An arrest March 25, 2017, by Officer E. Buckman of the Chattanooga police department of a hip hop musician, Cameron ”C-Grimey” Williams, and his girlfriend, Nicole Nikki Lewis, is typical of Chattanooga race-based law enforcement and short-fused tempers imposed on minorities as if they were state property.
Police video shows two state claims — one against a free traveling public and the other against blacks.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
➤ The first is a traffic stop of three young men on the technical pretext of a dead tag light and the tag itself — a tax receipt for commercial operation of a motor vehicle — having expired the day before. Mr. Buckman’s arrest of the travelers is legally warranted and the people in the car do not rebut his presumption that they are acting in commerce.
But without authority Officer Buckman demands IDs of all the people in the car, young black men. He lets them off with a warning, and takes the trouble to be helpful to the man behind the steering wheel — having him step to the rear of the car so he can show him where the small bulb is fixed above the metal tax plate.
Mr. Buckman’s action is an arrest. But he refuses to follow departmental policy by giving the Miranda warning to the people inside.
➤ The second law enforcement power of Mayor Andy Berke’s officers is the self-defensive and abusive arrest of two bystanders who stop on the sidewalk to watch — and complain about — the transportation stop.
The young couple is arrested for criticizing the officer’s demand for the car’s occupants to produce or give an ID, as if somehow their words interfere with his work and prevent him from doing his duty.
Miss Lewis is pepper-sprayed while handcuffed. Mr. Buckman keeps ordering her to “stop resisting,” but she is not resisting.
The politically connected black woman, whose lips are laced with profanity and anger, is charged with disorderly conduct, as is Mr. Williams, the musician.
The disorderly conduct charge is a harassing charge which prosecutors easily dispense with in courtroom negotiations. It is unintelligible in at least two of its five provisions. No defense attorney has troubled himself to overturn it on appeal as unconstitutionally vague.
Citizen as bag of potatoes
Hearing comments from the sidewalk, Officer Buckner says, “Buddy, this is my stop real quick. If you would just take a step back for me?” In the video, he points toward people off screen.
He proceeds to demand driver’s license and insurance from the man behind the steering wheel. “I need IDs from everybody,” he says.
“From everybody? Not just the driver, but for everybody?” Mr. Williams is heard demanding, off screen.
The officer turns to the people on the sidewalk. “I’m going to have to ask one time to keep it down, OK?”
“Keep it down? That’s illegal,” Mr. William says.
Mr. Williams says that what is happening to the men in the car is illegal. With this comment, the officer strides around the rear of the car to the people off screen.
Reaching into his equipment belt the cop says, “Come here. I told you once to keep it down. Come on. Put your hands up here.”
Mr. Buckman tugs Mr. Williams to the car’s rear trunk lid and squeezes Mr. Williams’ arms behind his back.
“Ma’am, step back,” he says.
“What? What are you going to do?” the woman cries, still free, approaching. “For what? For what?” she demands.
Miss Lewis approaches the officer from his right, crossing in front of a blaring red brake light.
“For what? For what?” she says.
“Ma’am step back or you’re going to go to jail.” She comes right up to him, an act that later officer Buckman tells another officer “was chest bumping me and stuff.”
The woman seems to touch the officer by pointing to him. “Is he being detained? Is he being detained?” she demands, within Mr. Buckner’s kill zone, but apparently not gaining his notice as any real physical threat.
“He is being detained.”
He snaps on the wristcuff on the male subject.
“Is he being detained?”
The cop says he is “being detained. I’ve asked him to be quiet twice.”
“Who are you? Who are you?” She demands.
“I’m officer Buckman of the police department,” he says. As he answers he manhandles her, putting his hands on her body, on her breast, roughing her against the hood, and places his elbow in her back, insisting, “Stop resisting. Stop resisting. Stop resisting.”
Standing next to his girlfriend as she is enlocked by the officer, Mr. Williams watches.
The cop has his crotch in her backside, and the movements of her body constitute resistance, even though she is in a submissive position with her back towards him on the trunk lid of the sedan.
“You don’t know who I am?” she says.
“I don’t care who you are. Stop resisting.”
“We work for your f——g boss.” He spins her around, hauls her toward the cop car dashcam, the frame of which they fill. “Stop resisting,” goes his mantra. “Stop resisting.” He puts his hand on her right breast. Pressed on the hood, she tries to turn to look at him. “[Arrested] for what?” she demands.
More cops arrive. With help, Mr. Buckman klunks her cellphone out of hand, grabs Miss Lewis’ arm to handcuff her wrists at her rear as he might corral an unruly animal.
“Thank you,” he says. “That’s OK? Just relax. I need you to relax for me, OK?”
From behind, Mr. Williams is shouting that the arrestee works for Mayor Berke.
“What’s your name?” Miss Lewis demands. “You don’t know who the ass I am.” Mr. Buckman pulls away Mr. Williams, who has joined them, drawing from his belt a red canister.
“If you spit on me I’m going to pepper spray you, OK?” he tells Miss Lewis.
Why, am I a danger to you?” she asks looking up with him, her glasses dangling at her neck.
“If you spit on me,” he says, pointing to her defiantly “– I will pepper spray you. OK, let’s get you into the car.”
“Am I a danger to you? I’m a danger? I’m a danger? So I’m a danger now? Can I get my glasses?”
“You got to get into the car. Get in the car.” It’s not clear exactly from the video when she is sprayed in the face. In the car, her hands are not bound, but she is rubbing her face in distress.
Mr. Williams is still outside the car. “She didn’t do shit. We are out having a good time.” The cop barks, “Stop talking.”
Mr. Williams says, “Is it illegal to talk?”
“It is yelling,” Mr. Buckman says.
“It’s illegal to yell?” Mr. Williams muses.
“Yep — yeah, it’s called disorderly conduct.” Mr. Buckman thrusts him into cruiser, tosses Mr. Williams his phone.
“I’m sure Andy would appreciate your talking like that,” Officer Buckman says after this Lewis gives a tirade.
“You pepper sprayed me in handcuffs in front of the f——g camera.”
“You got the wrong niggers and custody tonight,” Mr. Williams cries, exultant at the make-up he announces he will get in the press for the offense against the couple, but concerned for his partner as she dabs her left eye. “Ya’ll pepper-sprayed somebody who works for Glass House Collective, wow! *** What are the charges?”
“Disorderly conduct, resisting arrest.” Mr. Buckman says. “Public intox.” Miss Lewis bobs her head as she convulsively rubs her face.
Cop’s narrative to colleague
“ I stopped this car *** and they didn’t have a tag light and it was expired. And so, this dude standing on the sidewalk just keeps yelling, keeps yelling, you know, and I said, step back, step back, step back. After he kept yelling, I said, OK, come over here. I went to put cuffs on him, and this chick came over chest bumping me, and I said get back, get back, and she went in the handcuffs, too. She said, ‘I work for Andy Berke. I have meetings with with Fred Fletcher,’ so she probably does.”
“All they had to do was set over there and be quiet. They had no invitation. I didn’t invite them.*** It is Illegal to yell. **** they were told to leave the party and they wanted to stay.”
Another officer says, “Tell them to say hi to Berke for me. He accepts collect calls from jail.”
“You are profiling the f— out of me, you f—–g white supremacist,” Miss Lewis says. “F— the white man,” she says under her breath as the car begins to move.
She is charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, public intoxication.
Mr. Williams and Miss Lewis plea bargained their cases, as do most people who are subjected to police action in Chattanooga.
What is resisting? Disorder?
There cannot be resisting of arrest unless there is first an actionable of offense for which arrest is being made. In her case, there is no actionable offense. One cannot resist arrest unless there is a cause first for an arrest.
Mr. Williams and Miss Lewis were charged under the disorderly conduct statute which is a throwaway law so vaguely written that an officer can use it in good faith to arrest a citizen who is an inconvenience to him or who irritates or angers him.
State’s harassment mechanism
TCA 39-17-305. Disorderly conduct, has five thresholds for police action. A review of the Williams-Wilson arrest suggests abusive police action imposed by the claims of a vague statute whose a review of which suggests that the arrest of the couple is abusive.
Indeed so minor is the charge that it is rarely defended at trial and usually a chip in plea bargaining between the public defender’s office and the state prosecutor, Neal Pinkston in Hamilton County. Case law on the statute is almost non-existent.
A person commits the offense who “with intent to cause public annoyance or alarm” does any of the following three things.
➤ (1) Engages in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior. [Mr. Williams and Miss Lewis did nothing of this sort prior to Mr. Buckman’s having “probable cause” in his mind to arrest them. Her alleged “resisting” after her arrest was a routine stacking of charges upon hapless defendants.]
➤ (2) Refuses to obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard or other emergency. [This provision is irrelevant, as no condition of “fire, hazard or other emergency” exists prior to their arrest.]
➤ (3) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose. [Mr. Williams’ admonition to the officer about his illegal demand for IDs hardly fits the description of “any act” that creates “a hazardous or physically offensive condition” that “serves no legitimate purpose.” [constitutionally vague for voidness]
Officer Buckman’s arrest of Mr. Williams and Miss Lewis is the fruit of decades of policing in Chattanooga. Policing is an activity of the executive state through its agent, the municipal corporation, City of Chattanooga. Whether the city has authority to enforce any statute apart from limited parts of the transportation code in Title 55 is worth further review. On whatever legal or cultural basis it operates, policing is a claim upon the people of the state, who are viewed as property, to be managed and contained.
Mr. Williams’ speaking with the officer in no way interfered with police work, and the arrest of the couple is perfunctory, mechanical. The Chattanooga police department operates lawlessly upon private travelers as if Title 55, the transportation code, applied to them. It is accustomed to acting against the rights and interests of harmless, innocent and peaceable men and women as if the peace and tranquility of the state required it.