I’m glad for the occasional opportunity to explain the realities of police work and the law. Unfortunately, such opportunities often arise because of gross violations of proper police procedure and the law. This is a case in point from Fox News:
A Massachusetts state trooper is claiming that he was forced to alter an arrest record for a local judge’s daughter after she was stopped for driving under the influence.
Trooper Ryan Sceviour, 29, was reprimanded last month for allegedly including comments about oral sex in the Oct. 16 arrest report of Allie Bibaud, the daughter of Dudley District Court Judge Timothy Bibaud.
This is always a worry of honest police officers. Such political pressures are always present to one degree or another. One presumes they are particularly intense in Democrat controlled cities and states–like Massachusetts–where adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution are subordinate to social justice and even less savory concerns (if such were possible).
During her arrest, Bibaud allegedly said: ‘My dad’s a [expletive] judge. He’s going to kill me,’ along with comments seemingly implying she would trade sexual favors for leniency.
Sceviour wrote everything she said in his report. He claims he was simply doing his job.
But Bibaud’s father allegedly asked friends in positions of authority to have the comment removed from the arrest report, Boston 25 reported.
Sceviour claims his superiors, including State Police Major Susan Anderson, forced him to redact the arrest warrant three days later and threatened to fire him if he refused.
‘You are to immediately code 7 to the barracks, per the colonel. It’s an order from the colonel. It’s got something to do with an arrest report, umm, a judge’s daughter,’ said a voicemail recording left on Sceviour’s phone.
Smart of him to retain that voicemail. I would have done the same. It also appears Bibaud admitted she has a heroin addiction.
After Sceviour edited the report, he was reprimanded for including her salty language.
‘The revision consisted only of removal of a sensationalistic and inflammatory directly quoted statement by the defendant, which made no contribution to proving the elements of the crimes with which she was charged. Inclusion of an unnecessary sensationalistic statement does not meet the report-writing standards required by the department,’ a police statement said at the time.
This is absolute nonsense, and absolute corruption. While officers would not include in their reports everything a suspect said, such as information about their pets, ramblings about their failed relationships, etc., the kinds of things Ms. Bibaud said are absolutely necessary and proper to include in a police report. Not everything included in a report goes directly to proof of a given element of the crime. For example, in DUI reports, I always included information about the ambient light in the area, the temperature, and weather conditions. None of that helped directly prove any element of the offense, but it was absolutely necessary information. Trooper Sceviour did not make those statements, he merely recorded them, which is his job. Not only do such statements demonstrate guilty knowledge, but in many cases are obvious admissions of guilt. Any attempt, however guarded, to trade sex for leniency, might well be bribery or a related crime. In addition, any competent prosecutor would want that information available to judges when they consider various motions to suppress evidence or to dismiss, or when considering a proper sentence.
I don’t know if the Massachusetts State Police mandate body cameras, or if they do, what their policies governing them might be, but if they are mandated, how could they possibly defend ordering officers to retroactively edit them? They’d have to edit footage to conform to edited reports. There would be no way to adequately cover such edits. That would destroy the credibility of all officers and all body camera footage.
Sceviour told Boston 25 he has not been able to sleep since he was forced to alter the police report. He wants an apology and to clear his name.
‘They have impaired his reputation. People hear his name, ‘isn’t that guy who faked the report. Isn’t that the guy who covered up for the judge?’ Sceviour’s attorney Lenny Kesten told the news station. ‘He said, ’I don’t want to. This is wrong.’ He said, ‘this is morally wrong.’ [Anderson] said it’s a direct order from the colonel.
Those giving such improper, unethical orders depend on the blue wall of silence, but more importantly, fear, to keep them from coming to light. Sceviour is demonstrating great integrity and courage in exposing this, and he is absolutely putting his career in mortal danger. Even if the brass are forced to admit their craven capitulation, Sceviour had better never expect promotion beyond his current position. Most likely, such corrupt people will do all they can to fire him. Apology? Not from people like this, as they made clear:
The removal of the inflammatory and unnecessary quotation did not change the substance of the trooper’s narrative, did not remove any elements of probable cause from the report, and, most importantly, had no impact on the charges against the defendant,’ the statement read. ‘The defendant remains charged – as she was initially charged — with operating under the influence of drugs, operating under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and two other motor vehicle offenses, and she will be held accountable for those crimes based on the evidence collected by State Police.
Very well. The Massachusetts State Police have now established the precedent that officer’s reports may be changed to avoid the embarrassment of arrestees. They can now expect demands from defense attorneys, and motions to judges, to do just that.
Also, many states have laws prohibiting the editing of completed police reports, which are, by the way, public records. Many law enforcement agencies also prohibit commanders from demanding such edits, though I don’t know if that’s true for the MSP. The normal report process requires officers to complete and sign their reports, which are submitted to their immediate supervisor. As long as the report is reasonably well written and complete, the supervisor signs, and the report is thereafter a public record not to be altered. Any additional information is submitted the same way, in an addendum bearing the same report number.
In this case, the hero is Trooper Sceviour. The miscreants are his superiors, and particularly, the judge, who should, in an honorable criminal justice system, be facing sanctions for his unethical behavior (here I assume he caused the report to be edited, though he has apparently denied it). It is this kind of thing that compromises the administration of equal justice for all, establishes two systems of justice, and destroys the public’s faith in the rule of law.
A related article on a lawsuit filed by Sceviour is available here.