23 March 2010

CCW: License to be cuffed and disarmed?

Shotgun News

Charlie Mitchener, the Las Vegas business owner who was handcuffed and disarmed after presenting a concealed weapons permit along with his drivers license to a police officer responding to a burglary call at his place of business Jan. 3 has provided me with his Jan. 19 follow-up letter to the Internal Affairs section of the Metro Police Department.

Mitchener writes that he considered letting the matter drop, but "decided that my silence may put someone else at risk."

"Shortly before 5 a.m. Jan 3, the alarms in my office sounded and notified TSI, our security provider, that a break-in had occurred," Charlie Mitchener writes. "They ... dispatched a security guard."

"My wife, Peggy, and I arrived at the office about 5:15 a.m.; the security officer had arrived just before us. The security officer informed us that he had called Metro and they told him not to enter the building."

"The security officer said 'I don't want to tell you what to do, but I'm familiar with situations where the bad guys will come busting out and your vehicle may provide them cover, so I suggest you move it away from the building."

The Mitcheners moved their vehicle.

"Approximately 5:30 a.m. the Metro officer arrived. My wife and I ... were still in the vehicle which was marked with the name of my company identically to how it is marked on the entrance door. The officer exited her vehicle, the four of us walked to the broken window; the security officer identified himself, and introduced me to Officer Rogers. She informed us that she had called for backup to clear the office. The officer asked, in the meantime, for my identification. (Please note she never asked for my wife's identification or an introduction.)"

Mitchener handed over his driver's license and a concealed carry permit.

"Officer Rogers immediately asked if I had a weapon on me, to which I replied yes. She asked me to turn around, spread my legs and place my hands behind my back, to which I complied. As she attempted to handcuff me, she said that she was doing this because she wanted everyone to be safe."

"At this time, we are standing approximately 30 feet (away), with our backs to the place where the office was broken into," from which the security guard had warned them "bad guys could burst out firing weapons."

"My thought at the time, beyond what a surreal event this was, was what a foolish place to handcuff me. I wondered, and still wonder, how on earth is everyone safe. My conclusion is that officer Rogers ... did not give a damn about my life; she was willing to sacrifice me," Mr. Mitchener's Jan. 19 letter to Metro continues.

"Twice, officer Rogers asked me to bend at the knees ... (my arms were already extended downward, and my legs were spread), because she could not reach high enough to put the handcuffs on. Peggy noted that officer Rogers was having real difficulty working the handcuffs and fumbled about. Thank God for Officer Rogers' sake I was a law-abiding citizen, because otherwise the handcuffing would not have occurred.

Needed Some Help

"After the handcuffing experience, it was time for the trained officer to disarm me. I feel Officer Rogers begin to grab my weapon by the handle grip. I am wearing an excellent inside-the-waistband holster secured to an operator's belt. Incidentally, in addition to an IWB holster, I am wearing ... a medium to heavyweight, longer than normal sweatshirt concealing my weapon. I am 100% confident that had I not volunteered my CCW, my weapon would never have been exposed."

"As I feel officer Rogers on the handle of my weapon, I tell her not to remove the weapon in that manner because it is 'ready to go.' In other words, there is a round chambered. I told her to remove the holster with the weapon in it so that the trigger was not exposed; I was concerned that the officer did not know what she was doing.

"Thankfully the officer listened to me; unfortunately she then had difficulty figuring out how to remove the holster. I was wearing a Comp-Tac, M-Tac IWB holster, which has kydex clips that clip onto a belt."

"Seeing that the officer was struggling to remove the holster and weapon, my wife, Peggy, volunteered to help. Remember, Officer Rogers had never asked who Peggy was, what she was doing there or if she had a weapon."

"So here we are, the four of us: the officer (who) decided that I was 'too tall' and needed to be handcuffed and disarmed; the security guard, who was openly carrying a weapon (and) was apparently of the correct height to be carrying a weapon, and the helpful lady who is touching the holster and gun in an effort to show officer Rogers how to remove it. It is one of those situations that, if it were not so serious, we would fall on our face laughing.

"The weapon, with the assistance of Peggy ... is removed and taken by the officer Rogers to her patrol car. She returns and removes the handcuffs."

"Peggy and I get in our vehicle waiting on the arrival of backup so that the office can be cleared. I am so pissed at this point I want nothing to do with this inept Officer Rogers. When the backup officer arrives, they walk to the entry door and Officer Rogers looks to my vehicle like a lost puppy not knowing how to gain entrance. I want nothing to do with her so Peggy gets out, goes to the glass door, and is allowed by officer Rogers to stand in front of her to unlock the door. Again, great care displayed by Officer Rogers to make certain that a citizen is used as a shield against any bad guy that may remain in the office.

"The two officers clear the office and the backup officer leaves. A CSI officer arrives and very professionally begins looking for fingerprints, etc.

"Officer Rogers sees Peggy and gives her my driver's license and CCW card. I would think that the correct protocol would be to hand me directly my license and CCW. But at this point, why should we think that anything would be done correctly or professionally? Officer Rogers also informs me that she has secretly placed my weapon in the second drawer on the left side of the receptionist desk."

"Back to when I was looking in the dim light for my CCW card: Well, I found one all right, just not the correct one. When my drivers license and CCW card were returned to me, I found that I had mistakenly provided my Florida CCW card (I have CCW cards from Nevada, Utah and Florida). ... This was not addressed by officer Rogers. ..."

It would be hard to come up with a better test case to demonstrate the absurdity of any one-size-fits-all police doctrine that "Everybody out there is presumed to be a 'bad guy' till proven otherwise"-or of the inappropriateness of placing on patrol duty women so small that they feel endangered by law-abiding citizens whose only offense is to be 'tall' (heck, a young woman so small she couldn't even manage to handcuff and disarm a cooperating citizen, unaided.)

When Officer Rogers arrived, Mitchener, aged 61, was exiting a vehicle with the name of his business on the side-a name matching the business name on the front of the building in question. The armed security guard then introduced Mitchener to the officer as the proprietor. (Why wasn't the armed security guard "ID'd," handcuffed, and disarmed? Couldn't a "bad guy" steal a security guard uniform?)

Mitchener then presented his photo ID, including a concealed weapons permit, to put the officer at ease. In response she promptly handcuffed and disarmed him, leaving him in that condition in front of a building that might still have contained armed felons.

A "Training" Issue

Many readers have asked the obvious questions:

Given that this is the way a law-abiding citizen can now expect to be treated in this clear-cut a situation, after "doing everything right," should we "call in" such crimes to police, at all? It's not as though there's much chance they're going to get us our stuff back.

And if you do find yourself dealing with a police officer, might it not be wiser not to mention you have a permit or a weapon, as many readers have suggested? Officer Rogers never patted down or handcuffed or demanded the ID of Mitchener's wife or of the security guard.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie called me back on Jan. 27.

"It's not standard procedure, Vin. A young officer went out on that particular call, we've taken a look at it and her captain has spoken to her and they're dealing with it from a training standpoint," the sheriff said. "But our officers also have discretion."

For it to be thought that our policy is that every time we encounter someone with a CCW we disarm you and handcuff you, there's many people that that doesn't happen to.

"We're dealing with the issue internally. I had concerns when I read your (Jan. 10) article, Vin. My direction was take a look at it. Let's see what took place. Your questions are valid; I'm not going to say that they're not."

"As far as a written reprimand, no, but they're dealing with it through a training component."

"There's not a change, Vin. The police officers are their friends; the police officers are there to protect them. When situations like this occur, this is what I need as a sheriff, for people to bring forward their concerns. There's no policy here that's that what we do, that if you tell Officer Doug Gillespie that you have a CCW that I immediately put you in handcuffs and disarm you. You can't policy-ize everything so everybody does everything exactly the same."

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal, and author of Send in the Waco Killers and the novel The Black Arrow See www.vinsuprynowicz.com/.

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