cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Police Department Issues Recently Raised...
I have been in contact with Chief Pete Hoell concerning two issues that will likely require some changes for our police officers.
The first, and probably most obvious, is that of the "open carry" memorandum from the state's attorney general that brings the whole question of openly carrying a gun in public to the fore. What will our police officers do in these situations? Chief Hoell advises that each such situation will be dealt with assessing the "totality of circumstances". In some circumstances the officer may not feel that actually disarming the person is necessary while being certain that the person's hands are nowhere near the weapon. In other instances there may be reason to disarm the individual.
Chief Hoell referred to the officers performing what is known as a "Terry stop". This was a 1968 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court wherein the doctrine was established in the Terry v. Ohio case. A "Terry stop" involves the officer having a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. Certainly the open carrying of a gun could provide that reasonable suspicion. The officers involved in a Terry stop are also able to seize contraband if it is immediately apparent to the officer. This is muddied by the open carry memorandum since the officers in some communities have seized the weapon during such stops. The most recent such situation involved the West Allis Police Department.
Searches Incident To Arrest
A recent court case, Arizona v. Gant, has caused police departments to have to re-think vehicle stops and subsequent searches. The holding in this particular case was that police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. This case appears to have severely limited the scope of an officer's ability to search a passenger compartment.
Our police officers have very difficult jobs as it is, and they'll be more difficult as the result of both these issues. I expect there will be some adverse publicity in some communities as the result. I'm sure there will be classes conducted to help officers understand and adapt to the new realities, especially in the area of vehicle searches.
As is usual, we rely upon the judgment of our police officers to exercise restraint in their official conduct while maintaining order and protecting the citizens. There will probably be some who will have to "test" the officers on one or both subjects; that almost always seems the case even though we seldom hear about those situations. This could lead to court cases as everyone tries to adapt to the new requirements.
A part of this involves the citizens of the community developing an understanding of such issues; my intent with this Village Buzz piece is to begin that process.