You can imagine my surprise and corresponding disgust when I saw the story about Brian Sterner this morning on the Today Show. Brian, who is a quadriplegic, was arrested by the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s Department for outstanding traffic violations. A sheriff’s deputy ordered him to stand for a frisking and when he declared that he was unable to do so, the deputy dumped him out of his wheelchair. Apparently she didn’t "believe" him. I’m certain that by the end of the day this video tape will be everywhere in the mainstream media. As so it should be. This is absolutely appalling.
The video clip below shows Mr. Sterner being dumped on the floor, then "frisked" while lying there. Eventually he is picked up off the floor and "dumped" back into his chair.
Brian is a disability rights advocate and a doctoral student at the University of South Florida. He teaches courses in disability studies among other things. I was particularly struck by his insistence on the Today Show that his mistreatment at the hands of the sheriff’s office represents a police abuse crisis that affects everybody.
In short: Brian Sterner wasn’t abused because of his disability! He was abused because he was essentially in the hands of the constabulary.
Of course having a "reasonable accommodation" that they can take away surely adds to the enticements of cruel and unusual punishment.
I wonder what Judge Alito, our nation’s newest expert on the acceptability of water boarding would say about this?
Alito would likely say that since Brian Sterner was not yet technically "in the jail" he wasn’t yet being punished–he was having a "pre-correctional opportunity".
At any rate, as I said to my wife after the Today Show interview: "I think they picked on the wrong guy!"
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