Letters: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Hot on 7th

To the editor: Boy are you right (Last Call, Dec. 28, 2005): Within the next year, the 6th and 7th Street area is going to be the hottest nightlife area in the city, sans the upscale, corporate, snooty downtown bars.

Bring it on — there is plenty of business for us all — and most amazing to me is the diversity of all the venues. It’s gonna be a great 2006!

Michael Tramel

Owner, 6th Street Grill

Fort Worth

Dee vs. Big Dogs

To the editor: Sheriff Dee Anderson (“Making Up is Smart to Do,” Dec. 21, 2005) deserves the limelight for bringing stability to the office of his predecessors who wouldn’t or couldn’t manage their pocketbooks and weren’t able to communicate or negotiate with the county commissioners. Sheriff Anderson has brought integrity back to the office and along with it his talents from his exemplary years of service as Arlington police spokesman: He can converse with anyone at any level and get favorable results.

I’m proud that he stood up to the “big dogs” at John Peter Smith hospital and the Tarrant County commissioners and didn’t capitulate. Instead, all has worked out for the best for the city because of communication and putting things in their proper perspective. Anderson has done us proud.

Before he intervened on the taxpaying public’s behalf, the winners would have been the private developers and their avarice, for they had ululated and railed against Anderson’s effort to get a new jail built downtown. The developers wanted it “their way” and to have the downtown location instead, serving the interest of their cash registers.

Patricia Conley

Fort Worth

It’s Not War

To the editor: The apparent killing by Taser of Eric Hammock, reported by my journalist brother Peter Gorman (“Taser Times 25,” Dec. 21, 2005), seems like a classic example of the use of excessive and unreasonable force by a police officer. Police officers are told that Tasers can be deadly under certain conditions, and shooting anyone who is not a serious threat to the officer or another person 25 times with a Taser is at least reckless conduct, and possibly even amounts to depraved indifference.

There is a serious gap in the training of police officers in almost every area of the country, and it certainly exists in the New York City Police Department, where I served for almost 30 years. This problem area is illustrated by the Hammock case, and it concerns the force a police officer can use when a suspect resists arrest by a police officer but apparently poses no serious threat to that officer.

The key word in the use of force is “necessary,” and it implies “reasonable” force. What police departments generally don’t teach adequately (although some police instructors do teach it) is the difference between the force necessary when an officer reasonably thinks a suspect is a serious and imminent threat to the officer or others, and the force necessary to control a suspect who won’t cooperate but poses no serious threat.

If an unarmed, non-dangerous suspect is running away or just refusing to put his hands out to be handcuffed, the officer should be restricted to that level of force necessary to control the suspect, not to beat him into submission (à la Rodney King). If time is not a critical factor (and it usually isn’t), an officer can’t use a karate kick or a powerful nightstick blow to break a suspect’s arm to get his hands behind his back to rear-handcuff him. He can hold the suspect until backup arrives and use the minimum necessary force to cuff him. An officer should not be allowed to pepper spray or use a Taser on a suspect who just refuses to move. The officer should wait for backup and use only that force needed to control the suspect, not excessive force to “teach him a lesson” or to get immediate and complete compliance. The rules of war (getting complete and total compliance from the enemy) don’t apply to policing unless the officer is involved in a full-scale riot where lives are in imminent danger.

The bottom line is that police officers are public servants who have to take some risks to do the job. Those risks come with using only necessary force. The New York Police Department just lost two of its finest officers (Dillon Stewart and Daniel Enchautegui) in the last few weeks. They did everything “by the book” in approaching suspects whom they knew might be dangerous, and were both cut down by desperate, armed criminals who were willing to kill anyone who got in their way. Both officers returned fire before they died, and Officer Stewart even chased the suspect although he was mortally wounded. These officers did nothing wrong but were killed in the line of duty. Refusing to act or using excessive force is not an acceptable option for police officers. If a person doesn’t want to take risks, he or she shouldn’t become a police officer.

Michael J. Gorman

Whitestone, NY

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