Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Three Atlanta cops just got off easy, with sentences from five to 10 years in prison, and convictions in state and federal courts.

What did they do? Well, let me tell it the way I heard it:

First, we heard that there was a drug warrant service that went bad, resulting in a 92 year old lady being killed by the police as she shot at them.

And, not knowing all of the facts, I suggested* that we withhold judgement. It was too early, I said, to know how it went down. The variations and discrepancies in the stories were to be ironed out, and probably were the result of bad reporting.

But right from the start, some nagging issues about procedure were coming out. The officers serving the warrant were in plain clothes. Forced entry was very early, if not no-knock. And those discrepancies-- was it no-knock, or not? Had the woman fired after they made entry, after the knock and announce, as they stood on the porch, or as the officers walked up? Which was it? There was supposed to be a young man there selling crack, but only some marijuana was found, and no man.

Then we started hearing about the possibility that the probable cause had been bolstered by creative writing.

Then we heard that in fact the probable cause affidavit was just fiction.

And the marijuana? Planted.

And the after-action reports? Fabrications.

And the plan to go in based on what they had or didn't have? Criminal conspiracy.

So, at night, criminals with guns attacked Kathryn Johnston's home. She responded as any frightened citizen who is in charge of her own destiny might; she fought back. At 92 years of age, she could hardly be expected to fight hand-to-hand with armed invaders, and she used a gun of her own.

She wounded three men before they gunned her down, killing her.

So when I say that they got off lucky, I mean it.

All three men pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death. Smith and Junnier also pleaded guilty to state charges of voluntary manslaughter and making false statements, and Smith admitted to planting bags of marijuana in Johnston's home after her death.
U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes ordered all three men to serve three years of supervised release after their prison terms, and to split Johnston's funeral costs, which totaled $8,180, authorities said.

Tesler's state conviction was reversed on appeal, but he pleaded guilty to the federal charge. Junnier and Smith face sentencing March 5 on state charges including voluntary manslaughter, but according to their plea agreement, their sentence will be served at the same time as the federal sentence, authorities said.

Translation: they were offered the opportunity to avoid a felony murder rap.

We should have gotten more time out of them. 5-10 with concurrent sentencing is not enough for what these men --police officers sworn to uphold the law-- did.

That's not what I got into policing to do.

Friends with badges, hear me: we had better damned well police ourselves. If a person in your ranks is breaking the law, then he is not a police officer-- he is a criminal with a badge. And we put criminals in prison.

(Tip of the hat to Tamara. )
*In comments. It got pretty heated with some.

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At Wednesday, February 25, 2009 6:32:00 PM, Blogger Farm.Dad said...

No one is more inciced about this than current and former Officers, Agents , and Deputys who actually serve(d) the public to the best of our abilitys . Unfortunatly all too often the bad apples make the press when doing the job right is not noteworthy . What many overlook is the number of good cops out there who do not and will not put up with the crap that led up to this death . This simply could not happen around Yourself , Lawdog , or many more officers i know , nor could it have occured in any dept. i worked in . Power hungry wannabes tended to get weeded out early in the past and for the most part still do, at least in the smaller dept.s .

Don't let the actions of this group get you down Matt. Their actions in no way stains your uniform or your public's trust in you . Ill say the same for LD , cowtown , and many more good officers that i have known over the years , or came to know thro their blogs . The problems in the CJ system are multitude, but not within your ability to fix. We as citizens ask that you guys and gals keep your etics intact and use a bit of sense through-out the shift no more no less . The job you do is vital to all of us and you do it well officers . It however is not worth the slightest impengment on your personal integrity. Stay safe because your familys need you when your shift is done .

At Wednesday, February 25, 2009 7:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know how I could agree with you more, Matt, except to add that when I read it this morning I damned near broke my hand when I pounded the mouse into the desk.

The justice system didn't work, AGAIN, any better than the law enforcement individuals who almost certainly had to have ignored, at the least, or covered up at the most, the almost certain pervious activities of those three. Like traffic tickets, the time one is caught is never the first time of transgression.

At Wednesday, February 25, 2009 8:32:00 PM, Blogger Phillip said...

I'm happy to hear what you've said. I know from interacting with local officers on a personal level that most of them are good people, doing a good job. I've also met the ones that think they're better than anyone else, they have a set of perks that they should get, and so on.

Police are regular people. Not all of them are good, although most are. But the job seems to attract a large percentage of people that are looking for a way to be the one in charge, or for some kind of glory. These are the ones that taint the badge, and it's nice to hear someone on the inside say that this has to stop.


At Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit, after reading this several times I had to laugh. People, the lesson here is as plain as the nose on your face. They went down for the cover-up. Its ALWAYS the cover-up. NEVER the original crime. Matt, how long do you think they serve IF they come clean immediately after the incident?

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're missing a lot of the detail on this: for example, how involved/committed was the LE agency to getting to the bottom of it?

I suspect "not a lot" because that might tarnish the image.

If the agency was committed to carrying it to the end, where was that committment when the teams were created and the raid planned?

In recent decades cops everywhere have "armed up" with surplus military gear and tactics. Locally, where "the" SWAT team was composed of on-duty officers who were called out when a situation degraded to the point where a few regular beat cops couldn't deal with it has metastasized into three SWAT teams, composed of specialized and well-equipped labor who do nothing but train for SWAT events, and at least one of which is used daily for serving warrants. All that equipment and training has to be put to use or why have it. Officer Friendly they ain't.

Cops are an insulated group: the attitude is that it's "us against the world" and everyone is out to get them and, to a certain degree, that's true. The people cops associate with most frequently are hardly pillars of the community.

This leads to cops associating only with cops, further insulating them; having learned that attitude during their "street years," when those cops make it into agency management positions they see little wrong with it. The number of armed assaults by cops against average citizens - the Berwyn Heights, MD incident comes to mind, along with the commonplace accounts of "they always shoot the dog" - are testimony to that. Somewhere in all these events the grownup who is supposed to perform adult supervison is AWOL.

Matt, you said you have friends who wear the badge; for the rest of us, though, increasingly maybe not so much.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 8:09:00 AM, Blogger Hobie said...

It is this behavior, even isolated incidents, which breed distrust. It doesn't help that, for many of us, the government will soon be telling us what to do with our health care, energy needs, even raising our children. It doesn't help that they will, despite the Heller decision, be trying to disarm us so that they can feel secure in their authoritarian behavior. Add another such incident and you can ignite a powder keg.

It is the arrogant, self-serving, high-handed approach many people take when placed in positions of power without oversight that is illustrated here. In this case they killed a 92 year old woman (who still acquitted herself well) and will go to jail. But, they aren't the only ones out there with this attitude. See our Attorney General, Eric Holder. He is cut from the same cloth.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Dan O. said...

Ditto Phillip. Bravo, indeed.

I have respect for the badge, but the person wearing it must earn that respect. I have blind faith in no one.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

"They went down for the cover-up. Its ALWAYS the cover-up. NEVER the original crime. Matt, how long do you think they serve IF they come clean immediately after the incident?"

It usually is the case that the cover-up is worse than the original crime. But the original crime in this case is pretty bad. Perjuring one's self for a warrant is bad, and resulted in the death of that woman, ultimately. Then came the cover-ups of the conspiring to lie, the false evidence, etc.

I can't figure how much time that they would have gotten, because I think that they should have gotten far more than they got.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Walter P, I actually disagree slightly with a couple of statements that you've made.

First, you said:
"We're missing a lot of the detail on this: for example, how involved/committed was the LE agency to getting to the bottom of it?

I suspect 'not a lot' because that might tarnish the image."

I have to point out how successful the investigation into the three cops' misdeeds was. They got confessions to aggravated perjury, conspiracy, and manslaughter, from dirty but still street-wise former "cops". (I use that term loosely.) That took a lot of investigation. It took a willingness to make their department look bad. At some point, some IA investigators decided to take the word of a druggy informant over the suspect cops. That's a tough call to make, and they made it correctly. That's dedication to get to the truth, and I heartily applaud it.

And, too, you're absolutely correct that the cops needed more oversight, in the investigations and the raids. They didn't have it, and that's clearly brought out. While it sounds like a cop-out to say "Mistakes Were Made," it's the first step to getting it fixed. Another example of how they correctly exposed the department to criticism.

"The people cops associate with most frequently are hardly pillars of the community."

Actually, I tend to look at it that about 98% of the people I meet in my shift are just people. Normal, everyday people, who may have had an argument with their spouse, or run a stop sign, or maybe got stupid and bought a dime bag. Just folks. Let me revise that figure to 99%. For the first 5 years of my career, I actually kept a running tally on the actual, real-live Bad Guys that I met while in uniform. You'd be surprised how low the number was. I keep the Us/Them thing under control by remembering that very rarely is it a real Bad Guy, but rather it's usually a regular guy screwing up.

And most of my friends have never worn a badge in their life. ;)

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 4:58:00 PM, Blogger Assrot said...

Well said Matt. I have some LEOs in my family too and the ones I talked to pretty much said what you did in different words.

I know we civilians hold cops to a higher standard and there are times we all forget that cops are human too.

It's nice to hear when decent cops are willing to speak out against such B.S. as this.


At Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:21:00 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Thank you for the job you do Matt. LEO's don't get to deal with us, the general public, at our best. That is something I always keep in mind. Most of the LEO's I have had dealings with have been professional to the core.
And in Virginia, very they write that ticket. And they always write that ticket.


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