Only in the Washington DC area would local government decide that the best way to solve a government created problem is to bring in more government.
Only in the Washington DC area would local government decide that the best way to solve a government created problem is to bring in more government.
That’s exactly what Sharon Bulova is doing in creating a toothless tiger-publicity stunt called the Police Commission which Bulova and the Board of Supervisors slapped together after the John Geer killing became yet another international black eye for Fairfax County. (Yep…the Geer killing made the news in Europe, Asia and Australia)
Sadly, the investigation into the killing began only after a United States Senator from a different state forced the Board of Supervisors County to investigate the killing…..and they did……they leaped into action by ASKING the cops if they would consider investigating themselves and then, essentially, apologized for asking.
In the real world when you don’t do your job you get fired. In the real world when you kill people, there’s an investigation. In the real world when a man dies, somebody pays hell….but not in Fairfax County where the politicians elected to serve and protect the people instead fear, protect and serve the cops and the cops kill innocent every twenty to twenty five months….and get away with it.
We need to start firing people and should start with the Board of Supervisors because we elect and pay the Supervisors to keep things in check and they haven’t done
that….repeatedly. Instead of governing correctly, when the arrogant occupation force that is the Fairfax County Police kills unarmed citizens, the Supervisors write a massive seven figure check from public and no one is fired and no one goes to jail. And now as the election grows closer and the bodies pile up, we suddenly have a massive police committee we don’t need that is empowered to do nothing.
To justify their needless committee the Supervisors claim they’re using the committee to examine use of force. Creating a panel on use-of-force by the Fairfax County Police isn’t needed largely because, although the problem exists, it just barely exists. The Fairfax County Police killing innocent and unarmed citizens is an anomaly and always will be. The department handles thousands of calls a year and rarely gets involved in gun play and when they do, it’s almost always the bad guys who start shooting first.
Factually, the Fairfax County Police are, comparative to other forces of the same size, a sparkling example of what urban policing should be. (To see a bad example of urban policing look at San Diego, San Jose, Baltimore, Cleveland and Chicago which will pay out HALF- BILLION this year in police brutality suits.
The Fairfax Police department seems to oversee itself well enough and when it doesn’t, it gets in trouble. (See the Polsi killings, the Sean Lanigan frame up, the Geer killing and the guy they shot to death for stealing a fake tree……yeah, that actually happened)
As for transparency, what freedom of information doesn’t get released, the courts will order released. The Geer case has proven that. And again, the Geer case is an abnormal occurrence in the day to day activity of the Fairfax County Police, which, for the most part, does a better than average job of staying in touch with citizenry.
The cop’s near artistic stonewalling is generally done in high profile court cases under the advice of legal counsel because it’s an ugly but legitimate legal tactic used regularly in the justice system and especially helpful when dealing with a department instead of an individual. We can’t take that ploy from the cops because I want the right to stonewall in court. I don’t want that taken away from me. We can’t have one set of laws for the cops and one for the rest of us. ……although, if you think about it, it’s sorta what we have now anyway isn’t it?
But overall, the cops don’t get away with much. It’s a fact in some part due to the power of the press. Most of the local media has done an admirable job reporting the recent abuses by the Fairfax County Police.
On that subject, there are also several members of the media on the Bulova’s idiotic committee ….well, one of them is an television news representative which is sort of like a news organization but with attention-deficit issues,….but anyway, is it ethical for members of the media to be part of a board like this?
If it isn’t ethical it’s certainly uncomfortable and a little dangerious too. Nobody wants the press having coffee and donuts with the cops on a committee formed to keep anything bad from happening to the cops…the only ones who benefit from stuff like that are the cops. Look, America doesn’t expect a damn thing out of the press except this; when the reporters show up, the politicians and bureaucrats should get nervous. As long as that happens, the free press is doing its job and right now, that doesn’t look like what’s happening here in Fairfax County.
There are 12 cops and/or retired cops on this useless committee. In fact, half of the committee, fifteen members, are presently employed by the Fairfax County government or retired from the Fairfax County government ……do really you think they’re going bite the hand that feeds them or change anything at all?
And look where this thing is going…..….I mean putting Hairy Raorererer-er-er on the committee? Wasn’t he one of the primary architects of the insular arrogance that has brought the Fairfax County Police to the wrong kind of international attention?
Come on people…..a vampire IS NOT going to solve a robbery at the blood bank.
Look, we DO have solvable problems within the Fairfax County Police Department but we DON’T have systematic problems within the Fairfax County Police Department. Corruption within the ranks is virtually none existent and always has been. Brutality against citizens, entrapment and theft…… although they no doubt happen…..are rare.
So why do we need….God help us…yet another powerless window dressing committee?
In a way it doesn’t really matter. This committee, whose true purpose is to save Sharon Bulova’s career, will rubber a stamp a lot of things, take photos, eat a lot of donuts at our expense and eventually disappear. A few months later a cop will gun down another unarmed citizen, the Board of Supervisors will cut another massive check to the family, we’ll make international news again and then the citizens will demand Police oversight. And while police oversight is a grand idea, factually it doesn’t work. Check the national stats. There are about 200 civilian oversight committees around the US. Most are a joke and many others have been disbanded because they are ineffective and highly politicized like this monster incubating in Fairfax County.
Police oversight simply hasn’t worked nor does helicopter-intrusive committee work either.
You know what does work?
Body cameras work.
They are the kryptonite of punk cops everywhere.
Put cameras on them and be done with it.
We need to do this….we need to force every hood on the force to wear a camera. It’s a simple choice that boils down to this; keep on dolling out multi-million dollar checks to the dead guys family or spend a hell of a lot less the money on body cameras.
The concept of body cameras is simple. Stop the cops from saying or doing something stupid BEFORE they do it.
Forming a committee to talk about what stupid things the cops did AFTER they did it is just dumb, well it’s government worker-think ,which I suppose is basically the same thing.
Body cameras will put a quick end to the arrogance killing by the Fairfax County cops and it will put even a quicker end to the common perception that the FCP is staffed by a bunch of lazy punks with an attitude problem.
As I said before, the other way to solve this issue is to fire the people who hire the cops, the “I wasn’t aware there was a police problem” members of the board of supervisors….like Sharon Bulova. The fact is that had the Board of Supervisors acted on the issue of the cops shooting unarmed citizens several years ago, this wouldn’t be a problem today.
Fire the people who hire the cops and watch how quickly things change.
Bring in competent leaders FROM OUTSIDE THE DC AREA to run the department.
We predicted several years ago that under chief what’s-his-face…the bald guy who loves wearing that ridicules hat, that nothing would change but we were wrong.
Things did change.
They got worse.
Bring in a new police chief and new public safety director from outside the Fairfax County government Lifers club.
Bring in a police chief from the outside who is honest and relentless in seeking true attitude change. Create an office of internal affairs whose goal is not to protect the police department at all costs…that’s what we have now…..but one that will protect both the police department from unreasonable complaints and protect the citizens from unreasonable policing practices.
When a complaint is filed against a cop the complaint should not be removed from the cops file after 60 days as it is now. Rather the complaint should stay there for the length of the cop’s employment with the county.
Do we really need the expense of a Royal Fairfax County Police Navy for the Potomac? How about the Royal Fairfax County Police Air Force? Which is better for the county…..more roads, less traffic, smaller class room sizes and more teachers or the cops having a fleet of helicopters and boats to toy around with?
Disempower. Do the cops really have to go around scanning thousands license plates? Cut back the cop’s remarkably generous budget of $217 million dollars. If we’re going to pay the cops that kind of money at least require them to get an AA degree in criminal Justice.
Transform the cops from an occupation force…….87% of the cops live outside the county, hence the punk attitude….and turn them into a local police force by forcing them to live in Fairfax County. It’s a good idea because when there’s a chance one of these punk cops could run into the civilians they smart-mouthed at the local Safeway, the transformation from thug to police officer will be swift. The excuse that cops can’t afford to live in Fairfax County is a bald faced lie.
Back to Bulova’s pointless committee.
Who are these civilians on the committee? Are they qualified to judge whether a cop followed a department's rules governing use of force? Do civilians have any training to understand what the cop faces? Do they have any real world insights into an Officers split-second decision involving life or death?
The answer is no. Only cops have that ability and there comes a time when we simply have to trust the police to police themselves. So let the cops watch over the cops and allow the judicial system, a free press and the unflinching eye of a body camera watch over everyone else. That will work. That will correct the problem.
I am a senior editor at Reason magazine and a nationally syndicated columnist. I am the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (Tarcher/Penguin) and For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health (Free Press). My work on drug policy and civil liberties has appeared in Cigar Aficionado, Seed, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications.
Last week the Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that requires police officers to obtain a warrant before probing the anuses and vaginas of motorists during traffic stops. The fact that the bill was deemed necessary speaks volumes about the way the war on drugs has eroded our Fourth Amendment rights and encouraged cops to inflict outrageous indignities on people they suspect of violating pharmacological taboos.
How often do Texas cops decide to perform body cavity searches on people they pull over for routine traffic offenses? More often than you might think. Looking for the case that gave rise to this bill, I immediately found three cases, all involving young women suspected of marijuana possession.
On Memorial Day in 2012, Alexandria Randle and Brandy Hamilton, both in their 20s, were driving home to Houston from Surfside Beach when they were pulled over for speeding on Highway 288 in Brazoria County. Claiming to smell marijuana, Trooper Nathaniel Turner ordered the women out of the car. After he found a small amount of pot in the car, Turner called a female trooper, Jennie Bui, and asked her to perform a body cavity search on both women. “If you hid something in there, we are going to find it,” Bui says on the dashcam video of the traffic stop. It turned out there was nothing to find. The stop ended with a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia.
“It was extremely humiliating, especially with my entire family, including my 8-year-old nieces and my nephew…in the back of the car,” Randle told HLN. “They saw all of this happening, as well as everybody on the side of the road….I have a whole different feeling when I see police officers now….It’s a very touchy thing dealing with them.”
Randle and Hamilton sued the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) over the incident. Initially both troopers were dismissed, but Bui was reinstated. “It was determined that the relatively inexperienced trooper was directed by a more senior trooper to conduct the inappropriate search,” DPS Director Steve McCraw explained.
Randle and Hamilton’s ordeal was not unique. The same month they filed their lawsuit, DPS settled a case brought by two other women, Angel Dobbs and her niece Ashley Dobbs, who were 38 and 24, respectively, when they were stopped for tossing cigarette butts from their car on Highway 161 near Irving in July 2012. Trooper David Farrell claimed to smell marijuana coming from their car and called in a female trooper, Kelley Helleson, to poke around in their private parts.
According to the lawsuit, Helleson conducted these “painful, humiliating, and shamefully embarrassing” body cavity searches “on the side of a public freeway illuminated by lights from the police vehicle in full view of the passing public.”
Like Randle and Hamilton, Angel and Ashley Dobbs said the trooper who searched them did not bother to change gloves between assaults. No drugs were found. The women got $185,000 for their trouble.
In this case, the trooper who conducted the search was fired, while the trooper who arranged it was suspended. Helleson was charged with two counts of sexual assault, while Farrell was charged with theft for allegedly stealing a bottle of hydrocodone. Last year Helleson pleaded guilty to two counts of official repression and received two years of probation, plus a $2,000 fine. According to the New York Daily News, “Helleson apologized in court, saying she was only doing what she was trained to do.” A grand jury declined to indict Farrell on the theft charge, and he is “back on active duty,” keeping Texas highways safe.
In yet another strikingly similar incident, Houston resident Jennifer Stelly says she and her boyfriend were pulled over for speeding in Brazoria County on the way to Surfside Beach in March 2013. The troopers claimed to smell pot, found a little in her purse, and decided a body cavity search was a good idea. “I was on my cycle,” Telly told the Fox Fox station in Houston last December, “so she could not penetrate the vaginal area but she went to the anal area, and she penetrated and put her finger inside, and I just felt violated.” Stelly is suing DPS too.
According to DPS, searches like these are contrary to department policy, but apparently not all troopers got the memo. So you can begin to understand the motivation behind the bill that the Texas House passed last week, which was sponsored by Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) and still needs approval from the state Senate. Dutton’s bill says “a peace officer may not conduct a body cavity search of a person during a traffic stop unless the officer first obtains a search warrant pursuant to this chapter authorizing the body cavity search.”
You might think Dutton’s bill is redundant, since we already have a Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches.” If these highly invasive, weakly justified searches do not qualify as unreasonable, what would? But while the courts probably would conclude that the searches described by these five women were unconstitutional, it is not hard to see how an overzealous drug warrior might think otherwise.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld routine strip searches of arrestees, even people accused of minor offenses such as marijuana possession or failure to wear a seat belt. In those cases the searches, aimed at finding weapons or contraband, took place in jail prior to confinement. But in 2003 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless inspection of body cavities in other settings as a “search incident to arrest.”
The case involved Danny Joe McGee, a suspected crack dealer who was arrested for marijuana use. Based on a tip from an informant who suggested that McGee might be concealing crack “between his buttocks,” a police officer took him to “a secluded area” of a fire station and “compelled McGee to drop his pants, bend over, and spread his buttocks.” A “visual search of McGee’s anal region” revealed “several rocks of crack cocaine wrapped in red plastic in plain view lodged between McGee’s buttocks.”
The Supreme Court also has indicated that warrantless body cavity searches are permissible near the border as part of the government’s drug interdiction efforts. In a 1985 decision that upheld the detention of a Colombian woman whom customs agents suspected of swallowing balloons filled with cocaine, the Court said “we suggest no view on what level of suspicion, if any, is required for nonroutine border searches such as strip, body-cavity, or involuntary x-ray searches” (emphasis added). In other words, the Court assumed that such searches, aimed at addressing “the veritable national crisis in law enforcement caused by smuggling of illicit narcotics,” do not require probable cause, let alone a warrant.
In 2009 the Court ruled that public school officials went too far when they looked in the underwear of an eighth-grader suspected of bringing ibuprofen to school. But that decision left open the possibility that a strip search might be constitutional in a case involving a drug scarier than Advil if there was reason to believe a student had hidden it under her clothing.
The searches that prompted Dutton’s bill are different from the ones that have been upheld by the courts in several significant ways: They did not follow an arrest, they were not initiated by customs agents, they were conducted publicly on the side of the road, and they were not based on specific information indicating that the women had concealed drugs inside their bodies. Furthermore, the searches involved physical contact as opposed to a visual inspection.
Still, in at least two of the cases, there was evidence of an arrestable offense: marijuana possession. Perhaps the troopers thought a search in that situation was reasonable even without an actual arrest. Or perhaps they did not see an important difference between searching someone’s car, which police are allowed to do without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime, and searching someone’s anus or vagina.
That may be hard to believe, but it is also hard to believe that six troopers in three separate traffic stops thought it was reasonable to explore those private areas on the off chance that there might be some pot there. Such judgments can be understood only in the context of a prohibitionist mentality that sees bits of dried vegetable matter as a grave threat to public order.
“I was shocked to learn that these very intrusive searches were performed without a warrant and without regard to basic sanitary practices,” says state Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who is sponsoring another bill aimed at preventing such incidents. “While I have a tremendous amount of respect for our local police and sheriff’s departments, I am concerned about the fact that this could happen to any of us, here or in other parts of the state, as we travel. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, and I believe this bill is a natural reflection of that right.”
Burrows’ bill goes further than Dutton’s by requiring a warrant for a body cavity search of anyone detained (but not arrested) by police, whether during a traffic stop or in another context. It also requires that body cavity searches be conducted “in a private, sanitary place…in accordance with medically recognized, hygienic practices”; forces law enforcement agencies to pay medical costs associated with searches regardless of the results; and makes evidence obtained in violation of the new rules inadmissible in court.
Sadly, the concern that people forced to undergo such searches will be stuck with the resulting medical bill, even when no contraband turns up, is no more fanciful than the concern that traffic cops will commit sexual assault in the name of enforcing our drug laws.
I follow police and the present crisis and this is what I hear from the community: "Stop the killing!" That cry is resounding across our great nation. It is a strong, agonizing cry from those who feel oppressed and dominated by an economic and justice system that they believe does not work for them.
I surely am not the only one who has heard this cry. Countless journalists and community activists from Ferguson to Baltimore over the last year have reported it. Anyone who follows the daily news knows the troubling situation in which we find ourselves.
But what I don't hear is a response -- an answer from those who can immediately answer the question -- the police. Police leaders are in a position to do so and few, if any, are doing it.
Their professional organizations -- the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the Major Cities Police Chiefs, or police unions like the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) essentially say nothing. Why is this? Why in the midst of this crisis in our nation do both police leaders and their professional groups remain silent?
Do they not know what to do? Are they frightened of those whom they serve? Do they fear backlash from their unions? Do city lawyers tell them not to speak because of future liability claims? It puzzles me because speaking out seems to be the right thing to do -- a right response to a legitimate inquiry. Policing in a democracy cannot just work for the majority of us, it must work for everyone. And that's not happening today.
I was a police leader for 25 years. This is what should happen: After an officer involved shooting, the city's police chief holds a meeting in the community. The chief reports that the current system, policy, training, tactics, and leadership is being reviewed along with the department's attitudes about the use of deadly force. The chief shares deep feelings about the importance of preserving life and what has happened is a tragedy -- not what police want to have happen . The chief pledges to the community and reassures them that everything will be done to stop the killing.
The absence of this conversation with impacted communities and a pledge from police to improve the status quo is causing undo tension, grief, and anger in our nation's cities. Let's start talking and fix this failed system before it's too late.
improvingpolice | May 11, 2015 at 6:31 am