Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cop files bogus charges, lies and tasers Mom.

Deputy Tasers Mom In Minivan

A New York mother has filed a law suit against the Onodaga County Sheriff's department because of the actions of a violent deputy who pulled her over in traffic stop. Audra Harmon had just picked up her 15-year-old son from wrestling practice and was driving home. Also in the car was her five-year-old daughter. (Video of the incident is above, but read to the end for context first.)

Deputy Sean Andrews pulled Harmon over claiming that she had been using her cellphone while driving and said he was going to ticket her for that offense. Harmon was baffled as she had not been using a cell phone and told the officer she could show him the phone log with would indicate no calls had been made in the previous two hours.

Trapped by the evidence Deputy Andrews changed his story and now claimed that Harmon was being ticketed, not because of driving while using a cell phone, but because she was speeding. Harmon knew she was not speeding as well. So she asked to see the radar report that would show she was speeding. Andrews began walking toward his vehicle and Harmon assumed that he would then show her the evidence that she was speeding. So she got out of the car to follow him and take a look. In fact Andrews had no evidence that she was speeding. He claimed to have eye-balled her speed, that is determined it merely by looking at her. No radar was used.

Deputy Andrews went apoplectic and ordered her to get back in the car. He apparently had no intention of showing her any proof at all. She tried to ask for the evidence again and did get in the car. Her horrified son yelled to her to get back in, he apparently realized the officer was dangerous. As soon as she did get back in the car Deputy Andrews changed his mind again and demanded that she exit the vehicle instead. In this confusing situation Harmon is not sure what to do since she was ordered to stay in the vehicle and ordered to get out of the vehicle by the same cop who first claimed she was on a cell phone, and then pretended that wasn't the issue at all. Apparently Deputy Andrews has problems determining the facts and sticking to them.

Harmon's young daughter, witnessing this violent attack on her mother started screaming hysterically. She said: "Afterward, my son said she [the daughter] was really crying hysterically, wanting to know what happened to Mommy." Six police officers now arrived to help arrest this woman. An ambulance came and EMT technicians removed the taser barb from Harmon's chest and took her to the hospital. Deputy Andrews followed and issued four traffic tickets to the woman. Included was one for talking a cell phone (though she wasn't), speeding (based on his eye-ball evidence), resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Police officers left the two children in the vehicle when they took Harmon to the hospital. They did not attempt to bring the children home, where Harmon's husband, who worked a night job, was sleeping. Instead they went to the house, woke Mr. Harmon and told him to go get his children. Harmon says that they children were left in the car, alone, for about 40 minutes.

Andrews' own police report "said Harmon refused his request to get back in her van, then refused to get out when he said she was under arrest." Get in, get out, make up your mind! Andrews yanks the woman out of her vehicle and tells her she is under arrest. Please note that she did nothing wrong to this point. She did not threaten a police officer. She asked for evidence of a traffic offense which the officer was refusing to give her.

Harmon is confused by the violent officer and his contradictory commands and his changing stories. She is also afraid of him—with good reason, police officers are violent and can not be trusted. Andrews pulls out his taser and tasers the women. The reason was that she started begging him not to do this to her in front of her children. Like wild animals do when they smell weakness the officer ratcheted up the attack by tasering her.

He claimed she resisted arrest. She did not. He had claimed she was on the cell phone. She was not. When she could prove that was a lie the Deputy changed his story. He then claimed she was speeding—his actually accusation was that she was going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. He claimed she was obstructing traffic and filed charges. Note that she did not obstruct traffic. She stayed next to her car. However, the officer did grab her by the arm and flung her down into the street so that she was practically in the middle of the road. He obstructed traffic by flinging a non-violent women into the middle of the street.

All the made-up charges against Andrews were dropped when the evidence was investigated. But Deputy Andrews, while reassigned, is still a police officer and no action has been taken against him by Sheriff Kevin Walsh.

Walsh has his hands full with officers in his department. Two deputies were "discplined" because they were on guard duty in the jail when a 19-year-old committed suicide in his cell. They had both claimed on the records to have patrolled the area during the time period that they would have seen the dead youth. In other words, they said they had patrolled when they hadn't. Deputy Sheriff Christopher Pierce, another employee under Walsh, was recently arrested as well.

Deputy Pierce was on-line talking with a Deptuy Sheriff from Ulster County. Pierce did not, however, know he speaking to another police office. He thought his conversation was with a 14-year-old girl when he engaged in very explicit sexual talk. Unlike Andrews, Pierce at least had the decency to resign as a sheriff immediately following his arrest.

The unfortunate thing about the Harmon lawsuit is that the taxpayers, not Andrews, will pay the price. I still believe that when officers act like criminals and thugs, and they are sued, that they should be held personally liable for penalties along with the department that hires them. If an employee of Wal-Mart, in the course of work, attacks a customer Wal-Mart can be sued, as can the employee. And they will pay, not the taxpayers. A deputy who acts like a criminal should be treated like a criminal and held financially responsible for damages they inflict. The department, if sued, should pay penalties out their budget, not out of the taxpayer's funds. I can assure you that if violent cops threatened the budget the department, and the salaries of other cops, that this problem would be solved over night.