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police / legal


Since we here in Portland are being blitzed by our PoPo as to the
"goodness" of Tasers, I thought it'd be most appropriate to post
what another city--Joplin, Missouria--has experienced with their
cops going on a Taser-mania, along with the comments by citizens
regarding the SNAFU created.

Why would we want to know what other cities have experienced in the way of "problems" with Tasers you ask? Well, with such a very
troubled force as the PoPo have been, we realize that the chances
of "abuse" are very high and not only will that affect us in high
increase in citizen-killings, further alienation and polarization
between "citizens" and "law-enforcement"(all law-enforcement in
the area suffers as result of the PoPo-problems...guilt of associ-
ation!) and the financial cost in legal settlements in indetermin-
ate at this point...we, the citizens, may have to fund a tax raise
to fund the increase cost of doing business>claim settlements!

So, follows is the article from the JOPLIN GLOBE...read & learn!
Taser reports made secret

City terms reports personnel records

Jeff Wells
Globe Staff Writer
Print this story

In the wake of Globe requests for reports on the use of force by police officers, the city of Joplin on Friday did an about-face, declaring reports on officer use of Taser guns also off-limits to public scrutiny.

A state press association lawyer termed the city's justification for the move questionable, and an official with a civil-rights organization said more secrecy adds to the risk of eroding public trust.

The Globe earlier this month requested the Police Department's use-of-force reports for Jan. 1, 2003, to Apr. 30, 2005.

Officers file the reports after they hit a person or use a weapon - including Tasers, which are weapons that deliver an electrical shock to their targets.

The city denied the newspaper's request for the overall use-of-force reports on Wednesday, saying that the reports are confidential personnel records.

The reports had not been considered confidential as recently as about seven months ago. The Police Department had in October 2004 given the Globe its records about the use of Tasers in the wake of a house explosion that could have been triggered by use of a Taser.

The Globe's review of those reports showed that one officer, Charles Ward, accounted for 28 percent of the department's Taser deployments since the force adopted the weapon. From May 1, 2003, to Sept. 30, 2004, Joplin officers fired Tasers at suspects 88 times. Ward used the weapon 25 of the 88 times, more than any other officer.

In recent weeks, the Globe learned and reported that Ward and Officer Ron Buchanan were disciplined after questioning, handcuffing, and arresting an 11-year-old boy at his elementary school in November 2004.

City officials have refused to divulge any specifics regarding the discipline in connection with that incident, and it was in connection with that investigation that the Globe asked for the use-of-force reports, not just Taser reports, on all officers. The city refused that request, contending that the reports are personnel records.

On Friday, the Taser reports were added to the classification.

"Actually, from this point in time we are going to consider the Taser reports the same status as use-of-force reports," police Chief Kevin Lindsey said. "In other words, we are not going to be releasing those."

City Attorney Brian Head said the use of force report is a performance evaluation and therefore allowed to be closed under state law and required to be secret under city resolution.

"A preponderance of agencies don't release them," Lindsey said. "They form the basis of discipline records and therefore are not subject to release."

The Globe asked Lindsey how the public would know when officers have used force if the reports were not available.

"The general public would not," Lindsey said. "The department would know."

When asked why police released the records in October, Lindsey replied, "We didn't do as much research."

Lindsey said the reports do not go into the officer's personnel file, but Head said that doesn't mean they are open.

"There are records that contain personnel information that may not be in a personnel file," Head said. "The character of the document is what is important not where it is kept."

Lindsey would not say what is included in a use of force report.

"I don't know that I need to share that with you since we don't release that information," Lindsey said. "It is the pertinent information regarding the circumstances surrounding the use of force."

Jean Maneke, an attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said that the reports could be considered an investigative report and therefore open to inspection when the investigation concluded.

"We've never had a court really consider the issue," Maneke said. "I think the court would be inclined to consider them investigation reports based on the way they ruled in Guyer (v. Kirkwood)."

Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and a critic of Taser use, said that police operating in secret jeopardizes the public's trust.

"In a democracy, we give police a great deal of power," he said. "Everyone recognizes they have a difficult job and we authorize them to use force against the citizens - sometimes deadly force and that sort of arrangement only works if we trust they are following the rule of law."
concerned voter writes:
"The police department, and their budget should be scrutinized, and every nook and cranny checked and exposed. Their is more to this corruption than has been told so far. You would be shocked. This whole thing is Outrageous and will not be tolerated. "
russ writes:
"as a former resident of sw mo i was always under the inpression that Joplin was part of that area. however the actions of the local police department in the last month has led me to believe that i was in error. seems as though joplin is a private estate in which the police department not only enforces the laws, they just make them up as they see fit to serve their own needs and wishes."
aaron wilson writes:
"tasers make police officers trigger-happy. In fact, I believe it was a taser-gun that ignited the natural gas in an explosion several months back, killing some folks. they are told its the "smart-bomb" for every situation. We may be able to suggest to these brainiacs when and when not to use their taser if we could have some input.These mental midgets don't understand that when you try to hide something from the public, we feel that there is something wrong. rightly so"
Preponderance for JUSTICE IN JOPLIN writes:
"There is obviously a preponderance of Joplin parents and citizens who couldn't care less what OTHER agencies do. JUSTICE IN JOPLIN is the mandate of the people HERE! Saddle up, I hear the cavalry!"
SCB writes:
"What law give Joplin city government the right to hide these disciplines. Second, Why is no one concerned that Officer Ward Has 25 out of 88 taser shots. My Lord! I hope I never meet this man. He obviously is incredibly violent. Is He allowed in our schools anymore as he was with dare. Would any parent feel ok if he is allowed anywhere our children are?"
anne black writes:
"You know, the thought just occurred to me that the city manager is the boss of the law director and police chief - the council are Rohr's bosses. I wonder how this whole load with the taser and the PD's handling that boy's arrest will be reflected in how Mr. Rohr's perfrmance evaluation that the Globe recently reported was being done or was to be done? I'd love to see that puppy when it's done or is that a personnel record and off limits to the public. My cousin in Ohio says that those are public info according to Ohio state law. "
anne black writes:
"Where in the world is the new city manager Rohr with all the questions about our police department? Is he back in Ohio on more personal business - still don't know what that's all about. After all isn't he paid (big bucks) to be captain of the ship accountable to the council (and they the voters). He's accountable as he demands the same from his senior staff. I bet that if you called any of the senior staff in Ohio and Florida, where the "wonder boy" was the greatest if you believe the Ohio mayor, you'd hear that he was equally silent during times when his leadership was necessary and demanded, but prrobably absent. I wonder how long he'll let his department heads dangle in the wind taking the heat, rightfully or not?? As they said in that hamburger tv ad years ago, "Where's the leader?" - oh that was beef. That's what I have with his lack of leadership- a beef. "
Plain Talker writes:
"Where do we go from here? The lack of leadership at City Hall reminds me of an Edmund Burke statement from long ago, "IT IS NOT WHAT A LAWYER TELLS ME I MAY DO; BUT WHAT HUMANITY, REASON, AND JUSTICE TELL ME I OUGHT TO DO." Perhaps City officials' idology should be CARING, not controlling! if not, maybe they all should abdicate their "thrones." Who is REALLY in control? We the people may not be privy to their documents, but we still have choices to which "they" may not be privy. Get my drift? Stimulating thought?"
brad writes:
"Nothing is more precious to us than our children. That we cannot get a straight answer from our Elected officials, about their protection from police tyranny, says much. It is better to protect an "officer's" personnel records from public scrutiny, than to answer to the very people they supposedly serve. But wait, they are not there to serve us. They are only there for their own self-serving reasons. Are these professional elected officials? I would rather be governed by the first 25 people that I see at Wal-mart than this group of clowns. If these are all Joplin-schooled residents, GOD help us in the future. "
bj writes:
"To the Karns. Please Please sue. They are rapeing this city and you can stop them. If you do not, Officer Ward will keep up this reign of tyranny. Please sue. "
joe writes:
"I am researching what criteria has to be satisfied to call a grand jury. Can you help with this? I am so dis-satisfied with the people who are now running our city, that I cannot even express it. I do not appreciate being told it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS, yet every thing that we do, is made public immediately. I am totally and completely sick of the arrogance, the gall, and the demonization of anyone who speaks out against what was done. ( Jack Stults comes to mind ) -- Where is justice in 2005?-- Protests won't work, THEY DON'T CARE.-- Joplin, what do we do?-- We have set up a website for secure communications on the matter, and we can be reached at the email listed. SHOW them the door SHOWME staters. Show THEM your pride, SHOW THEM your DIGNITY, SHOW THEM your HONOR. Because, quite frankly, I am not impressed so far, with either, in ANYONE I have dealt with on this matter. Join us---  http://www.citizensforjoplin.blogspot.com "
RLH writes:
"For those of us in our community who are not familiar with the history of our great country, I urge you to take the time to read and understand The Declaration of Independence. It was the uncontrolled use of government and law that lead to our forefathers to make a stand for their Rights. Our Constitution of the United States gives us the Rights to make our Government responsible for the atrocities made against its citizens and their Rights. No matter how trivial the reasons behind it, the Rights of this family have been violated by the exploited use of power given to these Officers. It is their duty to "Protect and Serve" the citizens of Joplin, not to offend them as they have. We have the Right to know the end results of this abuse to ensure that our personal Rights have been preserved and to have comfort in knowing the integrity of our City Government is serving its community's best interest and not the interest of the few in office. Where is the justice and how can we sleep knowing that the City Government condones the abuse by these Officers by allowing them to still participate as Officers of the Law in our community to further offend our Rights and those of our children. Stand your ground citizens of Joplin; we have the Right to know. Don't allow our City Government to fatigue us into submission and compliance on this issue. For as if this abuse fades out quietly so does our Freedom. "
disgusted writes:
"More lies and cover-up from Joplin's Secret Police."
KenC writes:
"The act of the officer(s) was criminal. Conspiring to and/or covering up the crime is criminal. Why do the officials involved keep digging a bigger hole for themselves(note 50,000 spoke of digging a hole)? It's going to get to the point to where those involved in the cover-up will not even be employable in this area. We need more comments(or no comment) from elected officials outside the city of Joplin. Those budget numbers for the Joplin PD are interesting too. I would like to see a breakdown of their budget to make sure all the money is going where it's supposed to. Given the apparent dishonesty in the assault of the 11 year-old, I would expect to find discrepancies in the budget as well. Or is this information "classified" also?"
Mike writes:
"Maybe it's time for a police chief to be replaced, since he seems like he does not want to support or work with the cumminity! Maybe it's time to replace the police Chief Kevin Lindsey. "
Joey writes:
"Even though my comments are never posted when I submit one, here we go... I think the city needs to learn a lesson, I think the mother of that boy should sue the Police Department and the City of Joplin for harassment of her son, and emotional problems. Also she should file charges of false imprisonment."
scb writes:
"This is just what Thomas Jefferson was talking about. Our Joplin Government is using the JPD to create evil. Any time they use force in an inappropriate way or use their badge to kidnap one of our children they can just call it classified. Please stay on this Globe."
Clinton writes:
"Maybe it's time to get the Federal Government involved in this situation. Joplin city leaders are a disgrace to our nation in their actions concerning this whole police matter."
Paying Attention writes:
"From another reader's comment in Letters to the Editor today, "When the supposed good are bad, they are by far the worst. But watch how they will circle the wagons. A good example has been Galena, Kan., where the citizens had to call in a grand jury." He went on to write profoundly, "The fox is not going to guard the chickens. If we give up our rights for security, we deserve and will get neither. Is this the type of police force we need or want for Joplin?" These excerpts are so WELL-SAID."
One of 50,000 Nobodies writes:
"I suppose ANY report by the police can now be deemed a basis of DISCIPLINE RECORDS and be "unavailable" according to Joplin's Police Chief Kevin Lindsey. How CONVENIENT! And, of course, the Department should know everything, and the "general public" should know nothing. Well, naturally, ALL police reports contain "the pertinent information regarding the circumstances surrounding" ANY actions by the police and should be declared "personnel" records and protected from scrutiny of the "nobody" residents and taxpayers who are EXCEEDINGLY CONCERNED that a couple of "their" officers broke the law and violated many rules by abusing a little 5th grade boy while at one of OUR schools. For sure, according to our new City Manager Mark Rohr and Police Chief Lindsey, "it is "nobody's" (meaning parents and citizens) business and that just saying that the officers were disciplined should suffice! City Attorney Brian Head has reportedly uttered, "The character of the document is what is important not where it is kept." We the people say "IT IS THE CHARACTER OF THE POLICE AND CITY OFFICIALS THAT IS IMPORTANT NOT HOW THEY ARE DISCIPLINED." Kurtenbach stated, "In a democracy, we give police a great deal of power, everyone recognizes they have a difficult job and we authorize them to use force against the citizens - sometimes deadly force and that sort of arrangement only works if we trust they are following the rule of law" he was absolute. There seems to be a "preponderance" of power at the Joplin Police Department and City Hall. There was in Hitler's Germany, too. Hello, come in!"
2005 The Joplin Globe Publishing Company