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Monday, October 24, 2016

Who Polices the Police?

This last couple of month's my life has been consumed with the twin C's, neither subject I'm particularly fond of having to deal with...cops and cancer...both subjects out of my control, yet both topics important to not just me, but society as a whole, which just cannot be ignored.

Today I'm back on the cop topic as I have additional information regarding the original July 23, 2016 incident we had with the Roanoke County Police Department that I detailed in this blog post - "My Life Matters" along with the follow up post, "The Incident Follow-up."

Those of you who know me personally or through this blog already know the details of how the RCPD erroneously came to my residence and held my husband and & I at gunpoint. I followed up with a request for an investigation into the incident. As outlined in my interaction/correspondence/interviews with the RCPD as well as my blog posts concerning the RCPD I had hoped for answers to the following questions.

1. How was it that the RCPD arrived at the wrong address?
2. Did Dispatch give them the wrong address? If not, why did they come to my address?
3. Upon arrival why didn't the officers identify themselves as the police?
4. Why were there so many officers dispatched?
5. Why were guns held to our heads?
6. Why weren't we asked to identify ourselves immediately?
7. Once I informed them they were at the wrong address and they fled, why was no apology issued?
8. Why wasn't the initial Call of Service report nor the Incident Report filed where the public is allowed the view them weekly on line?
9. Does video footage exist from the RCPD, whether from hand-held cameras, uniform cameras, or dash cams?

I didn't bother asking who the officers were that arrived at my house. Frankly, there were too many, and I know it would be highly unlikely RCPD would provide that information anyway. Heck, Kionte Spencer's family, the teen who was shot and killed by Roanoke County Police back in February after waving a b-b gun that looked real, have been unable to learn who did the shooting, so I highly doubt I would learn who held guns to our heads.

I felt all my questions were valid, and even though I kept getting told I might not get the answers to all of them, I certainly expected to at least get a couple answered. So that's why even though the media, both print and television, had expressed interest in running a story on what had happened not long after it happened, I kept them at bay. I wanted to give RCPD the opportunity to do the right thing. I had hoped once all was said and done, not only would I have answers to questions and a sincere apology, but that police procedures could possibly be improved upon to eliminate the potential of a future tragedy happening to both citizens and police.

On October 13, almost 90 days since the incident, I did finally receive a letter dated October 6 from an Assistant Chief of Police. This is it in its entirety:

"Your complaint was assigned to a supervisory officer for investigation. That investigation has been completed and the facts of this after were reviewed by the Command Staff. Following that review, the Department determined the allegations in this matter were not sustained. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to call me at ...... "

Not sustained? Not sustained? What the heck did that mean??? Were they saying I made this shit up??? You'll notice there was not one answer to any question/concern I had expressed, not a single one. No apology either. Totally dismissive. So, as I don't believe in conducting serious business on a phone as there's too much potential of a he said/she said scenario, I sent off an email to the Assistant Chief of Police asking him two things: What did "not sustained" mean, and are the police saying I made this up?

I never received a reply from him so I called a columnist, Dan Casey from the Roanoke Times, who had been aware of the event for a while, and who I had told that once everything was said and done we would speak further. I let him know I finally received the "verdict" and asked him what did he think "not sustained" meant. He too was not sure. At that point I said Dan, maybe you can find out more than I have been able to, so go for it. I also did ask him to wait until the following week, not only to give the Assistant Chief time to respond to my email, but as the next day I was undergoing radical surgery to remove cancer. Apparently, he didn't wait as he contacted the RCPD with some questions of his own. I was barely cognizant when I returned home that Friday when I saw an email from him letting me know he'd been in touch with the RCPD and received a response. Even in my anesthesia stupor, pain ridden body, I couldn't just disregard it, and after I read it and saw some of the info in it from the RCPD it really pissed me off.

There were quite a few elements that I vehemently dispute in that email, but instead of going one by one of all of them, I will let you read Dan Casey's 10/20/2016 column entitled "Leisurely evening shattered by police" so you can see what RCPD claims happened.

Before getting into what the column does not say, back to the email to Dan from RCPD who claimed this at the end of it, "I shared with Ms. DeRosa that I would be happy to discuss the investigation with her and I provided her with my contact numbers. Instead, she contacted you." Well, that's odd. I did try to contact him via email, and as I said I never got a response, so was he saying he never received my email? Since Roanoke lost its sorting post office to Greensboro, NC a lot of our snail mail is delayed or never arrives. Is our email now being sorted through Greensboro too??? Ha! Now, notice in the column, the Assistant Chief says he did respond to my question of what "not sustained" meant. So which is it? Did he get my email or didn't he? Whichever it was, I never received a response. I even had my daughter double check my spam folders, and other places to see if it wound up somewhere it shouldn't have. Nope, nothing. Still waiting.

Now, Dan did get answers to some of his questions, (unlike the person who was the actual victim seeking answers, me) not all of them, and not all I agree with (only 3 cops, really? Is that why the investigation took so long?), and some I find hard to believe. Cops are responding to a situation where they've been told, "When the police come, make sure they're ready to shoot his a-- or get shot" and not one of them is videotaping the event. Oh, and all the dash cams were not facing the home. Ok, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. By the way, reading that be ready to shoot line sent shivers down my spine.

Learning that the "officers were listening for what was going on in the house, believing bad stuff was happening inside" was really creepy as well. What they should have heard was the television on and my husband and I talking. That's real bad stuff. The barking of my dog only began because she heard bad stuff going on outside our door.

As you read in the column, the RCPD does admit they did make a mistake, but "the officers didn't violate policy, and they didn't violate the law." The officers also have been reminded of the importance of ascertaining street names of addresses they're dispatched to and "making sure these small details are very, very important." Well, that's reassuring isn't it? Reading is fundamental, so is learning how to use a GPS.

I'd like to enhance the closing paragraph of the article where it says I say "The thing that bothers me the most is not identifying. I think that's a bad policy that could end up harming somebody." What I really want to say is the police not identifying themselves when pounding on your door is fucking ridiculous and could result in civilians and cops getting not just hurt, but killed. If the law really is that the police don't have to identify themselves, that's one fucked up law.

Apparently, mixing up addresses happens a lot more across the country than you may realize. Something eerily similar happened to this family in Florida, and now the cop is indicted for shooting into wrong home after dispatched to wrong address. "It does not appear as if the cops ever made it to the correct address where the domestic violence was taking place because they spent the next ten hours further harassing the family by keeping them handcuffed on the curb." Unfreakingbelievable!

Another thing cops have to calm down about is rushing to judgment. Do they not realize how many pieces of shit are out there looking to ruin someone's life by making false accusations, whether it's to reduce their time sentence, or as a vendetta against someone for a multitude of reasons I could list. Or perhaps the police are looking for someone who hasn't lived at an address for years. One commenter on a friend's Facebook page had that happen to them a couple of years ago when they lived in Roanoke County. She relayed how the cops entered and trashed their home, while they weren't in town, to serve a warrant to someone who they didn't know, and never even lived there!  If you think that's bad, there's even worse.

Take this story for example: Sheriff's Office Claims Infant at Fault for SWAT Team Blowing Apart His Face With Grenade "As previously covered, Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, 19-months-old, was asleep in his crib. At 3:00 am militarized police barged into his family’s home because an informant had purchased $50 worth of meth from someone who once lived there. During the raid, a flash-bang grenade was thrown into the sleeping baby’s crib, exploding in his face." Not only was it a bogus tip, but then they went with this claim: "Merely by being in that room, Bou-Bou had assumed the risk of coming under attack by a SWAT team.  By impeding the trajectory of that grenade, rather than fleeing  from his crib, Bou-Bou failed to “avoid the consequences” of that attack." I can't even begin to grasp my head around that story. Do your homework before lobbing grenades in cribs and accept responsibility when you screw up!!!

I've said to my friends and family, I really believe had we not emerged outside when we did we probably would have gotten shot. Since Dan's column has come out I've read comments here and there from the different sites that picked it up. For the most part the majority of folks totally understand,  get what happened to us, are sickened by the actions of the police, and applaud our reaction to diffusing the situation.  I knew there would be the folks saying the only reason we didn't get shot is because we were white, or that we should be thankful we didn't get shot because if we were black things would have been different, and one of the most inane claims came from a local yokel saying she didn't believe this story. Hey Einstein, even the RCPD doesn't dispute it happened!

Gee, I'm sorry we didn't fit into the narrative and never made the headline national news because we are still alive and didn't actually get shot. There's always going to be those who think a cop can do no wrong, spouses, family members, etc. so it's useless to try and reason with them, but to all those misguided persons who think the color of my skin is a bulletproof shield, I will say what I've said over and over and over again...We did not get shot because we freaking complied with the police commands!!!! And remember, they came to us...we did not cross paths with them on the street, or on the road, or anywhere. We were forced to interact with them in our carport on our property after they pounded on our door without identifying themselves, which apparently is not against the law, and the practice utilized by the Roanoke County police.

But truth be told, I may have been living in a bubble all these years. Because I did always believe if you don't do anything wrong, you're not going to get harassed by cops. The people they shoot MUST have done something wrong. Well, since my incident I have read folks' police horror stories, not only from the Roanoke Valley, and wow are there a lot of those, but from across the country. It's very disturbing. I don't know what happened to Mike the Cop from my youth who walked the beat.  Remember this? Here Abbott & Costello remind all the boys and girls the police are here to help you...

Ha! So what happened? I don't know, but it saddens me, both for the citizens and the officers. Police perform more like military men and women than the approachable beat-walking cops of yesteryear. Trust has eroded to the point of no return. Respect is a two-way street and I'm just not feeling it on either side. Changes have to be made. And police policing themselves does not work on any level. I think every department needs to have an outside entity that will take citizen complaints seriously, and perform a thorough investigation rather than having someone stationed in the same station "investigate." C'mon, whose side you think they're going to take? The person they share beers and a locker room with or Joe Schmoe? That thin blue line is very thick...

Now don't go thinking that I'm saying all cops are bad. Yeah, there's more than a few incompetent and downright dirty ones, but there are plenty who really do want to help and be an asset to their community. And I know they have a hard job, a dangerous job, a deadly job where weapons are drawn on them. But they knew that going into it. They should be trained better to handle that because that's what they signed up for. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" sitting on a couch in their own home on a Saturday night minding their own business did not. And they really don't appreciate paying the salary of those who not only threaten, disrespect, and abuse them, but then not show any remorse or take any responsibility for their actions. You try acting like that at your job and see where it gets you.

****Note to the public**** If you ever find yourself in a entanglement with the police, I know in the heat of the moment it might not be the first thing on your mind, it wasn't on ours, as staying alive was the most important issue at hand, but make sure to at least note a badge number if the officer will not reveal who he or she is. Then they can't dispute they were there and you might even be able to find out how many other "incidents" they've been involved in.

By the way, this blog does welcome comments, but only if you bring something to the table. And you don't have to agree with me, but if you make up an "unknown" identity purely for the purpose of disparaging me, I'm not going to approve it. The police may police themselves, but you're on my turf here and I police this blog.

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