It’s happened yet again – this time in Ohio – where police arrive to a trespassing complaint at a business (this time at a McDonald’s) and instead of allowing the person to leave the business, they instead detain and forcibly ID the individual. Do police officers have the right to detain someone under these circumstances? More importantly, do they have NEED to do so?
An incident that led to an officer hitting a woman multiple times Monday began as a dispute over missing cheese on a Big Mac. Butler Twp. Sgt. Todd Stanley and Off. Tim Zellers responded at 4:20 p.m. to a call about a disorderly customer at the McDonald’s at 3411 York Commons Blvd., and on arrival, officers spoke to Latinka Hancock, according to a police report.
When the woman refused to provide her ID, the officers engaged in a brutal and violent use of force against her, which one customer inside the McDonald’s caught on video:
There is a video showing a female cop suddenly pull her pistol and point it at a driver’s head during a routine traffic stop. Then there was a subsequent video providing commentary and advice about the situation. However, the information was incorrect. There’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation floating around about the rights of vehicle occupants during traffic stops. It’s important to know your actual rights and not misinformation that could really cause you some serious problems.
What are your basic constitutional rights at a traffic stop?
The Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to investigate (and write a ticket for) a traffic violation unless the officers have reasonable suspicion that the stopped vehicle’s occupants are engaging in other crimes. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354-56 (2015).
Officers may detain the driver only for the time necessary to complete the tasks associated with the reason for the stop. The Supreme Court has provided a list of acceptable tasks that are connected generally to safety and driver responsibility:
Officers will usually question a driver about the traffic infraction; they will run the driver’s license plate; they will request and review the vehicle’s registration and insurance; they will check for outstanding warrants; and lastly they will write a ticket. Officers also commonly question drivers about their travel plans. So long as they do so during the time that they undertake the traffic-related tasks for the infraction that justifies the stop (Arizona v. Johnson), officers may also ask questions about whether the driver has drugs or weapons in the car, or even walk a drug-sniffing dog around the car (Illinois v. Caballes). These unrelated tasks turn a reasonable stop into an unreasonable seizure if it “prolongs” the stop. Officers may not avoid this rule by “slow walking” the traffic-related aspects of the stop to get more time to investigate other potential crimes.
Once the traffic-related basis for the stop ends (or reasonably should have ended), the officer must justify any further “seizure” on a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing those other crimes. See Hernandez v. Boles (6th Cir. 2020).
Additionally, “a police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997) (citing Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam)). That rule, the justification for which is officer safety, extends to passengers, as well. Wilson, 519 U.S. at 414–15, 117 S.Ct. 882. (United States v. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 2012)).
As for the 9th Circuit, where this encounter took place, “pointing guns at persons who are compliant and present no danger is a constitutional violation.” Thompson v. Rahr, 885 F.3d 582 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing Baird v. Renbarger , 576 F.3d 340, 346 (7th Cir. 2009)).
We do not discount the concern for officer safety when facing a potentially volatile situation. But where the officers have an unarmed felony suspect under control, where they easily could have handcuffed the suspect while he was sitting on the squad car, and where the suspect is not in close proximity to an accessible weapon, a gun to the head constitutes excessive force.
Breaking news out of federal court in South Carolina, where a federal jury has just awarded a $550,000 verdict against a former Richland County Sheriff’s deputy, as well as the sheriff’s department itself.
Here are the relevant case documents, including the complaint, jury instructions, verdict form, as well as the full deposition transcript of one of the officers:
This footage comes to us from Birmingham, Alabama, where we see a police cruiser physically ramming a vehicle involved in a so-called exhibition driving event, which I take it means just doing donuts mostly, while people film. This officer is now under investigation by the Birmingham Police Department. Is that legal? Can a police officer ram a vehicle doing donuts, or whatever else “exhibition” driving consists of? What constitutional rights are at play?
Earlier this year, deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia attempted a traffic stop on a 77 year old man named Ralph Ennis, who was apparently suffering from dementia. He didn’t stop, but instead drove to a gas station. An officer from a different agency, the Front Royal Police Department, captured what happened on his body cam.
The footage shows a deputy slamming the elderly man’s head against a truck while pinning his arms behind his back. A second deputy then tackles the man to the ground, hitting the man’s head on the concrete.
“Please let me up!” the man cried out, with two officers on top of him. “Let me go!” Just prior to all the violence, the video shows that all the man did was to get out of his car and walk towards the deputies with his keys in his hand.
The Front Royal officer was clearly shaken by what he saw and said so while his body cam was still recording, as he left the scene. USA Today reported on the aftermath. The elderly man was apparently then hospitalized with a brain bleed. He would never get out of the hospital. He died about two weeks later.
Let me repeat what I just said a few videos ago: there are two kinds of people in this world; those who support the “he deserved it defense,” and those who support the Constitution unconditionally. Those who are willing to allow police officers to bend the rules, so long as the victim deserved it, in their eyes, haven’t fully thought things through.
Case in point: Your usual Fourth Amendment Fudd, who is the same guy that thinks the Second Amendment protects his bolt action .30-06, but not your AR-15, is okay with the police beating someone unnecessarily who chose to lead the cops on a pursuit. The same Fourth Amendment Fudd who is okay allowing police officers the discretion to mete out their version of justice with no due process, however is NOT okay with the cops beating his elderly father with dementia who had no idea what was actually happening. If you allow one, then you have chosen to allow the other. By definition. You either protect all constitutional rights, or you protect none.
This is just one of many recent incidents involving police officers and elderly people with dementia. Police officers have been enabled to fly-off the handle at the slightest perceived threat to their authority. They have been enabled to fly-off the handle on the basis of perceived threats to officer safety. They have been authorized to act like robots; to attack at the slightest provocation, without compassion for those they’re entrusted to serve and protect.
The law assumes that police officers will make mistakes; that they will have bad information, or misunderstand the situation. The law judges them objectively – not based on what they actually thought or intended, but based on how a reasonable officer would act in the same circumstances.
And here’s the problem. Most of us would look at those circumstances, including good police officers, such as the guy wearing the body cam in this footage, and say, “hell no.” We are not robots. We are supposed to be able to adapt; to deal with different types of people in different scenarios. What would happen if a confused old man walked into a bank, holding his keys in his hand. Would he be immediately tackled and handcuffed by security? Or would any competent person recognize that they’re dealing with an elderly man who might be confused? Does it ever cross the mind of a reasonable police officer that a vehicle may not be stopping because it’s an elderly driver who is confused or suffering from dementia? I would argue that a reasonable officer should be concerned first with protecting and serving an elderly man.
As the U.S. population ages and more people develop dementia, older people are increasingly running into problems with the police. There’s no national count of how many people with dementia are arrested each year. But an analysis of U.S. crime data by The Marshall Project shows that the number of arrests of people over 65 grew by nearly 30% between 2000 and 2020 – at the same time that overall arrests fell by nearly 40%. The number of elder arrests is growing faster than the population is aging. National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates that from 2010 to 2020, more than 12,000 people 65 and older ended up in a hospital emergency room for injuries caused by police or private security.
Unfortunately, police officers are not taught to think about the citizen. They are taught to only think about officer safety. It’s drilled into them. Citizen safety is last. That’s our problem. But “officer safety” is not mentioned anywhere in our Constitution. Where it exists is in police officer training. Instead, police officers should be trained in how to help people. They are the ones who wanted to be in a public service job. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about them being scared. If they’re scared, go find another job.
On May 10, 2019, officers attempted to stop Ronald Greene over an unspecified traffic offense around midnight. A high-speed pursuit began, ending in brutal treatment at the hands of police officers. They did everything in the book to Mr. Greene, who repeatedly cried out that he was scared. Just this week, the other surviving police officers involved in the death of Ronald Greene were criminally charged in Louisiana State Court with crimes ranging from negligent homicide to malfeasance.
The 46-minute clip shows one trooper wrestling Greene to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face while another can be heard calling him a “stupid motherf——.”
Greene wails “I’m sorry!” as another trooper delivers another stun gun shock to his backside and warns, “Look, you’re going to get it again if you don’t put your f——- hands behind your back!” Another trooper can be seen briefly dragging the man facedown after his legs had been shackled and his hands cuffed behind him.
Facing the most serious charges from a state grand jury was Master Trooper Kory York, who was seen on the body-camera footage dragging Greene by his ankle shackles, putting his foot on his back to force him down and leaving the heavyset man face down in the dirt for more than nine minutes….
The others who faced various counts of malfeasance and obstruction included a trooper who denied the existence of his body-camera footage, another who exaggerated Greene’s resistance on the scene, a regional state police commander who detectives say pressured them not to make an arrest in the case and a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy heard on the video taunting Greene with the words “s—- hurts, doesn’t it?”
Law enforcement attempted to coverup their misconduct and to suppress the body cam footage from the public.
Greene’s May 10, 2019, death was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, when authorities told grieving relatives that the 49-year-old died in a car crash at the end of a high-speed chase near Monroe — an account questioned by both his family and even an emergency room doctor who noted Greene’s battered body. Still, a coroner’s report listed Greene’s cause of death as a motor vehicle accident, a state police crash report omitted any mention of troopers using force and 462 days would pass before state police began an internal probe.
All the while, the body-camera video remained so secret it was withheld from Greene’s initial autopsy and officials from Edwards on down declined repeated requests to release it, citing ongoing investigations.
But then last year, the AP obtained and published the footage, which showed what really happened: Troopers swarming Greene’s car, stunning him repeatedly, punching him in the head, dragging him by the shackles and leaving him prone on the ground for more than nine minutes. At times, Greene could be heard pleading for mercy and wailing, “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!”
Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time. Now the DOJ has instituted a broad investigation into the Louisiana State Police.
The AP later found that Greene’s arrest was among at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which state police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings of mostly Black men, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct. Dozens of current and former troopers said the beatings were countenanced by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, racism.
Such reports were cited by the U.S. Justice Department this year in launching a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Louisiana State Police, the first “pattern or practice” probe of a statewide law enforcement agency in more than two decades.
On October 9, 2022 around 2:30 a.m. Dalvin Gadson, a homeless veteran, living in his car temporarily, was stoped by officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department, Sand Creek Division, for not having a license plate on his vehicle. Dalvin was a former helicopter mechanic in the Army National Guard. He apparently had no prior criminal history.
He had been homeless for about 3 to 4 months, living in his car and delivering Door Dash to save enough money for an apartment. While sleeping in his car, a stranger named Carlos knocked on his car window, woke him up, and asked him to drive him to his job. He offered to pay him $20.00 for the ride. He needed the money, so he agreed. Then he was pulled over by the police. Remember as you watch this: the reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct forming the basis for the stop was a license plate violation.
This is how the traffic stop ended:
This is apparently the happy officer who beat him, showing off his injuries for the purpose of trumping up bogus criminal charges:
Here’s a new West Virginia video I received out of Morgan County, West Virginia, showing an interaction between some young guys and multiple sheriff’s deputies outside a bar. What it shows is troubling, but not surprising: police officers who can’t control their temper when interacting with someone who is running their mouth – or as the courts call it, “mere words.” Here in the Fourth Circuit, police cannot use violent physical force in response to someone’s “mere words,” – even if they perceive them as obstruction or threats. See United States v. Cobb, 905 F.2d 784, 789 (4th Cir. 1990).
This clip started making the rounds on Tik Tok and now it just popped up on the news here in West Virginia that the agency has ordered an independent investigation into the footage by an outside agency:
Morgan County Sheriff KC Bohrer says, “I have requested an investigation into the matter by an independent agency to be totally transparent and through.”
He says the issue will be ” thoroughly and impartially investigated” and asked for patience during the investigation. “As in any investigation it takes time to gather all the facts.”
This happened on December 3, 2022. The guy they’re talking to had been assaulted in a bar Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. His friend called police. After they arrived, it became clear that they didn’t intend to help. So one of the men began to film.
Apparently, after the video turns off, both men were placed in the rear of a police car for a while. Shortly afterwards they were released with no charges. The one guy was finally able to go to the hospital and receive medical treatment.
There does appear to me to be some constitutional violations in there. I really need to see the police report and the 911 communications to gather all the facts before giving a more informed opinion. In fact, I already submitted a FOIA request. Not surprisingly, given that an investigation was ordered, they’ve already denied my request:
Hopefully this isn’t one of those situations where an investigation is ordered and then… nothing is ever released. There seems to be an awful lot of those in West Virginia.
On February 23, 2022, a 12 year old autistic boy, reportedly ran away from home. Law enforcement was dispatched. That child encountered Deputy Matthew Honas, who handcuffed and hogtied the child, and then tased him without warning in the deputy’s police cruiser. This happened in Jackson County, Kansas. Although the officer was fired, the government is doing what government does: it’s hiding the video footage. Also, the government is protecting a bad cop, who is a threat to public safety. They fired him; then they let things settle down for awhile. Then, when it’s no longer in the news, the officer pops up somewhere else and continues working as a police officer.
There was no report of the child committing any crimes, other than running away from home, which perhaps is some of juvenile delinquency status offense under state law. There was a history between the child and the officer, however. Deputy Honas had previously encountered the child and was aware he was autistic. During the prior encounter there was also a physical struggle, according to a report disciplining the officer. But no details are provided.
Is there any video footage? How do we know what really happened? The Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper reported that Honas was not wearing a body cam, but that most of the interaction was captured by his in-car camera. The Capital-Journal attempted to obtain a copy of the footage via an open records request, but was denied under the open criminal investigation exception to disclosure under state law.
Honas was fired a little over a week after the incident. Termination of employment isn’t enough though. Why? Because bad cops just pop up somewhere else, usually in a small town that pays less. Then they get what they pay-for, which is a police officer who is already certified and experienced, but willing to work for less – because they’re damaged goods and a liability risk.
The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training, which oversees law enforcement certifications in Kansas, issued a disciplinary report that reprimanded Deputy Honas. The report concluded that Deputy Honas “used excessive force multiple times throughout his contact” with the child. He “shoved, elbowed, applied pressure points, carried, pulled, ‘hog tied,” and ultimately tased” the child.” During this time, the child was “sitting in the patrol car” and “not actively resisting.” His hands were cuffed behind his back. Deputy Honas began to press the child’s jaw pressure points without giving any direction to the child to do anything. This, the report concluded, “appeared to be of a punitive nature.”
But it gets worse. Deputy Honas refused and cancelled assistance from two other available officers. He chose not to use de-escalation techniques; he failed to use other options in restraining the child. He said that he was going to call a transport van, but did not. On several occasions, Deputy Honas applied pain compliance techniques without telling the child what he was supposed to do. He told the boy, “When the other guy gets here, you’re going to hurt more.” He also said, “here’s the deal, you do anything you’re not supposed to do I will tase you again.”
The report ultimately concluded that Deputy Honas engaged in “Unprofessional Conduct,” which at least in part, is defined as “using excessive physical force in carrying out a law enforcement objective.” The report, for purposes of law enforcement discipline in Kansas, then defines excessive force as “physical force . . . greater than what a reasonable and prudent officer would use under the circumstances.” Unfortunately, the report merely “reprimanded” Deputy Honas rather than revoke his certification to continue to work elsewhere in Kansas as a police officer.
Isn’t it crazy that I just did another hogtying video, where there was body cam footage, out of Colorado. In that video I discussed some rare hog-tying law that existed in the 10th Circuit. Well guess what. It can be confusing to understand which states are in which federal circuits. But guess which federal circuit Kansas is in? That’s right, 10th Circuit, just like Colorado. There’s a 2008 case, Weigel v. Broad, out of the 10th Circuit, that denied qualified immunity to police officers for hogtying arrestees. Basically, it holds that hogtying is almost never reasonable, as it poses a high danger of positional asphyxiation.