An unnecessary escalation

A recent incident involving a Chico cop shouldn’t have happened

This week’s cover story happens to be a Q&A with a couple of veteran Chico police officers. A number of things they said during the interview struck us. First off, police officers are human beings, and their line of work is difficult—in some cases “soul-crushing,” as one of them put it.

The CN&R has a lot of respect for people who work in public safety, but we maintain that respect is a two-way street when it comes to law enforcement’s interactions with the public. Accordingly, we were encouraged to hear that those veteran officers view policing as a service industry. That response came from a simple question: What’s the difference between a good cop and a great cop? Part of their answer: “The people out there are our customers and we should be thinking of how to provide really excellent service. It’s so easy to make encounters with people positive ones. We need to remember who we work for, and a great cop always remembers that.”

Seems like that line of thinking was not in play early Saturday morning during an incident involving three female college students. The interaction was captured on video and has been watched more than 100,000 times, including in the UK, where it was picked up by The knee-jerk reaction is that the woman being detained should have complied with the officer. That’s the stance the Chico Police Department is taking. That may be true, but there’s more to this story, including many unanswered questions (see “Red flags,” Second & Flume, page 5).

We believe cooler heads could have prevailed here—especially on the part of the officer. There simply was no cause for the situation to have escalated like it did, especially over a minor traffic violation during an otherwise busy weekend. What a mess.