Two Florida sheriff’s deputies have been disciplined after a video of them arresting a legally blind man for refusing to show his ID went viral this week.
The Washington Post reports Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter apologized to James Hodges, 61, calling his arrest for resisting an officer without violence “unacceptable.” Hunter also said both officers involved in Hodges’ arrest have been disciplined. One was demoted, both were suspended without pay for several days, and both will be required to go through remedial civil rights training.
Hodges posted body camera footage of his arrest to YouTube last week. The footage shows Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Jayme Gohde approaching Hodges and asking about the folded walking stick tucked into his back pocket.
“It’s a navigational aid,” Hodges says. “What’s the problem? Are you a tyrant?”
“Yeah, I am, actually,” Gohde responds. “What’s your name and date of birth?”
The two then start talking over each other, Hodges arguing that he’s not required to show his ID and Gohde saying that she suspects he’s carrying a gun. Hodges whips out his walking stick and shows it to Gohde, who responds, “You don’t have to be a dick to me.”
“Well you’re being a dick to me,” Hodges shoots back. Hodges asks if he’s being detained. Gohde says he is and again demands his name and date of birth.
“I don’t need [to give] ID unless there’s a reasonable, articulated suspicion that I have committed a crime or am about to commit a crime,” Hodges says. He then asks to see Gohde’s supervisor. That happened to be Sgt. Randy Harrison, who was also on the scene. Harrison, too, insists that Gohde has the power to demand Hodges’ ID.
But Hodges knows his rights. In Florida, people are only required by law to show police officers their ID when they are stopped on suspicion of a crime. It’s unclear why the officers continue to detain Hodges after it’s obvious he’s carrying a walking stick, not a gun, in his back pocket. Nevertheless, the two officers then handcuff Hodges and pull his ID from his pocket to run a check on him.
“Alright, Mr. Hodges, was that so hard?” Gohde asks.
“It’s gonna be,” Hodges responds. “I want your name and your badge number.”
“You know what, put him in jail for resisting,” Harrison says. The entire time Hodges has been standing stock still.
Resisting arrest is one of the ticky-tacky charges, along with obstruction of justice, that officers often slap on people who make them mad. Because of this, they’re pejoratively known as “contempt of cop” charges.
Hodges spent 26 hours in jail before being released.
Being belligerent to a police officer is inadvisable if you’d rather avoid getting ticketed or arrested, but there is absolutely nothing illegal about it, as long as you don’t interfere with the officer. The First Amendment protects the right to mouth off, curse at, and gesture rudely to the police. Nevertheless, cases of people being arrested for offending police officers continue to pop up around the country.
Luckily, because of the increasing use of police body cameras, the public can now see when citizen complaints are legitimate or bogus and when charges are levied against someone merely because of an officer’s hurt feelings.