Earlier this year in late June, Metro Transit Police announced the launching of an investigation after a video showing an officer deploy his Taser on an unarmed Black man went viral. The skirmish occurred after the man allegedly interfered with the police at the U Street Metro station in northwest D.C.
A Metro police statement indicated that they had received a call about juveniles reportedly threatening people with sticks on the Metro platform and had detained several teens. Officers could not locate any victims at the Metro station but held the juveniles as they contacted their parents and continued to assess the situation.
Somewhere along the way, several of the youth attempted to escape and a man, who police assert had not been involved in the initial incident, began to “interfere” and “exhibited behavior consistent with preparing to fight the officer.” Before it was over, the man would be stunned multiple times with the officer’s Taser, later being arrested as well.
Now, that man, who claims to be suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, has secured an attorney in his pursuit of justice and financial compensation for his pain and suffering, we assume. But, there’s just one problem. Under a little-known law, only Metro Transit police officers — not Metro — can be sued. So, if the plaintiff choses to move forward, he’ll have to go after the officer alone. Metro’s much larger financial resources will remain safe and sound. Here the old adage “you can’t get blood from a turnip” seems completely apropos.
In the end, we believe there will be no winners.
Did Metro Police incorrectly interpret the actions of the passerby — in this case the “good Samaritan” who got the end of a Taser for his troubles? Should older Black men step forward on behalf of Black male juveniles if they believe they can deescalate confrontations between the law and Black youth?
There’s still a dangerously wide chasm which exists between police, including Metro Police, and the Black community. In far too many situations, we do not know them — they don’t know us. We misread the signs — they misread our body language or tone.
We need to change this lack of knowledge before injuries, albeit unintended, lead to death. By the way, perhaps Metro, law on their side or not, should consider how they might help the injured man. If his allegations have even a hint of truth to them, it would be the right thing to do.