A police officer's perspective

Dateline: Thu 28 May 2009

The incident in Cottage Home story continues to generate comments -- thanks to everyone who has weighed in.

I am offering a separate post, since this perspective is sent by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer who occasionally stops by this blog. He asked to be anonymous, since the city frowns on police officers being too forthcoming on blogs and in other print media.

Still, it is vital to understand where the police are coming from; that's an understatement. My small experience with this issue involves meeting an officer years ago in a social setting. When the conversation turned to his work and various Rodney King type issues, this policeman explained his training: "We will always escalate...the point is, we have to maintain the upper hand." That's a paraphrase, but that was his message. "You take it up a notch; I will take it to the next level," he explained.

Later, when I would discuss this perspective/training with acquaintances and friends who were police, the company line was that such thinking was old school. "New" police are taught to mediate, to act almost as social workers, I was told. Various officers acted as if they'd never heard of keeping the upper hand.


Here is what our Officer Friendly says -- and that's not sarcastic. He really is a friendly guy, and, unlike the brass, he's willing to join the dialogue.  He gets points for sharing the following statement:

"Normally, there are three sides to every story.  Person A's side, Person B's side, and then the truth.  If even 10% of the complaints filed against officers had merit, most of us would have lost our jobs years ago.  I have one friend whom I went through the academy with who was accused of rape three times in one year!  Fortunately, he logged his mileage, had assistance on scene, etc. so that when the accusers were confronted with the absurdity of their claim they threw in the towel.  Not that your friend is 'making things up,' but I thought that might give you an example of why so many complaints are met with skepticism and resignation. 
"There has always been a problem in regard to discipline, but it has more to do with an extreme inconsistency in both the way it's administered and who it's administered to.  Just recently I had a friend get a 13-day suspension for what they called 'improper radio useage' (he used his laptop when he should've used his radio, which happens every day), but then if you get arrested for DUI you're only supposed to get 10 days.  Then there are guys who are politically connected types that pretty much do whatever they want, but that's another story.
"Anywho, I can understand your friend's (Dana Bradbury's) frustration, but this is what my thought-process would be.  The officer was called to a location and therefore was required by our rules and regulations to conduct an investigation.  For the safety of all parties involved said investigation requires confirming the identity of all parties involved.  Your friend had two strikes against him, in that A) he wasn't the one that called the police, and B) he wasn't being cooperative.  I find it ironic when people say "why do you have to see my identification in my own home?"  My normal response is "well how am I supposed to know this is your home if I don't even know who you are?"  Oftentimes people expect us to explain to them why, how, when, or what we're doing because we're legally obligated to.  In reality, it's usually a good idea but it's never obligated.  You don't have to tell someone why you pulled them over, why you're arresting them, etc.  We normally don't give people the benefit of a legal tutorial until after we've already done everything we need to do to control the scene.  Particularly if you've got a very dynamic scene with a lot of people moving/talking any one person reaching for something SHOULD set off alarms.  I can't speak for your friend's situation because I wasn't there, but hopefully this helps give a little insight as to why the officer may have reacted to your friend's verbal noncompliance.  If you go strictly by the force continuum, that would be verbal noncompliance.  Ergot, if verbal direction doesn't work you can put hands on somebody (i.e. handcuff them.)  The law states an individual has a right to resist an unlawful seizure, but if you're not 100% familiar with the law that can kind of get you in trouble...
"In regard to Fred Sanders, to shoot somebody, running away, in the back, is as cowardly an act as a human being can commit.  Until you've been in that situation you couldn't possibly understand the difference between self-defense and murder.  That was murder. (sorry just wanted to get that off my chest)"

These situations are always highly charged emotionally. In the case of Fred Sanders -- the former St. Luke Catholilc School teacher who shot a young officer in the back during a call about a barking dog -- I always sided with the police. Granted, the situation may have gotten out of control, but the young policeman took a shotgun blast as he was leaving Sanders' home. He died some 10 days afterward in the hospital.

What blew me away was how many law-abiding parents at the very traditional school backed Sanders and were against the police. That never made sense to me.

As our officer in this case said, "For what it is worth..."

But then, perspectives different than ours are always worth careful examination. Thanks to this person for writing in.


Seneca [unverified] said:

"You take it up a notch; I will take it to the next level," . . .

It's a good thing the federal marshal didn't take it "to the next level" when Greg Dixon (Baptist Temple) tried to get him to. Seemed to me that Dixon wanted to go down in a blaze of gunfire (martyrdom and all that).

If memory serves, that federal marshal is now Marion County Sheriff.
. . .
"You take it up a notch; I will take it to the next level," . . .

And people wonder why there are wars. "My god is greater than your god."

After two millenia, still the same thing.

2009-05-29 07:45:07

ruthholl [Member] said:

It's an unfortunate and potentially deadly attitude. Nobody has yet invoked the John Leaf shooting, but that is a classic case of an officer who took it up a notch -- young guy in his own apartment in Broad Ripple, passed out -- he had to break in his own place because he'd forgotten his key. Neighbors call the cops. The young man -- Mr. Leaf --- was shot to death.
The shooter was a then Marion County Sheriff's Deputy named Shelnutt -- Ronald I believe. The police review board justified his his actions.

2009-05-29 08:38:36

Susan Gillie [unverified] said:

We're missing the point here.

Until this incident, Dana had a cordial relationship with his neighbor. The officer had a perfect opportunity to do good and patch things up.

He blew it.

As a result, staff time was used to clean up the mess. What that means for taxpayers is waste of precious dollars.

2009-05-29 08:59:34

insider [unverified] said:

Ruth what your leaving out is that Shelnutt identified himself as a police officer several times, and Mr. Leaf, naked, approached him holding a knife, even after told to stop. Are the police not supposed to enter a home and investigate when they see forced entry? Tragedy would have been averted had Mr. Leaf complied with the police's commands.

2009-05-29 09:25:51

Pete [unverified] said:

The officer SAID that Leaf approached him with a knife. With Leaf shot to death on his own bed, we don't really know what actually happened. Leaving aside that the officer in question had previous incidents on his record relating to excessive force.

As for the Fred Sanders incident. With all due respect to the officer who piped in, if Matt Faber hadn't escalated the situation by illegally enterting into Sanders' home, then Sanders would not have shot him. Period.

2009-05-29 13:17:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Insider, speak not when you know not. Your recollection about that incident is incorrect.

I posted here about an incident in my neighborhood, when officers disarmed two teenagers who had b-b pistols. Nobody knew they were b-b pistols,, and it could've gotten ugly. The officers did a great job, and then arrested the kids. Whose parents immediately stated waling on the officers. I followed that case because the kids pulled the "guns" on me. Fortunately, they got intervention at an early-enough age, and both are now extracated from some pretty thuggish and gang-like behavior. Without sensible police intervention, that story could've ended in a tragedy. Or these teens could be immersed in a westside gang that chews up kids and spits them out.

But the whole "we have to escalate if you do" mantra is pure and utter bullhockey. I can see why the officer didn't want to use his name. He'd be disciplined, and he should be. That is not now the IMPD's procedure and hasn't been for a long time, thankfully.

I think the Cottage Home incident probably escalated beyond its natural life. I cannot imagine refusing an IMPD officer's request for ID, even if in my own home, for any reason. In such instances, the offender(s)' prior hitory and background are given heavy consideration, as it should be. If this citizen is not regularly a jerk, and was not under the inflluence of drugs or alcohol on that night, the officer should've shown more restraint.

But it sounds as if the whole thing could've been dialed down a notch if the citizen had given up his ID. That police request is perfectly legit, even if it's delivered in a snotty tone.

2009-05-29 13:44:08

insider [unverified] said:

Tell the Truth,

The Shelnut/Leaf case went to a grand jury. Grand Jury members are normal citzens, they reveiwed the facts of the case and found that Shelnut acted accordingly. Do you think they wouldn't have indicted him if he shot leaf in his bed? The true story of that night has been twisted so many times by so many who felt remorse and sadness for the victim that the facts were forgotten. The police arrived on the scene of a house that showed signs of a break in, they identified themselves entered the home, confronted Leaf in his bedroom, he got up, picke up a knife and approached officers. A knife is a deadly weapon, approach any officer with a knife and you force them to use deadly force. Read the Grand Jury court testimonies, I'm sure it's all public record by now.

2009-05-29 14:58:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Insider: One of my best friends was a witness at the grand jury hearing. The dead person was not entirely in the right, to be sure. But the sheriff's deputy, whose record is anything but sterling, overreacted in a major-league way.
A complete avoidable tragedy.

What should've happened? An arrest for disorderly conduct.

A prosecutor can get anything (s)he wants from a grand jury. Or, in this case, nothing.

Don't ever use a grand jury as an example of anything legit. Particularly in police-action shootings, it's a prosecutorial tool and shield.

2009-05-30 05:44:49

insider [unverified] said:

Tell The Truth: Your one of the few that actually aknowledges that the victim had some responsibillity in this, and I certainly agree that the officer has not been a stellar officer. I just think people should walk the shoes of the officer, they are forced to make split second decisions, and then have all of us monday morning quarterback everything they do. If I see one more "couldn't he have shot the knife out of his hand" reactions, I'm going to puke. This case got a lot of attention because Mr. Leaf was wealthy and his families attorney drew a lot of attention to the case. Sad and tragic absolutely, but Mr. Leaf forced the police officer's hand. I disagree with you on the Grand Jury. I don't believe it's a shield at all.

2009-05-30 08:13:12

insider [unverified] said:

Here are the facts of the case from the grand jury records:

On May 5, 2001, Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Jacobs (“Jacobs”) responded to
an incomplete 911 call received at 1:10 a.m. Jacobs Dep. at 38, 84. Jacobs spoke with the 911 caller
for approximately five minutes. Ryan Murphy Dep. at 49. After speaking with Murphy, Jacobs
radioed that the call was regarding someone breaking the window out of a nearby apartment. Id. at
92. Shelnutt heard Jacobs’ announcement, and decided to back up Jacobs. Shelnutt Dep. at 53.
Shelnutt’s understanding of the situation, while en route, was that Jacobs responded to the
incomplete 911 call, and had found a broken window and open patio door. Id. at 55.
Shelnutt arrived at the scene at approximately 1:30 a.m. Id. at 53. Shelnutt and Jacobs
entered the apartment within a minute or two of Shelnutt’s arrival. Jacobs Dep. at 144-45. The
officers did not discuss what they would do once inside the apartment. Shelnutt Dep. at 91.
Shelnutt heard a noise from the bedroom of the apartment. Id. at 125. He and Jacobs entered
the bedroom and found a man, who turned out to be Mr. Leaf lying naked on the bed, completely
uncovered, and apparently sleeping. Id. at 125-26; Jacobs Dep. at 165, 170. Shelnutt could see
Leaf’s arms and legs. Shelnutt Dep. at 125. Jacobs attempted to turn on the bedroom light, but the switch did not work. Jacobs Dep. at 167. Shelnutt and Jacobs kept their tactical lights pointed at
Leaf, which meant that their guns also were pointed at Leaf. Id. at 173-74; Shelnutt Dep. at 148.
The officers did not use their lights to illuminate their uniforms or badges. Jacobs Dep. at 174.
Shelnutt then attempted to clear the remaining areas of the apartment by checking the kitchen, two
hall closets, a bedroom closet and a bathroom connected to the bedroom. Shelnutt Dep. at 126. As
Shelnutt moved about in Leaf’s apartment and bedroom, Jacobs stood at the threshold to the
bedroom. Id.
Shelnutt stepped into the adjacent bathroom, which posed a threat because it had not yet
been investigated. Id. at 126-27. After checking the bathroom Shelnutt believed he had checked
every place where a person could be hiding. Id. at 127. Shelnutt then stepped out of the bathroom
approximately one or two feet. Id. Shelnutt wondered aloud to Jacobs why Leaf would be just lying
there if he had been burglarized. Id.

2009-05-30 08:15:37

insider [unverified] said:

Shelnutt then reached toward Leaf to try to awaken him.
Jacobs Dep. at 177. Leaf suddenly sat up in bed. Shelnutt Dep. at 127.
The officers testified in their depositions that as Shelnutt reached toward Leaf, Leaf raised
up from the bed with a 15-inch bowie knife and lunged at Shelnutt’s midsection. Id. at 169; Jacobs
Dep. at 34. Both officers told Leaf to drop the knife, and shouted “Sheriff’s Department” or
“Police.” Id. at 177; Jacobs Dep. at 188. Leaf did not drop the knife and continued to come toward
Shelnutt with the knife. Shelnutt Dep. at 178. Jacobs remembers having about eight to ten seconds
to yell to Leaf to drop the knife before the shooting. Jacobs Dep. at 188. Jacobs did not feel there
was time to warn that deadly force would be used. Id. As Shelnutt was ordering Leaf to drop the
knife, Leaf continued to close in on Shelnutt with the knife. Shelnutt Dep. at 178. Shelnutt backed
up, and retreated a step or two into the bathroom, but Leaf kept coming toward Shelnutt. Id.
Shelnutt fired his gun four times, hitting Leaf three times. Id. at 187. Less than three minutes
elapsed between the time Shelnutt arrived at the apartment and the time Shelnutt shot Leaf. Id. at

2009-05-30 08:16:12

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Insider: your "recollection" is from a police record, not a grand jury record. Grand Jury records are almost never made public. Do you know anything about grand jury proceedings?

Never forget: the sheriff at this time was Cottey, who's known to twist the truth more than once. What a miserable "public servant" he turned out to be, bad hair and all. (No mirrors in his house?)

And if you know anything at all about grand juries, you know that a prosecutor under Indiana law, can indict, well, to re-quote a famous phrase: he can indict a bologna sandwich. Or not.

Ask anyone who's ever served on a grand jury, who has an ounce of brains. They'll tell you their outcome was pre-determined, and if anyone dares question the prosecutor, there's hell to pay.

Grand juries are great in the investigative phase...the sheriff's deputies who do the grand jury's work are usually stellar cops. But never, ever forget they work for the political prosecutor.

On this case, by most reasonable accounts, they should've returned an indictment.

Also, I don't know where you get the "wealthy family" angle. It's just not true. The Leaf family is not poor, but they were in no financial position to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a top-notch lawyer.

That line was put out there, at the time, by the sheriff's department. They were the only ones saying that.

So--how long have you been a sheriff's employee?

2009-05-31 04:42:45

varangianguard [Member] said:

The concept that a police officer is supposed to hold a pissing contest over a citizen complaint issue is a recipe for disaster. This isn't two eight year-olds on the schoolyard.

If this is what passes for police policy is this county, it is little wonder that so many people (including myself) are so critical of the priorities of the IMPD.

IIRC, Mr. Bradbury was in his house, which the officer entered without a search warrant, suspicion of criminal activity in progress or permission. Doh! Open door doesn't mean open invitation. Little wonder that Mr. Bradbury was "non-compliant". I fear I would have been more "adverserial". Barney, get the heck outta my house!

It was a pile of bricks, for chrissakes. If the police were advised of such, perhaps a second officer should have been sent along to assist in mediating what should be handled without the police in the first place. Sending an officer out alone for any kind of domestic call shouldn't be allowed (and sometimes even that doesn't help).

What I would hope for would be that the Citizens Review Board had some teeth. If anything, following through is likely just an exercise in frustration for anyone who complains about the police. Sure, there are plenty of groundless complaints, but one might hope that the Board members might actually be able to sort the wheat from the chaff? If there was any actual potential for an officer to be held accountable for job behavior, then perhaps the job behavior might show some improvement?

Are we that desperate for bodies in uniform that we want to wait until something really unfortunate happens before action is taken? That is a sad thought.

2009-06-01 07:44:04

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Amen, Varan. Amen.

2009-06-01 09:26:34

whosear [Member] said:

I've read through both posts in this blog and Mr Bradbury. It is a very sad story indeed.

I've written comments on this that sit on my computer as files. And upon reflection, have not sent.

Except there is nothing more to say, except that all parties need to look at the exact nature of their wrongs.

2009-06-01 20:21:09

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