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[Ben]:"Petty Tyrants" indeed Discuss This [1 comment so far] View Comments
Jon posted in the forum a few days ago a link to a video showing a Missouri police officer, one Sergeant James Kuehnlein, demonstrating the extent of his authority to a punk kid with an attitude. Unfortunately for him, Brett Darrow - the punk kid in question - had a number of cameras running in his vehicle at the time. A transcript of the encounter is available here.

It is my opinion that Darrow was looking for a confrontation, however that in no way whatsoever excuses or explains Kuehnlein's attitude, reaction and threats. It speaks well of the St. George police department that Kuehnlein is currently on unpaid suspension due to the event. Certainly such abuse of authority and willingness to employ intimidation under the color of law deserves far harsher a penalty than unpaid leave, but I think that for the duration of the investigation, unpaid leave is a good option.

By my count the officer threatened to make up violations in order to intimidate Darrow, threatened to destroy Darrow's car as well as the video evidence of the event, possibly tamper with his own video and microphone to "tell a little different" story, threatened to "ruin your career and life and everything else you have coming," threatens to charge Darrow unless he answers his questions about his activity (actually implying Darrow's invocation of the Fifth Amendment was an admission of guilt), threatens to sue Darrow for unspecified reasons, and threatens to arrest him for possession of a burglary tool (a radio scanner).

All this was caught on tape.

Now, I don't consider Darrow to be a total innocent. I think he has a problem with police (possibly inspired by a previous altercation with an off-duty officer referenced in the transcript) but his behavior - while not as polite or respectful as I might have been - was not in any way deserving of the treatment he received.

Anyone care to bet what would have happened to the officer if the kid complained but didn't have the video? Letter in his file at worst?

This story also got me thinking about the Hiibel case again. What good is the Fifth Amendment if simply exercising it is incriminating?
  2007-09-12
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