The First Rule of Policing – and the Harm it Does, Part II


Part of a continuing series, Part I is here.

While Remsberg and Calibre Press were conducting seminars on officer safety and survival, the sociological climate of police was changing.

In 1968, President Johnson created the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to centralize the response to illicit drugs.  By 1971, President Nixon had declared a “War on Drugs” and by 1973 the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed.  Initially, this encompassed a treatment based approach, such as the methadone treatment centers established in Washington, D.C. by Robert L. DuPont.  A year after the centers had been established, serious crime rates dropped significantly.  Richard J. Bonnie, The Virtues of Pragmatism in Drug Policy, 13 J. Health Care L. & Pol’y 7, 14 (2010).  At the same time (in 1972 and 1973), the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, recommended the decriminalization of marijuana.  Id., at 13.  Twelve states have followed that approach.  James Austin, Rethinking the Consequences of Decriminalizing Marijuana, (Nov. 2. 2005).

Instead, the government moved towards a zero tolerance policy and strict criminal enforcement of drug laws.  The term “War on Drugs” was used over and over, with other militaristic terms also being added to police language.   We’ve done the same thing in the past, with the war on alcohol, commonly known as Prohibition.

The War on Drugs has paralleled the results of Prohibition.  See Norm Stamper, Prohibition: A parallel to modern war on drugs, Seattle Times, Sept. 30, 2011.  Chief Stamper (retired chief of police, Seattle) explains it more eloquently than I can, and more information is available at the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website.  The problem is that the drugs are winning and the police are losing the war.  With millions of dollars at stake, drug gangs have increased the stakes and become more violent.

The police responded with SWAT teams.



The First Rule of Policing – and the Harm it Does, Part I


Malone-NessOfficer Malone: Are you going home now?.

Elliott Ness: I was about to.

Malone: Well, then, you just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement. Make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.

The Untouchables (Paramount Pictures 1987).

Officer safety is an important issue to police officers, and it should be.  When I was first hired, almost all officers were issued Smith & Wesson revolvers, usually in .38 Special.  If you wanted to carry something else, it depended on the policies of the local department.  My first PD allowed you to carry your own revolver, so long as it was either a Smith or a Colt, and had a 4 to 6 inch barrel in at least .38 or larger.  Many officers would carry .357 magnums, .45 Long Colts, and .44s instead of the issue gun because it made them feel safer.  We wore very heavy, inflexible vests, and pushed for safety equipment like cages for the vehicles, semi-autos, etc., all in the name of officer safety.

Just a few years before, an author named Charles Remsberg and photographer/producer Dennis Anderson, published a book called Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters.  This book and the two that followed† produced a series of seminars teaching officer safety to police across the nation.  One of the things to remember about Remsberg is that he founded Calibre Press, which published his books on street tactics.  A second thing to remember is that Remsberg was not a cop.‡  He was a journalist, with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Northwestern.  Almost every officer has read or been trained based on the trilogy.  I own all three and believed every word of the books for years.

The attitude was that so long as the officers went home OK, it didn’t matter that civilians were hurt or killed.  A typical response to criticism on this point was that “The most important thing, Calibre’s founders argued, wasn’t that 28 suspects who’d displayed life-threatening behavior had been shot, but that none of the officers had lost their lives.”  Scott Baltic, Be Careful Out There, Chicago Reader (Nov. 21, 1991).

Unfortunately, that attitude is now commonplace among police.

†Ronald J. Adams, Thomas M. McTernan, & Charles Remsberg,  Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters (1980); Charles Remsberg, The Tactical Edge: Surviving High-Risk Patrol (1986); and Charles Remsberg, Tactics for Criminal Patrol (1995).

‡While Remsberg was not an officer, Adams was a California police officer and McTernan was a New York police officer.

Frisco, Texas Police fail Free Speech Test


This is from Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

In the news video, the reporter quotes the police report, where the officer states that Ron Martin was “interfering” with his speeding enforcement duties.  It is clear that the officer would have preferred to charge Martin with Interference with Public Duties, which read:

“(a) A person commits an offense if the person with criminal negligence interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with:  (1) a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law. . . .”  Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 38.15 (Vernon).
The report language tracks the statute, which is how officers are taught to write the report.  It is also clear that the officer could not get past the free speech part of the statute.  It provides not just one, but two defenses.
“(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(1) that the conduct engaged in by the defendant was intended to warn a person operating a motor vehicle of the presence of a peace officer who was enforcing Subtitle C, Title 7, Transportation Code.
(d) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the interruption, disruption, impediment, or interference alleged consisted of speech only.”  Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 38.15 (Vernon)
So since they couldn’t charge him with a Class B misdemeanor, they came up with another BS charge, violation of the city’s sign ordinance, Frisco, Tex. Sign Ordinance, 11-01-04 (Jan. 4, 2011), which is only a Class C misdemeanor, normally handled by a ticket and not an arrest.  This ordinance is fairly short, but creates a regulation which is over 50 pages long.  Originally the city argued that the person holding the sign had to be on private property.
This is clearly an attempt to regulate speech by content, based on the city’s reactions to other people carrying signs.  If it is a sign protesting Obama, no problem.  Note that this person was on public property also.

Kennedale Texas Police and Fail to ID; Ignorance Still Abounds


It would be nice if I could post a story about how a police officer in Texas really understood the state’s Failure to Identify statute, Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 38.02 (West).

Unfortunately, this ain’t one of those.  A female Kennedale, Texas police officer responded to a call about several males open carrying rifles.  This isn’t a real good idea, but that’s a different issue.

(edited to restore video, thanks to Lewis Garza)

The first thing I get a kick out of is when the female officer ask the men if the rifles are loaded.  Duh.  Dumb question.  Would she trust them if they said the rifles were unloaded?  And then she acts surprised when she is informed that they are loaded.  Then she asks the men not to record her (“could you put that down, away from me?”) as if that was going to happen.

At about 0:25 she requests ID and the men immediately refuse.  The man’s spokesperson correctly informs her that the only time that he is required to ID is if he is being arrested for committing a crime.  That is exactly what the law requires, as we have discussed here and here.  And she immediately asserts that she has a right to know who they are.

She seems to believe that if she makes contact, she has the right to demand ID, and she offers “officer safety” as a reason.  It seems logical, but unfortunately she does not have that right.  See St. George v. State, 197 S.W.3d 806 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2006), aff’d, 237 S.W.3d 720 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007).

The officer is probably Ofc. Tara Culpepper.  Kennedale has a chief, a captain, four sergeants, two detectives, and thirteen officers.  All are obviously male except Culpepper and a recruit officer.  Well, I suppose Jamie and Chris ‘might’ be females, but I doubt it.

In any event, she needs some in-service training on the matter, not that she’ll get it.

Updates from this Year, May Stories

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Cameron D’Ambrosio, who was arrested on terrorism charges for his rap song lyrics, was no-billed by the grand jury in June.

Jennifer Limon had her Failure to ID and Resisting Arrest charges dropped by the Harris County District Attorney.  The reason given was “see DA work product” which means that we’ll never know, as that is not subject to an open records request.  I would imagine that the DA’s office researched the law and realized that they did not have a case.

Adam Kokesh, who called and then called off an armed march on D.C., plead guilty to firearms and drug charges in November after setting in jail for months proclaiming his innocence.  He will be sentenced in January.

Makia Smith‘s lawsuit is going forward.  The officers successfully obtained a partial dismissal of the portion of the lawsuit that dealt with the destruction of Smith’s cellphone, but the order allows Smith to re-add those claims if she develops additional evidence or authority.

David Silva‘s death was ruled an “accident” by an employee or contractor of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies did “not” use inappropriate force in beating Silva to death.  Oh, and the cell phones the deputies seized didn’t contain any evidence, either.  Sure.



Updates from this Year, April Stories


From April 2013

Branden Purcell’s civil lawsuit against Sebastian County, Arkansas is still pending, with the Sheriff filing a general denial of the allegations in the lawsuit.

Sgt. Mark Hunter, accused of multiple episodes of using excessive force, died from an apparent heart attack.  His partner, Kareem Puranda, who had been fired for excessive force, was found not guilty in U.S. District Court on a charge of violating a citizen’s civil rights.

Army Sgt. C.J. Grisham was convicted of Interference with Public Duties, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 38.15 (Vernon), and fined $2,000 by the jury.  Grisham states that he is going to appeal, but as of today, nothing is showing at the Third Court of Appeals.  The conviction, based on the dash cam video, is probably going to be upheld.  See Duncantell v. State, 230 S.W.3d 835 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, pet. ref’d).  At 0:23 in the video, the officer attempts to disarm Grisham and Grisham immediately grabs the stock and forearm of the rifle, which causes the officer to draw his sidearm.  Grisham then drops his arms and the officer places him on the hood of the car.  Grisham is also complaining that the police won’t return the guns to him.  Well, duh!  If you appeal and win, you could be ordered to face a new trial, where they would need the guns for evidence.  You need to make a decision, either let the judgment go final and get your guns back, or appeal it and wait.

I couldn’t find anything new on Alexander Lege, or any of the other April stories.

In North Carolina, It’s OK to Commit Felonious Assault if You’re the Police

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On October 31, 2013, Johnnie Williams drove through a DUI checkpoint without stopping, and then led police on a chase.  During the chase, he reportedly rammed a police cruiser, and he was eventually stopped by officers who ran their cars into his.  Williams is being charged with multiple felonies over the incident.

I don’t have a bit of problem with any of that.

I do have a problem with what happened next.  After the chase was over, you can see Williams surrendering.  Both of his hands clearly come up in the “I give up” position.  Then we see Wilmington officer Stafford Brister pick up his K9 and shove it through the window at Williams.  Of course the dog immediately attacked Williams, causing serious injury.  Brister and the other officers then stood back and watched.

The district attorney took the case before the grand jury, which no billed Brister.  In most states, if a DA wants an indictment, they get an indictment.

The police chief says that sometimes the job “isn’t pretty.”  No argument there, sometimes it isn’t.  I don’t care what the POS suspect did, you still don’t toss a dog in the car with him.

Brister can still be prosecuted, but it would have to be a federal civil rights trial.  Wilmington is in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and the U.S. Attorney is Thomas G. Walker.  His contact info is:

Office of the United States Attorney
310 New Bern Avenue
Federal Building, Suite 800
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601-1461
Phone: (919) 856-4530
Fax: (919) 856-4487

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