Controversy after cops' aggressive arrest of jogger wearing earbuds

In Austin, Texas, bystanders photograph and film an arrest made by officers of a jogging woman, who claims she couldn't hear the policemen because she was wearing earbuds. The arrest, for alleged jaywalking, appears to some excessive.

Amanda Stephen after the arrest. My Fox Austin screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Jaywalking's a curious thing.

When I lived in New York, no one seemed to care. In San Francisco, on the other hand, people stand dutifully while the red man is alight, even if there isn't a car in sight.

In Austin, Texas, though, police take it very seriously. Indeed, one incident this week has some believing they take it too seriously.

For here we had what appeared to be quite an aggressive arrest of a jogger who was wearing earbuds, and therefore potentially ignorant of the natural sounds that surrounded her.

As My Fox Austin reports, Chris Quintero, a student seated outside a Starbucks opposite, decided to take photographs of the incident. A video was also posted to YouTube.

"I heard a cop yell: 'Hey, stop.' Or something along those lines," he told Fox. He said he'd seen multiple jaywalking citations issued that day.

The jogger, he said, didn't stop. "The cop kinda chased after her and grabbed her by the arm and she shook him off," he explained.

Quintero believes that the woman, later identified as Amanda Stephen, had no idea who had grabbed her. "The next thing you know, she's on the ground in handcuffs."

The Austin Police Department issued this statement: "The woman refused to identify herself. She was arrested for failure to identify and a traffic signal violation. The case is still under investigation."

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has been very open in discussing the case on Twitter. One tweeter offered: "Troll. Grabbing a women from behind who is 'in the zone' jogging & wearing earbuds was dumb & dangerous."

To which Acevedo replied: "Crossing busy streets with ear phones on, in a zone & viol. of law is safe? What if cop was speeding car?"

Those who wear earphones to insulate themselves against the world sometimes believe they don't need to pay attention to anything at all.

In response to the apparent aggression of the arrest, Acevedo said on Twitter: "Policing can be ugly, ugly doesn't automatically = wrong."

He added that 96 pedestrians died in Austin last year. "Often peds are at fault," he tweeted.

His critics suggest that ever since he became chief, aggressive policing has increased. Acevedo, though, insisted that if a pedestrian or jogger is being cited, they have to give police at least a verbal ID.

On the one hand, a woman jogs using technology to shut out the world. On the other, a witness uses technology to make the world know what happened. And in the third corner, the chief of police uses technology to offer instant comment to his critics.

Acevedo's tone away from Twitter was less conciliatory. As KUT News reports, his reaction to watching the video was: "Quite frankly she wasn't charged with resisting. She's lucky I wasn't the arresting officer, because I wouldn't have been as generous."

He also offered this curious defense: "In other cities there's cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas."

 

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