With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 4

FRAN

I was in an on duty shooting.  It wasn’t my day to work.  I was working for another girl who couldn’t get the day off for a wedding, so we traded shifts. It was Saturday, and it was Sweetest Day.

The suspect, a woman, Fran, had depression issues.  She had tried to commit suicide in the past.   We don’t know what happened in the home prior to the incident, but we knew the relationship between her and her husband was not good.  During the evening, he left to go to the party store around the corner.  They were both heavy drinkers.  She grabbed her husband’s fully loaded Chinese SKS assault weapon from the closet, hopped in their car, parked under the highway facing towards the party store. This was just around the corner from their house.

I felt really bad for the poor soul that had just been released from Kent County Jail. He spent hours walking all the way home from the Kent County Jail to the West Side of Grand Rapids. As he was walking by, she started shooting at him.  He ran into a nearby gas station and the clerk called 911 for him.

I was nearby, and the second officer on scene.  Negotiation attempts by the first officer to get her to put down the weapon failed.  He kept trying.  All the responding officers were yelling on the radio.  This made it difficult to understand them.  I saw that there were a number of things that needed to be taken care of.  We had been warned of tunnel vision occurring during an incident like this, but I didn’t have it. I felt a calm assurance fall over me.  I asked dispatch in a calm voice to send officers to close down nearby roads, get people inside the nearby businesses (because they were outside gawking) and for everyone south of our position to take cover. All of our weapons were pointed in that direction.

The dispatcher later told me he realized everything was ok because I was there, I was calm and that had a calming effect on him.  The woman tentatively raised and lowered her weapon several times, just short of shouldering it, verbally refusing to comply.  Finally, she raised and shouldered the weapon, pointing it toward other officers. I was in good position to take the shot.  There were 5 of us that fired our weapons on Stocking St under the highway.  Three male and two female officers. Tina and I are the only two women in the history of the police department who have been involved in this type of incident while working at GRPD.

The entire incident from beginning to end took 11 minutes.  It felt like an eternity (yes, the slo-mo did happen).  We did not want to take her life, but we had no choice because she was going to take someone else’s.

We also later learned that a program on “Suicide by Cop” had run on a news program the night before.  We believe this was her end goal.

While we were still on the street in full uniform, they took our weapons as evidence. There had just been a training that said not to do this.  It left us like sitting ducks, no way to protect ourselves while in full uniform.  Our Policy and Procedure manual said that if we were in uniform we were to carry our weapon.  We were each taken to the Detective Unit and placed in a separate interrogation rooms.  They assigned us each an escort.  A new female officer was assigned to escort me to the police department and stay with me all night, even trips to the restroom. We were now the subjects of investigation in a homicide.

Woody, the training Lt. I had complained about was called in.  He entered the interrogation room, looked directly at the officer assigned to babysit me, and told her “Oh, we were worried about you” even though she wasn’t at the incident.  He didn’t say anything similar to me, but asked me if I was right or left-handed.  I told him right-handed.

He came back later with a temporary replacement gun.  I stuffed it in my holster and secured it.  I worked second shift, but didn’t get home until after third shift.  My babysitter had stayed the night when I called her and told her what happened.  She was awesome! (Thank you Jennifer M.S.).  I sent my young girls to school (they and their classmates would have no idea), and I started making phone calls to my family members and close friends so they would know I was ok when it all hit the news.  Then I went to bed, of course I couldn’t sleep.  My thoughts revolved around how it was textbook trained, how we did everything we were trained to do.  I was most worried about what the department would do, make us sacrificial lambs for politics sake?  I was less concerned about the public.  Many members of the public had witnessed the whole scenario.  One citizen even videotaped the whole thing (I am so glad he did, thank you!).  It showed we were honest in reporting what had happened and how the threat had become deadly requiring our actions.  The public wanted to know why the “Overkill.”

Well, here’s something to think about.  In a split second you had 5 people, in a position to do something, who came to exactly the same decision at the same time.   What are you gonna do? Hesitate and yell across the street to the other officers?  Hey! AJ! Are you gonna shoot?  Cause if you are then I won’t.  There’s no time to “take a poll”, and in fact that would have been deadly for a citizen or an officer.  The others had to take cover or didn’t have a shot.

We were placed on administrative leave until the prosecutor reviewed the case and cleared us.  We were sent to the shooting range, probably to be sure we wouldn’t freeze, and to get acquainted with our temporary replacement weapons.  I am right-handed.  The majority of people are.  This means the magazine release is under your thumb on your shooting hand. The one I was given was a lefty-gun. I discovered he had given me a left-handed gun. You don’t just find those laying around.  You either have to look for one on purpose or modify a weapon by switching the mag release button (under your thumb) to the other side.  I knew he had done it on purpose (I know this because he did it to another female officer, Cheri W).

Fortunately, I was proficient with my weapons and I didn’t have a safety issue because of it.  It could throw you off, Especially given the circumstances.  I knew immediately.  The others were able to practice while I waited for a range-officer to drive back to the Police Department Armory and get me a proper gun.

After the shooting, we all went through a group critical incident stress debriefing. The department did a good job with this.  Chief H.D. was present and told us he was honored to have us as officers and we had done a good job. My Female Captain praised me for my calmness on the radio, calling me phenomenal.  We were told to take time off and the prosecutor reviewed the case and declared we were justified in our actions.  It helped that a citizen had videotaped the entire incident.  A Female Sergeant wrote up a commendation letter requesting that the 5 of us be awarded combat medals.  When she submitted a copy to my Captain, he crumpled it up and threw it away, saying “Why would you commend anyone for killing someone.”  Even though we followed our training and did exactly what the department expected from us.  This is exactly the kind of behavior we came to expect and experienced on a regular basis from many of our Commanders.

Even after all this I jokingly told the girl I had worked for, “This is the last time I’m working for you!!  You are bad luck!”

TINA, the other female officer in the shooting ***name changed

Tina went back to her field training. She was pretty new, not from the area, and still in her probationary period.  They started giving her a hard time.  When Patricia heard what was happening, she confronted Tina’s trainer and asked him why,  He said, I was told to.  She reminded him of how bad he was when she had trained him.  She reminded him that he always got lost and couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag. She told him what he was doing was wrong.  Patricia had heard they (The Training Unit/Lt Woody) were going to get rid of Tina because now that she had been in a shooting, she would apply for disability down the road and the dept would have to pay her disability. Eventually She was told quit or be fired.  She quit.  No one wants a firing on their record.  She considered joining the suit but didn’t.

After we returned to work, Light duty and hidden from public view, Lt. Woody set up a meeting with me to discuss the complaint I had made about him.  He says “Now don’t you think, in light of this shooting you were involved in that it was good you had the extra training?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I said to him, I have no problem with training, I’ll go to all the training in the world, training is good, but this situation was handled badly by you and it was totally unnecessary for me to be treated that way.

They left me alone for a year or so.  I went in to detective unit/general case for better hours for my kids (someone else wanted out).  My male partner immediately put in for a different job.  I got a new male partner but his rudeness and behavior, screaming at suspects, caused me to go out on my own or borrow someone else.  He could be heard screaming at people but the supervisors never did anything, because he got confessions, solved cases.  I did too, but I never screamed at people.  You can catch more flies with honey…and I did.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 3

MARIAN **name changed**

M was an intern that applied for a recruit position.  As an intern she would take telephone and walk-in reports and write them up.  She did a great job.  When she was hired Woody told her she should have a plan B.  They then marked her down for her report writing (Huh??) and eventually had her so stressed out that she was told quit or be fired.  She quit.  She then joined the military and was so extraordinary, at the end of training, even though she was injured and couldn’t finish, her commander awarded her, her dress blues.  She never recovered from her injuries.  She died during the early stages of our first lawsuit. If she was exceptional in the military why wasn’t she good enough for GR?

LIZ **name changed**

Liz, was another police department intern that was hired as a recruit. She made it through academy like the others. In fact she was exceptional. During her field training her trainer required her to have 15 traffic stops a night (in a 10 hour shift) which included getting a Polaroid picture and thumb print.  There were many times a Sgt wasn’t available which meant waiting, and making the detained subject wait until a Sgt was available to bring over the photo/print kit.  This took a lot of time, resulted in her not making her quota and she was marked down.  Being an intelligent problem solver, she went and bought supplies and made her own kit, this angered her Training Officer.

Liz’s trainer told her that no one wanted her there.

She was coming in an hour early, leaving hours late and doing her trainers paperwork. She was single with two children and had to hire a live-in nanny.  She wasn’t getting any sleep, her hair was falling out.  They wore her down and gave her the quit or be fired speech.  She quit.  When we called to tell her about our suit, she immediately said, “I’m in!”

SAM **name changed**

SAM in B&E squad consistently given 2-3 times the number of cases her male partner was assigned and then berated for having so many open cases (her male partner was nice enough to recognize this and help her).  This is different than what happened to me.  She was later transferred to the Auto Squad because she didn’t want to go to Auto Squad.

PATRICIA

One night, the vice unit pulled over a black man and asked for a patrol car.  Patricia was sent.  Vice told her to search his car.  She asked “For what reason”.  They didn’t have one and he wasn’t under arrest.  They told her to do it anyway.  She refused.  The man asked her “Can they do that?”  She told him they can’t do that without a warrant, or without your permission and you don’t have to give it to them.  He said “No, you can’t search my car.”  They arrested him, handcuffed him, placed him in Patricia’s car, searched his car, didn’t find anything and left.  She was left to deal with the situation, calling dispatch to contact Vice to come back and deal with the situation. They ignored dispatch.  Patricia had to ask for a supervisor and complained about their behavior. The Supervisor asked her if she was making a formal complaint (crossing the thin blue line).  She replied, no, that is your job as a supervisor to correct these things.  Her supervisor told her just to release the man, and she did.  The Supervisor did nothing.  This is why she was called a bitch.  She followed the rules and the law.  Arresting, then un-arresting seemed to be a habit of some officers.  They never got in trouble for it.  One wonders what their police report looked like and how they justified probable cause after an illegal search.

THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME

When I worked the road on the West Side of Grand Rapids, I noticed one of the SGTs kept showing up or driving by my calls.  I didn’t think much of it because it was nothing new really. One night, I went to get dinner on Alpine, slightly out of our area (in the area where Fazoli’s is now).  It was a place we were allowed to go because at the time there were not many choices available to us. The SGT sent me a message.  It read, “Are you lost?”  I responded, “No, why do you ask??  He asked, “Where are you?”  I told him where I was.  He told me “You can’t eat there, it’s outside the city.  I asked him “Is this a new rule?”  He said, “You can’t go there.”  I responded “ok”, and left without eating.  Everyone else was still allowed to eat there, but I wasn’t.  I later found out he had been told to follow me around.

FIREARMS

During my initial firearms training at the department, I qualified as expert.  I was and continue to be very proficient with my handgun, shotgun and rifle.

We had to train and qualify with our firearms twice a year.  During one qualification course I was ordered back the next day.  This was not unusual for the women and minorities to be ordered back for remedial, it happened often, for the stupidest things.  But this time they told me I had to be there at 430 instead of my usual start time of 5pm.  

Not only was this unreasonable it was a contract violation.

I objected and notified SGT J that I couldn’t get there at 430 but I could make it by 5 (my normal shift start time) due to childcare. He didn’t think it would be an issue and called Woody on the phone in the range house. I was also in the range house and heard the conversation. Sgt J explained the situation, but Lt. Woody said, too bad she better be there at 430!  I scrambled trying to make alternate arrangements, which caused a number of major problems.

I barely got to the range at the time as I was ordered.  The day group wasn’t done yet and I had to wait 45 minutes for them to finish.  If I had been late after being ordered to be there at a certain time, I would have faced discipline.   Several days later I went directly to Chief H.D. and told him that I had believed him when he said he wanted to make GRPD a family friendly organization. I told him what happened and how it was unacceptable and a violation of our union contract to change my work hours without advance notice, not to mention just plain wrong.  He told me he would look into it. I knew Woody would be mad that I complained, but I was sick of it.

Two weeks later, I was in an on duty shooting.  It wasn’t my day to work.  I was working for another female officer who couldn’t get the day off for a wedding, so we traded shifts. It was Saturday, and it was Sweetest Day.

To be continued…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 2

THE BEGINNING

In 1992 I became a single parent through divorce, of my two girls, Sarah, 5 and Rachael, 4.  I decided I needed more education and a better job to support us. I went back to school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College while working 3 part-time jobs and caring for my girls.  It was not easy.  Rachael has severe cognitive impairment, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.  But I did it with the help of family and friends. While attending KVCC, I saw an ad for police recruits and applied to GRPD.

IT STARTED AT HELLO/HIRE/MY EXPERIENCE

In one of my interviews I was asked the normal types of interview questions.  They also asked me if I was planning on having more children.  This was an embarrassing conversation and completely illegal.  I answered it not knowing at the time you can’t ask things like that.  They were aware that I had two daughters and that Rachael had medical conditions.  They were also well aware that I had been doing a good job of handling all my responsibilities.

I went through application/interview process, and was hired at age 27, which was older than most of the new hires.

The Psychological exam was uneventful, the questions were weird and unusual (in my opinion).  I’ve never taken another test like that one, although I have taken many many police exams. I passed without any problem.

At the medical exam they found out I had diabetes and they were not happy about it.  I provided a note from my Doctor who stated I managed it well and had no complications.  Due to ADA they could not rescind the job offer and I had already accepted it.  They probably figured I wouldn’t make it through but I did.

ADMINISTRATION

Under Chief W.H., things were mostly good.  He was a no-nonsense Chief and kept a tight rein on his command staff.

There were a number of controversies during his tenure.  A group of women and minority officers sued for discrimination. They sued over the subjectivity of evaluations which negatively affected assignments and promotions.  Chief W.H. called a meeting of his command staff.  He told them that under no circumstances were they to go after these individuals.  They were also told to prevent any such behavior by any other officers. Subsequent Chiefs did not do this.

They settled, and got their promotions.

After Chief W.H. retired, things changed. 

I loved my job.  But the small cracks that had existed started to become big problems after Chief W.H. retired.  The commanders he had kept in check were given more latitude and power under the new administration, Chief H.D.

The Training unit commander got rid of the veteran trainers in favor of younger less experienced officer that would follow orders without question. This was a problem.

New female officers were subjected to higher standards than their male counterparts. When they did meet expectations the bar was moved higher until they failed.

Female officers were routinely passed over for promotions in favor of males who did not test as well, or were under investigation for domestic assaults or other crimes.

Female officers did not get additional specialized training, assignments to other departments, or “Attaboys”.  What are Attaboys?   Attaboy’s were commendations. Female Officers  who recovered multiple stolen cars, or solved cases often did not get commended the same as or as often as the guys did.  I remember getting them once in a while.  One particular commendation was given to me by my Captain, but he gave it to me in private instead of in front of my peers at lineup, which was the usual custom.

At the range, all the trainers would stand behind the female officers.  Often, mistakes by the men were not noticed nor were they failed.  Women and minority officers were subjected to increased scrutiny and were routinely ordered back for remedial training even if they had passed!!

Lt. Woody would tell address new recruit classes.  He would say,  look around because some of you won’t be here at the end.  In one recruit training class he ordered everyone to stand in a circle and slap each other upside the head.  It was as if he believed that if you don’t bounce people or if someone doesn’t get hurt then you’re not doing your job if everybody passes.  It didn’t matter that they had made it through college and police academy and the rigorous hiring process. The goal was not to mentor and empower but to break people.  His new Field Training Officers earned nicknames like “The Ax”, “The Hatchet” and “The Terminator.”  All the guys that would do what he told them to, were called “Woody’s boys”.

To be continued…

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 1

ABSTRACT (from my book in progress)

 Police departments are complex political organizations.  Policing has evolved from its early days where politicians hired their friends and supporters as “enforcers”.  The rise of professionalism has changed how selections are made.  Most departments do their best to hire and retain the best qualified individuals who are least likely to have or cause future problems.  Pre-employment testing is used to determine which candidates will be successful as a Law Enforcement Officer. This system is flawed and cannot predict how the job influences impressionable young people. Many new hires are fairly young, sometimes 18 years of age. When you give someone without a fully developed personality, a badge, a gun and power, it can go to their heads. Some do not understand the serious responsibility and enjoy the power they have over the lives of others. This can lead to the misuse of this power by some of these individuals. If the behavior is not discovered and addressed early on citizens are abused. When this behavior is encouraged or reinforced through corporate culture then they abuse their co-workers.  As they get promoted their position offers them insulation from discipline. The saying at the P.D. was “With rank comes privilege.” Bad things happen when bad people are in charge, but if you speak up worse things happen.

What is my book about?

TWO LEGAL CASES

Case 1:  2001       Gender discrimination case filed in State Court. There were 14 Plaintiffs, Only a couple plaintiff’s had sexual harassment claims

Case 2:  2002       Retaliation/civil rights violations filed in Federal Court/2 plaintiffs (Patricia/Renee’).

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

DISCRIMINATION, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION

Discrimination: Differential treatment, a failure to treat all persons equally when no reasonable distinction can be found between those favored and those not favored (Black’s Law Dictionary) Proofs = adverse job action(s), and we all had them.

Sexual Harassment: A type of employment discrimination consisting of verbal or physical abuse of a sexual nature (Black’s Law Dictionary).

Retaliation: A discharge (or firing) made in retaliation for an employee’s conduct (such as reporting unlawful activity)/discharge for reasons that are illegal or violate public policy.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Federal law prohibiting employment discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, sex, pregnancy, religion, and national origin, as well as prohibiting retaliation against an employee who opposes illegal harassment or discrimination in the workplace (Black’s Law Dictionary).

ABOUT ME AND COPS IN GENERAL

Mark Baker wrote a book titled “Cops.”  When I read it I was struck by an observation: Baker says “In any department, anywhere, you can take 5 percent of the cops and they will be honest under any circumstances and they’ll never do anything wrong. They are the priests of the department. 5 percent on the other end of the spectrum would have been criminals had they not become policemen. They are in fact, criminals who happen to be cops. The remaining 90 percent will go whichever way the peer pressure goes” (Baker, 1985).  I have found this to be fairly accurate in my experience.

This phenomenon, speaks to Privilege.  Privilege?  What does that mean?  As a country we have had many conversations about privilege. Sometimes the conversations come in the form of protests, civil disobedience or legal wrangling.  We have come a long way, but not far enough.  Racial and Gender and various types of equality issues still remain.  Systems of oppression have changed, become more sophisticated and subtle.  Sometimes oppression is not apparent unless you are subject to it.

In Police departments, the military, the government (and I am not anti-government) if you have rank, you have privilege.  Who’s going to question the boss when the boss has the power to make life miserable?

TO BE CONTINUED…MY EXPERIENCES…

“COPS” By Mark Baker.  Click here to buy it.

Black’s Law Dictionary.   Click here to Buy it.