The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are North Port(FL) policemen Michael Rogers and Eric Stender plus North Port's Police Chief Terry Lewis. They get the award for the following.
NORTH PORT -- He was pulled over for a speeding infraction -- traveling 21 mph over the speed limit -- but a lead foot is not what got Jeffrey Poulakis in trouble.Arresting Poulakis for not making eye contact and having a beer can under his seat. We certainly can't have that in Florida.
It was the gun in his car's glove compartment.
He was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed firearm, but the charge did not go far.
Prosecutors declined to prosecute the case, citing case law that says a gun owner does not need a concealed weapons permit in order to carry a firearm in a vehicle.
And now, Poulakis is suing two North Port police officers, claiming that they violated his constitutional rights by arresting him on the weapons charge.
The federal lawsuit, which was filed in July, will ask the courts to decipher and clarify the ambiguous state statute that governs carrying concealed weapons in the state of Florida.
On Nov. 21, 2006, officer Michael Rogers pulled Poulakis over for speeding. As Rogers approached the Jeep, he noticed Poulakis leaning over to his right "either concealing or retrieving something from under one of the seats or glove box" according to the police report.
In the report, Rogers writes that he and Sgt. Eric Stender were fearful that Poulakis may have reached for a gun, so they asked him to step out of the vehicle.
In the process, Poulakis would not make eye contact and admitted to placing a beer can under his seat, the report said. Rogers then searched the Jeep and, according to the report, Poulakis "reluctantly" told Rogers that there was a handgun inside in the center console.
Rogers and Stender retrieved the .357 caliber pistol and arrested Poulakis for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. His permit, according to the report, had expired on June, 13, 2004.
The law which the officers believe Poulakis broke says that anyone who carries a concealed weapon "on or about his or her person" has committed a crime.
But how about the gun in the glove compartment? Isn't that a concealed weapon? Not according to a Florida State Supreme Court decision.
In explaining why they dropped the charge, prosecutors cited the 2002 appellate court decision in Dixon v. State. In that case, the court ruled that as long as a gun is in a glove compartment, gun case, snapped in a holster or closed in a box with a lid, then its owner is not required to have a concealed weapons permit.So Poulakis wasn't breaking the law. Officers Rogers and Stender should have known better. Just two more examples of out of control power mad policemen, who bring harm to the people they are meant to protect. Poulakis is probably lucky to still be alive, too often police under similar circumstances to Stender and Rogers, don't use self-control and start shooting.
Oh and what does Police Chief Terry Lewis think of all this?
North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis says that even though the charges were dropped, the arrest was still justified.Its sad that the Police Chief doesn't have any respect for the law. That probably accounts for the actions of his two officers under his command. Their Chief providing the wrong example to the men and women who serve under him. Poor leadership is one of the leading causes of mistakes in the workplace, that includes police work.
And although Lewis would not comment on the specifics of the case, he said that rulings on the definition of a concealed weapon can vary.
In the end, he said, it all comes down to the judgment of the law enforcement officer and whether the officer believes there is enough probable cause to make an arrest.
"There's nothing that stands the hair up on a police officer more than a firearm," Lewis said. "In those cases, it's a judgment call."
For having little respect for the laws of Florida, North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis and policemen Eric Stender and Michael Rogers are today's Knuckleheads of the Day.
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