“Gotta Cover Our Ass” and Made-Up Criminal Charges
Feb. 5, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Back in September or October* of 2015, a young man named Michael Picard decided to exercise some of his constitutional rights in the State of Connecticut, which apparently offended some of the members of the State Police. After contacting him and determining that what he was doing was legal, the troopers involved and a supervisor decided to issue a citation for bogus charges, because, in their words, they “gotta cover our ass.”
This is, pure and simple, abusive behavior by the police. Period.
In the business, it is known by many acronyms and phrases. POP, for pissed off the police. COC, for contempt of cop. You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride. All of which show a contempt for members of the very public that officers are sworn to protect, and a complete disregard for the law that officers are sworn to enforce.
Here, Picard was holding up a sign warning of a police checkpoint ahead, and advising people to remain silent. In addition, Picard was openly carrying a handgun. In Connecticut, one can carry a handgun either openly or concealed so long as one has a permit to carry. And if one has a permit, there is no requirement in Connecticut for the permit holder to show it to the police.
Nonetheless, the police confronted Picard, disarmed him, and within a few minutes realized that he possessed a valid pistol permit and was carrying the handgun legally.
But Picard was committing the ultimate sin against the troopers: he was filming them. Trooper First Class (TFC) John Barone then told Picard that it was illegal to film him.
It’s not. A member of the public has a right under the First Amendment to film public officials in a public place. Not only that, but Connecticut has a law making the police liable civilly if they prevent someone from filming them. Sort of. The law has plenty of loopholes and escape clauses for the police, and the police ignore the law.
TFC Barone grabs Picard’s camera and puts it on top of the squad car, where the troopers are discussing the matter. And then they forget about the camera, which is still recording, as they discuss the matter.
5:51** Barone: “Want me to punch a number on this? Gotta cover our ass.”
What that means in police speak is that the trooper is asking the sergeant if they should arrest Picard just to cover up the officers misconduct.
The problem is that Picard wasn’t recklessly using the highway. He was standing off the highway holding a sign. There was nothing reckless about it. The same thing follows about creating a disturbance; it simply wasn’t happening.
So what the officers were discussing is filing false reports to maliciously prosecute Picard because they did not like the content of his speech. That’s the gist of it.
9:00 Unidentified trooper: “And then we claim that, um, in backup, we had multiple people, um, they didn’t want to stay and give us a statement, so we took our own course of action.”
This is a complete fabrication. There were no “multiple people,” unless you count the pissed off troopers and some of their imaginary friends. Any police officer knows that even if you can’t get a statement from a complaining witness, you get the witness contact information, the name, phone number, address, etc. It’s not difficult, I did it all the time. And if I couldn’t get it, I didn’t file charges.
What happened here is that the troopers were discussing lying on a police report to convict Picard and to make him pay for pissing them off. And at 9:13, Sgt. Jacobi, said “OK” to that idea.
Remember, Jacobi’s the supervisor. He’s the one who is supposed to enforce the standards of the agency on the troopers, and he’s going along with fabricating evidence.
Then, after the officers issue the citations for the made-up charges, Jacobi tells Picard that he needs to conceal the gun, that he is upsetting people.
Too damn bad.
Picard was doing nothing illegal, and was in compliance with the weapons laws of Connecticut. The officers just don’t like it.
Remember, officers are all about control, and about people respecting their power and authority. Unfortunately, they aren’t nearly as concerned with protecting the rights of the citizenry.
When you take police action against someone for exercising their constitutional right to free speech and to peaceably assemble, you are not only violating the law and the oath you swore to uphold the law, you are contributing to the destruction of a free society.
When you fabricate information to support that action, you have, in my opinion, forfeited the right to wear the badge.
The Public Information Office for the Connecticut State Police, when asked for a statement, informed me that the troopers had been referred to their Professional Standards Unit for review of their actions. They would not address any other matter in regards to the officers or Picard, other than to state that the report from Professional Standards was releasable to the public.
The State’s Attorney for the New Britain district did not return calls to answer any questions on the matter. It is not known if the troopers will be added to a Brady list. But there will always be this video.
*The comments on YouTube say September 11, 2015, but the citation shows a date of October 9, 2015. It is possible that October is the date that Picard had to appear before the court, but it’s not clear.
**All time stamps refer to the full video.