BLOG: Kelleys Island -- the cops' side of the story

Tom Jackson
Nov 3, 2011

 

The Kelleys Island Police Department has taken a lot of heat for its arrest of Shaun Bickley, a local businessman who attempted to film a video of a police incident.

I was planning to pile on with this blog posting, invoking Thomas Jefferson, the First Amendment, the sacrifices of the brave Founding Fathers, blah blah blah.

However, I have just read eight pages of police reports. The documents suggest there is more to the story. If the reports can be taken at face value — they were turned in by four different officers — what happened to the Bickleys was a rather ordinary disorderly conduct arrest.

Arrests for disorderly conduct follow a format as rigid as a Shakespearian sonnet. I have read literally thousands of police reports in Ohio and Oklahoma. It's a four step process:

1. Police are called to a scene to defuse a situation with drunken, loud people.

2. The police officer asks a person who is shouting loudly and getting in the way to be quiet and get out of the way.

3. The person in question shouts a variation of the F-word at the police officer, gets in his face, and usually adds whatever insult comes to mind: The officer is a racist, the officer is a Nazi, the officer owns a complete collection of Barry Manilow records -- you get the idea.

4. The police officer decides he has had enough. The person is arrested, handcuffed, placed in the back of the police car. Often he spends the night in a cell.

Here is an extract from a police offense report filed by Officer Capperes of the Kelleys Island Police Department. The parts I quote are slightly redacted, as you'll see:

"On above date and time [Sept. 2] I noticed Officer Wade talking with a female who was walking around with an open container. I then noticed a white male later identified as Shaun Bickley trying to film Officer Wade and telling people that all we do [is] harass people and were a bunch of drunks that cover things up. I then informed Mr. Bickley to step away from the officer and not get involved. He then stated I will do what I want. I informed him again he was too close to the officers investigating the open container and advised him again to please step away from incident. He stepped a few feet back and continued to instigate telling people we are just a bunch of rent a cops that harass people.

"A white female later identified as Janice Bickley then started to yell you are just a bunch of [adjective deleted] rent a cops in front of people walking on the streets. She was told to calm down and she said '[verb deleted] you, you [adjective deleted] rent a cops' and repeated this statement a few times. Officers then approached her and asked for her identification and she became irate screaming and yelling and attempted to walk away. Mrs. Bickley was stopped and escorted to the police cruiser (please see Officer Ciachhi Report 11-189).

"While Mrs. Bickley was being escorted to police cruiser Mr. Bickley started to yell '[adjective deleted] rent a cops, leave my wife alone' and came toward the officers in an aggressive way clinching his fists. Officer Woods then asked Mr. Bickley to put his hands behind his back and he took an aggressive stance clinching his fists while backing away from the officer stating 'you're not going to [modifying word deleted] arrest me'."

Etc. (They arrested him.)

Now, for all I know, the Bickleys may have had a good reason to be angry. I don't know what the original incident was that set them off. I've had good experiences with the Bickleys. They are nice people and they've always been helpful to me.

I have no opinion on whether the police deleted Shawn Bickley's video, as he alleges and as the police deny.

Before I looked at the reports, I had understood that Mr. Bickley began filming the cops, they asked him not to, and then arrested him when he refused. It appears there may be more to it than that.

 

Comments

Phil Packer

I thought Kelleys Island was supposed to be fun.

indbrnscavs

so did i phil packer

EddieOs

"I had understood that Mr. Bickley began filming the cops, they asked him not to, and then arrested him when he refused."

http://www.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/27111151-41/recording-law-police-conversation-court.html.csp

 

 

Court says recording officer was not illegal

 

Ruling clears motorist who secretly recorded a traffic stop on his phone

 

 

 

 

cam

Really???? A disorderly conduct charge and it gets this much press, Leave the guy alone. I seen rape cases get way less.

BW1's picture
BW1

The report is ambiguous at best.  He was filming, he was asked to step away, he did. Then he and his wife continued expressing negative opinions of the police department to other citizens, as the First Amendment allows.  The only questionable conduct described is after the police escalate by trying to get them to stop exercising their First Amendment rights.  Sometimes, when you work with the public, you have to ignore a few insults.  

As for the rigid format of disorderly conduct arrests, I have read MANY non-conforming accounts, and several law professors who blog on civil liberties issues label the charge more accurately as contempt of cop and believe it shouldn't be on the books.

This incident COULD be just what the KI police claim, but then it would be an extreme deviation from the t pattern in the overwhelming majority of incidents since the advent of smart phones where police have gone off the rails with people recording their public conduct,  The reports of four individuals whose self interest is at stake is hardly a compelling basis for such a counter-statistical conclusion.   A responsible journalist would look for corraboration from witnesses who don't have such conflicts of interest.
 

Faded Glory

@ BW1--Ummmm you might want go back and get some clairification from all those "law professors" on the difference between freedom of speech and being able to say whatever random words happen to materialize inside your head at the time.  Civil liberties were not violated here.  Freedom of speech has to do with the expression of your views, idealologies and/or religion.  It does not have anything to do with shouting expletives in a public forum where other people, who also have a right to be there, may be offended by them.  To make the example a little more clear,  you cannot tell someone you are going to kill them and then claim freedom of speech simply because you feel you are permitted to do so by the first ammendment.  John F. Kennedy said it best, "The rights of one man are diminished, when the rights of another are denied."  Perhaps if Mr. Bickley wasn't so intoxicated that night, he would have had the sensibility to keep his mouth shut and avoid an embarrassing situation.  But then, they don't call it liquid courage for nothing.  And just so you are aware, verbal abuse of a police officer (or contempt of cop as you put it) is different than disorderly conduct/intoxication (making unreasonable noise or offensively course utterances and/or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person, which by its very utterance or usage inflicts injury or tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.)

ckayaker

In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the US Supreme Court ruled that fighting words (in this case, calling a public official a "damned facist") were not protected speech under the First Amendment.

According to the Court's unanimous decision:

"insults or "fighting" words...by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order."

The First Amendent was drafted to ensure a free exchange of ideas.   It wasn't drafted to protect ill-tempered and foul-mouthed drunks.

 

RV

Waaayyyyyy too many adjectives and verbs deleted for me!

ilkyp

So what  you're saying is that is Mr Bickley wan't standing there politely recording the incident as he would like us to believe? That's unbelievable!

SimpleEnough

When are folks going to remember to just shut their yaps and not aggravate a situation?

ilkyp

@ SimpleEnough....

But... what do you mean?! It's freedom of speach! Anyone can say whatever they want when they want without consequence. There's no law that says that Bickley can't stick his cellphone in an officers face and curse him out when asked to step away. C'mon get real. It's our God given right to be able to interfere with official police business and not get arrested. And if we do get arrested, you better believe we were abused, beaten, bloodied, stolen from and had our civil rights raped. Because, I mean, we didn't do anything wrong... ever!

italics = sarcasm

 

BW1's picture
BW1

Faded Glory: Civil liberties were not violated here. Freedom of speech has to do with the expression of your views, idealologies and/or religion.

Guess again..  Freedom of speech is not reserved for those expressions that you (or I) happen to find noble and highminded.  Just ask Larry Flynt or Fred Phelps, or, for anyone who lived in Columbus 15 years ago, Damon Zex.  The First Amendment protects a crucifix in a jar of urine just as much as Michaelangelo's Pieta, fart jokes just as much as Shakepeare, and Marylin Manson as much as Mozart.

 It does not have anything to do with shouting expletives in a public forum where other people, who also have a right to be there, may be offended by them.

Um, actually, it does.  About 15 years ago a driver in Bowling Green who blew a breathalyzer result way over the limit beat the DUI on the grounds that his flipping officers his middle finger was protected expression and thus did not constitute probable cause for the traffic stop.  Can't find the citation, but there was a similar case in Texas - State v. Rivenburgh, 933 S. W. 2d 698 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1996)

If free speech was subject to limitation because other people might be offended, then we'd be prosecuting people for displaying the notorious Mohammed cartoons.

To make the example a little more clear, you cannot tell someone you are going to kill them and then claim freedom of speech simply because you feel you are permitted to do so by the first ammendment.

That's not even apples to oranges, it's potatoes to oranges, and yes, you actually CAN do so if it doesn't credibly place the person in imminent fear of harm.  That comes straight from jury instructions given to a friend in a case where someone did just that.

John F. Kennedy said it best, "The rights of one man are diminished, when the rights of another are denied."

Nice quote, but what's the relevance? WHOSE rights were denied by Bickley?  We've already covered the non-existence of any right not to be offended.

And just so you are aware, verbal abuse of a police officer (or contempt of cop as you put it) is different than disorderly conduct/intoxication (making unreasonable noise or offensively course utterances and/or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person, which by its very utterance or usage inflicts injury or tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.)

The term "contempt of cop" has nothing to do with verbal abuse of an officer (which, if it weren't protected speech, would have half the #occupy participants behind bars by now, to say nothing of tens of thousands of hippies in the 60's) it has to do with the all too common abuse of the wildly vague (thanks for demonstrating that with the quote) charge of disorderly conduct for exercising one's rights when an officer expresses a desire that one not exercise them.

Look, even if the KI police are given every benefit of a doubt, they would still be guilty of gross professional incompetence for failing to A)be aware of the national epidemic of unconstitutional and abusive police responses to being audio/video-recorded, and B) recognize the need in such a case to tread with sufficient caution and exaggerated civil rights deference so as to leave absolutely no doubt as to their conduct. 

For instance, any officer who's thinking straight and aware of current events should figure out that, in any case where a citizen is recording police action, it's best not to confiscate the recording device unless it's a potential weapon.  If he's conducting himself properly, the recording can only help to establish that, and if anything happens to the recording, if the citizen retained control of the device the entire time, then the police can't be accused of tampering.  Finally, if at any time during the incident, they told Bickley to stop recording, even in conjunction with other, more lawful/reasonable orders, then they violated both the Constitution and basic common sense, and bear a share of the blame for events from that point forward.

ckayaker, Chaplinsky was in 1942, a time when contemporary thinking on the First Amendment also supported compelling Jewish children to pray to Jesus in public schools.  Take a look at Cohen v. California, 1971, for a more enlightened view.  In fact, calling a public official a "damned fascist" is the very CORE of what the First Amendment was meant to protect - criticism of government.  Regarding ill-tempered and foul mouthed drunks, as I mentioned above, the Constitution is no respecter of the respectability of those it protects.

BW1's picture
BW1

So, Mr. Jackson, HAVE you made any attempts to get corraboration of either side of this story from disinterested parties?