Charging, tasing woman, 87, wins sissy cop honor for chief, 2 cops

Lee University grad Martha Douhne and her grandmother, Martha Al-Bashara, talk with a Newschannel9 reporter in Chatsworth, Ga. (Photo Newschannel9)

Chatsworth Police Department wins my first sissy cop award for extraordinary valor in offloading 99.98 percent of personal risk onto others and tasing an old woman so that the police chief and his two subordinates will be confident of getting home that night.

The town’s police chief and two cops surround an elderly woman, tase her when she keeps a knife in her hand and are set to abuse her legally with the vague Georgia obstruction statute.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

A Boys and Girls Club employee in the Georgia town has called 911 about an old woman with a knife on a bit of wilderness on the group’s lot at 502 W. Chestnut St., property off which family members in the past have suggested to the woman that she avoid. 

Officers rush to the scene on high alert and confront Martha Al Bishara, a Syrian Christian immigrant whose tongue knows only Arabic.

With a knife, she is cutting dandelion leaves in the lot across the street from her house, and bears a Wal-Mart bag.

She looks incomprehendingly at one the one intruder into her pleasant amblings; he is aiming a weapon at her (an electric prod discharge device). He pulls the trigger.

‘Threat,’ ‘deadly force could have been used’

“In my opinion,” says police chief Josh Etheridge, one of her assailants, “it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time. *** An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer.”

The chief justifies his officers actions as within their training and touches on the fear trained into officers from the first day of the academy. A dread of members of the public, a belief that any member of the public is a lethal threat, and a primary obligation to “get home to see my family tonight.”

“”The question’s always going to be why did he (the officer) not retreat,” Chief Etheridge says, realizing the enormity of city employees’ shooting a citizen.

“The thought behind that would be if the officer had retreated, with her being in an elevated position, he could have easily fell down,” Mr. Etheridge says, “at which time she could have been progressing on top of him and deadly force could have been used at that point in time. And that was the whole goal, to try to avoid using any type of force, but if we have to use force, use the minimum force.”

The Taser’s electric dart pierces her clothing and skin just above her heart, next to a crucifix necklace, and she falls in a heap to the ground. A second dart from the same shot strikes her stomach, a family member says.

Mrs. Al-Bashara is injured in her fall, sobs when raised to her feet, is cuffed when she is arrested, spends two hours in a police car cage and at the booking desk at the police station, and is hospitalized afterward for her injuries. Police do not bring her any medical treatment.

Surplus violence, self-justifying risk reduction

The incident is typical of police action around the country. In practice in Georgia is surplus violence and executive authority in its best form. The people are state property and liable to be ordered around, as might be trained dogs or slaves in antebellum South. Municipal corporations are by their very existence a law unto themselves, with their agents able to bark commands (not written in any book) and be able to criminally accuse people for violating their verbal extemporaneous “orders.”

Though Chief Etheridge makes a show of throwing down a jackknife to show what he means, the old woman doesn’t understand. Patience runs out. There’s no imagination for any alternative. No alternatives come into view but to use violence, to effectively knock her to her ground, using not fists, but a small spear trailing after it an electrical wire.

If they were members of a private gang, they’d’ve used a bat or a backhand.

Pussy award — that’s what I should call it

The sissy award goes to three officers and their chief who think of no better way of dealing with such an individual then from the position that they — the officers — are the ones in danger, that they have reason to fear death, fear injury.

The sissy award is for these public servants who feel dread of an old woman, for cops who routinely wear bullet-proof armor, men who are strong in their biceps, swift in their hands and feet, strong from training, and courageous in the service to members of the public, willing, even, to lay down their lives to defend women and children and the innocent.

They may have entered police service with a high, self-abnegating rationale, a desire to protect and serve.

But their training and elite culture have converted them into fearful men, into men who believe that they represent an organization, an entity or a concept that is total and absolute and impatient of human frailty.

Would these cops die for you?

One does not take a bullet for a civilian. One offloads risk as much as possible.

If an error is to be made in a split-second judgment in a potentially lethal confrontation (such as that on the Boys and Girls Club lot), better that all the risk fall upon the civilian; if an error is to occur and result in death, better it be that of the citizen than the cop. If a mistake in split-second judgment is ordained of God, better that the citizen be found slain than the cop. This appears a habit of mind among sworn officers across the U.S.

It creates hair-trigger fingers and risk-averse men in blue.

Job No. 1 is shielding themselves from 100 percent of hazard, brooking no jeopardy for themselves. In uncertainty and in the presence of possible mistake, put forth the innocent, the weak and the harmless and let them catch it.

Unconstitutionally vague law

No one would not have dared assume the peril of approach this woman, and simply taking her wrist and removing the knife from her veinous, gnarled hand.

That would have exposed him to lethal danger and death. He is unwilling step in arm’s reach of the old woman and face such danger. Instead, he and his colleagues stand at a distance and fire an electric cattle prod, just missing the spot where her medallion often rests, shooting as they do at the center of her mass.

Rather than mourn their mistake and admit any folly, these officers are supported by their administration in filing two criminal charges against Martha. The obstruction statute is so vague that some soul should appeal it as unconstitutional. Vague laws are illegal because they fail to give the public proper notice about how to avoid an offense.

OCGA § 16-10-24 – Obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers. a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, a person who knowingly and willfully obstructs or hinders any law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of his official duties is guilty of a misdemeanor.

“We’ll be reviewing this, to see if we could have done anything differently, if we could have done better,” the chief says.

Cops figure old crone may not speak English, but’ll understand taser as they fight to remain safe, get home to their families that night. Here’re Martha Douhne and brother Timothy Douhne’s family story. (Courtesy 92.7 NoogaRadio)

Source: Chris Whitfield, “Chatsworth police chief defends use of Taser on 87-year-old woman,” The Daily Citizen, Aug. 13, 2018.

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