This week, a couple stories that should cause anyone critically thinking to see that those wearing badges aren’t always operating with the best intentions.
Midland Officer Suspended For Homeless Sign Contest
Two police officers in Midland, an oil-rich West Texas city, spent weeks competing to see who could take the most cardboard signs away from homeless people, even though panhandling doesn’t violate any city law. In the city of 110,000, a recent count put the homeless number at around 300.
Nearly two months after the Midland Police Department learned of the game, the two officers, Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, were suspended for three days without pay. City Spokeswoman Sara Higgins said the officers weren’t suspended until January because of staffing issues and the winter holidays.
“The fact that they are making sport out of collecting the personal property of homeless individuals could be seen as them targeting these individuals for discriminatory harassment,” said Cassandra Champion, an attorney in the Odessa office of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Simply holding a sign is absolutely a protected part of our free speech.”
Police Chief Price Robinson said the actions didn’t deserve a harsher punishment, as they were an isolated incident in a department of 186 officers. After the investigation, all officers were supposedly reminded to respect individual rights and human dignity.
According to the investigation report, eight signs were found in the trunk of Hester’s patrol car on November 20th and Zoelzer had thrown the approximately 10 signs he had confiscated into a city trash container after Hester called to warn him he had been reprimanded by his superior for having the signs.
The officers told the IA investigator that they were issuing criminal trespass warnings when they took the signs, but according to the report, no homeless people were issued criminal trespass warnings by either officer in 2013.
La Crosse Police Sergeant Charged With Threatening to Kill Family
In other news, Patrol Sgt. Alan Iverson with the La Crosse Police Department in Wisconsin has been charged with a felony that accuses him of threatening to kill his family.
La Crosse County sheriffs began investigating Iverson on February 19th when his wife reported she told her husband a day earlier that she wanted to end their marriage. He drove to her workplace and asked whether he should get his department-issued gun and, “Take care of this right now.” Iverson came home later that night with his firearm and cocked it before putting it in a closet, telling his wife, “You never know when someone is going to break into our house.”
The couple continued to argue the next day before Iverson reported to work. He refused to let her drive away from their house and followed her when she walked away. “He said, ‘If you are going to walk away, I am going to kill you, (our children) and myself. If you go to the police, there is going to be a catastrophe.” He also threatened to kill her family if she went to their home, saying he was “very close to doing that the last time [she] went there.”
The couple returned home, where Iverson told his wife he wanted to hurt her and said he is being pushed to the edge where he wants to start killing people.
Iverson did not report to the jail during his February 19th shift when asked by investigators and was intercepted by La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer walking toward his car, where police later found a gun.
Iverson is on paid administrative leave – otherwise known as paid vacation.
If this man would be willing to take the lives of his own wife, children, and in-laws, imagine what he’d be willing to do to you or your loved ones.
That’s this week’s Police Accountability Report brought to you by CopBlock.org.
I hope you’ll take a moment to consider just who it is that you are entrusting with the protection of those you love.
Until next week, stay safe and remember that badges don’t grant extra rights.