Iowa


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.

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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

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It’s a federal class-action lawsuit that was just filed from Osceola County, claiming a man’s 2nd and 14th Amendment rights were violated when county Sheriff Doug Weber denied his application for a concealed weapons permit last year. So far, that man, Paul Dorr, and his 18-year-old son, Alexander Dorr, are the only two members of the lawsuit, but I know there are a lot of people in Linn County, especially, who are miffed about Sheriff Don Zeller’s selective permit process.

In essence, if he wins, Iowa would most likely start issuing a lot more concealed carry permits. It doesn’t really excite me to think that some crazy people I know could legally carry a handgun into a public meeting.

The Dorrs’ 35-page complaint against Sheriff Weber says Weber denied the permit because “there’s some fear out there of (Paul) Dorr,” and that he didn’t feel comfortable issuing the permit because “he didn’t trust him.” However, no documentation of that “fear” was provided. Right now, it’s up to each county sheriff’s discretion to whom they issue concealed carry permits. All they have to do is provide a reason. Dorr is claiming Weber is denying him equal protection under the law, namely because his wife, Debra, was granted a permit when he and their son weren’t.

I know of Paul Dorr from my work at the Sioux City Journal before I moved here. He runs a consulting company that does a lot of campaigning against public school bonds (I helped cover one of his successful campaigns in 2006 in Ponca, Neb., and he is a supporter of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State) and is also involved in right-wing political activism, including anti-abortion issues. In his complaint, he claims he’s found blog entries referring to “shooting Paul Dorr,” and apparently carrying a gun will make him safe. The guy’s been accused of using fear tactics, racism and other icky things to convince people not to vote for things, and he makes money doing it. I would hope no one else would stoop to that level.

I’ll keep y’all posted on the proceedings.

During a press conference in early March, the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy mentioned an interesting, albeit dubious, factoid about Iowa’s war on drugs — the amount of illegal drugs confiscated by the state’s drug task forces in the 2006-07 fiscal year would be enough to keep every Iowan high for at least 36 hours. I am curious about the methodology used to calculate this. But, still, interesting.

In all, the 19 regional and two statewide task forces that use Byrne-JAG grant funding ended up seizing 41.5 kilos of cocaine, 3,146 pounds of marijuana and 61 kilos of methamphetamine, just to mention a few mind-boggling numbers. And in one year! To make a comparison, put it all together and you’ve got about the weight of a Ford F250 pickup truck. The drugs seized by the task force in Davenport alone had a street value of nearly $7 million.

Eastern Iowa’s task forces have done some very impressive work that I didn’t have enough room to mention in the paper. Even though the Byrne-JAG grant pays for only a portion of most of the drug task forces salaries and equipment, with reduced — and possibly eliminated — funding from it, they might be in trouble. Everyone I talked to with the groups said there was likely no way cities and states could keep them going in the same way they do now. Education elements would be the first to suffer, so training for private companies and school programs would be cut. Fewer investigators means less gets done.

Crimes such as burglaries, robberies and assaults have been directly linked to drug use. So when drug use goes down, so do they. The drug task forces play an important part in keeping us safe by investigating large-scale drug distribution and catching many people who come into the state with drug deliveries. So lend them your support!

This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Every year, communities across the nation hold rallies and other activities in honor of the more than 23 million people nationwide whose lives are touched by violent crime against themselves or their property each year — including about 50,000 Iowans, according to statistical data from the U.S. Department of Justice.

This year’s theme is ‘Justice for Victims. Justice for All’. “Treating victims of crime with the care and respect is a fundamental responsibility we all share. And, victim’s rights is a critical component in the foundation of our American justice system. So, as we pursue justice against perpetrators of crime, we must also, at the same time pursue justice for all individuals who are impacted by those crimes,” said Matthew G. Whitaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, at a celebration on the Capitol steps Monday.

I hold this time of remembrance close to my heart. I am still struggling with the emotional and mental wounds of sexual assault, caused in September 2006 by a man who was my friend in high school. But even though it has been a long, painful journey, I have been lucky to remain relatively unscarred despite the crimes that have happened to me and people I love. Some crime victims don’t get the chance to heal.

Take this week as an opportunity to lift up and support victims of crime. Remember those eastern Iowans who have been killed in the last year — Sheryl, Ethan, Seth, Mira, and Eleanor Sueppel; Dennis First; Nathan Williams; Calvin Stringer; Jerome McEwen; and 8-month-old Antuwan Williams Jr. of Waterloo, just to name a few. And remember all the others whose lives have been seriously affected by crime.

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network