Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mayor Ballard Replaces Chief of Police; Will New Chief Show More Respect for the Constitution?

News out of the 25th Floor yesterday is that the Mayor has appointed Northwest Commander Paul Ciesielski to replace Michael Spears as Chief of Police.
While I am not sure about Ciesielski's approach to law enforcement, he has to be an improvement over Chief Michael Spears. Chief Spears seemed to have a disdain for "trivial things" like constitutional rights.
During Spears' tenure, I have witnessed numerous cases in which officers said that they were under a standing order from Chief Spears to do "inventory searches" of vehicles. Some explanation is in order. The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, often requiring a warrant for that search. There is an exception to that rule that allows officers to conduct an "inventory search" of vehicles that are going to be impounded. The idea is that the officer should be able to to go through the vehicle and document what is in it just in case he or she is later accused of stealing something from the vehicle. Inventory searches are limited. The classic example is a locked box in the truck can only be listed as a locked box. It can't be opened.
What IMPD officers have been doing under Spears' direction is when a person is pulled over for a minor offense, but the officer suspects the person might have drugs, the officer will announce he will have to impound the car and will do an inventory search. I have seen several occasions when those officers doing the inventory do not even bother to make a list of what is in the car, which is the whole purpose of the inventory search. Rather they are using the inventory search as a pretext to get around that pesky Constitution. If at the end of the search, if the officer can't find evidence of a crime, he or she will let the driver go.
Is the practice unconstitutional? You betcha. But Chief Spears knows perfectly well he can get away with it for years until somewhere down the road a court appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals to put a stop to IMPD's bogus inventory searches he uses to circumvent the Constitution. Someone with the level of arrogance and disdain for the Constitution Spears has displayed should not be in a leadership position. Good riddance Chief Spears.


Cato said...

When will you Republicans figure out that the cops are on the other side of the Constitution?

I'm not sure when Republicans picked up this adoration of authority and armed overlords, but it makes the party very unappealing.

"Yeah, rah, police and military" won't win California.

I know said...

Until you get a Prosecutor with some ethics and guts to PROSECUTE ALL CRIMES in Marion County the Chief of Police and Sheriff can bark all they want and show all sorts of respect.

Your Prosecutor has clearly made a laughing stock of protection of the citizens of the County by his playboy living and his complete disregard for the very people he was supposed to represent. When a Prosecutor regains the trust of the public then and only then will a Chief of Police, a Sheriff and all the honored people wearing a uniform be able to make a difference.

It will be a long rod back!

Baloo said...

You must have forgotten whom appointed Chief Spears. That would be Bart Peterson.

Marycatherine Barton said...

I am here first learning about the bogus inventory searches of private cars, supposedly authorized by Michael Spears. If so, it is great that he is being replaced. Let's hope that his replacement, Paul Ciesielski, or whoever it is, better respects the Indiana and US Constitution, and our right to be protected by the police, not violated by them.