A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Saturday, September 22, 2007

St. George Missouri Incident

CNN released this information regarding the officer involved with the video taped encounter I posted several days ago. The officer has been fired for his actions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I belong to a group called Police Futurists International. This link was displayed in the discussion group. It shows a 1967 portrayal of what a 1999 computer and on line purchasing would entail. They were uncanny in their estimate of the future.

This clip missed the mark a bit from 1930 where they portray our restaurants in 1980 as pill dispensers.

Planning for the future is critical in the development of new inventions and technologies. Law enforcement is not an exception. It seems however; that public perception and even those in the law enforcement community are often unwilling and even hostile to change.

Regardless, futures planning is critical to our society both for the comforts but also for the development of policy and new ways to better serve the public.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Unusual Traffic Stop in Missouri

It would appear that law enforcement officers aren't the only ones with video cameras in their cars these days. This link will take you to a story line and a video of a traffic stop in St. George, Missouri. The material in the link will provide you with the details.

In addition to the video, take a look at the divergence of comments. It shows that perceptions range across the board.

I offer this one to you without comment as I have no background of the incident, nor do I have any idea of what took place afterward.

A postscript. I had a reader ask me what the mechanical voice was in the background that said "KA Band" and was ticking. I believe that would be the driver's RADAR detector going off when the squad car pulled in behind him.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

When is a Criminal Case Final?

I would assume everyone reading this posting knows who Idaho Senator Larry Craig is and the attention his plea agreement regarding a bathroom encounter with a airport police officer and Senator Craig's behavior that apparently ensued.

I'm not going to focus so much on the Senator's actions as I am the generic issue of when is a case completed. Later this week, I'll discuss what I have observed as an unusual trend of negativism in public perception of police actions when they apply proactive policing techniques that are successful.

In Senator Craig's situation. He struck a plea agreement with Hennipen County prosecutors that essentially said he was guilty. In exchange they negotiated a lower charge.

Plea bargaining has been a hot topic of discussion for the last 30 years. Many feel the process takes away the right of the accused to stand before a judge or a jury of his/her peers. Ironically, most people don't realize that in many situations state laws do not provide for a jury trial, only to be heard by a judge. Without plea bargaining, our court system as is currently is staffed, would not be able to handle the overwhelming caseload of hearing every single case; but that is another posting opportunity.

If you listen to the interview of Senator Craig, he is provided his rights. One would assume a U.S. Senator would understand those rights better than most. He had an opportunity to consult with an attorney. He had time to work out the plea agreement. So why now is he trying to get it reversed? I suppose Senator Craig has to answer that one.

Suffice to say, it's probably because something he thought would stay buried in an unremarkable court record in a Midwestern community would have little bearing on his standing in the Senate or to his constituents back home in Idaho. Ironically, it might have worked had Senator Craig not been so quick to inform the police officer of his "official" title as a senator.

So now, the discussion relegated to the local section of today's Strib, becomes that of why does Senator Craig think he gets a "time out" to reverse the hands of time to renege on his plea agreement?

Perhaps what Senator Craig should have considered is to petition a court to have the matter expunged from his record or have the files sealed. Both practices have been around for quite some time. The process allows a person to try to convince a judge that a person's actions were not representative of their normal behavior, a lapse in judgement if you will, and is a bar to their ability to obtain a job or hold office.

Senator Craig could always petition the governor to see if he could be pardoned: another long-standing process to expunge a court decision.

I'll be interested in watching how the process Senator Craig uses to get his plea agreement reversed. Ironically, if he is successful, he will still have to stand trial and the reason plea agreements are usually accepted is the person involved is making the assumption that his odds with a plea agreement are better than what he will receive as the outcome of a trial.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Thanks to those of you who sent cards and letters the past several weeks. Despite my best efforts to stay low key, several of you amateur detectives found me at the hospital last week.

I appreciate your friendship and support. This link to Tracy Lawrence's website pretty much sums it up. I'll attach the lyrics afterward as well.

I've learned that challenges and adversity brings out who truly are your friends and I thank those of you who have been there.

Run your car off the side of the road,
get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere...
Get yourself in a bind, lose your shirt off your back,
need a floor, need a couch, need a bus fare...
This is where the rubber meets the road,
this is where the cream is gonna rise...
This is what you really didn't know,
this is where the truth don't lie

You find out who your friends are,
somebody's gonna drop everything,
run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast, never stop to think
What's in it for me, or its way to far
They just show on up¦with their big ol heart...
You find out who your friends are

Everybody wants to slap your back,
wants to shake your hand when
you're up on top of that mountain.
Let one of those rocks give way,
then you slide back down,
look up and see who's around then.
This is ain't where the road comes to an end,
this ain't where the bandwagon stops,
This is just one of those times when a lot of folks jump off

You find out who your friends are,
somebody's gonna drop everything,
run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast, never stop to think
What's in it for me, or its way to far...
They just show on up with their big old heart.
You find out who your friends are

When the waters high,
when the weather's not so bad,
when the well runs dry...
Who's gonna be there?

You find out who your friends are,
somebody's gonna drop everything,
run out and crank up their car,
hit the gas, get there fast, never stop to think
What's in it for me, or its way to far
They just show on up with their big ol heart.
You find out who your friends are yeah yeah

You find out who your friends are
Run your car off the side of the road,
get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere (man I been there)
Get yourself in a bind, lose your shirt off your back,
need a floor, need a couch, need a bus fare
(man I been there¦man I been there)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Great Harvard Bottle Rocket Incident

A recent visit from some cousins brought back vivid memories of a rather notorious holiday incident that several of us found ourselves involved while visiting my grandparents. I've mentioned before that my mother's parents lived in on a farm in Harvard, Nebraska.

My mom's family blessed me with an abundance of cousins from her one brother and three other sisters. Three of us were born within a period of 3 month of each other in the same year: Steve Archer, Robin Donahey and myself. There are numerous incidents of mischief the three of us managed to find ourselves party to over the years. Primarily, we were victims of the influence of uncles and older cousins well schooled in the art of practical jokes and pranks that often resulted in victimization of unsuspecting aunts, uncles and grandparents. I figure it must of been easy to excuse the results of the pranks when they were blamed on the three of us. I suspect that the neighbors were always glad when our family reunions were over.

Seems to me that it was probably around 1967 or so. As was the custom, most of us returned to our grandparents home for the July 4th Holiday. It was an enjoyable time for us. We got to run around outside exploding all kinds of fireworks that my cousins from Kansas would bring up. The firecrackers and bottle rockets found in Kansas were exceedingly louder and more powerful than those found in Nebraska. Especially pop bottle rockets....which leads me to the rest of this story.

On this particular holiday, we had just finished a large evening meal outside consisting of grilled burgers, hot dogs, and large pitchers of lemonade and iced tea. Several of us were shooting bottle rockets off into the field when my uncles Clinton Johnson and Max Donahey ventured over to see what we were doing. Both these guys were the commensurate pranksters. Everything from fake dog vomit to rubber chickens and often some rather off key and off color folk songs were generally the result of Clint's and Max's actions.

At this particular point in time of my life, my mind seems to have blocked out the events that led to the ultimate conclusion that led to our ouster of my grandmother's kitchen for the rest of the visit. I suspect it is one of those traumatic experiences that the mind wants to block out for fear that the truth might be too hard to handle. Besides, the vague memories of the event kept the three of us, Robin, Steve and myself, out of the direct fire line of my grandmother's wrath. Suffice to say that three younger males in their early teens, influenced by two adults known for mischief combined with an ample supply of bottle rockets was a recipe for disaster.

One of my other uncles, Chuck Morgan, who was a police officer in Hastings, Nebraska was a legend in law enforcement circles when it came to him taking his reading breaks in the privy (that's a bathroom for you more city-oriented folk). True to form, Chuck had monopolized the only indoor bathroom available for quite some time that evening. We had suffered the languishing of most of the females in attendance that day of their need to retreat to the outhouse (port-a-pot for you younger folk). In retaliation, a few of us formed a plan to help cure Chuck of his poor lavatory etiquette. All I can say is what started out as a simple plan to apply Pavlov's salivating dog process on Uncle Chuck went from a bell ringing concept to more of a cannon fire approach.

If I haven't managed to telegraph the outcome to you well enough, let me be more succinct. We decided to shoot a bottle rocket outside the house by the bathroom while Chuck was in there. It sounded simple enough. We figured it would fly over and hit the wall and explode. That's were we made a tactical error. We assumed that bottle rockets would fly where they were pointed. It made sense to us. A bottle rocket would simply fly by, explode and that would be the end of it...actually it was just the beginning. Uncle Chuck still reminds me that his mental anguish associated to a lesser desirable human function languishes to this day due the the results of our actions that night.

As with most farm homes, the bathroom was off the kitchen. A second access door opened into what most Minnesotans would call a "mud room." We called it the back porch. This let the field crew get to the bathroom without tracking mud or dirt into the rest of the house. In this case, it allowed us the opportunity to have a stealth approach to deliver our bathroom evacuation device. At the urging of Max and Clint, we approached from the back porch entrance. In fairness to those involved, I won't mentioned who had the cigarette lighter, who lit the fuse, who aimed the bottle rocket. Suffice to say the trajectory of the rocket was not true. The crazy thing flew straight into the window screen, through the screen and straight into the bathroom. In seconds, we realized the errant rocket was not a dud. We observed a bright light from the outside of the window serving notice that perhaps we should have shortened the fuse on a rocket designed to ascend into the heavens, not chase a lingering uncle off the throne. We realized the rocket was bouncing off the walls and ceiling, Uncle Chuck's, higher pitched shout gave notice that he had been caught with his pants down, so to speak. About the same time the rocket exploded, everyone was running the direction of the commotion, thinking maybe the septic tank had exploded or something; Chuck came flying out of the porch, pulling up his shorts and heading due north.

Had there been video cameras at the time, I suspect the three of us could have gone to college tuition-free based on the money we would have won on America's Funniest Home Videos. Alas, and probably best for all of us involved, there is no record of the incident.

After the initial chuckling (pardon the pun) of those witnessing the event passed, it was time for the price to be paid. Some stern lecturing and scolding took place. Later, I realized that the hardest thing our parents probably had to do during this event was to keep from laughing while they tried their best to be stern and serious.

Uncle Clint and Uncle Max have since passed away. As I recently sat at the dinner table and talked with cousins and other family members about different memories of family events, it reminded me how fortunate I was to have an extended family to share experiences.

Now, here's my don't try this at home speech. This story emphasizes the need for caution using fireworks. It underscores the unpredictability of the things. We were lucky no one was hurt or we didn't burn the place down. Such was the message we received several times that evening and that I'm passing along to you today.