FMPD Doubles Down on Keeping Allen Investigation In House

Wilbur Smith, name partner of the law firm that represents Mr. Allen, sent a formal letter to the city asking for an outside review of policies. This additionally noteworthy as Mr. Smith served as Fort Myers mayor several years back.

However, FMPD Chief Doug Baker has responded that he intends to keep the investigation in house. This, in spite of comments he made off camera to WINK News that he doesn’t think his officers did anything wrong. That WINK article has been replaced by one that includes Baker’s on camera responses. However, it still appears that he has already made up his mind that officers acted appropriately.

Keep in mind, it may have been appropriate for officers to stop and detain Allen based on the description if the description matched. There seems to be some dispute whether it did. It was not appropriate, as the State Attorney has said, to use an unduly suggestive procedure to ID Mr. Allen.

The FMPD should adopt a policy that favors using lineups for identification, and only uses one person ID when there are major exigent circumstances. Technology today allows for a 6-pack (a 6 person photo lineup) to be generated quite quickly. Best practices would involve presenting the lineup double-blind (that is, the presenter doesn’t know who the suspect is, so as to not subconsciously tip off the witness). Changes need to be made to the FMPD policy. An outside agency should be called in for a review, to ensure the integrity of the investigation.

Our earlier Nate Allen coverage: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/tag/nate-allen/

What FMPD is not Doing About the Nate Allen Fiasco

FMPD has indicated they will do an audit or internal review of their practices in the wake of the wrongful detention of Nate Allen. Allen and his lawyers have called for an outside investigation into the situation, which Fort Myers does not seem inclined to do.

How do you know that the internal audit won’t find any wrongdoing? When the police chief has already said that the officers didn’t do anything wrong, as he told WINK News. [Ed. the story in this link has been amended since we first published this article.] He wouldn’t go on camera to say that. So, the boss has already prejudged the situation before his own department conducts their review. What are the chances that his employees contradict him on the situation.

More troubling, is that the State Attorney’s Office has already determined that FMPD used a bad procedure in the case. Their poor technique basically framed Allen. What’s more, they have made it more difficult to catch and prosecute the actual criminal who committed the act. It appears they violated their own policy by using the suggestive technique.

There should be a change to the policy to discourage any one-person show (including 1 person photo identification). The court have ruled clearly and repeatedly that such procedures are unduly suggestive, and will often lead to exclusion of the identification in court. The FMPD policy should follow the law.

Crimcourts joins Nate Allen and his attorney, Sawyer Smith, and city council Candidates Barnes and Sims in calling for an outside review of this incident, and the related FMPD policies regarding identification procedures.

More on the Nate Allen / FMPD Fiasco

The News-Press has additional info up in their continuing online coverage, including raw video from the press conference, and a transcript of FMPD’s interview with Mr. Allen. I am disheartened that the time log shows that Mr. Allen was not interviewed by a Detective on the case until 9:30 p.m. that night. By then, he had been sitting in police custody since around 5:00 p.m. Not only did the FMPD use an unduly suggestive show up to falsely implicate him… they did not bother to even get his side of the story for more than four hours. Also, NBC-2 has some of the surveillance footage related to the event, and interviewed Allen’s friend that he had met with. It sounds like the police didn’t get around to interview her for three days after the incident (possibly only after the State Attorney’s office made their request for follow-up investigation.)

The poor guy, he did not even know why he had been detained until several pages into the interview when the detective told him. And she had already made her mind up, asking him questions under the assumption he had done it, telling him that multiple people had identified him. Check it out, it is kind of sad, in light of the fact that we know Mr. Allen to be completely innocent.

Former Lee Deputy Arrested on Federal Charges

Michael Rong Jail Video

Michael Rong Jail Video

Former LCSO Deputy Michael Ronga had been Federally indicted, charged with a civil rights violation and obstruction of justice. He allegedly agreed to give someone a ride, but drove them to a secluded area, and robbed them. He is out on a $50,000 bond.

He was previously charged with robbery for this incident in state court. That charge was ultimately dropped, and sources tell me the State had difficulty procuring the victim to testify. The accuser is of Spanish descent, and may have citizenship issues. It will be easier for the Federal government to overcome these hurdles than the State. He now faces 30 years in prison for his current charges.

If recollection serves, Ronga worked at FMPD for a while before joining LCSO, but I don’t know what the circumstances of his departure was.

Nate Allen Exonerated : Another Failed Eyewitness Identification : UPDATE

Local NFL player Nate Allen was detained for several hours last week, and it was falsely alleged that he had improperly exposed himself driving down US 41. Fortunately, the Fort Myers Police Department figured out that they had a problem, and released Allen before filing charges. Yesterday the State Attorney’s office announced that their review of the evidence shows unequivocally that Mr. Allen did nothing wrong. But that wasn’t until long after he had been held nearly 5 hours, and the press had picked up the story and his image tarnished. Apparently, the girl or girls who made the allegation described a similar vehicle to Allen’s. He says that the initial description was of a middle-aged man with long curly hair, which is not Mr. Allen. How does this happen? How does 27-year-old, short-haired Mr. Allen get misidentified as a middle-aged, long haired man? The most likely culprit is an unduly suggestive identification by law enforcement.

Philadelphia Eagle Nate Allen

Mr. Allen gave an extensive interview with the Fort Myers New-Press, which they have helpfully posted online, in full. We don’t have the police reports yet, but it appears from Mr. Allen’s account, that while he was detained on the side of the road, the police brought the accuser by in the back of a patrol vehicle, and he was apparently identified. The mis-identification almost certainly stemmed from this improper identification procedure by the Fort Myers Police Department. Such a procedure is wildly suggestive, and is disfavored for law enforcement. Any time a one-person show up is utilized for identification purposes, the procedure is inherently suggestive and carries the risk of tainting any identification. For this reason, one-person show ups are disfavored by Florida courts. The circumstances around this show up were particularly suggestive, as he was being held in custody, next to his truck, at the time it appears he was ID’d. Time and again the courts have discouraged law enforcement from doing this type of identification, but here we are, falsely accusing a local hero. It’s well known that eyewitness testimony is among the most unreliable to rely upon in court. Eyewitnesses are even less reliable when law enforcement utilizes inherently suggestive procedures to obtain their testimony or identifications. Clearly, the courts need to continue to discourage these improper techniques, to throw out testimony that is improperly obtained, and our law enforcement must better train its officers. Thank goodness they did their due diligence, and Mr. Allen was exonerated by phone records and surveillance video before they formally pressed charges. The fix is simple, identification needs to be done via lineup, preferably double-blind. This can be easily accomplished with modern technology and a photo lineup (called a six-pack). I am encouraged that FMPD has indicated they are going to do a review of their procedures, so hopefully the cops don’t continue to contribute to false identifications.

UPDATE: Allen and his attorney Sawyer Smith held a press conference today, urging police review of the errors that lead to his improper detention.

UPDATE 2: The News-Press article above confirms the unduly suggestive ID procedure by FMPD that I anticipated in my post. Also, the News-Press has updated their coverage with video from the press conference.

Florida Lawmaker to Propose Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Marijuana debate

Marijuana debate

First off, this isn’t going anywhere this year. Last year he couldn’t even get a committee hearing. Secondly, as a defense attorney this would be bad for business!

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/28181895/fla-lawmaker-seeks-to-legalize-recreational-pot#.VOv8PfnF_sY

Aside

I’m glad they keep saying it, because maybe cops will stop arresting people who are exercising their First Amendment Rights.

Earlier:

CNN Wants to Remind You it is Legal to Record Officers

This was our link a few months ago: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/cnn-wants-to-remind-you-it-is-legal-to-record-officers/