Houston police’s history, Peterson’s reputation make resisting arrest case more complex

The NFL has seen its usual cavalcade of off-field incidents during the slow period between minicamps and training camps, leading some to wonder anew if there should really be a five-week summer vacation for a large group of people with unlimited resources and varying levels of maturity. However, one arrest that took everybody by surprise was that of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was arrested on Saturday morning on a Houston nightclub for resisting arrest. He was released on $1,000 bond a few hours later.

The facts of the case are still incomplete, but it's pretty clear that as Houston police were clearing out a nighclub early Saturday morning, Peterson wanted to get a drink of water before leaving the club. The off-duty officer on the scene disagreed (he was working security), a physical incident of some sort ensued, and Peterson was taken into custody. We want to wait before all the facts are out before rushing to judgment on either side, and that's especially true when we're talking about a player who's never been involved in anything like this before.

Aside from a few traffic stops in his career (including one for failing to wear his seat belt!), Peterson is about as squeaky-clean as any high-profile athlete can be. He is universally acknowledged as a team leader, and many players cite his impressive recovery from injuries to be an inspiration.

"He's one of our biggest leaders," Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Adrian is a great guy. Maybe it was one bad decision he made. Who knows? He won't be a distraction at all."

Additionally, there are those who speculate that Houston engages in some level of profiling in certain cases. We are not accusing the Houston Police Department of doing so, but it's important to get all sides out there so that people can come to their own conclusions.

I asked Stephanie Stradley, a practicing attorney in Houston and a football writer for the Houston Chronicle, about the Houston Police Department's history with athletes of a certain pigmentation.

"Anytime there's a resisting arrest situation and no other charges, and there's a large, black athlete involved, it's one of those situations where it raises eyebrows," Stradley said. "Because there have been some very high-profile situations in the Houston area where African-Americans have been targeted by HPD wrongfully."

Stradley brought up the case of Texans guard Fred Weary, who experienced this in November of 2006.

"Basically, he was followed in his car for 4-6 miles, and the reason they followed him all the way from Reliant Stadium was that he was 'looking suspicious in a high-crime area.' He's driving his Impala near his place of business, and they followed him all the way around the 610 loop to find a reason to pull him over. He didn't know why he was being pulled over, and one thing led to another, and they tasered him and arrested him for resisting arrest."

The charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. One year later, Weary sued the city of Houston and the two police officers involved in the stop. Joseph Walker, Weary's attorney, said that the officers "clearly used race as a factor for reasonable suspicion and making a traffic stop."

"He never got his letter of apology or a concrete review of tasering," Walker said at the time. "He asked for a copy of [taser] policies and they sent him a policy that was completely blacked out, censored."

Peterson was not tasered, and we don't know that there was any specific profiling in this case, but it would seem that more than ever, we need to wait until all the facts are out before rushing to judgment. Based on precedent, it's just as possible that Peterson was a relatively innocent party who got caught up at the wrong place in the wrong city.