walking

One might think the police would never manhandle, handcuff, and cite a 91-year-old man for anything—but that would be a fairy tale. In the real world, policing for profit, as some have called it, will stop at nothing to bring in revenue, even when it comes from citing a 91-year-old man for walking with a walking stick.

Otha Thurmond, 91, of Memphis, Tennessee, will finally find his way to criminal court after spending his whole life as a law-abiding citizen. According to Thurmond, he has never been in jail a day in his life. Neighbors agree. And they are up in arms with the treatment they witnessed Thurmond receive when he encountered police on his Memphis sidewalk.

Police say they felt threatened by the elderly man when they claim he waved a stick at them. They also say he tried to intervene in a separate domestic dispute. But neighbors disagree. Niesha Lowe WREG News that Thurmond responded when asked by police why he had a stick, saying, “I’m old. I need this stick.”

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Lowe said police “grabbed him, slammed him on the car (police), put his arm way all the way up here to the back of his back” indicating the arm bar into which they placed the 91-year-old. The arm bar alone could have easily dislocated his shoulder, broken his presumably brittle bones, or caused him to fall and break his hip—an injury which can be terminal to the elderly.

Carl Randolph concurred with Lowe. “He never raised his stick, though, in a threatening manner,” he told WREG. He said the police officer, “roughed him (Thurmond) up, and threw him on the car as if he was some young thug.” A third witness, Barbara Denton, agreed with both Randolph and Lowe. She said they had Thurmond bent over the car, in handcuffs.

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While it is true that nearly anyone from a child to a 100-year-old can pull a trigger, it is incredulous to us at TFTP that a Memphis police officer is so afraid of a frail 91-year-old that he has to detain the man in handcuffs. Worse still are the reports he gave no consideration to the man’s health or potential injuries he could sustain from simple routine police techniques.

The Memphis Police Department said they will not release the body cam footage until their own internal investigation takes place. As is typical, departments will investigate themselves and, more often than not, arrive at the conclusion that everything which took place was according to departmental policy. With respect to Thurmond’s case, there were more than three witnesses who saw what the unnamed officer did, and they’ are enraged, as they should be. Shame should be the likely result for a department which treats its elderly the exact same way they do a common street thug.

As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, many times policemen are on a quota system requiring them to have a certain amount of contacts with the public—write a set number of citations—all in an effort to boost the revenue at the department. We cannot presume to know if the interaction with Thurmond was just such an example of policing for profit or not. What we can tell you is that Mr. Thurmond not only declared he’s “never been in jail” but that he’s “never paid a traffic citation” either.

Now, Thurmond has to go to court over charges of “misdemeanor disorderly conduct.” We hope he takes his stick with him.

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Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine