This story in the Inlander regarding the recent SPD OIS brings up some interesting topics for discussion:
Other media of course have covered the story but there are aspects in the Mitch Ryals story which interest me. I am not as fortunate as many of the Citizens who have been commenting on the shooting and have drawn own conclusions about whether the OIS was justified or not. Apparently, many of them have somehow gained access to all the reports and body camera footage regarding the OIS, something I have not been able to accomplish.
What I found interesting regarding Craig Meidl’s press conference is what he threw in after he was asked by a reporter if he had anything else he could tell them. It was at that point he threw in that the Officer involved was acting proactively in a “Hot Spot” to bring down crime but when asked by a reporter why the officer confronted the deceased he specifically stated that he didn’t know because the officer hadn’t been interviewed yet.
Many of you know that one of my pet peeves in cases like this as an old Homicide Investigator is that Law Enforcement Brass always say too damn much to the press before they know the facts.
You certainly can draw your own conclusions as to why he threw that in, but from my perspective it wasn’t helpful in the least and possibly hurtful later down the road for the Officer depending upon the circumstances.
There is an awful lot of misunderstanding in the public about when an Officer can and cannot legally DETAIN an individual walking down the street, and the Courts have dealt with it repeatedly since SCOTUS ruled in 1968 in the case of Terry vs Ohio. Terry vs Ohio was originally just a search and seizure case but as many SCOTUS cases do it has become far more than simply a search and seizure case and has now morphed into the foundation for all the “Stop and Frisk” issues and how it relates to Community Oriented Policing Models.
Probably the first thing to understand and Officers learn this in the Academy is that a Terry stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, but not an arrest and Officers do in fact have a right to legally seize a person under certain circumstances. The Terry detention is a seizure for investigative purposes.
So, how does an Officer have to justify stopping and detaining someone under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution?
The Officer to justify a Terry Stop must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the Terry Stop.
The Officer must be able to articulate a sufficient number of factors which lead him/her to believe a substantial probability that criminal conduct has occurred or is about to occur.
I used to try and explain the above back in the day to Academy Classes this way.
“You can’t stop and jam anyone “Bebopping” (Old Person Term) down the street because you don’t like their looks. You damn well better give me facts in your report that justify why you jammed the person.”
The same is true today even with all the case law established since Terry vs Ohio in 1968. Stopping someone simply because they look Latino and might be illegal, or are Black in a predominantly White residential area, are wearing an Oakland Raiders Jacket, etcetera doesn’t cut it.
The case law is clear that an individual’s mere presence in a “Hot Spot” or High Crime Area does not in and of itself justify a Terry Stop, so why Chief Meidl threw the “Hot Spot” remark in doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Especially when you consider that if that is one of the factors leading up to the Officer’s Terry Stop there is a strong possibility, especially in an OIS case where Civil Litigation is a possibility undoubtedly someone will check to see if in the area in question was a “Hot Spot” or “High Crime Area.”
Here is a somewhat simplistic Checklist Available to Washington State Police Officers which may help in understanding some of what I have discussed.
HOW DOES TERRY vs OHIO RELATE TO THE “BROKEN WINDOWS THEORY?
I think this pretty well explains it and interestingly John Q Wilson was one of the people we interacted with when we were establishing the SPD Community Oriented Policing Model…back in the day.
As far as “Terry Stops” and differentiating between “Social Contacts” which are the key to good Community Oriented Policing there is no “Bright Line” Washington State cases that help to establish the difference, however there are several restrictions that Officers must be careful not to ignore so that a bad case doesn’t end up making bad law.
I REPORT YOU DECIDE!!!