Idle query

What fraction of “resisting arrest” complaints reflect a cover-up of excessive use of force by the police? A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy may have chosen the wrong victim.

What fraction of “resisting arrest” charges reflect a cover-up of excessive use of force by the police? Ten percent? More?

If I ran a prosecutor’s office, I’d want to give those charges some very serious screening. Instead, some prosecutors allow the cops to use them as bargaining chips: “I’ll agree to drop charges if you’ll sign an agreement not to sue.” Prosecutors need to maintain good relationships with cops; that’s just an institutional fact. If I ran a police department, I’d want someone in Internal Affairs to look at every “resisting arrest” arrest, and look harder at officers who generate several of them.

In these situations the institutional advantages are all on the side of the police. But those advantages, awesome as they are, become considerably attenuated when (1) the victim of the excessive force is prosperous and well-connected; (2) the victim is surrounded by other similarly-situated people; and (3) the press is paying attention.

It would be a shame if the police learned from this only that it’s unwise to assault, and then falsely charge, prosperous and well-connected people.

Footnotes

1. The fact that the sergeant confronted with questions about his officers’ over-reaction decided to make a political attack on the candidate for whom the fundraiser was being held doesn’t fill me with confidence in his fair-mindedness. However the probe comes out, those comments were completely out of line and warrant a sharp reprimand.

2. Making a false police report is a crime. The 911 tapes should record the identity of whoever called in the noise complaint. If it can be shown that the intent was to shut down the fundraiser, we’re talking about Federal civil rights act violations; the hostess could well wind up owning her neighbor’s house.

3. Under California law, there is in fact an obligation to identify yourself to a police officer if the police officer has an articulable suspicion that a crime has been committed. And that obligation can extend beyond providing a name to providing a date of birth or identification document. In this case, though, since the officer was confronting a homeowner in her home, it’s going to be hard to make out that he had a justification for physically grabbing her when she tried to walk away from him.

3. I wonder why the LA Times story (at the jump) omitted the fact that someone – the same neighbor who called in the false noise complaint? – was shouting homophobic obscenities over the fence; the party was hosted by a lesbian couple. The UPI story is even shabbier, in the worst traditions of “police-beat” reporting. Reporters, like prosecutors, are dependent on cops, and the result, too often, is credulous and uncritical reporting.

Candidate to confront deputies over raid

Host, guest arrested at Busby fundraiser

By Angela Lau, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. June 29, 2009

Francine Busby

Francine Busby

Update: Internal probe

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department announced Monday that it has launched an internal affairs investigation into a deputy’s use of pepper spray at a fundraising party for Francine Busby on Friday night in Cardiff.

Undersheriff Bill Gore said in a statement that he has spoken with several community leaders about the incident, including Busby.

“The only proper way to ascertain exactly what happened is to initiate an Internal Affairs investigation,” Gore said. “We cannot take action based on media accounts and will conduct a thorough inquiry, to include interviews of witnesses at the fundraising event.”

Related stories:

* Busby wants explanation from Sheriff’s Department over arrests

* Hostess at fundraiser for Busby is arrested

* Hostess of Busby fundraiser arrested during melee

* Busby plans to run again for seat in 50th District

ENCINITAS — Francine Busby says she will demand an explanation from the Sheriff’s Department about deputies breaking up a fundraising party held for her in Cardiff and arresting the host.

The party was Friday night in the 1300 block of Rubenstein Avenue, the home of Shari Barman, a Busby supporter.

It ended with Barman, 60, being arrested and jailed on suspicion of battery on a peace officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing a peace officer.

Pam Morgan, 62, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and one of the guests, also was arrested and taken to the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, where she was cited for resisting, delaying and obstructing a peace officer.

Other partygoers were doused with pepper spray, and seven deputies, a sergeant and a helicopter were dispatched to the neighborhood of expensive homes.

Busby, Barman, guests at the party and a Sheriff’s Department spokesman provided varying accounts of what happened.

Busby, 58, a Democrat seeking the 50th Congressional District seat in 2010, said she will meet with Sheriff Department officials today to find out who made what she called a “phony” noise complaint.

The Sheriff’s Department received the complaint at 9:33 p.m. from a man who said someone was talking on a loudspeaker and a crowd was cheering, keeping him awake.

From about 8 to 8:30 p.m., Busby said, she used an amplified microphone to talk to guests, whom she described as middle-aged supporters.

During Busby’s speech, Barman said in a statement yesterday, a man on the property behind her house shouted “disparaging remarks” about Busby and gay people. Barman lives in the house with her partner, Jane Stratton, 55.

After her talk, Busby said, people chatted.

“It was a quiet home reception, disrupted by a vulgar person shouting obscenities from behind the bushes,” Busby said.

Neighbors on three sides of the house said yesterday there wasn’t much noise from the party. One man said he slept through it.

“We didn’t hear anything until the sheriff came, with eight patrol cars and a helicopter,” said Natasha Cortina, 43, who said she and her two children were home with the windows open.

Hugh Elliott, 53, who lives closest to the house, said he heard a deputy’s radio, then arguing, coughing, crying and finally everyone spilling outside as the smell of pepper spray drifted over his back fence.

Deputy Marshall Abbott, who has worked for the department for about two years, was sent in response to the noise complaint, said Sgt. Thomas Yancey of the Encinitas station, which serves Cardiff. A member of the department’s psychiatric emergency response team, who was riding with Abbott that day, went with him. Abbott could not be reached for comment.

While trying to deal with the complaint, guests at the party surrounded Abbott and he felt threatened, Yancey said.

“We don’t like people standing behind us — we have Tasers, guns, clubs,” he said.

Busby said no more than 30 people were still at the party. Yancey said deputies’ reports indicate there could have been as many as 50.

When Abbott arrived, Yancey said, he told Barman about the complaint, and she uttered an expletive about a neighbor. Abbott asked Barman for her birth date so he could issue a noise warning, but Barman refused to give it, he said.

Barman tried to walk away, Yancey said, and Abbott grabbed her. The guests took Barman away, and Abbott used pepper spray on them. In the chaos, someone kicked the emergency response team member, a woman who is 5-foot-2, Yancey said.

“He was pepper-spraying the faces of anyone who tried to talk to him,” Busby said. “People were stunned. It was something that none of us has experienced.”

In her statement, Barman said she asked the deputy why he needed her birth date, because he knew her name and where she lived.

“He told me I was under arrest, grabbed my right arm, twisted it behind me and threw me on the ground,” she said.

When Stratton asked the deputy to be careful because Barman had shoulder surgery recently, the deputy “knocked her to the ground,” Barman said.

After the pepper spray was used, the crowded backed off, and Abbott saw Barman in the kitchen and grabbed her, Yancey said. A man held on to Barman’s foot to prevent her from being taken out of the room, and she fell to the floor. Abbott took out his Taser, the man backed off, and Barman was arrested, he said.

At some point Abbott called for backup and six deputies and a sergeant responded, Yancey said. Deputy Derek Sanders arrested Morgan, he said. There were no reported injuries.

Reports from deputies at the scene do not mention alcohol, Yancey said, which indicates people at the party were not suspected of being drunk.

“The place got out of hand,” he said. “If Francine Busby was there, why not take a leadership role, step up, and nip this thing in the bud?”

Busby said she couldn’t intervene because the deputy was using pepper spray on people indiscriminately.

Barman was booked into jail at 2 a.m. Saturday and released on her own recognizance at 11 a.m., a jail official said. She is scheduled to appear in Vista Superior Court on Aug. 11 on the two misdemeanor counts.

Morgan could not be reached for comment.

Busby had sought the 50th Congressional District seat in 2006, but was defeated by Brian Bilbray, 53 percent to 44 percent. The seat was vacated by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who is in federal prison after pleading guilty in a corruption scandal.

Staff writer Mark Arner contributed to this report.

San Diego sheriff seeks probe in use of pepper spray at political event

11:55 AM | June 29, 2009

Top officials at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department have ordered an internal affairs investigation into the use of pepper spray by a deputy to make an arrest at a fundraiser in Encinitas for a Democratic congressional hopeful.

The investigation was ordered after Francine Busby met with Undersheriff Bill Gore to complain about the use of pepper spray at her fundraiser Friday at a home in the upscale Cardiff neighborhood. Busby is seeking her party’s nomination for a rematch next year with Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) in the 50th Congressional District.

“We cannot take action based on media accounts and will conduct a thorough inquiry to include interviews of witnesses at the fund-raising event,” said Gore, who becomes sheriff on Friday after the retirement of Sheriff Bill Kolender.

The incident began about 9 p.m. after a deputy responded to a neighbor’s complaint of excessive noise. When one of the owners of the home where the fundraiser was being held, 60-year-old Shari Barman, refused to give her age to the deputy, the situation quickly deteriorated.

According to people attending the fundraiser, the deputy began pulling on Barman’s arm, despite pleas from her partner that she had just undergone surgery. People then surrounded Barman to prevent her from being arrested and one person held onto her leg to keep the deputy from taking her to his squad car.

The deputy called for backup and used pepper spray on the crowd. More deputies arrived. Barman was arrested for allegedly assaulting a deputy, and a second attendee, Pam Morgan, 62, of Rancho Santa Fe, was cited for obstructing an officer.

Busby said today that the deputy “clearly overreacted.”

“There was no noise, there was no problem, these were middle-aged men and women talking very quietly,” she said.

A former Cardiff school board member, Busby said some of the people at the fundraiser began choking from the pepper spray and needed help from paramedics.

“We need an investigation to make sure this never happens to anyone else,” she said.

Busby, 58, ran unsuccessfully against Republican Duke Cunningham in 2004. Once he was ousted from office by a criminal conviction, she ran in 2006 against Republican candidate Bilbray, who formerly represented a congressional district south of San Diego.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com