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Finley: Jones' arrest could've turned tragic


Two things I know from personal experience: Nobody makes good decisions when they're drunk; and reasoning with a drunk is pointless. 

Both those truths are evident in watching the video of the recent encounter between state Rep. Jewell Jones and police officers after the Inkster Democrat wrecked his vehicle on Interstate 96.

The 30-minute dash-cam recording also provides some insight into how easily encounters between police and citizens can turn tragic.

Jones is charged with drunk driving. The charges contend he was "super drunk," with a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal level when he drove his SUV off the freeway and into a ditch near Fowlerville.

More: During arrest, lawmaker threatened to call Whitmer, told troopers he ran their budget, police report says

Driving drunk was Dumb Decision No. 1 in a string of really poor choices.

Jones' passenger was injured in the wreck. The video from the scene picks up the action with an incoherent Jones trying to join his friend in the ambulance.

A police officer blocks his way and asks to see Jones' driver's license and ID. Jones objects, and the officer repeats the request several more times as the two men face each other. Jones continues to refuse and attempts to bargain to be allowed to either get into the ambulance, or follow behind it in his own vehicle. 

You can feel the tension rise as other cops join the effort to get Jones to cough up his ID. He repeatedly says, "I can't do that."

After several minutes of this going-nowhere back-and-forth, the officers wrestle Jones to the ground and try to handcuff him.

At this point, you can hear more than you can see of the video. Jones is heard asking officers to call Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Police Director Joe Gasper, and warning them, "I’m telling y’all that's not gonna be good for you. I run y’all’s budget.”

It took awhile, pepper spray and a stun gun, but Jones was finally subdued, handcuffed and placed in a patrol car.

That long period of scuffling on the ground is where Jones could have become another in the growing list of unarmed African American men killed by police while resisting arrest.

It was an idiotic decision on his part. 

But what about the cops? Jones was uncooperative, for sure, but not physically threatening. And he wasn't trying to flee.

Should officers have shown more patience, waited him out, brought someone else to the scene who might be more successful at securing his compliance?

They obviously couldn't let Jones go. He had earned his arrest and was a danger to the public as a motorist. But getting physical with him should have been an absolute last resort. It put both him and the officers in more danger than was warranted.

As bad as this was, it could have been much, much worse due to Jones' dumbest decision of all.

A loaded handgun was found in a cupholder of his vehicle. Had that gun been in his waistband, or had he been in the SUV when it was discovered by police, the outcome could have been deadly. Imagine those headlines.

In the end, this is on Jones. He's an elected representative of the people who apparently thinks his position excuses him of accountability. His recklessness and sense of entitlement were the root causes of what happened. The video does not support a claim of racist cops.

And yet, it does raise the question of whether there are better ways for police to deal with a drunken jerk than getting down in the mud with him. 

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.