Legal experts weigh in on Tuscaloosa police video
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - The video being shared and replayed over and over on social media of Tuscaloosa police officers arresting three students has garnered a lot of opinions. ABC3340 sat down with Birmingham attorneys Eric Guster and Richard Jaffe to get their take. Both have extensive legal experience in criminal and civil law.
"Everyone in this video was hyped up and wore their emotions on their sleeves. It got out of control," says Eric Guster. Throughout the video you can hear arguing back and forth and the situation escalating as an officer stood at the doorway to the apartment and students inside.
Guster says normally, a call about a noise complaint would entail a knock on the door and an officer asking you to turn your music down. There's no reason go inside a residence.
Attorneys say to enter a home or apartment the law is clear, police need a search warrant unless there is a special circumstance such a domestic violence call or it is believed someone is injured inside. "You do not have to consent to anyone including law enforcement entering your premises," explains Richard Jaffe.
"At the end of the day they need a warrant; they need probable cause; they need a judge to give them permission to do that and they did not," added Guster. But legal or not, both attorneys advise citizens to comply. "If the police officer says I'm going to arrest you, the wisest thing to do is submit to that arrest," says Jaffe.
"You won't win a fight with police whether it's in your apartment or on the road. Cooperate with them; live to fight them later in court," says Guster. He adds police have an extremely difficult job and being hostile towards them does not help the situation.
Recording everything is perfectly legal and advisable according to Guster. But you cannot do it in a way to interfere with an officer. Keep your distance and if they say back up you need to follow their instructions.
Both attorneys wonder what more the officer's body cameras will show. "I really want to know what happened right before the video was recorded on the cellphone cameras, before the officer said I'm going to come in here and grab you out. That is going to be the million dollar question," said Guster.
Both agreed the most troublesome part was the amount of force used. "Should the police have applied that much force under these circumstances?" questioned Jaffe. "The real question was the tasing and being manhandled like that with so many officers there without a hint of violence or danger or a weapon.. should police have applied that much force under these circumstances.
"They instantly tased him. He was putting his hands on the wall. That looked very bad on the department," remarked Guster. He also said cursing by the officers was inappropriate. Jaffe questioned why the female in the video was arrested and pulled from the apartment with such force. He said she appeared to only be asking questions.
Both attorneys stress we don't have the whole story yet. There is more video to analyze and witnesses to hear from. We have not heard from the officers themselves.
Guster and Jaffe remind the public that people have died after being tased. If you are in an escalating situation with police, they ask is standing up for your principles worth the risk? "Obey the officer so you don't end up tased, injured or killed. Let the court system fight it out for you."