Overzealous Agents… or Symptomatic of Something Deeper?

In the dark, it looks like beer…

The NSA collects meta-data on everyone… The IRS cracks down on Tea Party 501(c)4 applications… The DOJ subpoenas Associated Press phone records and spies on Fox News reporter James Rosen… The abuse-of-power scandals in Washington, D.C., grows so long that we become almost inured.

That sort of thing could never happen in Virginia, could it?

A 20-year-old University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly spent a day and a night in the Albemarle-Charlottesville poky for the offense of walking to her car with a pack of bottled water from a Harris-Teeter. She was approached by a group of state plain-cloths Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who mistook the sparkling water for a 12-pack of beer. One drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee in her car, grazing two agents with her SUV.

Agents charged Daly with two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police, reports the Daily Progress. The felonies carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $2,500 in fines per offense.

Perhaps I’m feeling over-sensitive these days to abuses of power by the leviathan state. Daly’s case wasn’t political, so it doesn’t qualify as a big brother offense. But it does seem excessive.


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13 responses to “Overzealous Agents… or Symptomatic of Something Deeper?”

  1. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
    Ghost of Ted Dalton

    I actually think this is a little more complicated than the media’s portrayal.

    The real question is this: If someone displays a badge of authority, what do you do?

    It’s my understanding that the ABC Officers were actually holding up their badges and trying to get the girl to stop. She refused their commands and the melee ensued.

    Now, no one disputes that the Agents weren’t in uniform. However, they were displaying badges and telling her to stop.

    What would you do?

    I’m inclined to stop if someone is holding up a badge and identifying himself as a law enforcement officer. Perhaps I’m just a “sheep” to leviathan! ha ha But I’d stop and ask to see their identification.

    But I don’t think I’m the only one. I think most people would at least stop and ask the officer for identification. I don’t think the automatic reaction is to jump in a vehicle and take off.

    However, I can understand why she reacted the way she did as well. Perhaps she thought it was frat boys playing a prank?

    I just think there’s a lot of gray here as to what the “correct response” is in this situation.

    1. virginiagal2 Avatar

      I am assuming you are not a woman. As recently as this year, I was at a seminar about personal safety where the advice a police officer gave to women who were stopped by someone who claims to be a police officer, but appears suspicious, is to get in their car, call 911, and if pursued, drive to the police station. The police officer told the group to do exactly what this girl did.

      You have a young girl, in a dark parking lot, who has done absolutely nothing wrong, approached by a group of people – not just one person, and all but one were men – not in uniform, claiming to be police, jumping on her car, trying to break her windows, and brandishing a gun. That is not, to put it mildly, normal police behavior, nor is it appropriate to the accused crime. I wouldn’t have believed they were police officer either.

      If this was YOUR daughter, would you want her to just passively assume any weirdo with a badge is actually a police officer, no matter how inappropriately or suspiciously they are acting?

      Women are told NOT to assume that because a number of rapists and muggers have been using fake badges. Google “Virginia rapist impersonating police officer” and look at the hits.

      This sort of behavior puts women in a situation where they can either risk being raped or risk being arrested. Not much of a choice.

      I think the ABC agents need to stop being SWAT wannabees and try “Excuse me, miss, can you please come over here? I am a police officer,” while standing in the LIGHT by Harris Teeter, and, if the person goes to their car because they are scared, possibly WALKING calmly over to the car and showing the badge against the window, where it can be easily read, and waiting while the person calls 911 and verifies identity.

      Instead, what you read in the Richmond paper is a group of men and one woman in street clothes lurking in the shadows of a dark parking lot, jumping on cars, brandishing weapons, and trying to break windows. Any woman confronted by this would be terrified.

      I also think whoever thought this kind of behavior was appropriate policing needs retraining – and possibly assignment to a job not requiring good judgment – before worse things happen.

  2. Breckinridge Avatar

    She was suspected of illegally purchasing beer and these Marshall Dillon wannabes pulled their guns. They should lose their guns. Maybe they should lose their jobs. She was a UVA student, not some hillbilly moonshiner in Franklin County. They could take her license plate and follow her. And then I want the prosecutor who let these charges stand more than a few hours.

    1. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
      Ghost of Ted Dalton

      Maybe I’m not reading the same story. I don’t think they pulled their guns until she ignored their command to stop and displayed their badge to her. This is not as simple as black and white.

      I mean, if you’re speeding on the interstate and a cop pulls up behind you with their blue lights going and you don’t stop, only a moron wouldn’t expect to either get rammed or to confront a road block.

      Let’s play the counterfactual. They display their badge and ask her to stop. She stops. They look in her bag and see that it’s just water and let her go. This probably takes all of 2 minutes.

      I think there was an overreaction here, sure. But, I’m not willing to side completely with the girl.

      1. virginiagal2 Avatar

        You might want to read the more detailed versions of the story in the Daily Progress, or even the Times Dispatch.

        A young girl, who had not done anything wrong and had no reason to think a police officer would have a reason to talk to her, was approached in a dark parking lot by a group of people, in street clothes, who claimed to be police and were acting erratically.

        When she got in her car to be safer, and turned on the car so she could roll the windows down to try to figure out the situation, they started jumping on her car, trying to break her windows, and brandishing a gun.

        Not only would I not have believed they were police officers, I would have thought I was being threatened with serious physical harm and possibly rape or death.

        When you are pulled over on the highway by someone you’re not sure is really a police officer – and impersonating a police officer has been the modus operandi of multiple rapists – what I have heard, directly from police officers, is to stay in your car, call 911 to see if the person is actually a police officer, and drive slowly to the nearest police station.

        Let’s play another counterfactual. If they were one of the several people who have pretended to be police officers, but were not, she and her friends would have been gang raped.

        That is the choice that this sort of stupid ABC police behavior puts girls into. Risk being raped by a pervert or risk being arrested by someone who apparently thinks checking for underage drinking calls for SWAT tactics.

        This is really, really wrong.

  3. larryg Avatar

    Unfortunately since 911, both police and citizens have turned into a bunch of ninnies.

    Anyone who has been to public events lately can attest to the overwhelming police “presence” at said events.

    and unfortunately every police organization has some marginal types who really should not be in the police business to start with:

    I actually fear the police now days for incompetent actions than I do the NSA. The vast, vast majority of police are competent but 911 has tilted the scales towards less competent types.

    what happened to the UVA lady is not unusual these days:


  4. Breckinridge Avatar

    The penalty for failing to obey a police officer is not death. The penalty for refusing to stop is not death. The police officer has that weapon and the right to use for two reasons — to protect his own life or to protect the live of another. To pull the weapon under any other circumstance is the absolute abuse of power and extremely dangerous. Innocent people die. There is no indication that the woman had a weapon, or was engaging in any activity that posed an immediate threat of bodily harm.

    Having done it, they then felt compelled to cover their asses and throw her in jail. And the rest of the establishment, knowing a lawsuit in this case is the likely next step, backed them up.

    These ABC agents are not real cops and to not need to be armed at all.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    Once, I went to Rosecroft Raceway in Oxen Hill, MD after work. I was dressed in a suit and tie. My friends and I had a relatively uneventful evening betting on the horses. As I came out of the men’s room a couple of guys blocked my path and held up badges. “Are you carrying?”, they asked. “No”, I responded. “What’s on your right hip?” “A folded up racing program.” “Do you mind showing it to us?”. “Not at all.”.

    With that I lifted up my suit coat and slowly pulled the folded up racing program out of my pocket.

    They laughed. I laughed. They apologized. I told them that I was glad they were keeping an eye on things.

    Now, I was a grown man who they thought was carrying a weapon. They didn’t grab me. They didn’t yell at me. They didn’t draw their own guns.

    Six ABC agents because one of three 20 year old girls might have purchased a six pack of beer?


  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Here’s my experience from living in a real police state.

    In the mid to late 1980s, I was an American correspondent in the Soviet Union. Reagan was in office, and just a few years before, the USSR came really close to pulling the nuclear trigger thanks to Ron’s public overstatements and overly realistic war games. Gorbachev was just starting his historic reforms and the Cold War was still very much the mood. Three weeks after I arrived, for example, the KGB arrested Nick Daniloff, a U.S. News & World Report correspondent, for espionage.
    We couldn’t go more than 25 miles or so outside of Moscow without alerting the Foreign Ministry (KGB, really) by telex 24 hours in advance. They would deny us permission right up to the time of departure. I drove a Soviet-built Lada with “K004” license plates which, in what was NOT the style of James Bond, announced to the world I was a U.S. newsman. While I was usually left alone driving in Moscow, anytime I left town I was constantly being pulled over by a GAU’shniki (traffic cop, GAU stands for State Auto Inspection). They did this by walking to the side of a road and waving a black and white baton at me (called a “Pazalishta” or “Please” stick). If one ignored this, he or she would be seriously clamped down upon, either by cop cars or at the next roadblock. You would pull over and the cop would very arrogantly and slowly saunter over and check your documents. Then he’d radio it in. He usually radioed to the local KGB office to see if he had caught an American spy and get a red star on his forehead. Technically, they could detain you for up to three hours after which they’d have to charge you with something — anything. Sometimes you’d be put in a locked office. During the Cold War, car travel proved very difficult (so was finding gasoline) but sometimes it as the only way to get a story. If you were traveling in a terrorist place like Azerbaijan, they’d sweep your car for weapons.
    I went back in the 1990s when Communism had fallen. Did it get better? No. Instead of Red Stars, GAUshniki could get money. I once had a chopped down version of an AK-74 stuck in my gut because a cop thought my car was “too dirty” and wanted the ruble equivalent of a $5 bribe.
    Ah,the good old days!

  7. larryg Avatar

    I agree with the respondents here. Law Enforcement has gotten bigger, stronger AND at times, just out of control in their “footprint” for ordinary things.

    We have way too many swat teams for the threats we actually have.

    Locking down half of Boston in response to a couple of two-bit “terrorists” is an example in my view.

    and it leads to things like the UVA incident. We have people who are becoming police officers that lack judgement and are barely kept under control by supervisors and obviously not 100%.

    We need to have a better way to deal with idiotic police actions…

    we talk all the time about “bad teachers” and how to remove them but I hear no similar talk about “bad police” which I thought are far more numerous than bad teachers and much more harmful.

  8. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    In Lake Placid New York the cops are handcuffing and hauling off to Jail 70 year old ladies on trumped up drinking and driving charges. They wait hidden in the bushes outside cocktails parties and then cook up an excuse to breathalyze them whereupon they cuffed the ladies and hauled them off to Jail.

    It’s outrageous. A terror program to take licenses away from the “elderly.”

  9. larryg Avatar

    There have always been bad cops way back from the days of the Sheriff of Nottingham…. continuing to the 20th century and Boss Hawg and rampant for bribery in other countries.

    that’s no big deal in terms of “different”.

    what’s “different” in my view is the institutional misbehavior – i.e. entire teams of police doing dumb and wrong stuff and it seems to have increase since 911 in my minds eye.

    and as an institution itself – we see more and more grand displays of heavily armed platoons of police…. ostensibly for event security and crowd control.

    we see hostage “negotiations” conducted with a suicidal individual surrounded by dozens of overtly displayed automatic weapons Bonnie & Clyde style , often for some pitiful mentally deranged person – that absolutely needs to be apprehended and placed in custody but not with a phalanx of gun-toting deputies standing at “the ready”.

    and it’s almost comical. you have this huge police presence at events like the Boston Marathon but they forget to deploy REAL police effort and after the bombs go off – they literally lock down half of Boston and a civilian is the one who finds the bomber not the wandering herds of gun-toting swat teams.

    And when they finally do surround the guy, what happens? A fire-fight breaks out – from “friendly fire” not the subject.

    never say all… but too many of the police have gone bonkers these days.

  10. Neil Haner Avatar
    Neil Haner

    I think I fall somewhere in the middle of the opinions on this subject.

    I’m not going to hyperbolize and start calling our country a “police state,” because, as Mr Galuzka points out, there are real police states out there far scarier than ours. Police corruption as well is nothing compared to what you’ll find in non-Western countries (even in a Westernized resort town like Cancun, I fell into in “speed trap” where the local cop told me he’d “let me go with a warning” for only $100… I was able to “negotiate” him down to $20.)

    Like Larry points out, people who feel emboldened by their badge and weapon are nothing new. It’s an unfortunate reality of civilization… those with power are apt to be corrupted by it. We need to remember that it’s far more under control in modern day America than most places in the world.

    My biggest concern is the willingness of police to resort to force, to their weapons, and to intimidation tactics from the get-go in an encounter. I’m not going to pin it all on 9/11 (Rodney King and Amadou Diallo say “hi,”) though it has gotten worse since then.

    I mean, jeez, look at the response of the police in LA to the Donner manhunt .

    In my perfect world, it wouldn’t be that these sorts of things don’t happen (the badge is always going to attract some folks with an overzealous, power-happy nature *cough* George Zimmerman), but rather that in these rare (and they are rare, just highly publicized when they do happen) but serious instances, the guilty officers are held ultimately responsible. That may mean demotion, it may mean firing and loss of pension, and, when lives are endangered as a result of their overreactions, criminal proceedings.

    But as we see time and time again, the response of government is to protect its own. Shame.

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