by Max Brantley
We're trying to get the full written report to post, but the bottom line is that, what a shock, a police investigation has cleared Hot Springs cop Joey Williams in the great skateboarding bust made world-famous by YouTube. It was noted that he made a mistake by leaving a handcuffed suspect on the sidewalk while he chased down another miscreant.
UPDATE: Here's the full report. Pardon our guffaw at the police finding that this event was part of a "nationwide anti-authority demonstration." You could say the same about every day a teenager draws a breath.
The heavy physical force was fully justified, cops say.
Hot Springs City Manager Kent Myers said that he agrees with the findings of the police investigation into the incident, and doesn't think excessive force was used by bike patrol officer Joey Williams, "considering the environment he was dealing with." Myers said that an additional viewpoint provided by a store security camera shows more than the YouTube.com video of the incident. For instance, Myers said the still image from the beginning YouTube.com video — which appears to show Officer Williams choking a 13 year old skateboarder with one hand while the boy lays on his back on the sidewalk — was in fact Officer Williams' attempt to restrain the suspect before handcuffing him.
There's no sign that the city intends to ease off charging kids with a stack of violations in the Williams throw-down. A reasonable city official might take into consideration that it was precipitated by a rash decision by a cop on foot to chase down a bunch of kids for a minor offense and horse-collar them. But kids have no advocates. Merchants along Central Avenue think these anarchists got what they deserved and that's good enough.
Smart alecky talk and even illegal skateboarding do not justify excessive use of force by a police officer. Williams could have called in some other cops if the kids persisted in their flagrant skateboarding, rounded them up peacefully and ticketed them. Or he could have ordered them to get off their skateboards and move on. But he lost his cool. That's amply illustrated by his decision to abandon one suspect to charge after another and by the force used on kids who do not appear threatening.
Exoneration of the cop and maximum punishment of the kids will send a clear message. No doubt about that.