As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defenese lawyers know, this story is making national headlines: a Ft. Lauderdale teen helped save the life of a police officer who was booking him into jail.
17-year-old Jamal Rutledge, who had just been arrested on suspicion of violating the term’s of his probation by committing burglary, was waiting to be booked into jail when he saw the booking officer, 49-year-old Franklin Foulks, keel over and fall off his chair. Acting quickly, as surveillance video shows, the arrested teen (while still handcuffed) ran over to the security fence and started kicking it, yelling for other officers to assist.
Thankfully, the other officers made it over in time and were able to resuscitate Foulks. Later, doctors informed the officers that it was in large part due to the actions of the arrested teen that Officer Foulks’ life was saved.
Despite the fact that Rutledge has been arrested multiple times since the incident, he is being hailed as a hero by many, including members of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. In fact, on Wednesday, January 21, the teen will be honored — along with the other officers who saved Foulks’ life — at a ceremony hosted by the city commission.
As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, this is more than simply a heartwarming story; there are a number of important points to be taken away. First, this story demonstrates the fact that those who are arrested are not “bad people,” but rather misguided individuals who might have made a mistake. Second, the story shows that there can be a civil, even respectful, relationship between police officers and the public, including those who have been placed under arrest.
To the first point, it’s important to note that Rutledge was not compelled to act the way he did in saving Foulks’ live by calling for other officers’ assistance. As you can see in the video, a link to which is provided above, the teen — who was sitting in handcuffs waiting to be booked into jail after having been arrested by Ft. Lauderdale police officers — acted quickly when he realized an officer was in trouble.
Those were the actions of a good, decent individual who, despite having a juvenile criminal record, had the instinct to do what he could to save the life of another, even if that person was a member of the department that had just arrested him.
As for the second takeaway, right now, with stories of Michael Brown and Eric Garner informing the debate over police/civilian interaction, there is a great deal of disrespect on both sides of the argument. But as Jamal Rutledge demonstrated with his actions — which were by no means required — police officers can have a civil, cordial relationship with the general public.
Rutledge is being regarded as a hero and praised for his actions — and rightly so. What he did was more than admirable. That said, we should not see this action as an anomaly; we should realize that his actions, and the revelation that an arrested individual is not necessarily a bad individual, apply to a broad spectrum of individuals. Once, as a society, we begin to treat arrested individuals as people who are misguided or who have made mistakes, we will move closer to a point at which we can focus on true rehabilitation and education rather than simply automatic incarceration.
If you have any questions about this or any other criminal defense issue, or if you’ve been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.