Sunday, May 10, 2015

Citizen's Arrest

The latest post over at Tuluwat Examiner tries to make the case that Eureka Police- and perhaps the city- are racist for not arresting a guy for allegedly calling a non- white postal worker "nigger" and punching him in the mouth. 

What actually happened, we don't know. I suggested the police likely did what they could with the information they had available: File a report with the district attorney's office and let the D.A. sort it out.

I also pointed out that battery is a misdemeanor and I believe police can't normally make arrests for misdemeanors that don't take place in their presence. What the officer could have done- and we don't know whether he did or not- was suggest the supposed victim make a citizen's arrest of the alleged assailant. Then the officer would be bound by law to effect(?) the arrest.

A commenter there suggested it was a "hate crime" and, by extension, that the police could have used felony powers to arrest the suspect. I'd say that's a stretch when you have multiple witnesses likely to back the suspects version of events, and only the victim himself telling his side. What's the officer to do? I say he did the best he could. Felony arrest powers over something like that? I don't think so.

But I digress. I wanted to tell of my personal education and experiences with citizen's arrest.
We covered citizen's arrest briefly when I went through the College of the Redwoods Police Academy in the early '80s. I don't recall who taught that section, but don't think it was one of the Captains or Chiefs of local departments that usually taught. 

I obviously misunderstood, but what I got from the instruction on citizen's arrest was that if an officer thinks a citizen's arrest is bogus, and that the person making the charge is just trying to jerk the other guy around, the officer can tell the guy he's not going to go along with it- I guess you could say blow it off. That's was my take, anyway.

Fast forward a few years later to when I was working the graveyard shift at Juvenile Hall. After 5pm, once probation is closed, until it opens at 8am, we were the defacto juvenile intake officers. We were the ones called by police for disposition of juvenile problems or arrests. A big responsibility and it made me a bit nervous earlier on, to be honest.

I get a phone call from Rio Dell Police Department. The officer is unsure of what to do. He has a citizen wanting to make a citizen's arrest of a kid. He thinks it's a bogus charge. What should he do? I tell him it was my understanding that if he really thinks the guy is just trying to hassle the kid for no good reason, he doesn't have to go through with it and can tell the citizen that. 

He never called back so I guess the problem was resolved.

Fast forward a year or so. I was down in Sacramento for job required training. That included PC 832- Powers To Arrest, or whatever it's called. The instructor was talking about citizen's arrest. I rose my hand and related my take away from the police academy: that if the officer thinks it's bogus he doesn't have to go through with it. I also related the incident of Rio Dell P.D. and my advice to the officer.

Much to my surprise and chagrin, the instructor- a senior probation officer with Sacramento County- told me I had advised the officer to violate the law. State law requires that when a peace officer is presented with a citizen's arrest, the officer is bound by law to effect the arrest, or something along that line. 

He doesn't have to put him in cuffs and take him to jail. He can cite and release, or whatever, but he has to act.

Ooops! I guess I blew that one. Fortunately, no harm done as I never heard from that Rio Dell cop again.


At 10:39 AM, Blogger Julie Timmons said...

'Way back in the early 'eighties when I was living in LA I had a part-tine gig as a bartender at- I'm not making this up- the Howard Johnson's at Hollywood and Vine. One evening a guy refused to pay his bill (He was drinking Rusty Nails- I still remember that) so I asked the shift manager if it was okay for me to place a citizen's arrest on him. "Sure" she said so I called the LAPD who showed up in about five seconds. I asked the cops, "Will I have to go to court?" "Naahh,' they said. "We're just gonna scare him." A few days later the summons showed up and although I would have enjoyed testifying against the jerk I had a day job that was more important. I let the shift manager deal with it.


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