Schadenfreude is an ugly concept, finding satisfaction in another person’s pain. But then, most people wonder if the people who run governments, large or small, have much of a feel for the consequences of their decisions. No one will say that about Prairie View city councilman Jonathan Miller. Not after what his cops did to him.
Police Officer Pennie Goodie, who was also the back-up officer in the Sandra Bland car stop (it’s a small police force of six cops, so this isn’t exactly a shock) was first on the scene.
The men had gone outside to practice a step routine for a homecoming event at Prairie View A&M, and police approached as one of the students was changing shoes near a car.
“There’s been drug activity, little girls and little guys in the car doing whatever, so when we see this, we come investigate,” says Officer Goodie on video recorded by a body camera.
While this seems like a bit of a stretch, that anyone doing anything having anything to do with a car suggests “drug activity,” Goodie remained under control.
Miller approaches to ask police about their investigation as a friend started recording his own video of the encounter.
The councilman tells officers that he is the homeowner, and police say they didn’t know that when they arrived.
“OK, that’s fine, I’m not trying to be combative or anything,” Miller says, and Officer Goodie says she’s not, either.
No crime. No harm. Everybody walks away happy, right? Except Officer Michael Kelley shows up, and decides to assert his “command presence.”
Then a second officer, Officer Kelley, orders Miller to step away from the potential crime scene.
“Officer, please do not put your hands on me,” Miller calmly says.
Kelley orders the councilman to stand in another area or risk going to jail for interfering with police activity.
Miller takes a few steps back as Kelley follows him.
“Go back there to the end, man,” Kelley says. “You always starting problems, so go back over there.”
This isn’t a question of interfering with police activity, as there was no activity, no investigation, to be had at this point. This was a cop giving orders for their own sake, and demanding compliance because, well, he can. And then comes the lie.
Police have said Kelley and Miller then fell to the ground and began wrestling, and video is unclear because the officer’s body camera fell off at that point.
Except for the second video, shot by one of the other people present, showing Kelley standing by, Miller on his knees with his arms at his side, and then, boom, the tasing.
“Okay, he’s gonna have to taser you, you’re not doing like you’re supposed to,” Goodie says.
But the bystander’s video shows Miller kneeling with his hands at his side when Kelley fires a Taser shock into his back, knocking the councilman face-down onto the ground.
“Oh yeah, he’s going to jail for resisting,” an officer says.
That Goodie fell right into line with Kelley’s decision to show Miller who has a weapon and who needs a good lesson in doing what they’re told is no surprise. Although she’s female and black, and many argue that if there were more cops with these immutable characteristics, so what? Experience teaches that the badge knows no color or gender. What the badge does know is that one cop backs up another cop.
Had there been no second video shot, there would have been no evidence to challenge Kelley’s lie that Miller wrestled him to the ground, and he tased the perp for his own safety. Whenever a cop mentions his own safety, there is nothing more to discuss. After all, the First Rule of Policing trumps everything else.
While Jonathan Miller was a city councilman, and presumably a credible witness in his own defense, he would be facing the testimony of two of his own cops, Kelley and Goodie, alleging that he brought his tasing on himself for fighting with the officer. Not even a councilman is entitled to fight a cop.
Except there was a second video, and it proved that Kelley was not only sadistic in his use of a Taser to punish a submissive Miller, who posed no threat whatsoever and was fully compliant at the point where the Taser was fired, but a liar. And while Goodie may not have been as prone to needless violence as Kelley, she was every bit as much a liar as he was.
While the case is still pending, after Miller’s release from jail the following day, the Prairie View police chief appears unimpressed by the problem of his cops being violent liars.
“Comply with what the officers are asking you to do,” said Police Chief Larry Johnson. “Officers were conducting an investigation. They asked that you step away from the scene and allow them to finish what they were doing, out of safety for all concerned.”
Was he concerned that Kelley tased a city councilman for contempt of cop? Nope. Was he worried about his cops being caught lying? Not so much. But he was very clear that the problem arose from people not doing what a cop told them to do. If only people would submit, the world would be just fine.
The only question remaining is whether the city council of Prairie View, Texas, will take a lesson from what happened to one of their own at the hands of their tiny police force. That it comes on the heels of the death of Sandra Bland ought to make them do some serious thinking about what has gone deeply wrong in Prairie View.