On January 14, 2011 at approximately 1530 hours, NYPD patrol officers initiated a traffic stop. According to reports, a woman in the passenger seat was noted to not be wearing her seat belt. She reportedly did not have ID. This is the point in the story where the mainstream media has decided to set aside known and knowable facts, and allowed the breathless accusations of an attorney to fill the current segment of their 24-hour news cycle.
Doris Hudson claims that officers then “forced” her 72-year-old husband to leave the vehicle and run home in the snow to get her ID. She says that decision caused her husband’s fatal heart attack. The police department said that is not what happened, insisting she had all the identification they needed and that the man made the choice to go home and get the identification. Nonetheless, she is now suing the city.
Hudson’s lawyer, Bonita Zelman, said on CNN (in a video clip that has now pretty much gone viral) that the officers involved “should be removed and terminated from the New York City police force. We do not need police officers who act with total depraved indifference.”
The words “depraved indifference” are not just inflammatory rhetoric — they are that, too — but also a standard of criminal conduct under the New York State homicide statute, section 125.25(2), which describes the behavior as “recklessly engag[ing] in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person.”
In his excellent analysis of this incident, PoliceOne Legal Columnist Terry Dwyer correctly says, “Implications that the officers acted with such disregard under a criminal legal standard reserved for accused murderers are inflammatory and harmful to public discourse. In a time when police officers are being indiscriminately shot and killed across the country this is not a responsible tone for an officer of the court to take.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the officers violated NYPD policy by allowing the man to leave the scene of the traffic stop. But that’s not for me or you or Mrs. Hudson or her attorney to decide. That’s for NYPD to decide.
For this attorney to make any such accusation any time seems incongruent with the known facts. For her to do it at a time when gunmen are stalking, ambushing, and “cluster-killing” our cops is flagrantly irresponsible. For CNN and everyone else in the mainstream press to “run with it” seems similarly ill advised, although we do recognize the Fourth Estate for what it is and does. We’re posting this here only because we know you’re going to see it somewhere — it may as well be within the context and confines of a place on the Internet that’s staunchly pro-LEO.
In closing, it should be acknowledged that the loss of life described in the text above and the video segment below is sad and tragic and unfortunate and regrettable. It is heartbreaking. I cannot even imagine the pain this woman is feeling. But I cannot comprehend the concept that her attorney is vilifying law enforcers for doing their jobs. Not ever. But especially, not now.
Check out the video, but don’t stop there. I encourage you to read the rest of Terry’s analysis here.