Compassionate Police Work, Vegas-style

When should compassion, empathy, and caring outweigh diligence and duty? I’d say this is an example. Too bad the Las Vegas Police Department doesn’t see it that way.

13-year-old girl Takara Davis is in an induced coma to help her recover from being hit by a car. She was walking home and apparently was jaywalking when the accident occurred. Takara was issued a jaywalking citation, but since she had bleeding on the brain and was unconscious, a police officer made a special trip to the hospital to hand it to her mother. “She has got to go to court on March 6th,” Takara’s mom told reporters.

The Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement in response to questions about how the citation was issued, saying, “Our officers conduct themselves in a professional and compassionate way. We wouldn’t do anything deliberately insensitive.”

Bulletin to the police: Ticketing a little girl who is fighting for her life, and handing the ticket to her worried mother at the hospital, is not professional, but incompetent. I’d say Takara’s learned her lesson about jaywalking, and I think any police officer with the judgment God have a clam would be able to figure that out too. A professional exercises restraint, prudence, and reason. This conduct was unprofessional. As for compassionate—the Vegas police have to be kidding. Whatever the opposite of compassionate is—Cruel? Callous? Heartless, perhaps?—-this is it.

And if this wasn’t deliberately insensitive, what does that tell us? The options are..

  1. The Las Vegas police don’t know when they are being insensitive.
  2. The police think it is sensitive to hand a minor violation ticket to the mother of a girl in a coma.
  3. The officer didn’t hand her the ticket intentionally, but did so accidentally, thinking the ticket was really a Kleenex tissue, or that Takara’s mother was a walking, talking shredder.
  4. The officer was possessed by the demon Pazuzu—the same evil demon that makes Helen Thomas and Mel Gibson say things they don’t really mean.

I vote #1. How about you?

5 thoughts on “Compassionate Police Work, Vegas-style

  1. I remember a show called “Nickelodeon GUTS” which was a physical challenge and endurance game like American Gladiators. All the challenges were timed, and there were time penalties for leaving the track or skipping an obstacle. The most severe was “Spotter Assistance,” which penalized the player 5 seconds if they had to be assisted by one of the spotters (if their vehicle got stuck or something else that required adult intervention.) Later on in the show, I believe they decided to cancel the 5 second penalty because if the player needed the spotter assistance, the time they would lose was punishment enough.

    That’s what goes through my head when I read that.

  2. This is classic example of improper, or failure to use, police discretion. Unfortunately, our police have misused their discretion so much (favoritism, cronyism, political connections, un”professional” courtesy, because she was good-looking, etc.) that the courts, the legislature, and the administration have taken much of an officer’s discretion away. In fact, that’s the way most of us were trained at the academy: you treat everyone the same, regardless of the circumstances. This creates all sorts of ethical challenges for the police. Do you write a ticket to a husband who is rushing his wife who is in labor to the hospital? Do you give a jaywalking ticket to a little girl in a coma?

    Discretion, when properly used, is one of the most powerful tools in the hands of the executive power. The rule I have used when training the police is a 2-pronged approach: 1) let the nature of the offense determine the range of enforcement options available to you; 2) let the character of the offender determine which option you choose. After reading this account, I may have to add a third prong that takes into account extenuating or mitigating circumstances like those found here.

    Sheriff Ray

    • You put it well, Ray. Discretion is not only the better part of valor, but of police work as well. An experienced officer is one who knows what’s important and what isn’t. That definitely WASN’T. Either this man was inexperienced, an officious boor (the bane of all good PD’s) or Jack was correct in his Pazuzu Theory! Well… Mr. P tends to be ubiquitous these days, doesn’t he?!

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