Will Shep Step Up?

If you haven’t already seen the video of Mario Masic involved in a suspicious traffic stop and then arresting Emily Good for videotaping him here it is.

Police Chief Jim Sheppard has been attending neighborhood meetings these past few months and talking with residents. I haven’t heard from anybody who wasn’t impressed. But the Ofc Masic case will reveal Chief Sheppard’s true commitment to this community.

I’m not a legal scholar. Nor am I an expert on civil liberties. But it sure seems there isn’t any gray area here. Emily Good was 100% within her rights and Ofc Masic’s behavior reveals a disturbing lack of familiarity with basic community policing and American law. What is truly revealing is Ryan Acuff’s comment that they kept Emily in the police cruiser while a sergeant coached them on how to write up the report. Obviously they knew they had stepped over the line.

But Rochester doesn’t need the police to “manage this situation.” We need a productive relationship between police and residents. We need to know that we can count on police to help us. We need to get beyond the animosity of “no snitching” so that our neighbors and youth feel comfortable discussing illegal activity with police. We need to feel like the police are on the side of the community in improving our quality of life.

I work with several police officers who seem to get it. But the video clearly shows that the police academy is producing police who are essentially clueless and that there is a culture within the department that somehow allows Ofc Masic to believe he can do what he was caught on video doing.

Comments at the D&C website are trending overwhelmingly in favor of dismissing the officers involved. I don’t know what the lawyers are telling Chief Sheppard regarding possible lawsuits but the community clearly wants him to step up and do the right thing. That’s short term. Chief Sheppard has a much more difficult challenge – how will he address the troubled police community relations? This is a broader and more structural challenge.

Maybe he will be the police chief who finally takes it on.

UPDATE: I was just informed about court precedents allowing officers to enter gray areas if they “don’t feel safe”- hence Ofc Masic’s utilization of the term. Yet somehow it never occurred to the officer that the video would be released and we’d all see how he was abusing the concept.

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