The job of being a road deputy is often dangerous and often thankless. Every encounter has its own risks, but if you are somehow always able to maintain your composure, be true to your duties, and stick with what you've been trained to do, the outcome should normally be favorable to you. When you vary from that routine, you cause trouble for you, your department and the public at large.
Very early on March 5, 2017, Wexford County Deputy Sergeant Eric Garland made critical errors that led to the improper arrest of a Manton man named Leonard Davis II. Davis was being driven home after a night at the Little River Casino in Manistee. Sgt. Garland's mistakes that night were mostly documented by his 'dash cam' which conveniently had no sound recordings to chronicle what was said and transpired primarily when the action went off-camera.
What was even odder, was that the second responding unit called in to this incident also had malfunctioning audio. Nevertheless, Garland's police report and the video tell a lot about what did and didn't happen that cool March night, which led to the incarceration of a man for absolutely no clear reason in the Wexford County Jail. According to VINE, he still resides there until this very day, having been assigned a misdemeanor and a felony charge by Sergeant Garland that shouldn't have applied given the facts as presented even by the police-friendly sources.
The arrest was reported to the local TV news station without much clarification of what happened, and was offered on this forum in Manton Man Mauled by Wexford Deputies. The original release said that Davis fought back after officers tried to arrest him. They never specify why they tried to arrest him in the first place. Such an omission should raise a red flag whenever you see it, it surely did so for me.
When I asked for the police report and other associated records via a FOIA, the Wexford FOIA officer at first would only release a fragment of the record requested in an over-redacted "Less-Lethal Force Form (LLFF). On the eve of an appeal to the Wexford County Commissioners, one who was arrested for DUI in Cadillac in that same month, the FOIA Coordinator realized her exemptions were untenable and released the police report, mugshot, and videos, along with a revised LLFF without so much black ink, after a lot of pressure from the appellant.
It has led to a lot clearer understanding by me of what happened in this incident, I hope it does the same for you. Before we catch the video, let's set this up properly. Just after 1:14 AM on March 5th, Sergeant Garland is driving east on M 55 near 29 Road, when he notices a van parked alongside the road, with two men on the outside of it. He begins to think it is more than just a mechanical breakdown of the vehicle when he sees one of the men walking away and the other starts gesturing for the sergeant's sake.
Reportedly, Sgt. Garland says that the other man told him that Davis had assaulted him, and had a facial laceration under his left eye, ironically where Davis would bear a mark from later due to the sergeant's handling of him. Lacking audio, we are able to piece together a little more of what happened in the Incident Report.pdf
Now, Eric Garland is the senior road patrol sergeant of the Wexford County Sheriff's Office with 18+ years of experience, yet when he contacts Davis for the first time, he orders him to stop without giving him any reason to, and seems perturbed that Davis kept walking. Davis was well within his rights to ignore the sergeant, because there was no facts articulated to him of why the sergeant thought he was or would be engaged in criminal activity, a fundamental of the reasonable suspicion standard for stopping individuals.
It takes Garland an interval less than ten seconds (0:47 to 0:56) to stop his vehicle in the roadway, get out, and then lead Davis past his dash cam video, all without telling Davis why he was being detained, according to the report. Davis seems a bit confused, but otherwise compliant as he is effectively pushed past the dash cam. He is much slighter and over a head smaller than the veteran law officer.
Sergeant Garland makes a point to say that Davis refused another order to set down his beer, before he reports that he knocked the can from his hand and told him he was under arrest. If we take his report at face value, he has not only failed to suggest why he was detaining Davis, but in clarifying why it was lawful for him to knock the can of beer from Davis' hand or state a reason for the arrest.
If we accept that Garland had just failed to articulate the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct he later put in his report, the elements are just not there. There are twelve basic ways to engage in disorderly conduct (see MCL 750.167) and none of these were applicable when Davis was declared under arrest; the sergeant uses the charge as a catch-all. Garland may have had reasonable suspicion that an assault may have occurred to the other man, but never passed that along to Davis, according to the report.
It just so happens that in the report, two of the three witnesses claim that Davis was punched first by the other man involved; neither would choose to press assault charges on the other. The most vicious assault happened off camera just after the 1:14 mark of the video, you will note that up to this point Davis has no damage to his face.
However, shortly after this an off-camera struggle takes place according to the sergeant, where he is forced to take down Davis to the hard pavement to effectuate an arrest for a still undeclared crime. By the next time we see Davis' face, he is looking a bit like he did in his mug shot, with a sharp cut under his left eye.
After Davis was searched and found to be holding no 'contraband', an interesting term to use in this case, being that Davis was not in a jail or otherwise dealing in illegally exported/imported goods, he is directed to be put into the back of the patrol vehicle and shortly thereafter, Sergeant Garland is joined by two other deputies. Garland had requested a back-up unit right after he had made contact with the other man near the van. As noted, their cameras worked as well as Garland's, but the microphone malfunctioned for them too.
This was footage from their camera shortly after they arrived on scene, Davis having been secured in Garland's vehicle, and without either unit detecting sound, the other videos supplied only shows them wrapping the scene up shortly thereafter, after the parties were further questioned. The LLFF Form.pdf tells us that the reason force was used was because Davis would not put his hands behind his back after being ordered to.
Leonard Davis II was booked for the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct and the felony of resisting and obstructing a police officer, and apparently has been held for 40 days at the Wexford County Jail as this matriculates through the courts.
What the record shows is that Sergeant Eric Garland issued at least three orders on March 5th, effectively:
2) "Set down your beer"
3) "Put your hands behind your back (so I can handcuff you)"
Nowhere in the report, and assuredly not in the missing audio of the two responding units, is there any attempt at clarifying why these were "lawful orders" when they were given. If you are walking down the road and a police officer tells you to "stop" without articulating a reason why, you can legally ignore them (at your own risk). If Sgt. Garland followed protocol, he would have explained that another person had claimed an assault had occurred by Davis and an investigation needed to be conducted.
There was no 'lawful' reason to tell Davis to set down his beer while conducting an investigation into what happened. Davis was not under arrest at the time and Garland's aggressive act of swatting Davis' beer away before effectuating an arrest makes one believe the arrest was done more out of Garland's frustration with Davis not following his orders than anything having to do with law.
Having just had his beer sent to the side of the road in a hostile action by the sergeant and being told that he was under arrest, without any context of 'why he was under arrest', if Davis had been sober enough to realize his rights were being taken from him in a retaliatory manner by a county deputy sergeant not following the rules, he may have been wary of the direction things were going.
If a police officer had just forced you across the road, smacked your beer out of your hand, told you that you were under arrest and started grabbing for your hands, when you hadn't done anything wrong and had just received orders, not questions up to that point, you may be a bit confused, scared, and unwilling to fully cooperate in the insanity of the situation-- even if you were sober.
A near twenty year veteran, the senior road patrol sergeant, of the sheriff's office shouldn't be making these mistakes and should have enough common sense to make sure the dash cam works in his vehicle, and in the vehicles of those that come to his aid. But then again, we have to note that Wexford County Deputy Sergeant Eric Garland isn't big on communications, as in his unlawful assault and arrest of Leonard Davis II.
How can it be that the police equipment has such failure rates? I'm not buying it. If their guns malfunctioned as often as their video and audio equipment they would go on strike and refuse to work.
I'm no expert by any stretch....after what I read and saw, I certainly would think the Officer over reacted and used his authority as intimidation and was abusive.
I can see that walking drunk down the road at night is dangerous not only for him but for oncoming cars that may not see him. It certainly didn't look to me like the Officer was attempting to protect Mr. Davis from harm however....it looked more like he intended harm.
I wonder if the County Commissioner who was allegedly driving drunk was roughed up in the process of his arrest.
On the subject of "Disorderly" and what constitutes "Disorderly" ....
What on God's Green Earth does this mean:
k) A person who loiters in or about a police station, police headquarters building, county jail, hospital, court building, or other public building or place for the purpose of soliciting employment of legal services or the services of sureties upon criminal recognizances.
I did search the term recognizances yet the statement above still makes no sense to me what so ever. It may behoove me to know, lest I be beaten and tossed into the pokie for 40 days and 40 nights.
If I was the elected Wexford County Sheriff Trent Taylor and my senior road patrol officer not only had his in-car recordings incomplete, but had another sheriff's vehicle also experience the same problem that night, I would be curious as to why. As that sheriff, I would know my first duty was to the people of the county, not in protecting my senior sergeant's inability to conduct a proper stop and investigation without seriously harming a drunken man (who may have other mental difficulties).
Of course, after I reviewed the video and the report, that sergeant would have been given some time off as I conducted a thorough investigation as to why he didn't follow his training, while he let an innocent man sit in the jail for no reason for over 40 days. But that's what an honest leader would do, what Sheriff Trent Taylor said he was at one time, a fair person that has integrity and a love for the ideals of proper law enforcement, not what happened here. The only thing Trent Taylor has done was try to withhold the police report, the mug shot, the videos, and a properly redacted use-of-force report from the public when I originally asked for them. That's not showing honest leadership, that's showing dishonest losership.
Hey, guess what, I shared this article with Michigan Copblock and we've went over 50 shares from that site now, and well over a thousand hits here. Get the word out, leave some of your wisdom and encouragement for the WCSO and Sheriff Trent on their Facebook page and let's get Leonard Davis II out of the Wexford County Jail.
I think I've let them know...LOL. Perhaps a bit obnoxiously...that happens sometimes.
Somehow I can see my brother in this mans story. Lack of respect and just writing someone off...and if Mr. Leonard Davis had money he likely would not be sitting in jail in Wexford.
If a police officer cannot treat the mightiest and the meekest with the same amount of dignity and respect, how can we expect that they will equally enforce the law when the opportunity presents itself?
I see Davis' continued incarceration and prosecution under false pretenses as an affront to equitable justice in Wexford County. When law and order officials lower the dignity of their office by refusing to react properly in these matters, ruining one man's life just to save their fellow official some 'face', they should not then wonder why a growing portion of the public is losing respect for them, and what they do.
When people acknowledge their errors they actually get more respect instead of less. When they take the time to reply to citizens request for more information it demonstrates integrity.
There is no US vs THEM mentality when everyone is accountable.