Thursday, July 21, 2011

Canton CCW Controversy

A video from a police dash camera is making the rounds.  In a nutshell, an Ohio CCW carrier is approached by police at a traffic stop, tells the officer that seems to be in charge that he is legally carrying a gun, and the officer becomes very angry, to say the least.

Here's the video (Language warning):

My initial thoughts:

  • The situation the officers roll up on seems suspicious, but I'm not qualified to judge whether it was probable cause for the tactics they use.  It's possible that this took place in an area known for high levels of prostitution, and the officers seem to recognize the passenger and the woman outside the car.
  • I did vehicle searches at checkpoints in the Army, and removing the driver and passengers prior to starting one is pretty basic.  I'm not a police officer, but if the officers had taken the driver out, after forcefully taking charge of the situation as they did, they would have given him an opportunity to inform them sooner without interrupting them.  There is also the issue of safety.  If the driver had tried to flee or fight, the officer in the car would have been at a disadvantage.
  • The only place I can fault the CCW carrier is that there was indeed a police officer in the car with him for several minutes, and he could have notified him then, even if he had to assert himself and initiate communication after being told to be quiet.  It is possible that after the forceful way that the officers took control of the situation and made sure that all communications were initiated by the police that the driver was cowed into silence.
  • That being said, when the driver tried to tell the officer, the officer prevented him from finishing a sentence.  The driver was hesitant, and was obviously very nervous.  The officer raising his voice and cursing didn't help.  Even when the driver tried to hand his CCW license over with his drivers license, the officer refused to take it.  The driver was handcuffed while holding his CCW license, so the officer knew he had something in his hand.
  • The officer's abusive use of profanity and threats of both physical harm and future harassment were unprofessional and probably actionable.   Note that most of these happen after the driver is disarmed and neutralized by being handcuffed.  At that point, even if the officer initially felt threatened, he was in no danger whatsoever.
  • The driver did himself a big favor by remaining calm, being polite, and not becoming emotional or resisting.  Even when he was uncomfortable, he apologized for complaining to the officers.
  • Incidents like this are the reason I believe that any interaction with the government should be recorded.  Without that tape, the driver would have no reliable third party to act as a witness for him.

When I took my CCW class here in Kentucky, how to interact with police was covered pretty extensively. Basically, we were told it was a bad idea to surprise a police officer.  What we were advised to do, and what seems to work very well, is to hand over your license along with your identification.  Not have it in your hand, not try to hand it over after the license has changed hands.  Do it in the same action. I have only had to inform an officer once, and that was when I was a witness to a traffic accident. By giving him both my driver's license for his report and my CCW license, he knew to ask the "Are you carrying and where is it?" question without me surprising him.  The officer was pleasant and professional after making sure I knew not to touch my gun or make any movements toward it.

I am curious to hear from those of you who live in Ohio as to how you were instructed on this responsibility to inform.  Was a specific time frame discussed, or was it as nebulous as the notes in the video from Ohio Concealed Carry lead us to believe?  What methods for informing were you told about in your training?  Is there a way to inform that is more common than others?  While one would hope that this officer's reaction to being informed, late or not, is an aberration, is a negative reaction to being informed the norm, or do the majority of officers react in a polite and professional manner?

Hopefully, the officer in this incident is reminded of his obligation, even when he is angry or going through an adrenaline dump, to be professional.  I also hope that this incident, now that it is getting so much exposure, can be used to improve police conduct with CCW holders, as well as help CCW holders know how to better meet this responsibility to inform.

Update -- I asked Breda how she was told to inform an officer that she was carrying, and she looked it up.  She says that a CCW holder is supposed to keep their hands on the steering wheel and verbally inform the officer that they are a CCW holder and they have a gun.  In this case, I think the driver should have done this as the officer was coming up to the car, even if the officer was interacting with the woman on the side of the road.  Interrupting the officer might have pissed him off, but the driver would have been legally in the right from the get go, taking away any excuse to berate and threaten him.  I'm not saying the officer would have reacted differently, but the driver would have definitely been on the side of the angels in that circumstance.  David Hardy reports are that the officer has been suspended pending an investigation and the charges against the driver have been dropped.


Joshkie said...

Succinct and to the point as always.

This is why the police are losing the PR war.

I hope they don't try to push this under the rug.


cybrus said...

One of the reasons I'm glad PA doesn't have a requirement to inform.

Though, if I were being asked to step out of the vehicle, I would probably inform at that point.

Sean D Sorrentino said...

We have to inform in NC as well. I think it's a stupid law, but there you are.

The two times I've had to do it I followed my own little script. As the cop comes to the door I cut right across what he tries to say with,

"Excuse me Officer (Deputy, or Trooper if appropriate) but before we go any further, State law requires me to advise you that I have a Concealed Carry Permit, and I am currently exercising my right to carry."

The actual name for the permit is Concealed Handgun Permit, but I have a personal objection to saying "gun" to an officer. They might react poorly. By starting off with "Permit" and ending up with "right to carry" I have said enough to meet the law without ever saying "I have a gun."

Plus the statement is confusing enough that it requires the cop to interpret what I'm saying in order to figure out how to react. Since he's got to think, it breaks him out of his pre-programmed script. That generally makes things easier to handle from that point.

Cops generally shrug off your gun. I mean, why would the do anything else? You've just confessed to being goody-goody enough to pass the background check, and so are unlikely to break your law abiding streak by shooting him over a traffic ticket. said...

I live in Metairie, La. (6 miles from New Orleans. During a recent seatbelt checkpoint, I did not have mine on, my bad, I know. When the cop asked me to roll down my window, I put my hands outside of the vehicle and alerted him to the fact that I had a locked and loaded .40cal in the door slot. 1st, he asked me to keep my hands where he could see them, which was out the window of my truck, then he tried to open the door but it was locked, so I had to slowly move my hands to unlock the door. 2nd, he asked if I had a receipt for the weapon to which I replied, no and I don't have the reciept for this wristwatch either. He removed the weapon, removed the magazine, cleared the chambered round, and took it to his car. No problem right? Well, after providing him with my autograph for no seatbelt only, he said "let me see if I can get your gun back to you." I didn't say anything. When he returned, he put my pistol under the back of the drivers seat of my truck and said not to put the magazine in it until I was at the traffic signal about 5 blocks up. I asked why, he said " we don't want you loading it and taking shots at the state troopers. I asked him if that is what clean-cut (flattop) white, ex-army guys out buying lotto tickets for the office do? Pop off shots at troopers for seatbelt tickets? I don't like my weapons to leave my sight and I thought that his receipt request, and his "let me see if I can get your weapon back" reply was sarcastic and a deliberate powerplay. I would expect this from a Jefferson Parish Cop, not a trooper. A sign of the times huh?

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