Is it right to body slam and arrest a professor for Jaywalking around the construction zone near the university?   no comments

Posted at 4:57 pm in Uncategorized

Answer by Tim Dees:

The requirement to carry identification was ruled unconstitutional in the decision for Kolender v. Lawson, over 30 years ago. Arizona may have some workaround law that the officer was making reference to, or the officer may have been bluffing. Personally, I'd be interested in reading the statute he was referencing (and that the professor was supposedly charged with violating).

The officer does mention she was walking "on a public thoroughfare." There may be a requirement to carry identification when you are walking in the street, as opposed to a sidewalk intended for foot traffic. I'm speculating here; I know close to nothing about Arizona law.

One question I'd have, and that was not answered in the news report or video, is whether there was a designated foot path around the construction. At most construction zones where the sidewalk is obstructed, there is a prescribed alternate foot path for pedestrians. Did the professor walk into the street because she found the alternate route (if there was one) inconvenient?

She tells the cop something like, "Everyone is doing it," [walking in the street]. "Everyone is doing it" is not a valid defense. If everyone is looting the stores in a neighborhood, that's not going to help you if you're the one the cops manage to catch doing it.

As for the officer's use of force: yes, it was justified, providing he stopped her for a legitimate violation of the law (as I mentioned above, I'm not clear this was the case). If a police officer tells you to stop, you had best stop. If you don't, he's going to use force to make you stop, and he will escalate that to whatever level he needs to in order to effect the stop (which, by this time, will be an arrest, even if it wasn't before). Police officers are not going to allow you to defy them and walk away smirking. To put this in a different context, say an officer pulls you over for suspected drunk driving, and when the officer asks them to step out of the car, you say, "I don't think so. Bye." and he drives off. The cop isn't going to say, "Guess he showed me," and resume patrol. He's going to pursue you, call as many other cops as might be necessary to assist him, use tire deflation devices to disable your car if he needs to, and otherwise will do everything he can to take you into custody. By this time, the charges will be a lot more serious than simple DUI.

The cop could have been more diplomatic, but the professor was clearly not going to submit herself to the officer's authority. This is a pretty common reaction from college professors, particularly those in the liberal arts. They often do not like cops, and will make any confrontation a Battle Royal if they can manage it. University cops generally know this, but they don't always recognize professors and staff. It shouldn't matter, as everyone is bound to obey the same laws, but some people put themselves above such things.

I've said this before: if you don't like what a cop is doing or saying to you, make a complaint, and/or contest the action in court. Do not defy or physically resist the cop, because he is going to escalate the level of force used, and 99% of the time, he's going to win. The professor could have taken her ticket or warning, and then made a complaint about the officer the next day at the police station. I imagine she was aware that the campus police have dash cam recorders, so there would be an impartial record of what happened. As it is, she fought with the cops, lost the fight, got arrested and jailed, and now has to defend herself in court. Her complaint is going to have that much less credibility.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 28th, 2014

How do I become a police officer?   no comments

Posted at 11:55 pm in Criminal Justice,Law Enforcement,Quora

Answer by Tim Dees:

There are several answers to your question, mostly governed by where you are and what law enforcement agency you want to work for.

Large police agencies–1,000 officers or more–nearly always have their own training academies. If you want to work for one of these, you will have to go through the department’s hiring process, complete the academy and a field training program successfully, and then finish a probationary work period before being considered a permanent employee. The advantages of this system are (1) you will likely be on the payroll from your first day of the academy, and (2) the academy training will all be according to your agency’s methods and policies.

Medium-size agencies–100 to 1000 officers–sometimes have their own academies, but more commonly use a regional or a state-run academy. Regional academies are frequently associated with a community college or technical school. The students attending them will be going to any number of agencies to work, so the curriculum will be more generic. There will invariably be differences in policy and practice between what is taught in the academy and what you will do at work.

Smaller agencies–less than 100 officers–almost never have their own training academies. About 80% of the over 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States have fewer than 25 officers.

Some medium-size agencies hire their recruits, then send them to the academy at full pay. Some states (Oregon and Washington are examples) require this. In other states, students can enroll in the academy course and complete it at their own expense. Once you have completed the academy, you can then market yourself to local law enforcement agencies as a trained recruit, ready to enter field training. You generally have a set period of time–commonly two years–to get hired before your academy certification expires. If it expires, you’ll have to complete another academy session before you can be hired.

A few states have a glut of academy-trained recruits who will never work in law enforcement because there are far more academy graduates than there are jobs. It’s a good idea to investigate the police labor market before you make a commitment to an academy course.

The academy courses typically run from 12 to 26 weeks.There is quite a lot of variation here. Some academies are residential, where you live at the academy site, and may or may not get to go home on weekends. There are often room inspections, and life is not unlike military basic training. Other academies, especially those attached to community colleges, are often non-residential, so when class is dismissed for the day, you go home.

Pre-employment testing usually includes a written test with a writing component, one or more oral interviews, a physical fitness/agility test, and the background investigation. The order of these varies. You must generally pass one phase to be eligible to go on to the next. The process is highly selective. Some agencies hire only 1-2% of applicants, but that often says as much about the applicant pool as about the agency.

In nearly all cases, applicants have to have a high school diploma or GED. Some require up to four years of college. A few will accept a completed term of military service with an honorable discharge in lieu of the college credits. Each agency decides what their minimum requirements will be. When college is required, there is seldom a required area of study. Most aspiring cops major in criminal justice, but there is an argument that psychology, a foreign language, and English literature is a better choice. I have known cops with degrees in any of these fields and more. Mine was in molecular biology.

Most agencies place a high value on communication skills: writing, speaking, interpretive reading. Regardless of your academic credentials, you should be able to read and write at the level of a college graduate to be a police officer. Inadequate writing skills are one of the more common reasons that new hires fail to complete their probationary periods.

The hiring process includes an in-depth background investigation. In a pre-hiring background investigation, everything counts. Some people have the idea that an episode of bad judgment, an arrest, a ticket, being fired from a job, etc. will disappear after a period of time and will not count against them. More recent episodes count more than old ones, but nothing is dismissed entirely. Even if an arrest or conviction is expunged or sealed, you are required to divulge it for the purpose of a background investigation. Deliberately concealing information, even if it’s discovered after years of credible service, is grounds for termination for making a false application. Good background investigators have a way of digging up stuff you thought everyone had forgotten about.

Common reasons for failing a background investigation include:

  • arrests and/or convictions for domestic violence, sex offenses, any felony, or any pattern of behavior that indicates a lack of respect for the law. A felony or domestic violence conviction makes you permanently ineligible to be a law enforcement officer, as these people cannot lawfully possess firearms.
  • excessive moving violations/traffic offenses or DUI. In some states, you cannot be hired as a police officer within X years of a DUI conviction.
  • an itinerant work history, or a record of being terminated from employment for cause.
  • a bad credit history, or a record of not being able to manage your income and expenses effectively.
  • use or abuse of illegal drugs. This is an area where more recent behavior counts more than past behavior. Few agencies will refuse you because you smoked a joint in high school, but if you used marijuana regularly for several years, combined it with other drugs, or injected illegal drugs, it’s likely you will be declined.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014

How do plea bargains work in US Law?   no comments

Posted at 11:53 pm in Uncategorized

Answer by Tim Dees:

A plea bargain usually involves a guilty plea to one or more charges, with other charges possibly being dismissed. In exchange, the state agrees to recommend a sentence that is less harsh than what the defendant could expect if he is found guilty at trial. The state saves the time and expense of a criminal trial; the defendant spends less time in jail, or suffers a reduced penalty of fines, probation restrictions, etc.

Defendants are often offered plea bargains when they assist the police in ongoing investigations, e.g, become an informant. This is especially common in narcotics cases, where investigations often require personal introductions or transactions made by someone known to the seller. Sometimes an undercover police officer is introduced to a source known by the informant, but more commonly, the informant himself makes the transaction, using marked money and possibly while wearing a recording device or radio transmitter.

Judges are not always required to accept plea bargains. In a typical hearing, the prosecutor might tell the judge, "Mr. Doe has agreed to plead guilty to counts one, three, and five of the indictment, with the state moving to dismiss the remaining counts. In exchange, the state will recommend probation in lieu of prison time." In most cases, the judge will accept the plea bargain. However, if he feels the crime merits a harsher punishment or he wants to force the state to prove their charges at trial, he can reject the plea bargain. Exactly how this works varies from one state and even one courtroom to another.

Plea bargains are often made so a defendant can get out of jail. If a defendant has been unable to make bail and has been sitting in jail for weeks or months pending trial, he is likely to accept a plea bargain, even if the state has a weak case. If he pleads guilty, he gets time served and leaves jail on probation immediately. If he decides to wait it out, he could be in jail for months longer, and serve more time while waiting for a trial date than he would if he pleaded guilty to the charge without a plea bargain. Of course, taking the plea bargain also means that he will have the conviction on his record, which will affect him for the rest of his life. For poor defendants unable to make bail, it's not a terribly fair system.

If not for plea bargains, courts would be even more crowded and slow than they are now. There are simply not enough courtrooms, judges, or prosecutors to take every case to trial.

It's not uncommon for a case to be plea bargained moments before trial. I have come to court many times, ready to testify, only to find that the defendant has suddenly changed his mind and has decided to enter a guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) plea. When faced with the spectre of having the evidence against them presented to the court, and risking being sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by law, defendants often get cold feet. This is one of the reasons it's so difficult to get a case into court quickly. The judge in the case has to set aside time for the trial, and when the defendant suddenly pleads guilty, there are no other proceedings scheduled for that time. It's a tremendously inefficient system.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014