Instead of a Barbie Doll, what if you “shoplifted” a diamond ring?

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

Would the police treat you differently?
By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

When we’re in trouble, we appreciate the police coming to our rescue. When they selflessly put themselves in danger to save the lives of others, we believe they deserve all the recognition they get. And who do we want around when we have to make a very large deposit or withdrawal from our bank and it is not the safest neighborhood in town? Or when there’s a strange noise in the night and we’re all alone, who do we think of calling?
Police who gravitate toward that line of work for the right reasons usually tend to be the kind of officers we’d want around in any of the above situations — but what if we were on the other side of the law, being one who needed to be apprehended, not helped? What might we expect from the officers? While we might not expect to be treated with “kid gloves,” we certainly wouldn’t expect to be treated like mass murderers if we had just done a little shoplifting in the Family Dollar Store.
No matter what was shoplifted, police need to keep in mind that the crime is about a little theft, not about violence or murder. I am not condoning theft, and if it is about the theft of a Barbie Doll by a little girl (deliberately or not), we need to ponder how that traumatic event — the way the police might have handled it — can impact her life long after it’s over. Imagine yelling at the mother to put her hands up while she’s holding a baby! Has the officer who did that no eyes to see? No common sense in what is doable and not doable?
Haven’t police officers seen enough of those videos recording what really happened when they thought no one was watching to at least not want to “get caught” using more force than the situation called for?
Even if it would be in them to want to throw their weight around because they carry a badge and a gun, didn’t they learn to use only the force necessary to subdue the situation?
For those who are not familiar with the story, a Phoenix couple who had been shopping in a Family Dollar with two children, aged four and one, were terrorized by the police when they were accosted by them
with guns drawn for the horrible crime of shoplifting — their 4-year-old having shoplifted a Barbie Doll from the store, either deliberately or unknowingly, and the man took some underwear.
Apparently, the police had been on a quest to crack down on shoplifters, yet pulling guns on a family, which included two small children, when the crime was shoplifting, not anything including violence, murder, or weapons, what would they have done if one of them — including the children — made some kind of an “unauthorized” move—shoot them?
It turned out that the man admitted to taking some underwear from the store (seen on the in-store camera), and the little girl had taken the Barbie doll, but there is no way that their brutal treatment at the hands of the police was warranted; it was enough to cause a huge outcry against such police treatment and the trauma of the event is already taking its toll, what with the mother’s flashbacks and constant images of guns being pointed at them going through her head.
Let’s be reasonable; if a family feels the need to steal underwear, they want to just get in their car and get away from the store as fast as possible. That probably enraged the police and was certainly cause for their rage toward the family. One can see why the man’s head would have to be pushed down on the hot asphalt, the cuffs tightened on his wrists as far as they could go, and then, for good measure — since he did steal underwear — kicked while he was down, and according to articles, in such a way as to render him unfit for his job. So stopping him and arresting him wasn’t enough, traumatizing his family — included two young children — and rendering him unable to work, and making such an issue of what was an ordinary shoplifting crime so as to cause his family to suffer humiliation all out of proportion to what they did, was that what the police felt was necessary for their apprehension?
The officers who were involved have been placed on desk duty pending the outcome of an investigation. (This is not the only time that Phoenix police officers have been involved in situations seen as using force above and beyond what would seem reasonable.)
Why is it that police feel the need to use extremely harsh and abusive language when making an arrest? They have the guns. They have the power and the force. On top of everything, do they need to use the kind of language — especially when they know children are involved — that is filled with expletives? Are those the kind of memories that we want our children to have in association with police officers? They yelled and cursed and punched and hurt my daddy, even pushing his head into the car door to close it before throwing him on the ground, putting on the handcuffs and kicking him so hard he couldn’t even go
back to his job, and all the while they had their guns drawn on us, and all my daddy did was take some underwear and drive away. I was so scared. My mommy was pregnant and holding my little brother. Yet they
yelled at her to put her hands up. How could she? Would you feel inclined to give your child to one of those officers?
(Yes, those thoughts might be a little beyond a 4-year-old, but she will probably work up to them.) And one can only imagine what other thoughts might someday run through the little girl’s mind as she grows up. Would she have nightmares about Barbie dolls? Feel totally responsible for putting her family through all that pain and trauma? Would her life ever be peaceful and happy and carefree again?
Let’s face it, in a situation like that one would expect some screaming and protective moves on the part of the mother. Of course, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what happened, but could anything justify that brutal overkill of arresting the family who was seen shoplifting some underwear and a Barbie doll?
The employees who noticed the theft did nothing wrong by informing their employer who notified the police. But It’s a sad day when we have to tell ourselves that we better not call the police because they might make the situation 1000 percent worse than bearing the loss of the goods.
The man who was brutalized is suing the police for $10 million. Jay-Z has offered to take care of their legal expenses.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at

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