Note: the day after I published this, Commissioner Darryl Fairchild reached out to me to discuss a point I made about the police ordering you out of a car as a 4th Amendment breach- is, unfortunately, untrue. Police, can do that, thanks to a bad decision, made in Pennsylvania v. Mimms in 1977. It was a 6-3 decision. I will also stipulate that the Supreme Court doesn’t always make the right decisions- and in this case, they’d be hard pressed to find any reasonable idea that the police had the right to remove Owensby. His car, was in effect, his wheelchair, and separating him from it, put him in grave risk for his safety- the same excuse police use to warrant their right to have you step out of the car. There can be no doubt that two able bodied police officers were not at risk of being harmed by Mr. Owensby if he remained in the car.
I’m sure Clifford Owensby would have loved to be able to get out of the white Audi he was driving with hand controls (clearly visible in the body cam video) and no amount of asking by the Dayton Police officers who stopped him for a minor misdemeanor would help him do that.
Nor, was he going to run when pulled out of the car by his hair. There was no need to do anything but make sure he didn’t have a weapon on him, he wasn’t going anywhere. The flipping him on his stomach, putting their knee to his back, constitute cruel and unusual punishment- possibly life threatening, over a window tint.
We’re talking the difference between the 8th Amendment- and window tint. Officers who can’t tell the difference have no business being on our police department. And those who defend their actions don’t belong on our police department, nor should they be in positions of leadership.
This incident isn’t a case for further review- real leadership would know right away, if officers were told someone was a paraplegic- and they did this to them, and they were a white woman, they’d be fired already. Drug house or no drug house. Clifford Owensby was not a danger to those officers, nor was his holding on to the steering wheel an act of resistance- it was one of self-preservation. Paraplegics have to be incredibly careful what happens to their paralyzed parts of their body, since they become frail with lack of use, they often cannot feel things to warn them of actions that could break bones, tear arteries, or even lead to their deaths. They have to be much more careful than the rest of us, something these officers don’t understand.
All that aside,
the idea that a police officer can order you out of your car without a legal reason- is also prohibited by the 4th Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Watch the video, there is no reason other than hubris by these officers, for Owensby to leave the vehicle, especially after informing them of his medical status.
The statements by Acting Police Chief Matt Carper are measured, buying time, and failing to earn the confidence of our community- Black, white- human- for a gross miscarriage of justice. Carper should immediately be removed from his position and all consideration of his hiring as the next chief should be over.
As to the head of the FOP, Jerome Dix and his statement;
“The officers followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures,” Jerome Dix, president of Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #44, stated. “Sometimes the arrest of noncompliant individuals is not pretty, but is a necessary part of law enforcement to maintain public safety, which is one of the fundamental ideologies of our society.”
The City leaders, Mayor and Commission, should suggest that the FOP choose more wisely, and re-read the constitution. Hair pulling is not how you get anyone out of a vehicle- ever. and to think 2 able bodied police officers, after being told Owensby is a paraplegic, couldn’t find a safer way to get him out of the car- is ludicrous. Dix has no business being a representative of a police force that has worked so hard to earn the respect of the community.
That the City Commission has a paraplegic on the commission, they should ask if it’s ever acceptable for a police officer to forcibly remove a person from a car- instead of just asking for the keys, handcuffing him to the steering wheel- or any number of other more intelligent responses those officers could have had. No amount of drugs, drug money, weapons, criminal record, or any other excuse rise to a threat level to these officers- nor was there any immediacy to his removal needed. It would take time for the drug sniffing dog to come- and even then, avoiding cruel and unusual punishment is still a fundamental rule in our nation.
The cost to the city for these two officers actions will be in the millions when Owensby’s lawyers get through with these officers. That cost is money that can’t be spent on paving roads, replacing lead water pipes, or paying police officers.
This was an avoidable lawsuit. And, if our Mayor and Commission doesn’t step up to fire the officers- and the people making excuses for the officers, we should be looking to replace all of them. Jeff Mims, you especially- no matter how insane your opponent is, it was time to put your big boy shoes on and you didn’t.
If these officers are still employed after the conclusion of the next city commission meeting and an official statement about Matt Carpers failure to act, it’s hard to figure out why those we elect are afraid to lead.
To Mr. Owensby- you have my sympathies, and I hope the money helps you find comfort and something better to do than being involved with the drug business (from past convictions- not from this event). You too have an opportunity to become a leader, to make sure than no officer ever does something like this again. Please, don’t look at this as just a payback- but, as a way to speak for those like Eric Garner and George Floyd, who came before you- and never had a chance to speak up.
One last note– this video was released in record time with redaction. It’s why the Dayton Metro Library should be in much bigger trouble than they are for their delays in releasing my library tapes. We should also wonder why the KDT (the police terminal) was redacted- and the license plates of Mr. Owensby’s car were not.