Thursday, January 27, 2011

Land of the Free, Part II

Since I've already shared the entire arrest report in Land of the Free, Part I, I'm now going to counter each segment of the arrest report and re-tell the story from my perspective. I will not go out of my way to make myself look like a protagonist here; I'm simply going to tell the truth because I have nothing to hide.

For the remainder of this post, red text signifies excerpts from the arrest report, while my contributions are shown in black text. Gray text represents text that I've copied and pasted from external sources.

On 7-24-2010 at approximately 7:37 p.m. I was dispatched to a suspicious person complaint on US-40 near the Putnamville Correctional Facility. I was advised by dispatch that the subject was walking eastbound near the prison and that DOC employees had attempted to make contact with the subject and he became belligerent and continued walking east.

I do not dispute the truthfulness of the above account, but I have plenty to add. Here's what really happened:

It all began near the prison, as I walked east on the shoulder of westbound US 40. Minding my own business and wearing a reflective vest (as always), a prison guard stopped his vehicle in front of me and exited the vehicle to confront me.

The guard quickly told me it is illegal to walk on US 40 near the prison. On the edge of the prison grounds, he said, there are signs posted to inform pedestrians that it is unlawful to walk in the area. However, as I suspected from the beginning, everything he said was a lie. First of all, as I found out later, there are no such signs. Furthermore, it's perfectly legal to walk near the prison on the road surface or shoulder.

This guy wasn't trying to be helpful. Rather, he stopped specifically to fuck with me. However, since I was not on prison property, nor had I ever been on prison property, he had no authority to confront me, which means I had no legal obligation to acknowledge his presence. Still, I cooperated with him for a few minutes, giving him a chance to figure out what should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain: that I was just walking through, and that I was no threat to anyone or anything. But he couldn't figure it out, and soon he demanded that I show him identification.

I don't play that game. That is, I don't play that game unless the law enforcement officer has a valid reason to ask for my ID. For example, when I was caught riding a freight train, I totally cooperated with the railroad cop because I'd actually broken a law and he caught me. See how that works?

When the prison guard demanded to see my ID, I stopped cooperating because this is the point at which an inquiry becomes harassment. As he tried to intimidate me, also stealing my valuable time from me, I quickly became defensive and raised my voice to assert my displeasure with his harassment. Not far into our exchange, I informed him that this is the United States of America, and in the United States of America I am free to walk down the street without being hassled by people like him.

He then said, "Well, I fought for your freedom in Vietnam," to which I responded, "Yeah, you fought for my right to walk across this country without having to worry about being harassed by cops or prison guards."

He didn't get it.

For the record, I don't believe he fought for my freedom. Last I checked, my constitutional rights existed for almost 200 years before the Vietnam War began, and no Vietnamese ever tried to strip me of these rights. But hey, if it made him feel good to believe he went there to protect my freedom, then I thought this was an appropriate time to point out that he was currently trying really hard to strip me of my freedom. I figured maybe this would create some moral friction within him to make him realize it's a good time to stop being a prick.

He still didn't get it. The sad part is that he fancied himself a hero or a protector, even though he obviously enjoyed trying to create misery for others.

After putting up with his harassment and arguing with him for several minutes, I simply walked away, against his wishes, resuming my walk east along US 40. And he didn't follow me, either on foot or in his vehicle, because he knew he had no authority to detain me. Instead, due to the fact that I'd so effectively hurt his feelings (which he deserved), he contacted the sheriff's department and lied yet again by reporting that there was a suspicious person walking near the prison.

Now back to the arrest report.

When I arrived in the area, I observed a male subject sitting in the grass on the north side of US 40, just east of the Lincoln Park Speedway entrance.

At this time I exited my commission to make contact with the subject. Upon approaching the subject I asked if he was alright, to which he responded that he was. At this time I asked the subject if he had recently had contact with employees of the DOC to which he stated that he had. At this time I asked the subject for identification to which he responded he was a US citizen and that he did not have to tell me anything. I again asked the subject for identification to which he again stated he was not going to comply with my request and that I should leave him alone.

This occurred about half an hour after the incident with the prison guard, more than a mile from the prison.

To be clear, I actually said, "This is the United States of America," which has a much different meaning than "I am a US citizen." You may have noticed a trend here. Yes, when I get harassed by cops, I am very fond of reminding them what country we're in because they know exactly what I mean when I say it. And if they don't fully grasp my message, I make it clear that I know my rights and I don't plan to surrender my rights to someone who is paid to protect me.

Anyway, if you think I was unnecessarily or unlawfully obstinate with the guard or the cop, here's where you get to start learning what freedom really means.

In the United States of America, cops have more rules to follow than do civilians. The following is an Indiana statute that establishes what conditions must be met before a law enforcement officer may lawfully detain someone:

IC 34-28-5-3
Sec. 3. Whenever a law enforcement officer believes in good faith that a person has committed an infraction or ordinance violation, the law enforcement officer may detain that person for a time sufficient to:
(1) inform the person of the allegation;
(2) obtain the person's:
(A) name, address, and date of birth; or
(B) driver's license, if in the person's possession; and
(3) allow the person to execute a notice to appear.

Nowhere in the arrest report does Corporal Chadd establish that anyone had committed an infraction or ordinance violation. Nowhere in the arrest report does Corporal Chadd establish that he witnessed or even suspected that anyone had committed an infraction or ordinance violation. Nowhere in the arrest report does Corporal Chadd establish that I seemed suspicious.

According to the law, by this point of the arrest report, Corporal Chadd no longer had any business with me. Having investigated the report of a suspicious person, he did not find a suspicious person when he contacted me. And even if he did think I seemed suspicious, it's not a crime to seem suspicious. As a well-trained law enforcement officer, he should have concluded that he had either established contact with the wrong person or he had responded to a false alarm. With nothing more to investigate, Corporal Chadd was now obligated to cease contact with me and go back to doing his job.

If Corporal Chadd truly believed there was anything suspicious about me, then he had every right to keep an eye on me for as long as he wanted until I reached the county line. If during his surveillance he witnessed me commit a crime, then he would have had every right to arrest me, demand my identification, and take me to jail. It really is that simple.


(Continued in Land of the Free, Part III)

Become a fan of Aimless on Facebook.

Aimless Video Evidence


ER said...

I've been thinking about this... How can anybody but the officer say for certain if you seemed "suspicious" to him? In that town, perhaps it's suspicious if anybody walks past the prison. The prison employee certainly seemed to find it suspicious. Maybe the assumption was that you were there to make contact with someone who was incarcerated, or throw prohibited items into the prison complex (drugs, knives, cell phones, etc.). There could even have been a suspicion that you were an escapee. How was the officer to know for certain unless he positively identified you? I'm a very liberal and anti-establishment kind of guy, but after thinking about this, I really don't think it was unreasonable for the cop to ask you to identify yourself in this case. I hate to side with the cop here, but all you had to do was give him your name and DOB. Was he just supposed to take your word that you weren't up to no good, after being dispatched to a suspicious person call from a prison guard? Think about that for a minute, and put yourself in his shoes.

Ryan, I see your points, but I also see the cop's. I don't think you're seeing it from the cop's eyes. Step back and look at it objectively.

ER said...

Hehehe... Don't take this the wrong way, Ryan, it's meant to make you smile:


Ryan M. Powell said...

If someone suspected I was there to make contact with an inmate, they could have approached me as soon as they saw me step onto prison property.

If someone suspected I was there to throw drugs or knives into the prison, they could have approached me as soon as they saw me step onto prison property.

If I was an escapee, I wouldn't have been carrying a large backpack; I wouldn't have been anywhere near the road; I wouldn't have worn a reflective vest. Before they can assume I'm an escapee, it's their responsibility to first be aware that a prisoner has escaped. (Prisoners almost never escape.) If they do their job inside the prison, there are no what-ifs.

They're watching every inch of the prison grounds very carefully. They knew where I came from, and they knew it wasn't from inside the prison. If I had been on prison property at any time, they would have seen me and they could have legally detained me.

If any of what you said applies to me, then it also applies to every person in every car that drives by the prison. Law isn't about assumptions; it's about proof.

It doesn't matter whether the officer could be expected to know anything for certain. His curiosity ends where my freedom begins unless he has evidence that I've done something illegal, and sometimes he just doesn't get to know everything he wants to know. When you drove somewhere today, you probably passed a cop somewhere. Did he know if you were a criminal? No. Did he have the right to stop you and harass you just because he didn't know if you were a criminal? No.

No, I didn't have to give him my name or my date of birth. If he had something on me, then I would have had to give him my name and date of birth. Yes, he was just supposed to take my word that I wasn't up to no good because if I was up to no good, there would have been some evidence. Just like he's supposed to take your word that you aren't up to no good. And if you are up to no good but he doesn't catch you, you win. However, if you leave evidence that leads him to you, then he can investigate.

Police work is reactive, not proactive. That's not just my view; that's the law.

I've put myself in his shoes a million times. I'd put myself in his shoes a million more times before this ever happened. When I'm in his shoes, the law says I don't get to fuck with everyone I want to fuck with.

The cop has no point. If the cop had a point, he would have pulled up to me with some evidence that I'd done something--anything--against the law. If he had some evidence, then he could have charged me with something and legally demanded my ID. But he couldn't and he didn't because there is never evidence of something that hasn't happened.

ER said...

"Law isn't about assumptions; it's about proof."

No, from an officer's point of view, the law is about investigations. Someone called you in as a suspicious person. A prison guard, no less, but it could have been my Aunt Betty. That's enough - It doesn't take any more than that to make you a suspicious person, and the cop is not only legally permitted to positively ID you at that point, he's obligated to do it. This is not the same thing as walking down the street, and having a cop randomly ask you for ID. He was responding to a call. Don't believe me? Read it from the cops who are currently discussing your case on the forum at the link below. If you feel they're wrong, I suggest you create an account over there, and tell them all about your rights. Keep in mind, though, that this is what they do for a living, day in, day out.

Ryan, I'm on your side. The whole thing was a bunch of BS, because you really weren't doing anything wrong. That said, you made a mistake by refusing to give the cop your ID. Had you done that, you would have been on your way.

You haven't yet said what happened in court, but I'm guessing the charges stuck, at least in some form.

Ryan M. Powell said...

Dude, the people on the page you linked to are idiots. Most of them have no idea what they're talking about, and none of them knows what happened in my case, except for what they've read on the arrest report, which is full of lies and very relevant omissions.

I intended not to reveal this until the final installment of this series of posts, but I'm gonna tell ya right now that the judge found me not guilty. He was clearly unhappy that he had to find me not guilty, and he went on to lecture me about how wrong I was, but it was not a remotely difficult decision for him to make when confronted with THE LAW.

What I did was not wrong. What I did was right, and I wouldn't undo it if I could.

All this attention and scrutiny is starting to stress me out, so it might be a while before I publish the remaining segments of this story.

Ryan M. Powell said...

Furthermore, I never even testified. The judge made his decision without even hearing my side of the story.

The cops lied in the arrest report, then they made up new lies in court, yet they still had no case.

ER said...

Hey man, if the charges were dropped, then that's freakin' awesome! Congratulations! Those cops must have been majorly pissed! I can't wait to hear about it in more detail.

I still think you should have just given your ID and avoided the whole situation, but at least you got justice in the end. I would love to hear about what went down in the court room with regard to what the cops and judge said. I can't imagine how you got off considering someone called you in as a suspicious person, and you refused to ID yourself to a cop, but hey, it is what it is. Congrats! Would you be opposed to putting the court records online?

ER said...

Hey Ryan, there are at least a couple of cops over on the forum who are agreeing with you about your right to not give your ID. Perhaps I was wrong. It's really a complicated issue though, and there doesn't seem to be a simple clear-cut answer in this case. Interesting. I'm still anxious to hear the rest. Don't let all the discussion freak you out. Please continue.

Jeff said...


What you were initially saying reminded me of the old witch hunt mentality, which didn't work out too well for anyone back then... It's just wrong.

The law is supposed to be held to a higher standard than that. They have rules or "laws" in place. This is done partly to prevent tyranny and also to make sure they operate at this higher standard. They don’t just have the right to treat people like crap. We are not meant to be slaves of the law. The law is meant to be a tool used by us, imho.

I will say, this case could have gone a different direction had Ryan been in another jurisdiction where the laws are worded differently.

ER said...

Jeff, I am very happy for Ryan with regard to how it turned out. I really am. I will say this, though. 99 times out of 100, no matter what USA town or city you're in, if someone (especially a prison guard) calls the police and reports a suspicious person, when the police locate the person who was called about, if that person doesn't provide ID, they're getting arrested. Whether it's right or wrong, that's a fact. I know that from reading it right from the officer's mouths on the forum, and from watching all 800+ episodes of Cops that have been produced over the 23 years it's in production. Ironically, my TiVo is recording this weeks episode right now. Every Saturday night at 8:00pm. It's been one of my favorite shows since it started when I was in high school in in the late 80's.

I would be willing to bet there isn't a cop in this country who wouldn't positively ID a "suspicious person" reported by a prison guard, or hesitate to arrest anyone who refused. Even if the charges later get dropped in court, in the eyes of the cop, that's much better than accidentally letting go of an escapee or someone aiding an inmate.

RobW said...

"I fought for your freedom in Vietnam."

To be fair here, nobody ever credits corrections officers with having an overabundance of brains. But jesus christ, that's a stupid thing to say.

"I defended freedom therefore I can now take it from you." Huh?

Haven't even read the rest yet, I just had to remark on that. I'm as cynical as the next guy when it comes to human stupidity but even that knocks me back.

ER said...

Well, the soldiers who fought in Vietnam didn't fight specifically for American freedom, but they were fighting for freedom. When he said that he fought for "your" freedom, you were assuming he was talking about "you" as an American. He could have been talking about "you" as a free person in general. After all, we do live in a global society. In addition, our freedoms as Americans are certainly threatened by governments of other countries that are not democracies, so as free Americans, we do have an interest in fighting for freedom the world over. Here's a famous quote:

"Those Americans who went to Vietnam fought for freedom, a truly noble cause. You and your comrades-in-arms who faced danger and death in Vietnam fought as well as any Americans in our nation's history.

Vietnam was not so much a war as it was one long battle in an ongoing war -the war in defense of freedom, which is still under assault. This battle was lost not by those brave American and South Vietnamese troops who were waging it but by political misjudgments and strategic failure at the highest levels of government.

The tragedy- indeed, the immorality-of those years was that for the first time in our history our country and its government failed to match the heroic sacrifice of our men in the field.

This must never happen again."

- Ronald Reagan

whydibuy said...

It is interesting how many people buy into the vague police articulation as a " suspicious person ".
In reality, there is no such thing as a suspicious person. Suspicious is the hanging, vague claim but in law, you have to be suspicious.....of involvement of some specific, articulatory illegal activity. No one can just be suspicious.

As for ER, he thinks that any speculation on a cops part is grounds for a legal stop. RMP is an escapee, a breakout artist or a space alien, any assumption the cop wants to make don't mean squat in reality. The cop would have to have concrete, REASONABLE suspicions that he can articulate that RMP was engaged in illegal activity.
Its incredible how ER so easily falls into the sheep thinking that you have to PROVE you're innocence whenever a cop wants to talk to you. And you'll find that kind of thinking all over youtube. It surprised me to see so many people who think you have to prove their innocence. I don't know where these people like ER learned their rights but they sure didn't comprehend the lessons.

ER said...

whydibuy - You're way oversimplifying this issue. It's not a black and white kind of thing, and it's been heard before the supreme court as recently as 2004. Have you read about Hibel v. sixth or Terry v. Ohio?

Or the Stop and Identify statutes that vary from state-to state?

Fact is, in this case, it appears Ryan was within his rights to refuse to ID. That's not always the case, and it varies depending on the state and the specific situation.

Regarding your comments about "suspicious" persons, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of state and local laws across the country that use that term, and it's usually defined as something like "a person acting in a manner that is not consistent with the usual populace in that setting" (time, place, activity, etc.). For example, a guy wearing all black at 2:00am walking around an industrial area with a flashlight. Is there some leeway there with regard to the officer's opinion of whether a person is suspicious or not? Sure there is. That's the way it works. The officer makes a determination, conducts his investigation, and if he was wrong, it gets settled in court. As they say in law enforcement, nothing is black and white except the car.

If you want to dispute something like this, the forums at are great. There are a lot of friendly (and some not so friendly) cops that will explain it from their point of view.

whydibuy said...


If you bother to read it, all states require Reasonable Suspicion to stop and detain someone. The cops must be DETAINING someone to require ID from them.

I call BS on your example of someone out of place in a environment. Being out of place to someone's thinking is a far cry from having a reasonable suspicion that that person is involved with a crime. You need to be able to articulate reasons of why you think this person did something illegal.

And lastly, you're still playing the vague suspicious person game cops play. I'll reiterate since you were not paying attention. There is no such thing as a suspicious person just existing. He would have to be suspicious OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.
You clearly don't get the cop technique of being vague and devious in their ways. Thats because meeting a legal standard like R.S. is not easy and cops want to make their legal life as easy as possible. Its not easy to look at someone and articulate facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe they have been involved with criminal activity.