If the Rochester Poilice Department has members on the force who are so easily rattled, and those officers have guns, something bad is going to happen.

Quick question for the Rochester Police Department: If a peaceful woman in her pajamas with a video camera scares you that much, how confident should we be that you can tell the difference between “criminals” and “bystanders” when you’re under pressure?

I know, I know; we need to be fair to RPD officer Mario Masic. Perhaps Emily Good was standing in her own yard in an especially aggressive manner. Maybe one hand was in a fist.

Still, if a woman peacefully standing in her own yard watching what’s happening on her own street is a significant enough threat to be put in handcuffs — and if it takes four police cruisers to check whether civil rights activists are parked inches too far from the curb — the public should know this, because taxpayers will probably need to issue the RPD Sherman tanks and predator drones the next time cops are used as crossing guards. Some of those kids have phones! Terrifying phones!

If Officer Masic was telling the truth and was genuinely frightened for his safety by the prospect of a woman obeying the law in her own yard, then maybe he isn’t cut out for police work. Maybe he could work security at an old age home, or a frozen custard stand.

I am of course taking Officer Masic at his word here, that he and several other members of the RPD are in fact precious little girls scared of anything that moves. That’s better — much better — than “cops deliberately abusing their power to intimidate and harass law abiding citizens.”

But it’s still no good.
        
Because if the RPD has members on the force who are so easily spooked and so easily rattled, and those officers have guns, something bad is going to happen. Even if Emily Good was technically breaking the law (which we can assume was not the case, since the District Attorney’s office dropped the charges), even if the activists meeting to support her were technically parked more than a foot away from the curb (the way Al Capone used to park), any police officers who think these are appropriate scenarios in which to flex their muscles are showing terrible judgment. The kind of terrible judgment that gets good people hurt and killed.

Maybe those good people are just standing in their yards; maybe those good people are just citizens who want to make their communities better; maybe those good people are fellow RPD officers who get put in the line of fire because Masic and his buddies don’t know how to defuse a situation with a little basic courtesy. An officer of the law who can’t stop to think, “Arresting this woman is a terrible idea,” or “We shouldn’t target the cars of people who disagree with us” is far more likely to make a truly stupid decision when there’s a real threat.

Maybe they already have.

All I know is that if Police Chief James Sheppard and Mayor Thomas Richards don’t set a hard line against such terrible judgment calls — however they’re spun as technically legal or justified — it sends a message that police officers don’t have to exercise good judgment.

That’s the kind of message that gets people killed — on and off the force.

Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media. Read more of his work at TheWachsGallery.com.