Wednesday, April 11, 2007

That pesky Constitution

Well, today was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. LPD was thoroughly trashed in the letters to the editor appearing in today's Lincoln Journal Star, and on some of the radio talk shows all week. It seems like many people are blaming the police for the fact that a 17 year old young man continues to just get tickets for driving without a license, despite the fact that he was recently involved in a collision that killed a young passenger in his car.

Listen closely: it's not the police. We don't make the laws, set the bail, decide the cases, or determine the sentences. It's a good thing. We'd need a much bigger jail.

The police cannot put 17 year olds in jail, and we can't put anyone in the youth detention center or in jail for an offense that is not punishable by imprisonment. The Lincoln Municipal Ordinance violation for driving without a license does not carry a potential penalty of imprisonment--just a fine. So he can't go to jail for that, no matter how many times he is cited. That's not our choice, it's the law.

Now, when he was cited for Manslaughter, that's another matter. Manslaughter can be punished by up to 10 years in prison, so he could have been lodged in the Youth Detention Center by the arresting officer. But the prosecuting attorney asked us to cite him, instead. He appeared in court a few days later, and the judge set bail in the amount of $25,000 for his continued release. The law in Nebraska requires defendant's to post only 10% of the bail--in this case, $2,500. The defendant was able to do so promptly, and was out before the ink was dry on the reports.

Although these weren't decisions left up to the police, I will stick up for both the prosecutor and the judge in this case. The prosecutor realized that this young man had a serious injury, beyond the capabilities of the Youth Detention Center. Had he been lodged there, he likely would have ended up in the hospital, and the taxpayers would then be obligated to pay the cost of his care. Given the fact that he was likely to receive a low bail within one or two days anyway, I think the prosecutor's request that he be cited rather than lodged was a good call.

Now, the judge. The eighth amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits excessive bail. The purpose of bail is to assure the appearance of the defendant at trail--not to deprive him of his liberty before he has been convicted of the offense. Since this defendant is a lifelong Lincoln resident, it's pretty hard to argue that a million dollar bond is needed to assure that he will return for court.

It was our Founding Fathers who decided that excessive bail should be prohibited, and that our system of justice ought to have as one of it's fundamental pillars a concept that people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Although I strongly agree that our justice system ought to be set up to protect the innocent, I, too, get frustrated by the result from time to time. But in a free society, justice must await a fair trial.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bob W says...you go chief! You are right on target. The police do a great job for the citizens of Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU CHIEF. I am sick and tired of reading these letters and comments in the Journal Star blasting the Police Department. They blame us for EVERYTHING!! As a former cop's daugher and current cops wife, I of course have a soft spot in my heart for LPD. I am proud of our officers and the work that they do. We need more posts like this, letting the people of lincoln know that it's not "all our fault!"

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you can point out some Juvinile Court issues and how thay differ from adult court.

Arnold said...

Chief Tom Casady: Thank you for creating your blog and letting the people of Lincoln know how things really are. This can only clarify the perception of our town and get people to appreciate all our collective efforts.
Sincerely;
Arnold Radloff
Lincoln Water System

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that LPD cannot solve its high rate of hit and runs in the city of Lincoln.

Granted, most of these hit and runs occur in a private parking lot, such as Westfield Mall, where little information is left for investigators to follow up on.

However, there is another hit and run category that is oft overlooked; those that which occur upon the streets in Lincoln. And I don't mean parked cars.

I'm a scanner listener, and everyday, you hear "all units, just occured, hit and run... "

C'mon Tom, be honest with us, how many hit and runs do get solved?

Anonymous said...

Chief Casady,

This is a great idea of communicating with the public. I always appreciate your insight of the police department's perspective. My brother-in-law is the police Chief in Champaign, Illinois. I mailed him a copy of the article about your blog from today's LJS.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Chief--you may want to re-read the state statute book. Driving without a license is a class 3 misdemeanor. Maximum -- three months imprisonment, or five hundred dollars fine, or both
Minimum -- none

Section 60-484
Operator's license required, when; state identification card; application.

Section 60-4,111
Violation; general penalty provisions.

Whoever violates any provision of the Motor Vehicle Operator's License Act for which no specific penalty is provided shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.

Max said...

Chief, I am very impressed with your blog. This is the first blog that I have ever taken the time to read. I have added it to my favorites. As someone who works with juvenile offenders, your department follows the goals of juvenile justice in trying allow juveniles to be rehabilitated. LPD continues to do a great job for our citizens. Keep up the great work! It truly is appreciated by a majority of us!

Former Deputy Duensing said...

Chief Tom Cassidy,
Wonderful idea!! I am a former State Deputy Sheriff and graduate of LPD'S fine certification program have always looked to you to provide your knowledge and expertise to all of us who will listen. Thanks again and my best to you and The Lincoln Police Officers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4-12 8:47 am:

Individuals cited for traffic offenses in Lincoln cna be sent to County Court for which State Statute appies. Or, they can be sent to City Court for which Municipal Ordinance applies. Generally, Lincoln officers, with some criminal or extremely serious charge exceptions that go to county court, write municipal traffic tickets.

As the Chief Tom said in his blog, "the Municipal code violation (10.16.060) does not carry jail time (10-06.160), so the individual can not be placed in jail.

This blog is an excellent way to teach and learn about our system.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chief and all of the other Police Officers in the City of Lincoln.
I personally am tired of hearing how the Police cannot do anything about this 17 year old, who continues to choose to drive without a license. Lincoln Police Officers are not his parents. Where are his parents and why are they being held accountable for his actions?

Skipper said...

Chief,
I will give you props for defending the good name of the folks who do your work for you and who make up the Lincoln Police Department.

However, the whole (NOT THE POLICE) comment could have been left out or your blog. I thought LPD was a professionally accredited organization with high standards? That image of professionalism goes out the window when you type like that. Too bad you couldn't check your own attitude at the door when you started typing. The artical would have read much easier with the facts. If you are unhappy with something then explain it and move on to the facts. Making sure the people's finger is pointed in the right direction can be more easily done with out throwing a temper tamptrum with BOLD TYPE.

Let's be a bit more professional.

Anonymous said...

Listen closely: IT'S NOT THE POLICE. We do not make the laws...

Well Chief, in your case I would have to disagree. You have been a legislator way too often in my opinion. You seen to have no problem writing ordinances for the Mayor or City council, yet claim to only ENFORCE the LAW. I think you should choose one or the other. Then the Citizenry would have a chance to vote on your future

Anonymous said...

As a response to the anonymous post above:

You are complaining that the Lincoln Police Department, and the Chief of Police are both ENFORCING the law and LEGISLATING the laws they enforce.

While the Lincoln Police Department, and the Chief of Police are occasionally vocal on certain issues, they make RECOMMENDATIONS to those that legislate those laws. I don't recall the Police Department EVER dreaming up a law, enacting it on their own accord, and enforcing said same.

Perhaps you should become enformed before you start hammering away on your keyboard.

Anonymous said...

are you sure???

I am relatively certain that the Chief WROTE the recent changes to the Muni COde section 9.36 himself along with many other weapons related changes to the code in recent history. Like that ridiculous 24 hour restriction on storing a handgun in a vehicle... give me a break

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he did author the law at it appears (I have no idea) however I am fairly certain that it didn't become law the moment he penned the proposal.

Those that WE voted into positions of power approved those ordinances.

As for the gun restrictions, say what you will....strong arguments on both sides. Still, my point is that the Chief of Police recommends, others decide. I would rather have a Chief of Police invested in the city and its crime rate than a figurehead collecting a paycheck.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing hearing you act like you give a damn about the Constitution.

You seem to think you are above it most the time.

Anonymous said...

The conctitution is a great way to get our web address posted here.
barbreak.net

Anonymous said...

Hi CHief. I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this, but I am an 18-year-old who moved to college recently. I am home over Christmas Break, and my mother is trying to enforce a 12:00 curfew on me. It's embarrassing and cuts off a lot of my ability to hang out with friends. I see your statistic about DWIs by hour, and although they peak closer to 2:00, if I am driving sober, would a 2:00 curfew involve enough more of a risk to me to warrant the 12:00 curfew?

Tom Casady said...

7:42-

If you are 18 and no longer living at home, bedtime is your own business. However, as a basic matter of politeness, a guest in someone else's home should always endeavor to abide by the "house rules.". Your mother probably doesn't want to lay awake tossing and turning until she hears the door at 2:00 am. You should respect her wishes.

And yes, the risk is greater at 2:00 am then at midnight.