Shakespeare used this line to denote corruption or the opinion that something was wrong. Many city wide bloggers such as myself have suspected such here in Greensboro for many years. Former city employees and especially police officers have known it for many years. Regardless of one's views on the effectiveness of left wing progressive political practices, the combination of perceptions of impropriety and the actual catering to opportunistic antagonists now has Greensboro "circling the drain". Campaign promises that were spoken of by the Mayor and incumbent council members are just a scant memory now. Once again our council has decided that they like what they do, numbers be damned. And while residents of Greensboro, especially those on the east side continue to wait on jobs and new businesses that can pull our city from the doldrums of poverty, council still wastes time on issues that are only important to those who wish to make a quick buck or keep their name in the paper. Material that would fall into these categories would generate many blog articles. Today I choose to address a particular practice of waste and a dangerous precedent.
For years it has been common knowledge that the City of Greensboro will settle any lawsuit or financial claim if the cost of settlement is less than the cost of defending. Every civil attorney in Greensboro knows this too. In the past, exceptions have been made if the settlement would set such a dangerous precedent that literally thousands would come out of the proverbial woodwork to collect on any incident that closely resembled that settlement. For instance, arrest on a mistaken identity might be settled if the asking price was reasonable as judgment would obviously be rendered to the complainant should the case go to court. Even on cases where the evidence was at best marginal the city would take the fiscally effective way out. In some ways, this makes sense as long as it does not negatively affect an employee who more than likely did nothing wrong. Recently the city decided to give two brothers who were lawfully arrested $50,000. How can I say "lawfully"? Because a court official said so; and until another court official that has the title of "Judge" disagrees it will remain a lawful arrest. In Greensboro, our City Manager seems to believe that he has the qualifications, experience and knowledge of the law to make those determinations. He even believes that he should further embarrass his employees by offering apologies on their behalf without allowing due process to occur and finding out for sure if in fact the arrests are unlawful. It's very simple; conviction means lawful, dismissed by a judge after motion means unlawful. It's a pretty easy standard. Yet, our Manager obviously did not want this case to be tried. Was he pressured? Probably. Is he scared? Oh yeah, obviously. Did these two people deserve $50,000 for being unlawfully arrested? Not at this point; and unless these cases are followed up on and prosecuted and a different interpretation is made by a judge they will officially remain LAWFUL.
While I am researching this particular incident, another has slipped through the cracks in the amount of $10,000. This settlement was in response to a known anti-police agitator being arrested twice on separate occasions by two different female officers. This person is 6'5" and just north of 300 pounds with an aggressive demeanor toward officers. On March 9, 2015 he was arrested for Disorderly Conduct during a counter protest. He was also arrested on November 22, 2014 for Interfering with an Officer in the Performance of Her Duties. In the filed lawsuit, communications with the Police Attorney and the Department, no detail of the alleged misconduct was described. The lawsuit continuously and consistently refers to this:
"displayed force against plaintiff and threatened him with immediate non-consensual body contact, consummating his assault and rendering it into a battery, by touching and handling his body while placing him under arrest and transporting him into a police vehicle".
There is no mention of what law the officer violated or why the arrest was unlawful. Remember, the magistrate gave probable cause. Touching someone in the act of taking him into custody for a lawful arrest is not only appropriate but necessary for the safety of the prisoner. No other acts are described or physical injuries detailed. No reasons are provided as to why they believe the arrest was unlawful. No information or description of why they believe the officer acted with malice is provided. This is repeated in the lawsuit for both arrests. In the first one, the very obvious "slight of hand occurs".
In the first case, our suspect approaches a driver who is being detained while the officer is conducting a traffic stop. A traffic stop is an on-going investigation and this one was for a potential DWI. Our suspect walks directly into the crime scene, hands the driver an item. This alone constitutes Interfering. The officer has no way of knowing what is being handed to the driver creating a huge officer safety concern. No details of the officer's alleged misconduct are provided but in the lawsuit, the plaintiff admits this:
"Plaintiff handed a printed flyer to the driver of the stopped vehicle concerning police liability, asked the driver if there was a problem to which the driver responded there was not. Immediately, the plaintiff backed away somewhat, and continued recording the event with his cell phone photographic application".
You see, there is a confession in there that he violated the law. This is why the city manager should butt out. This attorney and plaintiff convinced the city manager that this was about recording a stop with a cell phone. The recording had nothing to do with the arrest for Interfering. The interfering was the actual entering of the crime scene and handing a detained suspect any item. By entering the crime scene, this large, aggressive individual caused a big distraction to the officer taking her attention away from her detainee. He then refused to remove himself to a safe distance from the crime scene allowing the officer to concentrate on her detainee. His acts compromised her right and ability to maintain officer safety. That is the interference; the filming and camera had nothing to do with the violation of the law. This time it was a piece of paper; what if he handed him a weapon? Given the history of the plaintiff, just who had the intent of malice here?
Yet, the powers that be settled. Every civil lawyer in Greensboro knows that asking for a reasonable sum like $10,000 almost always will result in settlement. However, to settle a blatant interfering charge and not allow both cases to be tried in a court of law to determine if the arrests were lawful is ridiculous. To not at least make the plaintiffs provide any evidence of misconduct is incompetent.
What do both of these cases, the $50,000 and $10,000 have in common? All parties in both these cases are followers and were advocated for by Nelson Johnson. In both cases a judicial official found probable cause for the arrests. Both cases were recommended for dismissal by the city and not tried. Worse yet, in both cases the city chose to punish police officers, docking them two days pay for arrests that have been determined lawful by every judicial official that has heard evidence in the cases. Does anyone believe that in our current political climate that if it could be proven that two citizens were unlawfully arrested and grossly mistreated by the police with malice, that the restitution the court would award would ONLY be $60,000 spread between 3 people and their attorneys?
These lawsuits are the equivalent of writing on a napkin with crayon "they arrested me and Nelson Johnson is my friend so pay me or he will call you bad names". The City of Greensboro City Council, City Manager and City Attorney need to be held accountable. Settling lawsuits is one thing; punishing police officers AND awarding tax payer dollars promote the perception that our officers did something wrong. Zero evidence exists supporting that perception. The judicial system certainly hasn't ruled so. How much longer will the citizens of Greensboro stand by and watch the political, opportunistic antagonists in concert with our elected and appointed city officials continue to mistreat city employees in general and police officers in particular in the name of appeasement?
$60,000 may not sound like much in the grand scheme of things but for the majority of residents of our city it sounds like a fortune. Our city security is hanging in the balance at the moment though city officials turn a blind eye. Stop corruptly wasting money and setting dangerous precedents and learn how to tell these opportunists NO.