OPINION: Arrest of Woman Seems Like a Bad Call to a Florida Reporter

What's your take?

TOM LYONS, Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)

The woman was worked up, and no doubt was a challenge for a Manatee County deputy to deal with.

But I still don’t get how the heck Tamika S. Williams’ arrest last week can be lawfully justified. It looks like a classic case of the proverbial crime known as “irritating a cop.”

The actual charge filed: Misusing 911. But the 911 call in question sounds like a perfectly reasonable one to me.

Williams, 34, had been arrested previously, last year, for what looks like just cause: she was apparently driving drunk while taking her children to school, that arrest report said.

I’d never argue about that one. But last week, Deputy Jason Farrier was sent to Williams’ home about what was listed as a domestic dispute, after Williams threw a man’s clothes and belongings out in her yard in an informal eviction.

The report was vague about the evictee’s relationship to Williams – friends, the man told me – which may not be relevant in the eyes of the law. As the deputy apparently explained, Florida law does not allow evictions from a place anyone is living unless there is an eviction order from a judge. That applies to giving the heave-ho to renters, roommates, boyfriends, husbands and so on.

But Williams had a fairly common reaction to this revelation from the deputy. She didn’t want to believe the law really prevented her from removing anyone she wanted to remove from her home. She told the deputy that he was surely wrong and insisted on talking to his supervisor.

She said she would call 911 to try to get the supervisor to intervene.

I wish I could say that the deputy responded with a “Be my guest.” When in someone’s home about such an emotional matter, a deputy might easily invite this sort of cooling off period and be glad to have his sergeant explain things.

But no. Instead, Farrier ordered her not to call 911. He says in his report that he told her that more than once and explained to her that 911 was for emergencies only.

Well, sincere 911 calls are made every day for things a lot less intense than a woman in the middle of a domestic dispute being ordered to let the man back under the same roof. I’m sure it seemed like an emergency to Williams, and much more so than, say, a fender bender or odd stranger walking down the street. Our 911 operators get those every day.

Anyway, Williams made the call, and the deputy arrested her for it.

Law officers have to worry about domestic disputes turning violent, and about making sure no one grabs a weapon while angry or agitated or distraught. But I have never heard of a cop trying to thwart a 911 call from someone who wanted another cop at the scene.

Sheriff’s spokesman David Bristow said the sheriff would have no comment. Bristow said it was a matter of a deputy’s discretion.

Discretion? If that was discretion, I hope it wasn’t the best that deputy has. I think the jail was misused in Williams’ case far more than the 911 emergency line.

Copyright © 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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42 Responses to “OPINION: Arrest of Woman Seems Like a Bad Call to a Florida Reporter”

  1. A reader June 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Uh, just because someone’s upset about not getting the answer they want is not grounds to call 911. There is always a non-emergency number in place that could have been called to contact the supervisor. Based on the facts you’ve outlined in the aforementioned story, the arrest appears lawful. 

    Now, lets go find a real story and hop on that. 

  2. Mattterry83 June 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Good arrest. It’s abuse of the 911 system. Plain and simple.

    • Allegiantgroupllc June 15, 2012 at 1:18 am #

      Whats wrong with a grown women tying up the lowest bidder install out dated 911system that gets over used anyway and she had the state pay for while she had no job living in HUD house on my bill and she was owed for being born also to make an child like decision and cry to the boss who probably is trying to handle other tast during his busy day that he gets paid little for and also with no thanks just to hear another complaint during the day which could have been resolved by checking state statutes lists on the web. I hate the fact that a writer or reporter can talk trash about an officer doing nothing less than his job. Sounds like he’s throwing a fit to. Maybe he needs to be rejected by 911 system when he has an emergency while the complainer gets his McDonalds order fixed using 911. I’ve said too much. Boohoo, I want my way.

    • WLG2004 June 18, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      This female was in the middle of what SHE considered an emergency and did not agree with the officers position.  To me, she had a right to recontact the call center and although 911 was not the best number to call, I do not think it should have led to her arrest.  “Misusing 911” should be a charge reserved for those who actually and repeatedly abuse the system, not a one time decision to ask for a supervisor to respond.  There is not alot of details about exact actions that took place by the officer but I feel the officer went too far.  In my over seventeen years on the job, our jurisdiction has charged and arrested citizens for 911 abuse but never for a one time incident such as this.  We recieve many 911 follow up calls from citizens requesting a supervisor respond to a scene because let’s be completely honest, officers don’t always show compassion or good judgement in how they handle situations in the field.  Again, I’m not saying that is what happened here, I just don’t believe this should have led to an arrest.

      • Mike July 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

        911 WAS NOT the number to call because she disagreed with the deputy and wanted to talk with his supervisor.  She should have called a non emergency number.  Period, the end.  Her need to talk to a supervisor is not an emergancy.  911 gets abused enough as it is.  And I feel pretty sure the deputy’s supervisor was not on a 911 extension.  Good arrest!

      • Alan Dixon January 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

        Well said. Thanks for putting this back into perspective.

    • Alan Dixon January 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Misuse: possibly. Abuse: not even close.

      We dealt with all sorts of inappropriate calls all the time, every day. We had long since learned to quit crying about it and to do our jobs as the professionals we are. People will be people.

      An incident such as this should does rise to the level of an arrestable offense.

  3. Arelia Pendergrass June 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Sounds to me like the deputy has “control” issues. How dare a woman disobey his command. Maybe the Manatee County Sheriff’s Dept. need to revamp their psychological testing before the next hiring phase. This man has issues. 

    • West June 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      Being a woman has nothing to do with the issue. 911 is emergency only, period.

    • Harleycop68 June 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

      Sounds like to me you have issues with a man telling you what to do. Would it matter if it was a female officer telling her not to use 911? She broke the law, plain and simple! And bye the way, when an officer is on a scene that he or she ha been called to, they have the absolute final say when enforcing a lawful order!

  4. Frankie Cell June 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Sorry Tom, this chick was told NOT to use 911 to call the supervisor, because it was ILLEGAL.  She then made the decision to ignore the officer and flagrantly break the law by using 911, which any idiot above the age of 1 knows is for EMERGENCIES ONLY!

    She practically begged to be arrested, so the officer obliged her.  Good for the cop! 

  5. Ridinthebus June 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    That’s not what 911 is for. She had an officer there in front of her. No more need to tie up the system. He probably never even had the chance to explain to her that if she really wanted a Sgt. He could call one for her. People pay no attention because they don’t believe anyone could be right but them.

  6. TexLEO June 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Reporter is an idiot. 

  7. Randeaux June 14, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    It’s not his job to determine whether or not its a good 911 call. The officer should have called the supervisor himself.

    • Weatherman June 15, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      You are 100% wrong! It is his job to enforce the law. She broke the law, nuff said!

    • Coppa007 June 15, 2012 at 1:58 am #

      Pretty sure it is his job to determine of certain actions are violations of the law. Find me a judge that would believe this lady’s second guessing was a life or death emergency with an armed officer standing in front of her, and I’ll quit my job tomorrow. Reporter’s a moron. What happened to impartial reporting? Way to show your intellect chief. McDonald’s is always hiring.

  8. Fortiertarpon1991 June 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Just because you have the power, doesn’t mean that it should be used. This was a BS arrest. If a citizen request a supervisor, then they are supposed to get one. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  9. Larry June 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    911 is emergency only calling on that line takes rescourses from other folks. She was wrong, there is a normal line to call in non emergency  complaints. 

  10. Robeattie June 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    The deputy should have used his radio to request his sergeant meet him at the scene. That happened all the time when I was on the street.

  11. Jenk9cop June 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    The officer may have requested a supervisor…the report doesn’t say. Either way she abused 911 and the arrest was a good one. Just because you’re not happy with the answer you get, doesn’t mean you can keep calling 911, when you have an officer on scene and there is no emergency. That’s what the non emergency numbers are for. This happens a lot on most departments…why is this news?

  12. LadyAfrikan June 15, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    I think the reporter needs a wakeup call, along with all others who think this was anything besides the right thing to do. Good arrest. It is a clear misuse of the 911 system, and just in case she hadn’t been aware – the officer told her prior to her calling that it was a misuse. What is there not to get about that?
    How about this, next time you have a LIFE OR DEATH emergency, remember you thought her needing to speak to a supervisor, because she wasn’t satisfied with the answer was a legitimate 911 call…. Bet you’ll change your feelings about it.

  13. mtcboston June 15, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Good to go ALL day long!!

    Total and complete disrespect of police.  

    And who really cares that a REPORTER doesn’t approve?

  14. Heather_wehrly June 15, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Good arrest!! She was told 911 is for emergencies and since he was already on scene it was no longer an emergency… Plain and simple. Kinda like the ppl who call 911 for an EMS ride to their local ER for a stubbed toe or STD check… Misuse of the emergency system!!!

  15. Tonyb95 June 15, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    that reporter needs to work a couple of shifts as a officer and i think he might change his mind.  when he see’s how the majority of the public acts he might get a different view of why the officer did what he did. Most people are complete idiots i mean she was told not to do it and she was told why. And she did it anyway she deserved and needed to be arrested.

  16. Ccso31 June 15, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    Thank you, Tom Lyons.  Opinions are like as*hol*s, and you’re a big one.  Why don’yt you write about what you think is important, like the Kardashians?  STFU  

  17. Yahoo1151175 June 15, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    lots of details are missing…she was probably a renter, which gives legal right to the complex owner/landord to decide who can and cannot stay in their apartment/unit/townhome etc. Regardless, if the deputy wasn’t able to prove who had legal right to stay there, it is only fair to the male (because stories often conflict) that he be allowed to stay unless it is determined that the arrested party was the sole homeowner/renter/leasee, and had legal right to decide who has standing in her dwelling…let us not focus on the actions of the deputy in this case, as we do not have the full story. Instead, we should be focusing on this reporter who either left out, or failed to inquire on important information here – this should have not been published.

    • Usilpd June 15, 2012 at 4:15 am #

      Umm….an apartment/unit/townhome/house, in Ohio and probably many states are similar, if you reside in a place for an extended period of time you are a resident there.  You can not force someone out on the street, even if it your house.  If a person recieves mail, has personal belongings, etc. at the residence, you are a resident of that address no matter who owns the residence and would need an eviction order to leave.  GOOD ARREST!

  18. Btkrouse88 June 15, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    Why didn’t she ask for him to call a supervisor or an alternate number to get one, which might I add is a tremendous waste of tax payers money to begin with because she didn’t like what the first deputy had to say. So her”rational” way of thinking is to tie up another officer to confirm what was already told to her by calling 911. The scariest part is you se all this as being justified and ok. Look guy stick to reporting facts and not your opinion about police work. Good arrest, set the example.

  19. 911 dispatcher June 15, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    As a 911 operator, I agree with the arrest. She was told not to call 911repeatedly. By the deputy. That doesn’t mean she couldnt call the non emergency line and ask for a supervisor to respond. She could be taking up a line AND a calltaker that someone needs to report a true emergency. She had help there already, regardless if she did or didn’t like the answers. She was not in a life threatening situation at that point but someone else may have been and had to wait because the calltakers were busy dealing with her. Just because we receive hundreds of calls that are of lesser priority than her situation, doesn’t justify her blatant disregard of the deputy’s instructions or justify making it one more 911 call that really isn’t appropraite.

  20. Luckyone June 15, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    They need to arrest more people for abusing 911. As a911 Telecommunicator I get calls nightly just to get phone numbers or directions to yard sales I say start fine them $100 dollars for each abuse then they will call 411 or get access to a computer.

  21. Honestly Now June 15, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    I’ll bet the lady as a afrocan, they all seem to be having attitude problems of late.

  22. Pneaston June 15, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    The deputy did exactly what he should have. As for this news report; report the facts and let the reader form their own opinion. Tell the liberal reporter to leave his opinion out of it!?

  23. Overlord_78 June 15, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Good arrest!

  24. Angiehogeboom June 15, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    I believe you would have to prove her calling 911 prevented another emergency from obtaining the proper attention it needed. No way will that happen. Bad arrest ! He should of provided her a non emergency number but instead he allowed his ego to control the situation !!

  25. James Comegna June 15, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Being a retired Police Officer, I think the Officer is within his righta by law. I think I would have given her the Non-emergency ohone# or called my Supervisor on my police radio to meet me at the location. Police have a grey area to work in if they choose to. This women was probably a pain in the ass & a repeat caller & 911 abuser so her butt went. She may think twice before doing that again.

  26. Julie June 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Wow, Sorry to hear how misinformed reporter Tom Lyons is.  How would Tom feel if he was calling on 911, for medical help….say CPR instructions, or assistance in a traumatic injury, and I had to put him on hold for someone calling 911 for a non emergency, after being instructed not to.  

    This happens daily, whether its a child allowed to play with an old cell phone, that by law can still dial 911, or someone calling in “with just a question”, or “I couldnt find the non emergency number, so I called 911.” 

    I feel for those I am trying to help that actually NEED it!

  27. Onecop007 June 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    I agree – Wanting the talk to the supervisor using 911 is missuse of the system.  She should have called the business line and asked for the supervisor.  In Michigan you have to evict the unwanted person from your home once that person lives there (moves in).  Bad day for her all round…

  28. Pat McDain June 16, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    When the female asked to speak with the deputy’s Supervisor, there is no information as to how this request was handled. Had that request been honored, or the female provided with a legitimate phone contact for the deputy’s chain of command, the female may not have had a perceived need to call 9-1-1 to accomplish this. 
    It’s quite possible that a lack of effective customer service provision may have contributed to the escalation of the incident to an unreasonable level. As far as jailing this woman for making the call, that’s plainly an abuse of the deputy’s arrest powers. If they’re that serious about 9-1-1 abuse, then tracking down every teenager that repeatedly bumps the emergency button on their iPhone is likely what that agency spends most of its time doing. That has more impact on the system than this woman ever did.

  29. Jhwalljr June 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    It is abundantly clear that being a reporter for a Florida news paper doesn’t mean you have any common sense. That goes for the editor too.

  30. Anonymous October 22, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Bad arrest. The woman was in a situation that could be described as ‘domestic violence’, where her insistence on the departure of a ‘tenant’ was necessary to preclude further violence. The officer’s lack of recognition of this potential speaks to his/her lack of sensitivity to domestic violence.

  31. Alan Dixon January 18, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    This arrest was completely ill-advised. We need to be very broad when considering what 911 calls are considered to be legitimate. Nitpicking citizens on this matter serves no constructive purpose. Further, it will deter people from calling 911 at all, for anything, for fear of a situation not rising to the level what any particular individual official considers to be emergent. We are in an unprecedented age of citizen non-involvement, after all.

    When I was working the street, I customarily waited (perhaps somewhat impatiently, admittedly) while the subject called the station or HQ (or whatever) on whatever line of communication the subject chose. Consider that the object is to resolve the greater incident and not to fuel any flames extant. The mere instance of a lawful arrest here does not address the issue that was at hand.

    Additionally, in my jurisdiction, we had a 911 Task Force review board made up of sworn officials who met monthly to hear and rule on such matters. Where is such a mechanism here? Why is such not functional in this particular incident??

    Call me retired and grumpy, maybe. But I customarily did my job up right and frequently went above and beyond. I suppose I expect others to do likewise.

  32. 11yearLEO October 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    The officer was correct in stating the law however, has a conservator of the peace he could have given her the non-emergency number or his station number as more than 50% of residents in most jurisdictions have no idea what the non-emergency number is. As a cop I have no problem with someone calling my supervisor as I have nothing to hide nor be ashamed of. It certainly doesn’t hurt my feeling or prick my ego, I am a adult.

    Every other profession has a means to verify what a representative says and we have IA. Often I look at police dash or uniform video and see officers often pulling the non-existing offense “contempt of cop.” That is often about ego, pride, and agression. We’ve had several abuse of the 9-1-1 system cases and never has it been an arrest until several calls are made and a warrant is sworn out. I think the officer could have handled this very differntly as well as the female involved.

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