Crime-fighting phony

Crime-fighting phony

August 3rd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

We've heard a fair amount of late about the supposed abuse of local public housing residents by officers with the Chattanooga Housing Authority and the city.

The tenor of the complaints has been that police are using over-the-top tactics when they respond to incidents in public housing complexes, and that must be because of some irrational hostility or prejudice on their part - not the fact that the facilities happen to be plagued with high crime rates.

That brings us to the curious case of College Hill Courts resident Joyce Hardwick - apparently nicknamed "Mama Joyce."

Hardwick, you may recall, circulated a petition labeling officers verbally abusive, as well as excessive in their use of force. Additionally, she has joined an effort to urge residents to use cellphones to capture alleged police brutality on camera. No word on whether there is similar enthusiasm among occupants of public housing to record the doings of armed assailants. Reckon that's because they know which group - police or gun-toting thugs - is more likely to retaliate?

Anyway, it is more than a touch ironic to learn that Hardwick was arrested earlier this year after police accused her of interfering with the arrest of her son, who, according to authorities, has been arrested more than a dozen times since 2009 and is a confirmed member of a gang.

Another son has been arrested in College Hill Courts five times on drug charges.

The young men, whose records Times Free Press reporters Beth Burger and Yolanda Putman recently detailed, are on a list of people who are forbidden to enter any housing authority site.

And Hardwick herself has already been convicted twice on earlier charges of disorderly conduct. In the latter case, police responded to a fight, and Hardwick continued screaming as authorities attempted to calm the crowd. Police records indicate that a woman with her punched a police officer as Hardwick was being restrained, and Hardwick told an officer, "I'm going to get you after I make bond."

It is baffling why such a person is still entitled to live in taxpayer-subsidized housing, but for perfectly understandable reasons, self-styled activist Hardwick has been instructed not to let the two sons in question visit her home.

This years-long farce hasn't carried on in sheer isolation, though. It takes a singular incapacity for clear thought to look at the Hardwick case and conclude that she and her family are primarily just victims of abusive cops. One needn't pretend that police abuse doesn't exist in order to recognize a bizarre inversion of priorities here.

The chief evidence of that inversion: By one account, Hardwick managed to drum up more than 100 signatures for her "petition" - in less than an hour.

Can the signers be so unaware of her troubles with the law? Can they believe she is purely a victim of circumstance and of overly zealous authorities?

No, this is about much more than a single case of she-said, cops-said.

It is about whether there is among at least a segment of our society a broad-based erosion of respect for the very concept of the rule of law. And whether the society as a whole has the mettle to withstand and begin reversing that erosion.