Ramblings: A Slam Dunk Case?

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Now, I’ve been around the block a few times and not so naïve that I believe all cops tell the truth. Every so often a cop somewhere gets caught lying on an arrest report or in court. Now days there are cameras that record everything you do. Pick your nose and it goes viral on You-Tube. So, my point is why lie to put some bottom feeder in jail for a few days? Or worse yet, on unsupervised probation.

If you get caught lying, you get fired and lose whatever pension you have acquired. The prospect of getting employment at another law enforcement agency is slim and you’re too young to be a Wal-Mart greeter. Oh, and you might go to jail!

So why do cops do it? It comes down to us versus them—and cops hate to lose. The laws of search and seizure are made to protect the citizens of America but they are also protecting the criminals who commit the crimes. Most cops live within the guide lines of the law but usually right on the edge. Ok, enough of that drivel. This Ramblings is aimed at what happens when you write the truth and no one believes you. 

I was working morning watch and driving down a residential street in Hollywood. It was about 4 AM and a rather quiet night. I figured my partner and I would stay out of trouble and eat about 5 AM. I didn’t want to be too full before I went to sleep at 8 AM. 

 

 

burglar-157142_960_720We come to a side street and see a car parked on the wrong side of the street with the motor running. It’s not the paper boy. Then, I see a guy looking in an apartment window next to the car.

Now, even a rookie cop might find this suspicious and falls well within the guide lines of Probable Cause as defined by the California Penal Code! So, we get out and question the individual about his activities. He’s more nervous than a long- tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He gives conflicting accounts of his presence and why he parked on the wrong side of the street.

I walk over to his still-running car and shine my flashlight in the interior. Nothing in the front seat but the back seat has an open brief case containing numerous small baggies containing a green leafy substance, resembling marijuana! Now, I’m standing on a public sidewalk and looking in the car, so I don’t have any Search and Seizure issues.

Los_Angeles_County_Jail__Twin_Towers_Correctional_Facility_I’m no narcotics expert but then again, I know that those small baggies are for sale and not personnel use. I arrest this individual for sales of marijuana and book him at downtown Jail Division. It’s where we had to book narcotics arrestees at the time. In the next few days a narcotics detective would gather up all the arrest reports and take them to the district attorney (DA) to file charges.

The L.A. County District Attorney has a conviction rate of 88/89%. Hard to believe that they couldn’t convict OJ. They only file cases that they think they can win. Now, I figured this was a slam dunk case, no stretching of Probable Cause or Search and Seizure; the arrest was handed to us on a silver tray. A few days later I got a notice from Narcotics Division that said the arrest was rejected by the DA. Their reasoning: “No one’s that stupid.”   

LA_County_DA_SealNow I don’t usually get too involved in my arrests after I finish the paperwork. I have had a lot of arrests rejected. I try to learn how to write better reports or learn more about search and seizure laws (which by the way, are always changing with each new court decision). This one kind of nagged at me, so I called the filing detective at Narcotics Division. He bluntly told me the DA didn’t believe my arrest report and didn’t want to see me perjure myself on the stand. 

So much for playing by the rules. I guess I’ll get over it someday, just not yet!   

Hal

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