Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SEE the Tough Cop

Click to enlarge and read.
The Eureka Police Department's “olive branch of peace” is called Vex.

Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham, in a recent letter to the Times-Standard titled: Preserving law and order, enforcing the laws, protecting and serving all citizens said,
“If there are drug dealers in your neighborhood, we will build a case against them, and get them off the streets. When there is gunfire or a dangerous person in your neighborhood and citizens are in fear, we will respond. This, at times, has caused criticism. When dealing with disruptive people, we always first extend an olive branch of peace. Unfortunately, sometimes this does not work, and we have to become tough. No one likes a tough cop until they need one, then they want the toughest cop around.” (070711) [Emphasis added]
In the above quote, Chief Harpham identifies two types of people that are of paramount interest to him and his EPD officers: “drug dealers” and “dangerous” (of the type potentially involving guns, i.e., “gunfire”) causing "citizens" to be in "fear" or afraid. He then identifies a third type of person: “disruptive people.” That category is broad and expansive and can include just about anything. More importantly, since past EPD handling of such “disruptive people” has caused some “criticism,” to ease everyone's minds, he specifies the steps or priorities his officer's will follow when dealing with such people. First, they are to extend an “olive branch of peace.” Second, when that does not work, they “become tough.” At the time he provided these assurances, this Report made some observations listed below. Our interest was in seeing what is actually done - how he and the EPD defined his words by actions.

The question remains, does this incident, as reported, meet his priorities? The words "disruptive," “olive branch of peace” and “become tough” are rather ambiguous, to say the least, unless you take him at his word and look at the conduct history of the EPD. Today, we have the following episode to compare. So, compare what the newspaper said "according to officers on the scene and scanner traffic, neighbors called police stating that three suspicious men were inside a garage to the rear of a residence." On it's face, if three or even one "suspicious" person was in my garage, it's my hope my neighbor's would call. The question, however, is: What makes someone look "suspicious"? Suspicious enough to be held or "detained" at gunpoint when they posed NO threat nor were they guilty of committing any crime? I realize the officers didn't know that at the time, but then NEITHER did the person calling in. Is "detained" the newspaper's fancy word for ARRESTED since they were released on the scene?

So, the "olive branch of peace" is to confront someone going about his or her lawful business, neither bothering nor threatening anyone, at the point of a gun? That situation is a hair's breadth away from someone being dead should that person immediately not accept the "olive branch of peace" pointing at his or her head.

Reading the account, they find after the arrest a 70 year old man that had a “felony drug-related warrant” and clearly posed NO threat to anyone; simply wanting to be left alone. His immediate failure to comply as commanded, however, apparently posed enough of a threat to someone that he was threatened with “the tough cop” VEX. Hiding in the back of a closet where he has to “crawl out” sounds like someone that just wants to be left alone and maybe not found. Either way, we know some history now. We also know that Vex is one tough cop.

I'm not sure about the Times-Standard's reporting. The number of people accounted for in this situation varies since the paper says there were three people in the garage, one ran away, but three people were held a gun point and detained. Then there's the use of the word “barricade” while hiding in “a closet,” but gave himself up when “Vex discovered him.” What are we really talking about here? He closed the door, maybe even locked it, then went and hid in a closet?

So, what did this incident teach us? It's the picture that really says it all.

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