Posts tagged “Michael Brown

Vote Michael Screnock for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Wisconsin’s election for a new justice to the state Supreme Court has taken a partisan turn. Probably because the philosophies of the two candidates — Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock — are dramatically different.

Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that Black Lives Matter activists, as well as the anti-police holdovers from the Obama administration, have put the full-weight of their so-called “resistance” movement behind Dallett.

The stakes in his race are high. Think back to August of 2014, when a Ferguson, Missouri police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a man who had just committed a strong-armed robbery at a convenience store. Police haters around the country, including several NFL players, began the now debunked “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative. Weeks later, we learned Brown didn’t have his hands up and, instead, tried to disarm the officer.

The facts didn’t stop the cabal of leftists cop-haters — a group empowered by Attorney General Eric Holder. Four years later, a group led by Holder, a man who walked with the leaders of Black Lives Matter, has backed Dallett.

Holder’s de facto endorsement serves as an enormous red flag for police officers in Wisconsin.

Law enforcement officers, their families, and those who support a law and order approach to violent crime, are encouraged to support Michael Screnock’s bid for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Screnock is an attorney who interprets the law. Based on her own public statements, Dallet, like too many of those in black robes, is willing to conjure things up to make a square peg fit into the far-left’s round hole.

With high school anti-Second Amendment activists, like David Hogg, and former liberal US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, seeking to abolish individual gun ownership, the time to vote for Judge Screnock is now! The election is Tuesday, April 3. Law enforcement, make your voice known.

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Steve Spingola is an author, cold case investigator, and a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide lieutenant.


Police Use of Force: A Wedge Issue for Grievance Politicians

The use of force by law enforcement has been the issue du jour in the news lately.   While Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri has dominated national headlines, the shooting death of unarmed Dontre Hamilton, a troubled 31-year-old man killed by a police officer at Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park in April, resulted in a smaller, yet similar, protest last Friday.

Some of the African-American political officials present brought a litany of complaints to the table: the high rate of joblessness in the black community, poverty, ignorance, and despair.  While serving in their public capacities, however, many of these same African-American officials have actually done little to pass laws that would significantly curb the use of excessive police force.

For instance, state legislatures can pass laws that expand the rights of individuals beyond those that are constitutionally protected.  One example is Wisconsin state statute 946.75, which criminalizes an officer’s denial of an individual’s request “…to consult and be advised by an attorney at law at personal expense, whether or not such person is charged with a crime” while in police custody.  From my experience, though, the most effective way to curb police abuse is not the criminalization of some forms of law enforcement conduct.   After all, how many officers have ever been convicted for violating § 946.75?  None that I know of, even though there have been documented instances of police officers violating this statute.

Some, especially civil rights attorneys, believe lawsuits are the answer, even though the vast majority of the monetary costs and damages associated with police officer lawsuits are absorbed by a municipality’s insurance.  Consequently, the only persons actually feeling any pain from police officer use of force lawsuits are the taxpayers.

Most law enforcement officers and district attorneys are going to cringe when they read this; nevertheless, the most effective way to marginalize the use of excessive force is the suppression of evidence.  The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to steer the nation’s courts this way in Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386 (1989); whereby, the Court shifted the constitutional protection of an excessive use of police force (for those not incarcerated in jails or prisons) from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Fourth Amendment, in effect, making an excessive use of force tantamount to an unlawful seizure.

Defense attorneys soon realized that a remedy to an unlawful seizure might be the suppression of evidence, and cases began working their way through the courts.   In U.S. v. Watson, 558 F.3d 702,  the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals abruptly put the kibosh on such a defense by finding no casual connection between the evidence collected and the seizure of a defendant via an excessive use of police force, even though the sole purpose of suppression is to discourage police misconduct.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals used the Watson decision as a catalyst to negate the suppression of evidence based on excessive police use of force in State v. Herr, 346 Wis. 2d 603.

Regardless of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling or a Wisconsin court’s finding in State v. Herr, the state legislature can — when it sees fit — offer more rights by law than the Constitution or the courts grant.  If the Milwaukee delegation in the state legislature is so outraged by what it sees as a pattern of excessive force on the part of the police, why is it then that not one Democrat has offered a bill to suppress evidence seized after a police use of excessive force, not even during the Doyle years when the Democrats controlled all three branches of government?

Some officers believe that the police use of force is being used by Democrats as a wedge issue.  In other words, African-American lawmakers use these protests to garner some street credibility and to gin-up their political base, but, when the rubber meets the road, they fail to propose legislation that would suppress evidence gathered as a result of an excessive use of police force.  In this way, the issue of excessive force stays alive for yet another day to be used whenever the grievance political community sees fit.

Unfortunately, based on the turnout at Friday’s protest at Red Arrow Park, it appears that Democrat lawmakers from Milwaukee are playing their base like a fiddle.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2014


The Media Embarrasment in Ferguson

Watching “Fox and Friends” this morning made me realize why I rarely watch television. The topic du jour, of course, was the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.   Here is some advice to television hosts who know very little about law enforcement and criminal investigations: before asking questions or making ignorant statements, get a grasp on the issues at hand.

For example, much as been made about the police releasing the video of a man, reportedly Michael Brown, acting thug-like while stealing some cigars from the store.  From the video, the item being removed appeared to be a box of Philly Blunts. These cigars are known to have their tobacco removed and marijuana inserted.  More importantly, the video depicts the mindset of Mr. Brown moments before he was stopped by the officer.  Statements from the Ferguson police chief indicate that the officer was stopping Brown and his friend for walking in the middle of the street.  The officer apparently had no knowledge of the strong-arm robbery that had occurred moments earlier; however, Brown allegedly did.  As such, Brown might have reacted in a manner consistent with an individual involved in a robbery.

Thus, the reason the police released the video is to illustrate that Brown might not have been the gentle giant — simply minding his own business — when he had police contact.  The video does exists and does not disparage the robber; the robber disparaged himself.  Moreover, in the immediate aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the media and the public had no issues with the video of the officers beating King being released.  Video is not an allegation but an illustration of what actually occurred.  After watching the video, members of the public are free to draw their own conclusions.

Showing a significant lack of understanding regarding the criminal justice system, one of the “Fox and Friends” hosts wondered, aloud, why a warrant had not been issued for the officer who shot Brown, leading readers to believe that the officer had been charged.  At this point in time, I am unaware of the results of Brown’s autopsy or that statement of the officer investigators. This is a complicated process.  Internally, the officer might have been ordered to provide a statement. When this is done, the officer is typically read a “Garrity warning,” which states that any information provided by the officer during an internal investigation cannot be used in any subsequent criminal proceeding.  This warning is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Garrity v. New Jersey; whereby, the Court held that statements obtained by threats of discipline would violate the officer’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if admitted in a criminal case.

The next issue is the police response to the protestors and the looters.  From my experience, these issues need to be dealt with separately.  Missouri’s governor should have called out the National Guard to protect Ferguson’s businesses, which would have enabled civilian law enforcement personnel to focus on order maintenance matters. Instead, law enforcement has refused to protect area businesses, even suggesting that the business owners arm themselves. The last time I checked, businesses paid property taxes and, as such, deserve to have their property protected against looters. Moreover, if one of the business owners had shot a looter, the level of violence would surely escalate.

In regards to the shooting of Michael Brown, the investigation will work its way out.  Forensics and ballistics will provide more detailed information, which is important because physical evidence does not lie.  In the interim, the media — seeking ratings during the doldrums of August — will, no doubt, continue its uninformed coverage of events in Missouri.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2014