Thursday, March 12, 2009

A clarification on my last post

I just want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not in any way criticizing the officers of the United States Capitol Police for their handling of that guy with the gun on Tuesday. My post was initially meant to poke LE fun at USCP for their habit of trotting out their entire complement of crime scene stuff every time they get the chance. I have several friends on that department, including a couple whom I know read this blog, and they know that my teasing comes from a long-standing but good-natured rivalry between our respective agencies, specifically because of the fact that, because they are Congress' pet police, Congress buys them all the bells and whistles and toys that they ask for, including all of that crime scene tape and those little number placards, and they do their best to get every bit of that stuff out at the least opportunity, basically just to justify it's existence. For example, when the average police officer from the average department anywhere else in the country makes a traffic stop or contacts a citizen and the subject drops a dime bag of weed on the ground, that officer arrests the subject and testifies as to what they saw. That works, and the subject usually goes to jail on the officer's word coupled with the presentation of the bag of weed and the results of the chemical field test and/or a DEA analysis.

However, when the US Capitol Police makes the same contact--and you guys at USCP know this is true--the subject will be detained and the whole USCP mobile crime lab will get called out. When the court case comes up, there will be about eight officers subpoenaed, including at least four who are on the chain of custody for the weed (the norm is one officer, two if someone else does the field test) and about two dozen high-gloss photographs showing the small zip of weed from several angles and distances, the perpetrator, the closest street signs, the smiling officers who showed up in time to get subpoenaed, and usually a gratuitous but very well-done shot or two of the Capitol dome, just because. They like to use their cameras just as much as they do their crime-scene tape and number placards.

In fact, whenever I see them doing what they do, I'm reminded of that old story song by Arlo Guthrie--the one about Alice's Restaurant and the singer's arrest for littering:
And that's what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to the quote Scene of the Crime unquote. I want tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where this happened here, they got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the Scene of the Crime there was five police officers and three police cars, being the biggest crime of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it. And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station.
They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to mention the aerial photography.
And that story song could have just as easily been inspired by the United States Capitol Police, because that's what they do every single time, to the never-ending amusement of the rest of us.

Granted, these cases almost never fail, because all of the officers will show up, each one looking neat and spiffy, the testimony will be delivered in a professional, grammatically-correct manner(and maybe two of the eight will actually testify while the rest just get paid to be there), and all reports and documents will be present and neatly done. There will be no flaws in the USCP aspect of the case and the bad guy will almost always plead out or get convicted. Of course the rest of us manage to get it right most of the time too, and usually with a lot less effort on our part. (It's really not that hard, Capitol guys...) But in the end, so long as the bad guys get convicted, it's really all good.

But that doesn't mean that the rest of us aren't going to needle the hell out of the USCP guys. We're cops and that's how we roll.

Now, that joking aside, I side with Capitol Police 100% as far as that actual arrest in Tuesday goes. Some people have suggested here and elsewhere that the arrestee, Timothy Whitfield, may have just been going to the range and gotten "caught up" by overzealous cops.

Negative. Not even. No.

I don't know what Whitfield's deal was but he isn't local to this area and there are no ranges nearby. He came all the way from California with these guns and his sword and drove about as close to the Capitol as he could. Then when questioned by a Capitol Police officer, he said things which raised enough alarm that he was detained and eventually arrested.

In short, the guy was a headcase. These people come from all over the country and turn up at the Capitol, the White House or some other government agency once or twice a month on average, usually asking to see the President and sometimes the are armed. We never hear about the unarmed ones because they don't make the news. They just get told to leave, or they get arrested for trying to climb the fences or some other silly thing and then they get barred from DC as a condition of release/probation. But the ones who bring weapons along with their delusions make the news, and they are dangerous. There are two dead US Capitol Police officers buried in Arlington Cemetery right now as proof. Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson were murdered on July 24, 1998 by a psycho named Russel Eugene Weston Jr, who walked into the Capitol with a gun and shot them when Chestnut saw the gun and tried to stop him. Likewise, Secret Service Police Officer Leslie Coffelt was shot and killed in 1950 when two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Harry Truman. He's also buried in Arlington. I've been to the graves of all three of these heroes and when it comes to stopping another nutcase or terrorist from doing what he came to do, I'm backing my brothers in blue all the way. I may have snickered a bit (ok, more than a bit) at all of their effort on Tuesday, but I'm also proud as hell because it was damned fine police work on the part of that initial officer, who obviously had his head in the game and realized that there was something wrong with Whitfield and then did something about it. Crisis averted and no one got hurt.

So good job, Capitol guys. That was excellent work and totally in character with the tradition of professionalism and the quality training that the USCP is known for.

Of course you still ain't got jack for jurisdiction, but even though all 2,000 of you are only "the police" on about a four block section of DC, you do those four blocks proud.

My sincere apologies to the memory of Detective Gibson. I don't appear to have the photos of his marker. Next time I get to Arlington, I'll remedy that.


  1. Well, don't they have to deal with the crazy people like Cynthia McKinney who turns around and RUNS FOR PRESIDENT?


  2. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Law abiding gun owners == good

    California head cases == bad

    Makes sense to me.

  3. Sad that you had to even explain yourself. Apparently some didn't catch the LE humor thrown around. ;)

  4. Jeez, people are sensitive! Its not like you offered to pepper spray the whole lot of them.
    Just yankin your chain.
    I do think its nice how you all give each other the benefit of the doubt.
    ps. it's hilarious that the border-fool- cry-baby Canadian turned out be a dance instructor, you were pretty close with yoga jab. LMAO

  5. I have really enjoyed you blog... so much so that over the last week or so, I read it from start to finish. Your drive and determination are a real encouragemnt to me and your blog seems to touch on most all of my interests. I am currently applying to the local police department, my wife is a pilot and studying aviation, I have always enjoyed target shooting, and I have wanted to scuba dive since before I wanted to become a cop. Needless to say, your blog is great! Keep the great stories coming.

    on a side note: As a fellow conservative and opposer of the Modern Liberals, I think you would really like this video. Take a watch when you get the chance

  6. Glad you like it, and please--keep coming back. Lagniappe and I aim to please.

  7. Personally, I think creating a circus over an incident is childish. Police should know the hazards of making a media fuss over ANY case, as that kind of behavior can backfire in court.

    Maybe the Capitol Police are cozy with judges who dig that kind of thing, but showoff stunts are just plain unprofessional and indicate a very real potential for major problems.