Friday, October 19, 2018

Flaunting Stupidity

There's 'lack of intelligence and common sense'.....and then there's just plain stupid.

Take North Charleston, South Carolina's Deandre Stevens, for instance.

The 20-year-old Stevens was arrested in connection to an armed robbery in the parking lot of a Walmart back on January 4 of 2016. He and two accomplices arranged to sell fake marijuana to 16-year-old Zarmell Polite in the parking lot, using the ruse to lure the juvenile and then rob him.

Surveillance video from the mega-store's security cameras show Stevens and his henchmen arriving in a car; a short time later, Polite shows up. Stevens and one of his sidekicks exit the car as Polite climbs in the back seat with the third man to do the deal.

Then it all goes south.

Polite is shown staggering out of the car, turning and firing a weapon into the vehicle's rear seat, killing would-be armed robber Larry Grayer, who was eighteen. Police investigators ruled Polite's actions as self-defense because Grayer had pulled a gun on Polite inside the car. 

Stevens and the remaining accomplice, 18-year-old Aliyah Young, were charged with armed robbery; They both also faced accessory-to-murder because Grayer died during their ill-fated crime. Stevens' bond was set at $200,000.

He posted bond. Then he took stupidity to a personal high-water mark.

Broadcasting on a Facebook livestream, Stevens used twenty minutes to threaten the brother of Zarmell Polite, referring to him as a snitch and pointing a handgun at the webcam. He also allegedly used drugs during the broadcast.

 Stevens also offered Xanax for sale on social media.

Using the social media video and screen captures from Stevens' less-than-stellar decision, prosecutors pressed Stevens' attorney, Bradford Andrews, for a 'guilty' plea to the armed robbery charge in exchange for a less-than-maximum prison term; Andrews argued in front of a judge for a ten-year sentence, citing his client's youth and lack of criminal history.

Armed robbery and accessory to murder. Go big or go home.

Deandre Stevens accepted the plea deal, supported by his family. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Deandre Stevens

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Professional Courtesy:. Politicians

In bygone days, a cop didn't issue a summons for every violation or traffic stop. We exercised an option called 'professional courtesy.'

In this option, we used empathy and a little common sense, traits that are becoming increasingly difficult  to find in the law enforcement community these days.

I have occasion to come in contact with the public quite often in the capacity of 'writer'; when I discover a veteran for potential interview, for example, I'll often give them a little of my background in the process, hoping they'll be a little more at ease talking with me.

And, quite often, I'll hear a story of a bad experience they once had with law enforcement.

The words most often heard are 'rude', 'unbending', uncaring' and 'arrogant'. The biggest word in that group, at least to me, is 'arrogant'. Think about it, a time when someone treated you as if they were better than you or spoke down to you.

Not a very good feeling, was it?

Young coppers today need to realize that the citizens pay their salaries, and that they have problems just like the policemen do...most times, worse problems. A citation or traffic ticket should be a last resort, depending on the severity of a violation.

Rent, car payment. medical bills, school clothes, upcoming holidays, utilities, insurance...none of that comes cheaply unless you're still living in Mom and Dad's basement.

Courtesy goes a long way in police/community relationships.That is a key. Give someone a break, do something good for someone and I guarantee they'll remember it.

Sometimes, that good will comes back at an odd angle.

Early on in my career, I was working a day shift in which it was snowing like crazy; it was slick and difficult to see. As I'm going through a business area on the two-lane road, I noticed a car that was having trouble entering the roadway from an unplowed business lot, its wheels spinning madly. As I'm almost passing by, the rear wheels caught and the car shot out in front of me, nearly causing a collision with my cruiser.

I stopped the car, seeing the driver's window come down as I approach on foot. I recognized the man immediately; he was the mayor of a neighboring municipality. The man was very apologetic, saying he would totally understand  if I needed to cite him. I told the mayor that a citation wouldn't be necessary, asking only that he drive more carefully. The mayor thanked me and drove off.

A week later, our city's mayor walked into the police department, a councilman in tow. Upon seeing me, in his best politician voice, he tells me, 'Officer Clark, I want you to know that I just got a call from Mayor (X); he told me you stopped him last week and extended some professional courtesy, which impressed him greatly. He spoke so highly of you that I'm considering giving you a commendation...'.

My blood pressure shot through the ceiling. More on that in a minute.

I responded, "Well, Mayor, I look at it this way: a pat on the back sometimes is just a high kick in the butt."

That shocked him; his face immediately turned beet-red. The Mayor did an about-face and marched out of the department, councilman following right behind him. That was the last time the Mayor ever spoke to me, as I'd leave to take a job at Mansfield PD a few months later.

Why had I responded in such manner?

A couple of months earlier, while working nights, another officer and myself apprehended half of a four-man, multistate burglary ring that specialized in hitting farm implement stores. These mopes, out of Columbus, had shot out the security lights in the rear of the store, cut a hole in the property's perimeter fence and broken into an unalarmed building used to store excess stock. They'd piled up crates of unassembled bicycles, stacks of tires, cases of oil and leather gloves, anything of value that they could fence for cash. The stolen property amounted to thousands and thousands of dollars.

A dayshift officer, assigned to do follow-up on felony offenses, later told us that he'd called Columbus PD's detective bureau to get a little more information on these criminals we'd caught. The CPD detective told him that they'd been after these guys for over a year, and that one of the men we'd arrested had made a comment that he'd kill the next police officer that tried to arrest him. CPD investigators said this ring was tied to burglaries/thefts in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

What did we hear from the Chief or the Mayor after such a high-profile arrest?

Nothing. Nada. Not a peep. We'd just been doing our jobs.

Yet this Mayor, a few months later, wants to commend me for giving a politician a break on a traffic violation.

The neighboring Mayor had been no threat, hadn't commented that he'd kill the next officer he came in contact with, like career criminal and convicted felon James Baer had.

A commendation for being courteous....which, too, was part of the job. While it was a kind gesture for Mayor X to express his gratitude, I'd probably been wrong to respond the way I had, but our Mayor's comments chafed me. My 'commendation' came when both men were convicted and sent to prison.

The feeling I got from knowing my partner and I had sent these mopes to prison was worth much more to me than a suitable-for-framing piece of paper with a nicely-worded 'attaboy'.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Remembering A Past Manhunt

Friday, April 13th, 1984.

That's the day my friend and Brother of the Badge, Richland County Sheriff's Deputy Ed Ernsberger, was shot by an escaped convict.

I was working at Ontario PD at the time, just a few months before I would leave to become a member of the Mansfield Police Department. I can't tell you what I was doing when I'd heard Ed had been shot, but I can tell you about what I did the next day.

I was part of a manhunt, along with two of my co-workers at Ontario PD, Ted Brinley and Mike Burchett.

Ed was the resident deputy up in Shiloh, as I recall, partnered with K9 Bear...a huge Rottweiler. Ed responded to a 'suspicious person' complaint, called in by a citizen due to an escaped prisoner from the Ohio State Reformatory earlier that week. Ed found the mope, not being sure if it was the escapee or not....turns out it was.

As Deputy Ernsberger patted the man, Mark Manley, down, the convict turned and began fighting with Ed. Manley gained control of the deputy's .357 magnum and shot him in the sternum, Ernsberger's bulletproof vest saving him from certain death. As Manley lined the downed officer up for a head shot, Bear exited the cruiser and charged Manley, causing his shot to miss.

Bear took three rounds in all; Ed took a second shot just above the arm hole in the side of his vest, which then glanced off his shoulder blade.

Knowing Manley had fired all six rounds from Ed's revolver, the wounded deputy attempted to re-enter his cruiser to get the shotgun from its rack. Manley jumped on the deputy inside the cruiser and began pistol-whipping him, just as the shotgun rack lock released. The convict wrestled the shotgun away from Ed, who then had the presence of mind to put his cruiser in gear and roar away from the scene.

Mark Manley, who had been incarcerated for felonious assault on a police officer, escaped the area with Ed's 12 gauge.

Ed survived his wounds; miraculously, so did Bear the Rottweiler; she carried those three slugs until she died several years later.

As you'd imagine, a massive manhunt ensued, with officers from every agency in Richland county, and some from neighboring counties as well as state agencies, taking part. Helicopters and aircraft, both police and civilian, took part in the hunt for Manley.

Back to Brinley, Burchett and I.

We'd been searching a woodline somewhere in the boonies for most of the day; the passage of time has robbed me of exactly where we were. As the three of us were walking through a field toward  where we'd parked the cruisers, we noticed a truck from WBNS-TV out of Columbus parked nearby, a man with a camera on his shoulder filming the area. At one point I made some kind of remark to Ted, who was walking beside me, and he playfully smacked me in the back of the head as we all three laughed.

Of course, that clip made the six-o'clock news.

Manley was found a week and a half later by a teenager walking in the woods, the would-be cop killer dead of a self-inflicted shotgun blast, Ed's shotgun laying beside him.

A fitting end.

My friend Ed is still around, and we keep in touch through social media; we really need to get coffee one day and catch up face-to-face.

Mikey B, as I've called him for decades, is retired and living on a farm in rural Ashland county,a survivor of cancer that nearly took him from us. He's also an accomplished musician, playing stand-up bass fiddle in a bluegrass band.

Ted Brinley, one of the funniest guys I've ever known, died the following year from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident; I was honored to have been one of his pallbearers. I woke this morning thinking about Ted and that afternoon walking through the field with my friends

This past week's manhunt for fugitive Shawn Christy, which dominated the news for several days, ended on a good note, as he was apprehended without incident near Camp Mowana off US 42. Christy had been wanted for threatening to kill the President and a prosecutor in Pennsylvania. He'll now face justice for his threats.

I'm quite sure the Christy manhunt sparked the dream of that past manhunt so many decades ago, and the memories of Ed, Bear, Mikey B and Ted.

...and that dang video clip playing on the evening news.

You can read Ed's story here:

Ed Ernsberger and Bear

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Fun Day And Reliving The Past

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to take my grandson Butch for a visit to the police department where I spent most of my law enforcement career: Mansfield PD.

Butch, being an inquisitive five-year-old, had asked me once about being a policeman: I'd given him a thumbnail sketch of the job, then drove by 30 North Diamond and pointed out the city building, where Papaw used to work. I knew what his next comment would be.

"Can we stop, Papaw?"

That was last fall. I wanted his first encounter with the world in which I once lived, where a part of me still remains, to be special, one he'll remember long after I'm gone. I told him we'd stop another time.

That time was last Sunday.

Thanks to my friend and brother in blue. Korey Kaufman, it was a very special visit. For those that don't know him, Korey is a combat-hardened Marine veteran with a heart of gold. He's also one of several K9 handlers at Mansfield PD and currently works day watch. I figured a Sunday morning would be a good time to schedule Butch's visit as , usually, calls-for-service run a little slower because most mopes are still in bed after a hard Saturday night doing whatever it is they do.

Butchie got to meet Korey's partner, Denise, a lively Belgian malinois who he said loves kids. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my wide-eyed grandson slowly shed his shyness and interact with Korey as he was shown how all the bells and whistles work inside a police car.

Yep, even the siren.

I documented the visit by taking photos and video of the occasion, Butch smiling the entire time. Then we ventured up to the radio room, or dispatch center, or whatever they call it now, and my long-time friend LaWanda met my little man. Butch ended his visit there by hugging her; she's a real sweetheart and LaWanda is one of the best dispatchers I ever worked with. Ever.

As we drove home, Butch told me about his favorite part as he sat strapped into his child  seat; I don't think he stopped talking about Denise and seeing her 'attack' the bite-sleeved arm of Officer Rich Clapp until we pulled into the garage at home.

I didn't hear everything he said, though; my head was somewhere else.

My mind had wandered back about twenty-five years or so, to a time when my sons Travis and Tyler were little guys. I'd occasionally take them with me if I had to run to the PD for something. They, too, had been wide-eyed back then, and it wasn't at all uncommon for some of the guys I worked with to rough-house with them or snatch them up in a bear-hug, the boys laughing as my brothers made them feel at ease in our rough domain. It seemed everyone on the department had kids back then, mostly all of us considering each other family to one degree or another, and our kids were part of that family.

I surely hope that atmosphere still exists, because much in my former world has changed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Generation's Pearl Harbor Event

Throughout this nation, America pauses to remember events that forever changed our world on this date, altering the trajectory of freedoms as we once knew them.

Everyone old enough to remember can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned that American Airlines flight 11, out of Boston and bound for Los Angeles, had inexplicable changed course, altitude and speed and eventually slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at about 0846 local time.

What had begun as a picture-perfect day, with comfortable temperatures and crystal-blue skies across much of the nation, evolved into one of the darkest in America's history.

Initially, most news outlets reported the plane crash as a terrible aviation accident, caused when a small private plane inexplicably flew into the north tower, striking it between floors 93 and 99.

America was shocked by this unfortunate 'error' by the plane's pilot. However, as the minutes passed and local New York broadcast media began showing aerial shots of the massive damage, it became evident that it was not caused by a private aircraft. It had been something much larger...a commercial jetliner.

Pundits were putting forth conjectured scenarios as to how such an event could have occurred, none of them making any sense, when, on live television, United Airlines flight 175 streaked into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 0902 hours.

The innocence of my generation ended at that very moment. Our nation was under obvious terrorist attack from an as-yet unknown enemy.

The Pentagon in Washington was also struck by a hijacked commercial jetliner; only by the brave and heroic actions of those aboard was United flight 93 diverted from its intended target and crashed into a field in Somerset county, Pennsylvania.

In the years since, we've learned who that enemy was, how they accomplished three-quarters of their mission, who planned and who funded their operations. We've learned the names of the thousands who perished in those buildings and aircraft, the 343 New York City Fire Department personnel, the thirty-three NYPD officers, the paramedics and those that have died since that day due to injury or cancer contracted while attempting to rescue survivors who may have been trapped in the twin towers' rubble after their collapse.

America's patriot heroes have waged war on those who perpetrated and celebrated events of that day...and continue to do so even now. Let us not forget the warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice combating radical Islamic jihadists who seek to do us more harm, right here in our homeland.

We as a people, the American people, must be ever vigilant.

And we must never forget.

Friday, August 24, 2018

NFL Player Protests Have It All Wrong

Warning: this post may offend you.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which every living being on this planet is happy. There are no conflicts, no us-versus-them, no left, no right, everybody is living in peace and harmony. All people have everything they need to be happy, no one goes without life's basics and the most important function of law enforcement is directing traffic and getting cats out of trees. Birds are singing, the sun is shining and the lawn mows itself.

Now slap yourself in the face and come back to the real world.

We all know that idyllic setting will never exist; the only point in time in the history of  mankind it did exist was in the Garden of Eden, before the whole 'forbidden fruit' incident.

Oops! I probably just upset a whole class of folks for mentioning something from the Bible. Get over yourselves, Darwinists and atheists, because I don't care.

Now imagine a country in which the vast majority of citizens actually have respect for the men and women in law enforcement and the laws that govern this land we call America.

That world once existed, too, just as the Garden of Eden did.

Every day, watching the news on television or reading the headlines, we see the regression of society, the erosion of respect between people regardless of class or social standing. Right is becoming wrong, black is becoming white (that is not a racial statement, readers, so don't get your underwear in a bunch) and bottom is becoming top.

What has happened to us?

There's not enough space on this forum to attempt to compile a list of driving factors responsible for the growing chaos spreading across our nation, the causative forces that are dividing...and then

So let's just look at one that is in the news seemingly every day: the NFL player protests.

It all started when a player, whose name I won't devote space to, decided to kneel during the playing of our National Anthem before a game to protest police brutality toward minorities. Then said player wore socks at football practice that depicted police officers as pigs.

Many of you are too young to remember the 60s and early seventies when folks who would, today, be considered 'social justice warriors', chanted slogans like "Off (kill) the pigs! Off the pigs!"

I remember those times well. It angered me as a young teen and it still does today, only now it is much more pronounced, thanks to the advent of the internet and social media. Everybody has a video camera on their phone and instant access to a world-wide viewing audience, so let's just keep beating the horse until long after it dies.

Oops! I just made a statement that might anger PETA. Too bad; that phrase has been around since long before the folks of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were ever thought about. Mind you, I'm opposed to mistreatment of animals to any extent...except for mice, rats, snakes and mosquitos.

The player 'protests' have since snowballed, gaining momentum like an avalanche, and spread across the entire league, causing a disconnect between a large portion of the fan base of the National Football League and its players.

"But what about their right to free speech?", you ask?

Hey, have at it, NFL players, only don't do it on company time...or mine. You can protest all you want in the offseason or during time away from the practice field. Owners have a right to govern how you act before, during and after games while representing their teams, teams they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire.

Imagine, let's say, that I insisted on wearing a 'Save the Whales' button on my uniform during my police career. Think I would have lasted 31 years? Negative. I wouldn't even have made it off  the first day of the probationary period. Would the Chief have been within his rights to fire me for disobeying uniform regulations? Absolutely and without doubt. Could I have worn that same button off-duty on my civilian clothing? Again, absolutely and without doubt I could have.

There are rules that must be followed, set by those that run NFL teams and police departments. The league has specific rules regarding uniforms, just as law enforcement agencies do. They also have rules of conduct...the same as law enforcement agencies. Players and police officers must obey them or face punishment. Period.

Kneeling during the anthem? That's just a whole lot of disrespect to our nation, flag and those who defend them, which includes military and police.

Now let's look at the specific issue of 'police brutality'. Anyone who says it doesn't exist, that all police officers are upstanding, by-the-book coppers, lacks intelligence. There's bad apples everywhere, those that slip through the cracks in the hiring process.

The fact is, though, that throughout the course of any given year, law enforcement officers across the nation engage in multiple millions of public contacts; considering that, there's bound to be incidents in which bad or wrong decisions are made and actual criminal acts on the part of police are committed. No one wearing a badge wants that, believe me, but it happens.

No one wants misconduct on behalf of, say, clergymen, physicians or educators, either, yet compared to police officers, those groups have a much higher rate of misconduct than law enforcement. Do the research.

So why, then, do NFL players choose to say that police brutality is a bigger issue, larger than, say, black-on-black crime or domestic violence, for instance? Why do they not instead protest all the gun violence and killings in Chicago, a city with the strictest gun-control laws on the books?

Because, you coppers are easier targets.

It's the culture of a segment of our society....and I don't like it at all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Short-Sighted Self Pity

You have problems and issues. I have problems and issues; no one is immune from them, but don't allow yourself to magnify whatever ails you into being an uncontrollable, insurmountable challenge.

Right now, somewhere in this country, a person is eating out of a dumpster.

Someone is drawing their last breath.

Someone, seeing no other path, is taking their own life.

Someone is laying in bed, unable to arise on their own and asking God for the millionth time, "WHY?"

Someone is halfway across the globe, desperately trying to get home with no means to do so.

Someone is totally alone and doesn't want to be.

Someone is grieving the loss of a spouse, child, sibling or parent.

Someone is sleeping in their own filth inside a makeshift shelter under a bridge.

Someone is trying to drown their sorrows in alcohol.

Someone is sitting in a hospital room, watching their child struggle to live through the night.

Someone is being beaten and robbed.

Someone's child is being abused.

Someone is injecting what will be their last dose of heroin.

Someone is discovering they have a terminal illness.

Someone is losing their job.

Someone is in excruciating, unbearable pain, unable to afford medication.

Someone won't see another sunrise.

This list is endless; the point of it? Stop wallowing in self-pity because, somewhere, someone is much worse off than you.