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Misuse of force by police

ROD BADGER, M.D. Provo, Utah

I was shocked to read Dave Barry’s letter to the editor (Jan. 18, 2006) suggesting that I was lucky not to have been shot in the head by Officer Nick Kingery. No officer has the absolute right to stop a citizen in his car, whether by throwing a heavy 24-inch flashlight through his rear window or by shooting the citizen in the head. I was offended by his reference to me as "Dr. Important." I can assure you that my failure to stop on Main Street was not due to any sense of self-importance, but instead to simple failure to recognize anything resembling a "roadblock." After attending a benefit concert for the Park City Ski Team, I was driving up Main Street in a heavy snowfall. Turning left onto Main Street from Heber Ave., I saw a police SUV double-parked in front of the Bangkok Thai restaurant. As there was no evidence of a roadblock, we proceeded up Main Street at 5 mph. Twenty feet past the police vehicle, a flashlight came through our rear window, shattering the glass and landing on the back seat. When asked why he had thrown the flashlight, Kingery stated he was attempting "to save the life of the tow-truck driver." Unseen because of the storm, a tow truck was removing a vehicle about four blocks up Main Street. As citizens, we endow our police officers with special privileges, one being the use of force when necessary. Use of force, whether it’s a thrown flashlight or discharge of a weapon, must be done with control and caution, and always in strict accord to the force and threat facing the officer. My driving 5 mph up a snowy street with my back turned to the officer would never warrant lethal force. Officer Kingery had several options. First and foremost, he should have created a recognizable "roadblock." Placement of an orange pylon, a flare, or positioning of his vehicle in the middle of the road would have been obvious. Standing in the road with his reflective gear and the offending flashlight in hand would have been ideal. As a citizen, I always stop for a school bus with flashing lights. Yet, we’ve all been told that when a police car is pulled to the side with its lights flashing, the proper action is to proceed slowly on, rather than to stop and gawk. In addition, if the officer was concerned that I had proceeded past his roadblock he could have easily made radio contact with the tow-truck driver with a warning, and then simply performed a U-turn to pull me over with his vehicle. It is a crime for anybody, police officer or citizen, to throw any object at a moving vehicle. I often have my one-year-old grandson in a car seat in the rear of my car. Such action by Officer Kingery could have resulted in this infant being showered with shards of broken glass or a potentially catastrophic hit to the head with a heavy flashlight. I appreciate the professional manner in which this incident is being handled by the Park City Police Department. On the evening of the assault, Sergeant Marty Howard took appropriate action to ensure our safety and document the events. Subsequently, I’ve been impressed with the investigation of the incident under the direction of Chief Lloyd Evans and Lieutenant Patrick Ryan. Nobody has taken this incident lightly. Such behavior by our local police officers certainly warrants the interest of The Park Record and should not be trivialized.


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