Blue Notes

In Terry V.Ohio, the united states supreme court authorised a protective frisk for weapons and only weapons

Do

I patted the subject down because I saw the outline of a gun bulging out from his jacket.

Don't

Commit these report writing errors.

"I patted the subject down:

...to see what he had on him"

... for contraband."

... for evidence."

... for anything I could find."

... as a matter of routine."

... because I knew him from prior dealings."

... because he was drunk."

Park City Police Department

Feb. 13, 2018

Headed by Chief Wade Carpenter, the Park City, Utah, Police Department is committed to providing the highest quality law enforcement services to its community members, visitors and guests. During a recent interview with Blue360o Media, Chief Carpenter shared a number of fascinating insights into recent trends in law enforcement in general and Park City in particular. This August will mark the 50-year-old chief’s 30th year in law enforcement.

Since October of 2016, Chief Carpenter has been serving as the International Vice President at Large for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The organization, based in Alexandria, Virginia, has 30,000 members in 150 countries and an annual budget of approximately $27 million. Chief Carpenter’s position in the IACP follows two one-year terms as the president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, being the first chief of police from Utah to serve in that capacity.

Blue360ºMedia:As immediate past president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, do you still have responsibilities there?

Chief Carpenter:As the immediate past president of the Association, I remain involved with Utah State legislative initiatives through the Association’s Legislative Law Enforcement Committee, supporting all the legislative proposals and initiatives of the Association.

Blue360º Media: In the past couple of years, have you noticed a need for any particular type of legislative initiative?

Chief Carpenter:One particular initiative is our continued effort to see better retirement bills that are supportive of law enforcement officers. Recently, we have seen a huge trend working against recruitment efforts for new officers coming into the profession. We have been trying to support them with recommending much more favorable retirement legislation. Over the past few years, our Legislature has substantially reduced those benefits for our officers. That has adversely affected our ability to hire new officers; we can no longer offer a competitive retirement package for those potential new hires as part of their benefits package.

Blue360º Media:There is a recent legislative trend around the nation where new laws titled, “Blue, Red and Med Lives Matter,” are being enacted to enhance penalties for offenses committed against officers and other first responders because of their status.

Chief Carpenter:Utah also has such legislation (see c. 454, HB 433; c. 62, HB 124; c. 266, SB 31). This is a huge issue. Around the country, we’re seeing horrible assaults on law enforcement officers; lives are being lost every day. It is always a challenge to make sure that we are taking care of our officers. And with all of the challenges, our officers are being held to a much higher standard than they ever had been before, and there is a greater expectation for better education and better training. Officers must have the ability to function in a much more hostile environment today, and that type of legislation surely helps. This leads me back to my first observation: the officers’ benefits have been reduced instead of increased. As a result, we are just not driving enough young, talented people to the career as we had in the past. And that’s a tough thing—inspiring young folks to come into this great career.

Blue360º Media:Are there any other new items of legislation you see as important and trending around the nation?

Chief Carpenter:There are a number of items. Of course, mental health issues, including persons with intellectual disabilities and those with mental illness, are extremely important. Right now, the IACP is spearheading the “One Mind Campaign,” which focuses on dealing with individuals experiencing mental health issues and those who are struggling with mental and emotional disabilities. The “One Mind Campaign” seeks to ensure successful interactions between law enforcement officers and persons affected by mental health issues. In this regard, we now have Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs), and our officers are “CIT trained.” Importantly, the IACP has created a national initiative for departments to have CITs and for them to receive this type of training. As the incoming IACP President, Lou Dekmar has identified the “One Mind Campaign” as one of his top priorities.

Blue360º Media Note:The initiative focuses on united local communities, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations so that the three become “of one mind.” Through the “One Mind” initiative, law enforcement agencies are to engage in such practices as: establishing a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with a community mental health organization; developing a model policy to implement police response to persons affected by mental illness; training and certifying sworn officers and selected non-sworn staff in mental health first aid training; and providing crisis intervention team training.]

Blue360º Media:Are there any techniques you have found to be valuable in this area of police work?

Chief Carpenter:Yes, our officers have been trained in the proper use of de-escalation techniques. In fact, the Utah Attorney General’s Office has put together a very robust program for officers to practice these skills. Ken Wallentine, Training Supervisor at the Attorney General’s Office, has put together a very robust program called “Street Smart De-Escalation Training” to help officers refine de-escalation techniques, with which we have trained all of our officers. This de-escalation training program allows officers to practice techniques through actual simulated extreme events and exercises, allowing them to experience high-stress settings and potentially escalating situations before facing them in the real world. Here, the officers develop the skills and tools needed to address these situations and learn how to de-escalate an encounter before it becomes a major problem.

Blue360º Media:What would you say is the key aspect of the de-escalation process?

Chief Carpenter:The officers learn how to gain control of potentially explosive encounters by fostering deliberate thought processes to help them recognize the issues a person may be experiencing so they can de-escalate tensions. This technique is important so officers do not end up putting the person, themselves or the public in harm’s way. The de-escalation training process gives the officers a real understanding that things are not always what they appear to be. Officers need to both acknowledge officer safety issues and, at the same time, recognize that the person is in crisis with whatever he or she may be experiencing; it is very real to them. It is vital that officers take an extra moment of reflection, assuming it is not creating a life safety issue for them or anyone else, to slow down, address the person’s issues and try to get the person needed resources so that the encounter does not escalate into a full-blown crisis situation.

Blue360º Media:I see that your department practices community-based and evidence-based policing. Does that help keep your city safe?

Chief Carpenter:Yes. Community-based policing puts our officers out in the community in low-stress environments so that residents can get to know them on a personal basis. Evidence-based policing is the high-tech side of the equation. It is a data-driven approach to analyzing crime patterns. In fact, we have a new term for this. We now call it “Intelligence Led” policing and its process is evolving all the time. “Intelligence Led” policing is based on improving intelligence operations and community-oriented policing and problem solving. Most recently, we have hired civilian analysts who are continually looking at crime trends in our communities. The process is similar to the old COMSTAT in the sense that we are always looking at statistical information and continually reevaluating that information in each sector. And our officers are using this information to proactively find out what types of crimes have been occurring and where so they can direct their crime prevention efforts in those areas, rather than waiting for things to occur. We have had a lot of success with this approach. Another part of the process is working with state, federal and other local authorities. For example, we police some 276 special events a year in Park City, from the Sundance International Film Festival to the World Cup, to our recent Winterfest Olympic Festival, and this is regular for us, this is what we do. So, with all the threats and issues we have had around the country and around the world, it has been very important for us to ensure that we are properly networking with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, our state partners and local partners, and making the best use of our SIAC – our State Information and Analysis Center – for the sharing of information. And when we realize that we may have a potential threat, we can then ensure that we have an appropriate amount of resources on hand for the situation, allowing us to safely host the event.

Blue360º Media:Are there any high-tech devices you have found to be helpful in your policing efforts, such as drones?

Chief Carpenter:Yes, we actually have a drone with an APP for viewing crowds, providing crowd counts and analysis. For example, over the last year we have had several “Women’s Rights” rallies here. So we needed to be on the lookout for counter protests that could create a volatile situation. Working with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (we have a combined tactical unit), our drone and APP have given us critical information, such as the type of crowd, the number of persons in the crowd, and how many marchers we have. We also have field intelligence officers and tactical over-watcher working with the technology in the field—in real time—to help gather and disseminate information back to the command centers as these events are occurring. With our drone and APP we have the ability to obtain accurate crowd counts and analysis so we can determine, for future events, what level of resources we may need. We also work very closely with state and federal agencies on community campaigns to report suspicious behavior. Here, the community and our volunteers act as our eyes and ears, and we increase our effectiveness as we maximize the accumulation of this information from our citizens. For this initiative, we provide training for our citizens and volunteers on how to recognize something suspicious, and what do to—including how and who to call—should they see something out of place.

Blue360º Media:Moving on to the law, when your officers need to access a particular criminal or motor vehicle law, what resource do they use?

Chief Carpenter:We have our Code Books. We use the Utah Criminal and Motor Vehicle Code books, both the annotated and unannotated formats.

Blue360º Media:Do your officers use APPs on their smart phones to access the information.

Chief Carpenter:At the present time, I am not sure if they do. Our legal section would have more on that.

Blue360º Media:How do your officers obtain the very latest information, for example, new cases from the United States and Utah Supreme Courts? Or, newly minted statutory law?

Chief Carpenter:We share legal updates with all our officers as we get them. It’s helpful when they come in electronic format. Sometimes companies send them to us. Our legal section also sends them out. And many times, the Attorney General’s office or the Summit County Attorney’s Office sends them out. Add to that, the IACP will provide valuable updates on a wide variety of subjects.

Blue360º Media:Any suggestions for what would be valuable for your personnel?

Chief Carpenter:Obviously, digital access to legal updates would be much easier, if you could provide that in a reasonably priced APP format. If the officers could access the APP on their iPhones, that would definitely be huge. Officers should be able to quickly access their traffic code and criminal code. Also, it would be very valuable if the officers were alerted to new laws and new Supreme Court decisions as soon as available. If the new court cases and legal updates popped up on the APP the officers could read those in the APP or through emails throughout the day. That would be great.

Blue360º Media:Can you share a recent moment when you were particularly proud of how your officers handled a difficult situation?

Chief Carpenter:Sure. We had a recent incident in which two officers were dealing with a fellow who jammed a three-inch incendiary mortar inside a metal tube, creating a make-shift type of firework rocket. He apparently intended to shoot the mortar from the tube, but the device jammed. The mortar exploded in the tube, ripping through the popliteal artery in the back of his leg, causing massive bleeding. Since the two officers who arrived on the scene had been properly trained to deal with such an injury, they were able to quickly access their mass casualty kit, obtain a tourniquet and blood stopper, apply it to his leg and save his life. Had they not had that training, the fellow probably would not have lived.

Blue360º Media:How did the need for this type of training and equipment come about?

Chief Carpenter:We have been working for a number of years training for active shooter incidents, and so part of this initiative came out of the work of IACP’s Patrol Tactical Operations Committee. Our work on the Committee prompted the provision for additional officer training on how they can better deal with “mass casualty” incidents and what should be included in the “mass casualty response kits” for each officer and patrol vehicle. The kit contains various items, including items to control bleeding (such as a quick-clot blood stopper, combat gauze, tourniquets, pressure bandages, chest seals bandages, dressings, shears, tape, etc.), establish and maintain airways, protect burned skin, and immobilize appendages (splints). In addition, given the recent opioid epidemic, our officers also carry Narcan Nasal Spray (naloxone) to quickly handle incidents involving any person experiencing an opioid overdose or if an officer or K-9 should be unintentionally exposed to the drug. We have worked extensively with Park City Fire District and Park City School District to ensure that school personnel are trained on mass casualty protocol and appropriate use of tourniquets, quick-clot blood stopper, and other life-saving means. With recent school shootings and other mass-casualty events we want our citizenry, and especially our schools, to be as prepared as possible to handle these types of situations.

Blue360º Media:Are your officers also equipped with body cameras?

Chief Carpenter:Yes. In fact, we are in our sixth year using body cameras. We were probably one of the first agencies in the country that equipped its officers with the body cams. We originally looked at the pros and cons of body cam use, and we decided the need for transparency and the ability to record and document important or critical events outweighed the negative aspects. I would also say that 85 to 90% of the time, the body cam immediately clears our officers of any wrongdoing. It really tells the “untold actual story,” which all too often never gets told.

Blue360º Media:Was this something you budgeted for or were they paid for through grant funding?

Chief Carpenter:We budgeted for it initially, and since then we have been paying for the costs through various forms of grant funding and budgeting. The cameras themselves can cost between $800 and $1,000 each, but the biggest cost is for storage of the video footage. There are several different ways of doing it. Some departments pay for storing the video footage in the cloud, while others pay for storage on servers. Our city’s IT department is very robust and, as a result, we handle the data storage in-house and have had good luck in storing and protecting the video footage ourselves.

Blue360º Media:Do you have any recommendations for us regarding where to focus our efforts in the future?

Chief Carpenter:I think the biggest aid to our departments would be to have a product that spoke to and addressed the ever-changing environment in which law enforcement operates. It would be extraordinarily valuable to have a way to manage the cases we handle—from cradle to grave—cases which can, at times, have hundreds of pieces of evidence, reports, and a tremendous number of moving parts that need to be logically and conveniently organized and managed. The resource or application must be robust enough for the sharing of data fluidly (state, local and national), confidentially, and quickly. Hopefully, such a product would not be cost-prohibitive. The product would also need to have the capacity to immediately provide law enforcement with the information we need, whether from a legal perspective or event perspective. We have to adjust immediately to what is happening. In law enforcement, if the information is not timely—if it doesn’t address today’s immediate concerns—by tomorrow, it’s irrelevant.

Laws Trending Around the Nation

Blue360° Media tracks new laws and legisla-tive changes in states across the nation to identify trends affecting law enforcement o cers and the situations they regularly encounter. Among the new provisions trending in multiple states so far this year, Blue360 Media has noticed three that are unique.

1. “Blue, Red and Med Lives Matter:”More and more states are enacting laws to enhance the penalties for crimes committed against police o cers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders when the offense is committed because of the responder’s o cial status.

Within the past year, California, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia are continuing the nationwide trend, passing new legislation to protect o cers. These laws have garnered the name “Blue, Red and Med Lives Matter,” as well as “Back the Badge.”

2. Developmental Disability Training:New training is now recommended, and in some states required, for law enforcement o cials. The new laws are designed to improve an o cer’s ability to recognize and properly interact with persons with autism, learning disorders and other developmental disabilities. For example, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Washington now require initial recruit training as well as veteran-o cer and first-responder training for responding to incidents involving children and adults with special needs or disabilities.

To further this initiative, New Jersey’s Attorney General has issued a law enforcement directive requiring that every sworn officer participate in continuing education covering various topics, specifically including conflict resolution, communication skills and responding to persons with special needs. The article by Barbara J. Morvay in this publication (p. 11) offers thorough commentary on this subject, as well as components for model policy and training initiatives..

3. Unmanned aircraft, also known as “Drones”:As drones are becoming increasingly common, new legislation from New Jersey to Oregon now regulates how drones may or may not be used by the public, including how to define acts of voyeurism by a drone and what constitutes interference with airplane flight paths.

Stay tuned for more legislative trends in the next issue.

The Law Enforcement Reporter

The Law Enforcement Reporter is published by Blue360º Media, the nation’s leading information supplier dedicated to the law enforcement community. Our mission is to help the law enforcement community be more effcient by providing easy access to the latest laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures.

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Responding to Incidents Involving Persons with Special Needs

By Barbara J. Morvay

Encountering an individual with disabilities or special needs in the field presents a challenge for any law enforcement officer, firefighter or other first responder. In a world where there is 24/7 news coverage, an event that may have been buried in a newspaper in years past is now a headline, sensationalized as news, and played repeatedly on YouTube

Naturally, the situations could have been handled more appropriately; but the “how” is complicated. Why is this happening and what can we do to help? Officers have been placed in difficult situations without the necessary training. While dealing with disabled and special needs children is not easy, dealing with adults with special needs or who are disabled is much more challenging. Again, the answer to both scenarios is proper in-service training.

In an effort to minimize such negative circumstances with the disabled, the states of Alaska, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, South Carolina and Washington have enacted legislation or established policy which now requires specific training to educate officers in encountering individuals with special needs. For example, Connecticut’s Public Act No. 17-166 specifically addresses law enforcement training related to “juveniles with autism spectrum disorder or nonverbal learning disorder.” Louisiana’s law, Act No. 210, requires training for “law enforcement interaction with persons with mental illness and persons with developmental disabilities.” Although not a specific piece of legislation, New Jersey’s Attorney General now requires all law enforcement officials to be trained in accordance with Law Enforcement Directive No. 2016-5, which now includes “Crisis Intervention Training and Responding to Persons with Special Needs.”

Washington State passed a particularly detailed law in 2017, c. 295, (HB 1258). The new legislation is thorough and inclusive; it specifies training not only for fire department and emergency medical service personnel, but also for social and health services, state police patrol, sheriffs, police chiefs and the council of police and sheriffs. According to its sponsor, Rep. Gina McCabe, the new law assesses the resources necessary to improve the Enhanced 911 program so that information pertaining to an individual’s disability or special needs can be available to first responders before they arrive at an emergency. In this regard, the law recommends that the capabilities and protocols for the Enhanced 911 system allow an immediate display on the screen indicating that a person with a disability or with special needs may be present at the scene of an emergency, with additional information about the person that would assist the first responder in the emergency response. It would also require the Department of Health — in concert with other agencies — to review existing procedures and create a training program for first responders, providing instruction for how to best respond to emergencies involving persons with special needs.

Alaska passed legislation in 2017, Chp.8, SLA 17 (§18.65.220), which establishes detailed curriculum requirements for training police, probation, parole, and municipal correction officers. It specifies the importance of recognizing disabilities and appropriate interactions between police and the disabled. It is an excellent piece of Legislation that recognizes and incorporates the critical elements to ensure the safety of this population.

As more states begin to adopt these practices and require such training, the challenge will be in creating an appropriate policy and set of guidelines and knowing what to include. Set forth below is an effective template for those agencies looking to formulate new policy and training initiatives.

A POLICY EXAMPLE FOR SPECIAL NEEDS TRAINING

The purpose of the policy is for agency personnel to properly respond to persons with special needs or persons who are disabled. In order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of such individuals, the policy must require appropriate and sufficient in-service training for a vast array of first responders and other public safety officials who may interact with such persons. Such training must include all police officers, sheriff’s officers, probation and parole officers, bail officers, firefighters, EMTs, corrections officers, customs officials, court personnel, medical personnel and other first responders. In addition, this list should include the 47,000 Transportation Security Officers employed by the TSA.

Training modules for an appropriate response to incidents involving persons with special needs should be a minimum of three hours in length and should include:

  • an explanation of disabilities, special needs and the terms used;
  • instruction on disabilities that may include anyone with a medical, physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, developmental, sensory or speech disability;
  • instruction on visible disabilities, or invisible disabilities and their accompanying special needs;
  • guidelines on what to observe;
  • guidelines on specific methods to deescalate a situation;
  • requirements of the American with Disabilities Act;
  • resources available to persons with disabilities;
  • techniques, protocols and best practices for interacting with persons who are disabled or have special needs;
  • instruction on how to recognize the need for medical or psychiatric intervention when required; and
  • the option for communities to be able to minimize costs by sharing services, training and specialized personnel.

Effective response and safety is only achieved through proper training and education. The men and women who are tasked with safeguarding the public must be provided with sufficient resources and the necessary tools for an appropriate response. Promoting the public welfare includes everyone: first responders, the municipalities they serve and the legislative bodies that oversee their responsibilities.

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Staying Safe with Technology

An Officer’s Guide to Policing with Technology:From iPhones to Drones to Social Media

Given our technology-saturated world, it’s no surprise that today’s police officers rely on high-tech equipment to do their job. From computers in their cars to GPS tracking systems to cloud computing, technology and policing go hand-in-hand. Perhaps more unexpected, though, is that an iPhone ranks among the most valuable gadgets of all.

News and Notes

Standard Issue Phones:

The NYPD is leading the way in technological advancements. According to their website, a new suite of NYPD applications was recently rolled out by distributing smartphones to all officers. Equipping officers with iPhones affects everything from criminal background checks to 911 dispatches to inter-departmental communication patterns. The new phones also allow information to disseminate faster among officers, reducing response times and allowing officers to share videos and pictures from crime scenes in real time.

One note of caution:Be careful in your use of your personal cell phone while on duty. There have been cases where an on-duty police officer’s personal cell phone records were ordered to be produced in court, particularly if the cell phone contained evidentiary material. See, e.g., State v. Ortiz, 215 P.3d 811 (N.M.Ct.App. 2009) (holding that the defendant’s due process rights could not be compromised by the officer’s right to privacy).

Drones Used to Aid Police Work:

Michigan State Police were the first to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to “fly an unmanned aircraft system or drone to support public safety efforts,” reports the Detroit News. In the past three years, other departments have followed suit, providing a bird’s-eye view of vehicle crash scenes or other emergency situations and allowing them to access areas either too dangerous or expensive to visit on foot. The most common deployment of drones in law enforcement today is for search and rescue, flying in a “grid pattern” that multiplies the efforts of rescuers below. Drones are especially valuable when fitted with optical, zoom and thermal cameras.

Social Media in Law Enforcement:

Even something as simple as social media can make a huge difference. Whether building bridges with the community, spreading weather alerts, or tracking down a criminal, departments across the country are using this simple tool in effective ways. Power DMS, which publishes news and research targeting law enforcement, reports that in 2017 the Norwood Police Department in Massachusetts

posted on social media 

asking the public for help tracking down a man accused of assault. “Because this post was widely shared – it reached nearly 40,000 people – the man turned himself into police."

The Predictive Technology Game Changer:

Although much of policing requires reacting to dispatches, predictive technology can be a game changer. “In one example cited by the National Institute of Justice, police in Richmond, VA, used data to predict where the most gunfire would occur on New Year’s Eve. More officers were dispatched to those locations, resulting in a 47 percent drop in gunfire and a 246 percent increase in weapons seized,” reports The Press-Enterprise.

Regardless of where an officer is serving, technology is bound to play a central role in his or her day. Tell us how technology makes your job easier. Email us at [email protected]

Resources

  • City of New York. “Technology and Equipment.” New York Police Department. NYC. Web. 21 February, 2018.

Click here to visit the page

  • .Greenwood, Tom. “State Police Gets OK to Use Drones in Investigations.” The Detroit News. 9 March, 2015. Web. 20 February, 2018

Click here to visit the page

  • Chris Opfer. "How can police use drones?" HowStuffWorks.com. 14 July, 2015. Web. 23 February, 2018.

Click here to visit the page

  • .Margaritoff, Marco. “Drones in Law Enforcement: How, Where and When They’re Used.” The Drive. 13 October, 2017. Web. 20 February, 2018

Click here to visit the page

  • Gasior, Matt. “New Technology in Law Enforcement.” Power DMS. 26 September, 2017. Web. 20 February, 2018.

Click here to visit the page

  • .Burge, Sarah; Saavedra, Tony; Rokos, Brian. “Public Safety: Police Use Technology to Stay Safe.” The Press Enterprise. 1 February, 2016. Web. 23 February, 2018.

Click here to visit the page

Administration and Management

Body Worn Cameras: The Need for Proper Policy

All across the Nation, law enforcement agencies have begun to equip their officers with body worn cameras (“BWCs”). As more and more agencies begin using BWCs, it will become necessary for law enforcement chief executives to establish policy that provides guidance to personnel on how to make the best possible use of such electronic recording technology. It is certainly in the public interest to establish foundational department-wide standards with respect to critical policy issues, such as: (1) how an agency explains its BWC policy to the community; (2) when are officers required to activate their BWCs; (3) when are officers permitted to turn off the recording device during an ongoing encounter; and (4) when and for what purposes law enforcement agencies and officers are authorized to access, view, copy, or release stored BWC recordings.

An appropriate BWC policy should be designed to help police officials achieve an optimal balance between potentially competing interests. For example, it is necessary to balance the need to promote police accountability and transparency against the need to respect the personal privacy interests of persons whose images and home interiors may be captured in a BWC recording. Moreover, it is necessary to balance the benefits achieved by electronically recording evidence that might help to solve a crime and successfully prosecute an offender against the costs incurred if the use of a BWC were to deter a victim or witness from providing a BWC-equipped officer with information necessary to solve a crime and convict the offender.

If a law enforcement agency decides to equip an officer with a BWC, a policy should be adopted to provide appropriate guidance on how the device is to be used, when it will be activated, when it might be de-activated in the course of an unfolding police-civilian encounter, and when a BWC recording may be accessed, viewed, copied, disseminated, or otherwise used. In this regard, it is important that the policy ultimately adopted limits the discretion of individual officers in the field. The decision to activate a BWC must be based on objective criteria (e.g., the initiation of a specified type of police action, such as a consensual field inquiry, an investigative detention, or the start of an officer’s duty shift).

Clearly, BWCs can play an important role in addressing public concerns about police use of force. A BWC recording of a police-involved shooting or other use-of-force event provides objective evidence of what occurred. The practical utility of BWCs, however, lies not only in their ability to record objectively the circumstances of a police-civilian confrontation, but also in their capacity to discourage both officers and civilians from engaging in inappropriate conduct. Thus, for example, a BWC operating during a police-civilian encounter can deter the officer from using force inappropriately, while at the same time deter a civilian from engaging in provocative conduct that might prompt the officer to use force. These devices also can serve to discourage both law enforcement and civilian witnesses from providing false information about the circumstances of the encounter; a BWC recording can quickly vindicate an officer who is falsely accused of misconduct, and also will discourage a person from making false allegations against the officer in the first place.

BWC recordings may also be used to document evidentiary items during police investigations. The recordings can not only preserve accurate visual depictions of physical evidence, such as weapons and illicit drugs and paraphernalia, but also can document where and how physical evidence was found, thereby helping to establish the facts that must be presented in Fourth Amendment suppression hearings. The cameras can also record the physical appearance of suspects and crime victims, preserving evidence of any apparent injuries. Further, the audio portion of BWC recordings may document witness and suspect statements, preserving not only the substantive content of those statements, but also showing an officer’s administration of the Miranda warnings, a proper request for consent to search and other legal requirements.

While BWCs record events objectively, they do not replace the need for complete and accurate police observations, reports and courtroom testimony. Officers will still need to testify in court as to the circumstances of a mere inquiry, investigative detention, pursuit, or arrest. Here, the BWC recording can supplement and corroborate the accuracy of written reports and testimony, which is one of the significant benefits of deploying these devices.

It is also important to recognize that BWCs will record events that transpire during a much broader range of police-civilian encounters than traditionally have been recorded by vehicle-mounted cameras (dash cams). Dash cams record events that occur on the street, where there is a reduced expectation of privacy as compared to police-civilian encounters that occur, for example, inside private homes. An activated BWC, in contrast to a dash cam, will record events occurring during any type of police-civilian encounter in any setting. BWCs thus raise privacy issues and other complex issues that dash cam policies have not had to address.

Accordingly, it is appropriate and necessary by means of proper policy to provide guidance to a department’s law enforcement officials on how to best balance competing interests and values to make the best possible use of this new law enforcement technology.

For a fine example of a comprehensive and well-written BWC policy,

see N.J. Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2015-1.

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The Blue Room

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Police in D.C. House Party Case.

Recently, in District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U.S. ___ (2018), the United States Supreme Court rejected a claim made by 16 trespassing partygoers that the police lacked probable cause to arrest them.

The circumstances unfolded at about 1 a.m. in the middle of March, when District of Columbia police officers responded to a complaint about loud music and illegal activities at a house described as “vacant” by the caller, a former neighborhood commissioner. Upon arrival, several neighbors confirmed that the house should have been empty.

When the officers knocked on the front door, one of the partygoers opened the door, and the officers entered. The house “was in disarray” and looked like a “vacant” property. “The officers smelled marijuana and saw beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor. In fact, the floor was so dirty that one of the partygoers refused to sit on it while being questioned. Although the house had working electricity and plumbing, it had no furniture downstairs other than a few padded metal chairs. The only other signs of habitation were blinds on the windows, food in the refrigerator, and toiletries in the bathroom.”

“In the living room, the officers found a makeshift strip club. Several women were wearing only bras and thongs, with cash tucked into their garter belts. . . . After seeing the uniformed officers, many partygoers scattered into other parts of the house.” In one of the upstairs bedrooms, the officers found a naked woman and several men. One partygoer was located hiding in an upstairs closet, and another who had shut himself in the bathroom refused to come out.

The officers questioned the 21 people in the house, but were unable to obtain a clear or consistent story. Two of the women working the party said that a woman named “Peaches” was renting the house and had given them permission to be there. She did not know Peaches’ real name, but was able to call her on her phone so that an officer could talk to her. When asked about who had given her permission to use the house, Peaches became agitated, nervous and evasive. Ultimately, she admitted that she did not have permission to use the house.

The officers then contacted the owner who confirmed that he had not given anyone permission to be there. At that point, the officers arrested the 21 partygoers for unlawful entry. At police headquarters, a lieutenant decided to change the charge to disorderly conduct. “The partygoers were released, and the charges were eventually dropped.”

Sixteen of the partygoers sued the District and five of the arresting officers for false arrest under the Fourth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Although the District Court and Court of Appeals concluded that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest and that they were not entitled to qualified immunity, the United States Supreme Court disagreed and reversed

Preliminarily, the Court addressed whether the officers had probable cause to arrest the partygoers. “To determine whether an officer had probable cause for an arrest,” courts will “examine the events leading up to the arrest, and then decide whether these historical facts, viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer, amount to probable cause.” Here, we are looking for “only a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity.”

In this case, there was no dispute that the partygoers entered the house without the permission of the owner. “Considering the totality of the circumstances, the officers made an ‘entirely reasonable inference’ that the partygoers were knowingly taking advantage of a vacant house as a venue for their late-night party.”

From all accounts, it was apparent that the house had been vacant for several months. It had no CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE furniture, except for a few padded metal chairs and a bare mattress. “The house had a few signs of inhabitance—working electricity and plumbing, blinds on the windows, toiletries in the bathroom, and food in the refrigerator. But those facts are not necessarily inconsistent with the house being unoccupied.” Indeed, the partygoers could have brought the food and toiletries.

“In addition to the condition of the house, consider the partygoers’ conduct. The party was still going strong when the officers arrived after 1 a.m., with music so loud that it could be heard from outside. Upon entering the house, multiple officers smelled marijuana. The partygoers left beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor, and they left the floor so dirty that one of them refused to sit on it. The living room had been converted into a makeshift strip club. Strippers in bras and thongs, with cash stuffed in their garter belts, were giving lap dances. Upstairs, the officers found a group of men with a single, naked woman on a bare mattress—the only bed in the house—along with multiple open condom wrappers and a used condom.”

Taken together, the condition of the house and the conduct of the partygoers allowed the officers to make several ‘common-sense conclusions about human behavior.’ Most homeowners do not live in near-barren houses. And most homeowners do not invite people over to use their living room as a strip club, to have sex in their bedroom, to smoke marijuana inside, and to leave their floors filthy. The officers could thus infer that the partygoers knew their party was not authorized.”

The partygoers’ reaction to the officers’ arrival gave them further reason to believe the partygoers were trespassers: “Many scattered at the sight of the uniformed officers. Two hid themselves, one in a closet and the other in a bathroom.” This behavior was “certainly suggestive” of wrongdoing. Moreover, the partygoers’ answers to the officers’ questions also suggested their guilty state of mind. When the officers asked who had given them permission to be there, “the partygoers gave vague and implausible responses.” Additionally, “some of the partygoers claimed the event was a bachelor party, but no one could identify the bachelor. The officers could have disbelieved them since people normally do not throw a bachelor party without a bachelor.”

Peaches, after initially insisting that she had permission to use the house, “ultimately confessed that this was a lie—a fact that the owner confirmed. Peaches’ lying and evasive behavior gave the officers reason to discredit everything she had told them.”

“Viewing these circumstances as a whole, a reasonable officer could conclude that there was probable cause to believe the partygoers knew they did not have permission to be in the house.”

Accordingly, the Court reversed the D.C. Circuit’s holding that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest, and concluded that the District and its officers were entitled to summary judgment on all of the partygoers’ claims. The Court’s conclusion that the officers had probable cause to arrest the partygoers was sufficient to resolve this case. Nonetheless, the Court went on to rule that the officers were also clearly entitled to qualified immunity under §1983.

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