Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Pool Party in McKinney, Texas

I always try to wait a few days before I comment on a hot button issue. I think enough time has passed for me to write about the now infamous pool party in McKinney, Texas. 

I am bothered by the false narrative that this is yet another attack on police. This is not an attack on police. There were 12 officers who reported to the scene, yet only 1 is being criticized. I have yet to hear people complain about the other 11 officers. In the few glimpses that we did have, the other officers appeared to be employing techniques that were drastically different than Casebolt's. We have to ask ourselves, with at least 3 officers clearly at the scene when the most controversial part of the video was filmed, why did the boy focus his camera only on Casebolt? What was it about Casebolt that drew the young man's attention and held his attention for 7 minutes? At no time in the video does the boy filming turn his camera to one of the other officers there. In fact the few glimpses that we did get of the other officers were in stark contrast with Casebolt. In the beginning, when the boy returns the flashlight to Casebolt, we see one officer speaking calmly to the teenagers then Casebolt comes over and starts yelling at the kids and tells them to sit down. The next glimpse that we get is when Casebolt unholstered his gun and two officers ran over to him as if to say, "Hey, put that away." 

I've seen so much vitriol coming from both sides that I'm a little nauseous. I don't think this was necessarily about race on the police officer's behalf. I think that the adults made it seem like the black kids were the problem and that's why the police targeted the minorities. That said, I do think that Casebolt's actions were over the top and that his behavior towards a mouthy 14 year old child was unnecessary. I see people defending his actions because the girl did not leave right away. What these same people willfully ignore is that when he grabbed the young girl, she was....wait for it....walking away. He didn't rough her up while she was lingering. He literally snatched her back as she was finally following his instructions to leave. The worst part is that even the officer (speaking through his attorney) has admitted that his behavior was unacceptable and yet people are still defending him and excusing his actions.

Casebolt had an emotionally draining day. I'm glad that his attorney explained the two suicide calls that Casebolt had received before arriving at the pool party. The first was an actual suicide and the second was a young girl threatening suicide. Either call would have been a major stressor on its own, but together, that had to be an emotionally exhausting day. Casebolt came to the scene in a compromised emotional state. Like the teacher with outside stressors who "snaps" on a kid, the situation was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm not excusing Casebolt's actions, but I don't think they were as malicious as some would lead people to believe. However, if Casebolt had not responded to the scene, we wouldn't be talking about the pool party. This would just be another teen party that got out of hand and was broken up by the police. 

The other issue that I have is the portrayal of the kids as out of control. Let's review what we know: too many teens were invited to the pool. The security guard (rightfully so) started refusing entry for the teens, even though many had legitimate guest passes and were invited. Some of the teens jumped the fence because they were invited and felt like the security guard was in the wrong to not let them in to the party. Most teens know little to nothing about HOAs. All these teens knew was that they had guest passes that gave them permission to be there. The appropriate response from adults should not have been to belittle the teens or argue with them. The offended adults should have called the police immediately. Instead, the offended adults, waited until after a fight between an irate woman and a black girl who lived in the community and was hosting the party.

When the police showed up to break up an out of control teen party, the teens started running. Does that surprise anyone who has seen the cops breaking up a wild party? Teens and adults alike scatter with the quickness. Some get away, some don't. The police are left to deal with those who didn't get away or who, for whatever reason (like not thinking they have done anything wrong) did not attempt to flee. Casebolt yelled at the boys to sit down and they did. They tried to explain that they had just arrived and one of them even used the ever offensive "sir" when addressing the officer (yes, that was sarcasm). When watching the video, I saw Casebolt charge at two other young boys and those young boys literally sat on the street because they were following his directions. He had to tell them to move to the grass and all they did was get up and move to the grass. Wow! Those kids sure put up a fight!

When Casebolt ran over to the group of teen girls who were standing away from the scene, he was the aggressor. The girls were the first teens on film who did not jump and follow Casebolt's commands. That set him off and that's why he kept coming back to them and picking with them. I'm not going to sit here and say that the girls were right to keep standing there or point out that there were other people walking in and out of the scene with not so much as a peep from Casebolt. The girls should have been like the boys and immediately followed the order, but like most teens, they saw that they were being singled out and they thought that somehow gave them permission to take their time. They did eventually decide to walk away, but it was too late. Casebolt zeroed in on the girl in the bright bikini and pulled her back in to the fracas. He threw her to the ground and as Jon Stewart so nicely pointed out, Casebolt, yelled at the girl to get her ass on the ground when her ass was quite literally on the ground. If that doesn't scream out of control to the layman viewer, then I don't know what will.

The other thing that has astounded me is the hypocrisy on both sides. Many on the left refuse to acknowledge that 11 of the 12 officers (as far as we can tell) behaved appropriately and many on the right refuse to acknowledge that 1 out of the 12 did not behave appropriately. Many on the left refuse to accept that HOAs are allowed to have rules for their pool. The residents who called the police were well within their rights and I would have done the same thing and probably much sooner. Many on the right justify the manhandling of a 14 year old girl because she had the nerve to talk back, yet openly ignore that she was complying with the police orders when she was grabbed.

Both sides keep cherry picking the dialogue that they want to have and that's unfair to the situation. This was not a group of black thugs terrorizing a suburban pool. This was a mixed group of teens having an end of the school year pool party. This was not a police versus black kids incident. This was one emotionally drained police officer responding in an inappropriate fashion to what should have been a routine break up of a teen party. This was not a bunch of confrontational teenagers threatening the police. This was a bunch of teenagers reluctant to leave a party. This was not a teenage girl resisting arrest. This was a teenage girl being mouthy then flailing to the ground as a grown man yanked her by her arm and hair. (Notice how her first instincts after being forced to the ground was not to curse out the police or fight back, but rather to cry for someone to call her mother.) The two guys who approached the officer were not trying to jump him. They were two guys who were concerned with the teen girl who had just been thrown to the ground like a rag doll and inadvertently got too close to the officer.

I could probably keep going, but I think you get the picture. This wasn't some horrible racist officer attacking black kids, but it also wasn't some mob of unruly black kids. Both sides are far more complicated.