Jim Gaudet, anchor of Public Safety This Week, shares his insight and expertise on the controversial move by Concord, NH Cops to take down a protestor in what many consider an unnecessarily harsh show of force. Comments welcomed. For links to our stories on the topic, scroll to the end.My Thoughts on the Concord Rally
At the outset and in the interest of full disclosure, I know, like and have a professional relationship with one of the officers in the video. I will also tell you that I am very pro-gun rights and have always been so, and think Bloomberg and his lackeys should keep their fascist opinions and rules in New York City. I will also go on the record as saying that I think the Concord Police Department is a very professional organization that has always done well being under the microscope in the state’s capitol with no shortage of politicians, visitors and others – many of whom think rules or laws don’t apply to them because they know or are friends with someone thought to be important.
That being said (written?), I have reviewed “the video” multiple times. While I saw one or two things I might have done differently, I also know and appreciate how easy it is to be a Monday morning, arm chair quarterback. Judges have the ability to research rules, regulations and procedures, case precedents, etc. and can review evidence at their leisure – while an officer on the street has to make decisions in the “heat of battle” without the benefit or luxury of time and these resources. Generally, an officer might have the benefit of a senior officer or supervisor available to them at a call or via radio or cell phone, but generally have only their training and experience to go with. Law enforcement officers have a difficult and sometimes distasteful job to do, and that includes protecting the rights of people whom they might not personally agree. Some years back, on the night of one of my daughter’s graduations, I had to be involved in a large scale planning and operation for a visit by the Westboro “Whack Job” Baptist Church – who threatened to protest the Campbell High School graduation. These nitwits are the same one who are known for protesting at funerals of American service persons killed in action and have been repeatedly filmed wiping their butts with an American flag. So while most cops’ visceral reaction to these folks would be pretty obvious would like to see them look like Rodney King after a vehicle pursuit in L.A., the fact and evidence is that the vast majority of officers will do their sworn duty to the best of their ability despite their personal opinions.
I have many unanswered questions about this incident, including by whose authority can or did private security personnel ask Mr. Musso to leave or be quiet? I have a larger issue with Mr. Musso’s denial of his FIRST amendment right to free speech than the fact that he was arrested after the video shows him putting his hand[s] on a Concord Police officer. Emotions were obviously high on both sides, and the police were surrounded by a sea of citizens- many of whom were armed, whose intentions or actions were unknown to them, and whose behavior can change instantaneously in a mob fever. If you want proof of that consideration, go ask Ralph Demicco – owner of Riley’s, who in my opinion has always been an upstanding citizen and friend of law enforcement and gun rights). His behavior – for which (to his credit_ he quickly apologized for, was demonstrative of how quickly and easily Joe or Jane Citizen can be swept into a mob mentality and things can head south very quickly. This is no Strange Brew incident, and the video shows (and audio confirms) that while there were claims Mr. Musso was not resisting, he was not complying either. The case and statutory law is NH is clear on resisting arrest and whether or not there is a legal basis for the arrest, it is a crime to knowingly interfere with yours or anyone else’s arrest. If there is no lawful basis for the arrest, there are statutory provisions that allow for a person’s release from custody without charges, as well as many procedural avenues after that once charges are brought. If people don’t like that law, then they should call on their legislators to change it.
Mr. Musso may have been lawfully exercising his right to free speech, and he may have even had that right infringed upon. That is for a judge and/or jury to decide. What the evidence suggests from the video is that – regardless of his intentions, Mr. Musso did make unprivileged physical contact with a person he clearly had to recognize was a law enforcement officer, got arrested for that, and then did not comply with the officers seeking to arrest him. Whether or not he is ultimately prosecuted and/or convicted of those charges is also for a judge and/or jury to decide.
So as in sports officiating – where it is said that sometimes the best call is a no call, the only call I will make is that Mr. Musso has other constitutional protections and rights afforded him where others may/may not get to opine on his guilt in the matter, and the Concord Police undoubtedly have a process in place and currently in the works to determine what policies or procedures – if any, the involved officers may have strayed from. And I’m certain that when all of these processes played out, some people will still complain and have strongly held convictions about it.