Getting Accountability In Government

If you were offered money to be falsely arrested and thrown in jail, how much would it take?

How much would someone have to pay you to allow them to assault you and steal your property?

What would it cost to allow your kids to witness you getting assault, having your personal property stolen, and then getting falsely arrested?

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Is there a price for having your child put in a police car and being told they can’t get out until the officer gets what he wants?

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Finally, if you could put a cost on your constitutional rights, how much would it cost to give them up?

I hate frivolous lawsuits. I hate the idea of people pretending to be “offended” or “inconvenienced” and demanding kajillions of dollars to “make it all right.” Remember the McDonald’s lawsuit that netted a woman nearly $3 million when she spilled her coffee on herself? Originally, the customer, Stella Liebeck, sought $20,000 in damages, but McDonalds refused to settle out of court. They should have. Liebeck was ultimately awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was reduced to $160,000 because she was found to be twenty percent at fault. She was also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages.

Remember the judge that sued his dry cleaners when they lost his pants? Claiming emotional distress, he sued the cleaners for $67 million (eventually dropping it to a meager $54 million). This “judge” was lampooned when he cried during examination on the witness stand…by himself. The cleaners were able to find his pants and return them to him in court, but he wasn’t comforted by this.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that can be done to force a government agency to change how it does business when the people they are meant to serve are wronged. Most government agencies will only respond to grievances when dollar signs are at stake. Besides, it’s not like those who have been wronged can get their time in prison back. They can’t have embarrassment reversed.

Such is the case of my illegal detention, assault, property theft, arrest, and violation of my constitution rights. I can’t very well tell my son to unsee or unexperience what happened to us on March 16th at the hands of the Temple Police Department. I won’t ever get those hours in jail back. The stress this entire incident has put on me, my son, and my family can’t exactly be paid back. The only way to right some wrongs is monetarily. And it sucks.

There are some things that the city and police department can do that involve no money, but go a long way to settling grievances:

* return my guns, accessories, and ammo immediately
* remove my booking photo and fingerprints from the system since they were acquired illegally
* publicly acknowledge that the officer lied on his police reports and has been accordingly reprimanded and punished
* train officers on how to properly respond to armed citizen reports without violating their rights
* create a partnership in policing program that assists law enforcement personnel through community involvement in crime prevention
* host a concealed carry class to encourage safe and legal carrying of firearms; this would go a long way in proving the department respects gun rights

In addition to righting wrongs, it’s important to ensure that these officers understand that there are consequences to violating the civil rights of the people they are sworn to protect and serve. The police department needs to understand that such actions by their employees ruin the trust and confidence between the citizenry and law enforcement. Who wants to move to a city that allows its police force to trample over the civil rights of its citizens unchecked?

In life, actions have consequences. Depending on the nature of the action, the consequences are positive or negative. The Psalms teach us that “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law” (Psalms 94:12). Solomon taught in the Psalms the importance of establishing consequences for actions. He noted that sparing the rod means you don’t love your child and reminded us that we chastise those we love when necessary.

I love the City of Temple and I’ve always supported law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders. It’s the reason that I chose to move to Temple for my final years in the Army. We have a great city that is centrally located and provides all the necessities anyone could ask for. The cost of living is affordable and we have great schools. We have some of the best hospitals in the nation and our residency programs are constantly growing. Our mall could use some updating, but I don’t like going to malls anyway.

The only problem as I see it is that our police force (not including the Sheriff’s Department) has become too disconnected from the people it serves. Instead of looking for ways to serve the community, they are more likely to serve themselves. When one of its officers gets out of line, it seems to me that the Temple PD tries to sweep it under the carpet or circles the wagon to protect one of its own. They spread lies about the citizens they falsely arrest instead of attempting to make it right and acknowledging their mistakes. They are quick to release dashcam footage when it’s in their best interests, but not when it would expose the illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral actions of its officers.

So, what do you do when you are on the receiving end of such actions? Do you just shrug your shoulders and hope that it doesn’t happen again? Or do you take an unpopular stand to some and file a lawsuit? Including those actions against my son, I have identified nine separate Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code violations that occurred during and after my arrest, not even including the constitution violations (2nd, 4th, and 5th to name just a few). How do you put a price on those? How do you get restitution for having to endure those?

Will an apology take away my son’s overwhelming fear and anxiety any time he sees a police officer? Will a slap on the wrist and a day or two of training for the officers make him feel comfortable and safe in his own home?

Some costs obviously need to be remedied: my bail, attorney’s fees, and private investigators just to have charges dropped or maintain my innocence.

Other costs require asking tough questions like the ones I asked above. How do you file a lawsuit to achieve restitution and get justice while not appearing greedy or in it for the money?

As we get ready to file our demand letter, those questions have weighed heavily on our minds (mine and my attorneys). We struggled with ensuring that any demands are not only necessary and appropriate, but that the price we place on them is reasonable and appropriate as well. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but this is the system we’ve created to get justice.

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