In San Francisco, Jami Tillotson, a deputy public defender, was in the hallway outside the courtroom when a plainclothes officer began to question her client. When the officer attempted to take pictures of her client with no explanation and for no apparent reason, she objected, and was, for this "crime," arrested and handcuffed to the wall for an hour.

Here's the video:

"You can either step aside," the police officer says to the public defender, when she objects to his taking pictures, "take pictures, two minutes, or we can make this..." He shrugs as his voice trails off.

Our Armed Public Servant, when asked to account for his unexplained and unaccounted behavior, provides no explanation or account. Instead, he offers a tough guy cop impression that's like My Little Pony meets the Shield and decides to mix downers with vodka. It's his fallback when he realizes he doesn't know what laws afford him the right to photograph these men, and feels himself simply above even providing an explanation to a lowly civilian, even if she is a public defender representing her client. Everyone there knows that he doesn't know what he's talking about. The other public defender filming the interaction does. The other police carefully maintaining poker faces do. Tillotson does too, which is why she smiles confidently as she politely refuses to budge.

Jami Tillotson: I'm pretty sure that we're ok here. We don't need any pictures taken, thank you.

Police Officer: No, you're not pretty sure. If you continue with this... I'll arrest you for resisting arrest.

Ahh yes, the infamous "resisting arrest," a delightfully transparent piece of legal jargon trotted out whenever the police want to arrest people but can't figure out what laws the person has violated. "I'll arrest you for resisting arrest" is a phrase that belongs in a absurdist classic like Kafka's The Trial or a satirical dystopia like Brazil, but here it is again, somehow existing in our wholly real physical and material plane. It's magical.

Tillotson's response is a masterpiece of 4th wall-bursting comedy and subtlety that belongs in dearly departed TV show The Office (either version, don't be a snob). She tilts her head slightly, looks him in the eye, and says, "Please do."

Then she looks directly into the camera with a look that I'd describe as "blank" except for the fact that she has an almost imperceptible twinkle of flabbergasted amusement in her eye as she does. The other public defender is understandably confused.

"What's going on?" he asks.

"He's going to arrest me," Tillotson says.

And then the officer did. And handcuffed her to a holding cell in a wall for an hour. Truly remarkable. What a city. What a state. What a country. What a world. I believe this man speaks for us all:

Who was this plainclothes officer, you ask, this pillar of even-handed justice, phantom of liberty? Well, we're glad you asked. His name is Brian Stansbury, and he's an SFPD Sergeant. We know, you're snapping your fingers like "where do we know this guy from?" The SF Chronicle has the scoop:

Stansbury was one of three officers whose traffic stop of an off-duty black colleague in 2013 led the off-duty officer to file a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the city. Police officials have said the officers involved had not engaged in racial profiling.

Nice:

Officer Brian Stansbury immediately asked Adamson if he was on probation or parole, a question that made Adamson believe he was being racially profiled, according to the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland. Adamson is African American and Stansbury is white.

Adamson, a 15-year veteran who is on disability leave for a back injury he suffered while on the job, objected to Stansbury's question and told the officer, "What does not having a plate on my car have to do with being on parole or probation? Shouldn't you be asking for my license, registration and insurance?" the suit said.

Stansbury replied, "That's what we do out here," according to the suit, filed by civil rights attorney John Burris.

Burris said his client's license plate had broken off and was inside the car.

"That's what we do out here." That's what we do out here. It's almost like this guy has no idea what laws are and doesn't feel the need to explain himself or any of his actions because he has a badge. Almost. As if.

Stansbury warned Adamson that he would take him out of the car if he didn't answer his question, the suit said. Adamson got out but became concerned because he believed being asked to exit his vehicle for a traffic violation deviated from standard police procedure, the suit said.

When an officer grabbed Adamson's wrist and told him to sit down, Adamson said he was an officer at the Bayview Station, according to the suit.

But Officer Daniel Dudley then "inexplicably" jumped onto Adamson's back, the suit said, and tried to apply a restraint to his neck before choking him and tackling him to the ground. Adamson repeatedly said, "I'm a cop" before backup officers arrived and confirmed he was an officer, the complaint said.

It's hard not to read this transcript and see images of police officers jumping on Eric Garner's back, choking and tackling him, in a situation that should never have gotten that far in the first place. If only he'd known that the magic code words to unlock his own humanity were not "I can't breathe" but "I am a cop."

[SFGate]

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