Baltimore Officer arrested for puppycide – with a knife

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When I first heard about this, that Baltimore Police Officer Jeffrey Bolger killed a dog with a knife, I immediately formed an idea of what happened.  My thought was that the dog was a big dog, a pit or a shepherd, etc. that had attacked the officer and knocked him down so that a knife was the only option.

Boy, were my initial thoughts wrong.

Bolger has arrested and is suspended without pay while he is facing felony animal cruelty charges.  A second officer, Thomas Schmidt, was been suspended with pay while the department investigates whether Schmidt held the dog down while Bolger killed it.  He has subsequently been charged with animal cruelty and malfeasance in office.

There was absolutely no need for the dog to be killed, it was at the end of a catch pole and was under control.  If the dog needed to be put down (for rabies or whatever), then animal control should have been the ones to do it, not the ESU/SWAT officers.

And police officers wonder why they don’t have the support of the general public…

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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.

 

Former Texas Trooper takes Guilty Plea

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Kelly Helleson, a former Texas Highway Patrol trooper, took a guilty plea in the case against her for the roadside body cavity search of two women in Irving.  Helleson was charged with two counts of Sexual Assault, but those charges were dropped in return for her pleading guilty to two counts of Official Oppression.  She will serve two years probation and pay a $2,000 fine.  In addition, she lost her peace officer license.  If she violates probation, she will face a year in jail.

The trooper who called her out to do the search, David Ferrell, was indicted for theft by a public servant, but was acquitted of those charges.  He was not fired for his role in the search.

Originally, the Texas DPS-Highway Patrol did not take the allegations seriously and threatened to file charges on the victims.  The victims then filed a lawsuit, settling for $185,000.

 

Trekkies Win, Collinsville Settles!

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Huff v. Reichert has been settled by Collinsville for $100,000.

After listening to the audio from the arguments at the Seventh Circuit, I understand why they settled.

The panel really questioned the officer’s attorney, doubting almost everything that he said, after pointing out that he had cited a case which had been subsequently overturned.  The exact quote was that the case cited “had been overruled on precisely this ground.” Ouch.  That is not good.  That hurts.  That hurts like watching Mazeroski’s Game 7 walk off home run, if you’re a Yankee’s fan.

And everytime that the attorney stated his position, a judge was shooting it down.  Why did Reichert pat down Huff and his passenger?  What reasonable suspicion did he have?  How does this even begin to be a valid search?  Etc.

I also noticed that Huff’s attorney was only asked one question, not related to the facts of the case.

I think that Huff could have held out for more.

 

 

 

Wisconsin Makes a Good Start

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During the last week, Wisconsin lawmakers passed and Governor Walker signed a new bill affecting how deaths caused by police officers would be investigated.

Officer Stephen Heimness

Officer Stephen Heimness

In November of 2012 Paul Heenan was shot and killed by Madison, Wisconsin Police officer Stephen Heimness. Heenan had been drinking and had entered the wrong house on his street.  He was shot as he was struggling with the home owner and reportedly with officer Heimness.  Heimness said that Heenan attempted to take his gun and that he was in fear of his life when he shot Hennan.

An internal investigation conducted by the Madison PD and an investigation by the Dane County DA’s office cleared Heimness.  A federal DOJ investigation was reportedly started, but where it went is not known.  The Madison Chief of Police later found that Heimness had committed 118 violations of 13 department policies and Heimness resigned in lieu of a termination hearing.  The Chief, who later retired, said that the shooting was still a good shooting and was within policy.

Uh huh.  The lawsuit for wrongful death wouldn’t have anything to do with that statement, would it?

MichaelBell

Billboards calling for change

This wasn’t the only case where the internal police investigation was questioned.  In 2011 Derek Williams choked to death in the back of a Milwaukee squad car, and although there was a finding of probable cause that officers committed criminal acts, there was no prosecution.   In 2004, unarmed Michael Bell Jr. was shot and killed and the Kenosha Police internal review found no wrong-doing after only 2 days.  Despite that, the city settled the lawsuit for $1.75 million.  Michael Bell Sr. then used the money for billboards and fullpage newspaper ads.  The settlement outraged the police – but the city and the insurance company doesn’t hand out that type of money unless there is a reason for it.

In any event, the bill, AB 409, now requires:

  • An investigation by two outside investigators, one of whom is in charge of the investigation;
  • Any internal investigation may not interfere with the outside investigators;
  • The outside investigators submit their report directly to the District Attorney; and
  • If the District Attorney does not prosecute, the outside investigators are required to release their report to the public.

This is a good start on what is needed.  As an example, in Dallas, Texas, a former officer was recently indicted for aggravated assault for her actions in shooting an unarmed carjacking suspect who had his hands up and was surrendering.  She is the first Dallas officer indicted in 41 years for an on-duty shooting.

It all depends on how the individual agencies implement the law.  For example, the policy issued by the Madison Police after the law is, in my opinion, not compliant with the new law.  For example, the outside “lead” investigator is allowed to “observe” the Madison Police department investigation and submits his observations.  It is not to contain the facts of the case, but only if the investigation was impartial.  The policy also states that the Madison Chief of Police is the sole authority on whether an officer is to be arrested.

That hardly seems to meet either the spirit or letter of the law.

 

 

Trekkies to Get Their Day in Court

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In 2011 Terrance Huff and his friend Jon Seaton were driving back to their home in Ohio after attending a Star Trek convention in Saint Louis.  When going through Collinsville, Illinois they were stopped by officer Michael Reichert, allegedly for crossing the centerline.  A few months later Huff posted the officer’s dashcam video, which went viral.

Many of the comments suggested that Huff and Seaton should sue Reichert, which they did.  Reichert moved for dismissal which the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied and Reichert filed an interlocutory appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  See Huff v. Reichert, No. 13-1734, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 4446, 2014 WL 906103 (7th Cir. Mar 10, 2014).

Before I link to the Seventh’s Circuit opinion, let’s look at the traffic stop.

First, the violation is probably BS.  First, there is no video of the violation.  While it is not required, officer’s who are concerned with documenting evidence will turn on the camera and get the violation (most have a buffer that saves the previous 30-60 seconds).  Second, this seems to be a recurring violation used by Reichert.

Second, when the reason for the traffic stop is over, the driver must be free to leave.  Here Reichert asked for consent and Huff denied it, saying that he wanted to leave.  Reichert told him that he could leave, but that the car could not.  Really?  On what grounds?  Because thus far, Reichert hasn’t shown anything even approaching reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause.

Third, during the open air drug sniff, Reichert repeatedly told his dog to “Show me where it’s at! Find it!”Id., at *4, 2014 WL 906103, *2.  Reichert even admitted that this was improper procedure and violated his training.  Well, duh!  He’s telling the dog to alert, which it conveniently does at the front of the car, out of the camera’s vision.  Really?  Gee, I would have thought that the scent of drugs would have been strongest at the doors and windows, not at the radiator.

Fourth, why is an arrest of over 10 years age even relevant?  Besides that, why even run Huff for his criminal history?  It’s just not done on a routine basis.  Sure, officers will check the DL and for warrants, that’s easy.  It is more difficult to run a CCH.  First, it is done separately from a DL/warrants check.  Second, you have to have a valid reason to run it, other than it just being a traffic stop.  Third, a CCH can take forever to return, and if you do get a hit, you have to run it again to get the details.  It just isn’t done on normal traffic stops, but it does explain his comment about the computer running slow.

Fifth, why was Reichert still on the street doing interdiction?  A federal judge had already found that his testimony about having probable cause to search a vehicle was not credible.  United States v. Zambrana, 402 F. Supp. 2d 953 (S.D. Ill. 2005).  OK, I’ll grant you that Collinsville PD fired Reichert in 2006 and the union got his job back.  But why doing K9 drug interdiction?  Isn’t the State’s Attorney Office required to turn over this type of information on officer credibility to the defense?  See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  This seems relevant, especially when you consider that a large part of the reason that Judge Michael Reagan noted that “Reichert thereby engaged in misrepresentation, deceit, and falsification” when he was earlier convicted of a misdemeanor for selling fake Oakley sunglasses.  Id., at 958-59.  Here it is clear that no one trusts Reichert, from the Federal Court to the state Circuit Court to the State’s Attorney to the U.S. Attorney, Radley Balko, Illinois Traffic Stop of Star Trek Fans Raises Concerns about Drug Searches, Police Dogs, Bad Cops, Huffington Post (Mar. 31, 2012, updated Aug. 7, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/drug-search-trekies-stopped-searched-illinois_n_1364087.html.

This is a disaster waiting to happen, at least to the taxpayers of Collinsville.  In the meanwhile, the police chief is standing behind Reichert.  This may be due to Reichert being the Officer of the Month in 2011.  The reason?  His good work in drug interdiction.

Of course, we’ll see what the city does next.

The court opinion is here.

See also:

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.

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