Pity the Poor Police

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Recently by William Norman Grigg: In Praise of ‘Rogue’ Cops

Michael Kennedy is Chief of Police in tiny Sunriver, Oregon, an unincorporated resort village in the Beaver State’s Deschutes County. Kennedy insists that his police force has been terrorized for years by a marauder named Robert Foster.

"He breaks the law all the time," Kennedy insisted in a June 15, 2010 sworn deposition.

"Well, have you ever arrested him?" asked Portland attorney Frank Wesson, who was representing Foster at the time.

"I have not," admitted Kennedy.

"Has anyone in your department ever arrested him?" Wesson pressed.

Kennedy sought refuge in evasion: "Not to my knowledge, sir."

Bear in mind that Kennedy isn't supervising the LAPD; he heads an eight-member police force (supplemented on occasion by a 30-member volunteer citizens patrol) in a town of fewer than 1,500 permanent residents in which actual crime is all but nonexistent.

An honest answer would have been: No, Foster had never been arrested, because no evidence exists that he ever committed a crime. Honesty was not Kennedy's first choice, however, nor does it appear to be his strong suit. He went on to list among Foster's alleged crimes "disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer, menacing, harassment, and stalking."

"Was he ever arrested for any of those?" Wesson persisted.

"No; fortunately for him, no," Kennedy replied. The Chief made that statement in apparent ignorance of the fact that he had just admitted, under oath, to incompetence in the administration of the law — assuming that Foster was the serial offender depicted in Kennedy's testimony and internal department memoranda.

One official report from Sunriver Officer Dree Warren to Chief Kennedy describes Foster as glaring at Sunriver police officers and emitting a sinister laugh like that of "the villain the Joker from the Batman cartoons.” Surely an archfiend of that magnitude can't be allowed to prey upon the innocent people of Sunriver, and their gallant protectors!

"I'm curious, do you know why your officers wouldn't arrest Mr. Foster if they thought he was breaking the law?" asked the defense attorney.

After a brief bout of dissimulation, Kennedy tried to dismiss the question by insisting that he "can't account for what every officer is thinking."

This is true, of course. It is also entirely irrelevant. If Foster were a one-man crime wave, leaving him at large would be a grave dereliction of duty, both for Sunriver's "Finest" and their bold and intrepid leader.

Rather than instructing his officers to arrest Foster if there was evidence that he had committed a crime, Chief Kennedy, by his own account, told them "to document every time they had a problem with Mr. Foster." He did this because "Mr. Foster was harassing and stalking our officers."

After tabulating a number of "unwanted contacts" with Foster, three of Sunriver's "Finest" induced a judge to issue a Stalking Protection Order forbidding him to come within eyeshot of his cringing, terrorized "victims." Under the terms of that order, the "victims" — Officers Kasey and Tiffany Hughes (a married couple) and Sgt. Joseph Patnode — can literally arrange for the arrest of Foster any time he comes within their field of vision.

Thanks to the efforts of Robert Foster's daughter, Rebecca Kossler, I've been able to review several hundred pages of detailed information on every aspect of this controversy. This includes numerous official police reports, several sworn depositions, legal filings, photographs taken of Foster by the police during several "unwanted contacts" with Foster, and a transcribed audio recording of a July 6, 2010 traffic stop involving Rebecca Kossler's husband, Ian.

The police accounts describe Mr. Foster engaged in such suspicious activities as sitting in his pickup truck, shopping, buying gasoline, and otherwise conducting routine business that brings him within visual distance of Sun River police officers. These incidents were breathlessly described as “evidence” of some unspecified criminal activity.

Nowhere in any of the accounts provided by the supposed victims in this matter — the people with guns and badges and the purported authority to use lethal force in the name of “officer safety” — is there any evidence of an actual crime or a threat to commit the same on the part of Mr. Foster. (Chief Kennedy refused to respond to repeated requests for an interview.) However, those reports are valuable evidence of unlawful activity — the unwarranted harassment and unlawful surveillance of Robert Foster by the Sunriver Police Department.

The record of the July 6, 2010 traffic stop provides compelling evidence of a criminal conspiracy to deprive Ian Kossler of his constitutionally protected rights, and an oblique admission that the department had done the same to Robert Foster.

The officer conducting the traffic stop was Kasey Hughes, one of the "victims" who filed a stalking order against Foster. When Ian Kossler asked why he was being pulled over, Hughes replied: "You weren't wearing you seat belt when you passed me. In fact, when you were actually following me."

"I wasn't following you," Kossler objected.

That detail is important, since Hughes, his wife Tiffany, and their supervisor, Sgt. Patnode, insisted that Foster had "followed" them on various occasions, thereby subjecting them to "coercive" or "threatening" behavior.

During his encounter with Ian Kossler, Hughes told Sgt. Patnode via radio that Kossler had been "following" him, and that he had been parked next to Robert Foster at a local restaurant called Blondie's.

"I'm gonna ask him in a minute and then … the fact that he is stalking me too — he can have his concealed weapons permit revoked very quickly," Hughes informed Patnode.

After returning to Kossler's vehicle, Hughes issued a citation for not wearing a seat belt — and then brazenly attempted to provoke a confrontation.

"Keep following us around and that's what's gonna happen, OK!" sneered Hughes.

"Dude, I wasn't following you," replied a composed but puzzled Kossler.

"You were following me around," reiterated the petulant tax-feeder.

"I was not following you… Why are you so paranoid?" responded Kossler, whose patience was understandably beginning to evaporate.

"You stalk us and you'll lose your concealed weapons permit, too," gloated Hughes.

"I am not stalking anybody," replied the only adult who was a party to that conversation.

The order that targeted Foster amounts to a bill of attainder. Chief Kennedy and three of his subordinates have disposed of the necessity of providing evidence that Foster has ever committed a crime. Instead, they have criminalized the person of Robert Foster — and they won't be satisfied until they've contrived some way to put him in prison.

The traffic stop involving Foster's son-in-law establishes a pattern on the part of the Sunriver Police: Identify a troublesome person, accuse him of "stalking" them, and use that accusation to deprive him of his rights. Just a few weeks after that encounter, Foster filed his civil rights complaint — which may be the only reason why Ian Kossler hasn't been the subject of a spurious stalking order.

Foster's civil case has been submitted to third-party arbitration. Under the terms of the police department's settlement offer, Foster would be subject to a 10-year permanent stalking protection order that could not be modified, or he could choose a 5-year permanent stalking order and pay $10,000 in legal costs.

Whichever option he selected, Foster would also be required to withdraw his tort claim against the police, and the existing legal record of the case — including the damaging admissions made by Chief Kennedy — would be expunged. This would mean that the police would be able to arrest Foster for violating the stalking order at their leisure.

Incredible as it will seem to people burdened with a capacity for rational thought, the arbitrator, Bend Attorney William Flinn, is insisting that Foster accept that deal. (Like Chief Kennedy, Mr. Flinn also refused to respond to repeated interview requests.)

“I know Bob feels that, had he accepted the [settlement] offer, the police still would have found some way to construe episodes of his future conduct as stalking," Flinn wrote to Foster's current defense counsel on July 11. "But, I don’t think that was a good reason to reject the offer.” Four days later, Flinn reiterated his demand that Foster submit to a settlement that was manifestly not in his best interest, telling his attorney that "there is virtually no chance that Bob will prevail in court, despite your excellent trial skills and some evidence of paranoia/lack of candor on the part of the police.” (Emphasis added)

A more appropriate term to describe the "lack of candor" Flinn refers to is "perjury."

Not only are the Sunriver police paranoid, according to Flinn, but in his opinion they also pose a threat of potentially lethal violence. That's an eminently defensible assessment — one that Flinn fashioned into an argument that Foster should submit to their demands.

“The skirmishing between the Sunriver police and Bob Foster has been going on for over five years, wrote Flinn to Foster’s lawyer. “So far, no one has resorted to the use of weapons, but it appears the risk increases with every new encounter. If I were the judge hearing this case, my priority would be to defuse the situation before it gets violent. No judge wants to be blamed, in retrospect, for passing up an opportunity to prevent armed conflict and the loss of life.”

In his sworn deposition, Chief Kennedy admitted that Foster has never been seen carrying a firearm. The only threat of violence in any of those encounters is that posed by the armed children under Kennedy's supervision. That threat can, and should, be defused by ordering Kennedy and his kiddie patrol to withdraw their complaint and leave Foster alone, unless there is evidence that he's actually committing a crime. Instead, the "mediator" is making common cause with people he describes as dishonest and potentially violent — and who are engaged in something that can properly be described as extortion.

The fearsome figure who causes Sunriver's "Finest" to lose bladder control is a wiry, soft-spoken 51-year-old entrepreneur who runs a hot tub installation and maintenance company. A lifetime resident of rural Oregon, Bob Foster is the kind of blessed troublemaker who carries copies of the U.S. Constitution in his pickup truck, but — unlike nearly everybody else in Deschutes County — rarely carries a rifle in his gun rack, a fact Chief Kennedy artlessly tried to obfuscate in his sworn testimony.

Foster is blunt but not abrasive. He is a devoted grandfather. He is also an accomplished guitarist whose irreproachable taste in classic rock is demonstrated by the fact that his favorite band is ThinLizzy. Most importantly for the purposes of the present discussion, Foster is an outspoken critic of what he describes as Sunriver's ruling political clique.

Before 2008, Sunriver was one of the few places in the known universe where police were required by law to act as peace officers, rather than law enforcers. Although they were permitted to arrest people for crimes against person and property, they were forbidden to act as armed tax farmers by detaining and mulcting motorists who violated Oregon's invasive seat belt law, or who committed other infractions that would result in traffic fines elsewhere.

"No seatbelt? No citation. No tail light? No ticket. In too much of a hurry? Not to worry," reported a March 3, 2007 AP story from Sunriver. "Sgt. P.J. Beaty watches people in this upscale development breaking traffic laws, and sees plenty of them. But he can’t pull them over. A man swerved head-on into Beaty’s lane, and then back out again and Beaty couldn’t law a glove on him."

Owing to the fact that Sunriver was actually governed by a private homeowners association, its streets were exempt from most of the obnoxious enactments used as pretexts for roadside shakedowns by police. As local reporter Susan Lawson of the Sunriver Scene told Pro Libertate in a May 2007 interview, "if someone were robbing the mini-mart up the road the police would obviously have the power to arrest the suspect. The police are simply not permitted to enforce a very small number — it’s either six or eight — of laws dealing with minor traffic infractions, because our roads are the equivalent of private property."

This was an unconscionable state of affairs, according to the SROA, which prevailed on Oregon State Rep. Gene Whisnat to sponsor H.B. 3445, which extended police "authority" to include roads and streets on "premises open to the public that are owned by a homeowners association…." That measure was passed, and another freedom-promoting "loophole" was closed. But that wasn't the end of the matter.

In 2003, the Sunriver Owner's Association (SROA), which functions as a municipal government, had created a special service district within Deschutes County. In 2008, following passage of H.B 3445 — which put the police in the business of collecting revenue at gunpoint — the SROA enacted a special multi-million-dollar tax assessment for the special service district.

Bob Foster, who has lived in the area nearly all his life and is a well-respected local businessman, became a conspicuous presence at public meetings, where he would politely but forcefully express his opposition to the service district and the tax assessment.

Like any small town dependent on tourism, Sunriver is acutely sensitive to economic trends. During one public meeting in which the town's economic challenges were discussed, Foster suggested that the SROA could save several millions of dollars each year by seceding from Deschutes County, thereby canceling the expensive service district agreement. He also recommended that the duties of the police be scaled back to their pre-2007 role, and that Sunriver contract with a nearby town called La Pine for emergency services.

"That's the kind of talk that made me Public Enemy Number One," Foster told Pro Libertate during a lengthy interview. He is a legitimate threat to the Sunriver Police — not to the physical safety of any of its officers, but to the agency’s continued access to a steady stream of plundered revenue. This is why every gesture or public utterance by Foster is treated by the Sunriver Police as evidence of his criminal intent.

In an October 8 2010 petition seeking the extension of the stalking protection order, Officer Kasey Hughes accused Foster of making "violent and aggressive" statements that displayed a "distorted perception" of the police department. Among those supposedly criminal utterances was "You're a public servant, I'm your boss." On another occasion Foster "referred to the Sunriver Police as `the local Gestapo'" — an assessment which, given the department's behavior, barely qualifies as hyperbole.

Foster "appears to be a highly volatile person," simpered Hughes, accusing him of "obsessive behavior that could turn to aggression at any point." Besides, Foster "has access to guns," pouted Hughes, who — unlike his supposed persecutor — carries one with him at all times.

A report filed by Officer Hughes a few weeks before submitting that petition suggests that he, not Foster, is hostage to bizarre obsessions. Hughes described how he and two other officers were responding to a citizen complaint at the Crossroads Gas Station in Sunriver when he saw Foster "sitting at a table directly in front of his truck," writing in a notepad. A few minutes later, while interviewing a local resident, "I saw Foster standing outside his vehicle, staring at me," Hughes continued. "I also noticed him washing his windshield very slowly."

Foster's “threatening” behavior was supposedly noticed by the individual Hughes was interviewing. "Man, he's eye-f**king you," the resident told Hughes, according to the officer's unsupported account. According to the report, this incident was enough to frighten Hughes away — although, oddly enough, his supposed stalker "was still at the gas pumps when I left."

If Robert Foster is compelled to accept the Sunriver Police Department's settlement offer, Hughes would be able to transmute a peculiar sexual fantasy of that kind into a criminal complaint. He or either of the other two "victims" would also be granted a license to stalk Foster and have him prosecuted for violating the permanent stalking order.

Robert Foster's experience can appropriately be described as "Kafkaesque" — but it is not unique. There are uncanny similarities between his story and recent developments in Quartzsite, Arizona, another small rural town (population circa 3,600) that is largely dependent on tourism. In recent months, something perilously close to open warfare has erupted between the Quartzsite TownCouncil and its reform-minded Mayor, Ed Foster (the shared surname is another striking coincidence).

Foster is convinced that the Council has engaged in corrupt and dubious bookkeeping. His suspicions were sharpened by the Council's refusal — in defiance of municipal ordinances and state law, and with the support of Police Chief Jeff Gilbert — to allow him access to the appropriate records. On several occasions, the Mayor and several other prominent critics of the Council have been arrested or harassed by the police in transparent acts of retaliation. This led ten members of the Quartzsite Police Department to file a public protest denouncing Gilbert's abuse of "authority." The Council has responded by declaring a state of emergency, suspending all but three members of the police force, and placing the dissenting officers under a gag order.

One member of Quartzsite's Town Council, Joe Winslow, persuaded Justice of the Peace Karen Slaughter (a retired sheriff's deputy with no legal education) to issue an injunction against a local businessman named Michael Roth, who was accused of "harassing" and "threatening" Winslow by shooting him dirty looks and speaking to him disrespectfully. The court order requires that Roth surrender his firearms to Chief Gilbert and his praetorian guard — not because of anything the citizen has done, but because the offended Council member, who admits to purchasing a shotgun, describes himself as "more concerned about my reaction to his aggression than anything else."

In other words: This Mundane has frightened me and made me angry, so he must be disarmed before I either kill him or have one of my armed minions kill him on my behalf. There is little, if any, material difference between that demand and the terms being forced upon Robert Foster.

A third case of a similar kind is unfolding in Renton, Washington, where police and the City Attorney want to arrest and prosecute an anonymous parodist who created several animated cartoons mocking the scandal-plagued police department.

The videos "target specific members of the City of Renton and Renton Police Department with the intent to embarrass and emotionally torment the victims," asserts police investigator Ryan Rutledge in a July 11 affidavit filed in the Superior Court for King County. Rutledge contends that the videos — which by any rational definition constitute politically protected speech — are covered by the Washington State "cyberstalking" statute. In an example of what would be irony were it not related to the institutionalized corruption called “government,” the Renton Deputy Police Chief Tim Troxel was given a trivial reprimand for ordering an off-duty police officer to stalk his wayward girlfriend.

Although no institutional or personal names were mentioned in the cartoons, Rutledge reports that "three individuals have come forward and identified themselves as being the persons targeted by embarrassing and emotionally tormenting comments about past sexual relationships or dating relationships that were discussed within some of these videos." Once again, the “offense” in question consisted of making public comments that hurt the feelings of corrupt public officials.

One case of this type can be regarded as an anomaly; two can be described as coincidence; however, three or more examples constitute a pattern.

Wherever they can get away with it, police are using wiretapping statutes to prosecute Mundanes who record their public behavior. Now local police, and the entrenched political elites they serve, are using anti-stalking and anti-harassment laws to disarm and criminalize their critics. We can expect depraved ingenuity of this kind on the part of the tax-devouring class as the retreating economic tide lays bare layer after layer of official corruption — from Washington to Wall Street to City Hall.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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