The Film Don’t Lie

Isaiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons took part in a recent “30 for 30” film on his 1980s “Bad Boys” championship teams. To the detractors who said the team was thuggish or that they got lucky in spots, Thomas responded with his standard line:

“The film don’t lie.”

Watching film can provide you with an amazing amount of detail on that team. The violence it perpetrated on defense and the grace with which it ran fast breaks. The time Rick Mahorn decided to punch out the entire Chicago Bulls team and the feathery shot that Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson took to sweep the finals.

It’s all in the film. And the film don’t lie.

Of course, it actually does.

And that’s our fault.

We see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear. If you hated those teams, you saw the way that Bill Laimbeer clothes-lined Larry Bird in the playoffs. If you loved those teams, hey, that was just the cost of doing business.

When Magic Johnson body-checked Thomas in the 1988 NBA finals, it was like Bryan Burwell said: “People would say, ‘Oh that Magic… What a competitor.’” When Mahorn flattened Jordan, it was thuggery.

The film lies all the time because we add layers of interpretation to it and color its view through our own lenses.

A video shot about a month ago from a police dashcam in Arizona has gone viral and reignited the issues of race, gender and police brutality throughout the land.

ASU Assistant Professor Ersula Ore was arrested May 20 after a run-in with police. Ore said she was crossing the street to avoid construction when a police officer confronted her, violated her civil rights and then physically assaulted her while attempting to arrest her.

ASU police said Officer Stewart Ferrin contacted Ore, who was walking down the middle of the street, and directed her to move to the sidewalk. Ore, police said, became argumentative and belligerent, escalating the situation. She chastised the police for being disrespectful, refused to provide ID when asked and then physically resisted arrest. She also cursed at and kicked the officers involved, police said.

The entire incident is available on audio/video and has made its rounds online.

Theoretically, this should be easy to figure out. It’s all on film.

However, thick lenses and festering wounds make it hard to see exactly how this will play out.

Several groups have claimed this is a case of racial profiling and over-zealous police work. Ore is black. Ferrin is white. Ore herself notes in the video that she had been on the campus for three year and never saw one person arrested for jaywalking, the original reason Ore was stopped. Driving While Black has morphed into Walking While Black on the ASU campus, according to one of the groups involved in this discussion.

A police review has found nothing improper about the stop, despite putting Ferrin on paid leave until an FBI review of the situation is completed. (A paid leave during an outside investigation is common and does not connote innocence or guilt in these situations.) From the police vantage point, an officer contacted someone who was doing something out of the ordinary and probably unsafe. Everything was fine until Ore became arrogant and unreasonable, refused to respond to officer requests/commands and then really lost it on the cops. White, black, green, whatever. It was a case of someone resisting a peace officer.

My own view of the situation was colored by a recent airline flight with my family. We ended up on Southwest, which has “open seating” (a.k.a. The Hunger Games with less legroom) so people can pick whatever seats they want based on when they get on the plane. When Dad and I ended up on the plane, most of the seats were full, but strangely enough, there were two seats open in the exit row. The flight attendant was standing there and when we asked him if those were open, he said, “They are now.”

When we sat down, we ended up next to a guy who had his two teen daughters in front of him. All three were cursing about something. After five minutes, an airline official came on the plane and said, “The lady who just left the plane wants you to join her.” They got up, cursing, and left.

The story we got from the people who were on the plane was that the lady was sitting in the exit row when the flight attendant noticed she had a brace on. When he informed her that airline rules stated no one with a brace could sit in that row for safety reasons, she said, “Fine. I’ll take it off.” When he said that wouldn’t work, she became combative and started yelling at him. After about six “Ma’am, I’m sorry” statements from the steward, the lady told him that this was “bullshit.” He then said he’d been as nice as he could for as long as he could and she was being pulled off the flight.

(If you must know, the family was white. The flight attendant was black.)

The way I saw it, things didn’t need to get that out of hand. When the guy noticed the brace, there were plenty of nearby seats of equal value. She could have moved easily. Conversely, if the brace were really something she could take off, was it worth the squeeze to try to enforce this rule? Kind of ticky-tacky if you think about it.

However, the whole thing in my mind came down to arrogance and a superiority struggle.

Who the hell are you to talk to me this way? Both people thought it, although neither of them said it. To the flight attendant, this was his realm and he was enforcing the rules. To the lady, it was some third-rate “rent-a-cop” guy throwing his weight around.

When my wife watched the video of Ore’s arrest, she saw the connection as well: “This is like that thing on the plane.”

Ore’s initial complaint was that the officer spoke to her disrespectfully and she wasn’t going to let that slide. The officer’s initial complaint was that something was happening that shouldn’t have been and he needed to correct it. As both situations wore on, neither party would give and eventually the people with the real power in the dynamic played their trump cards.

Ore was in court Thursday, fighting the charges against her as the FBI continues its investigation into the incident. Although the dashcam video will be paramount in what gets decided in both cases, it doesn’t show everything, both sides argue. The local newspaper is arguing for individual officer cameras to create more detailed video of stops like these and to eliminate some of these concerns.

Because, after all, the film don’t lie.

2 thoughts on “The Film Don’t Lie

  1. Robert says:

    I have to disagree.
    I would not want to be on a flight with someone sitting at an emergency exit that is in anyway unable to assist if there were an emergency. No time, no exceptions.
    If you view the Ore video, you can clearly see in the background that the sidewalk is obstructed AND at least two people doing(jaywalking) what she was assaulted for doing. THAT is what she complaining to the ASU cop about.

  2. grrljock says:

    I have the same point as Robert: the flight attendant absolutely has the right to enforce the exit row rule. He may not have been professional about it, but my personal take is that the potential needs of the rest of the passengers (of using the exit row) outweighs the passenger’s preference.
    I do get your overall point about the pointlessness of escalating situations like these, especially if one is the powerless party in them (as I rate jaywalking on a different offense level as readiness to open the airplane exit door). However, I also get being fed up with such blatant bullying. I have a quick temper, so I can totally see myself having the same initial reaction as Ersula Ore’s, especially since the audio and video didn’t make it clear to me that he was issuing a ticket/citation against jaywalking vs just asking to see her ID. Regardless of how pissed off she was, it’s really shameful for the ASU police force to have to use 2 officers to physically restrain one woman like that.

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