The National Police Association Supports Arizona Trooper in United States Supreme Court – Law Officer


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In the old days of revolvers, handwritten reports, looking up streets on a real map, and portable radios the size of big bricks, I sat in my classroom busily studying constitutional law from two seasoned FBI agents from the Phoenix office. It was the mid seventies and crime was as bad as it is today; and these two were a class favorite with their war stories, humor, and ability to translate lawyers into plain English and explain what we could practically do under the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. In the middle of explaining a rule of law, the officer suddenly stopped and looked attentively at the class. He exclaimed that this and other principles would persist until the Arizona Ninth Ward stopped us, and then we would have to pray for the Supreme Court to fix their flawed logic.

It was the first of thousands of complaints I’ve heard and voiced in my career about runaway decisions that the Supreme Court has overturned 79.2 percent of the time on review since 2007, which is why I was so relieved to get the Amicus Brief seen filed by the National Police Association on behalf of my old agency in a case that once again shows the importance of the Supreme Court in preventing activist and unrealistic judgments from essentially becoming law for us under its rule.

That brings me to this current concern which I sincerely hope will be another point for the wiser minds at the Supreme Court to correct. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) has a specialized gang enforcement unit that deals with some of the toughest criminals today, including Carlos Castro with a long and violent criminal past. Mr Castro’s convictions result in violent crimes, including aggravated assault on a police officer, and several warrants were sought on the night this case was involved, including assault with a deadly weapon. In preparation for dealing with this very type of person, the state of Arizona had added a very powerful and fearless member to its team of crime fighters, a canine officer named “Storm”.

Anyone who has worked with K-9 before will know the brave way these dogs protect the public. Constantly trained to maintain their sharp and obedient demeanor, these officials serve nationwide in tracking, searching, detecting, and withholding duties. Many have been injured and killed over the years, and some human partner can share how their life was saved by the keen senses, fearless nature, and strength of their furry companions. Storm is one such officer, and on the night of his arrest, Carlos Castro flees from the SWAT officers trying to hold him down and hides in a nearby shed. Storm leads his partner, Detective Martin, to our suspect, who then climbs onto the roof of the shed, where he is hit by Tasers and falls to the ground, but he’s not through the fight. In the fight to hold back the felon, several police officers fight for control, including Storm, who is holding onto Castro’s leg. Eventually the suspect lies still, handcuffed, and 12 to 26 seconds later the dog lets go of his grip.

It is these 12 to 26 seconds that are uncertain, as the K-9 is not on camera, that the Ninth Circle’s verdict could be inappropriate violence and that the officer denies qualified immunity, the protection, of public servants as granted to judges, prosecutors and police officers as long as they abide by the law. By using the novel, precedent sets precedent and takes the entire arrest out of its true context, that of an extremely violent, potentially drugged and armed criminal, the court created an entirely new benchmark for judging the use of force, the impossible Standard for the real world would add police.

Anyone who has worked with K-9 before knows that it takes several seconds for the dog to receive clearance, even if the object the dog is holding is still. Mr. Castro had just fought back violently in a chaotic fight that would take hours for a human to calm down, not to mention Storm feeling the stress, fear, and tension of everyone involved. Detective Martin had used his charge during the fight and did not give any further encouragement after the fight, but simply let go of his dog. Twelve to twenty-six seconds in the midst of a high-risk violent arrest is actually a fairly short reaction time, but in the quiet chambers of a courtroom it seems like a long time for someone who has never feared for his life while in his community and struggles on the night with a violent felon.

The ninth court believes that Detective Martin lost his right to immunity for violating clearly set legal or constitutional rights that he should have reasonably known based on the case law which they then list. Since I am not a lawyer, or even pretend to be on TV, I have to refer you to the simple English but wonderfully footnoted Amicus letter (“Friend of the Court”) written on behalf of Detective Martin of the National Police Association was submitted. a non-profit, non-political organization dedicated to combating today’s anti-police efforts, educating the public about law enforcement, and providing legal assistance, as in the mandate we’re talking about today. If a case like this is allowed with no real precedent taking an officer’s use of force out of the context of the real continuum of action, chaos, fear and threat, then literally any use of force could be civil lawsuit by suspects against the police!

What the letter points out so succinctly is that the Supreme Court requires a court to examine the use of force by an official in the same way as the official had to deal with it in real life; not in retrospect or in slow motion. In this case the violent story of Mr. Castro: serious assaults, weapons, drugs, resistance to arrest, gang membership and the actual act of fighting in the here and now as Det.Martin and Storm involve Castro in the actual fight in which the Bite occurred. The measure of behavior is whether Detective Martin acted sensibly for someone with his knowledge, experience and training and not for a lawyer sitting in an office drinking a macchiato and reading an iPad.

What any law enforcement officer should vehemently hope for is that the Supreme Court will again overturn the Ninth Ward, overturning this latest ruling, which adds an undone and illogical standard of conduct for officials in the midst of a physical confrontation. The fact that this ruling is indeed unprecedented, as noted by the NPA, only adds to the physical and mental liability of those under their jurisdiction by increasing the likelihood of an officer vacillating when action is required, and the fear of litigation arises never before seen by officers in an already fatal situation!

What I sincerely hope is that the court will reverse the Castro case and not only restore Detective Martin’s qualified immunity, but also recognize the heroic nature of not only his actions that night but his brave partner Storm as well. Thank you again to the National Police Association for their dedication and providing guidance at a time when it is most needed!

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The National Police Association Supports Arizona Trooper in United States Supreme Court