Lakewood, NJ Police Arrest One of Their Own

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jeremy_felder_lpd_tlsThe Lakewood, NJ Police and the Ocean County Prosecutor recently announced the arrest of Lakewood Officer Jeremy Felder for Official Misconduct.  Official Misconduct is a second degree felony, with a punishment of 5-10 years in prison.  N.J. Stat. § 2C:30-2.

After Felder was indicted and arrested, he was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the trial.  The charges against the original subject were dropped due to the misconduct.

Felder is accused of committing an illegal search in the Lakewood case, but had earlier been involved in the illegal arrest of Anthony Bell while Felder was an officer in Jackson Township.  The township settled the inevitable lawsuit for $95,000 while admitting no fault.  Felder was hired by Lakewood shortly thereafter, at a significant pay cut.

When Cop-Blockers Don’t Understand the Law

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Two Cop-Blockers in Odessa, Texas were detained recently and did not like it.  Some of what they don’t like is correct, but much of it is mistaken.  I’ll address their comments, which are in italics.  Here is their video:

We were walking around Odessa Police Department around 7PM, both for exercise, and to get some shots of the building, and parking lot, all of which was captured while standing on a public sidewalk. As the video starts out, you can see use walking around the building complex, joking around and talking, and then we are illegally detained for over 40 minutes by quite a lot of officers. My biggest issue, is that they know very well who we are, and their excuses of us being “suspicious” were completely unfounded and outright lies. Anyway, here are several points we’d like to make about this detainment…

1: Filming from a public, or publicly accessible area is legal, including anything that can be seen in plain view from such locations unless it is sexual in nature, such as filming someone undressing in front of a window, or trying to take a picture down a woman’s shirt. OPD claimed that their facility was exempt from this legal activity. (It’s not)

This was a correct statement.  You can generally film anything you can see in public, with some narrowly limited exceptions (including the ones noted).

2: They changed their story several times as to why we were being detained. First it was suspicious behavior, then it was for filming their “vehicles”, then it was “possible intent to commit burglary”. One officer even went so far as to mention the naval base shooting, as if that was some other reason to think we might be up to no good.

They really didn’t change their stories.  At 3:15, when they first get stopped and are told they are being detained, the officer states that the detention is to make sure that they “are not breaking into people’s vehicles.”  That is a reasonably articulable suspicion of criminal activity based on the actions of the individuals, and it is consistent with the later comments on burglary since breaking into vehicles is Burglary of Vehicles, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 30.04 (Vernon).  The officer further explained that it was nighttime, the individuals were walking through a parking lot, taking photographs of vehicles, etc.  Guys, that is reasonable articulable suspicion.

3: The supervisor on scene outright lied and said it is illegal to not carry ID on you at all times. This is a complete lie. You are not required to carry ID on you unless you are engaged in an activity that requires such identification, such as driving. You’re not even required by Texas law to provide your name and birthdate unless you are under arrest or legally detained.

The supervisor is ignorant.  There is no requirement under Texas law to carry ID.  I would suggest that the sergeant get hold of a copy of the Texas Penal Code and read it in order to find out what the law allows.  And WTF does Texas Open Records law have to do with photography?  She is really, really ignorant of the law and has no business supervising police officers when she doesn’t understand the law.

4: Upon hearing that the first amendment right of freedom of press was the “legality” I had for filming their facility, she insisted that the Texas state penal code protected police vehicles from being filmed or photographed. (It doesn’t)

More BS by the officers.

5: We were held for longer than 20 minutes, violating the Terry Stop law, from Terry vs Ohio.

This is incorrect info – there is not a “20 minute” time limit on a stop.

6: One officer refused to give us his name and badge number. After we were released I asked the remaining officers for his information and they refused to give it to me as well.

No state law requires that, but most PDs have a policy on identifying themselves.

7: We were apparently SO suspicious that between 15 – 20 cops were on the scene, and yet not once did they feel the need to pat us down to make sure we weren’t armed. They didn’t even ask for a regular search, or even to see the footage we had acquired. This was the biggest indicator that the entire detention was purely for harassment and intimidation.

Actually, that is not correct.  If they did not have reasonable suspicion that you were armed, a pat down for weapons would be unreasonable.  The officers did OK on that part.

8: Officer Aguilar did not let me read over the information he wrote down about me before demanding that I fingerprint myself.

There is no requirement for him to do so.

9: All except one officer on scene acted in an overly aggressive manner, trying their best to intimidate us. (Which didn’t work)

That’s a subjective view, but I can understand both sides here.

10: They claimed they had us on camera entering their parking lot, which we NEVER did. Another lie.

OK, so?

11: All in all, we could have remained silent, refused identification (since they had no reasonable articulable suspicion and therefore no legal right to detain us), gotten arrested on a bogus charge, and later fought it in court, but I was more concerned with getting us home that night. There will always be another time.

They actually had grounds to detain, or at least stated valid grounds, but you are correct, you did not have to ID, but not for the reasons you stated.  The Texas statute does not require a detained subject to ID themselves.  Check my earlier posts on this.

Texas Failure to Identify Law, What it Says vs. What Police Think It Says

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ExCop-Lawyer:

I’m reposting this due to the recent incident in Austin where everyone is in an uproar over the arrest of a female jogger.

Unfortunately in this case, the arrest may be proper. If the officer was writing tickets for “jaywalking,” then she was legally “arrested” to be released on a citation (similar to an ROR). As she was technically under arrest, she would have to provide ID information, and if she refused could be charged with Failure to ID.

Originally posted on ExCop-Lawyer:

The Texas Failure to Identify law is fairly simple.  Why don’t police get it?  It states:

  • (a)  A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
  • (b)  A person commits an offense if he intentionally gives a false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has:
    • (1)  lawfully arrested the person;
    • (2)  lawfully detained the person; or
    • (3)  requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense.
  • (c)  Except as provided by Subsections (d) and (e), an offense under this section is:
    • (1)  a Class C misdemeanor if the offense is committed under Subsection (a); or
    • (2)  a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is committed…

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

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Part of a continuing series, see Part I, Part II, and Part III.

OK, so far we got that police officers are worried about their safety, that the War on Drugs have not worked, and that SWAT was designed for high risk operations.

The problem is that all of these things have come together and had an unintended consequence.  As the War on Drugs continued and some of the criminals began to use more violent methods, it was natural that police would begin to use SWAT on those raids.  In some cases, it was appropriate to do so.  Just as was the case during Prohibition, some criminals were violent and fought the police.  For example, in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, SWAT raided a series of homes used by a criminal gang.  In addition to large amounts of drugs, a bullet-proof vest and 13 firearms were seized.  Or in Sonoma County, California, where SWAT raided the home of a known gang member, who was out on bail from a previous drug arrest.  SWAT seized drugs and guns, including an “assault weapon.”

The problem is mission creep.  Once the police got used to using SWAT, it became more common.  So now police departments regularly use SWAT for any search.  Examples abound of the misuse of SWAT:

  • Arlington, Texas SWAT raids an organic farm, holds residents for 10 hours.  The crime?  Code enforcement violations.  Oh yeah, these people are hippies, so there are probably drugs involved.
  • Saint Louis.  SWAT served an “administrative” felony warrant, because SWAT serves all felony warrants.  Really?  What happened to arranging for the perp to surrender?
  • Orange County, Florida police and a state regulatory agency perform a number of warrantless “inspections.”  In the raids, 37 people were arrested, the vast majority for misdemeanor “barbering without a license.”  See Barry v. Demming, No: 6:11-cv-1740-Orl-36KRS, 2013 WL 4500467 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 22, 2013) (summary judgment denied, there is a question of fact whether the search was reasonable and if excessive force was used).
  • New Haven, Conn. police used SWAT to check if bar patrons were of legally drinking age.  Really?  Yale students are going to attack the police?  Look, I’ve handled underage drinking.  These kids do not assault police for the most part.  They either run or try to use fake IDs.  Whoever thought that using SWAT was appropriate should have been demoted or fired.
  • Atlanta, Georgia.  SWAT is used to raid a recording studio for copyright violations.

And those are just some of the ones where no one was seriously injured.

When questioned, for the most part the police try and justify the use of the SWAT teams.  Remember, in the police mindset, the First Rule of Policing takes precedence—and they don’t think of the right of the citizen to go home safely.

Update – Springdale Police Officer Sentenced to Prision

Comments Off on Update – Springdale Police Officer Sentenced to Prision

Earlier I had written about Springdale police officer Mark Thom, his abuse of local citizens, and the city council that enabled him.

Last week Thom was sentenced to prison for a year and a day, and then to 3 years probation following release.  U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak told Thom that he would never serve as a police officer again.

The former police chief Joseph Naviglia said that Thom is “a habitual liar and a very conniving and manipulative person.”  Naviglia also said that the city council protected and covered up for Thom.  You’ll remember that I pointed this out in my past article.

Springdale has had to pay out $225,000 in the incident leading to the criminal charges, and $98,500 in a separate case.  But I guess Dave Finley doesn’t care about that either.

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

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Part of a continuing series, see Part I and Part II.

Special Weapons and Tactics.  SWAT.  A valuable tool that has been overused and misused in the police field.

charles_whitman_ut_towerSWAT began for a good reason–it was needed.  On August 1, 1966, a former Marine with an undiscovered brain tumor, Charles Whitman, murdered his mother at her apartment and his wife at their home.  Whitman then went to the University of Texas tower with “six guns, a shotgun, ammunition, a foot locker, knives, food, and water.”  Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines 21 (2004).  He killed three more on his way to the observation deck and then opened fire.

Whitman killed ten more and wounded thirty-one more from the tower.  Austin police responded, but there was no planned response.  Ordinary Texans with deer rifles showed up and provided suppressive fire.  Officers made it into the tower and up to the observation deck, where they had to get past the barricaded door.  Two officers, Ray Martinez and Houston McCoy then shot Whitman to death.  Gary M. Lavergne, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders (1997); Ron Franscell, Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived (2011).

SWAT was formed from this, and other events.  Depending on who you believe, either Los Angeles or Philadelphia were the first to form the teams.  The teams were initially used properly, for high risk incidents like bank robberies in progress, or other incidents involving heavily armed subjects.  They were, for the most part, successful, with operations such as the 1974 Symbionese Liberation Army shootout or the 1984 McDonald’s killings (ended by a SWAT sniper).  When you have a useful tool, you begin to look for other problems to use it on, and when that tool is a hammer, problems start to look like nails.

So SWAT began to be used for other tPolice from tactical team making entry to serve a high-risk drug related search warrant. Street Narcotics Unit.hings, like drug raids.  “In 1972, there were just a few hundred paramilitary drug raids per year in the United States.  By the early 1980s, there were three thousand . . . and by 2001 there were forty thousand.”  Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 74 (2010).  Some of these are warranted and there are plenty of examples of big drug dealers using weapons to protect their drugs.  SWAT is perfect for those.

But as many have begun to point out, with the increased use of SWAT, there have been increases in both idiocy and errors, some leading to unnecessary fatalities.  Radley Balko, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America (2006); Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (2013).  Errors do not however, slow down the idiocy.  In 1994, a botched Boston PD SWAT raid at the wrong address caused the death of a respected cleric by heart attack.  The police commissioner personally apologized and vowed to insure that this would not happen again.  Boston Official Apologizes After Cleric Dies Following SWAT Raid At Wrong Address, 85 Jet 8-9 (Apr. 11, 1994).  In 2012, Boston Police have expanded the use of SWAT to include raids on prostitution parlors, in order to seize sex toys, condoms, pajamas, and cash.  While I’m sure that we wouldn’t expect a respected cleric to be at a house of ill-repute, I’m also sure that expanding the use of SWAT to raid whorehouses is idiotic.  It is the expansion of the mission that keeps SWAT in business.

In addition, SWAT types have a different mindset, a combat mindset.  We’ll cover that in more depth next.

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

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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, NORML.org (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.

 

 

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