Round Rock Failure to ID – Follow Up

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Back in July, I posted on a photographer being harassed and unlawfully detained by the Round Rock police.  The photographer subsequently filed a complaint with the department (which I covered in the update).

About a month after the original complaint, the photographer contacted the department again and was told that the investigation had been completed.

The investigator addressed three areas:  A complaint of a First Amendment violation; a complaint of a Fourth Amendment violation, and a complaint of Excessive Force.  The investigator made findings of unfounded, sustained, and exonerated.  This makes sense from their point of view, but ignores several issues.

First, the officers did violate the photographer’s Fourth Amendment rights and the investigator properly sustained that complaint.  Sustained, in police lingo, means that it is a valid complaint and that the officer violated law or policy.  Here this is clear.  Officer Hernandez did not have reasonable suspicion of a crime or criminal activity, yet demanded identification and handcuffed the photographer.  The photographer was illegally seized by the officer.

Second, I disagree on the excessive force, but I understand how the investigator got to that conclusion.  The only way to change that position would be to sue the department, and you are looking at a lot of expense for limited returns given the de minimus nature of any injury.  Exonerated means that the officer did the actions complained of, but that they were within policy.  Here, the department likely believes that mere handcuffs are not a use of force and the matter is adequately covered by the Fourth Amendment violation.

Unfortunately, that is not, in my opinion, a correct view.  The use of handcuffs is a use of force and that is recognized by the courts.  See Nargi v. State, 895 S.W.2d 820, 822 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1995), pet. dism’d, improvidently granted, 922 S.W.2d 180 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996).  However, the federal Fifth Circuit has held that “[H]andcuffing too tightly, without more, does not amount to excessive force. There is no allegation here that [the officer] acted with malice.”  Glenn v. City of Tyler, 242 F.3d 307, 314 (5th Cir. 2001).  Of course in Glenn, the officer was justified in using handcuffs.  I would argue that the fact that there was no justification for applying the handcuffs and then stating that they would stay on until the photographer identified himself was the “more” required by the Fifth Circuit.  But as I said, that would take court action to fix, and it’s not going to happen in this case.

Finally, on the First Amendment issue.  Technically the officer did not impede the photographer’s right to film, thus the unfounded finding.  That explanation ignores the fact that had it not been for the photography, there would have been no police contact to begin with, and no other violations.  However, this likely served to educate most of the department, especially with the finding that was made.

Apparently the punishment or disciplinary action was apparently limited to a letter of reprimand.

Under the circumstances, I think that this was appropriate for Officer Hernandez.  I don’t see that Sergeant Osborn had any action taken against him, however, that may be due to the fact that there was no complaint made against him.

Finally, I see no indication that the department even acknowledged that refusing to identify oneself while not under arrest is not a crime in Texas.

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Abilene Police do not Understand Lawful Detention or Failure to Identify

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This is a contact between officers of the Abilene Police Department and an individual who identifies himself as Bobby Ivester (at about 0:25).  Ivester is openly carrying a rifle, allows the officers to inspect the weapon, but declines to produce identification when the officer requests it at about 1:30 in the video.  The second officer explains to Ivester that he is being detained.

The reason for the detention?  “Because we got a call on you” (at 2:40).  Unfortunately, both Ivester and the officers do not understand Texas law.

Ivester is arguing that he is not being lawfully detained.  I disagree.  I believe that he is being lawfully detained (initially, at least).  The 911 call about a man with a gun, combined with the officers finding Ivester with an openly carried rifle, provides a reasonable suspicion that Ivester may be committing the offense of disorderly conduct.  See Tex. Pen. Code § 42.01(a)(8), displays a firearm in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.  Please note that I did not state that Ivester was committing that violation, clearly he was not, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the officers had reasonable suspicion to make the contact and detain Ivester.

Both Ivester and the officers are under the impression that if the police detain someone, that individual has to identify themselves to the officer.  That is simply incorrect.  Tex. Pen. Code § 38.02 is very clear, an offense is only committed if the detained person lies about who he is (or his date of birth or residence).  Refusing to provide identifying information is not an offense.

At about 5:20 in the video, the second officer grabs the camera and handcuffs Ivester.  At 6:55 in the video, an officer says that they don’t know what Ivester’s intent with the gun is.  That’s true.  It also doesn’t matter.  The officers are not allowed to presume that Ivester is a felon or otherwise unable to carry a rifle.  United States v. Black, 707 F.3d 531, 540 (4th Cir. 2013) (Being a felon in possession of a firearm is not the default status).  The officers try this argument anyway, assuming that it is their “duty” to determine if Ivester has the right to carry the rifle.   Uh, guys–his right to carry is called the Second Amendment.

At this point, Ivester is being unlawfully detained.  The officers have already determined that Ivester was not committing the offense of disorderly conduct and are now just fishing for his identification to try and charge him with something else.  They have improperly extended the contact, see Kothe v. State, 152 S.W.3d 54, 64 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004) (“once the original purpose for the stop is exhausted, police may not unnecessarily detain [individuals] solely in hopes of finding evidence of some other crime”).

If you disagreed with what the officer’s did, you can contact them at:

  • Chief Stan Standridge, stan.standridge@abilenetx.com, 325-676-6600
  • Assistant Chief Mike Perry, mike.perry@abilenetx.com, 325-676-6600 (over Uniformed Services)
  • Officer George Spindler, apdpio@abilenetx.com, 325-437-4529 (Public Information Officer)
  • Facebook; webpage

Related posts:

H/T:  Jim Morriss

The Last of Three Abusive Bridgeport, CT Officers Indicted

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In 2011 following a chase, Bridgeport, Connecticut Police Officers tased and arrested Orlando Lopez-Soto.  The two officers initially involved, Elson Morales and Joseph Lawlor, repeatedly kicked Lopez after he was laying flat on the ground, compliant.  They pleaded guilty to federal charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 242.  Each face up to a year in prison.

Clive Higgins did not take the deal and was indicted for the violation with bodily injury.  He faces up to ten years in prison and pleaded not guilty.  He has been placed on unpaid suspension by his department, which recently settled with Lopez for $198,000.  Lopez is currently in prison on a 5-year sentence on drug and gun charges.

What is interesting in this case is that Higgins is being represented by a federal public defender.  Why isn’t he being represented by a union attorney?  I can think of two likely reasons, first, that he was not a member, in which case he is an idiot.  Second, that the union cut him loose, not wanting to defend him, in which case they are spineless.  There are, of course, other possibilities, so there may be a good explanation, but that is just my read on the situation.

In any event, all three are pretty much toast, and rightfully so.  While I do not have a problem with force when it is justified, unjustified force must be identified and prosecuted.

Elizabeth Daly Settles Lawsuit against Virginia

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In 2013 a University of Virginia student, Elizabeth Daly, was arrested for fleeing police and assault on police.  She had just bought a LaCroix-12PK-PURE12-pack of LaCroix sparkling water and undercover agents of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control attempted to contact her in the parking lot.

Of course, none had on anything that identified them as police and one of the morons drew his pistol while another of the morons tried to bust in the window.

Naturally Ms. Daly was terrified, believing that she was being attacked by criminals.  So she tried to flee in her SUV, was arrested, and jailed.  The charges were dropped by someone with more sense than the officers and Daly filed suit.

Now the State of Virginia has settled the suit for $212,500 while admitting no wrongdoing.  Yeah, right.

Virginia settled the suit because they had just lost a motion for dismissal based on qualified immunity and a motion to quash a subpoena for the internal investigation conducted over the incident.  First, the court found that the amount of force used exceeded that which would be appropriate for a Terry stop and that the agents would need to show probable cause, not mere reasonable suspicion.  Second, the internal report likely identified the two agents who violated policy and were disciplined by the agency.  Combined, the State could see the writing on the wall and decided to settle.

The agents that thought this was a good idea were Special Agents Lauren Banks, Armon Brown, John Cielakie, Andrew Covey, Jonathan Pine, and Kevin Weatherholtz.  The supervisor present was Special Agent in Charge John Taylor.

The state has since changed its policies and procedures for these type operations, and the entire ABC has been under review, including legislative proposals to strip the agency of its law enforcement function.

The Broken Windows at the Precinct House

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Mark Draughn over at the Windy Pundit blog just pointed out something that was remarkably insightful.

If the “Broken Windows” concept works on society to reduce a culture of lawlessness, then why don’t the police use it in their disciplinary process?  Why do we tolerate petty misconduct from police, where it inures our senses to gross misconduct?

This is not a revolutionary concept.  The late Jack Maples, part of NY Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s staff during his first tour had the right ideas about this issue.  Maples wrote that:

The [police] leader must back the cops when they’re right, train them when they make mistakes despite good intentions, and hang them when they betray the public’s trust.

Jack Maples & Chris Mitchell, The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free 244 (2000).

Maples was a firm believer that you had to take corrective action against the police, as well as criminals if you wanted to make an impact.  He also understood that while officer safety was important, it was not the most important part of police work. He said:

At the end of the day, the public’s safety is paramount.  Strike that.  At any time of the day, the public’s safety is paramount.

Id., at 239.

Mark, at the end of his self-named rant (I would disagree that it is a rant), says:

If “broken windows” works, they should try it on cops. Maybe if they prosecuted the crap out of these cops and hit them with truly pants-shitting prison sentences, it would discourage the NYPD’s culture of lawlessness.

This post was picked up by Scott Greenfield (Simple Justice), who expanded on the theme.  Scott correctly notes that it is Bratton’s job to make sure that the police treat the public with respect, not to lecture the public on what they need to do in order to make things better for the police.  Scott points out that if Bratton really believes in the Broken Windows theory, then he should apply it first to his own department, not to the public.

Scott is completely right on this, but I sincerely doubt that Bratton will see it this way.  He’ll look at it just like the San Antonio Police Chief, William McManus, looks at it.  It’s OK to beat an innocent man because he fell on his hands.  He’s firmly bought into the first rule of policing and has completely disregarded that the safety of the public should come first.

I suppose I’m lucky that I wasn’t the one taking pictures, as I probably would have been killed in the encounter.  Let me explain.  A plainclothes officer comes charging at me with an angry look on his face and something in his hand?  I’m drawing my Kimber.  It’s what I’ve been conditioned to do after twenty years as a police officer, and what many others are likely to do in the same situation.  The two SWAT officers show up shortly behind the plainclothes officer, and I would probably be shot.  But for the sake of argument, lets say that did not happen, but that I shot the first officer and surrendered to the uniformed officers.

Would McManus have the same viewpoint, that he did not see anything wrong here?  It’s still a case of mistaken identity, it is just that his officer suffered the brunt of the encounter.

Fortunately, McManus is leaving the job, to take a retirement security director gig and to take care of his new kittens.

The problem is that police administrators do not see the disconnect, can not see it.  It takes an innovator, someone like Jack Maples, someone who is willing to shake up the system, to address this issue.  It means teaching new officers that yes, it is vitally important for them to go home at the end of the shift, but it is even more important to protect the public, to make sure that that they go home safely.

 

 

Round Rock Police Violate Photographer’s Civil Rights – UPDATED

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Again, we have a case of police in Texas not understanding Tex. Pen. Code § 38.02, or the idea of lawful detention.

In this video, the photographer is taking pictures of the Round Rock, Texas Police station when he is approached by Officer Paul Hernandez who advises him he is being detained until he produces identification.  First, under Texas law, a person is not required to identify themselves unless they are under arrest, see § 38.02(a).  Officers are not allowed to demand identification without reasonable suspicion that the subject is involved in criminal activity, Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979); Wade v. State, 442 S.W.3d 661, 670 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013).  Officer Hernandez stated (at 6:26, part I) that when asked to identify by an officer, refusal is a crime, which is not true.  A person being detained is under no obligation to identify themselves, see § 38.02(b).

“[W]hen they have no basis for reasonable suspicion, officers may ask questions . . . and request identification, ‘as long as the police do not convey a message that compliance with their requests is required.'”  St. George v. State, 197 S.W.3d 806, 819 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006).  Here they handcuffed and searched the photographer without any reasonable suspicion.

What is even worse is that after the supervisor gets there, the officers condition the photographer’s release on whether or not he’ll “cooperate” with the officers by providing identification (at 6:15, part II).  At 8:20 (part II), the photographer requests identifying information from the officers present and Sergeant Mike Osborn informs him that all he needs is the sergeant’s information.  That’s all well and good, but in all likelihood violates their own department policies.  The Round Rock PD is accredited by CALEA, and CALEA standard 22.2.7 requires that police employees identify themselves on request.  Additionally, the detention was unlawful, as was the demand for identification.

If you are concerned about this, you may contact the following:

  • Chief Allen Banks, abanks@roundrocktexas.gov, 512-218-5521.
  • Lieutenant Robert Rosenbusch, Internal Affairs, rrosenbusch@roundrocktexas.gov, 512-218-3262.
  • Lieutenant Larry Roberson, Accreditation Manager, lroberson@roundrocktexas.gov, 512-218-6614.
  • Sergeant Mike Osborn, Patrol, mosborn@roundrocktexas.gov, 512-671-2853.
  • Officer Paul Hernandez, Patrol, phernandez@roundrocktexas.gov.

If you are concerned about this from the accreditation standpoint, you may contact Stephen W. Mitchell, who is the Regional Program Manager for CALEA.  His number is 703-352-4225, ext. 29.

H/T: Carlos Miller & PINAC

UPDATE:

Picking up complaint form and filing complaint.

 

Pampa, the Panhandle, and more Failure to ID Idiocy

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Here we go again.  Another Texas peace officer with no clue about what Failure to Identify, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 38.02, actually says.

Andrew was taking photographs of the county courthouse and sees five police and sheriff squad cars on a stop, so he starts to film the scene from across the intersection.  At about 0:55, a Pampa Police Department officer Herrera walks across the street and contacts Andrew.  Their conversation goes well, clearly a consensual stop, and Andrew provides his name and date of birth on Officer Herrera’s request.

At 3:00 into the video, the traffic stop has concluded and Andrew starts to walk away, when he is confronted by Deputy Stokes of the Gray County Sheriff’s Office.  Stokes, who has since become employed by the Pampa Police Department, immediately attempted to seize the photography equipment as evidence.  Stokes refuses to get a supervisor on request, tells Andrew to stop talking, and threatens to arrest Andrew when Andrew points out that he has a First Amendment right to speak.  When that happened, Stokes said that “I think I’ll make up stuff” and attempted to grab the camera from Andrew (at 3:50).

At about 4:20, the demand for ID begins by Stokes and he really shows his ignorance.  First, as has been noted numerous times before, in Texas, under the Failure to Identify statute, one has to be under arrest to be obligated to provide their name, residence address, and date of birth to an officer.  Otherwise, the statute merely makes it an offense to provide fictitious information.

At about 4:40, Stokes tells Andrew that he is not allowed to record peace officers in the public arena while they are conducting a traffic stop.  Stokes is clearly out of his league here.  It is well-established that the public have the right to videotape public officers in a public place.  See Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011); ACLU of Illinois v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436 (9th Cir. 1995); and Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2000).

This did not start to calm down until Andrew asked the Pampa officers if he could press charges on Stokes for assault.  At that point (7:50), the deputy was told to walk away by Officer Reynolds, who then talked to Andrew.  Stokes comes back over and starts to question Andrew again, and this time tells Andrew that he has to answer Stokes’ questions (at about 10:10).  This is obviously not true, and Andrew calls him on it.  At this point, Andrew is allowed to walk away.

 

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