Monday, November 26, 2012

Predators with Impunity (Update, December 4)

If resisting arrest is a crime, does a woman have the right to resist a sexual assault by a police officer?
Last May 5th, Magdelena Mol, a young wife and mother from Burbank, Illinois, went to a nearby village called Justice to visit a friend. Shortly after midnight, Mrs. Mol called a taxi and went to a street corner to wait for her ride. A few minutes later, a police officer named Carmen Scardine drove by, then stopped in the middle of the street and ordered Mol to get into his car.
Although Scardine demanded identification from Mol and called the dispatcher to run her name, he never explained why he had taken her into custody. When the taxi arrived a few minutes later, the officer ordered the driver to leave. He then drove the terrified young woman to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her.
On the following day, Mrs. Mol filed an official complaint, which was upheld by the Justice Police Department. She has filed a lawsuit against the department and the Village of Justice – but there is no record that Scardine has been charged with a crime, or even subjected to official discipline.
“As far as I know, he’s still on the force,” stated a dispatcher for the Village of Justice Police Department (which is no stranger to corruption) when asked about Carmen Scardine’s status on November 21.
The facts asserted by Mrs. Mol in her lawsuit aren’t in dispute. Why wasn’t her assailant prosecuted for sexual assault? If Scardine had been charged with that crime, he may have been able to claim that the victim had consented to the act – because she didn’t resist. Of course, if she had resisted, she most likely would have been prosecuted for resisting arrest or even aggravated assault on a police officer – assuming that the victim survived the officer’s attempts to “subdue” her.
 Pittsburgh resident Sarah Smith had an experience very similar to that of Magdelena Mol. One morning several years ago, Smith was in a minor traffic accident with a man on a motorcycle. Smith had let her liability insurance lapse, and she was driving on an expired license, so she was probably already in a state of panic when Pittsburgh Police Officer Adam Skweres arrived. Smith’s unease catalyzed into terror when the officer pulled her aside and offered to let her traffic violations slide as part of a carnal transaction.

Officer Skweres told Smith that "he could make it look like [the accident] was my fault or he could give the driver a ticket for failure to obey signs," she recalled in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The price of a favorable assessment would take the form of unspecified sexual favors, and Skweres quite generously promised that what he would demand of Smith would not be "as bad as what would happen to me in jail." Such a deal!

On the other hand, if Smith put up a fight, Skweres warned, she would be arrested for resisting arrest, handcuffed, and then raped in the back seat of the police car. Before the officer could make good on his threat, the situation changed, and he agreed to let the terrified young woman go -- but only after gesturing to his gun and warning her that "If you say anything about this I'll make sure you never walk, talk, or breathe again."

Smith reported the incident to the Pittsburgh Police Bureau. Complaints were filed by two other women endured nearly identical threats from Skweres (one of whom, a woman embroiled in a child custody dispute, was told that she could purchase a favorable recommendation to the child welfare bureaucracy in exchange for oral sex). The uniformed predator was allowed to continue patrolling the streets -- and to collect his $57,000 annual salary – until last February 17, when he was arrested for sexually assaulting a young woman in her home six days earlier.

The victim in the February 11 assault was a woman whose boyfriend was in jail. After asking the victim if she was wearing a wire, and turning on the kitchen faucet to conceal any potentially incriminating noises, Skweres explained the nature of the transaction: He would "help" her boyfriend in exchange for sex. After forcing the traumatized woman to service him, the cop cleaned himself up with a paper towel and left.

Skweres was as predictable as he was persistent. Last December, he had paid a similar visit to Melissa Watkins, whose boyfriend was also in jail. She was alone with her young daughter when the cop materialized to proposition her. 

"He locked my front door and everything, he said, `so no one could bother us,'" Watkins told the Post-Gazette. Unzipping his uniform trousers, Skweres offered the same arrangement: He would "help" Watkins' boyfriend in consideration of sexual services. Watkins -- despite being utterly terrified -- refused. 

"There's a man with a badge and a gun in front of you, trying to proposition you," she recalled. "You don't know which way it's going to go." 

Four alleged victims have testified against Skweres in a preliminary hearing last March. Since that time, a fifth woman has filed a criminal complaint against him. While he refuses to characterize his accusers as liars, the former police officer insists that he always carried out his duty “with integrity and honesty” and maintains that he is “absolutely” innocent of the charges against him.

Displaying the capacity for self-preoccupation typical of the tax-feeding class, Skweres protested that his arrest and prosecution have “turned my life upside down.” An Army reservist who served in Iraq, Skweres was initially rejected by the police academy when a psychologist found him unsuited to police work, but he was awarded a slot following an appeal to the civil service commission. Reports of his predatory behavior began surfacing about eighteen months after Skweres joined the force.

As of 2008, there were roughly 600,000 state and local police officers in the United States. If former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper is correct, at least 30,000 of them are active sexual predators.

On-duty sexual predation by police officers “happens far more often than people in the business are willing to admit,” Stamper warns in his memoir Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing. “My cautious guess is that about 5 percent of America's cops are on the prowl for women. In a department the size of Seattle's that's sixty-three police officers. In San Diego [where Stamper began his police career], 145. In New York City, 2,000. The average patrol cop makes anywhere from ten to twenty unsupervised contacts a shift. If he's on the make, chances are a predatory cop will find you. Or your wife, your partner, your daughter, your sister, your mother, your friend."

The targets of opportunity for a predatory police officer could also include your troubled teenage son – a grim fact illustrated by the case of former Idaho police officer Ruben Delgadillo. 

Shortly after Delgadillo graduated from the Idaho Police Academy, the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk held a conference to examine how to deal with child predators. That event included specialized training for school resource officers. Delgadillo, who was assigned to be a school resource officer in the Caldwell School District, would have attended some of those sessions and probably took detailed notes.

In 2008, Delgadillo was assigned to be a school resource officer at Vallivue High School. As a member of the school suspension board, he encountered a troubled freshman named Brennan Nicholson. After a suspension hearing, Delgadillo met with Nicholson and his mother and suggested that he could mentor the young man. This allowed him to make practical use of the instruction he had received regarding the vulnerabilities of at-risk teenagers. 

The officer lavished attention on the boy. Eventually he persuaded the youngster to spend the night at a house he shared with his supervisor, Sergeant Mike Larimer. During those sleep-overs Delgadillo repeatedly molested the teenager. Larimer was aware of the crimes and did nothing to intervene.  When the victim finally disclosed what was happening, Delgadillo initially claimed that the acts had been consensual; after all, the youngster hadn’t resisted. 

According to Nicholson’s lawsuit, the victim initially “did not report Delgadillo because was in fear he would be retaliated against if he did not allow the abuse, because Delgadillo and his roommate, Larimer, were `the police’…. Delgadillo told [Nicholson] that he had ties to gangs, intimidating Brennan into remaining silent.

Delgadillo was eventually prosecuted and was sentenced to a term of three to ten years in prison for felony injury to a child. However, District Judge Thomas Ryan retained jurisdiction over the case, which meant that Delgadillo was released on probation after serving only a year in the Canyon County Jail. This arrangement was made after Delgadillo tearfully expressed fears of what would happen to him in prison as a former police officer and convicted child molester. 

The most significant advantage wielded by uniformed predators is not their physical size or even their arsenal; it's their ability to criminalize even the most tentative act of resistance on the part of their potential victims.  As Gregory J. Babbitt, assistant prosecuting attorney for Michigan’s Ottawa County, admitted during oral argument before the state supreme court last October, under most “resisting and obstructing” statutes a police officer who sexually assaults a prisoner can press charges if the victim puts up physical resistance.

Babbitt was representing the state of Michigan in the case of People v. Moreno, which examined the question of whether a citizen has a legally protected right to resist an unlawful search or unjustified arrest by a police officer. Associate justice Michael Cavanaugh asked Babbitt if a female inmate who put up a struggle while being sexually assaulted during a body search could be charged under the state’s “resisting and obstructing” statute.

“Technically, you could do that,” Babbitt admitted, hastily insisting that “as a prosecutor, I wouldn’t do that.” Rather than putting up physical resistance and thereby risking criminal prosecution, he continued, the victim should simply endure the assault and then file a civil complaint after the fact. 
 If a woman being sexually assaulted by a police officer could be prosecuted for resisting, “what is left of the Fourth Amendment?” Cavanaugh asked Babbitt.
 With an indifferent shrug, Babbitt replied, “Well, life isn’t perfect.” From his perspective it is simply unacceptable for a mere Mundane to “make the determination as to whether the police officers [are] acting properly or not.”
Like most members of the state’s punitive caste, Babbitt maintains that there is never a situation in which a citizen can physically resist a police officer. “We can’t have individuals ... making that decision in the heat of the moment,” he insisted, even if that means leaving women like Magdelena Mol -- and terrified teenage boys like Brennan Nicholson -- at the mercy of sociopathic predators in government-issued costumes. 

UPDATE: It never stops....

Orlando Police Officer Roderick Johnson allegedly did exactly the same thing Justice PD Officer Carmen Scardine was confirmed to have done: He is accused of taking a woman into custody and forcing himself on her sexually. Johnson has been arrested and charged with sexual battery by a law enforcement officer, a felony. Scardine remains at large and in uniform.  

The M.O. of Philip Emanuele, a former detective with the Eatontown, New Jersey Police Department,combined elements of Scardine's approach and that of Adam Sweres, the uniformed sexual predator from Pittsburgh. Emanuele has confessed to forcing a 24-year-old detainee to perform oral sex on him, using the threat of prison on a drug charge to extract that favor -- and to browbeat her into becoming an informant.

Rather than being charged with aggravated sexual assault, Emanuele was convicted of criminal coercion and tampering with evidence, for which he will serve five years of probation. He will not become a registered sex offender.

Emanuele's 24-year-old victim pleaded with the court to impose a more severe sentence, describing her assailant as "a sex offender who singles out unfortunate and vulnerable women with no remorse and [he] must be labeled as such." She pointed out that Emanuele's defense attorney, Patrick Toscano, had treated the assault as a trivial matter, dismissing it in public comments as a "10-minute lapse in judgment" and insinuating that the woman was a willing participant.

Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Schweers allowed that Toscano's comments were "ill-advised" but he insisted that the leniency granted to the former police officer was "fair in the interest of justice."

As he pronounced the sentence, Judge Thomas F. Scully did his best to depict the ridiculously light punishment as an onerous burden to disgraced predator, who was now deprived of his "childhood dream" of being part of the State's coercive apparatus. At the time he was cashiered from the police department, the 33-year-old Emanuele was being paid $114, 712 a year to "protect and serve" a town of 12,000 people with a crime rate well below the national average -- and a median annual household income of roughly $50,000.

Obiter dicta  
I have started a Facebook group entitled "Restore the right to resist unlawful arrest." Everybody's welcome to join!

Dum spiro, pugno!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Boise’s Proposed Thoughtcrime Ordinance

"Law is concerned with external behavior and not the inner life of man."
-- Justice Felix Frankfurter, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (dissent)

Ordinance O-36-12, a proposed municipal “anti-discrimination” measure being considered by the Boise City Council, would do nothing to protect people from acts of criminal violence. Instead, it would mandate the use of state-sanctioned aggression against business owners who refuse the commercial patronage of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. 

If government has no authority to criminalize private behavior between consenting adults, by what supposed authority can it punish people who withhold their consent from a commercial transaction? Proponents of the ordinance intend to bury that question beneath a blizzard of bromides about tolerance and respect. 

 About a year ago, City Council President Maryanne Jordan was approached by two Boise residents who claimed to have been assaulted because they were gay. They also claimed that they were afraid to report the crime out of fear that they might suffer repercussions if they went public about their lifestyle. Jordan says this prompted her to devise a measure that would ban discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity or expression” in housing, employment, and public accommodations. 

Jordan didn’t disclose any of the details of the alleged assault during the November 13 City Council hearing on the proposed ordinance. In this sense the story told by Jordan is typical of what the Boise Weekly calls “anecdotal reports” that “suggest a recent increase in hate-based crime” against gays and lesbians. Those unconfirmed reports have allegedly grown in number since the last time the state legislature refused to add the category of “sexual orientation” to the state anti-discrimination ordinance. 

This suggests one of two possibilities: Either Idaho has a sub-population of violent bigots who are oddly fastidious about following the state anti-discrimination law, or the people who are seeking to change the state law aren’t terribly fastidious about telling the truth.  

Idaho was among the first states to enact a “hate crimes” law. According to the most recent official tally, hate crimes – a category that includes rude comments – are all but nonexistent in Idaho. This offers a powerful argument on behalf of the second of the possibilities listed above. That argument was augmented by the turnout at the November 13 Boise City Council meeting. 

According to Boise’s NBC affiliate, “There was a line out the door, and also an overflow room for those who came for the reading [of the measure].” Literally hundreds of gay and lesbian people came to offer testimony and public support on behalf of a measure they claimed was necessary because they were paralyzed with fear over the public disclosure of their sexual identity. 

“I think what you are seeing is a group of people who are finally getting the chance to stand in front of an elected body and tell their story,” insisted Mistie Tolman, co-founder of the Add the Words Campaign (which has lobbied to change the state anti-discrimination law). “So they are coming out in droves to tell them what it’s like not to have those protections.”

Those who testified on behalf of the anti-discrimination measure weren’t boldly confronting a hostile Sanhedrin. Every public official at the event expressed support for the proposed ordinance. Boise Mayor David Bieter, who later said he was “honored” to take part in the hearing, made a point of letting the audience know that its input wasn’t necessary, and that the proposed change could be made without public testimony. 

Two more public meetings on the measure are scheduled, but the outcome of this process is as predictable a Jay Leno punchline. 

What happened on November 13 at Boise City Hall was not a deliberative political function. It was a peculiar kind of revival meeting in which the faithful gathered to declaim against the sin of discrimination – a form of iniquity they seek to eradicate through the righteous and compassionate exercise of official coercion. 

As the term is commonly used, discrimination could sometimes be considered sinful. There are situations in which it may constitute a tort. It is never a crime – that is, an act of fraud or violence that injures the property rights of another human being. 

A political government may issue edicts against discrimination, and enforce them through the application of aggressive violence. But no government has the power to turn it into an actual crime, any more than it can alter the law of gravity by an official edict. 

The only legitimate function of political government, assuming that one exists, is the protection of property rights. Boise’s proposed anti-discrimination ordinance is rooted in the denial of property rights, which – when exercised by insufficiently progressive people – are believed to undermine “fair and equal treatment” of sexual minorities and the “city’s economic well-being.” 

According to Mayor Bieter, the anti-discrimination ordinance “makes good business sense, because as we look to attract new jobs and businesses, we must demonstrate that Boise offers the same protection as other cities. In short, discrimination is bad for business and counter to our shared ideals.”

Like nearly everybody else in the political class, Bieter neither understands, nor cares to learn, how the market functions. If discrimination is truly “bad for business,” then profit-minded businessmen won’t discriminate – and the market will reward them. 

Nearly every public figure who has endorsed the anti-discrimination measure has taken refuge in a bizarre dialect that is equal parts civic boosterism and cultural bolshevism. Boise is a great and wonderful city, they insist, but it will reach its potential only if its economy is artfully managed by the wise and visionary people who rule it. This will mean, among other things, using government power to identify those who harbor views at odds with the new cultural consensus, and catechizing them at gunpoint until they recant their political heresies. 

A year ago, the same civic savants who are promoting the “business-friendly” anti-discrimination ordinance imposed a ban on smoking in both public bars and private clubs. That prohibition, which was also advertised as a way of improving Boise’s business climate, had the predictable effect of driving many club owners into financial ruin. 

Individuals who violate the smoking ban face a $69 fine for each infraction – a much milder penalty than the one prescribed for business owners who are accused of violating the anti-discrimination act.

The ordinance would apply to housing, employment, and “public accommodations.” An employer, landlord, or businessman could be found in violation of measure without committing an overt act. All that would be necessary is a complaint filed by someone who takes offense over another person’s refusal to engage in commerce. 

Thoughtcriminal Elaine Hugenin and husband.

One illustration of how this would work is offered by the case of New Mexico resident Elaine Hugenin.

In 2006, Hugenin, a wedding photographer, was approached by a woman named Vanessa Wilcock, who wanted to hire her for a “commitment ceremony” with her same-sex partner. Hugenin declined, politely explaining that she was willing to forgo that business opportunity in order to be faithful to her religious commitments. 

Where the natural law is concerned, the matter ended there. Nobody’s rights were injured, and Wilcock was free to solicit the services of another photographer. Rather than doing so, she and her partner decided to enlist the state to punish Hugenin for her thought crimes. They filed a discrimination complaint with the state’s “Human Rights Commission,” which ruled in their favor and imposed a $6,600 fine on the photographer because she had declined to engage in what should have been a voluntary commercial transaction. (It’s worth noting that New Mexico, like Idaho, does not formally recognize “same-sex marriage,” which means that the state engages in the same form of discrimination for which Hugenin was punished.) 
Vanessa Wilcock

The Hugenin case is headed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which means that it is and will continue to be a huge financial drain on the very limited resources of a small business owner. 

Mayor Bieter and the architects of Boise’s anti-discrimination measure would probably reply that the victim was to blame for her plight, and that people who run afoul of the Boise ordinance would be able to avoid serious punishment if they would simply submit to re-education. 

Boise residents found guilty of discrimination would face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 – unless they agreed to government-imposed “sensitivity training,” in which case they would be subject to a $100 penalty and be required to sign an agreement “to not engage in discriminatory practices in the future.” 

Significantly, section 6-02-05 of the draft ordinance stipulates that “There shall be no right to a trial by jury for an infraction citation or complaint.” This provision is facially incompatible with Article I, section 7 of the Idaho Constitution, which dictates that “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate” in all criminal cases.

It’s also worth noting that under Boise’s municipal code, sexual orientation discrimination would be treated as an offense as serious as an act of physical assault. What this means is that a landlord who declined to rent a home to a same-sex couple could spend as much time behind bars as an assailant who actually committed an act of physical violence against them. 

Thomas Jefferson famously said that his neighbor’s religious beliefs didn’t matter to him because they neither picked his pocket nor broke his leg. To be a crime, an act must involve aggression against the person or property of another human being – that is, it must entail either pocket-picking or leg-breaking. Boise’s proposed anti-discrimination measure, like similar enactments elsewhere, would empower uniformed leg-breakers to pick the pockets – and incarcerate the persons – of residents whose only offense would be to conduct their business and private affairs peacefully in accordance with their religious and moral beliefs. 

Discrimination isn’t a crime. However, seeking to punish it certainly is.


Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Death of a Slave-Catcher

Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom was fatally shot during a raid on the home of Matthew David Stewart last January 4. Francom was part of a twelve-man SWAT team attached to the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, a federally subsidized counter-narcotics squad. 

A few weeks earlier, a woman named Stacy Wilson who had broken up with Stewart called the Strike Force snitch line to report that Stewart was cultivating marijuana on his property. After three attempts to conduct a “knock and talk” search of the home, the Strike Force obtained a warrant for a nighttime paramilitary raid – despite the fact that they didn’t even bother to do a background check on the accuser.

In familiar fashion, the SWAT team knocked on the front door, shouted “Search warrant!” and immediately broke into the home with a battering ram. Stewart barricaded himself in a room and began shooting. Francom was shot six times, although it’s possible he was hit by “friendly fire.” Five other officers were wounded, as was Stewart, who was arrested in a shed outside his home. He has been charged with one count of aggravated murder and seven counts of attempted aggravated murder. The state intends to seek the death penalty.

A search of the home turned up a handful of marijuana plants. Stewart, a veteran, insists that he used marijuana to treat a variety of physical and psychological conditions that are the residue of his time in the military. He also maintains that he didn’t know that the armed invaders – some of whom had long hair intended to make them look like gang-bangers -- were police officers. 

Would you let them into your home? Strike Force members receive an award.

This is a potentially significant detail.

In early September, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill determined that a man named Priest Jemelle Mitchell was justified in killing an intruder named Brandon Saunders – despite the fact that Saunders was unarmed.  Infuriated to learn that Mitchell was involved with his ex-wife, Saunders broke down the door of her apartment.  Mitchell responded by fatally shooting Saunders.

After reviewing the evidence, Gill concluded that the act of kicking in the door constituted trespassing with intent to commit an act of violence, and Mitchell was justified in believing that he faced “imminent peril and threat of injury.”
If this is true of a situation in which an unarmed, jealous ex-husband threatens a man who was in his ex-wife’s apartment, how would the same standard not apply to a man confronting six heavily armed strangers who had broken down his door in a nighttime raid? 

The men who barged into Stewart’s home insist that they identified themselves as police. But the same was true of the people who raided the Sandy, Utah residence of Clayton Green  in early October.  In that case, however, the assailants were private sector criminals posing as their state-licensed counterparts.

Mr. Green was greeted at his door by a man wearing police garb, displaying a badge, and demanding access to their home. A few seconds later, Green and his wife were thrown to the floor and handcuffed with zip ties. They were held gunpoint while burglars ransacked the home. Although the Sandy Police Department admits that this incident was not an isolated case, they refuse to say how frequently this kind of thing happens in Utah. 

A few days after the incident at the Green family’s home, another armed raid was carried out against an elderly couple in Salt Lake City. Michael and Teresa Ryan were terrorized by an armed gang that busted down their front door and held them at gunpoint. This time, it was the police – specifically, a federally supervised joint narcotics task force – who committed this act of terrorism.

According to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, the only problem with the second raid was that it took place at the wrong address. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Frank Smith, whose agency participated in the assault, blithely explained that “law enforcement, unfortunately, is not a perfect science.”
 Todd Blair of Roy, Utah was another victim of the imperfect “science” of paramilitary drug enforcement. 

At about 10 PM on September 16, 2010, Blair was in the basement of his home when he heard footsteps and the voices of strangers at the back door. Apparently thinking that he was being robbed, Blair grabbed a golf club and went upstairs to confront the trespassers – who were agents of the same Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force that would invade Matthew Stewart’s home roughly a year and a half later. 

The no-knock raid at Blair’s home was carried out on the basis of a single, anonymous tip that he was selling meth and heroin. After gunning down Blair, the officers were able to scour up less than half an ounce of marijuana. 

Following the standard perfunctory and predictable official review, the fatal shooting of Blair by Sgt. Troy Burnett was ruled a “justifiable” use of force by Weber County Attorney Dee Smith – the same official who is now determined to execute Matthew Stewart. 

The institutional response to the needless violent death of Todd Blair was the equivalent of a “sucks to be you” shrug. This was decidedly not the case after the death of Officer Francom.

We have lost and brother and will grieve this loss knowing that officer Francom laid down his life for his friends and community,” lamented Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson during a press conference following the shooting. He also praised “all of our heroes in the public safety family who have stepped up this day to the task of caring for our wounded warriors.”

That expression shouldn’t be dismissed as a specimen of melodramatic rhetoric: Like nearly everybody in their profession, Sheriff Thompson and the members of the Strike Force see themselves as waging war on the population they supposedly serve – and they demand the unqualified support and admiration of that same population. 

Carrying out its duty as a state-aligned media organ, the Deseret News used the death of Jared Francom as an excuse to lecture Mundanes about what we are to consider the peril-forged bond of shared by our uniformed overlords:

“When the shots were fired in a Wednesday night drug raid, killing one officer and wounding five others, the shots may as well have been fired at all of Weber County law enforcement. Those shots also may as well have been fired at all of Utah law enforcement and police officers in this country — such is the solidarity, such is the bond. The men who work the streets, those who moved on to desk jobs, the women on patrol or the detectives who work sex crimes come from one family. And you don't understand unless you've been there.”

Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL described Francom’s death as “a startling example of the dangers drug enforcement officers face.” Naturally, it didn’t describe that fatal paramilitary raid – or the one that resulted in the murder of Todd Blair – as a “startling example” of the dangers drug enforcement officers pose to the public. 

The Sunday following the shooting, the entire Ogden Police Department was allowed to take the day off – with pay – in order to deal with its collective bereavement. Utah Governor Gary Herbert ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. The following month, the Utah Legislature held a brief ceremony to honor Francom. During the ceremony, Representative Brad Dee, who represents Ogden, praised Francom for answering the call “to step between good and evil.” 

Francom’s funeral at Ogden’s Dee Events Center was attended by 4,000 people, including hundreds of police officers, Governor Herbert, and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee. 

In his remarks at the event, Troy Combs, who was Bishop of Francom’s Mormon congregation, recalled that the officer had grown his hair long as part of his undercover work. In addition to being a police officer, Francom was a Sunday School teacher, Bishop Combs related, and for the kids the experience was like “being taught by Jesus.” This assumes, of course, that the Savior’s day job involved kicking down doors and terrorizing people for consuming substances of which the government disapproves.

“Jared’s was a tragic death,” continued Bishop Combs. “He was murdered in the line of duty. But he did it serving and protecting.”

The first of those statements is an indisputable fact: Jared Francom was an irreplaceable individual – a husband and father – who died in a needless and preventable episode of violence. The second statement is morally unsupportable: Matthew Stewart was defending his home against armed strangers he may not have recognized as police officers, and who in any case were not acting as peace officers. The third statement is unambiguously false: The actions of Francom and his comrades at Matthew Stewart’s home had nothing to do with protecting the rights of anybody. 

Through his work with a paramilitary unit enforcing drug prohibition, Jared Francom “protected and served” the public in exactly the same sense that 19th Century Deputy U.S. Marshal James Batchelder did in his work enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act.

In early 1854, a young man named Anthony Burns escaped the custody of a Virginia man named Charles Settle, who claimed to “own” him. After Burns had settled down and found gainful work, an informant recognized him as an escaped slave and contacted the authorities. Batchelder was sent to Boston for the purpose of returning Burns to his previous condition of servitude.(Interestingly, this process was called “rendition.”) The marshal quickly located Burns and – after using the pretext of a bogus robbery investigation to place him under arrest -- locked him in the federal courthouse.

News of this abduction provoked an immediate response from local abolitionists, who organized an armed posse to liberate Burns from his captors. In the ensuing skirmish, Batchelder was fatally shot, but the police retained custody of Burns. 

Wanting to avoid further bloodshed, Burns – a devout Christian – asked his supporters not to attempt another rescue. A few days later, Burns was escorted to a ship bound for Virginia. The rendition took place under the watchful eyes of 1,600-man military contingent sent by President Franklin Pierce to deter any further efforts to liberate Burns. 

Like Jared Francom, James Batchelder died in the line of duty.  Both of their names are inscribed in the “Officer Down Memorial Page.” 

“To have faced a mob as a law officer, especially in the days of only the gun and the badge -- and little else -- is the very core of bravery no matter the circumstances,” declares a tribute posted in honor of the slave-catcher. “To have taken a bullet in the name of the law deems one a hero among heroes. Long live such bravery and honor.”

Apart from those who belong to the Sanctified Brotherhood of Official Coercion, is there anybody today who would regard James Batchelder as a “hero,” and consider his death a noble “sacrifice”?

Anyone burdened with a conscience should recognize that dying in an effort to enslave another human being is ignominious, rather than honorable. Although few police officers are aware of Batchelder’s “sacrifice,” they routinely celebrate the purported valor of officers who meet their mortal end while employing violence to enforce government policies rooted in a denial of self-ownership.

Drug prohibition is a subset of slavery – in both its philosophical premise (the denial of individual self-ownership) and its role in creating a huge and growing population of people in chains. A hundred years from now, assuming that Jesus tarries and Americans rediscover rational thinking, drug enforcement officers will be seen for what they genuinely are:  The heirs and successors to 19th Century slave-catchers.

Dum spiro, pugno!