In the January 2015 edition of Law and Order, a police management magazine, there is an article that not only the management should read, but that should be passed on to every officer.

The article, No “Officer Safety” Exception to the Constitution, Charles Huth, Jack Colwell, and Randy Means, Law and Order, Jan. 2015, is very clear that officer safety has gone too far.  They state:

“A number of law enforcement agencies are currently under fire for their patterns and practices of “stop and frisk.” This is only the present manifestation of what has been for decades a national epidemic of illegal police practices rationalized by the mantra “officer safety.” Frisks are not supposed to be the rule in Terry-type stops; the rule would be no frisk. The same is true for handcuffing subjects and placing them in the back of police cars.” Id.

Guys, this isn’t just me, an old, worn out street cop saying this by myself, these are well-respected leaders in the profession.  Huth is the past President of the National Law Enforcement Training Center* and a Captain with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.  After the Eric Garner death, Huth was on CBS News showing the difference between an arm-bar chokehold and the much safer lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR).  Colwell retired from the KCMOPD after 29 years and is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect with Huth, a program for increasing officer connection with the community and decreasing confrontations.  Finally, Means is a partner at The Thomas & Means Law Firm, and has a long history as a police legal advisor, and risk management at the IACP.

The article is outstanding, pointing out that there is no officer safety exception in the U.S. Constitution.

“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution? Generally speaking, it doesn’t exist. Generally, the rights of the people trump the rights of an officer to be guaranteed a safe outcome in dangerous situations.” Id. (emphasis added).

I don’t know how much clearer this can be said.  I can tell you that this is not the way that officers are being trained.  I can tell you that this is not the way that most officers on the street view it.  But these guys get it, and not only that, they train the people that train officers.  I’ll leave you with their words:

“If the choice is between feeling safer by violating someone’s Constitutional rights or taking calculated risks while honoring our oath, the pledge we made when our badges found their home on our chests  is supposed to win every time.”  Id.

 

*Originally founded by Jim Lindell, who developed the LVNR, weapon retention training, and is a pioneer in officer safety.

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