I had just left Criminal Court in downtown Baltimore. As I sat at a traffic light, I noticed a Volvo stationwagon pass me on the right. The
car eased up to the intersection to the right of the traffic in front of me. The Volvo stopped, and then it proceeded through the
intersection against the red light. Once through the intersection, the car accelerated at a rate of speed indicating that this guy was in a
When my light changed, and I got up to speed, I could see the Volvo do exactly the same thing at the next intersection. On went the
lights and siren, and I caught up to the Volvo just before it had a chance to bust the third red light.
The Volvo was occupied by a man and woman. Both were dressed in business attire. Unlike the Florida woman, the man immediately
apologized for running the red lights. He quickly got to the point, without any embellishment, explaining that he and his wife, who both
worked downtown, received a call from their 11 year old son's sitter. The young boy had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. The
only thing they knew at that time was that the sitter found the child unconcious.
First of all, did I believe the man's story? As he talked, his wife stood beside him with what I could only describe as a pleading look on
her face. As distraught as this couple must have been, they both knew that they had to deal with me despite the urgency they surely felt
to reach their child.
I had quickly made up my mind. First, I believed the man. Second, unlike the Florida incident where the woman's presence at the
hospital was not a medical necessity, the case of a child is different. Doctors often want the presence of parents for informational and
legal purposes. In this incident, if the child was indeed unconscious, the emergency room doctors would definitely want to speak with the
parents as soon as possible.
It wasn't a simple matter of putting the couple in my car and heading for the hospital. We were in downtown Baltimore and finding a
parking space for the Volvo would have consumed too much time. I didn't want to split the pair trusting one to drive their car safely to
the hospital. The hospital was located in North Baltimore at a considerable distance. Once I was assured the husband knew the route to
the hospital, I laid down the rules. I would drive directly behind him with lights and siren activated; he was not to exceed the posted speed
limit; at red light or stop sign intersections, he was to come to a complete stop and proceed only when all the opposing traffic had stopped.
It worked like a charm. The man followed my directions to the letter. Here's a tip. While I don't recommend escorting vehicles with
your lights and siren, if you do have occasion to do it, never have the other vehicle follow you. When you go through an intersection with
lights and siren, other drivers are only looking at you. Once you're through, it's back to driving as usual and here comes your guy in
front of those accelerating motorists. In this case, we drove at a normal speed giving motorists time to hear my siren and yield the right
of way. In no time at all that man was looking back at me waving his hand as he and his wife rushed into the emergency room. The wife
was not looking back and waving since she obviously had more important things on her mind.
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Look...we're all affected by a person's physical image. Even police officers have to consciously remain skeptical to avoid being taken in from time to
time. You'll learn that traffic violations are unique, for when it comes to people lying, the beautiful people can lie with the best of them. You'll find
that many people who are physically attractive, successful and who fall into the general category of law abiding people feel immune to interaction with
you; unless, they initiate the interaction. These guys and gals can be genuinely insulted when you interrupt their violations of traffic laws. Remember,
they've got a good reason for those violations, and you should understand that. If they're forced to give you an explanation, you should simply believe
anything they tell you and get out of their way.
In another article from the Tampa Pirate regarding the Florida incident, the article is very critical of the deputy...surprised? It includes a statement
made by the deputy to another deputy immediately following the arrest. The second deputy asks Deputy Stabins if her farther is indeed in the hospital?
He replies, “I don’t know, but she drives right by the f—ing emergency room when I stop her.” This statement, recorded on the deputy's video system,
was obviously included to show the deputy using the "F" word. It made no mention that by passing the emergency room, the deputy's first impression
that she was lying to him was only reinforced. However, right at the beginning of the article, far removed from the deputy's comment, it's covered by
the woman's statement that she was searching the parking lot for her father's car. “I just had to make sure he made it there. Otherwise he was just
sitting on the side of the road somewhere dying.”
Come on. One would think the woman would first check inside the emergency room to ensure her father was there, so she could sound the alarm, as
soon as possible, if he was indeed incapacitated while en route to the hospital. Since the heart attack story was true, the woman's actions only prove that
she was not acting any more rationally than she was when she fled from the deputy.
When you become a police officer, these are exactly the type of people you'll be encountering. You'd do well to read some of these comments and realize
that the world is full of irrational and hateful people. After all, their existence is a primary reason for you to become a police officer, so you need to
start thinking about how you're going to deal with them.
Okay...let's look at Deputy Stabins. I'm not going to leave him off the hook. The deputy knew he was being videotaped. He thought that, as long as he
did everything right, there wouldn't be any problem, because he acted "lawfully," and he didn't use "excessive" force. He didn't use any abusive
language toward the woman; although, I wouldn't be surprised if the use of the "F" word in his comment to the other deputy is what got him the 5 day
suspension...especially if it was overheard by the woman.
I'm sure that Deputy Stabins wishes he would have handled this incident differently. For example, since they were in sight of the hospital, he could have
instructed the woman to lock her car and ride with him to the emergency room. Once her story and her father's condition was verified, the deputy could
have transported the woman back to her car, and any further actions regarding the traffic citation(s) could have been completed. The positive thing
about this scenario is that the woman's refusal of such an instruction or offer would have changed the dynamic of the incident entirely in the deputy's
favor. Of course, there would be those critics and "experts" who would say that the woman's refusal to accept transport was probably because she feared
she'd be sexually assaulted by the deputy.
Don't laugh. Such false accusations are not uncommon. In this case, the deputy had the capability to record audio inside his vehicle, so the fear of a
false allegation of his conduct should not have been a problem. Of course, many critics would say, "That's ridiculous, the deputy should have escorted
the woman the rest of the way." They would conveniently forget the deputy stopped the woman for speeding. Let's say you're the deputy. You escort
the woman the remaining distance. You stop in front of the emergency room, and she continues on rolling around the parking lot looking for her
father's car. I think you just might feel a little frustration.
The critics really think they have the high ground when they point out that the deputy still arrested the woman after her reasons for her actions had
been verified. You have to scratch your head on this one. Sure, it's a simple conclusion for simple minds. They forget the fact that the arrest occurred,
before the verification of circumstances. Here's the thing about arresting people. When you physically take a person into your custody by applying
handcuffs and restricting that person's freedom, you have -- technically -- assaulted that person. The only thing that makes that assault legal is that
you did it lawfully based upon probable cause.
Here's where the courts come into play. Once you've made a "lawful" arrest, the determination and circumstances of that person's release from
custody is -- technically -- no longer up to you. During your career, you'll see people released by officers after brief custody even under circumstances
where handcuffs are applied, and you'll do it your self on occasion. However, whenever you use force to make an arrest, such as in this Florida incident,
your release of a person, even for compassionate reasons, can put you in jeopardy for criminal prosecution. Something tells me that had Deputy Stabins
released his suspect, he would have shortly been served with a criminal summons, or even an arrest warrant, charging him with assault. Like the
numerous police critics you'll encounter, there are plenty of judicial officers who just love preparing charging documents on police officers. Of course, in
this instance, I could be wrong.
The only time the immediate release of a person you've arrested is mandated is when developing information exonerates that person of the crime for
which you arrested the person. It could be as simple as removing handcuffs. In the case where your suspect is further along in the process, you simply
move heaven and earth to secure that person's freedom.
There may well come a time during your career when you make an arrest; after which, you wish you hadn't had to make the arrest, because you feel
compassion toward the suspect. Your compassion doesn't change the facts of the incident, or the lawfulness of your arrest. So, what do you do? It's
really quite simple. You address the issue in your probable cause charging document. After you articulate your probable cause for the arrest and any
additional charges stemming from the arrest such as resisting arrest or any assault on you, you can show your compassionate side. You don't have to be
gushy or plead for the suspect's release. You simply state the circumstances that created your compassion for the suspect. Your feelings will not be lost
on the reviewing judicial officer, and your suspect will, in all probability, be released without bail. The suspect will still have to appear in court to face
the charges; however, the prosecutor will likely be swayed toward leniency by your explanation of circumstances. I don't know what his charging
document contained, but this would have been a good course of action for Deputy Stabins.
You're going to begin your police career facing challenges that, to put it mildly, have been exaggerated. There was a time when doing things right would
keep you out of trouble. Compassion has always been nice and even appreciated from time to time, but compassion -- or I should say the constant and
visual displays of compassion -- was never a requirement for every instance of law enforcement. Of course, I can't remember, during my lifetime, when
the purveyors of irrationality have been so influential as they are today.
There's a simple reason why people who were seldom listened to in the past are now heard from so often. It's called the 24 hour news cycle. There's
nothing wrong with people having access to news and developing information on a 24 hour basis. In fact, I'd describe myself as a "news junkie."
However, by the very nature of its timeliness combined with competition, 24 hour news makes the quality of its reporting suspect. If you're like me, you
keep up on the updates, and you soon realize the trend of the new media...constant, controlled , controversial and captivating. When it's a slow news
day, just about any piece of garbage will do as long as it fits the trend criteria.
The media loves cops. They don't love you, because you're cuddly. They love you, because you're controversial. When the LA allegations of excessive
force quickly fizzled due to a number of circumstances including a lack of sensational video, the media turned to a Florida deputy to keep the theme of
excessive force rolling. Deputy Stabins got beat up pretty badly for several days; until, an F5 Tornado and President George W. Bush came to his rescue;
the tornado flattened a town in Kansas, and President Bush was now the bad guy for having some of the Kansas National Guard assigned in Iraq.
Everybody's an Expert
Now...when you're dealing with media types and critics, you'll find that everyone of them possess the uncanny ability to know exactly what you should
have done, or should not have done, in any situation you encounter. Naturally, they're expressing their expert opinions after the fact. When you think
about it, it's a pretty cool gig. Unlike you, they never have to face any consequences when they're dead wrong.
In the case of the Florida deputy, I heard numerous comments related to the image of the woman in this case such as "she wasn't a crack whore or a
prostitute." I actually learned a lot from some of these expert opinions...I hadn't before known that women addicted to drugs or who fall into lives of
prostitution don't have fathers who have heart attacks. Anyway...this woman exhibited an attractive and classy image, so, to the experts, the deputy
should have believed the woman, and he should have gone to extraordinary efforts to aid the woman.
When you become a police officer, one of the first things you'll do is stop believing people. You'll have people lie to you far more often than they'll be
truthful with you. The lies will go from minor, and difficult to detect, to obvious and then to outrageous. Rarely, will anyone be completely truthful with
you. On those occasions when people are being truthful, you're still going to ask some questions.
Going back to my example where I escorted the couple to the hospital. During the husband's statements to me, I ask where they were coming from.
When he stated they [he and his wife] worked downtown, I ask if they worked at the same location. He immediately, and coherently, explained that his
wife had received the call from the sitter, called him, and he then picked up his wife at her job site. I ask enough questions relating to small details to
satisfy me that he was truthfully attempting to justify the traffic violations he had committed.
It was initially unclear when this egregious use of excessive force was committed; although, the Internet is an amazing
thing. I found a reference to this incident in an article dated May 4, 2007 putting this incident in November --
presumably in 2006. What's very interesting in this article is that no excessive use of force is attributed to the deputy.
It simply states, "Stabins [the deputy] should have been more compassionate, a board of review found, and it suspended
the deputy for five days." As the news stories of this incident proliferated, the November date was rarely mentioned, and
there was never any questions, to my knowledge, as to why it only became newsworthy after five months.
It was posted all over the place on May 3, 2007. Coincidentally, that was one day after the Los Angeles Police
Department was accused of using excessive force against protesters who just happened to injure no fewer than 15 police
officers. It was also the same day when Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, LA's imported savior from the New
York City Police Department, announced his request for an FBI investigation into the allegations of excessive force
against his LA officers.
I'm certain if the Associated Press, who released the story regarding Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Stabins, had a real video of
excessive force, this hapless deputy would have remained anonymous. It must be pretty bad for the news media when it
has to reach back five months to find a story
alleging police excessive force to compliment the current news cycle.
In an update of this story in The Tampa Tribune on May 3, 2007, Sherriff David Gee is quoted, "I think (Stabins)
understands that he was wrong and could have handled it better. On both sides, really, it could have been done better."
Of course, the Sherriff's reference to "both sides" isn't discussed, and why should it be discussed? That would only
detract from the subject of police excessive force.
On May 3, 2007, Bill O'Reilly, of the Fox News Show The O'Reilly Factor, got in on the act. I like Bill O'Reilly, but he
was way off the mark this time. Bill was amazed that the woman who was allegedly assaulted by the deputy wasn't suing
the police department. Bill was discussing the issue with a police expert -- an assistant commander of something or other
-- who just couldn't resist sliding in a macho remark, "If it was my 23 year old princess, [presumably his daughter] I'd be
knocking on the chief's door."
If you're truly considering a police career, you should view this video. If, after viewing the video, you agree that the deputy used excessive force to
effect the arrest, you should consider another career path. Now, you may initially let a whole lot of things get in your way such as the fact that the
suspect is an attractive woman. She was speeding 63 mph in 35 mph zone, [undisputed] because her father was in the hospital for a heart attack.
Try, for just a moment, to put yourself in the deputy's place. You stop the speeding woman. She tells you she's speeding to the hospital for the reason
stated. You should immediately believe her, because everyone knows that nobody lies to a police officer. You say, "The stop takes place within sight of
the hospital, so it must be true." Again, everybody knows that a person would never create such a reason when they're in such close proximity to a
hospital if it weren't true. Poor Deputy Stabins. He told investigators that he didn't believe the woman. What a dummy, everybody knows that every
police officer has a crystal ball installed in the dash of his police car to aid him in his mind reading capabilities.
Okay, since you've established that this complete stranger is being totally honest with you, and you reason that since her unlawful speed hasn't killed
anyone...yet, and her distraught behavior will not impair her driving ability, you quickly apologize for inconveniencing her and shout, "Drive on, and
good luck" as she speeds away. Sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?
Let's return to the realm of reality. When you're stopped for speeding, and a police officer takes your license and registration for the purpose of issuing
you a citation, you're technically under arrest. When you sign the citation verifying your intent to either pay the fine or appear for trial, you're released
from that officer's custody. When the woman in this incident fled from the officer, for whatever reason, she indicated her intent not to pay the fine or
appear for trial. At the instant the woman fled from the deputy, she was subject to a lawful arrest.
None of the reporting disputes the lawfulness of the arrest. All of the reporting does state that all charges against the woman were dropped by the
Sheriff's Department. If true, I find that very interesting since the only entity that can drop or dismiss charges lawfully lodged by a police officer is a
court...as in judge, or through some other form of judicial review. Oh well, when it comes to putting police in their place, you'll find few courts that will
object to having their power usurped.
When you read the articles on this incident, you'll see the words, "yanked" and "slammed." "Yanked" from the car. "Slammed" on the hood. Oh,
no. Not pulled and pushed...yanked and slammed. On the second stop, the woman clearly refused the deputy's order to get out of the car, but there was
no discussion on that issue. It was all about the deputy yanking the woman from her car and slamming her on the hood. All the articles support the
slamming version by stating that she was slammed so hard, "her feet left the ground." I'm sorry...the woman's body was obviously rigid, and high
heeled shoes aren't that great for maintaining traction.
It's clear from the video that the woman was not cooperating. If you do become a police officer, you'll find that force is a relative thing. Anytime a
person resists you physically, the amount of force you apply has to be sufficient to overcome the force being exerted against you. You'll also learn that
when a person, man or woman, of any size, passively resists you by making his or her body rigid, force is necessary to put that person in a position to be
From a standpoint of safety, this video could be used as a training aid. Deputy Stabins, quickly and efficiently, subdued the suspect preventing a
prolonged struggle which could have resulted in injury to either the deputy, suspect, or both. You'll notice that when it should have been obvious to the
suspect that the deputy intended to remove her from the car, the car began drifting forward. The media stories addressed that issue by describing how
the suspect's foot slipped from the brake pedal because of the deputy's actions. The critics would have you believe that the deputy was trying to remove
the woman from the car, before the vehicle was in park and the engine turned off. Does anyone really believe the woman intended to cause that to
happen as instructed. The deputy was initially attempting to put the car in park when the woman's foot accidentally -- presumably -- slipped off the
brake. That's what cops do when they attempt to remove people from vehicles under similar situations. Remember all those dash cam videos you see
where police officers are hanging from the driver's window of vehicles as the suspects speed off? Do you think those officers are just hitching a ride?
The know it all critics might observe, "The officer should just let go, before the car takes off." I'd suggest those critics take it upon themselves to
conduct personal demonstrations of their escape techniques.
Okay, fine. Many in the media, and other critics, would have preferred that the deputy had simply "yanked" the suspect from the moving vehicle. That
would have made for a much better visual story. The car would have continued forward possibly endangering others, and the attractive suspect may well
have fallen to the ground. Better yet, she might have been partially out of the vehicle and trapped by some obstruction as her head and shoulders
bounced along the pavement. That didn't happen. The deputy trotted along the drifting car, endangering himself, while repeating, "Put it in park...put
it in park." At this point, the deputy could have been criticised for not letting go of the suspect and moving away from the car for his own safety.
Following the release of this useless and completely abused false allegation of excessive force, I watched the news coverage closely. The word
"compassion" showed up all over the place in the context of the deputy's lack of compassion. Everybody, and I mean nearly everybody, based everything
about this incident on contributing circumstances that had absolutely nothing to do with the use or determination of excessive force.
When you're looking at police departments to join, you might want to cross the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office of your list. It's getting pretty bad
when a deputy gets a 5 day suspension without pay based on something as subjective as compassion. It's pretty obvious that the influence was present,
and strong enough, to exact some form of retribution against the deputy for his perceived lack of compassion.
Okay...let's talk about compassion. Here's an example about people breaking traffic laws while en route to a hospital with similarities and differences to
the Florida incident:
|Florida Deputy Suspended for Excessive Force