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Friday, 30 April 2010

Don't tread on Superman's cape!

Three Houston police officers have been restricted to desk duty after they followed a Chinese diplomat into the parking garage of the Chinese Consulate, arrested the man and injured him, the Houston mayor said.

Under international practise, the premises of foreign embassies and consulates are outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, and diplomats have legal immunity from arrest.

Houston police tried to stop a car that was missing a license plate, CBS News reported. When the car didn't stop, they pursued it into a garage. Police handcuffed and arrested the driver, injuring him, the report said. CBS News identified the official as Ben Ren Yu. The Houston consulate website lists a deputy consul-general, Yu Boren.

This is basically what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. Mr. Yu thought himself and his vehicle to be above the law, which indeed they were--in theory. The police officers thought they had the power to pull over and question the driver of any car without proper proof of registration, which they did--in theory.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, both sides did their utmost to assert their rights: Mr. Yu in refusing to pull over, and the cops in pursing a subject into an internationally protected zone. The diplomat got treated like a common thug--nothing unusual about that, except that the cops made a serious mistake in thinking they could get away with it this time. Now they're waiting for the next shoe to drop while Mr. Yu recovers from his injuries.

There's a lesson to be learned in this: obey the guy with the gun: even if you think you're right and he's wrong, he still has the gun. Let him calm down first, and later you can sort things out. Otherwise, somebody's going to get hurt.

I think there's another lesson in this, for the cops. Guys: think about this. Every day the Texas Department of Corrections releases at least one convicted felon back onto the streets of Houston. Most days, several of them. So why be in such a rush to cuff everybody you think might have something to hide? Chances are they'll be back out on bail before your shift is over. Slow down and let the legal system work. If they deserve to be caught, they will, sooner or later. You don't have to be the one to do it. And don't feel bad about the ones that get away; sooner or later, they all do.

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