@ChrisMatyszczykOctober 13, 2014 10:42 AM
Ankeny, Iowa, the scene of the incident in which a cop profiled a driver as a pot smoker on the basis of frisbee golf.Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Dear pot-smoking frisbee golfers.
I know you all smoke pot because I've just seen Aaron King, an Iowa police officer, say it is so. The evidence emerged from King being filmed with a cell phone during a routine traffic stop.
It all started innocently enough. King apparently stopped the car because its headlights were not turned on.
The video, now on YouTube, shows King was quite happy being filmed during the stop. Which meant he was quite happy being heard uttering sentences such as: "OK. I need you to answer me a question. Why is it that everybody that plays Frisbee golf smokes weed."
The driver, Scott Beckwith, had a frisbee golf set on the back seat. Does that automatically identify him as a pot smoker?
Beckwith was remarkably sanguine during the troubling exchange.
For King wouldn't let the frisbee golf thing go. He insisted: "It's everybody, man. You can't tell me you've never smoked weed before."
When Beckwith offered, "I'm not going to tell you one way or another," King retorted with a knowing, "See, there you go. How much weed do you have in the car today?"
King proceeded with another clever question -- well, he must have thought it clever: "You understand you're free to go and everything but you wouldn't have a problem with me looking through your car?"
Wouldn't everyone let a rabid anti-frisbee golf police officer into their car?
Beckwith responded: "No what I'm saying is I would say I have a problem with you searching my car because you're profiling me based on being a disc golfer."
King persisted by suggesting that because Beckwith wouldn't tell him if he'd smoked pot before, that was a "yes" to him. This is an interesting interpretation of innocent until proven guilty, or not offering self-incriminating commentary.
Ever since cell phones became efficient means of filming, the police have been subject to their activities being recorded. Some don't like it. One San Diego officerreferred to a Samsung Galaxy phone as a "weapon."
A Long Island officer tried to make trouble for someone washing their car in their own driveway. More serious filmed incidents have included the choking to death of a non-resisting man in New York.
Not for a moment does this prove that all police officers have nefarious intentions. Somehow, people don't often post videos of officers behaving well. The police are like soccer goalkeepers, their every mistake magnified.
Moreover, it's not as if it doesn't work the other way -- sometimes, citizens behave appallingly, which is just one reason whypolice forces like the NYPD are experimenting with wearable cameras.
But if King's actions are in any way customary -- and some will say that they might be -- it's not surprising that the ease with which the police can now be filmed makes for sometimes disturbing viewing.
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In this case, King let Beckwith go. Moreover,WHO-TV reports that Ankeny, Ia., Police Chief Gary Mukulec apologized for the incident. He said: "The officer engages the driver in a line of questioning that is foolish and not representative of the Ankeny Police Dept.'s training or interactions with the public."
King's behavior is reportedly now being treated as a personnel matter. The fact that he knew he was being filmed, yet still pursued the line of questioning, suggests that he truly thought he'd succeed in his attempts to search the car.
How many police officers might have used the same types of argument to make illegal searches?
Some might find a certain sadness in the fact that Beckwith told King clearly and calmly: "I don't trust police officers."