Archive for January, 2012

Right To Resist

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2012 by C. J. Edwards

Discussing politics and various proposed legislations is somewhat anathema to me for a variety of reasons but predominately because most people cannot draw distinctions between an argument and a debate. I love to debate and hate to argue. Arguments almost always deteriorate to name calling and one side taking their ball and going home. This post will be a rare exception, and I will not debate an opinion, only present facts as I know to be true. You can judge their value.

Law makers in the state of Indiana are currently considering passing a bill that would specifically allow people the right to resist law enforcement officers who are trying to enter their home illegally. Hell yeah, my home is my castle, down with dirty cops right? That is what most people think when they hear about this bill. Seems simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately it isn’t.

As you can imagine this is a hot topic around roll call rooms in police departments around the state. Now I can hear many of you saying, “Of course he is going to be against it. He’s a cop.” Well yes I am a police officer and I am against this piece of legislation but why?

On Thursday last week a fellow detective of mine, Grant Melton, posted on Facebook a letter he wrote to all of our Indiana legislators. Grant is a ten year veteran of the Indianapolis police department, and he very adroitly outlines the reasons this law, as it is written, is a bad idea. Read it and see what you think.

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Dear Senator/Representative,

I am a Police Officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, where I have served the Citizens of Indianapolis for 10 years. I am writing to you regarding Senate Bill 1, the proposed “Right to Resist” legislation currently pending in the Senate. I am writing to request you vote NO on passing this legislation. I firmly believe this is a flawed public policy, based largely on misunderstandings of the “Barnes” decision handed down by the State Supreme Court.

The Indiana and United States Supreme Courts have for years held that Police Officers may legally enter homes with a warrant, or when exigent circumstances exist. These exigent circumstances include, but are not limited to: in pursuit of a fleeing person, when the officer believes a life may be in danger, and when the Officer believes the destruction of evidence is occurring. All of these exigent circumstances depend on the Officer’s assessment of the facts known to him at the time of the entry.

Unfortunately, we live in a society in which many Citizens get their news and form opinions based solely on headlines, without actually researching the facts. In the fallout after the “Barnes” case, it was clear that many of the Citizens asking for you to pass new legislation had not actually read the Court’s opinion in that case. There is a misperception that the Supreme Court had made it to where Officers could enter the home of anyone, at any time, without repercussion. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, when people hear “illegal or unlawful entry”, they have automatically assumed the worst, meaning they imagine Officer’s kicking in doors without cause, assaulting the residents, and not being held accountable. Again, this is not the case here. The term “unlawful search” or “unlawful entry” more often involves a situation that is not so black and white. For example, in the last 10 years, while many have attempted to claim that I conducted an unlawful search or entry, to my knowledge, a court has only ruled in their favor one time. This incident did not involve a residence, but a business. I was approached by a citizen who said he had observed a large amount of marijuana in the open inside of a restaurant/bar. I went to the restaurant/bar and noticed the sign indicated the business was open. The door was also open. I entered what appeared to be an open business, as any Citizen or customer could have, and came into contact with several persons smoking marijuana, and in possession of several pounds of marijuana. The court later ruled that this was an “unlawful search” and that I should have gotten a warrant, even though anyone could have walked into the open business. Should the persons inside that bar have been able to use force against me, if it was determined that it was an unlawful search or entry?

In my 10 years as an Officer, I have legally entered thousands of homes, many times with a warrant, but also often when exigent circumstances exist. A common thread with these entries is, while I was legally entering the home, the residents often claimed I had no right to be in their home, even when I had a warrant in hand. Ask any Police Officer and they will tell you this is their experience as well.

While I and many of the Officers I know support a Citizen’s right to defend themselves in their own home, I believe this legislation will result in far more injuries, if not deaths, to Police Officers and Citizens.

The reality of the world we live in is that Police Officers have to deal with a criminal element of our society that truly does not understand every nuance of the laws you write. The same can be said for law-abiding Citizens as well. One need only read public comments on any news organization website relating to this legislation, or listen to comments made in your public hearings to understand this. Time and again you will see Citizens saying they will shoot any Officer entering their home without a warrant. Any Police Officer or legal expert will tell you a warrant isn’t always required, but many Citizens, because they don’t know any better, believe a warrant is required. This fact alone should give you pause in considering this legislation. If average Citizens don’t even understand that a warrant isn’t always required, how can you expect them, in a matter of seconds, to decide if an Officer is making lawful entry, and then decide whether to use potentially deadly force against that Officer?

Please consider this for a moment. Every day, all across Indiana and our great country, Police Officers respond to incidents that are often contentious. While investigating that incident, an Officer gathers information, and most of the time only has seconds to decide a course of action. Many times, this decision involves the use of force, or entry into a residence because the facts known to him at the time lead the Officer to believe that is his proper course of action. Police Officers are trained in the use of force, as well as in search and seizure issues. Unfortunately, even with this training, Police Officers sometimes make the wrong decision. Sometimes what may appear to be one thing to an Officer may not turn out to be what it seems. We have a system in place for deciding whether an Officer lawfully entered, and that system is the courts. As you know, there are several layers of judicial review. Often, cases will go to the Supreme Court, as the “Barnes” decision did, before a decision is made of whether an Officer made lawful entry. This involves countless hours of legal research and argument by skilled attorneys. With this legislation, you are essentially giving the Citizens the ability to pass judgment in seconds when that decision takes months, even years in our appellate courts. Only long after the potentially deadly situation has passed will a Court of law pass judgment on the lawfulness of the entry, or the lawfulness of the use of force.

For comparison sake, compare this to the past two legislative sessions. Clearly, the “right to work” legislation is the most contentious issue facing you. Regardless of what side you are on, I think all would agree this is an important decision for the Citizens, and is not to be taken lightly. For 2 sessions now, the Citizens of Indiana have sat back and watched as one party has held countless meetings discussing the issue, researched the case law surrounding it, and held public hearings. This has been done because this legislation affects the livelihoods of Hoosiers, and you want to get it right. A Police Officer only wishes he had the luxury of public hearings, meetings to discuss the calls we respond to, and having lawyers on hand to research case law while deciding whether to enter a home. The fact is, this is simply not possible, and the decisions made by our Police Officers certainly affect the lives of thousands of Hoosiers every day. When I say they affect their lives, I am not speaking of financial health or benefits, I am speaking of the actual ability to live. These decisions are often life or death decisions, and this pending legislation will now create the possibility that more decisions mean the difference between life and death. Only now those decisions will be carried out by the Police and the Citizen with whom they are interacting.

I’ve mentioned several times that the judgment of whether an entry was lawful or not is based on the articulable facts known to the Police Officer at the time entry was made. The person inside the home does not know what the Officer knows or has seen. To expect a person inside the home to make the decision of whether the Officer is lawfully in the home is a dangerous path to take. Officers are trained to respond to force by going one step above the force being used by the person resisting. When a person believes they are lawfully resisting, they are sure to escalate their resistance, possibly resulting in the death of either the Officer or the Citizen.

I’m sure many of you would argue that the exceptions you have included in this law would prevent this from happening. I again ask you to consider the legal knowledge of the general public. If Citizens are confused about whether Police can only enter without a warrant, how do you expect them to be knowledgeable about the exceptions to this law, and under what circumstances they can legally resist? As I said earlier, people get their education from headlines and word of mouth. If this law passes, Citizens will think they can fight the police if the Police don’t have a warrant. I was hearing this after the committee meeting, when the law hadn’t even been passed yet. Also, again please consider that many of the criminals we encounter do not believe we have a right or authority to do many of the things we are lawfully allowed to do. Won’t these persons then claim we were not engaged in the execution of our duties? This is one of the exceptions you have placed in this law. Sure, it will later be decided that the Police acted appropriately, but this will be long after the use of force that likely would have resulted in injury to the Officer or Citizen. Hopefully you don’t force us to “just wait and see”.

Finally, if I legally enter a residence and am encountered by an armed resident pointing a gun at me, do you expect me to engage in a conversation with them and explain all of the reasons I have probable cause to be there so the resident can make an informed decision as to whether he has a “right to resist”? I certainly hope you answer no to this question. This kind of situation is all but guaranteed to end with a shooting of either the Officer or the Citizen. If the Citizen shoots and kills the Officer, how are we even going to know what the Officer knew prior to entering the residence so that we may judge whether it was a lawful entry?

If you question any of the claims I make in this letter, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to elaborate. I’d also like to extend an offer for any of you to take a ride along with a member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department so you can experience first-hand what we deal with, and the decisions we are forced to make on a daily basis.

I sincerely hope you will talk to any Police Officer about their feelings on this legislation before voting, and that you choose to vote against this. Thank you for your time and consideration, and thank you for your service to the State of Indiana.

Respectfully,

Grant D. Melton

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The most important argument Grant makes is that barring some rare circumstance (I say rare because no matter how many dirty cop movies you see 99.9% of American police officers are honorable men and woman) it is impossible for a citizen to know if the officer entering his home is doing so illegally or not.

One point that is absent is the fact that courts often issue what are called No Knock Search Warrants. These are warrants issued to the police when they have probable cause to believe that someone may be armed and violent or that evidence may be destroyed if entry is not made quickly. These types of warrants typically are used when narcotics are involved. How are citizens supposed to know that this type of warrant is in effect? They can’t.

I hope that law makers can see past what sounds like a good idea and think of the consequences a bill like this will have on the safety of Indiana citizens. Our laws already protect us from unlawful search an seizure. Why give people the idea that violence is the right way to respond instead of using the courts to right wrongs?

Click to access SB0001.1.pdf

The Hollywood Rut

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2012 by C. J. Edwards

While cruising Facebook instead of getting some words knocked out, I turned up an announcement that Stephen King’s Carrie is about to be remade staring Lindsay Lowhan. This hammered home something that I have been slowly becoming aware of. Yes, I am speaking about the ever lengthening list of movies that are remakes.

I don’t remember how long ago it was that I started to notice that after enjoying a movie I would inevitably discover that it had an original predecessor. Okay so what, you say. It’s a good story, you say. Look at the modern interpretation and special effects, you say. Well that is all well and good once in a while, but there seems to be a growing sickness taking over the movie making industry, a malignant tumor infesting the creative spirit of Hollywood writers and draining away any original ideas that might wish to take up occupancy in their “talented” brains.

Remakes are quickly becoming, some may say have already become, the standard in American movie making. Maybe I am naïve and uninformed. Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. Maybe this is just the way things are done to make a buck in the entertainment business, grab a good movie and make it again and again and again until you’ve done it to death. Well I think that sucks.

Why do I care? Well until recently I didn’t, but there it was at the edge of every movie trailer I watched, the question. Is this a remake? What would happen if the fiction publishing business did the same thing? What if novelists were writing the same stories again and again just giving their creation a modern flare? What a dull reading existence for all of us that would create.

So where are the risk taking script writers? Do they still exist? I must argue that they do exist and are writing some great stuff. I see great fiction everywhere as I wade through the wonderfully dark world of online noir. Powerful punchy stories inhabit the online hideouts and lairs of compelling characters. The future of fiction to my eye looks bright and healthy. So what is Hollywood’s problem?

It must then lie with the gatekeepers, the Hollywood bigwigs who can make or break a script. I am picturing rotund cigar chewing greasy haired fat cats wearing suits that would cost me a month or two’s salary, sitting at their giant desks with a martini in one hand and their secretary’s ass in the other.

Okay, that might be a little over the top, but it is what I imagine when I see the crap oozing out of Hollywood. So what can we do about it? In all likelihood there isn’t much. We are just the unwashed masses who like sheep march one by one into movie theaters to receive our doses of entertainment. Wouldn’t it be great to have an OCCUPY Hollywood to tell those sleaze ball entertainment moguls that we are fed up with their hopelessly uncreative asses? Oh yeah wait a minute, I have a job. Damn, no living in a tent outside the pearly gates for me.

Well I for one am refusing to go see a remake of Carrie. Occupy that Hollywood!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2084256/Stephen-Kings-Carrie-undergo-Hollywood-makeover–Lindsay-Lohan-rumoured-play-title-character.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

A New Crime Boss In Town

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2012 by C. J. Edwards

This post is going out a day early for three reasons. First, someone told me they were looking forward to reading my interview with Chris Rhatigan, and I thought, “Hey I am excited about it too.” Secondly, I will be spending most of my Sunday afternoon preparing for a jury trial on Monday. The last reason I decided to post early is simply, because I can. Hey what’s the fun of having your very own blog if you can’t do what you want?

So let’s get right to it. As of May 2012 Chris Rhatigan will become the editor of the online crime fiction magazine powerhouse All Due Respect. I say powerhouse because ADR is my favorite online publication and the quality of the stories to be found there is amazing. The brain child of Alec Cizak, now the editor of Pulp Modern, ADR has been unwavering in the publication of KICK ASS crime stories that narrows its focus to just that, crime. Not the solving of crime, not the bemoaning of crime, just the ripping no excuses grit of criminals doing what they do best.

As I contemplated this interview, I tried to remember how Rhatigan came to my attention. I am pretty sure it was his story at Beat To A Pulp. The reason I say pretty sure is because when I scampered over to BTAP today to confirm, their archives were undergoing technical difficulties so I couldn’t refresh my memory as to what his story there was. Chris is also the co-editor of Pulp Ink which I purchased a couple months ago and enjoyed immensely. Since then I have been a regular visitor at his blog Death By Killing.

When I heard the news about the change of leadership at All Due Respect I’ll admit I had mixed feelings. At first, I was concerned because it is such a top notch publication, but the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued by Cizak’s choice to carry on with his dark and dirty business, and when you read his answers to my questions I think you’ll see why.

Now how about we hear from the man himself, shall we?

 

Chris, how does it feel to take over the reins of All Due Respect?

I’m very excited. Founding Editor Alec Cizak has developed one of the top crime zines on the web, and I’m really honored that he chose to let me take the reins. I think ADR’s tight focus – only fiction about crime, only stories developed beyond flash length – is a strength.  

I was excited about the addition of a second story every month, and also saw that the minimum word count has changed. Did you have any special reason for making these adjustments?

I want to continue to expand ADR’s readership. By going twice-a-month instead of once a month, I think we’ll be on people’s radars more often. Also, as a reader of ADR, I wanted my fix more often – waiting a whole month sucked! So I figured the rest of ADR’s readership felt the same way and would be happy to hear that we’re offering more.

On the word count, I decreased it from a minimum 2000 words to 1000. I had two reasons for this. First of all, the 1000-2000-word story is kind of a gap in the world of crime fiction. There are a ton of flash sites and a number of sites/print pubs that do over 2000-word stories, but not too many that do 1000-2000 (off the top of my head, Yellow Mama, A Twist of Noir, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Beat to a Pulp). So this will offer those writers with very strong 1000-2000-word stories another venue.

And the second reason is that I’m looking for more submissions since we’ll be publishing twice per month. Lower word count equals more submissions, or so the theory goes.

Do you have any specific goals for ADR in the coming year?

Good question. Basically I want to keep putting out the same quality product that Alec has established. I believe that the stories I’ve accepted thus far meet those standards.  

At some point, I’d like to start working on an ADR anthology. Certainly at some point we’ll have an e-book/print presence, whether that comes in the form of periodic issues or an anthology, although this is all just me talking out of my ass.

What was the first story you ever wrote and how old were you at the time?

Oh, Jesus. Well, I wrote a lot of James Bond-esque stories as a kid complete with pictures and ridiculous globe-trotting “plots.” In high school I wrote a couple of moody, nothing-happens lit stories along with a slew of poetry.

The first story I wrote that’s worth talking about at all is “The Bait” at A Twist of Noir. If I wrote it now, I’d probably do some things different, but it was my first serious attempt to get a piece published. I really liked what I had read at A Twist of Noir, so I tried to dream up a story that would fit in there. I was absolutely thrilled when Editor Christopher Grant accepted it. The internet (and the crime fiction community more specifically) offers a really good training ground for up-and-coming writers.

Do you have any thoughts or predictions about where the world of publishing is headed?

Obviously e-books are growing a lot. Self-publishing and working with smaller publishers is growing, too. I have no idea how any of this will turn out, but for now, we’re seeing more fiction that takes risks getting out to audiences, which I’m very happy about. We’re also seeing more short story collections getting published and gaining (a small) readership, and that’s fantastic.

I also like that prices are coming down and writers are getting a bigger share of the pie (if they self-publish). Ultimately traditional publishers will be forced to respond to those trends in some way. The model of releasing a print book, only selling half of them (at best), and dishing out a paltry royalty to the writer isn’t cutting it anymore.

Who has influenced you the most as a writer?

It changes from moment to moment. I fell in love with the short form after reading a collection of Ray Bradbury’s stories. He is so wicked good and so smart – every decision he makes is the right one. These days I’m reading a lot of Julie Morrigan (I really admire her plotting skills), R Thomas Brown (ditto), Pablo D’Stair (a master stylist), and Patti Abbott (a wizard with character).

For some reason, I’m writing a lot of surreal stuff lately. Guess that has to do with reading more sci-fi and horror – just finished William Gibson’s Neuromancer the other day and that knocked me on my ass.

Is there anything you want writers submitting to ADR to keep in mind?

Read the guidelines and read the stories ADR’s already published. As I said, the site has a pretty narrow focus and I plan on keeping it that way. Also, make sure things happen in your story early on – or that you establish a lot of tension. If you’ve got two people talking at a table for three pages, I might take it, but it better be damn good!

And don’t take rejections personally. It’s me, one random dude, reading the story and reacting to it. I’ll tell you what I think, but, in the scheme of things, it doesn’t mean anything.

If there is one writer out there who you could get to submit a story this upcoming year, who would it be?

I already got one from A Twist of Noir Editor Christopher Grant – a set of flash pieces that friggin rock – so that was very cool. I’d love to see something from Kieran Shea. And Cindy Rosmus. There are like a million others, but I’ll leave it at those two.

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I want to thank Chris for taking the time to speak with me, and I am excited to see the future of ADR under his leadership.

Chris Rhatigan is the co-editor, along with Nigel Bird, of the crime anthology Pulp Ink. His fiction has appeared in the collections Off the Record and Pulp Metal Magazine’s Laughing at the Death Grin, and around the web at sites like Beat to a Pulp and Shotgun Honey. He blogs about short fiction at Death by Killing. In May, he will become editor of All Due Respect.