Your Traffic Stop
Thank you for New Citizens Press. I frequently enjoy it, reading most of the columns each time.
After reading your column in the 4/19 - 5/02/2015 issue, I thought I would offer some different perspective on how to deal with police employees.
1) Wearing badges and uniforms does not give police department employees additional rights. They are still responsible for their actions and should be held accountable to the professional status that they claim. It was excellent that you followed up with Chief Yankowski.
2) This country was founded on a Bill of Rights as part of the Constitution. Rights are not given, however. They must be demanded. If you give away your rights, you will not be regarded as a citizen but as a potential victim.
3) Our rights protect our liberty. Our liberty is not to be sacrificed for potential security. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
4) The caller to the police that wanted a man with a firearm investigated should have been asked why. What was the man doing with the firearm? Was he waving it around (brandishing)? Was he pointing it? Threatening someone? Shooting it? If he wasn’t doing any of this, the police employee should have reminded the caller that “in a free country, if there is no victim, there is no crime. Per the Supreme Court, the police are not required to protect you. Nor are we staffed to do so. A person exercising his Second Amendment rights is evidence of freedom, not a crime. Please call back to report a crime when you have witnessed one. Have a nice day.”
5) If the police employees pursued this call any way, you, as a woman without a man in your car, should not have been pulled over in the first place. Or you should have been immediately released when no man was found in the car. You should not have been searched. Your car should not have been searched. Did the police employees expect to find “the gunman” in your pants pocket or glove compartment? Ridiculous! Your right to privacy under the 4th Amendment were either ignored or you were intimidated into consenting to the searches. This has to stop. NEVER consent to a search. You never know who left what in your car or if the police employee plans to plant evidence in your car. If they need to search, they will get a warrant.
6) When one is pulled over, one should be polite, calm, respectful, but assertive of one’s rights. Easier said than done, I know because for most of us, these encounters happen rarely, if ever, or infrequently at most. Police employees have an advantage in that encounters for them could happen multiple times per day, giving them much more experience. Plus, they are armed and dangerous.
7) Your readers may want to do some research before they have an encounter. And to practice with their children so they also know how to keep them safe while asserting their own rights.
8) Do not recommend joining the police department in Lansing or elsewhere. Do you think any new hires will solve the problems? Across the country, year after year, young people become new police employees. Yet, the problems are systemic and do not change with a change of personnel.
9) Police employees talk about how dangerous their jobs are, but hundreds more citizens die at the hands of the police employees than the other way around. The helpful people who collect our trash each week have a more dangerous job than police employees. If a police employee still believes their job is so dangerous, they should seek employment elsewhere.
10) Consider documenting any police encounter by recording video and audio. A smart phone can easily do this.
My humble opinion is that what may have been mostly a racial problem with police employees over the years has more recently (over the last ten years or so) escalated. This is due to free military equipment from the federal government that police employees are required to use or return, many new police department hires coming from the ranks of returning combat veterans that may not be able or trained to switch their mindset to policing, and increased overall government intrusion.
We must remain vigilant to retain our rights by calmly, respectfully, continually asserting them or risk losing them. This is the lesson your police encounter reinforces.
Lessons We can learn from the Ferguson, Missouri Tragedy
By Howard Spence
In life bad things do happen - many of which are predictable. The recent human relations and civil rights disasters in Ferguson involving confrontations between police and minority residents were certainly predictable. Indeed, historically tensions between some law enforcement agencies and their local minority populations have led to significant civil rights and liberties violations, needless community unrest, property destruction, and sometimes civil disorder. This type of situation is not in the interest of law enforcement officials, nor of residents - whether minority or white.
Police confrontations with minorities across our country are being highlighted on almost a daily basis in the media. This emphasizes the need for change in the attitudes and cultures of many of our communities relating to police interaction and "control" of minority populations.
The Department of Justice recently issued a report condemning racism and violations of civil rights and liberties in Ferguson which listed numerous problems which needed to be addressed to assure the safety and rights of citizens, good human relations, and respect for our hard working police officers, their safety, and the rule of law. Among the problems identified were the following: a Police Department which lacked diversity in composition or even training in diversity; the militarization of police agencies rather than community oriented policing; the selection of police officers without screening for discriminatory or biased attitudes, or ability to react professionally in stressful situations; the enactment of unnecessary and “illegal” laws with the primary purpose being to provide "tools" to facilitate arrests; the manipulation of the law-enforcement and judicial system to become a revenue-generating process; and a lack of leadership by elected officials to address diversity and inclusion as a priority.
The lessons of Ferguson should be studied and action should be taken now to make sure that we have the best possible opportunity to maintain fair, just, and peaceful communities into the future. Our residents deserve this, and the brave men and women daily risking their lives in public service as our police agents also deserve this. Officers operating in visibly integrated agencies are safer and better regarded when performing their duties.
Shortly after being elected Eaton County Commissioner, I spoke to the Delta Township Board asking the trustees to take a leadership role in working towards greater diversity and inclusion. I was told that “affirmative-action is illegal,” and that the Delta patrol was already a diverse unit. When I arose during public comment at that same meeting to criticize adoption of an ordinance making it a crime punishable by 93 days in jail to “spit” anywhere in public in Delta Township, I heard that the ordinance provided a police “tool” for arresting people and was necessary.
Delta government needs to work harder towards becoming more diverse and inclusive in its work force composition - including law enforcement and community board appointments. Government should not enact unneeded criminal ordinances which put people in jail and do little to benefit the general population or protect our civil liberties.
The attached is an open letter to the community or editor, or public opinion piece which is offered for consideration and publication by Howard T. Spence, Eaton County Commissioner from Delta Township, Michigan.
The opinions expressed in this opinion piece are those of Howard T. Spence alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of any other person or organization or government unit.
This was printed in the May 3, 2105 - May 16, 2015 edition