Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ballard And Democratic Mayoral Hopefuls Misread Public's Opinion On Piland Decision

Mayor Greg Ballard and his potential Democratic opponents in next year's election are lambasting the Police Merit Board's 6-1 vote finding against IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski's conclusion that Officer Jerry Piland used excessive force in restraining Brandon Johnson, a teen-ager who interfered with the arrest of his younger brother suspected of committing a home invasion, and should be fired as a consequence. It should be pointed out that neither Mayor Ballard nor any of his potential opponents sat through the hearing and heard the evidence upon which the decision was based by the merit board, which is comprised largely of appointees of former Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson and Sheriff Frank Anderson. At least one of the Democratic appointees to the board, a retired African-American female teacher, sided with the majority's decision. Only Joe Slash, the head of the Indianapolis Urban League, voted to fire Piland. One can assume Slash would have been promptly fired by his board had he voted the other way.

“I am dismayed and disappointed by the Merit Board’s decision not to uphold the Chief’s recommendation," Ballard said in a statement from his office. Ballard, Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Chief Ciesielski ramped up their rhetoric more at a press conference yesterday afternoon. The IndyDemocrat blog had statements from Democratic mayoral hopefuls which reflected similar sentiments. "As a mother, the pictures of Brandon Johnson made me sick for him and his family," Melina Kennedy commented. "The pictures show that he was brutally treated," she continued. "I’m disappointed with this administration’s actions and with this result. Brandon Johnson deservers (sic) better and Indianapolis deserves better." City-County Councilor Jose Evans said, "I am disgusted and appalled by the Merit Board’s decision not to uphold Chief Ciesielski’s recommendation to fire Officer Piland." "The case proved that Officer Piland used excessive force against Brandon Johnson." Former City-County Councilor Ron Gibson, who was once accused of shoving a female police office, said, “Today’s verdict by the Indianapolis Police Merit Board of 'not guilty' says that the current lack of cultural sensitivity and bad actions of a few officers is acceptable within IMPD." "This is wrong and justice needs to be served."

WRTV has an online poll asking viewers this question: "Do you agree or disagree with the merit board's decision in the Officer Jerry Piland case?" Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they agreed with the board's decision compared to only 39% who disagreed with the decision. Those results don't surprise me in the least bit. I think Ballard and his potential foes are badly misreading the public's perception of this case. Most people believe Johnson is a bad actor whose injuries were suffered primarily as a result of his own doing. Furthermore, the public is concerned about what they perceive is a growing crime problem in this city, notwithstanding statistics the administration is constantly spewing in an attempt to convince them otherwise.

I think Mayor Ballard, his public safety leaders and these Democratic hopefuls are ignoring the larger public concern in a cheap attempt to score points with some leaders in the African-American community who earn a living stirring up racial animosity, many times in cases where race plays no part in the incident. Johnson's family and his attorney have been bilking this case for all its worth with big dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes about how much money they're going to make in their lawsuit against the city because this young miscreant decided to interfere with a lawful arrest of his younger brother. If he had been a role model to his younger brother, he would have been looking out for him and making sure he wasn't doing things like breaking into a neighbor's homes instead of interfering with police while they are attempting to arrest him. Chief Ciesielski, who claims this is the worst case of excessive force he has witnessed in his career as a law enforcement, should make a great witness for Johnson in his lawsuit againt the city, even if his views completely contradict the evidence presented to the merit board by the medical professionals who treated Johnson. Cowering to pressure from the African-American community, all criminal charges were dropped against the Johnson brothers. Maybe the taxpayers should deduct any lawsuit settlement payments from Ballard's, Straub's and Ciesielski's paychecks if they are so anxious to make Johnson's case for him. Better yet, let's bounce them all from the positions they hold. They certainly aren't looking out for the public's interest.


Indy4U2C said...

Gary, you said it best on this point!

If the top executive of a corporation made public statements about pending litigation that were clearly unfavorable to the corporation, they would be fired.

The problem here is a lack of moral courage. Frank Straub was only trying to placate the so-called "concerned clergy." That is why he ordered the Chief to take action contrary to the evidence.

A leader must have moral courage to stand up for what is right, and denounce what is wrong. The actions of Frank Straub were wrong. The Merit Board reviewed Straub's actions and issued a strong rebuke!

Of note is the point you made about Joe Slash being the lone dissenter. Now let us recall that the so-called "concerned clergy" demanded that Joe Slash not be allowed to participate in this hearing. An investigation needs to take place to determine what outside factors contributed to Slash's vote that was contrary to evidence!

Was Slash threatened by the so-called "concerned clergy?" We already know they didn't want him to participate, and we know that Mmoja Ajabu was in the FRONT ROW at the hearing. (Does everyone remember Ajabu's violent history? A school that burned after Ajabu gave a speech denouncing the administration? Remember a house that burned?) Yes, an investigation needs to be conducted to find out if Slash were threatened into voting against the evidence.

Unknown said...

Excellent post!

Cato said...

Gary, buddy, those online polls capture the opinions of people who have computers, have internet access and have the desire to learn about such polls and vote on them. Further, the voters do not have to come from Marion County. Now, what sort of people do you think most closely match these criteria?

The seeming assent you draw from such results is limited by the pool being unrepresentative. While a landmark racist wave swept the country on Tuesday, such racism didn't have much penetration in Indianapolis, as Dems won all the big races. This racist element shows up at all online polls concerning police power, military action, and any sort of moment where the government is supreme and the People must be submissive.

That is, angry, old Republicans love these polls and pass them via e-mail to their friends.

It was a horrible decision, and Ballard's guys were right. This cop should be serving lots and lots of time.

The Merit Board is a joke and needs to be disbanded. Did you know the FOP has two seats on it? Where does the corrupt FOP get entitled to name anyone to any public board, anywhere? That disgusting union is a huge part of America's problem.

Let's hope the Justice Department gets involved and gets this cop the many years of jail time he so richly deserves.

Let's also hope the Merit Board is reformed and disbanded. I'd like to see police officers' fate put in the hands of the criminal defense bar and inner-city ministers.

This unflinching support of police is why the Republicans are working their way toward oblivion, Tuesday's bubble, notwithstanding.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, when have the Ballard people ever had a clue about public opinion?

This is probably the toughest issue Ballard could have in terms of handling it right from a political standpoint. Police officers are a potent voting force. He's already ticked them off. Ballard used to have better than average (for a Republican) support in the African-American community. That's long gone too.
He frankly has ticked off everyone he can find. I'm not sure his own family will vote for him in 2011.

dcrutch said...

Are we a county or country of fairness or justice? If Bisard or Carney (or whatever officer) are out-of-line, then we are obliged to pursue accordingly. If they're within procedure, we have to defend them. If the procedures or regulations are wrong, we rewrite them.

To do otherwise further degenerates faith in our society's ability to be equitable, protecting all regardless of the "hat they wear": race, creed, color, religion, sex, income, etc.

If this is totally cornball and detached from reality- Tough. We're still supposed to try. To do otherwise is to surrender to the abuse and corruption that seems to lurk in both sides of any issue.

Christine Scales said...

The Administration's take on the Merit Board decision is one of the worst cases of political pandering and a bowing to the Politically Correct idols I have seen locally in a long time. They chose to ignore the evidence presented to the Merit Board. Instead, they clung to the initial, incomplete findings of the internal investigation. A case of "Don't confuse me with the facts."

Excessive force? One thing I didn't hear was, whether evidence was presented that Brandon Johnson was on any kind of drugs at the time of the incident. If so, some drugs can give an individual a super human strength and adrenalin rush that would make it difficult for anyone with even lesser bulk and stature than Johnson to be subdued. If not, the kid was using all he had to consciously struggle with several officers who still couldn't manage him by the time Piland arrived on the scene. Given the force obviously needed to get Johnson in cuffs, I would have imagined far worse injuries than the bruises and abrasions that sent him home from the hospital after just a two hour visit.

Cato said...

"Police officers are a potent voting force. He's already ticked them off."

How disgusting is that? We have so many armed guards that they've become a potent voting force? Seems like we need to fire a bunch of them to restore the proper ratio of cop to citizen.

Further, the Dems are regularly excoriated for "pandering" to public unions, but Republicans are exhorted to do this very tactic, as long as the FOP is the favored union?

Republicans talk a good game about being anti-union, but they lose their ideological consistency when the FOP is across the table.

As I haven't yet seen an AFSCME member beat or shoot a guy in handcuffs, I find AFSCME less noxious - and less outrageously compensated.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Gary, I'm going to disagree with you on this one. I think the broad community is very concerned about the Merit Board's decision. That thin blue line can easily swamp a non-scientific poll on a TV channel's website. I just went to the site and added 3 votes in 15 seconds.

As for Cielsielski's comment to the Merit Board - he was testifying, not trying to set anyone up for a lawsuit. He was recommending that one of his officers be fired, after all.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Merit Board found the internal affairs investigation was badly flawed, Pat. I really do think the pressure was on to scape goat somebody for what happened. The evidence showed the facial injuries everyone saw in those pictures were not caused by Officer Piland. If you set aside the two FOP appointed members, it doesn't explain why four other members, including a female African-American, came to the conclusion Piland had not used excessive force as Ciesielski claimed. As was reported, Ciesielski seemed confused on what the IMPD's own policies said about reasonable force.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Cato, you are one sick puppy.

Cato said...

Concerned Taxpayer, your name is a misnomer. You don't care, at all, about your taxes. You're fine with bloated police salaries, excessive numbers of cops on the payroll, far too many police cruisers being purchased and maintained, wasteful take-home cars, needless arrests, prosecutions, trials and imprisonments, and a staggering loss of liberty, all so you can enjoy your hateful punishment theater.

I can't afford the police state. I never consented to it, and I'm tired of suffering it.

Make no mistake: Republicans love big government, just a nasty, coercive, brutal fashion of big government. Those mores are being rapidly bred out of American youth, so I see a looming end to the core red-state constituency.

There are far better uses for public monies than an omnipresent police force. If we are to have police, let's do our best to get the attitudes of each officer in check and hire only those people who can never suffer an outburst of temper.

Jeff Cox said...

Cato, your apparent belief that anyone who opposes our sorry excuse for a POTUS disqualifies pretty much all your comments.

Gary, using an online poll for evidence of public sentiment is risky, but in this case it's generally correct. The public understands the percentages: if you're minding your own business and not hurting or threatening anyone else, the likelihood is that you won't have a negative experience with police. Rather you are far more likely to have a negative experience with a thug like Brandon Johnson or his brother.

For that reason, the public in Indianapolus is far more concerned about running into a Brandon Johnson than they are a rogue cop. And they should be. Police by law and by the social contract are entitled to a rebuttable presumption of legality.

Thanks to the actions of Ballard, Brizzi and "Public Safety" Director Straub, the public is now less safe, because human debris like Brandon Johnson now believe they have carte blanche to prey on the rest of us. Some innocent people are eventually going to be hurt by already career-criminal Johnson; Ballard, Brizzi and Straub will have helped make that happen.