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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why the Police Have Alienated Gun Owners (Updated)

It used to be that gun owners were among the most supportive of law enforcement. That relationship has soured over the last decade, and seems to be accelerating. The reason, at the core of this, is a perceived lack of integrity--that otherwise "good cops" protect the "dirty cops." Stories like this one from Law Officer don't help:
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna Jane Watts was on routine patrol early one morning when a Miami police car whizzed past at speeds that would eventually top 120 mph. Even with her blue lights flashing and siren blaring, it took Watts more than seven minutes to pull the speeder over.

Not certain who was behind the wheel, she approached the car warily, with gun drawn, according video from her cruiser's dashboard camera. "Put your hands out of the window! Right now!" she yelled. It turned out the driver was Miami Police Department officer Fausto Lopez, in full uniform. Watts holstered her gun but still handcuffed him and took his weapon.

"I apologize," Lopez said, explaining that he was late for an off-duty job.

"You were running 120 miles an hour!" Watts barked back.

That October 2011 confrontation made national headlines and eventually got Lopez fired. But Watts' actions involving a fellow officer didn't sit well with many in law enforcement, and not long after she made that traffic stop, she says, the harassment began. Random telephone calls on her cell phone. Some were threats and some were prank calls, including orders for pizza. Unfamiliar vehicles and police cars sat idling in her cul-de-sac. She was afraid to open her mailbox.

Watts suspected her private driver's license information was being accessed by fellow officers, so she made a public records request with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It turned out she was right: over a three-month period, at least 88 law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies accessed Watts' driver's license information more than 200 times, according to her lawyer.

Law enforcement officers have long been known to band together and protect each other, but Watts said in her lawsuit that these actions went too far.
(Underline added). The article goes on to indicate that Watts' has filed suit against those agencies and officers under a law that makes it illegal to improperly access driver license records. Some of the defendants actually have the gall to say that they were accessing the information out of concern for Watts! In any event, as a result of the suit, the National Association of Police Agencies (NAPO) is lobbying Congress to get the law changed so that it only prohibits accessing the records for the purpose of obtaining an economic benefit. Obtaining the information to harass someone would, under those terms, be okay.

NAPO will probably succeed in getting the law changed. And this will end up being a perfect example of how to win the battle and lose the war.

Update: Irresponsible decisions like this also don't help. You remember the LAPD hunt for ex-cop Dorner, and shooting up a vehicle that in no way resembled Dorner's vehicle, occupied by two small women who in no way resembled Dorner (and don't forget, they did it to another vehicle shortly thereafter). Well...
A civilian board that found eight officers violated Los Angeles Police Department policy in mistakenly firing on two women during the manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner also faulted the department itself.

The 36-page Police Commission report released late Tuesday said the seven officers and a sergeant were rotated in during the night to protect a Dorner target's Torrance home because of overtime concerns. The sergeant wasn't trained to oversee such a protection detail and there was no operational plan. The commission also cites the officers' inadequate firepower.

... The mistaken shooting occurred Feb. 7, 2013. When one of the newspaper delivery women threw a paper onto the pavement in the early morning hours, an officer believing the sound was a gunshot, opened fire. Officers unable to see clearly into the vehicle riddled the pickup truck with 103 rounds, and hit seven nearby homes and nine other vehicles with gunshots and shotgun pellets.

Margie Carranza, then 47, suffered minor injuries, and her then 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez was shot in the back.
 Yeah. Inadequate firepower was to blame. 'Cause if they'd had belt-fed machine guns or an RPG, everything would have been better.

But, getting back to my topic, as all gun owners know, a civilian making the same mistake would have been charged with multiple felony counts. The police, who are supposedly selected and trained to such a high standard, cannot even meet the minimum standards required of the untrained civilian.

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