When Not Being a Criminal is a Problem

Last night, we caught an episode of Border Wars that just really set me off. Most of the folks they featured were caught crossing illegally, and it was pretty obvious. Their documents were either clearly faked, their behavior/clothing/attitude was so off that anyone with common sense would agree there was something worth checking, or they were caught in the act of sneaking across illegally. Yay, we like when law enforcement does a good job of catching those folks.

But then one guy pulled up in his car. He was an American citizen coming back into the country, and they pulled him out of line for a search because his car had some scratches on it and he looked a bit stiff. They pulled in a drug dog who may have possibly smelled something, but it wasn’t a hard hit. They pulled up the carpet, got under the car, yanked everything out, and went through to read any and all papers he had in the vehicle. No sign of any drugs, no indication that the car had been altered to hide drugs, no hit on the person. Nothing. And they were clearly frustrated. Then, one of the officers found a copy of a warrant. They called up to the local authorities who issued the warrant, and they confirmed that the guy had come in, the legal issue was resolved, and he was not wanted for any crime whatsoever. While all of this was going on, the citizen was being detained in their offices. The golden moment came when a supervisor came out and shared in his frustration at not being able to charge him with anything. When the officer doing the search closed up the car and officially declared it clean, the supervisor sighed and said, “Well, you win some, you lose some.”

EXCUSE ME?!?!?!? What fucked up view of the law do you have to have when finding an American citizen who hasn’t committed a crime is a sign of a bad day, and considered “losing some”? Does someone need to head down there with a gentle clue bat reminder that Americans are innocent until proven guilty? And if car scratches and being uncomfortable around officers who view people as guilty until innocent are all the evidence you need of wrongdoing, then I’m sure I should be hauled off.

So, even though there could be more at issue than what’s in the article, my outrage meter has already been set to “OMG – Fire them!” for the week when I read about a case in Philly that involves the police taking guns & licenses off a guy.

On two afternoons in a row last week, Solomon, 24, was arrested after hanging out at a North Philadelphia bus stop, and each time, the cops confiscated from him a legally owned gun and a separate license to carry a gun, the licensed security guard said yesterday.

“They locked me up for loitering at a bus stop,” said Solomon, who has a special concealed-carry permit for security-training officers and one of the controversial gun permits issued by Florida. “And they took my guns away.”

Police think that Solomon was being insolent and used poor judgment, including by showing up armed at the same bus stop at which he was arrested the previous day.

“If he’s that defiant, should this guy have a gun?” said Sgt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman. “The most uncommon human trait is common sense. He’s not using good, adult judgment.”

First, let’s take issue with a cop who classifies the most rare trait in all of humanity as common sense. There’s a reason it’s called common sense. It’s pretty common. If you think it’s the most rare of all traits, then I do believe that means you may be the one lacking it.

Second, would you like to know what Solomon was doing that is considered a violation of this most rare and precious trait we call common sense? Standing at a bus stop. Waiting on a bus. Is it really defiance to continue to wait on a bus? Police say that because he let some busses go by, he was suspicious. That might be the case. But, if his version is remotely true, not unreasonable. He says that the first couple of busses were loaded with kids because school just let out, and he didn’t want to be on a bus full of kids. As someone who recently spent 6 hours surrounded by misbehaving kids on a plane, I’m not going to condemn that judgement. If I had time on my hands, I’d consider waiting for another bus, too. Again, not an unreasonable position.

But, it gets better.

Solomon, of Germantown, an independent contractor who works with the Parapet Group, a security and law-enforcement training company, said he was taken into custody and held for seven hours. He said city police confiscated his gun and his Act 235 license, issued by State Police to security-training officers.

Solomon had received that same gun back one week earlier, after petitioning the courts for months to return it. The gun had been confiscated when he was a passenger during a 2009 car stop, he said, adding that he was never charged in that case. …

[In the latest incident, Solomon] was again taken into custody and held for six hours. He said he received a property receipt for his gun, but not his permit. He was not charged with a crime, according to online court records.

Evers said that Solomon has been “evasive and uncooperative” and that police had every right to take his guns and permits.

So they can’t find anything to charge him with, but they keep taking his guns and permits. More importantly, he’s having to go through legal hassles to get his guns back months after the incidents. I consider myself close to quite a few police officers, so I feel bad highlighting the negative ones in their ranks, but my Lord. Just because a person doesn’t do what you want, doesn’t mean you get to take the gun. You might have a bad feeling about someone, but that doesn’t make them a criminal. You have to do the job of finding evidence and pressing charges, and you know, that crazy process of convicting a person. It’s what our judicial system was founded upon, and our rights should be respected until a person is proven guilty.

13 thoughts on “When Not Being a Criminal is a Problem”

  1. Some police officers are good people, I know a few and I value them as friends or customers and as a huge contribution to society. However, it is the number of over-empowered cops who have taken themselves from being above the law and now believe they are the law that I find absolutely horrifying. This is just another example.

  2. In 1995 I testified in favor of shall issue to an Ohio legislative subcommittee. One of the legislators, a black woman, told me that her concern was that passing a law to allow permits to be issued wouldn’t do any good, because the police would arrest black men who had a permit anyway.

    I thought this was bizarre. When I returned to California, I asked a black co-worker from Ohio if this had been his experience–that Ohio police would simply violate the law with impunity when it involved blacks. He thought her statement was bizarre.

    I have this odd feeling that there is enough of this sort of behavior that you only have to have experienced the 5% of the time that it happens to assume that all police are like this.

  3. I think the police are the very first thing that should get a massive budget cut. We have way too many of them if they have the time to pull this crap.

  4. Bitter, you might find it interesting to read the book _Arrest-Proof Yourself_ by Dale C. Carson and Wes Denham, ISBN 1556526377. The authors have an interesting thesis, that what I’ve taken to calling the police-judicial complex requires a steady diet of the “clueless” (as defined in the book) to keep themselves employed.

    In the Border Wars episode you mention it sounds like they *thought* they’d found themselves one of the clueless and were disappointed that they couldn’t pin anything on him or provoke him into doing something they could arrest him for. So they “lost” in the sense that they were unable to add him to their arrest numbers (that almost certainly their superiors are demanding, for retention, promotion, etc.).

  5. As a 28+yr retired officer, I am embarassed by the bone-headed acts of some–and it is not just gun rights. However, I believe that this is evidence of a policy slant that trickles down from the very top and will remain in force until a drastic change in city and department administration.

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