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.

Filed Under: police, texas, use of force


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:18pm

    I wonder which police department he works for now ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:21pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      We love to get "tough on crime" and the suburbanites are easily indoctrinated to support "law and order" - too bad we cant get "tough on crime" when the system does it

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 29 Jan 2015 @ 2:58am

        Re: Re:

        You're not supposed to question the status quo. Anyone who does is instantly demonized as an enemy of the state/socialist/communist/terrorist, etc.

        The old fella questioned the status quo so the young cop got tough on [imaginary] crime.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:22pm

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:45pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:51pm

        Re: Re: Blocked / Censorship

        The video doesn't, however, play for me on Youtube either.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: Blocked / Censorship

          Google youtube-dl, download the video directly (worked for me)... Or, you can try using a VPN or proxy service. Maybe someone could dropbox it (the video is tax payer funded so go for it).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tracyanne (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:07pm

        Re: Re: Blocked / Censorship

        I'm in Australia. The message I get is :

        This video contains content from UMG. It is restricted from playback on certain sites. Watch on YouTube

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 7:09am

      Re: Blocked / Censorship

      occupied germans are deprived from a lot of youtube this way

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    USA nazi police state, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:32pm

    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..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bdj, 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:54pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:55pm

    Editing for accuracy

    I have taken the liberty of correcting the city's legal statement:

    [...]could impair the prosecutor's ability to convict a suspect by placing individuals at an advantage in confrontations with police in a court of law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:09pm

    their probably worried how the public would react to the "perp making eye contact with its superior" authority to arrest bit

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:27pm

    Google it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:30pm

    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)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 28 Jan 2015 @ 1:24am

      Re:

      That's the way they're trained to think and act, to display "command authority" and to be in total control start to finish.

      Who defines "in total control" as "lashing out in unbridled panic"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:35pm

    Bad Cop.

    I think William Gibson (I could be wrong) came up with the idea. We need a new reality show called Bad Cop.

    Can you see the police running for cover when the show rolls into town?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:37pm

    Soooo.....
    It's OK if a police officer doesn't know of a minor law (thanks Supreme Court) but if a citizen doesn't know EVERY law they all get piled on just to get a plea. And, now, they'll keep them locked up so you never know what is coming your way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Robert, 27 Jan 2015 @ 5:06pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 7:19pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Almost Anonymous (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 8:26am

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

        Sad but true. Frankly I'm amazed this guy was fired.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 3:17pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 7:16pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          GEMont (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 4:07pm

          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.

          ---

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 2:14pm

            Re: 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."

            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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              GEMont (profile), 1 Feb 2015 @ 12:11am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              ---

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 7:49pm

    Easy to explain

    They don't want to release their 'Use of force' policies, because if they do people will find out that all it says is 'Do whatever the hell you want'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:08pm

    training

    I thought they were SUPPOSED to have some sort of training??
    These plates are different color and Stand out for a reason.

    Can we Sue the training company? or is this State controlled also..then Sue the state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:11pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 1:53am

    Use of force should be written by those it is to be used on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 3:13am

    Only Fired?

    Why wasn't he also arrested and prosecuted?
    Yeah, right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dr evil, 28 Jan 2015 @ 3:30am

    so maybe rap music DOES cause violence

    The look, the posture, the crap music... yup - nuf said

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 3:46am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 4:08am

    So "Ignorance of the law" is no excuse, unless you are a cop? This is why when a cop is ambushed, odds are the last thing he will hear will be cheering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 6:14am

    Know the law

    Victoria PD: Knowing "the law" will help you follow "the law"!
    Who knew!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kP (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 7:34am

    Yet another municipality to pay a high price

    for hiring the wrong sort of person to be a police officer. Get ready to lose big $$$ in court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 8:53am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jimmy (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 9:11am

    March

    I wonder what the cops will do in March when inspection stickers will no longer be required for any car in Texas.

    http://blog.chron.com/thehighwayman/2014/06/dmv-prepares-for-sticker-shock-of-losing-inspectio n-tag/#23504101=0

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 28 Jan 2015 @ 11:57am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:04am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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