Category Archives: Commentary

Lexington County SC Sheriff Candidates and the “Officer Safety” Constitutional Exception

Over the past couple of weeks, I have posed a simple question to three of the candidates for the Lexington County Sheriff election one week from today, on March 3, 2015.

That question?

What is your response to this article? I will be blunt: I am putting this question to all three contenders for my vote (another has already shown his answer by shooting a completely innocent man while running in this race), and I will determine my vote based on the responses to this question.

“This article” being titled “No ‘Officer Safety’ Exception to the Constitution” and written by three men who are all current or former law enforcement officers, two of whom now work in more academic settings.

It states in part:

So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution? Generally speaking, it doesn’t exist. Generally, the rights of the people trump the rights of an officer to be guaranteed a safe outcome in dangerous situations. This can be an uncomfortable truth, but to ignore it is to operate in a virtual reality that only exists in one’s own mind. The truth is law enforcement is a hazardous undertaking and there is nothing that can be done to eliminate all of its physical risks.
If the choice is between feeling safer by violating someone’s Constitutional rights or taking calculated risks while honoring our oath, the pledge we made when our badges found their home on our chests is supposed to win every time. As in military service, doing our duty and following lawful orders will regularly put us at heightened physical risk.

One candidate, Justin Britt, provided his answer on August 5, 2014 when he shot an unarmed suspect while already running in this race. (First paragraph on page 3.)

Of the three candidates that I posed the question to, only two responded while the third shut down after I told him I am an admin at the Cop Block South Carolina page.

Ed Felix responded:

Ed Felix for Sheriff agrees with this article and reminds officers that they are not “paramilitary units”. They are public servants.

Mr. Felix was also the only candidate to allow me to post on their page, and this was his response there:

First. Thank you Jeff for your question. Second. My apologies for taking so long to answer. I put everything aside on Sundays to attend church and spend time with my family. Third. I want you to take into considerations my answers against the backdrop of the fact that I have been fired upon several times, had attempts to cut me, stab me, and on one occasion, a kitchen floor was mopped with my body after I asked someone to “please turn the music down”. As you probably know, I was an instructor at the SC Criminal Justice Academy (police academy) for a little over 14 years. One of the many courses I taught was “officer safety and survival”. I also head the department of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix, Columbia Ground Campus, SC. In that program, I make it my business to teach the very first core class, “Introduction to Criminal Justice” (sophomores). My reason for doing that is to start the students with the correct tone as we begin speaking about the “Law and Order Model”, the “Individual Freedoms Model”, and most importantly, the application of the “Bill Of Rights” of our Constitution. These issues come up again in the “Police Theories and Practices” course and the “Criminal Law” (juniors) class, which I also teach. I have to say that I have a very professional cadre of professors that I supervise which follow my lead on these issues. They include longtime practitioners of criminal justice with diverse backgrounds to include retirees and attorneys. While at the police academy, I taught the “Terry Stop” as it should be taught. In the Terry vs. Ohio case the officer observed suspicious behavior leading him to believe that an “armed robbery” was about to take place. The Supreme Court in its decision made it clear that it should be a two-step process and that both had to be justified. The “Stop” had to be justified and the “Frisk” had to be justified separately. I reminded students that we were not “paramilitary” but “quasy military” (use rank and structure) as an organization and the overarching goal is to serve not to control the population. Unfortunately, after the academy law enforcement agencies change the Mantra to “officer safety above all else” even the constitutional rights of citizens. What I have seen is that lazy officers use it as a scapegoat to justify their actions, some of which could be suspicious. Truest me when I say that we heard all kinds of stories at the academy. The proactive and mentally and physically fit officer relies less on excuses and more on good observations and methods. “Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense”, said the author of the article (paragraph 12). Two more things: 1. When I taught at the Police Chief School (mentioned in one of my opponets card) I reminded leaders of the very simple principle that “As they do, so will their subordinates”. This concept is universal in the education of leaders in any discipline. 2. Of all of the candidates in this race I am the only one who has had a case appealed all of the way to the SC State Supreme Court and upheld on its constititionality. It involved trafficking in drugs. As I mentioned in the backdrop (third above) for my answers, “Officer Safety” is near and dear to my heart, but that is only because the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights is already occupying my heart. I am a member of the “Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association and have been endorsed by Sheriff Richard Mack, Director. This is non-partisan association that stands by the Constitution as the ultimate test of service. http://cspoa.org/ Feel free to call or email me with any concerns you may have. Be safe. Edfelix803@gmail.com 803-530-9232 PS. Sorry for the length

Jay Koon twice prevented me from asking the question on his FB page, but after the second time finally responded to my private FB message. (Proof of the second one available in the pics below.)

This was his response:

Mr. Sexton
I agree with the article’s mention of training. We must properly train out officers on proper interaction with our citizens. I know the courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way and then justify force. I am a strong believer in community policing and that will not change if I am elected
Jay

When I asked him to provide clarification on his statement that courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way, a ruling that despite my police accountability activism I had never heard of, he never responded. It has been 6 days since I asked for clarification.

Dennis Tyndall blocks all posts to his page apparently, my own included. His first response to the question was to say that my post showed on his page (it never did publicly) and that he wasn’t the candidate who shot a person. He then said of the article:

I read the article and thought it was very interesting. Please let me know what your question is specifically. Or do you just want my reaction to the article as a whole?

I responded that I knew the man who shot someone wasn’t him, that it was Justin Britt, and that I was looking for his reaction to the article as a whole. He then responded that he was still Chief in West Columbia and asked if I minded if he re-read the article that night before responding. I agreed and asked him for a quote I could publish, and he asked where I would publish. At this point, I revealed to him that I am an admin at Cop Block South Carolina… and I never heard from him again. All correspondence I have from him was from Monday, Feb 16, and it is all in the images below.

Based on these responses, my vote is clear:

One week from right now, on Tuesday, March 3, I will be voting for Ed Felix for Lexington County Sheriff. He is the only one who can be trusted to work to end the plague of police violence that is killing thousands of Americans every year and sending untold numbers more to the hospitals.

Pics:
Koon post (Second time):
KoonOfficerSafetyExceptionQuestion

FB Email Conversation with Dennis Tyndall:
Tyndall1

Tyndall2

Tyndall3

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