Charlie Mitchener, the Las Vegas business owner who was handcuffed and disarmed after presenting a concealed weapons permit along with his drivers license to a police officer responding to a burglary call at his place of business Jan. 3 (see my column of Jan. 10), has provided me with his Jan. 19 follow-up letter to the Metro Police Department.
Mr. Mitchener says he decided to write lest his “silence may put someone else at risk. …
“Shortly before 5 a.m. Jan 3, the alarms in my office sounded and notified TSI, our security provider, that a break-in had occurred,” Charlie Mitchener writes. “They … dispatched a security guard.
“My wife, Peggy, and I arrived at the office about 5:15 a.m.; the security officer had arrived just before us. … The security officer informed us that he had called Metro and they told him not to enter the building. …
“The security officer said ‘I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I’m familiar with situations where the bad guys will come busting out and your vehicle may provide them cover, so I suggest you move it away from the building.’”
The Mitcheners moved their vehicle.
“Approximately 5:30 a.m. the Metro officer arrived. My wife and I … were still in the vehicle which was marked with the name of my company identically to how it is marked on the entrance door. … The officer exited her vehicle, the four of us walked to the broken window; the security officer identified himself, and introduced me to officer Rogers. She informed us that she had called for backup to clear the office. The officer asked, in the meantime, for my identification. (Please note she never asked for my wife’s identification or an introduction.) …”
Mr. Mitchener handed over his drivers license and a concealed carry permit.
“Officer Rogers immediately asked if I had a weapon on me to which I replied yes. She asked me to turn around, spread my legs and place my hands behind my back, to which I complied. As she attempted to handcuff me, she said that she was doing this because she ‘wanted everyone to be safe.’
“At this time, we are standing approximately 30 feet (away), with our backs to the place where the office was broken into,” from which the security guard had warned them “bad guys could burst out firing weapons.”
“My thought at the time, beyond what a surreal event this was, was what a foolish place to handcuff me. I wondered, and still wonder, how on earth is everyone safe. My conclusion is that officer Rogers … did not give a damn about my life; she was willing to sacrifice me,” Mr. Mitchener’s Jan. 19 letter to Metro continues.
“Twice, officer Rogers asked me to bend at the knees … (my arms were already extended downward, and my legs were spread), because she could not reach high enough to put the handcuffs on. Peggy noted that officer Rogers was having real difficulty working the handcuffs and fumbled about. Thank God for officer Rogers’ sake I was a law-abiding citizen, because otherwise the handcuffing would not have occurred.
“After the handcuffing experience, it was time for the trained officer to disarm me. … I feel Officer Rogers begin to grab my weapon by the handle grip. I am wearing an excellent inside-the-waistband holster secured to an operator’s belt. Incidentally, in addition to an IWB holster, I am wearing … a longer than normal sweatshirt concealing my weapon. I am 100 percent confident that had I not volunteered my CCW, my weapon would never have been exposed.
“As I feel officer Rogers on the handle of my weapon, I tell her not to remove the weapon in that manner because it is ‘ready to go.’ In other words, there is a round chambered. … I told her to remove the holster with the weapon in it so that the trigger was not exposed; I was concerned that the officer did not know what she was doing. …
“Thankfully the officer listened to me; unfortunately she then had difficulty figuring out how to remove the holster. …
“Seeing that the officer was struggling to remove the holster and weapon, my wife, Peggy, volunteered to help. Remember, officer Rogers had never asked who Peggy was, what she was doing there or if she had a weapon. … It is one of those situations that, if it were not so serious, we would fall on our face laughing.
“The weapon, with the assistance of Peggy … is removed and taken by the officer Rogers to her patrol car. She returns and removes the handcuffs. … The two officers clear the office and the backup officer leaves. … A CSI officer arrives and very professionally begins looking for fingerprints, etc. …
“Officer Rogers sees Peggy and gives her my driver’s license and CCW card. I would think that the correct protocol would be to hand me directly my license and CCW. But at this point, why should we think that anything would be done correctly or professionally? Officer Rogers also informs me that she has secretly placed my weapon in the second drawer on the left side of the receptionist desk. …”
It would be hard to come up with a better test case to demonstrate the absurdity of any one-size-fits-all police doctrine that “Everybody out there is presumed to be a ‘bad guy’ till proven otherwise” — or of the inappropriateness of placing on patrol duty women so small they have trouble handcuffing even a cooperating “suspect,” and who feel threatened by calm, law-abiding citizens whose only offense is to be “tall.” Why wasn’t the armed security guard “ID’d,” handcuffed, and disarmed? Couldn’t a “bad guy” steal a security guard uniform?
Many readers have asked the obvious questions:
Metro backs up the officer, saying she has “discretion” to do what she did. Given that this is the way a law-abiding citizen can now expect to be treated in this clear-cut a situation, after “doing everything right,” should we “call in” such crimes to police, at all?
And if you DO find yourself dealing with a police officer, might it not be wiser NOT to mention you have a permit or a weapon, as many readers have suggested? Officer Rogers never patted down or handcuffed or demanded the ID of Mr. Mitchener’s wife or of the security guard.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie called me back Wednesday.
“It’s not standard procedure, Vin. A young officer went out on that particular call, we’ve taken a look at it and her captain has spoken to her and they’re dealing with it from a training standpoint,” the sheriff said. “But our officers also have discretion.”
“For it to be thought that our policy is that every time we encounter someone with a CCW we disarm you and handcuff you, there’s many people that that doesn’t happen to. …
“I had concerns when I read your (Jan. 10) article, Vin. My direction was take a look at it. … Your questions are valid; I’m not going to say that they’re not. … As far as a written reprimand, no, but they’re dealing with it through a training component. …
“There’s not a change, Vin. … There’s no policy here that’s that what we do, that if you tell Officer Doug Gillespie that you have a CCW that I immediately put you in handcuffs and disarm you. You can’t policy-ize everything so everybody does everything exactly the same.”