Who Polices the Police?

 

“Two weeks before Spokane police Officer Barry O’Connell’s daughter accidently shot herself [in the leg] Easter Sunday with her father’s department-issued pistol,” spokesman.com reports, “O’Connell [above] had completed a gun safety refresher course stressing the importance of properly securing firearms – especially around children.” Officer O’Connell wouldn’t be the first cop (or salesman) to take a training course and ignore its lessons. But the fact that O’Connell’s instructor upbraided his student for piss-poor muzzle control and nonchalant gun handling indicates larger issues with the Spokane force. Why didn’t Sgt. Matthew Cowles recommend that the force confiscate O’Connell’s gun and sideline the officer until he learned proper gun handling? According to Cowles . . .

“I reiterated that we have a special responsibility to our own children and need to keep our firearms stored safely,” Cowles wrote in a report that was included in the shooting investigation. “I made special note that we don’t want any of our children hurt and we don’t want to be the next news story.”

Cowles wrote that he pulled O’Connell aside and spoke to him after Cowles watched O’Connell flip his gun out of his holster without looking where it was pointed.

“He looked at me with a blank expression and said, ‘Well, I am confident in my gun handling,’ ” Cowles wrote. “I told him bluntly, ‘Barry, obviously you weren’t listening. On the range you will handle weapons safely and follow instructions.’ I was less than impressed by his nonchalance attitude while attending training.”

Bad but not worth disarmament. Until you consider that “It was the 16th time O’Connell has faced internal investigation, and the decision to let him return to the force after his suspension was described as a ‘last chance.'”

Sixteen? You want to talk about CYA, circling the wagons and a cover-up? Double secret probation this: even after O’Connell’s daughter aimed his gun at a friend (a fact that somehow didn’t make the official report) and shot herself, the Powers That Be decided to let it be.

When investigators searched the room, they found two more loaded pistols left unsecured on a closet shelf.

The daughter suffered a broken leg and possible nerve damage but was released from the hospital within days. Three weeks later, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien declined to charge O’Connell with a crime.

O’Brien wrote that O’Connell “accidentally” left the gun on the night stand, despite the officer admitting that he placed the loaded gun there to remind himself to clean it.

“By all study and legal review, this is an accidental shooting,” O’Brien wrote. “It may rise to the level of negligence, but does not constitute chargeable criminal conduct under these facts.”

The obvious thought: if a non-law enforcement official (i.e., you or me) had displayed this level of negligence we would have lost our gun rights forever. In a heartbeat. Not to mention the possibility of facing criminal charges for child endangerment.

That’s without considering the possibility that one of O’Connell’s six vehicle crashes may have involved alcohol. What are the odds he was breathalyzed?

Good on the newspaper for unearthing the truth about this ND, but what isn’t the Spokane Police Department telling taxpayers about O’Connell? How can the public trust them when . . .

During the criminal and internal probes, records do not reflect any time where O’Connell was asked why he didn’t unload the weapon if his intention was to clean it. However, the department’s Administrative Review Panel noted that quandary in its findings.

“A prudent person using common sense would likely unload the firearm prior to leaving it unsecured on top of a dresser in a home where children are present,” the report stated. “Unloading the gun is necessary prior to cleaning so it would seem that unloading the gun would be a reasonable step prior to leaving it lying out.”

O’Connell still works for the force: $78k p.a. plus bennies. Until and unless LEO admininstrators come clean about their dirty members and get rid of them, law enforcement will continue to lose the respect of their paymasters.

Not that the cops seems to care. Or, especially, their unions. Hey, I wonder if the Spokane cop who sued the city for $4m for firing him for drunk driving—after failing to consider his alcoholism a disability—won his lawsuit.

comments

  1. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    Every few years, each department lets one or two bad ones go after the publicity and liability become too much to handle. But ‘Internal Investigations’ are emasculated shams, and police union arbitrators overturn almost every serious disciplinary action that the chiefs or sheriffs ever impose.

    Nobody polices the police.

  2. avatar Thomas Paine says:

    while we’re on the topic of ‘who polices the police’, check out this video on search and frisk in NYC. Looks like some cops are stepping forward.

    (usually i would never post a link to youtube or outside website, but this video is really good.)

    1. avatar Thomas Paine says:

      wow. didn’t realize that would embed, not sure how to just post the link without it automatically embedding though, with this new comment system.

      -carry on

    2. avatar 16V says:

      Pretty standard interaction between NYPD/LAPD/NOPD and anyone not a cop. Especially anyone mildly brown.

      The only shocking things is that someone might be shocked.

      1. avatar Thomas Paine says:

        no, the shocking aspect is that some officers are finally speaking up about it. (who polices the police kinda thing)

        1. avatar theaton says:

          No, the shocking aspect is that we are to cowardly to do anything to stop it!

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    Yes, O’Connell’s suspension was his “last chance.” However, according to the union contract, an officer is entitled to an unlimited number of last chances, and since this was only his first last chance and not his last last chance, he’ll have ample opportunities to kill one or more innocent people before his last last chance. Then he will be discharged, put on 3/4 salary for life due to PTSD and qualify for LEOSA. Because cops have a tough job, dontcha know.

  4. avatar 16V says:

    They are obviously starting to actively push this clown out the door, because nobody ever mentions any discipline (like the last 14 times) publicly until they are going to make a case against him.

    6 vehicle crashes? Usually brass will start giving you serious trouble after you’ve stuffed 2. To be fair, depends on what the crashes were. You will badge-out dozens of DWI stops as a drunk cop off duty, but drunk on duty looks bad when you run somebody over. They do tend to crack down on that one. Unless you’re a pain-killer popper, well, it then all just slides.

    Don’t worry, at worst he’ll have to get a new job at some smaller muni. Unless they throw you in jail, there’s always another department, no matter how thick and dirty your jacket is.

  5. avatar Peritas says:

    When these officers face an “internal investigation”, is the D.A.’s office informed for each of them? Or do they decide how to handle it themselves, and only involve the D.A. in the extremely rare event that they feel they can’t get away with ignoring it, or the offense has too much publicity?

    Also, in general, how can an individual go about finding out the background of an officer? Are these public records most of the time, or is a lawsuit necessary to get them? Thanks!

  6. avatar TTACer says:

    “That’s without considering the possibility that one of O’Connell’s six vehicle crashes may have involved alcohol. What are the odds he was breathalyzed?”

    Just as I have always suspected, this site is racist against the Irish. All (five) of those police officers not named “Murphy” or “Kelly” take heart, TTAG is not biased against the police, they just hate the Irish.

    /sarcasm

    He may have the same name as the Liberator, but he can go to hell and hisbosses enablers can rot there.

  7. avatar إبليس says:

    How is it a right if you can lose it?

    Cue natural rights dogmatists in 5…4…3…2…

    1. avatar theaton says:

      You can’t lose it? You can fail to exercise or defend it.

  8. avatar Mark N. says:

    In california, leaving a loaded weapon where children can reach it is at the leat a misdemeanor, possibly a felony if death or serious bodily injury results. This notwithstanding the trauma of a child’s death on a family. But charges do tend to slide. A CHP officer left his loaded dut weapon on a sheld in his closet where he thought the boys couldn’t reach it (his twins were five). He didn’t realize that little boys are inventive when it comes to getting to places they shouldn’t be, and a stck of boxes did the trick. One died. In another case, grandkids came over earlier than expected and Grandpa forgot that his glock was left sitting next to h is easy chair. Child suffered a serious brain injury but survived. Grandpa, by the way, was a licensed FFL who obviously should have known better. No charges in either case, although they were seriously considered by the DA.

  9. avatar Pascal says:

    If bad action are supported by police administrators, city officials and the DA, what incentive is there to do the right thing? In grade school, I remember having to write a short story about “if I could get with anything, what would I do?” Here in real life, we have this situation with the police. If nothing they do can really get them in trouble, what incentive do they have?

    We know going back to Serpico in NYC there is corruption at all levels.

    All of this puts a bad light on honest hard working cops. Just like the police have no idea if the person just stopped is friend or foe, Joe citizen does not know either. The only difference is the entire system is on the side of the police and if the police make a mistake, they are given a pass, but if I make a mistake, my life is over because I will be dragged through the legal system and even if found innocent, will loose financially or personally.

    1. avatar theaton says:

      “All of this puts a bad light on honest hard working cops.”

      I’m sure both of them will get over it.

  10. avatar bdk says:

    Police should be held accountable to a higher standard than the rest of us. They are not. The truth is, many supervising officers on the job in urban areas now are the product of the money Clinton dumped into Community policing initiative in the mid 90’s. Off the top off my head I can name 5 punks I went to HS with who became cops due to the lowered standards because they needed the numbers. These were kids who were poor students and in constant trouble compared to the average kid. Community college dropouts at best and couldn’t get in the military in most cases. 20 years later, these are the guys that are starting to take high level leadership positions in their departments. It is only going to get worse.

  11. avatar Dan says:

    “He looked at me with a blank expression and said, ‘Well, I am confident in my gun handling,’ ”

    sounds exactly like every youtube poster who has ever accused anyone of being a “safety sally”.

    and ND are exactly what happens to every one who dismisses firearms safety so flippantly.

  12. I live near Spokane, and I can confirm: the Spokane police department is basically a gang whose members wear uniforms.

  13. avatar Rock says:

    Well it IS Spokane. Their cops have a rep for being some of the most corrupt and abusive in the country (only to scale when compared with NYPD or LAPD of course), even worse than Colorado Springs. I’d trust the strippers at Spokane’s Deja Vu to enforce the law with more competence and integrity. Definitely not a city I’d willingly live in, not if you paid me.

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