There is an axiom in police work that goes something like this: If you have a lawful reason for wanting someone to behave in a certain way, first you ask him, then you tell him, then you make him. In the case of Andrew “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” Meyer, the man now enjoying the waning moments of his Warholian fifteen minutes, the asking and the telling came up shy of the mark for the cops, thus bringing on the making. And the Tasing.
(It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this who hasn’t seen the videos of Meyer and his encounter with University of Florida police officers, but for those who haven’t, and for those who have but can’t get enough of it, you can see one of the many versions here.)
Now the questions arise: Did the police officers at the University of Florida have a lawful reason for wanting Meyer to stop his diatribe and retake his seat or leave the auditorium? If so, did they use reasonable force in trying to make him comply with their demands? The officers have been vilified in many quarters — Dick Morris fatuously branded them as “the face of fascism” — but I believe the answer to both questions is yes, for reasons I’ll explain.
First, the officers who confronted and arrested Meyer were not acting on their own initiative. In the video linked above, a man in a suit can be seen standing near the officers. This man is presumably one of the university officials referred to in the arrest report prepared by the officers, and he appears to be in communication with someone across the room and out of frame. When Meyer, already well into his harangue, asks Senator Kerry if he was a member of Skull and Bones while a student at Yale, the man in the suit makes a “cut” sign across his throat, after which the microphone Meyer is using goes dead. The event’s organizers apparently didn’t care to see it hijacked by the likes of Andrew Meyer, and it would seem they were well within their rights to pull the plug on the microphone.
Two officers then approach Meyer and grasp him by his arms, apparently at the behest of school officials. At this point the prudent man would realize he has pushed things a bit too far and retake his seat or leave the theater. But Meyer is not a prudent man, and he takes his theatrics to the next level. He carries on loudly and breaks free from the officers, two more of whom now come into the picture. One of these new officers unholters a Taser and points it at Meyer but does not fire it. Up until this moment I believe Meyer still may have had the option of leaving without being arrested if he had simply calmed down. But, reveling in the upstaging of a U.S. senator, Meyer continues to rant. The largest of the officers then puts Meyer in a bear hug and pushes him to the back of the room.
And here is where Meyer gives the officers no other option. He breaks free again, shouting, “Get away from me, man!” The officers were now suddenly faced with the prospect of lunatic running loose in the theater while Senator Kerry continued to blather up on the stage. Imagine if Meyer had not been the obnoxious, self-absorbed publicity seeker we now know him to be, but rather someone bent on doing physical harm to Kerry. No police officer worthy of the title would have done anything other than what those cops did, which is put Meyer on the floor in a hurry.
Once on the floor, Meyer continued to resist the officers’ efforts to restrain him. They were able to put a handcuff on one of his wrists but not the other, creating a potentially dangerous situation. If Meyer had been able to get to his feet and flail his arms has he had earlier, the dangling handcuff could have caused serious injury to the officers or any of the spectators nearby. The officers can be heard on the tape warning Meyer that they would use the Taser on him if he continued resisting, but to no avail. Meyer heard the warnings and ignored them, inviting what happened next. They zapped him once, the 50,000-volt charge draining the vinegar right out of him. Meyer was then trundled off and booked for resisting an officer with violence, and for disrupting the function of an educational institution.
The first charge is a felony, but in my experience here in Los Angeles such charges are rarely prosecuted as felonies unless an officer is injured. And the publicity the case has received renders the decision on which charges, if any, to file against Meyer into a political one as much as a legal one. Any trial featuring Meyer in a starring role has a great potential to devolve into the kind of farce seen at his arrest, a scenario few prosecutors would eagerly accept. Look for a face-saving plea bargain to be reached in a month or two. And look for more of the same from an unrepentant Meyer soon thereafter.
– Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.