NEWS of the Day - November 26, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - November 26, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


Ohio police agency creates permanent 'lying' list for officers

Seeks to establish a history for officers who have been found untruthful in the past; record will stay with officer for career

by Lucas Sullivan -- The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Police Officer Gregory Stevens was trying to reconcile with his former girlfriend when he illegally searched for information about her new boyfriend on a confidential police database, an internal investigation found.

The division filed internal charges against Stevens in 2007 for unbecoming conduct and untruthfulness. Investigators determined that he had harassed or stalked his ex-girlfriend even after she sought a protection order against him, which they noted is a fourth-degree felony.

The city tried to fire him, mainly for lying during the investigation, but he won his job back on an appeal through a third-party arbitrator.

The city's public-safety officials consider lying to be a cardinal sin for officers. They say it should almost always result in termination.

But officers don't always lose their jobs for being untruthful, and until recently, the city didn't keep track of those who lie and stay on the force. The lack of oversight has allowed some dishonest officers to receive promotions. Officials say they probably have testified in criminal cases without disclosing the transgression, a violation of federal and state law.

It wasn't until last year that the Police Division created a list of untruthful cops. The Dispatch obtained the list under the Ohio Open Records Act. Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs said she is reviewing the list, which was put together before she was named the division's leader in April.

"Our integrity must be unquestioned, so anybody that damages that integrity by being untruthful is looking at the loss of their position," Jacobs said. "I can't say strongly enough how extremely important it is to maintain our integrity with the public."

That's why Jacobs pushed for and got the city's police union to agree in its latest contract that she can use the list when considering existing and future job assignments.

More important, the city now can retain any record of untruthfulness for an officer's entire career. Previously, the record was destroyed after six years.

Jacobs insisted that the list will not be used for progressive discipline.

Jim Gilbert, president of the police union, said the city's list exists because law-enforcement agencies are required to notify prosecutors or courts when an officer has knowingly lied.

The requirement is part of a nearly 50-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Brady v. Maryland case that the court has continually updated to force notification from reluctant police departments trying to protect their images.

Gilbert said the union agreed to allow Jacobs to use the list to better track officers who are dishonest because it is the right thing to do.

"We agree with its purpose and the reasoning behind why it's important to have the list," Gilbert said. "Some of these situations are not clear-cut and involve a lot of he-said she-said stuff, and it can ruin a young career, so this is a very sensitive issue for our members."

Most of the 15 officers on the list and still on the force were unaware that such a record exists. Columbus has about 1,900 officers, so fewer than 1 in 125 are on the list.

Because Jacobs said some names should not be on the list and the division has not retained investigation records related to those officers, The Dispatch is not publishing all the names.

However, six officers on the list have records of sustained charges, and both the union and public-safety officials agree that they belong on the list.

Stevens is on the list twice for separate instances of untruthfulness, though the records related to the other incident in 2002 were destroyed under prior retention policies.

He did not respond to requests for comment.

Sgt. Steven Tarini doesn't think his name should be on the list.

He was fired in 2009 after explaining to supervisors that he did not photograph the buttocks of a man he stunned with a Taser, according to police documents. Officers are required to photograph where prongs from the Taser lodge in a person as long as it is not a "sensitive area."

An internal investigation determined that Tarini knew the man's buttocks were in the photo and that he knowingly made an untrue statement.

Tarini appealed his termination, and in January 2010, an arbitrator found that the city did not have cause to fire him.

The arbitrator said there was no "demonstrable evidence that he was untruthful" and that the officer's photo included the upper hip. The arbitrator did note that Tarini's statement was "self-serving, misleading and not forthcoming."

"The arbitrator ruled that (the city) did not meet the burden of proof," Tarini said. "My case is so minor and this list, well, it's very serious and is not something I should be on because there was no justifiable reason for the untruthfulness charge."

Police and union officials said an arbitrator's ruling does not void an internal-affairs investigation or its findings.

Officer Joseph Hern admits that he was wrong for involving himself in a high-speed chase in 2008 and that he circumvented the division's procedures.

But he insists that he was truthful.

Hern and his partner, Officer Joshua Daugherty, were each charged with criminal misconduct and untruthfulness for involving themselves in a high-speed pursuit in March 2008. Both officers received six-week suspensions.

The investigation found that the officers purposely switched radio frequencies to avoid hearing orders to not pursue a fleeing armed robber, according to police documents. The fleeing suspect crashed.

The two officers can be overheard on their cruiser's recorder having a conversation that investigators said was evidence that "they knew they were violating policy when they engaged in the pursuit."

"I am embarrassed about what happened, and I knew I was circumventing the process, but I was not untruthful," Hern said. "Things happen fast when you're in the moment, and in no way was I concocting a defense; I was just trying to tell the events as I remembered them."

Daugherty did not respond to requests for comment.

Officer Barry Hall was fired in 2009 for lying about an off-duty incident involving a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted, according to police records. The division's sex-crimes unit found no evidence that the woman had been assaulted but determined that Hall had lied when he said the woman was not in his apartment on a certain date.

Investigators also determined that Hall had driven his personal vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a violation of the division's rules of conduct.

Hall got his job back when an arbitrator ruled that the city did not have sufficient grounds to terminate him.

Hall did not respond to requests for comment.

Some officers said they are forced into accepting an untrue charge to keep their jobs or reduce their punishment. They said they were unaware that doing so would land them on a list.

"An officer is supposed to be truthful at all times, and I understand that," said Officer Randall Lyons. "But now it seems if they label you with untruthfulness, you are scarred for the rest of your career. And people need to understand that there is a very gray line here to determine being untruthful, and yet you can be put on this list forever."

Lyons was suspended for 80 hours in 2006 for falsifying applications to be a courtesy officer at two area apartment complexes while off duty. It's common for complexes to hire officers to respond to situations in exchange for free rent.

Lyons told investigators that he falsified his address on one application because he was afraid of getting a bad reference.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said that, no matter how minor the offense, an officer's credibility is vital in court proceedings and that, in every instance, cities are required to disclose the information no matter the damage to their reputation.

"State and federal courts have made it clear that, if an officer is set to testify, his or her career record can be admissible during a court proceeding," he said. "In many instances, an officer's testimony can be the most-important part of a trial."



Tip: 10 key points for your family's crisis plan

We've talked about this before but Hurricane-turned-Superstorm Sandy sparks a reminder of the importance of having a pre-determined family plan in place for serious situations where you'll be called to duty — potentially for many days at a time — and unavailable to be with your family.

If a mass event is imminent (and here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that's a daily danger), make sure you've covered the following with your family:

1.) Location of emergency supplies you have purchased ahead of time — flashlights, emergency radio, batteries, extra ammo — and what supplies (and in what quantities) your family will need to get while you're gone.

2.) Phone numbers for those you know would be most helpful to your family in the event of an emergency. Remember, fellow first responders, although likely at the top of your family help list, will probably be in the same situation you're in so consider others as well.

3.) Evacuation route plans created with potential mass panic and movement in mind.

4.) Strategies for handling loss of heat, water, electricity, and a full working knowledge of any back-up power systems you may have in place.

5.) Survival and self-defense tactics that may come into play in a mass emergency situation.

6.) Family member roles for everyone, including the kids, to ensure calm, effective teamwork in a chaotic situation.

7.) Several pre-plotted housing options, in various locations, should your family need to leave your home, as well as a public and easily-accessible, preferably outdoor rendezvous / rally point if meeting at those places is no longer an option.

8.) First aid. Is everyone up to speed should injuries occur and medical help isn't readily available?

9.) What's the plan for getting to relatives who may need help or getting them to you?

10.) What's the crisis level bar for having your family contact you — no matter what — even though you're busy and need to focus on your job and your safety?

You've accepted the difficult and honorable call to help others in a crisis. Pre-planning can help you ensure that doesn't come at the expense of your own family.

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug has authored more than 550 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a two-time (2011 and 2012) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.



Collaboration and coercion in community policing

Collaboration in its rawest and most effective form involves the equality of each participant and an open mindedness that defies conventional police interactions

with Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

Collaboration is an essential skill of community policing, but a skill that is seldom effectively taught. Coercion is taught very well, is highly valued, and therefore necessarily shows up where other skills are not balanced and acculturated.

Coercion is modeled by police academy trainers, police academy structure, and training officers — it is the essence and purpose of the law itself. Coercion is forced conformity with behavior predetermined by one who has the power to impose that conforming behavior. It is the substance of police manuals and policy. Many leadership styles are predicated on coercion in one form or another.

Instructors and field training officers work on the trainee's skill in projecting authority and control. Officers learn about eye contact, posture, and voice inflection as means of establishing supremacy in their interactions. Domination and intimidation become such a part of the police persona that officers' personal lives and relationships often suffer.

Coercion should not and will not be removed as a fundamental means of what must be done in policing, but problem solving requires a keen awareness of where coercion tends to show up when we think we're collaborating.

Collaboration, the means of problem solving that we find at the opposing end of the collaboration-coercion continuum, is often mischaracterized in concept and in practice.

Most simply, as the components of the word itself reveal, collaboration is co-laboring, working together. Collaboration doesn't necessarily imply that those working together are of like mind or even desire to be on the same team. Collaboration in its rawest and most effective form involves the equality of each participant and an open mindedness that defies conventional police interactions.

A typical working example of what is thought to be collaboration in police work would be seeking a solution for problems at a public park that has been the subject of complaints regarding crime and disorder. The coercive response in traditional policing would be the imposition of intense law enforcement measures including increasing police presence and making more arrests. A typical community policing response would be take the complaints at face value then assemble interested parties together to work toward a solution under the leadership of the police department.

This model of collaboration fails to achieve its potential. First, by assuming to define and characterize the problem to which subsequent solutions are attached, the police carry the first big stick. The authentic collaborative process begins in collaboration over what the problem is in the first place. Any collaborative process that begins at the point of designing the solution has missed an essential component.

A second failure in our crime-ridden park example results from the default position of coercion embedded in police culture. The police define who gets to be collaborative partners, and who gets to lead the collaborative effort. The assumption that leadership belongs to the police reflects police power.

It is against police culture for the police to be merely a seat at the discussion table.

Police authority, or police veto power over suggested responses, is often reflected by the fact that the police official is leading the discussion, or seated close to the political leader in community decision making. This is often quite appropriate and logical but to assume that it should always be the case is contrary to the essential equality of partnerships in true collaboration.

Honest, open-minded discussion and reflective listening skills are the pillars of creative thinking in collaboration. The metaphor of everyone singing off of the same sheet of music demonstrates true collaboration only if everyone had an equal role in deciding they should sing in the first place.

False ‘collaborators' who force a solution and call it teamwork are applauded by those who give mere lip service to collaboration. Imposing leadership in groups where non-conforming opinions are quickly dismissed may be effective and result in an excellent solution but should not mistaken for collaboration.

If we are to continue in a path of community policing, police training must drastically improve development of collaborative skills and communication. Officers are less likely to resist such training when they see that the tools of coercion will not be taken away and will remain a viable and necessary component of law enforcement.

About the author

Joel Shults currently serves as Chief of Police for Adams State College in Alamosa, Co. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He currently serves on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

Contact Joel Shults