Police Department Refuses To Release Use Of Force Policies Because 'Criminals Might Gain An Advantage'

from the How-To-Avoid-A-Beatin'-101 dept

Last month, dashcam video of a 23-year-old (Victoria) Texas cop throwing a 76-year-old man to the ground and tasing him emerged, leading to plenty of outrage across the web. The imagined “crime” was the lack of an inspection sticker on the vehicle the elderly man was driving. Of course, had the officer known the law, he would have known that inspection stickers aren’t needed on vehicles with dealer plates — something that could have been confirmed by anyone inside the car dealership where the incident occurred.

Here’s the video:


As a side note, Scott Greenfield notes that this is a good example of why the Supreme Court’s recent decision to cut law enforcement officers additional slack is a bad idea. Thanks to its Heien v. North Carolina decision, stops and searches predicated on nonexistent laws are perfectly legal, thanks to a very fluid interpretation of the word “reasonable.”

Reasonable suspicion arises from the combination of an officer’s understanding of the facts and his understanding of the relevant law. The officer may be reasonably mistaken on either ground. Whether the facts turn out to be not what was thought, or the law turns out to be not what was thought, the result is the same: the facts are outside the scope of the law. There is no reason, under the text of the Fourth Amendment or our precedents, why this same result should be acceptable when reached by way of a reasonable mistake of fact, but not when reached by way of a similarly reasonable mistake of law.

The young cop didn’t understand the law, but he wasn’t about to let a citizen who did explain it to him. So, he shoved, tased and threw the uncooperative citizen to the ground. He had no legal reason to make this stop (the law he enforced wasn’t actually a law) but he was “reasonable” in his belief that every Texas vehicle should have an inspection sticker.

But is it a good idea to tase elderly men who won’t immediately kowtow to someone who clearly isn’t interested in hearing the “illegal” act he’s getting all excited about isn’t actually legal? Photography Is Not A Crime tried to find out.

[W]e figured it couldn’t take that long to read through the use of force policy, so we made a public records request, only to be told by the city’s legal department that releasing the policy “could impair an officer’s ability to arrest a suspect by placing individuals at an advantage in confrontations with police.”

This rationale is deployed far too frequently in order to keep law enforcement documents locked up. PINAC points out that other police departments have released use of force policies to the public and somehow managed to still effectively enforce the law. Why not the Victoria PD? Perhaps it felt the release of the document would give the 76-year-old Pete Vasquez an unfair advantage the next time he’s approached by an officer for a crime he didn’t commit. Can’t have the public redefining the terms of engagement by using the police officer’s own terms of engagement against him.

And it’s not as if though policies are followed closely or strictly enforced. Past abuses show that police officers frequently use more force than is necessary and rarely, if ever, suffer any long-term consequences for these actions.

Despite the department’s stupid refusal to release the policy, it has at least manned up about the young officer’s behavior.

Chief Craig has determined based on the evidence, that Officer Robinson violated three areas of policy and sustained allegations regarding violations of the following departmental policies.

1) Policy 0.216 – Conduct and Performance, Section 2.15
2) Policy 03.03 – Use of Force Section 1
3) Policy 0.0305- Arrest without a Warrant Section 3

Based on the findings of the administrative investigation, Nathaniel Robinson’s employment with the Victoria Police Department has been terminated.

Now that he’s been dismissed, Robinson won’t be in any hurry to explain why he felt it necessary to resort to violence over a “missing” (but not really, according to the actual law) inspection tag. Is this really the sort of crime where use of force policies need to come into play, especially when the perp is four times the age of the officer? I guess we’ll never know. The Victoria PD doesn’t want to talk about its policies. It did the right thing by dumping a dangerous officer, but its accountability doesn’t end there. If those being policed are going to develop any further understanding of the PD’s use of force, they need to have access to that document. Pretending the release will help perps escape cops is a cheap dodge.

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Comments on “Police Department Refuses To Release Use Of Force Policies Because 'Criminals Might Gain An Advantage'”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Conduct unbecoming.
Incompetence.
Failure to live up to the oath.
Armed assault.
Abuse of power.

WTF is going on in the US anyway? Put some of these motherfuckers in jail for 20 years for assault and I’m sure you will see an improvement in the behaviour of police officers.

Why isn’t anyone bringing up the JUDGES on charges when they let these things slide?

Anonymous Coward says:

Blocked / Censorship

The video is unavailable in Germany. Seems to be some kind of automatic blocking. Unwitting or willing censorship?

“Dieses Video ist in Deutschland leider nicht verfügbar, da es Musik von UMG enthalten könnte, über deren Verwendung wir uns mit der GEMA bisher nicht einigen konnten.”

“This video is unfortunately not available in Germany, because it could contain music of the UMG we couldn’t come to an agreement about so far with the GEMA.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Blocked / Censorship

“This video is unfortunately not available in Germany, because it could contain music of the UMG we couldn’t come to an agreement about so far with the GEMA.”

I’m in Texas, the same state as the event took place, and the embedded video shows the same message. So you’re not being singled out. The video plays find on Youtube for me, the problem is probably the rap music that can be heard playing on the policeman’s car radio.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blocked / Censorship

youtube-dl is under the same restriction.

ERROR: BVNwPD7CPR8: YouTube said: Unfortunately, this video is not available in your country because it could contain music from UMG, for which we could not agree on conditions of use with GEMA.

I installed the youtube unblocker addon. Works beautifully. Should’ve done that sooner.

USA nazi police state says:

oh this is rich

lets see the logic

if we publish when we will beat the crap out of you you might.

a) not go that far thus not need a beating….lol
b) gain some advatange that allows you to beat up the cop ROFL ya sure right….

ya know the morons are now in effect saying they want you not to know so they can cause more shit

they are terrorists..

bdj says:

Let's follow the logic...

So if knowing police policy regarding use of force provides an unfair advantage to the public then it seems perfectly logical that allowing citizens access to the laws that govern them would also provide an unfair advantage; thus preventing police from fining or arresting more citizens. Time to hide all the laws away. See the problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

That cop was an idiot who did know the basics of traffic law (and may have done other equally stupid things previously) and that’s why he was fired, not for ‘excessive’ force.

Many cops would have responded even worse. For instance, if you’re pulled over by a cop (even if you don’t know it) and you get out of your car, most cops will immediately pull their gun or taser on you and start screaming “orders”. That’s what cops are trained to do (even for something as trivial as not having an inspection sticker) endangering your life in order to safeguard theirs.

This driver got a free pass when he got out of his car and did not immediately “get the treatment” and then had the nerve to refuse to bow down in submissive posture, forcing the cop to “show him who’s boss”. Most cops today would have acted the same way or worse. That’s the way they’re trained to think and act, to display “command authority” and to be in total control start to finish.

When you get pulled over, you need to remember that you are essentially ‘under arrest’ until the cop tells you to drive away, and any action you take without explicit orders (othen than to remain sitting still with your hands on the steering wheel) will be taken as evidence of hostile intent and therefore will be met with violence and possibly lethal force. (At least that’s been my recent experience)

Robert says:

Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

The real reason they refuse to release it, is Law Enforcement policy holds no weight under law and in fact by them attempting to write their own laws, they are in fact committing a criminal act by trying to legitimise criminal activity.
Law enforcement can not force people to do things, they can only arrest them using minimum force based purely upon the ‘opinion’ of the arresting officer. The person is brought back to the station and the senior office on station either accepts that rejects that opinion or accepts and they pass it on the the prosecutor.
The prosecutor then either rejects that opinion and forces the legal release of the person or seeks to prosecute the claimed crime.
When it goes to court and the case it legally proven then the will of the people is forced upon the person and they are punished.
Anything, absolutely anything beyond a minimum force arrest is illegal, including using weapons upon protesters, especially when they are ‘less’ lethal weapons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

Have you not been paying attention lately? Cops have been murdering people in broad daylight, on camera and in front of dozens of witnesses yet not a damn thing happens! They shoot kids holding toy guns, they kill homeless people who are just sitting on the ground, they strangle people for daring to challenge them in even the most minor ways. Everyone keeps trotting out that classic line about how it’s only a few bad apples and the rest of the bunch are generally decent folks. But I’m calling bullshit! As a business owner, I’ve met dozens of cops over the years and every one of them was a power-tripping jackass.

The fact that this citizen-abusing bully was fired, while warranted, certainly does not reflect the national trend. There is a serious problem with American police and increased surveillance and laws that codify existing bad behavior will only make things worse.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

“I’ve met dozens of cops over the years and every one of them was a power-tripping jackass.”

My experience differs. I’ve personally known a lot of cops over the years, and I’d say only about half of them are power-tripping jackasses. The other half are more-or-less normal human beings, with all that comes with it.

But, whether they’re otherwise decent people or not, any cop that sees another cop behaving badly and doesn’t raise a stink about it is a bad cop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

“any cop that sees another cop behaving badly and doesn’t raise a stink about it is a bad cop.”

That would mean that all cops are bad cops.

Except maybe Frank Serpico, who served as prime example of the kind of retaliation a good cop can expect to receive from literally everyone else on the police force. It’s not hard to see why there have been no more Serpicos to come forward in the last 4 decades since he was set up and almost died.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

In my experience, any cop that sees another cop acting badly and reports it, is very quickly, no longer employed as a cop.

And apparently, this is the one and only “crime” that can prevent a fired cop from getting a job with another police department, anywhere, ever again.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

“In my experience, any cop that sees another cop acting badly and reports it, is very quickly, no longer employed as a cop.”

I could totally believe this, but it changes nothing. An ethical person would not continue working somewhere where reporting abuses gets you fired anyway. If cops are failing to work against bad cops, then they themselves are bad cops no matter what their reasons are.

However, if cops started working against bad cops and are getting fired for it on a large scale, then it would bring the whole thing into widespread public consciousness — and the good cops would see a huge amount of support in the general public. This would likely result in widespread changes in how police departments operate.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Law Enforcment Required to Obey Laws not Policy

“This would likely result in widespread changes in how police departments operate.”

I sincerely hope you’re not holding your breathe in anticipation of this change to occur.

In today’s Do or Die Employment world, the job/income is far more important than any sense of right and wrong.

Feeding the kids and wife, buying the latest greatest toys and paying the bills is priority one, while being a good cop and hoping that the public/system will help you keep your job after you cross the Blue Line, is not even a choice on the table.

And since any good cop would want to keep as low a profile as possible, there is no way for one good cop to know another good cop, by sight or reputation, so the idea of “gathering” is not even possible.

But the reality of this situation is far worse, because a bad police force attracts bad people and repels good people and it is highly unlikely that any good people would remain an employee of any American Police Force for very long, and I assume there will always be some good people who are foolish or idealistic enough to join anyways.

But the bad cops will feel unsafe around any good cop and find ways of ridding themselves of such an annoyance quickly, and since the entire system is corrupt, it would be easy for the bad cops to do this because the administration would want the same thing and willingly aid the bad cops in the process of rooting out and eliminating any such threats.

I think police states have to run their full course, and self destruct as they destroy the civilization in which they exist, before things can be fixed, since the police are directly between the people and the social problems that need to be fixed and the police are themselves one of the biggest of these social problems and they have no desire to be fixed as long as they can make extra cash through corruption.

As always, I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

No big surprise the police department won’t release that information. But you can still find out. Either you can look up your state’s laws on use of force or you can look up your states Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAT) training book. It’s the rules for using force put out by the state to train officers. Your state may be different but I know you can find the Wisconsin on Google

Anonymous Coward says:

Terminated only

As others noted he is now free to work in any other sheriffs or police department.

Shouldn’t there be a discharge system like in the military and not just paid leave, voluntary let go or retired because of reasons.

I guess it wouldn’t hinder the blue brotherhood from hiring dishonorable discharged ones but it would be slightly more obvious and shameful.

Anonymous Coward says:

“There is no reason, under the text of the Fourth Amendment or our precedents, why this same result should be acceptable when reached by way of a reasonable mistake of fact, but not when reached by way of a similarly reasonable mistake of law.”

So ignorance is no excuse to breaking the law if you’re not part of the privileged. If you are then your ignorance is an excuse.

Imagine if I went around breaking laws and claiming ignorance how far that will get me.

Zonker says:

Chief Craig has determined based on the evidence, that Officer Robinson violated three areas of policy and sustained allegations regarding violations of the following departmental policies.

1) Policy 0.216 – Conduct and Performance, Section 2.15
2) Policy 03.03 – Use of Force Section 1
3) Policy 0.0305- Arrest without a Warrant Section 3

Based on the findings of the administrative investigation, Nathaniel Robinson’s employment with the Victoria Police Department has been terminated.

OK, so how are we supposed to know how this officer violated those policies if we’re not allowed to see those policies?

It would appear that the officer was punished under a set of laws not available to the public. How do we know we’re not violating the laws that were applied against this officer? Or do you admit that this is a separate set of laws that applies only to officers from the set of laws that apply to we the people?

Do these special officer laws grant special rights and privileges? Do these special laws for officers require officers to do things like shoot black men and beat or taze everyone else that doesn’t obey them, or do they merely permit it? How can we know?

Anonymous Coward says:

Ignorance of the law is an excuse?

Reasonable suspicion arises from the combination of an officer’s understanding of the facts and his understanding of the relevant law. The officer may be reasonably mistaken on either ground

So a cop can stop you for a nonexistent law, rough you up and then say oh-well and all is good? But if Joe Citizen does something he doesn’t know is a crime the book can be thrown at him?

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