Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reflection and Revisionism

Leetsdale, PA - Some things about summer back east have been abundant over the fortnight that I've been here. Most of these things aren't typically as abundant in Grand Junction. Things like seasonal allergies, bad roads, road construction, bad drivers, heavy concentrations of bad drivers, and humidity.

I spent most of today within the air-conditioned confines of Children's Hospital, while Michaela received blood and platelets. I got to work on Words for a little while, but recent days have afforded not much in the way of opportunities for reflection. Yesterday I accompanied Leslie while she addressed some discomforting business. This included a visit to the large and historically significant cemetery that overlooks my hometown.

On the way back from Children's today I was able to snag a half-dozen pink roses from one of the flower vendors that work some of the major commuter intersections in the city. They look very nice in a glass vase in Leslie's kitchen.

Sitting on her back porch at dusk, feeling a gentle breeze waft in from the west, watching her backyard teem with fireflies, reconciles those minor discomforts that accompany summers where I grew up, and helps calm the mind to cope more readily with the difficulties at hand.

Speaking of dealing with difficulties at hand, the three former Grand Junction Police officers that were let go in the wake of the recent homeless camp vandalism investigation told their story to the Daily Sentinel today, perhaps in hopes of bolstering their appeal, but also perhaps to bring subtle pressure on the GJPD about the way it's been accused of doing business.

Paul Shockley did a great job of documenting many of the details of the case that at first blush may appear mundane, but together paint a nice mental picture of what the officers were tasked with doing, and whether or not their actions were congruent with the task at hand. I arrived at the same conclusion that Chief Camper did; they were not.

With regard to the appeal by the officers, they claim that their actions were consistent with the training they had received as GJPD officers. There’s a significant difference between law enforcement training standards and the unwritten manner in which those standards may or may not be applied. Chief Camper’s actions will hopefully go a long way toward assuring that those unwritten ‘standards’ that get in the way of equal protection under law will no longer be a visible manifestation of the underlying prejudices that serve as their foundation.

With regard to the officers' appeal, I don't believe they have a chance. If the City is smart, Deputy City Manager Rich Englehart will sustain Chief Camper’s decision and actions, which were likely arrived at with considerable consultation of the City Attorney’s office.

To do otherwise would place Chief Camper’s mandate to lead at risk, and thus undermine his ability to oversee the department and apply the standards that he so forcefully put forward in firing these three officers. It could also reflect poorly on City Administration's perceived level of confidence in the advice of their attorneys.

The fired officers and their attorney claim that, contrary to Chief's Camper's quoted assertions in the officers' termination letters, that as trespassers the homeless individuals whose tents were cut open and ransacked are not entitled to protection from the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. Ralph D'Andrea gets into more detail about this particular subject, and he's right on the mark as well.

Whether these officers have any case regarding the applicability of the 4th Amendment to the camps and tents could be decided in the courts, and it feels to me that is where these guys are headed after their appeal is denied. What I'm thinking is that the former officers could be trying to posture themselves in the public eye to bring one of two arguments to the forefront:

  • The aforementioned question about the applicability of the 4th Amendment;
  • Framing an employment-related civil case into a community referendum on homelessness in the Grand Valley, and its related problems .

Based on the comments attached to today's story in the paper, if the fired officers do sue the City, watch them ask for a jury trial, and listen for discussion about the unwritten rules concerning treatment of the homeless members of the community that may have been tacitly accepted and/or selectively applied prior to Chief Camper's tenure.

This leads to one last question; rather than risk what could be potentially embarrassing disclosures about GJPD policy toward homeless individuals, will City administration be tempted to modify Chief Camper's decision to terminate these officers?

I hope not, for the reasons above, and also because Chief Camper appears to be establishing his imprint on the GJPD. As a public safety professional he doesn't deserve to be interfered with in this case by those who know how to administrate but not lead, and those with a counterproductive political agenda.

Leave it be, and move on through whatever storm is ahead. We'll all be better off.

Have a good week.

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