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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Gotcha.

It was 01:30, and I was doing some serious neighborhood patrol. We had recently been hit with a series of overnight car burglaries in our neighborhoods, and I was damned if I was going to let it happen again, even though I had case reports stacking up on my desk. I was slowly driving up and down the neighborhood streets, shining lights into parked cars. Either I was going to find some car burglars, or I was going to scare them into stopping their activities. Or I was going to waste my time. It was so far looking like the last possibility was the most likely.

As I slowly approached a car parked on a corner of a residential street, I saw that it was occupied, and that the person in the driver's seat was in his late teens or early 20s, and was facing lighted screen in his lap. He cut his eyes at me as I passed. He looked scared. I turned around and parked behind him. I got out and approached, making sure that my body camera and car camera and body mic were all turned on. At the driver's door, I opened with, "Whatcha doin'?" This isn't actually part of the 7 Step Violator Contact, but this wasn't actually a traffic stop, and I had no evidence that the young man sitting there texting was actually a violator of any kind. He was actually free to leave, without answering my question. This was what we call a Consensual Contact. That he chose to roll the window down and speak to me without a stop command was his own decision.

"I'm, uh, waiting for a friend," he answered quickly.

"Oh, okay. A friend. Who is your friend?"

"Nadine."

"Nadine who?"

"Nadine, uh, um, Perez."

"Oh, a new friend! How old is Nadine, sir?" I inquired.

"A-about 16," he answered. You notice that hesitation? That means that she's 15.

"And where did you meet her?" I asked him.

"On the PlayStation Chat Board," he answered, and I believed him.

"And you were just now texting her," I said. He nodded. "May I see your cell phone?" I asked. He handed it over to me. I looked at his text conversation:

Her: "So, are you coming over, or not? I'm not staying up all night."
Him: "I'm leaving the house now, headed down Hwy 830 from [location 35 miles away]."
Her: "Where are you...??"
Him: "I'm coming around the loop toward you."
Him: "I'm now on Farm Road 1234, headed toward Smalltown."
Her: "OK."
Him: "I'm outside your house, parked on the street next door."
Her: "OK. I'm coming out in a sec."
Him: "Wait. Someone is coming down the street, really slowly."
Him: "I think that it may be a cop. If it's a cop, I am soooo busted."
Him: "OMG, it IS a cop. He's about to pass me. Oh God, he passed me and looked right at me!"
Him: "He's turning around!"

I asked him, "So? Let's go meet Nadine's parents!"

He got out, and we walked up to the door of the house. I knocked loudly on the front door, and found that it was standing ajar. A minute later the lady of the house answered. I introduced myself, and asked her if her daughter Nadine was permitted to have visitors at 1:30AM. She answered no. I asked that she go fetch her daughter as well. She returned with her husband, but no Nadine. Nadine was missing from her bed.

We found Nadine hiding between two cars in the driveway. She was in fact 15 years old. My young Lothario was almost 18. I demanded of him, "So you chose to take it upon yourself, to tempt this girl whom you have never met, into leaving the house and protection of her parents, after they were asleep? Just WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, MISTER?!!?" I glanced at Nadine's father, standing  shirtless, wearing just a pair of pajama bottoms. For a middle-aged man, this guy was in great shape. His chest rose and fell a little bit too rapidly for the boy's safety. Big puffs of steam entered the cold night air from the man's lips. Nadine's papa was pissed off.

"I'm nobody," answered the boy. "Nobody. I don't know why I'm even here. If you will permit me, sir, I will go, and never come back..." He was beginning to babble. I filled out a Criminal Trespass Warning on my clipboard, and witnessed Nadine's parents' signatures on it. I had the boy sign receipt of it, and gave him and the parents each their copies of the document which ordered my young Lothario to leave the property and to never return, under penalty of being arrested should he return again.

My junior officer had by this time arrived, and asked if I wanted to do anything else with him. "Write him for violation of Restriction G on his driver license," I answered. The boy wasn't yet 18, and was driving after midnight for a social visit. The boy signed it gladly, declaring that he would pay the citation the first thing in the morning.

I think that it's important for parents to know who there children are dating.

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13 Comments:

At Monday, March 28, 2016 9:04:00 AM, Blogger Comrade Misfit said...

If Nobody comes back, don't be surprised if you get an ambulance call for him from Nadine's dad.

(Is "the Toyota Defense" legal in TX?)

 
At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

He's lucky, if 'daddy' had caught him, the ending might have been much worse than a mere ticket!!!

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2016 6:37:00 AM, Blogger staghounds said...

This is the perfect law enforcement response, not everyone has to go to jail.

We've been seeing more and more car burglaries- usually a 3 crook team. One drives them to a street and lets two out. Each works a side, opening and rifling the unlocked cars. Locked ones are ignored, they take too long. Driver picks them up at the end of the street and away they go. A typical hour's work will produce a few laptops, guns, and full wallets as well as the usual electronic stuff like garmins and telephones.

Low risk, good take. Lock and alarm your car even in the driveway.

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2016 6:47:00 AM, Blogger docjim505 said...

On behalf of libertarians everywhere, please restrain your busybody officiousness. Mein papers are in ordnung, danke.

On behalf of fathers with daughters everywhere, THANK YOU and God bless.

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2016 6:47:00 AM, Blogger docjim505 said...

On behalf of libertarians everywhere, please restrain your busybody officiousness. Mein papers are in ordnung, danke.

On behalf of fathers with daughters everywhere, THANK YOU and God bless.

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2016 3:22:00 PM, Blogger rremington said...

Nicely handled Matt!

I would bet folding money the phrase "Grounded for Life" was used in the Perez household that night.

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2016 10:09:00 PM, Blogger JaneLovesJesus said...

Victory. Thank you, officer.

 
At Thursday, March 31, 2016 7:32:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

docjim505, you said, "On behalf of libertarians everywhere, please restrain your busybody officiousness. Mein papers are in ordnung, danke."

Speaking as a libertarian myself, I'm curious just what you would rather I have done? 16 years in law enforcement told me that this kid was worthy of suspicion. I did not turn on my red-and-blues. I did not order him out of the car until I had reasonable suspicion that he was participating in a crime (Runaway, Enticing A Minor). If he had chosen to drive away, I would have shrugged, followed to see where he went in my city (as could any citizen), and left it at that, if I saw no laws broken.

The citizens made clear that they wanted enforcement against their cars being burgled. Check out Staghound's comment, here, about the three-man car burglary team. That's EXACTLY how these guys did it in our town, having hit two neighborhoods in the same night. I'm not actually sure how else you would have a police patrol attempt to interrupt an ongoing felony theft ring's activities? This seems to me to be very close to Least Intrusive. Oh, I could have driven around the corner, parked, blacked out, and surveilled him for awhile, but that's not very efficient, given the shortage of patrol officers (it was unusual to even have a second), and the number of streets that I had to check.

So, I walked up, and asked the kid some questions. I was courteous, and was not overbearing. My yelling at him was arguably for his own safety, to appease the girl's father, and to put some fear into him as to how this could have gone.

 
At Thursday, March 31, 2016 6:25:00 PM, Blogger docjim505 said...

First, please understand that I am not anti-police. I understand that policemen have a difficult and dangerous job that requires them to make very consequential decisions without a lot of information or a lot of time for reflection, much less consultation with a battery of lawyers. I believe that the vast majority of American cops do their duty conscientiously and well, and we are very fortunate in our country that our police are in the main good public servants and not a strong-arm squad for the regime.

Now, to business...

Speaking as a libertarian myself, I'm curious just what you would rather I have done?

That's the problem: I don't know. I am not a policeman myself, but I am given to understand that experienced officers become sensitive to (for want of a better term) Things That Just Don't Look Quite Right that tip them off that a crime may be contemplated or even in progress. Unfortunately, those little twitches of instinct have a very hazy place with regards to the Forth Amendment's protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Allow me to quote Terry v Ohio (392 U.S. 1 (1968)):

"On the one hand, it is frequently argued that in dealing with the rapidly unfolding and often dangerous situations on city streets the police are in need of an escalating set of flexible responses, graduated in relation to the amount of information they possess. For this purpose it is urged that distinctions should be made between a 'stop' and an 'arrest' (or a 'seizure' of a person), and between a 'frisk' and a 'search.' Thus, it is argued, the police should be allowed to 'stop' a person and detain him briefly for questioning upon suspicion that he may be connected with criminal activity...

"On the other side the argument is made that the authority of the police must be strictly circumscribed by the law of arrest and search as it has developed to date in the traditional jurisprudence of the Fourth Amendment. It is contended with some force that there is not - and cannot be - a variety of police activity which does not depend solely upon the voluntary cooperation of the citizen and yet which stops short of an arrest based upon probable cause to make such an arrest. The heart of the Fourth Amendment, the argument runs, is a severe requirement of specific justification for any intrusion upon protected personal security, coupled with a highly developed system of judicial controls to enforce upon the agents of the State the commands of the Constitution..."

To my mind, this really is a quandary: it is in society's interest to allow the police considerable latitude to investigate suspicious people and circumstances with the goal of preventing crime, but it is ALSO in society's interest that people be free of police interference in their lives, if for no other reason than any encounter between citizen and policeman has the potential to go very badly, very quickly. (I add that our political class's mania for making more and more activities subject to regulation and law exacerbate this problem)

 
At Thursday, March 31, 2016 6:25:00 PM, Blogger docjim505 said...

PT II

The problem - and I don't know that it's possible to solve it - is finding and striking the balance between an utterly ineffective police force on the one hand and a police state on the other.

I close with some statistics cites in Floyd v City of New York (959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (S.D.N.Y. 2013)):

Between January 2004 and June 2012, the NYPD conducted over 4.4 million
Terry stops.

• The number of stops per year rose sharply from 314,000 in 2004 to a high of
686,000 in 2011.

• 52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was
found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million
frisks, no weapon was found.

• 8% of all stops led to a search into the stopped person’s clothing, ostensibly based
on the officer feeling an object during the frisk that he suspected to be a weapon,
or immediately perceived to be contraband other than a weapon. In 9% of these
searches, the felt object was in fact a weapon. 91% of the time, it was not. In
14% of these searches, the felt object was in fact contraband. 86% of the time it
was not.

• 6% of all stops resulted in an arrest, and 6% resulted in a summons. The
remaining 88% of the 4.4 million stops resulted in no further law enforcement
action.

• In 52% of the 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31% the person was Hispanic, and in 10% the person was white.

• In 2010, New York City’s resident population was roughly 23% black, 29%
Hispanic, and 33% white.

• In 23% of the stops of blacks, and 24% of the stops of Hispanics, the officer
recorded using force. The number for whites was 17%.

• Weapons were seized in 1.0% of the stops of blacks, 1.1% of the stops of
Hispanics, and 1.4% of the stops of whites.

• Contraband other than weapons was seized in 1.8% of the stops of blacks, 1.7%
of the stops of Hispanics, and 2.3% of the stops of whites.

• Between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of stops where the officer failed to state a
specific suspected crime rose from 1% to 36%.

Is this an example of prudent, "good" policing... or a police force that has crossed the line into harassing the citizens it's sworn to protect? If the latter, then what ought to be done about it?

 
At Thursday, March 31, 2016 8:43:00 PM, Blogger Kristophr said...

Docjim:

If MattG was a private security operative paid to protect a neighbourhood in Libertopia, I think he might have done exactly the same thing, except for the driving after dark bit.

I see no real problem here.

 
At Friday, April 01, 2016 8:26:00 AM, Blogger docjim505 said...

Kristophr,

In many ways, I don't see a problem, either. Indeed, PART of me looks upon this incident as an example of excellent police work: an experienced officer, alert to his surroundings, politely approached and questioned a citizen, established that something was wrong (though not exactly criminal), and resolved the situation without violence or undo fuss. The residents of the neighborhood have proof that their local police are not only on the job but also do that job with common sense and will therefore be more likely to cooperate with the police which can only help them to do their jobs even more effectively.

BUT...

Where is the line between "community policing" - cops politely (or not) questioning everybody who "looks suspicious" - and something like a police state where everybody must expect at any moment to have to produce his ID and a plausible explanation of what he's doing? Or even stand for a frisk, as it seems from the data presented in the Floyd case that the NYPD does pretty commonly?

I also invite people to consider what MIGHT have happened in this particular case had the boy been beligerent or plain ol' stupid. What if he'd panicked at the sight of the squad car and run (maybe he had some weed he was planning to share with his girlfriend)? Now, the officer has a very reasonable suspicion that he's dealing with a villain... and that might require him to use deadly force.

And let's talk about risk to the police. Quite aside from the physical dangers of approaching a person (is he armed? crazy? a villain?), there is the legal / PR risk. What if the kid had decided to (literally) make a federal case out of it: "the cop harrassed me because I'm [insert minority here]"?

This incident went well: nobody was hurt, and it may well be that a young girl was protected from being taken advantage age of. I think, however, that it's worth pondering what happened and what MIGHT have happened as part of our on-going efforts to determine how we want our police to do their jobs and how we want to balance law and order with maintaining our liberties.

 
At Friday, April 01, 2016 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Well, shucks-- the comment which I typed last night went away.
Basically, I made clear that I'm a big fan of Officer McFaddon's, having written my first undergraduate paper on Terry v. Ohio in about 1994, and my last paper on him in grad school, circa 2007.

This contact was fine, because, absent Probable Cause or Reasonable Suspicion, I made a consensual contact, and the actor chose to speak with me long enough to give me reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed (Runaway, Enticing A Minor, Curfew Violation), which invited an investigative detention which very quickly got me to Probable Cause.

Playing coulda, woulda, shoulda all the time might make a person completely inactive. Yes, all those horrible things could have happened. They always can, with each contact. The vast majority of police contacts end with zero corrective action, beyond a friendly warning. If he had run, I might well have found that to be worth considering RS. If he had driven off calmly, I would not. If he had fired at me, I would have considered that PC for an arrest, and likely the returned use of deadly force. This is NOT on the officer, though-- the citizen would have been dictating the level of force used. In fact, the only physical contact that I had with this young man was when he shook my hand after receiving his citation.

And, YES, I've had a federal lawsuit brought against me. It was dropped, only AFTER my name was removed as a defendant. It happens. You carry your head high, and do what you think is right.

 

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