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