Today's preamble will be a dedicated/empathetic prayer for success directed toward our thirty-two recruits who are taking "mid-term" exams at the MPD Academy today! :) These recruits have been toiling away learning a wide range of subject areas but the MOST important class they have to focus on, of course, is their "constitutional law" segment (reflects my personal bias as that is the topic that I teach)!
Officers are instructed in a host of issues ranging from professional communication, crisis intervention, ethics, report writing, traffic enforcement, defensive tactics, unconscious bias, community policing principles, firearms, vehicle contacts, pursuit driving, and the list goes on and on. In each and every topic, our values and the way MPD does business is reinforced as is officer and community safety. Career survivability goes way beyond the pale of defending oneself or others; you also have to survive the rigors of being a good witness at trial. This means adhering to constitutional precepts and case law holdings, knowing the limitations of police power(s) and respecting the rights of constituents, and then documenting everything so that the actions taken are defensible in a court of law.
While there has been much discussion about the implications of making split-second judgments in the use of force, I have been surprised that there has not been more recognition over the myriad of complex legal decisions that officers encounter on a daily basis requiring quick thinking legal analysis. I like to use the classic United Supreme Court case of Adams v. Williams to better illustrate my point.
In 1965, Police Sgt. John Connolly was on routine patrol by himself early in the morning in a high-crime area of Bridgeport, Connecticut. At approximately 2:15 a.m., a person known to Sgt. Connolly approached his vehicle and informed him that a person seated in a nearby car was carrying drugs and had a gun at his waist.
Sgt. Connolly called for back-up and then approached the other car. Connolly tapped on the car window and asked the occupant, Robert Williams, to open the door. When Williams rolled down the window instead of opening the door, the sergeant reached into the car and removed a fully loaded revolver from the waistband of Williams' pants. The gun had not been visible to Connolly from outside the car, but it was in precisely the place indicated by the informant. Williams was then arrested by Connolly for unlawful possession of the pistol. A search of Williams was conducted after other officers arrived. They found substantial quantities of heroin on Williams' person and in the car.
Williams was charged with several criminal offenses. He claimed that the initial seizure of the pistol was unconstitutional. And since the arrest and later search were based on the initial seizure of the pistol, Williams claimed that both his arrest and the seizure of the heroin were illegal.
Adams v. Williams illustrates how a routine police-citizen contact can develop into a court case that progressed through the entire federal court system, resulting in a published decision of the United States Supreme Court of considerable importance to police officers. In the wee hours of the morning, faced with a compelling set of facts worthy of further investigation, Sgt. Connolly had to process this situation---both tactically and legally--to take timely action. Contrast this with luxury of "time" and resources available to the legal principals involved with the criminal justice system. By the time this case progressed through both state and federal court proceedings--from arrest to final decision of the Supreme Court--seven years had passed. The case was heard by 23 judges in five different courts (and that does not count the number of law clerks who were assigned to brief the matter)! Fourteen judges---learned in the law and with no sense of urgency to come to a decision--found that the police acted properly; nine found that the police acted improperly. So when you hear about a case that was appealed over something the cop did (or failed to do), please remember that we ask our cops to perform incredibly challenging tasks, under dangerous and difficult circumstances, and time is invariably of the essence. Our cops do a remarkable job when you consider the sheer volume of cases and all have different facts and different legal theories to remember and apply correctly!
From 5:30 a.m. on 10/24/2017 through 5:30 a.m. on 10/25/2017, MPD received 375 calls for service. This number does not include parking complaints or 911 misdials.
1) WEST: Stolen Vehicle – 6:49 a.m. Officers responded to a gas station in the 5400 block of University Avenue for a report of a stolen vehicle that was left running and unlocked in the parking lot. The suspects were described as three AAMs. Investigation continuing.
2) SOUTH: Check Person – 8:19 a.m. Officers responded along with Madison Fire to a residence on Ardsley Circle where a subject (41 year old AAF) had overdosed. The subject became physically violent towards the officers and firefighters. The subject was taken into protective custody and transported to a local hospital for an evaluation/treatment. Investigation continuing.
3) SOUTH: Death Investigation – 9:07 a.m. Officers responded to a residence on the south side of Madison for a deceased subject (52 year old WM). Medical Examiner responded to the scene. Investigation continuing.
4) EAST: Adult Arrested Person – 11:11 a.m. Officers responded to Milky Way for a report that a suspect (17 year old WM) damaged the property of his grandmother/victim (61 year old WF). The suspect was arrested for two counts of criminal damage to property.
5) SOUTH: Child Abuse – 2:07 p.m. Officers responded to talk with a 12 year old AAM who reported that his uncle (26 year old AAM) battered him the previous night on Waunona Woods Court. The uncle was contacted and admitted to restraining the juvenile who was trying to cause a disturbance. Child Protective Services plugged in and placed the juvenile with another family member for the evening. Investigation continuing.
6) WEST: Domestic Disturbance – 2:37 p.m. Officers responded to a disturbance/crash near the intersection of S. Westfield Lane/Tree Lane. A 31 year old AAF initially called the police to report that the father of her child (37 year old AAM) had stolen a set of her car keys and she was following him in her vehicle. The male was in a vehicle where a 35 year old AAF was driving. Both vehicles began crashing into each other and a physical altercation ensued between the two females. Both females were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
7) WEST: Death Investigation – 4:07 p.m. Officers responded to a west side residence where a subject (35 year old WM) was located deceased. Medical Examiner responded. Nothing suspicious located on scene. Investigation continuing.
8) NORTH: Disturbance – 5:35 p.m. Officers responded to the 1400 block of Northport Drive for a disturbance between two females and a male. A 34 year old AAF reported that her ex-husband (33 year old AAM) removed property (including a firearm) from her residence in Sun Prairie without her permission. The female attempted to get her belongings back from her ex-husband and an altercation occurred between the 34 year old AAF and the ex-husband's current girlfriend (29 year old AAF). Sun Prairie PD was contacted and they handled the theft complaint as that occurred in their jurisdiction. A citation for disorderly conduct was issued by Sun Prairie PD to the 34 year old AAF. Multiple family members from both sides arrived on scene and numerous MPD officers were needed to stabilize the scene.
9) NORTH: Armed Robbery – 9:59 p.m. Officers responded to Graceland Avenue where a victim (24 year old WM delivery driver) reported that he was robbed at gunpoint by two suspects (one AAM, one male unknown race). The suspects robbed the victim of food and money. The suspects fled. Investigation continuing. Press release completed.
10) EAST: Juvenile Arrest – 10:20 p.m. Officers responded to an east side residence where a victim (13 year old WM) reported being threatened by another juvenile/suspect (14 year old HM) over social media. The suspect was reported to have threatened the victim with a rifle. The suspect was contacted and was found to have a facsimile AR-15 in his possession. The suspect was taken into custody for unlawful use of computerized communication systems, possession of drug paraphernalia, unlawful use of facsimile firearm and casual possession of marijuana. He was conveyed to the Juvenile Reception Center.
11) NORTH: Disturbance – 11:30 p.m. While officers were investigating a separate incident in the 2400 block of E. Washington Avenue, a suspect (47 year old AAM) who had been causing various problems at different locations recently, created a disturbance in front of the police and ran into traffic. The suspect was contacted and he resisted the officers. The suspect was ultimately taken into custody for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.