Sterling Heights Open Carry Confrontation

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On July 18, 2013, James Baker and a friend were openly carrying in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The officers contacted the open carriers with drawn weapons, immediately disarming and handcuffing the two.  According to the radio calls at the start of the video, there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, just that two individuals were carrying rifles.  One officer then searches Baker, removing his wallet and ID from the wallet.

This is problematic in a couple of ways.  First, as was noted in an earlier post, open carry in Michigan is legal and is not reasonable suspicion for a stop. Second, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the officers had reasonable suspicion, Michigan law is clear that this does not provide an officer the authority to search for and seize an individuals wallet, then enter the wallet seeking an identification card or drivers license.  People v. Williams, 234 N.W.2d 531 (Mich. Ct. App. 1975) (“Assuming the officer’s initial stop and questioning was proper in the present case,it is clear that the seizure of the defendant’s wallet cannot be justified as a protective pre-arrest search since the purpose of the search was not to seize a weapon.”).

Further, the officer knew that he wasn’t arresting  Baker, as he told Baker just a few second later that he didn’t have a right to an attorney or to remain silent because he wasn’t under arrest (at 3:40).  Additionally, the officer states later, on the radio that this is an “open carry issue” (at 4:30).

Later, when it is back to video, a sergeant is trying to sell the story that it is a “public safety” issue–but the police don’t have the authority to detain someone unless they have reasonable suspicion of a crime.  The officers clearly have no grounds to detain the individuals for open carry where open carry is legal.  The intent seems to be to chill the individuals from exercising their rights, which is a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  See generally Ctr. for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v. City of Springboro, 477 F.3d 807 (6th Cir. 2007).

In the second video, the officer clearly doesn’t understand the law, asking if the individual has a permit for the firearms, apparently not knowing that no permit is required in Michigan to open carry.

The Chief of Police is Michael Reese, e-mail mreese@sterling-heights.net, phone 586-446-2810.

 

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Royal Oaks Police Harass Open Carrier

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In Michigan, open carry is legal without a permit or a license.  Here, a young officer stops a citizen who is openly carrying.  The citizen immediately asks if he is being detained and the officer tells him he is not being detained, whereupon the citizen turns to walk away.  The officer clearly wasn’t expecting that and orders him to stop, telling him that he is being detained.  Thus far there has been nothing to indicate that the officer has any sort of reasonable suspicion of a crime to justify the stop.  See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968); People v. Jenkins, 691 N.W.2d 759, 764 (Mich. 2005); People v. Custer, 630 N.W.2d 870, 876 (Mich. 2001).

Note that in Michigan, the Michigan State Police have issued a legal update that clearly states that the open carry of a firearm is not a crime.  Michigan also does not have a stop and ID law, meaning that the officer cannot stop someone and demand identification without reasonable suspicion for a crime.

The officer asks for ID, stating that the citizen may have a “mental injunctive order” or something.  The citizen refuses to provide ID, as is his right.  See People v. Williams, 234 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Mich. 1975); People v. Rivers, 202 N.W.2d 498, 501 (Mich. 1972).  Further, if the officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that the citizen has a “mental injunctive order”, or something, that is not the default position, that the possession of the weapon is illegal.  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. More importantly, where a state permits individuals to openly carry firearms, the exercise of this right, without more, cannot justify an investigatory detention.”).

The officer is obviously irritated by the refusal to provide ID, and wants to know what the citizen’s problem is, that he needs to see the citizen’s ID.  He then tries to get the citizen to turn off his own video, and the citizen wisely refuses, citing the First Amendment.  At that time (about 2:15 in the video), a second, more experienced officer shows up and tells the citizen that if he doesn’t want to give ID it is OK, he is free to go.

The younger officer looks like he got kicked in the teeth at that point.  He does, however, follow the citizen for the next 15 minutes.

From my perspective this is fairly clear cut.  The young officer was not prepared nor trained to handle this.  He had no idea what he could or could not legally do, and the fact that the citizen stood up for his rights surprised him.  He hesitated due to his confusion, which was actually a good thing.  Some officers are much more assertive in what they believe their authority is, and would have stepped off into a minefield by making an arrest or taking other illegal actions.

Officers are not used to be confronted in a calm and reasonable way where their authority is being questioned.  They don’t like it when it happens.  The young officer was also lucky that the more experienced officer showed up, because you could see that the younger one was losing his patience.

That is also the reason that the officer followed him for the next 15 minutes or so (the videos are available at the citizen’s Youtube channel).  Had the citizen jaywalked or spit on the sidewalk, the officer would have made contact under the guise of the minor violation.

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