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Opinion - Bad Cops: In defense of Jon Jones' recent arrest

Lewis McKeever takes a look at Jon Jones’ recent run-in with the law and why the former light heavyweight champion is being unfairly demonized for his behavior.

Last week, on March 24th, Jon Jones was pulled over by an officer of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) for allegedly competing in a drag race in a 35-mph zone.

"Bones", who has found himself in trouble with the law on several occasions in the past - the pound-for-pound #1 plead guilty to hit-and-run in September, was speeding 45-mph over the limit last month, and was arrested for driving under the influence in 2012 - has earned a reputation as the UFC's problem child and opened the floodgates for more criticism following his latest violation.

This time, though, things may not be as they seem. This time, Jones may have found himself caught up in the police corruption that runs deep through a notoriously corrupt city: Albuquerque.

Following Jones' traffic stop last week, which resulted in four more tickets on top of the drag racing ticket  (ordinance against a modified exhaust, illegible licence plate, failure to maintain traffic lane, and exhibition driving),  the former light heavyweight champion was arrested for violating the terms of his 18-month probation for the hit-and-run incident last year.

The UFC have since released a statement explaining that they're waiting for more facts to emerge before they take a course of action. As of now, the championship rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier at UFC 197 is still slated for April 23rd.

Whilst it's easy to accumulate the information on Jones' past offenses and paint a vilifying picture for his latest stint, it's important to investigate each case individually with the facts that are available. The burden of proof, after all, is on the police officer making the claim that Jones was engaging in a drag race, although there is currently no available evidence to suggest he was. It's his word against Jones'.

Jones reported the news of his traffic-stop on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour before video footage was released of his altercation with the police officer. A stark contrast to the way he handled the hit-and-run controversy and the speeding incident in March. Jones releasing this information to the media before it was reported by another source indicates that he feels very strongly about his innocence. A guilty conscience would more likely result in silence on the matter, as was the case in his previous convictions. Furthermore, Jones' testament on The MMA Hour matched the video footage released later on.

The 28-year-old told Helwani that he was pulled over for something he didn't do - drag racing - and eventually lashed out in an emotional outburst after the officer had repeatedly antagonized him. As the video footage reveals, that's exactly what happened:

Cop: Driver's license, registration, insurance. Please turn your car off. Why are you drag racing that Cadillac?

JJ: [laughs] I didn't drag race a Cadillac.

Cop: Sir, your drivers license, registration, and insurance, please.

JJ: I did not drag race the Cadillac.

Cop: I watched you do it, right there on Broadway.

JJ: No you did not, sir.

Cop: Any reason?[obsessively picking fingernails]

JJ: No you did not. I did not drag race a Cadillac.

Cop: Okay. Any reason, sir?

JJ: Any reason for what?

Cop: For the way you were driving. The way you took off there on Broadway after you revved your engine. After you were revving your engine...

Following this exchange, where the officer continues to ask why he was drag racing despite Jones' adamant denial, things take a real turn for the worse.

*Jones searches for registration details, as requested*

Cop: Why's your car so loud?

JJ: [stunned] Why's my - man you're just harassing me, man.

Cop: I'm just asking you a simple question.

JJ: My car is loud because it's a sports car.

Cop: Okay. Sit tight, I'll be with you in a minute. [walking back to car] Cut the attitude.

It becomes abundantly clear from this exchange that the cop is purposely looking to provoke Jones, despite the New Yorker's co-operation with all of his requests. This suggests ulterior motives working underneath the officer's confrontational surface. It's also important to note that PO's are trained to interact with citizens in a calm, respectful and professional manner to reduce the risk of a hostile situation.

After further instructions from the officer, where he details the four other infractions and tells Jones to sign the paperwork for a court date, the Jackson-Wink fighter flips out as explained on The MMA Hour, calling the cop a "f----g liar" and a "pig".

Jones' version of the story is that he revved his engine after a couple of fans demanded his attention in another car. Just seconds after pulling off, the former champ was pulled over and penalized.

"I definitely wasn't drag racing," Jones said (h/t Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting). "I got emotional and said some things that I probably shouldn't have said to a police officer. He needed something to justify pulling me over. He fabricated the whole thing that I was drag racing."

I believe him, and I believe many people would have reacted the way Jones did if they were pulled over and accused of doing something they didn't do by a police officer. The fact that Jones reported the news before the video was released to declare his innocence, and that it matched his description, is very revealing. The cop's unnecessary confrontational behavior, coupled with the hallucination of four more tickets to serve as a FU to Jones, is also very revealing.

As of now, there is also no report of the other driver being penalized for drag racing with Jones and no dashcam footage or mention of footage to prove Jon's guilt. As mentioned earlier, it should be noted that Albuquerque is a notoriously corrupt city:

"In the past five years, the police department of Albuquerque, a city of just 550,000, has managed to kill 28 people — a per-capita kill rate nearly double that of the Chicago police and eight times that of the NYPD," as reported in 2015 by Nick Pinto of RollingStone.com. "Until now, not one of the officers in those 28 killings had been charged with any crime."

A particularly harrowing case of Albuquerque police brutality - stretching back to the 1990's - was documented by Radley Balko of The Washington Post.

"In 1998 the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico brought in Jerry Galvin to take over the police department after a series of questionable shootings and SWAT incidents moved the city to commission an outside investigation. In one incident that made national news, one SWAT officer said to his colleagues, "Let's go get the bad guy," just before the team went to confront 33-year-old Larry Walker. The "bad guy" wasn't a terrorist, killer, or even a drug dealer, but depressed man whose family had called the police because they feared he might be contemplating suicide. The SWAT team showed up in full battle attire, including assault rifles and flash grenades. They found Walker "cowering under a juniper tree," the New York Times later reported, then shot him dead from 43 feet away."

Such instances serve to remind us that, although Jon Jones has acted recklessly in the past and has been rightfully criticized, the state is actually responsible for more heinous crimes and the assumption should not necessarily be that this police officer is telling the truth because of his position of authoritative power.

Jon Jones' court date is set for April 5th, where the troubled star will have a chance to clear his name or potentially face further punishment. If dashcam footage of the drag race is absent, it could be a long day for MMA's favorite villain.