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Gotta love over zealous cops
Published on May 9, 2005 By terpfan1980 In Politics
I learned a few years back (personal experience, no thanks to ever getting more of same) that some cops are just a bit over zealous and believe that once they pin on the badge and strap on the gun that they are Officer Hard-@55 and anything they say goes.

Below is a story about a group of teens that were building a snow fort on school property who now face jail time thanks to the aggressive police officer that apparently decided confrontation was better than negotiation. Read on. As usual, headline is linked. (Found originally via Drudge Report, from MetroWest Daily News)




Snow fort builders facing prison time

By Norman Miller / Daily News Staff
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

FRAMINGHAM -- Two Framingham (Massachusetts) High seniors arrested in January after they were ordered off high school property because they were building a snow fort were found guilty yesterday of trespassing.
Jenna Schroeder and Jason Osorio, both 18, now face a maximum of 30 days in jail after the two-day trial in Framingham District Court. The jury of three men and three women deliberated for about three hours before they reached a verdict.
Judge Douglas Stoddart will sentence the pair May 16. Although punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, according to Massachusetts General Law, an offender can also face a fine less than $100 and probation.
Neither Schroeder nor Osorio commented after the trial. Schroeder's attorney, Michael J. Heineman, also declined to comment. Osorio's lawyer, Melvin Norris, was not present during the verdict due to a hearing in federal court in Boston.
The pair were arrested Jan. 25 when police ordered them to leave the high school grounds while they were building a fort in a large pile of snow. The school was closed for the day due to the weather.
The teens claimed they were about to leave when they were arrested. Police said the pair were uncooperative and refused to leave after repeated requests.
During closing statements, both defense attorneys tried to convince the jury the arrests stemmed from the arresting officer, James Smith, getting angry at the "smart ass" teens.
Prosecutor Deb Bercovitch argued it was a clear-cut case -- two people told to leave the property who did not, so they were arrested.
Heineman questioned Smith's truthfulness in his closing statement.
"His credibility is something I'm going to ask you to look closely at," said Heineman. "Officer Smith tells a story that doesn't add up -- that doesn't make sense."
Heineman said Smith originally put a third teen, Edwin Snead, in his cruiser, but never arrested him. The lawyer said Smith grew angry at Schroeder when she asked first why Snead was put in the cruiser, and then asked for his name and badge number.
"Officer Smith never gave a reason -- why didn't he give a reason?" said Heineman. "Because being a smart ass is not a good answer. The evidence shows that Officer Smith was trying to bully and scare these kids."
He said Schroeder, Osorio and Snead were just having a fun day, building a snow fort in the large pile of snow. He said Schroeder's questioning of Smith led to the arrest.
"I would suggest the only crime Jenna broke that day, if it's a crime, is she stood up and asked a police officer his name and badge number," said Heineman. "She didn't cower. She didn't flee. She stood up for a friend. I would suggest the world needs more people like Jenna."
Norris, representing Osorio, said Smith had no right to arrest his client.
"Jason is a student at Framingham High School. Jason was at the Framingham High School. Jason had every right to be at the Framingham High School," Norris said. "The teenagers in this case are telling the truth about the facts of the case.
"Why would an officer exaggerate what happened," Norris continued. "Like all of us, he has a job. Everyone wants to be promoted, wants to get ahead."
Bercovitch told the jury the students had ignored an earlier order from Assistant Superintendent Ed Torti to leave the school grounds, and they did not, which required the police to be called.
"Officer Smith was there on behalf of the town of Framingham and the ground department of the public schools," said Bercovitch. "He (Smith) told you he begged and pleaded for them to leave for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, he was fed up. There's no argument, he was fed up, but is it reasonable to believe that it was just in the last minute he asked them to leave. I would suggest it was not."
Not only was Smith frustrated, Bercovitch said, but so were the defendants, who would not leave.
"That's all this case is about," she said. "Officer Smith has the authority to ask them to leave, he asked them to leave, they didn't leave, and he arrested them."
Also yesterday, both Schroeder and Osorio testified, while Smith was called as a rebuttal witness twice. Smith, Officer Benedetto Ottaviani, Torti and Snead were among those who testified Monday.
Schroeder testified that she was heading to her car when Smith arrested her. She said she even had her keys out ready to drive off.
"Officer Smith said, 'That's it,' and he threw me against the car," said Schroeder. "He yelled at me and said grow up."
Bercovitch asked Schroeder if she was mad when everything was happening, but she said she was more shocked and scared than angry. Bercovitch asked Schroeder why she did not call for help.
"You were scared? You didn't leave, did you? Did you call Edwin's mother? Did you call your mother? Did you call Jason's mother?" asked Bercovitch. "You were scared, but you went up to Officer Smith and questioned him?"
Schroeder said she was worried for Snead, who was later released from the cruiser and left before the arrests, and upset that Smith would not answer her questions.
At one point, Bercovitch looked at Schroeder's key chain and pointed out one that said "Property of Princess."
"Do you consider yourself a princess? Were you upset how he was treating you?" Bercovitch asked. The judge did not allow an answer to either question.
Later in the trial, Osorio said he was never told by anyone he should leave the snow fort before Smith came. He said he had heard someone had stopped and spoke to Snead, but he was not involved in the conversation.
Later, Osorio said he heard Smith berating Snead.
"I heard Officer Smith ask Edwin his name and where he lived," said Osorio. "I heard him ask if he (Snead) was a wise ass or trying to be smart by what he was doing at the snow mound."




I admit, I wasn't there, and I really don't know all of the facts of the case and what was in the hearts of any of the individuals, but I have to believe to some extent that is yet another case of a cop that didn't understand how to deal with things by calming the situation, rather than escalating it.

Again, I've had personal experience in the same general area. I also have some family history to lend to the story. One relative was an Andy Griffith style cop, in the spirit of good old Mayberry. From the first day on the job, to the last, confrontation was never the answer. Peacefully talk to people, convince them to go along with what you wanted and have them leave the situation without having to be aggressive. There were times when there was an absolute need for aggressiveness -- including chasing an armed bank robber through the woods with gun drawn and a threat to stop right there -- but normally the worst you'd see was a full nelson applied to someone that was drunk and disorderly and trying to man-handle more than a few bouncers/security personnel.

On the other hand, a much younger individual followed in prior footsteps and became an officer of the law also. From way back in boyhood days, this was an individual that was quicker to take to resolving things physically, rather than cerebrally. Pinning a badge on that individual became -- in many ways -- a license to do no wrong, and the individual knew it. Unfortunately he was later found to have truly done wrong (at least in the eyes of the law) and lost his job because he was on the wrong side of the law over petty personal issues.

Many of today's generation of officers of the law seem to be the former style. Aggressiveness wins out over thinking of other solutions. Rather than coaxing a resolution that everyone can be happy with, many officers escalate issues until they may eventually have to be a hero by, in effect, shooting their way out of a situation they caused or failed to resolve.

I hope the officer in this case is happy with himself over the case discussed above. It seems to me to be a terrible waste of tax-payer money. That the case even went to court seems to demonstrate the ignorance of the prosecutor, the judge, the officer and a few others along the way. It should have been tossed right away, and again, never should have happened to begin with.

The funniest part of the story (in my mind) is that it happened in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the union. If this had happened in a backwards, right leaning southern state, there'd be a furor, but because it happened in Massachusetts, it seems to have gone by in passing with little mention. I will say this story just confirms my desire to avoid the land of higher taxes as much as possible. It's a pretty area,and I have visited, but I am not going back anytime soon. I'll take good old southern hospitality instead, bring on the sweet tea and the humidity."

Comments
on May 09, 2005
There are officers like this in every town in America.
on May 10, 2005
I have a problem with this due to the fact it was PUBLIC property. Just as the courthouse square shouldn't be offlimits "after hours", neither should public school grounds. What's next, arresting 5 year olds for using a teeter totter when the school's closed?

No mixed emotions here, just disgust!
on May 10, 2005
Reminds me a little of a story I read many years ago of an overzealous Health Dept. official fining two little girls for running a lemonade stand without a health certificate or business license. He fined them because they didn't get permits and everything, just so they could sell Dixie Cups of lemonade for 10 cents a cup. I did that once on a hot day when I was a kid, and a cop in a cruiser pulled up to the curb, bought three glasses and shot the shit with my dad while he stood there. he told us it was nice to see, because it reminded him of when he was a kid. He was cool. Different time, I guess.
Another example of government run amok, if you ask me. Hell, we used to play on the playground equipment, ride bikes and play basketball at the schoolyard when I was growing up, and that was very, very often during the summer, when school was out completely. No one ever bothered us. Things have changed, and not for the better.
on May 10, 2005
School playgrounds are great during the summer or on weekends, I still go back to my elementary school playground and swing on the swings whenever I manage to make it home to visit. In this case I'm willing to bet the kids probably got snooty with the cop, which kids tend to do. Doesn't excuse the arrest or the conviction, but honestly, if a cop tells you to go away, it's just easier to pick up and walk away...
on May 10, 2005
Doesn't excuse the arrest or the conviction, but honestly, if a cop tells you to go away, it's just easier to pick up and walk away...


I disagree. We need to get past the mentality that police officers' job is to order us around. They are there to ENFORCE THE LAW, not to harass kids playing in a school yard.
on May 10, 2005
I'm not saying it's right... what I'm saying is it honestly worth the hassle? You pick and choose your fights, and a snow fort in a schoolyard is small peanuts next to what you could be fighting. The risk vs reward ratio is waaay off on something like this.

Also as a side-note, schools are actually only quasi-public property. Most schools will not let you just wander onto school property during the day, requiring you to sign-in or otherwise identify yourself.
on May 10, 2005
Most schools will not let you just wander onto school property during the day, requiring you to sign-in or otherwise identify yourself.


That's the same as any public building, really. They have a vested interest in keeping certain people off the property when school is in session, and I wouldn't argue this if it were the case of young adults playing on the school grounds while it was in session...

But still, they ARE public property, whether they are treated as such or not.
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