Cato Institute, had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Salazar v. Molina, which challenged a lower court ruling “that essentially gives police a green light to punish and harm suspects solely based upon their initial nonviolent resistance or flight.”
That ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals gave immunity to a police officer who tased a non-violent suspect in the back after he lay down to surrender.
The case developed in 2014 when a sheriff’s deputy in Zapata County, Texas, tried to pull over Juan Carlos Salazar for speeding. However, Salazar accelerated and led police on a high-speed chase for approximately five minutes.
He stopped when two vehicles pulled out in front of him, got out of his car, raised his hands and lay flat on the ground with his arms above his head.
Within seconds, the deputy charged up and fired his taser.
His subsequent lawsuit for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment was dismissed by the appeals court because of the deputy’s “immunity.”
In weighing in before the U.S. Supreme Court in Salazar, The Rutherford Institute and Cato argued that police should be held accountable for using unnecessary and unreasonable violence against surrendering suspects.