Thursday, May 15, 2008

'I wanted to get control'

That's the claim of Sgt. Jeff Newnum of the Yavapai County, Arizona, Sheriff's Department, as the trial of Dibor Roberts on charges of ticking off a polic-- ... err ... felony counts of resisting arrest and unlawful flight from a law officer gets under way.

"My only concern was to gain control of the situation." He used his collapsible baton to break out the rear passenger window and opened the front door.

Roberts at that time was yelling, "No. No. No. You can't do this to me." He said he could hear the words clearly, but did not understand, he said.

By this time Newnum did "not view her attacking" him and "did not consider she would overpower me. But, I wanted to get control."

So, before he smashed Roberts's car window and snatched her cell phone, he didn't regard her as any sort of threat. He just wanted "control."

This reinforces my initial impression that Sgt. Newnum's assault on Dibor Roberts has its roots in ... well ... a power trip. Despite the fact that police departments regularly advise motorists concerned about the legitimacy of the officer attempting to pull them over to "continue to a public place that is well lighted," and that Newnum's own boss, Sheriff Steve Waugh, has himself offered similar advice, Newnum blew his stack when Roberts slowed and continued along the dark road toward a more heavily trafficked area. By his own words, he was seeking to assert "control" when he forced her car off the road and initiated his attack.

Even assuming that Dibor Roberts was wrong to fear a police impersonator of the sort that pulled over two teenage girls in Phoenix in March, just when did Americans become obligated to give uniformed government employees "control?"

Greg Nix, a reporter for Larson Newspapers, who attended the first day of the trial has some interesting comments here:

[Dibor Roberts's attorney Stephen] Renard is talented when it comes to the leading question and getting people all tangled up in what they are saying.

He clearly tripped Newnum up by referring him back to his testimony before the Yavapai County Grand Jury, showing that 6 months ago, Newnum couldn't remember if Roberts tried to drive away or if in the tussle her foot came off the brake and "ran him over," as compared to today, when Newnum was clear on it and said that Roberts definitely tried to drive away or run him over.

He almost got Newnum to acknowledge he couldn't state definitively that Roberts actually injured him. Newnum recovered when he came back with a quick statement after a couple seconds of silence, "Except she caused this whole incident."

Renard got Newnum to acknowledge that Newnum believed his own wife should drive to a lighted area if she is concerned for her safety, but not Roberts, in this instance.

Nix, a former investigator with Arizona Child Protective Services, adds that he thinks Newnum "got into a situation that he didn't know how to manage."

Except by violently asserting control, of course.

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