Finally, Officer Safety is Put in its Proper Place in a Police Magazine

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In the January 2015 edition of Law and Order, a police management magazine, there is an article that not only the management should read, but that should be passed on to every officer.

The article, No “Officer Safety” Exception to the Constitution, Charles Huth, Jack Colwell, and Randy Means, Law and Order, Jan. 2015, is very clear that officer safety has gone too far.  They state:

“A number of law enforcement agencies are currently under fire for their patterns and practices of “stop and frisk.” This is only the present manifestation of what has been for decades a national epidemic of illegal police practices rationalized by the mantra “officer safety.” Frisks are not supposed to be the rule in Terry-type stops; the rule would be no frisk. The same is true for handcuffing subjects and placing them in the back of police cars.” Id.

Guys, this isn’t just me, an old, worn out street cop saying this by myself, these are well-respected leaders in the profession.  Huth is the past President of the National Law Enforcement Training Center* and a Captain with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.  After the Eric Garner death, Huth was on CBS News showing the difference between an arm-bar chokehold and the much safer lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR).  Colwell retired from the KCMOPD after 29 years and is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect with Huth, a program for increasing officer connection with the community and decreasing confrontations.  Finally, Means is a partner at The Thomas & Means Law Firm, and has a long history as a police legal advisor, and risk management at the IACP.

The article is outstanding, pointing out that there is no officer safety exception in the U.S. Constitution.

“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution? Generally speaking, it doesn’t exist. Generally, the rights of the people trump the rights of an officer to be guaranteed a safe outcome in dangerous situations.” Id. (emphasis added).

I don’t know how much clearer this can be said.  I can tell you that this is not the way that officers are being trained.  I can tell you that this is not the way that most officers on the street view it.  But these guys get it, and not only that, they train the people that train officers.  I’ll leave you with their words:

“If the choice is between feeling safer by violating someone’s Constitutional rights or taking calculated risks while honoring our oath, the pledge we made when our badges found their home on our chests  is supposed to win every time.”  Id.

 

*Originally founded by Jim Lindell, who developed the LVNR, weapon retention training, and is a pioneer in officer safety.

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Eunice Police Civil Rights Lawsuits

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Ardoin v. City of Eunice, NO. 6:09-CV-2180, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55020, 2011 WL 1979710 (W.D. La. 2011).  Excessive force lawsuit alleging excessive force by Officer Cram (also listed as Crum).  In the opinion, the court notes that Officer Cram had not been to a police academy.  Apparently in Louisiana, a police department can put a badge and a gun on a person, say to him: “go police”, and it is OK.  That is incredibly stupid and dangerous, and way below the professional standards of any reasonable agency.  According to the Eunice Today newspaper, the suit was dismissed under confidential terms.  In other words, considering the city lost its motion to avoid trial, they settled and paid off Ardoin.  It’s kind of hard to go to trial and claim that you didn’t use excessive force when you haven’t even been trained on what is the proper use of force.

Byers v. City of Eunice, 157 F. Appx. 680 (5th Cir. 2005).  False arrest lawsuit alleging that Detective Pappillion told a jail inmate what to say to implicate N’Yichi Byers of theft.  The inmate later recanted and Byers was acquitted of the charges.  Byers could not corroborate the inmate’s story and the court granted the officer’s motion for summary judgment (MSJ).  Personally, I think this was a mistake, the court is supposed to accept the facts most favorable to the nonmovant in a MSJ hearing, which means there would be a fact question for a jury.

Savoy v. St. Landry Parish Council, No. 08-CV-232, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111253, 2009 WL 4571851 (W.D. La. 2009).  Excessive force lawsuit.  The plaintiff suffered a broken nose, which was documented by a CT scan.  The jail refused or failed to send him back for an ENT doctor to treat his nose.  The case was dismissed because he filed 25 days after the statute of limitations had expired.  I’m not saying that Savoy doesn’t belong in jail, he was accused of kidnapping his estranged wife and his children, fleeing police at speeds of 100 mph, and jumping off a bridge into a basin to try and escape.

Law v. City of Eunice, 626 So. 2d 575 (La. Ct. App. 1993).  Detrimental reliance on promise of police lawsuit.  Thomas Law entered into a signed contract with officer Kent Moody that the police would drop a burglary charge against Law if Law paid $4,000, turn over incriminating evidence against himself, and assisted in arresting a drug dealer.  Law took out a loan on his house, paid $4,000 to Moody and helped the police arrest a major drug dealer.  Moody then went ahead and filed the burglary charge anyway, using the evidence that Law turned over.

Out of all of these cases, the most appalling case is the first one listed.  It is simply unthinkable that a city would hand an untrained individual a badge and a gun and tell him to go enforce the law.

 

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