On Sept. 30, Tallahassee became the latest source of police brutality, a topic sweeping the nation in light of recent events and protests. A total of four people were arrested for resistance without violence in Tallahassee’s Frenchtown after Quontarrius Jones was ordered to stop walking in the street despite the lack of sidewalks on Dunn Street. Confusion then ensued after the initial arrest of Jones, and matriarch Viola Young walked onto the scene. In an attempt to figure out what was occuring, 62-year-old Young, inquired the officers at the scene about the arrest. However, after receiving no sensical answers, Young began to walk away. Officer Terry Mahan then proceeded to tase Young, causing her to fall face first into the pavement.
The actions of Mahan were quickly condemned by not only the Tallahassee Police Department Chief Michael DeLeo, the State Attorney’s office, and Tallahassee citizens, but the nation as well. Chief DeLeo called for an unprecedented press conference a mere ten hours after the event occurred in the early morning hours to address the situation and publicly announce Mahan’s administrative leave as well as an internal investigation.
National media outlets have been quick to lump the story under titles of police brutality along with other recent cases such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The TPD is easily portrayed as a band of insensitive officers unlawfully targeting minorities, as is the current reputation of many police forces across the U.S. And though what happened to Young is extremely relevant to the current plight of victims and advocates against police brutality, the story of what happened in Tallahassee remains largely in the shadows because of the media’s current focus on continuing developments in Ferguson. Albeit, what news has been reported on Frenchtown at the national level only serves to highlight critical issues in the TPD.
It is a unanimous opinion that the tasing of Young was completely uncalled for, prompting questions on whether our nation’s police forces are equipped to deal with these situations that should never escalate to such brutish tactics. However, because of all the recent mishandlings with citizens that the TPD has encountered, the city of Tallahassee seems eager to change such a reputation.
Though DeLeo has only recently become police chief, he has been active in the fight for reforms of the TPD, as these issues of police brutality are no new occurrences. Just last year, Tallahassee made national headlines after suspected police brutality in a DUI arrest. This has led DeLeo to authorizing a number of internal investigations in order to root out the problem that currently hinders the ability of the TPD to address situations in a neutral manner.
“We want to be transparent with the community by sharing what we can at this point. The investigation will determine if the officer’s actions were legal and if those actions were consistent with the expectations I have set for our officers in terms of how we respect and treat our citizens,” DeLeo said.
Various groups have called upon State Attorney Willie Meggs, including the Dream Defenders, to file criminal charges against Mahan. Though no charges as of yet have been proposed, the State Attorney has been playing an active role throughout the discourse of the tasing incident. Meggs has on multiple occasions noted of the tasing that, “the evidence indicates it was unnecessary.”
by HOLLY CRAMER / contributing writer