Michigan Police Abuse Search And Seizure Laws In Marijuana Case


FLINT- The memory of dirty narcotics detective Marc Ferguson in Oakland County is still fresh in my mind as I read about three cops in Bay City who are suspended with pay pending an investigation by the Sheriff's Association. Why didn't Oakland County Sheriffs follow the same procedure that Bay County has?

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First, the news about the Bay City police officers. There are three of them, all suspended with pay while two different investigations are conducted on their activities. The suspensions were issued a few days after an incident occurred on May 2nd, Bay City Public Safety Director Michael J. Cecchini told MLive.

Cecchini would only say that the incident involves missing property. The citizen complainant first reported the allegations to the Bay County Sheriff's Department, who then forwarded the issue on to the Michigan Sheriff's Association Mission Team.

The property missing must be something special because the police reaction has been extraordinary. "It's pretty serious to be suspended with pay," Cecchini admits. "They had two investigators from two separate departments conduct the criminal (investigation) and it's currently at the (Bay County) Prosecutor's Office being reviewed."

Cecchini reported that an internal investigation has been launched as well. Unlike the criminal case involving the two separate investigators, Cecchini can compel officers to give him information during this investigation. "If the allegations are sustained, we're looking at a variety of possible disciplinary action, everything from a written reprimand all the way up to a dismissal," he said.

That looks like responsible police work to me. Bring in outside investigators to do a criminal investigation while conducting an internal one, too. In Oakland County, narcotics officer and detective Marc Ferguson lied to obtain a search warrant and then lied under oath to a judge. The warrant was sworn out in June of 2011; the falsehoods were discovered in September of 2012 and Ferguson was fired in January of 2013. 16 cases were dismissed as a result of Ferguson's tainted behavior.

Ferguson escaped with no charges and his record presumably contains no mention of his crimes. The decision to terminate his employment but not charge him criminally came as a result of an internal investigation without outside oversight. Was it the right call? We'll never know. The Michigan Sheriff's Association Mission Team was not mentioned in any of the comments made by Undersheriff McCabe printed in the Oakland Press and Detroit Free Press.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper is quoted in those articles stating how she has confidence in the Sheriffs to conduct this investigation without oversight. McCabe's quotes about the Sheriff's Department conducting investigations for other departments are meant to make us feel more comfortable with his investigators handling this all internally.

Here's where Bay County got it right and Oakland County falls short: none of these cops can get away with cheating at their job without other cops knowing about it. It's impossible to imagine. In Ferguson's case, he was tipped off to a suspicious package at a freight yard. He arrived, opened the package and discovered marijuana, resealed the package and went to get a search warrant. When the package was claimed Ferguson and other officers made an arrest.

Two witnesses told prosecutors before the trial that Ferguson had opened the package in their presence. If Ferguson was going to break the law and open a package before having a search warrant, who would he allow to stand there and watch him do it? Other police officers, possibly. One would hope he would not be so brazen as to break the law in front of casual observers- although if one is cold enough to lie to a judge, he is probably capable of many things. And so are the friends that covered for Ferguson despite knowing his methods were illegal.

The scenario he was busted for is exactly the same scenario as another famous marijuana bust involving Ferguson. That involved the same freight yard, the same trafficking of marijuana and the same ambush technique ensnaring a Lapeer County dispensary operator. That bust was in 2010.  The 16 cases that were dismissed due to Ferguson's involvement were active cases only- there was no review of prior, currently closed, cases to see if Ferguson lied and put people behind bars that are still there.

I wonder where the Attorney General's Integrity Squad stands on this issue. It seems the Michigan Sheriff's Association Mission Team was created to lend a hand in these investigations; perhaps that oversight should be mandatory. More importantly, why aren't the citizens of Oakland County entitled to the same honest investigations that the citizens of Bay County are receiving?

Rep. Tom McMillin, ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition representative Police Captain Howard Rahtz spoke Monday evening at the Rochester Public Library. That's in the center of Oakland County. The subject: the failed drug war. I have respect for those gentlemen for bringing the message to a community that badly needs enlightenment and oversight. After all, if agencies are allowed to operate without transparency we will never really know the depth of the drug war's taint on policy and policing.

Source: The Compassion Chronicles