Does anyone tell the truth?

I am sharing a post by a wrongfully convicted man.  Freedom for 50 is a blog about his experiences in Prison for something he did not do.  He keeps trying to be the same honest upright person on the inside (prison) as he was on the outside. But not doing what the other inmates want can be dangerous.

 

Hi everyone, It’s been awhile. I’ve been dealing with some rough times. This is going to be as hard as Ionia where they put me in the hole. At least it will feel almost the same. Except…

Source: Does anyone tell the truth?

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.

 

 

 

 

Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

I really found this NBC report on the use of Medical Marijuana for the treatment of Epilepsy very interesting.

The Fight for Medical Marijuana for Epileptic Children

It also brings back memories of incidents with my own daughter, who has Epilepsy.  There is mention of the young girl in the story having “rages”.     I had never heard anyone talk about this before.  I have always thought that all my daughter’s behavior was due to medication reactions, or seizures, or just feeling awful, or because she was frustrated and unable to communicate what she wanted or needed.

One particularly awful weekend comes to mind…

I was a single parent with two girls, Sarah (who is now married, a nurse, and they are expecting their first child), and Rachael.  Rachael contracted spinal meningitis at two weeks of age, spent 7 weeks in Peds-ICU.  As a result of that illness, she has Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, and Cognitive Impairment (she will always be a little girl age 3 in a woman’s body).  This particular year was tough,  Rachael was in her early teen years and things were not going well for her.  Her seizures had increased, and we had been trying to tweak/change medications, and none were working very well.  Rachael drooled constantly (side effect?) and we were always changing her shirt and bandannas that we used like bibs (so she wasn’t actually wearing a “baby” bib and we could match them to her outfits). This made it difficult to find childcare.  no one wanted a “drooly kid” in their house.  I had to hire people to work in my home instead.  One of the things that we tried to curb the drooling was Scopolamine.  It came in a patch, and was usually used for motion sickness, but it also tended to dry up secretions.  We were trying it to see if it would work.

I had been dating “Mike” for only about a year or so.  We decided we would take our kids out to eat together at Steak-N-Shake.  His two, and my two.  We met at the restaurant and were all seated at a big table.  Rachael immediately started misbehaving.  She wanted food, and now.  She started banging her fist on the table, yelling, “I want eat!!”

I scolded her and said, Rachael, you can’t behave like that and we have to wait our turn.  It only got worse, and she got louder.  I was afraid she was going to hurt her hand.  I held onto it to keep her from pounding the able and hurting her hand.  She jerked her hand out of my grasp and hit me.  I told her if she didn’t behave and be quiet we would leave.  She started screaming, “NOOOOO!!!”  The other kids were mortified and shrinking in their seats.  I looked at Mike and said, “I need to take her home, can you feed the kids and bring Sarah back home, after?”  He agreed.  As I tried to pick Rachael up to take her to the car, she started screaming, flailing her arms and legs.  Mike had to help me take her to the car. I had to engage the child lock on the car door because she kept opening the door.  I don’t remember how I got the seat-belt on her.  I do remember all the way home, her screaming “GO BACK!!  I WANT EAT!!” while she was hitting the car window and hitting me in the back of the head while I was driving.  I managed to get her home and in the house and the behavior stopped.  I made the two of us lunch at home.  Mike and the other kids came back after they ate.  Sarah was so embarrassed.  Neither of us knew why she was acting this way.

I figured, well so much for Mike.  I couldn’t imagine he’d stick around after witnessing that (he did!).

The next morning, I heard Rachael get up and open the refrigerator.  Her bedroom was downstairs (she fell on the stairs too much) and my room was upstairs.  By the time I got into the kitchen she had the glass jar of Mayonnaise open and was smearing it all over herself.  When I tried to grab the jar, the wrestling match was on, and she started screaming.  I just couldn’t believe the past couple days.  This was absolutely heartbreaking.  I had to sit on her as she flailed and hit me, and slammed the jar on the floor.  I was afraid she would break it and then we’d both get cut up with the glass.  I called for Sarah to come down and help me.  She called my friend Helen to come help us when I decided I needed to take her to the emergency room.  This was not normal.  As I wracked my brain for what was different recently I remembered the Scopolamine patch we had put on her (per the Dr.s recommendation).  I peeled it off thinking maybe that was the problem.  Helen arrived, helped me clean Rachael up, held onto her while I showered and changed to go to the E.R.  She also helped me get her in the car and I headed to the E.R.

By the time we got there, she was normal.  The E.R. Doc looked at me like I was crazy when I had described what had happened.  She was sent home.  I dug up info on Scopolamine and found that one of its reclusive side effects was “Hallucinations”.  But this wasn’t the last, there were more instances of these types of behaviors, but none were quite as bad.

I had never grown up around anyone that experimented with “drugs”.  No one ever offered me marijuana or anything else for that matter in school.  Everyone knew my stance.  I was involved in sports, and Youth group.  I was a “goody two-shoes”.  They all knew I wouldn’t partake.  As I interviewed for my first Law Enforcement job, I was asked what I would do if a friend or family member was involved with drugs, including marijuana.  My response, “First of all If anyone I know is involved in that, they certainly are not going to tell me because they know my stance, and if someone does I would have to tell them I can’t be around that/them due to my profession.”  Apparently that was a good answer.  I was hired.  Later when I interviewed at another department, I was asked if I had ever tried marijuana or any other illicit drug growing up or as an adult.  When I answered, “NO, never.”  They did not believe me.  I was not hired, even though that was 100% honest.

So, now that you know my stance…I have never purported to know or understand those who have cancer, other conditions or chronic pain, feel.  I just don’t know.  I am sympathetic and empathetic and try not to be judgmental towards those who seem to need it.  I am not without my own pain, but I have always avoided using anything illegal, because I toe the line.

I never thought I would ever think seriously about marijuana use.  BUT, as a parent, having gone through some crazy stuff with my epileptic kid…had I known this was an option that could have real benefits to my daughter’s daily life functioning and comfort and it would reduce the amount of seizures she would have, I’d be willing to move mountains for her.  Not for me, but for her.

I understand how people who are working, driving etc should not be impaired.  But Rachael will NEVER hold a job, drive, get married, have children, be cured (although I hope).  I do not advocate any substance ABUSE.  But it does make me wonder why things are illegal and how we got there and why were particular laws put on the books…?  Why do some laws seem to affect certain populations and those in lower socio-economic levels?  Some laws ARE designed that way.  Look at the difference between the penalties for “crack” cocaine (poor man’s drug) and powder cocaine (the white mans drug). Look at our nations history and how it relates to colonialism.  Again, that’s a whole other conversation about privilege, and who has it.

It sure makes one question your own perspective, and what it would take to change it.

For more information about the similarities and differences between Crack and powder cocaine and sentencing differences…go here-> Cocaine and Crack Facts.

I am by no means endorsing the use or abuse of any illegal substance nor am I interested in going down that path, this is not an endorsement of anything like that, just my thoughts about PERSPECTIVE on a hot and difficult topic.

Wrongful Conviction: It Could Happen to YOU!

There is an organization called the Innocence Project.  Take a look at their site and statistics, you might find some of it enlightening.

The Innocence Project exists because so many innocent people have been found guilty of crimes they did not commit.  Most of us never think about this.  Some just don’t realize this happens (the reason for my post is to educate) and many believe that if a person was arrested that they must be guilty. Others feel powerless to do anything about it.  How do you change a broken system?  Others just do not care as long as it doesn’t affect them, they don’t have to think about it.

According to Acker and Redlich (2011, p.13),

  • “Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.”
  • “[U]nvalidated or improper forensic science…is the second-greatest contributor to wrongful convictions.  In more than 50% of DNA exonerations, unvalidated or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction.”
  • “False confessions:  “In about 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.””
  • “In more than 15% of cases of wrongful conviction overturned by DNA testing, an informant or jailhouse snitch testified against the defendant.”
  • “Government misconduct: “The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are replete with evidence of fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments…””
  • “Bad Lawyering: One of the contributing factors to wrongful convictions exposed through DNA analysis is representation “by ineffective, incompetent or over-burdened defense lawyer.  The failure of overworked lawyers to investigate, call witnesses or prepare for trial has led to the conviction of innocent people….”

We will come back to why I am blogging about this, but for now, more about me.

When I went into Law Enforcement I was naive.  I thought that Police Agencies did their best (some candidates are great deceivers) to hire smart, educated, ethical individuals.  I was so wrong about this.  Some agencies do a good job, but others are only as good as their human resource department, IF they have one.

Mark Baker (1985), Author of COPS made an observation that I have found to be very accurate in my own experience.  Baker observed that, “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.”

IN ANY ORGANIZATION THIS CAN OCCUR.  Organizational culture is a difficult thing.  Most times, the head of the organization sets the tone and example for everyone else.

Not only do Police procedures and actions contribute to wrongful convictions, but so do Prosecutors.  Most of the time their conviction rate (higher is better) is what gets them re-elected.  It’s all about the politics.  They do not prosecute the cases they think they might lose.  When they have convicted someone, and new evidence is discovered, ego can get in the way of justice.

Then there are the Judges.  Once a conviction has occurred they are not necessarily interested in wasting their time granting Due Process that could help a prisoner prove his actual innocence.  Judges also do not like to step on other judges’ toes (by criticizing or overturning their rulings), especially if they work together.  There is also ego here.  Who can tell a Judge he’s wrong?  If they do not use their role properly as impartial triers of fact, it is unlikely that Due Process (a Civil Right) or justice will occur.  Many are not impartial.  This can result in wrongly incarcerated persons NEVER receiving justice.  They lose their freedom, reputation, their livelihood, and many times their family.  Life in prison is very dangerous.  If you doubt me, check out this blog, written by the sister of an innocent man chronicling his experiences. Freedom for 50.  This is only one of many.

Stanley Denhof is a victim of S.A.I.D Syndrome click on the link to read more about it.  I have also read all the reports and case information including the “forensics”.  I have attended court hearings, and read all the court filings.  As a former police officer/detective and somewhat intelligent…I have been utterly appalled at how obvious his innocence is, the extreme efforts people go to for revenge.  Equally disgusting is how some lawyers take clients money and don’t do the job, and how Prosecutors and Judges can live with themselves and continue to block minimal Due Process (a civil right) owed to every human being.  If this can happen to a man who finally divorced his wife (who vowed to ruin his life) over her numerous affairs, it could happen to you.

Just a caveat…I am not anti-police.  I am not anti-court system.  I am not anti-government.

I am anti-corruption, anti-falsehood, anti-injustice, and anti-criminality within the justice system.

I am in favor of changing laws that give these Public Officials immunity when it is later found that they knew or should have known that the conviction was politically motivated.  There should not be immunity when a witness is discovered to be lying (but the judge did not do anything about it), or when ANY official commits Brady Violations (withholding evidence that could prove that the defendant is innocent).

Something else to think about.  In a sexual assault case…where there is a wrongful conviction…if there is no DNA there is likely no exoneration either and a possibility that a sexual assault never occurred, especially in a S.A.I.D. case.

Public Officials involved in the Court system need to remember.  If you convict the wrong person, the real perpetrator is still out there.  There is NO justice in this.

Remember a wrongful conviction could happen to you, all it takes is to piss off the wrong person or one of the 5% (the criminal element that can hide in plain site in any organization).

I’ll leave you with this Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

References

  • Acker, J. R., & Redlich, A. D. (2011). Wrongful conviction: Law, science, and policy. Durham, N.C: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Anonymous. (1985). Baker, mark, author. COPS: Lives in their own words. Wilmette: Hendon Publishing Company