Friday, February 26, 2010

Cpl Mike Jones Charged with Pointing Weapon During Off-Duty Confrontation

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for a Dallas police officer who is accused of illegally pointing his gun at a man and ordering him to his knees during an off-duty confrontation in July.

Senior Cpl. Mike Jones, who joined the department in 1999, faces a Class A misdemeanor charge of deadly conduct, an offense punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Jones was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday. A conviction would cost him his job.

Jones, 42, was expected to turn himself in at the Dallas County Jail. He told police investigators that he ordered a man who was urinating on a wall at an apartment complex on Washington Avenue in Old East Dallas to stop. He said that when the man didn't follow his commands, and after he identified himself as a police officer, he drew his weapon and ordered Brandon Schroder, 23, to his knees.

The decision by prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against Jones immediately riled officers throughout the Dallas Police Department, with many saying Jones was being punished for simply doing his job.

"It sends a very bad message to police officers," said Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association.

"He did everything by the book," said White. "It's not like he clocked the guy in the back of the head, split the guy's head and left him. If someone does not comply with loud, clear verbal instructions, you go to plan B."

John Haring, Jones' attorney, said, "Officer Jones was only doing his job and he looks forward to presenting his side of the story in court."

The Dallas County district attorney's office declined to comment other than to say that prosecutors determined the facts of the case constituted deadly conduct.

"I can confirm that we made the decision that it was a misdemeanor offense, not a felony offense. There was no need to go to a grand jury," said First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore.

Harvey Hedden, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, said the actions that Jones took do not appear to violate the training that police give law officers.

"To me, [the arrest] does seem like an overreaction and might have a chilling effect on how officers might interrupt criminal activity in their off-duty hours," Hedden said.

According to police records, the confrontation occurred about 6:45 p.m. at the AMLI at Cityplace apartments, where at the time Jones provided security work and had an apartment. Schroder and his friends had been drinking all day, the records state.

Jones wrote in his police report of the incident that he had just returned to the complex when he noticed a swimsuit-clad Schroder urinating on a wall. Jones, dressed in civilian clothing, told Schroder to stop and go somewhere else. Schroder continued to urinate, the report states.

Jones then identified himself as a Dallas police officer and displayed his badge. When Schroder ignored him, Jones wrote, he showed him his badge and was again ignored. Still showing his badge, he then pointed his service weapon at Schroder and ordered him to his knees.

Jones then wrote Schroder a ticket for urinating in public, an offense punishable by a fine. Information on what happened to the citation was unavailable.

Schroder, who didn't want to immediately comment on the case, filed a complaint with the police, telling investigators that Jones simply screamed at him to stop, pulled a gun on him and ordered him to his knees.

"The complainant did not realize the suspect was an officer until he observed suspect's identification," the report said. "The complainant believed the suspect to be a person that was going to cause him injury by shooting him."

Jim Bristo, vice president of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, said it is not unusual for an officer to draw his weapon when lawful orders are ignored. "This all seems to be to be a witch hunt," he said.

Hedden said officers are trained that when confronting someone, even those committing a minor violation, they should draw their weapon if the person does not respond to verbal commands after a police officer identifies himself.

"It's better to have a weapon out and in hand than to have it in a holster especially in a situation where someone is acting suspiciously," said Hedden, a former police officer.

In off-duty situations, officers need to be even more cautious because they typically don't have a radio, baton, handcuffs or an easy way to call for backup, he said.

He also said ordering a violator to his knees or even to make him lie face-down is standard police procedure for controlling a suspect. "By putting themselves on their knees it makes them less likely to attack him and easier to control," Hedden said.

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