Officer Eric Ball of the Arlington Police Department has been getting praised pretty heavily as the latest internet sperstar with a badge and a heart of gold. The story goes that he “allowed” a teen to humiliate himself publicly by doing 200 push-ups rather than get arrested after the teen was reported to have been smoking marijuana near a movie theater.
Just one example of the glowing praise Ball has been receiving, via NBC4i.com:
Arlington police officer Eric Ball is getting a lot of attention after he caught a teen smoking weed.
It’s what he did after that’s receiving a lot of praise.
“One thing that my department pushes is for us to have compassion, and kind of think outside the box,” Ball said.
Ball was working another job at a movie theater when someone told him a man was smoking marijuana near the entrance. He told the person to come over, and saw him drop something.
“He said he had been smoking marijuana, but it wasn’t a usable amount. I just wanted to kinda teach him a lesson, to use that situation as a learning tool.”
Ball gave the teen a choice.
“He was real respectful. So I told him you have two options: he could go to jail or he could give me 200 push ups.”
So, the teen dropped to the concrete, and a passerby filmed it for Facebook.
The young man told Ball he learned his lesson.
Later, the teen’s mom came out looking for the officer.
“She actually thought I was nice because I only made him do 200,” Ball said. “She said he should’ve done 1,000.”
And of course, as mentioned in the article, a bystander made sure to film it and post the footage to Facebook so there was a record of the kid’s humiliation and the cop’s heroics:
Except there’s one problem with all this glowing praise and all the accompanying taunts about the unnamed teen having to resort to doing “girl’s push-ups” in order to complete his “merciful” punishment. Most of it is based on the assumption that this teen would have been facing drug possession charges and would have been hauled off to jail with his life ruined, as a result.
The reality is that, at worst, he would have been facing a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia and a fine. He also likely would be offered a deferment, meaning the conviction would be sealed and wouldn’t show up on his record. Officer Ball even states in the article above in regard to the “drug” he caught the teen with, “…but it wasn’t a usable amount.” The reason he made that distinction is because under Texas law “the State has the burden to prove that the defendant knowingly or intentionally possessed a usable quantity of marijuana.”
Even a paraphernalia charge would be a bit of a stretch. The description that Bell saw him drop something, which turned out to not even be enough to qualify as a usable amount, implies that the “paraphernalia” would have been a tiny piece of rolling paper. Based on the described demeanor of this teen (and his mother), the Arlington Police Department and prosecutors could probably have railroaded him into pleading guilty on such a charge. But would it even be worth the effort?
Before the Arlington PD public relations crew got ahold of it, the amazing feel good story would have actually sounded a lot more like:
“Texas cop working side job decides writing citation that likely would have gotten thrown out anyway isn’t worth the trouble, bullies teen into doing push-ups, instead.”
(Of course, we haven’t even gotten into whether someone should be “taught a lesson” for smoking a completely harmless substance that shouldn’t even be illegal in the first place. Depending on the teen’s age, it could potentially be a parental issue, but outside of that, this teen doesn’t sound like much of a threat to society even if he’s openly risking the Reefer Madness.)