Southern District OKs Lengthy Sentence for ‘Board Bills’ Defendant

The Court of Appeals Southern District ruled June 30 that a judge didn’t abuse his discretion in sentencing a high-profile but low-income defendant to more than two years in jail on a variety of charges.

George Richey had argued on appeal that St. Clair County Associate Circuit Judge Jerry J. Rellihan entered the hefty sentence in retaliation for Richey’s role in a landmark 2019 ruling that forbade local courts from imposing jail “board bills” as court costs.

In State v. Richey, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, while counties can charge criminal defendants for the costs of their incarceration, circuit courts have no statutory authority to impose board bills as courts costs. Instead, counties must use a separate process to recover the money. As a result, defendants can’t be brought back into court monthly to review their payments for that debt, nor can the court put them back in jail for failure to pay it.

Six months before the March 2019 ruling, Richey had been arrested on separate charges of drunkenly threatening his neighbors. The following June, Rellihan acquitted Richey of the most serious of the three misdemeanors he faced and sentenced him to 180 days and 15 days on the remaining two charges.

Rellihan also revoked Richey’s probation for three unrelated convictions and ordered him to serve all of his sentences consecutively, totaling 755 days in jail.

Jedd C. Schneider, a public defender representing Richey, argued on appeal that Richey’s stiff sentence was imposed “because he dared to challenge being jailed for debt.” Schneider estimated that Richey would accrue $26,425 in jail board debt during this sentence, an amount he will be “unlikely to ever repay . . . during his lifetime.”

“Did the trial court learn nothing from the Supreme Court’s Richey opinion?” Schneider wrote in a brief. “The answer is seemingly no.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which defended the case on appeal, argued that Richey’s two new sentences were within the allowable range of punishment and that setting all of the sentences consecutively was at the judge’s discretion.

“The record amply supports the sentences given, including Defendant’s aggressive incorrigibility, lack of rehabilitation, and indifference to the law,” Gregory L. Barnes, an assistant attorney general, argued in a brief. “There is no evidence that the court took his previous appeal into account in determining to run the sentences consecutively.”

According to transcripts quoted in the briefs, Rellihan’s only comment on Richey’s sentencing was: “So he’s had many, many, many opportunities to become an active and good member of this community and he’s chosen not to.” Writing for the Southern District, Judge Daniel E. Scott, wrote that the trial judge “did not directly, or even indirectly, link Richey’s sentencing” to any right Richey had exercised or to the Supreme Court case.

The record, Scott added “forecloses Richey’s retaliation claim, and with it, all of Richey’s consecutive-sentencing challenges.” Chief Judge Jeffrey W. Bates and Judge Mary W. Sheffield concurred.

In an interview, Schneider said he doesn’t plan to seek further appeal in the case. However, he is separately representing Richey in an ongoing declaratory action seeking credit for Richey’s earlier improper incarceration for failure to pay the board bill. As part of the Richey ruling, the Supreme Court had thrown out a $2,275 bill Richey received after spending 65 days in jail for failure to comply with an order to pay an earlier board bill.

In addition, St. Louis-based ArchCity Defenders in February had filed a civil rights lawsuit on Richey’s behalf, alleging that St. Clair County’s practices amounted to a “modern-day debtors’ scheme” to raise revenue. The suit, which had been removed to federal court, was voluntarily dismissed on May 6. Corrigan L. Lewis, the ArchCity attorney who filed the case, couldn’t be reached for comment.

That suit also has alleged that the consecutive sentences were retaliatory. At the time of dismissal, Rellihan, one of the defendants in the suit, had argued that judicial immunity protected his actions. He also pointed to the then-pending appeal in the Southern District, arguing that it gave Richey an adequate remedy at law for “any rulings or allegedly unlawful actions taken in his criminal case.”

The appeal is State v. Richey, SD36153. The declaratory action is Richey v. St. Clair County et al., 20SR-CC00008.

 
By Scott Lauck | Missouri Lawyers Media molawyersmedia.com

Governor Announces Special Session to Address Violent Crime

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced a special session beginning Monday, July 27, which will focus on addressing violent crime in Missouri.

Governor Parson was joined at the press conference by Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten, Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson, Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, who currently serves as president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, and several law enforcement officers.

“As Governor and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting our citizens and upholding the laws of our state are of utmost importance to my administration,” Governor Parson said. “We know we have a serious problem with violent crime here in Missouri that must be addressed. Violent crime has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent weeks, specifically in our big cities.”

Missouri has seen rapid increases in crime rates this year, primarily in the state’s urban areas. Kansas City recently reached 101 homicides for 2020 – a 35 percent increase from 2019. In St. Louis, there have been 130 homicides so far this year compared to 99 at the same time last year.

From May to June alone, data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shows significant increases in reports of violent crime. In St. Louis County, aggravated assaults with a firearm are up 19 percent year-to-date.

“These are just the grim numbers, but the effects of violent crime across our state are best measured in lives – lives lost, futures cut short, and families hurting,” Governor Parson said. “All of this is unacceptable. We are better than that in Missouri, and we must hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”

“I want to be clear that violent crime isn’t just a St. Louis or Kansas City problem,” Governor Parson continued. “It is a Missouri problem, and we cannot wait until next session to address it. It must be addressed now, which is why we are having this special session.”

The special session will focus on amending state statutes related to violent crime. Specifically, six different provisions will be considered:

Police and Public Safety Employee Residency Requirements for St. Louis – The proposal to be considered would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the City.

Juvenile Certification – This proposal requires the court to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.  

Witness Statement Admissibility – This proposal would allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current statute.  

Witness Protection Fund – This proposal creates the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child – This proposal modifies the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense.

Unlawful Transfer of Weapons – This proposal would increase penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

“If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together,” Governor Parson said. “We must do our jobs. We must support our law enforcement officers, and we must start prioritizing the prevention of violent crime.”

To view the special session proclamation, click here. To view Governor Parson’s remarks from the press conference, click here.

In a statement posted on Facebook later in the day by the governor, he said, If our criminal justice system is going to work, ALL parts of it must be in sync. Law enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing.

If any of these aren’t working right or aren’t doing their job, the whole system fails. The only way we can truly make a difference, fight violent crime, and make our communities safer is by working together.

If you talk to any county or city police department, there are hundreds of unfilled law enforcement positions simply because less and less people want to work in this arena.

People need to understand the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make every day, especially with everything that’s going on in our state right now.

If there was ever a time to stand up for law enforcement, now is the time. They are the front-line response for Missourians. We must support them and give them the respect they deserve, because we cannot fix this problem without them.

If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together, we must do our jobs, and WE MUST support our law enforcement officers.

Qualified Immunity: Myths vs Facts

A public official performing a discretionary function enjoys qualified immunity in a civil action for damages, provided his or her conduct does not violate clearly established federal statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Because there have been several misunderstandings or misstatements about what “qualified immunity” means, the National Sheriffs’ Association provided the following information:

MYTH

  • Qualified immunity makes officers immune to state or federal criminal charges for a wrongful act.

FACT

  • Qualified immunity does not make officers immune to state or federal criminal charges for a wrongful act.
  • Qualified immunity only protects officers from liability for acts that have never been determined to violate constitutional rights.
  • To retroactively punish a peace officer for conduct that he or she had no way of knowing at the time that such conduct would later be found to violate the Constitution would be wrong. 

 

MYTH

  • Qualified immunity prevents individuals from recovering damages from law enforcement officers who knowingly violate an individual’s constitutional rights.

FACT

  • Qualified immunity only prevents lawsuits in federal court where the constitutional validity of a particular action was not known at the time.  Claimants are free to sue in state court under state law for the same incident, both for negligence as well as intentional torts.

 

MYTH

  • Qualified immunity protects law enforcement agencies from unconstitutional policies and practices.

FACT

  • Qualified Immunity does not protect law enforcement agencies from unconstitutional practices.
  • Eliminating qualified immunity will only benefit trial lawyers in obtaining substantial fee awards for lawsuits that would have been dismissed under qualified immunity.

 

MYTH

  • Eliminating qualified immunity financially affects the officer and will deter him from unconstitutional actions.

FACT

  • Eliminating qualified immunity does not financially affect the officer because most judgments are paid by the agency’s insurance company whose premiums are paid with public funds.

 

MORE FACTS

  • Eliminating qualified immunity will keep officers from making crucial, split-second, life or death decisions to stop a lethal threat.  Innocent victims and officers will be hurt or killed as a result. Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S. Ct. 305 (2015).
  • Qualified immunity not only protects officers from liability for unknowingly violating constitutional rights, it protects all government actors from liability to allow them to function in uncertain situations where immediate action is needed for the public good. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009).
  • The qualified immunity rule seeks a proper balance between two competing interests. On one hand, damages suits may offer the only realistic avenue for vindication of constitutional guarantees. On the other hand, permitting damages suits against government officials, not just peace officers, can entail substantial social costs, including the risk that fear of personal monetary liability and harassing litigation will unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of their duties. As one means to accommodate these two objectives, judicial precedent holds that government officials are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to discretionary functions performed in their official capacities. The doctrine of qualified immunity gives officials, peace officers or otherwise, breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions. Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017).
  • As to peace officers, qualified immunity applies to jail operations including medical decisions, failure to protect, suicides in jails, and many other situations not involving use of force.  Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S. Ct. 2042 (2015); Berry v. Sherman, 365 F.3d 631(8th Cir. 2004).
  • It is not necessary that the very action in question has previously been held unlawful. That is, an officer might lose qualified immunity even if there is no reported case directly on point. But in the light of pre-existing law, the unlawfulness of the officer’s conduct must be apparent. Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017).
  • Qualified immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law. To determine whether a given officer falls into either of those two categories, a court must ask whether it would have been clear to a reasonable officer that the alleged conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted. If so, then the defendant officer must have been either incompetent or else a knowing violator of the law, and thus not entitled to qualified immunity. If a reasonable officer might not have known for certain that the conduct was unlawful, then the officer is immune from liability. Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017).
  • Eliminating qualified immunity for cases where the peace officer didn’t know they were violating constitutional rights will open the flood gates for additional litigation and have a substantial negative impact on the budgets of communities that will have to pay for increasing judgments and attorneys’ fees.

 

BJS Releases Reports on Police-Protection Expenditures, Crime Levels in the US

Studies by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics show:

· In 2018, the combined state and federal imprisonment rate (431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) was the lowest since 1996.

· The total imprisonment rate fell 15% from 2008 to 2018.

· From 2008 to 2018, the imprisonment rate dropped 28% among black residents, 21% among Hispanic residents, and 13% among white residents.

· In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989.

 

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics today released statistical tables on government expenditures on police protection from its Justice Expenditure and Employment Extracts series, and selected findings on violent and property crimes based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

The title of the reports are:

State and Local Government Expenditures on Police Protection in the U.S., 2000-2017 (NCJ 254856) by BJS Statisticians Emily Buehler and Kevin Scott” and

Selected Findings from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (NCJ 254862) by BJS Statistician Erica Smith

The reports can be found by visiting www.bjs.gov

The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating reliable statistics on crime and criminal justice in the United States. Jeffrey H. Anderson is the director.        

Agency Tests Live 911 Technology to Shorten Response Time

A California police department is testing out a new system that officials say could help officers while on patrol.

According to KFSN, the Clovis Police Department is just the third agency in the country to start using ‘Live 911,’ a technology that allows officers to listen to 911 calls as they come into dispatch. ​​CPD officials say it enables officers to respond to calls more quickly by cutting out the middleman.

“Instead of waiting for dispatch to type in the details to send it to the radio operator and to come out over the radio, which sometimes can take up to two minutes, officers are able to hear the information right away,” Clovis Police Lt. Jim Munro told KFSN. “It has been a game-changer to be honest with you.”

In addition to saving precious minutes, officials say Live 911 gives officers more context about a call than they would have gotten with the old system.

“To actually hear the tone of the voice of the person calling and the officers understand this is really an emergency,” Munro said. “And to hear the little details that may not make it through to us in a timely manner.”

Officer Meredith Alexander told KFSN that the real-time awareness helps her better prepare for an incoming call. When she hears the reporting party’s address she can already start heading to the scene.

“[Dispatchers are] asking what’s going on and description is really helpful for the officers in the field to hear that and get a good grasp of what’s going on,” she said.

By Suzie Ziegler | Police 1

How to Reduce Stress During Times of Crisis

​Who is taking care of the cops when they are enduring hatred, betrayal and intense scrutiny? (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)​

 

With law enforcement blamed for society’s ills and the future of policing uncertain, officers face new traumas and total exhaustion.

An NYPD veteran said that the emotional toll on cops today is worse than after 9/11. Officers are taxed to the max, under constant media attack and experiencing hatred like never before.

After working 12-hour shifts with no days off, cops go home to teach school lessons to their kids, but only after they have decontaminated themselves and their equipment to protect loved ones from an enemy they cannot see. Spouses have been laid off and officers worry about making the mortgage. Cops have seen death from the pandemic firsthand and have lost colleagues, friends and family members to the virus.

Don’t forget the two-officer families who wrestle with long shifts, household chores and daycare issues. Don’t forget the line of duty deaths that cannot be memorialized properly.

On top of dealing with a pandemic and economic shutdown, add in the protests where bottles filled with concrete are thrown at cops, they are called pigs and murderers and are shoved and spit on. Businesses that supported officers have banned them from entering and denied the use of bathroom facilities. Officers’ wives, parents and children experience attacks of hatred from friends and strangers.

As all cops are unmercifully blamed for the actions and inactions of a few, officers struggle to explain to their young kids why people hate the police.

All cops are serving a sentence for a crime they didn’t commit.

COPS WORRY THAT BY DOING THEIR JOB THEY CAN LOSE THEIR JOB

Officers don’t worry about dying in the line of duty. If that happens, their families will be taken care of financially. Officers worry that despite performing their assigned duties by the book, they can still be sued, indicted, or fired. They fear not being able to put food on the table or a roof over their kids’ heads. Not to mention the humiliation and financial ruin of imprisonment. In this political climate, showing up for work can get you in trouble.

Officers worry about having to use force and being thrown under the bus by their agency and elected officials or fired before an investigation has commenced.

And then there is the talk of abolishing qualified immunity.

WHY DO WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THE COPS?

Policing during a pandemic is traumatic enough. With law enforcement blamed for society’s ills and the future of policing uncertain, officers face new traumas and total exhaustion. Throw out the term post-traumatic stress disorder because what cops are currently enduring is way beyond any stress known to mankind or a medical disorder.

Trauma takes a toll on the human physically and emotionally. The brain and memory encode traumatic events differently than normal events. Traumatic events get trapped within the body – the vagus nerve and individual organs. Physical symptoms of surviving trauma can mimic the pandemic virus: fatigue, stomach upset, muscle aches, shaking and chills, shortness of breath, headaches and congestion can be contributed to both. Officers may experience additional health issues like high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attacks and suicide ideations.

Unresolved trauma and stuffing or denying emotions can manifest as anger. Officers cannot afford, during this siege on law enforcement, to succumb to rage roaring out at the wrong moment while on duty.

WHO IS TAKING CARE OF THE COPS?

Who is taking care of the cops when they are enduring hatred, betrayal and intense scrutiny? When they are criticized and denounced for doing their jobs?

Under these dire circumstances, overcoming the stigmas officers face in asking for help and providing emotional support resources to officers will be a monumental task. But departments have a long history of failing to offer adequate emotional support to officers. Officers need more than wellness programs that do little to address their concerns. They want to know that their department’s administration will stand up for them if they use justified, reasonable and necessary force.

Officers are instructed to refrain from answering noncriminal calls and not to escalate situations (as if officers are the cause of such escalations). Officers face having their jobs reformed by people who have never policed and who have no idea what the job entails. That doesn’t constitute emotional support.

Agencies and the public need to wake up to the fact that unless emotional support is offered to officers, who continue to work under these stressful conditions, there will be mass retirements and resignations and recruitment will be impossible.

COPS HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF COPS

Reach out to a peer support team and talk about how you feel. Peer team members are trained to listen, validate and acknowledge your feelings, allowing you to fall apart and be honest with your feelings without fear of the impact on your career. Peer support team members, in most states, are covered by the same confidentiality protections as a doctor, lawyer, or clergy.

Talk to a peer team member and express your feelings in an environment of trust and support. Neutralize your emotions so they won’t come back to haunt you on duty or video. Don’t take what you are experiencing on the job home and take it out on those who love and support you.

If your agency does not have a peer team, seek out a team in your area or another city. A peer team will not turn you away.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND THE OFFICER NEXT TO YOU

You have to take care of yourself and your colleagues.

Eat properly. Rest when you can. Drink water to avoid dehydration during the summer heat. Don’t self-medicate with booze or junk food. Breathe deeply often to calm your mind and your emotions and reset your nervous system.

Talk to your spouse and family. Keep the lines of communication open and honest.

Care about those you work with. Be alert for signs they are burnt out or struggling. Provide support and assistance. Help other officers maintain composure and keep calm out on the streets.

Don’t take the hatred towards law enforcement personally. Officers are being used as political pawns in a vile election year.

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SUPPORT AND RESPECT POLICE OFFICERS

A sergeant met two of his officers for dinner at an open restaurant. An older African American couple came to their table after putting on their masks. The man placed his hands on the shoulders of the two officers and said, “I paid for your meals.”

The sergeant said, “Appreciate your act of kindness, but you don’t need to do that.”

The gentleman said, “Yes, officers, I do.” He patted their shoulders, then he and his wife left.

What helps the most, officers say, is when citizens come up and express their support and encouragement.

As psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Love is the only sane, satisfactory answer to the problems of human existence.”

Time to support our officers who perform their jobs professionally and ethically every day under conditions never before seen or experienced in law enforcement.

​​By Barbara A. Schwartz | Police 1
 
About the author

Barbara A. Schwartz is certified as a first responder peer supporter by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS). She maintains specializations in grief, injured officer support, suicide prevention, and traumatic stress injuries.

As a Police Explorer scout and reserve officer, Schwartz served in patrol and investigations. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in American Police Beat, The Thin Blue Line, Command, The Tactical Edge, Crisis Negotiator Journal, Badge & Gun, The Harris County Star, The Blues, The Shield, The Police News, PoliceOne.com and Calibre Press Newsline.

She maintains memberships in the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

Schwartz has dedicated her life to supporting the brave officers of law enforcement.

Governor Signs Bill to Increase Prison Sentences

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced he’s signing a contested bill that will ramp up penalties for gun crimes, second-degree murder and gang crimes.

It also would create the crime of vehicle hijacking, which now can be prosecuted as robbery.

The measure is the only bill the Republican-led Legislature passed this year to address a surge in violent crime in Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis.

But groups ranging from the NAACP to the conservative Americans for Prosperity criticized the bill as a return to tough-on-crime policies and argued locking people up longer won’t make Missouri safer.

Even the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which along with other law enforcement groups urged Parson to sign the bill, said it doesn’t go far enough to address the recent increase in violent crime.

Parson on Monday said he’ll continue looking for ways to stem violence.

“This legislation is a large step towards safety and justice for our communities,” Parson said. “However, there is a lot more to be done. These tools are just the beginning of the work that needs to be done to fight violent criminals.”

The bill takes effect Aug. 28.

Tactics to Prevent or Survive Gunfire at a Demonstration

How do you balance protecting the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble while protecting yourselves? I would like to share some tactics I employed as a member/commander of a very active civil unrest team​ ​that can help you ensure the First Amendment rights of protesters while also making sure your officers are safe.

1. PRE-EVENT RECONNAISSANCE

When you know where the demonstration will be held, send a team through the area in advance to check for construction materials, rocks, fireworks, improvised explosive devices, a sniper’s hide, etc. By policing the area in advance you can prevent everything from mischief to mayhem.

2. CONTROL THE HIGH GROUND

If there is high ground in the area, assign at least one team to locate and occupy the most commanding position. It is best to use a sniper/observer team to choose the best spot to deploy and have them provide a low key protective overwatch with their optics. With this effective overwatch in place, you now own the high ground.

3. PLACE UNDERCOVER OFFICERS IN THE CROWD

The advantages of assigning undercover officers to infiltrate the crowd are tremendous. They would primarily be present to gather intelligence and to identify threats, leaders and provocateurs.

4. DEPLOY CAMERA TEAMS TO RECORD AND ANALYZE

Strategically place mobile camera teams to not only record significant persons and activities but also analyze members of the crowd. They will be able to identify and report little trouble so that it can be managed before it becomes big trouble.

5. HAVE SWAT ON STANDBY

A fully operational SWAT contingent should be standing by out of sight, but close, with rapid response capability. Keeping them out of sight not only prevents the “confrontational” accusation, but it gives them a tactical advantage when they have to move.

6. USE TEAM CROWD CONTROL SKILLS FOR THE DEMONSTRATION

These shared skills should be possessed by the teams working events and demonstrations. Officers should have shared skills and tactics. They should have the ability to remain calm and task-oriented in the face of agitation. These shared skills should suffice if the demonstration remains peaceful, or even if the crowd becomes aggressive.

7. CONDUCT SHOTS FIRED DRILL

The reason for having a SWAT contingent, a sniper overwatch and practicing shots fired drills is because shots being fired at demonstrations and large disturbances have happened often in the past and will most certainly happen in the future.

For example, they occurred in Los Angeles in 1965 and 1992. They happened again in Milwaukee and Detroit during the 1967 riots.

St. Petersburg had two large riots in 1996. When the shooting erupted during the second of these riots one officer – who was a Viet Nam combat vet – said it sounded like a hot LZ in Vietnam.

Then there was Dallas.

The drill should be practiced when you are training in your crowd control movements and formations. You practice the movements slowly at first and speed it up a bit with subsequent repetitions. The concept of the drill is simple. Everyone involved in a crowd control assignment must be made aware that whenever shots are fired no one needs to be told to fall out of line. They should transition to their firearm and move to cover. You just do it!

To start the drill, the instructor should shout, “Shots fired from the bell tower,” for example. The movement should be practiced so officers are used to moving efficiently to the nearest cover available without tripping over each other. Their choice of cover should be evaluated. You can even have someone recording from the bell tower so that the trainees can be shown later the point of view the sniper had on them as they moved to and arrived at cover.

Emphasize smooth over fast to build the skill and avoid injury. During these drills emphasize that when moving through a troubled area, or working a demonstration every officer should constantly be scanning and assessing.

8. DOWNED OFFICER RESCUES

Crowd control training should include downed officer rescues. Officers should have the capability of moving to a downed officer, stabilizing them and then using a one person or multiple officer lifts to extract downed officers from a hot zone, while others are providing cover.

Also, emergency transports may be practiced in squads, Bearcats, vans, or whatever conveyance is available. Your everyday first responders will be very hesitant to move into a hot zone.

Now some of you will say, “We don’t have a team.” If that is the case, you don’t need anyone else but yourself to practice the most important of these drills. That would be number seven above – the shots fired drill.

THE DALLAS INCIDENT

In closing, I would like to recognize the indomitable spirit exhibited by the Dallas PD and DART on July 7, 2016. When shots rained down on these officers they instantly directed demonstrators to safety while they put themselves in harm’s way. They formed teams at once and began moving to, treating and transporting fallen officers. This was done while other officers engaged, pursued, contained and then negotiated with the suspect. Finally, they ended the threat presented by the terrorist.

Dallas PD, PoliceOne would like to send to you our highest praise and most sincere prayers. God bless and keep you all.

This article, originally published 07/13/2016, has been updated.

By Lt. Dan Marcou | Police One

About the author
Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the PoliceOne Editorial Advisory Board.

Critical Incident Response Planning for Rural Agencies

It is likely that more than one officer will be involved in most critical incidents, which can cripple staffing in a small department. Department heads in small agencies don’t have the luxury of layers of management, critical incident response teams and in-house human resources specialists.

However, there is no location so remote, no town so small, that its officers are exempt from violence.

When chaos erupts, it’s too late to prepare, but answering these four questions can bring a tiny bit of order to a very bad day.

1. CAN YOU COUNT ON HELP FROM NEIGHBORING AGENCIES?

More than one officer will likely be involved in most critical incidents and it doesn’t take many to cripple staffing in a small department.

In 2017, a deputy was killed in a shootout on a country road in North Dakota. Two other deputies fired their weapons and consequently were out of action during the investigation. That’s a staff cut of more than 30% in a matter of minutes under some of the most stressful circumstances imaginable.

Deepen your bench by ensuring there’s a mutual aid MOU in place with state police, nearby police departments and sheriffs. Consider the need to cover patrol until your officers are released to duty, and also to allow attendance for a fallen officer’s memorial services. Will you need aid in the courts, jail or dispatch? Cover that, too.

In states where police powers are complicated by jurisdictional lines, address the legalities in advance in writing. Consult with your city or county attorney and fill any gaps in policy.

Make sure resources are available before there’s an emergency, and avoid frantic phone calls in a crisis.

2. DO YOU KNOW WHAT BENEFITS YOUR COUNTY OR CITY MAKES AVAILABLE FOR YOUR OFFICERS?

If one of your officers gets hurt, a worker’s compensation claim will be filed. What happens after that is often a mystery, but it doesn’t have to be.

Ask the human resources specialist for your locality to meet with you, and go over the specifics of both short-term and long-term disability as it applies to your department. Ask about:

  • What benefits do they provide?
  • How long do they last?
  • What percentage of the injured officer’s compensation is paid, and when does it kick in?
  • What happens when the benefits run out?
  • What happens if the officer gets hurt working a sanctioned and uniformed off-duty gig?

In many states, except for the very largest agencies, an injured officer will lose a significant portion of their compensation when they can’t work.

It’s not right, but it’s also true that if the officer does not recover and return to full duty within a strictly specified time frame, in many cases they will be terminated – not retired, terminated. For most officers, and often their chief or sheriff, that’s a surprise. The myth that some magic system exists to “take care” of officers injured on the job is durable and wide-ranging, but a myth, nonetheless.

If you discover this is the case, ask what can be done to soften the blow.

Your HR department should be able to guide your officers in selecting and purchasing disability insurance to extend their benefits and mitigate the financial wreckage following a line-of-duty injury that results in a lengthy recovery, or disability.

In this difficult hiring environment, it can be valuable to add extra disability insurance as part of your department’s compensation package. It’s a strategic extra at relatively low cost to the hiring agency that does not add to the burden of retirement costs.

Schedule a time for HR to meet with your officers to review their coverage. Officers who get blindsided by shortfalls in benefits when they are injured will feel abandoned and angry, and a small agency already dealing with a staffing shortfall can’t afford another blow to morale.

Give your officers the chance to understand the situation clearly and make decisions ahead of time.

3. WHAT IF THE BOSS IS INVOLVED IN THE CRITICAL INCIDENT

There may not be specialists in small agencies, but there are lots of working chiefs and sheriffs. You need a plan for when the manure hits the fan and you’re covered in the mess.

In an example from 2016, a rural California sheriff was the only backup available when one of his deputies was ambushed and murdered in a county where any other officer can easily be three hours away. The sheriff engaged the gunman, wounding him and stopping his escape, and now he was part of the post-shooting investigation.

If that happens at your agency, who is cross-trained and designated to step into your boots as acting sheriff or chief? Who is trained and empowered to interact with the press? Who is designated to find and notify next of kin for a wounded or killed officer? Do they have the resources and contacts they will need to do that?

4. DO YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF EVERY OFFICER?

Yes, a picture.

While urban agencies have official portraits regularly taken of each officer, most rural agencies don’t. If you’re making a press release about something wonderful your officer did on duty, that picture will come in handy. If you’re making a press release because the unthinkable has happened, that picture will keep you from scraping social media for a selfie so you don’t have to ask a traumatized and grieving family member to find you one.

It doesn’t have to be a formal photograph by a professional. It does have to be recognizable and reasonably flattering (so, maybe not the ID photo taken in a hurry with lousy lighting). It’s far more important that your officers are seen as humans than that all their award ribbons are visible.

Make it easy on yourself by making sure candid pictures are taken regularly, of everyone. If it helps to have a goal, plan a slideshow once a year for an awards dinner or holiday party.

Your department’s Facebook or Instagram feed can store them for you and give you a reason to keep updated pictures on hand.

Normalcy bias allows the cliché that “nothing ever happens in small towns” to persist, but real life proves otherwise over and over again.

Hoping that nothing bad will happen because nothing has so far is not a plan. Plan now to get ahead of the parts you can control so you can reduce your stress when the world spins out of control.

By ​Kathleen Dias | Police One

About the author

Kathleen Dias writes features and news analysis on topics of concern to law enforcement professionals serving in rural and remote locations. She uses her background in writing, teaching and marketing to advocate for professional levels of training and equipment for rural officers, open channels of communication for isolated departments, and dispel myths about rural policing. She’s had a front-row seat observing rural agencies – local, state and federal – from the Sierra foothills to California’s notorious Emerald Triangle, for more than 30 years.