This past weekend, I encountered something that I really never expected outside of Marion County, Indiana (Indianapolis), from a police department. I was a judge at a fashion show being hosted in a small town in Southern Indiana. At the end, one of the roads wasn’t well marked and a model drove down the wrong way on a one way street and through an intersection – the oncoming traffic didn’t stop and collided with her car. She and her passenger are doing well – this isn’t about the lack of markings. It is about what happened after that.
The first person to arrive on the scene was a detective in an unmarked car (or that is how he identified himself). His name was on his uniform and it had an embroidered badge. Immediately, his first reaction was not to deal with the problem at hand or deal with the accident. Instead, he jumped on a photographer who was capturing images of the accident. His first question was “Are you an insurance adjuster?” and the photographer indicated that he was a photographer taking pictures for one of the victims. The officer asked him if he had been convicted of any felonies or other crimes and then demanded identification. I stepped in and asked if the photographer was under suspicion of committing a crime or if he was being charged with a crime. The officer replied that he only wanted to know who he was and that it was between him and the photographer. He told me that no, he wasn’t and that he was only inquiring who he was. I am sorry, when you see a civil rights violation like this, I can’t let it go. It was very clear that he wanted to arrest the photographer for something – anything – just because the photographer was taking pictures of the scene. The photographer said he was fine with this, and the detective took his identification and was in his car for about 20 minutes running checks on the photographer. While he was doing this, the photographer asked me not to cause any trouble because some of the law enforcement is very vindictive. He thanked me for stepping up to defend him, but that any resistance would make working in that town very difficult. When the officer returned, he apologized to the photographer. I asked another officer for the name of the Chief of Police, and to confirm the name of the detective. This other officer wanted to know what it was that I needed that information, and I indicated that I would be filing a civil rights violation complaint. Several other people who owned businesses were already there from the noise and commotion and almost all of them told me not to say anything or it would impact everyone downtown.
That is a scary situation – People are afraid of the repercussions from a police department. Worse, you have rights violations and outright lying from police officers to entrap people. Yes, I know that most police detectives do this to get confessions from known criminals. But from someone who is doing a favor for someone else and capturing images of the accident because they are being hauled away in an ambulance. Even better, this could have been handled so much better than this by that one detective. Instead, he has learned he will get away with just about anything he wants as a police officer. Obviously, this one officer doesn’t believe in the laws he was sworn to protect.
I also want to note that their were four other police officers who were on the scene, and two sheriff’s deputies. All of the other police officers and deputies were exemplary in their actions. Even the volunteer firefighter/paramedic who was there immediately was incredible, and when no ambulance arrived, was instrumental in getting an ambulance dispatched and the victims taken to the hospital. Just the one person.
And, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the bushel.