On August 17, 2015, Alexander Tucker was walking down the street in Lancaster, Texas. He was on a sidewalk next to a main thoroughfare, and other than being black while wearing a hoodie, did nothing to arouse suspicion. In any event, Lancaster Police Lieutenant Michael Fine decided to stop him. The dash cam pretty much shows what happened next.
Here you see Fine confront Tucker and you see Tucker immediately ask why he is being detained–and you see that Fine ignores the question. I’ll agree that Tucker was non-compliant, and had this been a legitimate detention, the use of force would have been appropriate. No question about that.
The problem is that the detention was not appropriate, as it did not appear to be supported by a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. Merely walking down the street while black is decidedly not reasonable suspicion. Especially not in a city where the population is 53% black. So Tucker protests and Fine ignores it, completing an illegal search (at 2:54, on a Terry stop, you don’t get to reach in pockets and remove the contents), and eventually arrests Tucker for Resisting Arrest, Search, or Transportation, Tex. Pen. Code § 38.03. Of course, under that statute, it doesn’t matter if the search was illegal. The problem is that Tucker did not appear to be using force to resist the search.
“[R]efusing to cooperate with being arrested does not constitute resisting arrest by force.” Sheehan v. State, 201 S.W.3d 820, 824 (Tex. App. 2006).
This creates a strange problem. You see, the officer is allowed to use force to obtain compliance, so the taser is justified, but refusing to cooperate does not meet the elements of resisting a search.
So Tucker complains, the Chief places Fine on admin leave, and the department’s use of force instructor, a Texas Ranger, and a Dallas County prosecutor look at the video and state that Fine did not use inappropriate force. Here is where the train is leaving the tracks. What they said was correct–but not really material to the bigger picture, which is what was the reasonable suspicion for the stop? You see, without reasonable suspicion for a stop, Fine was violating Tucker’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
In any event, Chief Cheryl Wilson then returned Fine to duty, but did not tell the City Manager about it for another five days, even though she had been instructed to keep the City Manager informed on the status of the investigation. The City Manager is concerned that a black man could be stopped for no reason and no remedial training or discipline be imposed. She wasn’t happy with Wilson’s performance at all.
So now Wilson’s job is on the line.
This is what needs to happen folks. If the chiefs will not take action, they need to be held accountable. It’s the only way things will change.