February 2009

The extremely lengthy report, “Investigation of Restraint Device Use in Iowa’s County Jails,” contains a lot of information I will never be able to succintly summarize for you. You can find the full report here if you’re interested. It goes into detail about each of the five county jails criticized in the report  — Appanoose, Jefferson, Polk, Wapello and Woodbury.

The article I and Fred Love wrote about the report can be found here.

The most interesting part of the report, for those of us in Linn County, is the fact that Ombudsman William Angrick uses federal court cases filed against Linn County Jail deputies to make his point about “unreasonable” use of restraints, as well as acceptable use. The case I quoted in our article was pretty controversial, but I was mistaken in saying it was the latest case of damages being awarded to a person who was wrongfully treated on “THE BOARD.”

I cannot find anywhere in our archives about the case  Jeffrey C. Rogers, 18, of Minneapolis, pressed against several Linn County deputies in 2000. He was apparently kept on the board for 8 hours and defecated on himself because he was not allowed to use the restroom. It should be noted the same sergeant, Sgt. Lynn Johnson, was involved in both the Ogden and Rogers cases. He is still employed at the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, although I don’t believe he works in the jail anymore.

Other cases involving the use of the board have been filed since 2000, but have been dismissed.

So what do you all think about using the board?  I got one e-mail today saying it should be banned all together. Here is an excerpt:

(Former Linn County Sheriff Don) Zeller got a patent for the Board around 1992 and tried to sell it to law enforcement agencies across the nation. Initially, several were quickly purchased, mostly in Iowa. Notably, he was turned down by several key law enforcement agencies, including the Iowa DOC. A lot of the agencies that did purchase it, no longer use it and keep it next to their restraint chair. The ones that do still use it face problems like Linn County and have tried to tailor their rules for its use it over the years in an attempt to protect them from legal action. Again notably, Don Zeller’s Board business went bust and he never made a profit. Very few Boards are actually used today and the ones that are still being used are mainly, if not all, in Iowa.

        As the Ombudsman’s report mentions, the laws governing the use of all restraint devices are murky. They’re murky for a reason: if laws governing their use existed, the law enforcement agencies would have to be held accountable in a court of law concerning their use. Without laws, the rules are then made in lengthy, murky legal decisions or informally in settlements where the rules can be carefully tailored to only avoid legal action. Without commenting on the legality of the restraint chair, the “Board” was obviously a bad idea from the start and is illegal. Everyone who has knowledge about it knows its days are numbered, one way or another, without a doubt. The devastating part about it is that the Ombudsman’s report really only focused on the restraint chair and not the Board or Linn County. The Board has been in use for almost 20 years now and has still not been removed completely from usage. The report does state that the Board could potentially kill someone, thereby placing the guards in a position where they’ve killed someone and, of course, a life has been lost. Why no one has died on the Board is a mystery, though I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that this did occur in Linn County in the 1990s. Hopefully, this never happens, but it may if this Board is not removed from usage.


Most of what the reader said is true, except the fact that the board is not illegal. It’s use is, however, discouraged. Moreover, as Angrick says in his report, someone DID die while strapped to a version of the board. But people have also died in the chair:






On May 7, 1998, Michael Oliver Lewis died after being placed on a restraint board for three hours at El Paso County Jail in Colorado.

36 The county coroner concluded Mr. Lewis died from a combination of heart disease, medication, and the restraint board, though he could not say which had a dominant role in the death.37 Mr. Lewis’ mother later sued the county jail, who settled in 2001 for $116,000.38 The county also settled a lawsuit the previous year brought by the ACLU concerning the county’s use of the restraint board for $50,000.39 The county put a moratorium on the restraint board use, and in its place began using a restraint chair.40


I noticed my Saturday article about the changes Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner has made to the county’s concealed weapons permit law didn’t make it online, except in our e-Edition. I know many of you are interested in this subject, so I’m inserting a copy of it here:

Concealed weapons permits article

Because of its previously restrictive rules, Linn County was long one of the most difficult Iowa counties in which to get a concealed carry permit. That was a bone of contention between the Sheriff’s Office and residents who are hardcore Second Amendment supporters, Josh Kissling told me during our interview. Kissling is the president of the Linn County chapter of the International Defensive Pistol Association, the governing body of a competitive shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters.

Most of the club’s members, even though they have proven themselves to be great self-defense marksmen, were not granted gun permits under former sheriff Don Zeller simply because they didn’t carry lots of money on them — an unchangable prerequisite under Zeller’s reign, Kissling said. “Zeller had an elitist view, like your life is only worth saving if you can carry $500 around in your pocket,” Kissling said. “He must have thought the common citizen would be too dumb to know what to do with a gun.”

Zeller has told me he felt the fewer guns there are on the street, the better. Even legal ones. He has never directly answered the oft-quoted “elitist” argument with me, though.

What the changes really mean are that the number of people legally carrying guns in Linn County is likely going to triple in the next year or so. It’s still probably not going to include a huge percentage of the population, but a big change, nonetheless. So what do you guys think? Are the rule changes good or bad?

A flasher has apparently been exposing himself to people along Highway 78 in Henry and Washington counties throughout the week — what a Valentine’s surprise (big or little, who knows?!).

Read the Burlington Hawk Eye’s story about him here.

Tyler Toll

Tyler Toll was only 18 when he died in a car wreck on Tuesday. His passing has left those who knew him grief-stricken, with many memories of their times together.

The Facebook group Tyler Toll Memorial, started by a junior high student at Toll’s school, Cedar Valley Christian, is a monument to the young man’s influence and faith. More than 500 people have joined the group in support of his family and friends. I’d encourage you to check it out if you have a Facebook account. Many of the entries made me cry.

If you don’t have Facebook, here’s an excerpt:

From Ashley M. — i miss you sooo much even tho we havent talked much lately i feel like something is missing…ik ill see you again its just hard to wait. Im actually jealous of you, ur in such a better place now…no more worries, tears, pain…nothing but complete joyyy…you lucky duck! youve taught me so much…to just live life the way we are suppose to and do the things we want cuz its sooo short. I wanna be more like you…and just try and enjoy every lilttle thing. ill never forget you ever! && i cant wait to see you again…ull always be in my heart!
love youuuuu tylerrrr♥ ♥ ♥

In case you didn’t realize, throwing random crap off overpasses can seriously injure or even kill someone. That idiocy killed a woman in July 2003 who was riding in a car on Interstate 680 in Omaha — thanks to neonattack, I got enough info to find a forum post with a related article pasted in it. Very sad story.

We had a rash of that overpass-throwing going on in Johnson County, and it could still be happening. Read our brief about it here.

I’ll also include an e-mail The Gazette received from someone who actually experienced this. For the love of Peter, if you know who is doing this stuff, turn them in. Please.


Hi,  I wasn’t sure where to send this request, so I am hoping you can help to get some light shed on the following problem.  Very early this morning (Feb.1), at 1:45am, my husband and I were driving North on highway 218 and had just passed under the Poweshiek Road overpass when a person/person’s threw an object off of the overpass into the windshield of our van.  We saw people on the overpass, but it was dark, so we could not tell if they were kids or adults.  Everything happened so quickly.  Luckily no one was seriously injured, aside from being sprayed with pieces of shattered glass from the impact of the object hitting our windshield, which was heavily damaged.  The Johnson county sheriff eventually arrived on the scene and told us this was the 3rd or 4th time in the last couple of weeks that this has happened in the same area where we were at.  We went back to the scene this morning.  While we didn’t find any possible items that could have been dropped to the highway below, we did find about 40 paint balls laying around….who knows what they were doing with those.  Exactly what are people thinking when they do something like this??  Someone is going to get killed…even the sheriff said that.  If this is something that has happened on several different occasions, can some light be shed on the situation to make people more aware that they need to drive with extra caution in that area?  Or maybe the police can step up patrol in that area?  Our situation could have had a much more tragic ending than it did…we were lucky.  Someone else might not be.

Despite Iowa’s status as a “may issue” state for concealed weapon permits and the state’s relatively low violent crime rate, the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence still ranks us 17th on its yearly report tracking “sensible gun laws” across the country. The activist group’s tracking scorecards came out Wednesday.

Iowa got 16 points out of 100, whereas California got 79 points. Nearly 20 points of California’s total come from its requirement that ALL gun sellers, even private ones, are required to do a background check before they sell a gun to someone. People are also limited to buying one handgun a month there, another 10 points. The latter requirement seems punitive to law-abiding citizens who happen to like guns (along with a few other gun laws the Brady Campaign touts as “sensible”), but having what’s called a “universal background check” law seems like a good idea. I mean, what’s the use of required licensed gun dealers to do background checks when private sellers don’t have to? How is that keeping guns off the street?

Iowa’s score was the highest in the Midwest, save for Illinois. Well, Iowa’s safer, so we still win.

You can read the Brady Campaign’s news release, report and all scorecards here.

I never like using the names of teenagers accused of sexually abusing young children because they are children themselves. Most likely, they were also abused. But the compassion and protectiveness one feels for such teens shouldn’t outweigh the safety of those around them — particularly before they are tried and sentenced, if they are found guilty.

This issue comes up every time I see teens charged with sexual abuse, and today it came up again. The story is pasted below because the online link has messed up in The Gazette’s database, but you can still see the firestorm of comments it generated:

The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — Two Cedar Rapids teens have been charged in separate instances of second-degree sexual abuse, accused of committing sexual acts on children under the age of 12.
Hannah L. Hall, 15, of 1443 E. Bertram Rd. SE, is accused of performing a sex act on a 5 year-old child between Oct. 23, 2007, and July 24, according to court documents. She is also charged with indecent exposure, accused of exposing her genitals to the child.
Patrick W. Conlon III, 14, of 820 15th St. SE, is accused of performing a sex act on a 5year-old boy between Jan. 1, 2008 and Aug. 28, according to court documents.
Hall is set to go to trial on her charges Feb. 20 in Juvenile Court. Conlon’s Juvenile Court trial is set for March 19.

It is my job as public safety reporter to make sure my community has the information it needs to make informed decisions. We only publicize serious (mostly felony) charges against juveniles. It’s a common misconception that juvenile court records are confidential — once a petition has been filed against a juvenile in Iowa, the charges contained on it become public record unless it is sealed by a judge. Unlike “adult” court, very few petitions are dismissed from juvenile court after they are made public record because most of the work is done BEFORE charges are ever filed. That mechanism is there to protect children, and I keep that in mind every time I get access to these records.

I’m also aware that it is human nature to automatically demonize anyone who sexually abuses a child. In some instances the people who do it truly deserve to be scorned, but reserving judgment has never done me wrong. It affects me greatly to think some of these teens I write about may be hurting inside because of abuse that happened to them and are merely acting out those scenes on others. I was a victim of emotional abuse as a child, and from my own experience I can tell you patterns of unacceptable behavior carry through generations of family members. I ache for kids in much worse situations than mine.

Perhaps identifying these patterns of abuse will eventually lead to a better society through the treatment of these teens who are caught in the middle.

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