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pilots held at gunpoint


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Last week an airplane landing at Santa Paula airport was met by police. The Santa Paula police arrived in 4 black and white vehicles and one unmarked vehicle. They hid the vehicles in hangars before the airplane landed. A bystander asked a police woman why she was hanging out with a car in a hangar. The answer was "I am on an investigation". The airplane was met with guns drawn. The young pilot and his passenger were held at gunpoint while the police inspected for drugs. It was said that DHS notified local police that the airplane had a suspicious route of flight from Mendoncino. Nothing was found, they were released.

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You can make yourself real rich real fast smuggling drugs. You can lose everything you worked for in the blink of an eye, too. Lucky for them nothing was found.

 

The only place where the 4th amendment means nothing..I could never stop you in your vehicle because you had a suspicious "route" of travel. (Been there, tried it, doesnt hold up in court.)

Edited by Goldy
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The only place where the 4th amendment means nothing..I could never stop you in your vehicle because you had a suspicious "route" of travel. (Been there, tried it, doesnt hold up in court.)

 

Do not resign yourself to the notion that in order to enjoy the privilege of carrying a pilot certificate, you must surrender your rights.

 

The 4th amemdment does, or should, apply here. A legitimate search of a vehicle without a warrant can be performed under two circumstances. One is, there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle and/or occupants were/are involved in criminal activity, or pose an immediate threat to public safety. The other is the owner/occupant consent to the search.

 

A suspicious route is a weak claim to probable cause. If that is, in fact, the only reason for the search than the search would, or should be determined unlawful. Consent is a little more complicated. From the pilot's perpective, looking into the open end of a gun, he probably didn't feel like he had a choice. The only way to be certain that consent is not granted is to clearly state, "I do not consent to this search.". There is arguement, however, that entering an airport is a passive consent to search. This is hotly debated and should at minimum, require clear notification of your surrender of rights and the ability to stop the search and leave if you so choose.

 

In either case, law enforcement may continue the search but in the event evidence of wrong-doing is discovered, the search may be dismissed later in court. I'm not advocating carriage of narcotics or anything illeagal. I'm certainly not lobbying for criminal's rights. I'm only trying to protect the rights of everybody, and to prevent the erosion of rights to the point that we all get a friendly peek down the barrel of a firearm while officials have a check to see that everything is on the up-and-up at a whim. I hope that these type of searches are not being performed unabated with any regularity. Stay informed and be careful the liberties you discard.

 

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." Thomas Jefferson

 

"If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.... If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." Thomas Jefferson

 

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither." Benjamin Franklin

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I'm neither resigned or un-informed. Just in this post 911 time, it seems any aircraft that isnt washed weekly warrants a special ops response. I agree with Palmfish that we never know all the officers know...or suspect. Reasonable suspicion is all that is needed for PC. I know, I have written many PC Declarations myself.

 

Personally, I never mind any stop or search, because I have nothing to hide, nothing out of order. I want to encourage law enforcement as much as possible but in the aviation world it seems the standard is different. Because its a Cessna it must be bad.

 

This attitude doesn't come from the FSDO, who is comfortable with a Cessna, but from local LE that isnt. Information being passed from one agency to another often gets cloudy as to the real facts.

 

I just hate to see felony aircraft stops that turn out unnecessary..like the one in Santa Barbara with the Kings last month....seems to be a trend.

 

On the other hand, give me a good smuggler and I want to see him at the business end of an AR.

 

Goldy

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I'm neither resigned or un-informed. Just in this post 911 time, it seems any aircraft that isnt washed weekly warrants a special ops response. I agree with Palmfish that we never know all the officers know...or suspect. Reasonable suspicion is all that is needed for PC. I know, I have written many PC Declarations myself.

 

Personally, I never mind any stop or search, because I have nothing to hide, nothing out of order. I want to encourage law enforcement as much as possible but in the aviation world it seems the standard is different. Because its a Cessna it must be bad.

 

This attitude doesn't come from the FSDO, who is comfortable with a Cessna, but from local LE that isnt. Information being passed from one agency to another often gets cloudy as to the real facts.

 

I just hate to see felony aircraft stops that turn out unnecessary..like the one in Santa Barbara with the Kings last month....seems to be a trend.

 

On the other hand, give me a good smuggler and I want to see him at the business end of an AR.

 

Goldy

 

All very good observations Goldy, but I would point out that the Kings felony stop in Santa Barbara - while unnecessary in hindsight, was, in the minds of Santa Barbara Police Officers, a stolen airplane at the time.

 

Unlawful detentions/searches/seizures certainly do occur, but I don't know enough about the King incident to categorize it. It appears to me that this was the unfortunate result of a lack of due diligence on the part of the person(s) responsible for mis-identifying the airplane and forwarding the information.

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Hey Goldy,

I didn't mean to imply that you personally are uninformed or resigned. I just wanted to caution people in general. Oftentimes the public is lulled into unlawful searches or "stop and talks" by being unaware of thier rights, or get into trouble by being unaware of the limits of those rights.

I support and encourage law enforcement. On the other hand, although I have nothing to hide, I personally don't welcome stops or searches. I just wanted to encourage people to do thier part to be sure law enforcement adhere to the reasonable part of reasonable suspicion. Especially in aviation where it seems a new standard is developing.

Text makes emotion so ambiguous. I'm not trying to rant or berate anyone. Just sharing my thoughts and opinion. Encouraging people to hold on to the rights that we fought/are fighting for. Even pilots have rights. :)

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Oftentimes the public is lulled into unlawful searches or "stop and talks" by being unaware of thier rights

 

Oftentimes? Every American learns about the Constitution in public school.

 

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, "do you have a warrant?" It's often the first words out of a subjects mouth.

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As much as I support the spectrum of LEOs - local, state & feds - I am very concerned about the "draw first" actions and the general erosion of rights. The Kings were unfortunately the latest posters of what should not happen. Fortunately, they cooperated and no harmful actions resulted. I certainly would not like to read that Goldy (sorry, Steve)was shot, even though he was fully cooperative after his 'lubu shoreline flight because some officer/agent had itchy finger. And then wait til they find out his background being super good-guy and all.

 

-WATCH FOR THE PATTERNS, WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

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As much as I support the spectrum of LEOs - local, state & feds - I am very concerned about the "draw first" actions and the general erosion of rights. The Kings were unfortunately the latest posters of what should not happen. Fortunately, they cooperated and no harmful actions resulted. I certainly would not like to read that Goldy (sorry, Steve)was shot, even though he was fully cooperative after his 'lubu shoreline flight because some officer/agent had itchy finger. And then wait til they find out his background being super good-guy and all.

 

-WATCH FOR THE PATTERNS, WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

 

I can’t recall the last time I read about a person being shot by an LEO because of an “itchy finger”. Unfortunately today, I read about Sgt. Sean Drenth of the Phoenix PD being gunned down. I guess someone didn’t care that much about Sgt. Drenth’s “rights”. Sadly, in this day and age, this type story is becoming all too common.

 

It odd though, as pilots we say we should fly as safely as possible so we can go home at night. Walking up to a reported stolen aircraft without my gun at-the-ready would not only be considered unsafe, but highly foolish as well……….

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Spike-

 

Point taken and no disrespect to the LE folks here. I am a little concerned at the potential outcome of events like what the Kings experienced when a little background check and coordination could have revealed a great deal of information much earlier. Not blaming those who showed up for the party, but really the systemic breakdowns and lack of protocol in a situation like this. And I just have to ask, as a general population, do pilots generally exhibit similar personality qualities that are similar to the average person on the street that LE will more frequently deal with?

 

-WATCH FOR THE PATTERNS, WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

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do pilots generally exhibit similar personality qualities that are similar to the average person on the street that LE will more frequently deal with?

 

By "pilots," do you mean the nice pilots who wear leather jackets and have 4 silver stripes on their epaulets or the naughty ones who smuggle drugs, rob banks, molest children, etc?

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Geez guys, let's take the temp down just a bit. I have been to more LE funerals than I ever thought possible, and I never want to go to another. That said, I never want anyone to unnecessarily risk their lives anymore than the job already demands.

 

I left the hard stuff behind in 93. What I do now is pussycat stuff compared to the old days. But even back then, you had to rely a lot on your instinct and training to get you thru.

 

I guess my only point is that there does seem to be a double standard between aircraft/pilot searches and what would be allowed in the same circumstance with a vehicle.

 

Wouldn't a vehicle travelling the back roads of Humboldt County late at night be suspicious enough to stop? (Humboldt is one of the largest pot growing areas in the state). The answer quite simply is no, yet the same cannot be said of an aircraft.

 

Thats all I was getting at.

 

Hope we can all stay friends!

 

arotrhd- Are you going to Wings & Rotors Sunday??

 

Rotorhead 8500-I have a don't ask don't tell policy.....like most. I wish I could fly LE....instead the best I can do is fly in one occasionally.

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Spike-

 

Point taken and no disrespect to the LE folks here. I am a little concerned at the potential outcome of events like what the Kings experienced when a little background check and coordination could have revealed a great deal of information much earlier. Not blaming those who showed up for the party, but really the systemic breakdowns and lack of protocol in a situation like this. And I just have to ask, as a general population, do pilots generally exhibit similar personality qualities that are similar to the average person on the street that LE will more frequently deal with?

 

-WATCH FOR THE PATTERNS, WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

 

I know you didn’t mean any disrespect and nor did I. Just a casual conversation between 2 adults with 2 different perspectives.

 

To answer your questions, I’m not sure what “little background check” you’re referring to. If a “reported stolen” anything comes over the radio from dispatch, we must take that information at face value and react accordingly. It’s not until afterwards, we conduct the investigation. Investigating the report before reacting to the situation at hand can be unsafe and/or unreasonable (due to the fact the bad guy would flee). Furthermore, I doubt there was a “lack of protocol”. In fact, I’m quite sure (not knowing the entire facts of the case) the Officers followed their respective Departments established protocols for the given situation. Otherwise, the Officers are subject to Departmental disciplinary action, possible termination and/or civil liability. In short, a very big deal.

 

In regards to your statement “as a general population, do pilots generally exhibit similar personality qualities that are similar to the average person on the street that LE will more frequently deal with?” Officer’s deal with “the public” or “civilians”. To define any group of people as “general population” or people who “exhibit similar personality qualities” or “average person on the street” is called profiling which is, as you know, frowned upon. However, by his/her actions, John-Q-Citizen can elevate his/her “civilian” status when Officers reasonably believe criminal activity is afoot. After that, he/she can become a “detainee” or “seized”. In the case if the Kings, they were detained and released. Therefore, the “potential outcome” of the King’s contact was completely necessary and appropriate for the given circumstance…. Besides, I’m sure Martha beat the crap out of John (PC273.5) for buying that aircraft…. Just kidding…

Edited by Spike
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OK Palmfish, put your bonafides on the line. You have called me a liar. How would you know the facts?

 

You're taking this too personally Rick. That was not my intention, and I apologize if you took it the wrong way.

 

Asking someone for corroborating information and details about the expertise of the eye witnesses is way different than calling someone a liar.

 

If someone tells you a brief eye witness account about paramedics responding to an auto accident scene and unsuccessfully trying to save the life of an injured motorist (with a conotation that the paramedics might have acted improperly), would it matter to you if the person telling the story was an ER doctor or a supermarket clerk? Would you want to know the nature of the injuries? Were seatbelts worn? How fast were the cars traveling? Was alcohol involved? How long did it take for paramedics to arrive?

 

All of the above questions hinge on the expertise/interpretation of the eye witness who told you the story. Without knowing that, it is impossible to know the veracity of all of the details.

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I know you didn’t mean any disrespect and nor did I. Just a casual conversation between 2 adults with 2 different perspectives.

 

To answer your questions, I’m not sure what “little background check” you’re referring to. If a “reported stolen” anything comes over the radio from dispatch, we must take that information at face value and react accordingly. It’s not until afterwards, we conduct the investigation. Investigating the report before reacting to the situation at hand can be unsafe and/or unreasonable (due to the fact the bad guy would flee). Furthermore, I doubt there was a “lack of protocol”. In fact, I’m quite sure (not knowing the entire facts of the case) the Officers followed their respective Departments established protocols for the given situation. Otherwise, the Officers are subject to Departmental disciplinary action, possible termination and/or civil liability. In short, a very big deal.

 

Spike,

I think in the case of the Kings, once the aircraft number was recycled, it would have been nice if some kind of similar notification went out to have all the departments update their information that the A/C is no longer considered stolen would have been nice. I think the officers on the ground did everything they needed to to make sure they were safe, and to get to the bottom of things. When it turned out it wasn't a stolen A/C then everybody was free to get back to their lives.

 

As far as a car analogy... child kidnappings, when the car reported is common (white ford van) or the like, I know I've seen dozens of that car make/model getting pulled over.

 

Just a side question I was thinking about. What if this had been a rotor-wing? Do the officers know about the hazards of approaching it from the tail or other dangers? Or does that just get thrown into the hazards of their job?

Edited by Tarantula
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Spike,

I think in the case of the Kings, once the aircraft number was recycled, it would have been nice if some kind of similar notification went out to have all the departments update their information that the A/C is no longer considered stolen would have been nice. I think the officers on the ground did everything they needed to to make sure they were safe, and to get to the bottom of things. When it turned out it wasn't a stolen A/C then everybody was free to get back to their lives.

 

As far as a car analogy... child kidnappings, when the car reported is common (white ford van) or the like, I know I've seen dozens of that car make/model getting pulled over.

 

Just a side question I was thinking about. What if this had been a rotor-wing? Do the officers know about the hazards of approaching it from the tail or other dangers? Or does that just get thrown into the hazards of their job?

 

Yes, it would have been nice if the Kings tail number was purged from the system, but it wasn’t. No one lives in a perfect world.

 

If exigent circumstances (as with child kidnappings) involve a white Ford van, then yes, that Officer can (and should) stop any Ford van which he believes criminal activity is afoot. Does this mean he can stop a Chevy van? Maybe, but he must able to articulate the reasons why he did so.

 

As far as Officers knowing helo safety, I’m sure some do and if they don’t, then I believe they know enough to keep them out of harms way. That is, distance, balance and awareness…..

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