The almost routine killing of another black man by a white man, in this case two, has at least a new wrinkle to add some interest. The assailants claim they were making a citizen’s arrest. Whoa! A citizen’s arrest. This is a stupid claim, and a stupid thing to do, but it none-the-less deserves some looking into.
The concept of the citizens arrest comes from the Robin Hood days of Merry Old England when the Sheriffs encouraged citizens to arrest law breakers and hand them over to the sheriff. Simple enough–then. Now? Not so much.
The concept is the same as it was. Anyone, let’s say you, sees a crime being committed. You approach the person, you must inform them you are making a citizen’s arrest, you call the police and wait with the suspect. So there you are, criminal and crime-stopper, shoulder to shoulder awaiting John Law. Most likely you collar isn’t going to hang around and will attempt to get away, if need be, he or she, will punch, kick, knife or shoot you.
There isn’t much you can do about it. You are not a sworn law enforcement officer. You have no hand cuffs, or plastic ties. If you do you yourself might be breaking the law being charged with vigilantism or unlawful imprisonment.
Wikipedia tells us that, “Anyone who makes a citizen’s arrest can find themselves facing possible lawsuits or criminal charges – such as charges of false imprisonment, unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or wrongful arrest – if the wrong person is apprehended or a suspect’s civil rights are violated. Private citizens do not enjoy the same immunity from civil liability when making arrests on other private citizens as do police officers.
Since issues like this are part of state, not federal law, it should not surprise you that there are about 50 ways you can’t restrain your criminal. Not really, but close. Some states make restrictions on what kind of crimes can be stopped by citizens. If you don’t know your criminal code you can be in deep doo-doo. If you hit or injure your captured prey you can well be charged with a list of crimes–battery, assault to make two.
“Wiki” tells us that more than 30 countries have such laws and if that isn’t complicated enough in some countries the arresting citizens must be a citizen of that country. In some not. In some countries there are Federal and State laws. In others, provinces may have their own laws that differ in some ways from that of the next jurisdiction higher. One suspects the numb-nuts who pulled this caper knew none of this. It is possible that the father, a former cop (and aren’t we curious why he’s a former cop…?) may have known that in Georgia the law dates from 1865 when the legislature began to allow citizens to arrest one another.
Simple it isn’t. I contacted a friend who is a Lt. in the Sheriff’s office. He’s going on 30 years of service and had an incredible array of postings: drugs, gangs, homicides,tactical, SWAT. I ask him to review this piece for accuracy. His response, “I don’t know anything about citizen’s arrests.”
What do the police advise when you see a crime in progress? Call 911. Simple. But that’s not what these two simpletons, and undoubtedly racists, did. Poppa, being a retired cop should have known better. As it is said, a little bit of knowledge can get you in a lot of trouble. And sonny boy, he was right at Poppa’s beck and call. As a sidebar two prosecutors recused themselves from the case because they thought no crime had been committed, indicating that Georgia hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years. Having lived there this phrase often cited by Atlantans rings in my mind, “The only thing wrong with Atlanta is that it is surrounded by Georgia.” For weeks no one was assigned the case and no arrests were made. Then the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in, sort of the state FBI. Now we have arrests, no bail, and a prosecutor.
If you want to chase criminals here are two suggestions. 1) enroll in the police academy 2) buy a cops and robbers game. Otherwise dial 911. The results will turn out much better for you–at least from my perspective.
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