OpenCDA

November 12, 2015

It Takes Time …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:23 am

19117510-mmmainOpenCdA’s earlier posts about the death of Council rancher Jack Yantis after his encounter with two Adams County deputy sheriffs on November 1 tried to explain that thorough investigations take time.

Here is a press release issued today by the Idaho State Police concerning an unrelated officer-involved incident in Middleton in March.  It gives readers some insight into just how long officer-involved death investigations can take.

Thoroughness and clarity trumps speed.

Addendum on 11-12-2015 at 12:26 p.m.:  Here is the Idaho Statesman’s reporting on the press conference.  It  includes a segment of the video and audio from the deputy’s body-worn camera/mic.

November 11, 2015

A Commendable Effort

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 11:59 am

19117510-mmmainOpenCdA thinks that Idaho’s Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman deserves a sincere thank you from the 300 or so people who attended a town hall meeting in Council on Tuesday night — even if they strongly disagreed with him.

The purpose of the town hall meeting was to let the public directly and personally question Sheriff Zollman about the incident involving two of his deputies and Council rancher Jack Yantis on November 1.  During that incident, Mr. Yantis was killed.

The investigation of the incident is being conducted by the Idaho State Police.  The Idaho Attorney General’s Office has agreed to serve as a special prosecutor at the request of the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney.   (more…)

November 9, 2015

Disturbing News Story from Southern Idaho

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:21 am

19117510-mmmainJack Yantis, a rancher who lived near Council, Idaho, was shot and killed on the evening of November 1, 2015, during an incident involving two Adams County Sheriff’s Office deputies.  The initial report was in a November 2 Idaho State Police press release.

Though this story has received comparatively little coverage from our northern Idaho skews media, there have been several stories in the Idaho Statesman.  It includes this one on November 7 headlined Idaho rancher’s wife:  ‘I saw them murder my husband’. (more…)

September 14, 2015

The Ferguson Commission Report

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 7:08 am

Ferguson Report Here is a link to the 198-page digital version of Ferguson Commission Report.   The print version will be released to the public later today.

Even though the report primarily focuses on the greater St. Louis, MO, area, many of the findings and recommendations are applicable and worthy of consideration throughout the country.

January 3, 2015

Where’s the Missing Information?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:00 am

InformationNotProvidedIn today’s Coeur d’Alene Press skews paper article headlined Kootenai County looks to 2015, writer David Cole included comments from County Commissioner-elect David Stewart.

Some of Stewart’s comments suggested the pay for newly-hired and relatively inexperienced Kootenai County Deputy Sheriffs needs to be raised to keep the deputies from leaving for departments that pay more.

The article quoted Stewart as saying, “Currently there are nine sheriff patrol deputy openings, due to them leaving Kootenai County for higher pay.”  That line screams for information which should have been included in the article. (more…)

October 15, 2014

The “Split-Second Decision” Defense

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 7:42 am

WrongWayWhen a law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting, some citizens will leap to the officer’s defense even before the incident has been objectively and completely investigated and the relevant facts reported.

In their uninformed zeal to publicly and loudly declare their “support” for law enforcement, those citizens will go on autopilot and invoke the sometimes-valid “split-second decision” defense.  The citizens will magnanimously proclaim, “Well, we have to cut law enforcement officers some slack, because after all, we expect them to make split-second, life-and-death decisions.  Sometimes they will make a mistake.”

Unquestionably there are times when the “split-second decision” to use lethal force is unavoidable, times when it is the only decision reasonably available to law enforcement officers.

However, chief executive law enforcement officers must have both the political courage and the leadership skills to ensure that the “split-second decision” defense is not abused, that it does not become the universal excuse.  It must never become an acceptable rationalization for encouraging or requiring their officers to take actions which may save time but are more likely to place the officers in situations requiring split-second decisions.  (more…)

September 17, 2014

Coeur d’Alene: Most Dangerous City in Idaho?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 11:45 am

violentcrimeIs Coeur d’Alene, Idaho really the most dangerous city in Idaho?  Could be.

Last night on KREM2 news out of Spokane, reporter Shawn Chitnis reported on a recent analysis of  FBI violent crime statistics.  His story was headlined Spokane and Coeur d’Alene rank high on dangerous city list.

We contacted KREM2 reporter Shawn Chitnis this morning, and he responded very promptly to provide the online source for his story.

A group called Law Street Media did a 50-state analysis of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report information for 2012, the most recent year for which complete data was available.

Here is a link to Law Street Media’s state-by-state slideshow:  America’s Safest and Most Dangerous States 2014.  It is important to read LSM’s introductory material to understand some of the factors that can sometimes skew the figures.

But a review of the LSM’s data for Idaho leaves little doubt that Coeur d’Alene could certainly be considered Idaho’s most dangerous city.

September 16, 2014

Idaho Statesman Op-Ed Missed the Mark

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 12:04 pm

Missed the MarkThis morning’s Idaho Statesman opinion piece was entitled Our View:  Police, dog owners must share responsibility.  The unnamed writer was commenting, collectively, on three recent shootings of pet dogs by Idaho law enforcement officers.

The op-ed writer mentioned Coeur d’Alene, so we presume he was including the Arfee killing by a Coeur d’Alene police officer.  If so, the writer might want to reread the officer’s account of the shooting.  According to the officer, Arfee appeared suddenly in the partially open van window just inches from the officer’s face.  In what sounds to us to be a “startle” reaction, the officer fired his already-unholstered weapon once and killed Arfee.

The op-ed writer’s first premise was that in most and maybe every instance, there should be enough time for an officer to carefully assess a dog’s various behaviors and then set a non-lethal course of action. His second premise is that an unattended but lawfully and safely contained dog will always obey commands from a police officer or an animal control officer.

We address the op-ed writer’s second premise first.  It’s absurd.

The first premise is very desirable, but it will require the police to do more than just learn dog behaviors.  They will need to adjust their approach to various situations so that “startle” reactions are less likely to result in gunfire.  In the Arfee killing, we wonder:  Why had the officer unholstered his weapon?  If his overall assessment of the situation required (in his mind)  unholstering his weapon, might there have been actions he and his trainee partner and additional officers could have taken first to preclude the perceived necessity of unholstering his weapon and thereby being at risk of a “startle” shooting?

We admit it:  We are second-guessing.  Then again, we have little choice.  The first guesses — the ones that result in training, policy, and procedures — needed to have been taken by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Coeur d’Alene Chief of Police, and the Coeur d’Alene Police Department training officer.  Apparently, they weren’t.

OpenCdA wishes that when there are serious incidents like the ones mentioned in today’s op-ed, the Idaho Statesman and the rest of Idaho’s (alleged) news media would focus as much on the failures of command and leadership in Idaho’s law enforcement agencies and the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training Council as they focus on the behavior of the individual officer who pulled the trigger.

September 15, 2014

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 12:33 pm

WrongWayThe conduct by Coeur d’Alene police officers that led to the Barnhouse federal lawsuit against the police and the Arfee killing by the police shouldn’t really surprise us.

When police departments seek to waive relevant entrance, retention,  training, and integrity standards, it is inevitable that some unsuitable applicants will be hired and retained.  And when those requests for waivers are rather routinely granted by the state’s law enforcement certification agency, it should not surprise readers to know that cities and counties are more than happy to pump out the waiver requests if it will enable them to reduce hiring and retention costs.

It happens in Idaho.  (more…)

September 10, 2014

Federal Lawsuit Names CdA Police Officers

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:58 am

Investigations-FactsThis morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press reports (see article headlined Suit alleges excessive force, violation of rights) that Athol resident Mark Barnhouse has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Coeur d’Alene Police Department officers Johann Schmitz, Mark Knapp, Jonathan Hernas, and then Acting Chief Ron Clark.  The suit also seeks the Federal District Court’s permission to amend the complaint to add specifically named defendants as their identities become known to the plaintiff.

The lawsuit was filed on April 1, 2014, and was based on an incident which occurred on February 17, 2013, in the City of Coeur d’Alene.  The PACER case number is 2:14-cv-00129-EJL-REB, captioned Mark R. Barnhouse, Plaintiff, v. Johann Schmitz, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Mark Knapp, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Jonathan. Hernas, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Ron H. Clark, City of Coeur d’Alene, a municipality incorporated in the State of Idaho, and John Doe(s) I-V, Defendants.  The case number link is to the initial complaint.

There are a couple of tantalizing tidbits in the complaint:

Defendant Mark Knapp was also responsible for the training, supervision, and control of defendant Johann Schmitz in the proper use of force.”  So, we wonder, was Mark Knapp a field training officer (FTO) and was Johann Schmitz a trainee at the time of this incident in 2013?

In furtherance of their attempts to justify their unlawful arrest, both Officers Schmitz and Knapp made false statements of fact in their police report…” which were itemized in the complaint.  The complaint then alleges “The Officers then decided to modify and correct their false statements only after reviewing Officer Schmitz’s body camera.”  So Schmitz was wearing a body camera and had evidently activated it.  What about Knapp?  Especially if he was an FTO, his body camera should also have been activated.  Was it?

OpenCdA is happy to see that Mr. Barnhouse engaged legal counsel and brought this action in federal court.

This incident preceded the Arfee killing by a Coeur d’Alene police officer, but there appear to be some common threads between that and the present lawsuit.  It will be interesting to see how the City of Coeur d’Alene and its new police chief handle both cases.

OpenCdA is curious to know if any of the officers involved in Barnhouse and Arfee received their pre-service training in the North Idaho College’s POST certification program rather than at the POST academy in Meridian?

The public will be watching.

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