From Lockport we are hearing about yet another SAFE Act arrest, courtesy of Buffalo News reporter Nancy Fischer.
Fischer not only reported on the facts of the case, which involved the arrest of a Paul A. Wojdan, 26. She also detailed some of the backlash seen against the Lockport police for their handling of the matter – at least from the point of view from the police chief and a captain.
And with this case, like others we have seen before, it appears the man arrested was not engaged in any criminal activity other than the alleged SAFE Act violation.
The police said the driver of the car, Tanisha White, led them on a “chase” after an officer attempted to stop the vehicle. Another news source, the Niagara Gazette, had this account:
According to the Lockport Police Department, the officer initiated the stop on a vehicle driven by Tanisha D. White, also of 1224 Parkwood Drive, after radar measured it traveling 44 mph on South Transit Street south of Willow Street. The speed limit is 30 mph in the city.
White did not comply with the stop directive until she had entered the town, stopping her vehicle on South Transit Road near Strauss Road, the officer reported.
A quick glance at Google maps shows, that the distance between Willow Street and Strauss Road is less than a mile. Yet, it is not clear exactly where on South Transit Street the police turned on their lights. It’s also not clear how near to Strauss Road White was when she pulled over. But most of us have been pulled over for speeding before and we all know distance accrues from the point the police officer spots the speeding car, to the point that officer pulls out to pursue the car, to the point the officer turns on his lights, to the point the driver notices the lights, to the point the driver realizes those lights are targeted at him or her and to the point where the driver can maneuver to the side of the road.
From the Buffalo News:
Capt. Michael Niethe said the magazine was inspected after the car was pulled over after midnight on South Transit Street near Strauss Road by Officer Adam Piedmont. He said the driver led the officer on a brief chase from the City of Lockport into the Town of Lockport.
According to police, the driver, Tanisha D. White, also of Parkwood Drive, was charged with speeding, failure to stop for an emergency vehicle and being an unlicensed driver.
“Officer Piedmont asked if they had any weapons in the car, and luckily [Wojdan] said yes and handed over a gun from the glove compartment. He had a permit, so he was allowed to have the gun, but he had too many rounds of ammunition in the gun,” said Niethe.
Okay, let’s look at that. Now in this account, Niethe puts the location of the stop as on South Transit Street but near Strauss Road – not South Transit Road. Looking at Google Maps again, it seems that the distance between the initial spotting of White’s car and where she pulled over was even closer. Why is this important?
Because there was no “brief chase” as Niethe said. The proof is in the charges she faces: speeding, failure to stop for an emergency vehicle and unlicensed operation. These are all traffic violations.
If she had actually been involved in a chase (which really isn’t a legal term anyway and only serves to conjure up Starsky & Hutch imagery beneficial to the official narrative), as police stated, she probably would have been charged with this misdemeanor under New York State Penal Law, third-degree fleeing a police officer .
§ 270.25 Unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree.
A person is guilty of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree when, knowing that he or she has been directed to stop his or her motor vehicle by a uniformed police officer or a marked police vehicle by the activation of either the lights or the lights and siren of such vehicle, he or she thereafter attempts to flee such officer or such vehicle by driving at speeds which equal or exceed twenty-five miles per hour above the speed limit or engaging in reckless driving as defined by section twelve hundred twelve of the vehicle and traffic law. Unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.
This was a routine traffic stop – which brings us to this: “Court Limits Questioning of Motorists by the Police.”
It’s funny how this all works. It appears neither Officer Piedmont nor his superiors have seen that court decision.
But what’s worse than having police officers not understanding the law is having police officers flippantly disregard a citizen’s constitutional rights.
“…luckily (Wojdan) said yes…”– Neithe said, referring to Wojdan answering Piedmont’s question about whether there were weapons in the car.
It can take up to 18 months to get a pistol permit in New York State. And this is after an extensive background check and an exhaustive, bureaucratic mess of a process. We are willing to give pistol permit holders the benefit of the doubt that they are generally law abiding citizens. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be eligible to get or retain a pistol permit, which is subject to revocation at any time.
We have established that this was a traffic stop. We have established what New York State’s highest court says is not an acceptable question to ask in a traffic stop. Yet Niethe seems to believe that having a citizen, a passenger in a vehicle, who is not suspected of any crime or even a traffic violation, being denied his Fifth Amendment rights is a good thing for the public.
The Buffalo News also had this:
But (Eggert) said the department’s role is to enforce the law, whether it is popular or not.
“It’s on the books, and if we see it, we have to do something about it,” Eggert said.
Eggert said the law was still new and that local police are looking at it on a case-by-case basis.
Shouldn’t the police be familiar with the law, as well as court cases that interpret the law, before they are out in the public making arrests under it?
We have all heard of police discretion. Not even taking into account that the officer’s actions were likely unconstitutional, was an arrest of Wojdan that officer’s only option?
Of course it wasn’t. He could have stripped off the top three rounds in that magazine and handed the gun back to Wojdan. He could have simply not inspected the magazine.
With this, the case in Utica and other arrests and incidents that we are hearing about, it is clear there needs to be an injunction to prevent further enforcement of the SAFE Act until the Supreme Court rules on the law’s Constitutionality.
Until then, more law abiding citizens will have their lives ruined because of a law that does nothing to make New York Safer.
And one other thing. Not that long ago there were other laws “on the books.” These laws included Jim Crow segregation laws and runaway slave laws.
The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld that the Second Amendment is an individual Civil Right. Just because a law is “on the books,” doesn’t absolve a law enforcement officer from doing what is right.
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