Friday, July 12, 2019

Palmer PD's 911 Lapse Very Atypical, Say Cops

Many of you were quite upset by yesterday's story, "Did Palmer PD Fail 911 Call?" Let me preface my remarks by saying they did. Leaving the scene of this call was outrageous and undermines public confidence in our first responders. This lapse needs to be publicly addressed. I spoke to numerous police officers yesterday. To a man, they all agree what happened was atypical. But it's important to remember that it was atypical.

The Palmer Police Department is certainly one of the best in the Lehigh Valley. It is one of just 116 police departments accredited by the Pa. Chiefs of Police Ass'n. Most of the officers are highly regarded. Detective Timothy Ruoff, who is working this homicide, may very well be the best investigator in the Lehigh Valley.

In my business, I search titles for a living. If I make a mistake, and I do, nobody dies. With cops, it's different. They know every time they go on patrol, they are putting their lives on the line. But they are human and make mistakes, too.

After a 911 call from a woman who said there was an emergency and then hung up, two officers responded. At that time, no one knew what that emergency was. It could have been a heart attack, an intruder, a fire, domestic violence or any of an infinite number of possibilities. Failing to make contact with the caller was a serious lapse in judgment, especially since a bald and elderly man could be seen inside the bedroom where the caller's deceased body was found three days later.

To their credit, and knowing that this lapse in judgment would infuriate the public, Palmer Police still made what happened part of the affidavit of probable cause. They made no attempt to cover up what happened. They acted honestly, even though it hurt.

Like most of you, I am disgusted at the failure to bring these officers back to explain more thoroughly what happened. I find the excuses - one on vacation and another injured - unsatisfactory. This is another error. It's too soon to say whether disciplinary action is warranted, but any internal review should include the night supervisor and Chief. That might require some involvement by the Board of Supervisors.

Having said what I did, I need to respond to a comment from one of my readers.

"Remember, the police and 911 will not protect you, it is helpful, but most likely this victim was dead before the police arrived, it seems they screwed up, but the police very seldom are able to stop crime before it happens, mostly just clean up and investigate after the fact. We seem to believe the police can protect us from harm, an illusion."

I completely disagree. I can recite numerous examples of police officers who have saved lives and even delivered babies while responding to emergency calls. No one should hesitate in calling 911 ever.

What happened on July 4 is an aberration. It needs to be addressed, and I am sure that is already happening.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

The newspaper raised an excellent point. The E911 center told the police that a woman called and needed help and then the phone hung up abruptly. The E911 center tried to call her back but there was no answer.

Did the Northampton County E911 center relay the failed redial attempt to the police? If yes, this is all on the police. If the answer is no, the E911 center left out a critical detail that may have resulted din a different outcome.

Anonymous said...

Vacation?
Sick leave?
Smells like a fix, and it is not a pleasant odor, or a reassuring one.

Anonymous said...

Fair report. Important case for the reasons you stated. Please stay on it? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

There are two pieces of this story that are still unknown. The obvious is the comments by the responding officer. But, even more important is the tape of the call and the tape of the information to responding officers. That may yield a different picture of what happened. How the call was handled by the911 Center is equally important.

Anonymous said...

There’s no honest broker here.
Chief Palmer has already cost the taxpayers millions.
The D.A. is coming off very badly in this.

Anonymous said...

The Palmer Twp. P.D. is NOT in a position to investigate this case.

Anonymous said...

The fix is in.

Bernie O'Hare said...

”The Palmer Twp. P.D. is NOT in a position to investigate this case.”

Why? Because you’re mad at the 911 call? Articulate a reason, if you can.

Anonymous said...

Any investigation of this type of critical incident requires an impartial investigation by a reputable outside agency for obvious reasons.
The public’s trust is hanging in the balance.

Anonymous said...

8:35 AM -- Completely agree. Having the PD investigate their own failing for future edification is one thing, but it shouldn't end there. While I am not saying that there definitely is impropriety in Palmer's investigation, but having a situation like this and having the same department investigate it looks like impropriety. Independent investigation into the police department should be conducted.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I completely disagree. The fact that two patrolmen erred is no justification for depriving the citizenry of the services of one of the LV's best detectives. You are over-reacting and acting from emotion.

Anonymous said...

for a sick cop ..he was doing quite well playing golf yesterday...rehab i quess??

Anonymous said...

Why can't Palmer conduct an internal review with that detective AND also have an external review?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"for a sick cop ..he was doing quite well playing golf yesterday...rehab i quess??"

Can you ID yourself? If not, can you say the time and golf course at which this cop was seen?

Anonymous said...

WE need all the e911 tapes, now!

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can have Mezzacappa send in a RTK request for the tapes.

Anonymous said...

We need Al Sharpton here asap!

Anonymous said...

INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION

Anonymous said...

I am in no position to question the actions of Palmer Police that day (Thank goodness), but I can only simply share a story that happened with me regarding another local police department- comparable in size and structure. About a year ago, I had to call 911 on my teenage son for him exhibiting violent behavior. After calling 911, my son ran and locked himself in a room.

When the police showed up, they tried earnestly to get him to open the door, to no avail. They even called his juvenile probation officer to get permission to arrest/detain him, again to no avail. After trying to negotiate with him for well over an hour- at which point my son became completely non-responsive, the police said to me, "I hate to do this, but we have no other choice, we need to break down the down. We need to make physical contact with your son to make sure he is ok". I gave them permission to use whatever means necessary to make contact with my son. Thankfully, they didn't need to break down the down, but instead used to device to hit the hinges off the door and were able to make contact. A safety plan was ultimately put into place and his probation officer came to speak with him the next day about his behavior and his future, if he continues acting this way.

I'm thankful that I had the help of my local police department that day.

Anonymous said...

Chief Larry Palmer doesn’t inspire trust.
The man can’t even speak for himself.

Anonymous said...

*break down the door

Anonymous said...

Vacation my ass.
This “investigation” is already tainted.

Anonymous said...

The fact that this tragedy is atypical is precisely the point. Only in the entitled “Law Enforcement Community” can public servants investigate themselves.
Move beyond that farce of a news conference and begin an independent, professional, non biased investigation.
The victim deserves it.
Her family deserves it.
The community deserves it.
The good public safety professionals deserve it.
Truth and justice demand it.
Anything short of that is categorically unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

11:26 AM -- What a great story. Sounds like your son will be a great member of society.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago my son 3 years old at the time somehow hit 911 on our land line. We were living in Bethlehem at the time. A police officer came to my door and to my surprise said a 911 call was made from my home. I assured him everything was ok and guessed it may have been from one of the children playing with the phone. I told him I was so sorry for making him come to my house. He was very nice and said he understood but he said he still had to check the house now that he was there. I said sure and he checked the entire house. I thanked him after because I realized it was the right thing to do and he did his job. Palmer police should have done the same thing.

Anonymous said...

"We need Al Sharpton here asap!"

I don't think this is the time for an FBI informant and Prince Hall Mason.

Although some people may argue that had the bald man been black we wouldn't be here.

Anonymous said...

The tendency of the police has been to cover up as much as they could reasonably cover up.
The tendency of the DA has been to assist the coverup.
Nothing new there.
It’s time to let the full light of day shine on this situation.

Anonymous said...

Let’s all go on vacation.

Anonymous said...

@1:29pm, this is 11:26am. You have no clue. I purposely left out a lot of information. If I told you there entire story, you would apologize and I wouldn't accept it.

Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder that the Pa Constables are out of control?

Anonymous said...

Suddenly the procedures are unclear.
The legal wagons are circling.

Anonymous said...

Hrmm... How would the Wild West Easton Constable have handled it? We need Tricia as our Chief Of Police in west Easton!

Anonymous said...

This is going to cost Palmer Twp. plenty.
There is no good way to paper this over and that ham handed press conference only makes the official players look rather pathetic and ineffectual.

Bernie O'Hare said...

”This is going to cost Palmer Twp. plenty.
There is no good way to paper this over.”


Unless you can prove the victim was still alive when officers arrived, I see no basis fora lawsuit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

”We need Tricia as our Chief Of Police in west Easton!” ... like you need leprosy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:26, I appreciate your comment and that is pretty much the norm. Even if you call by mistake, they’re coming.

Anonymous said...

Consider how Larry Palmer skippered the Easton Police Department up to and after the 2005 station tragedy. The man had been a disaster for everyone involved in that fatal debacle.
How Mr. Palmer ever got another job in police work at any level anywhere is a testament to the blue old boys network.
The family needs to hire competent legal representation ASAP.
This is not a case that is going to quietly go away as any informed observer understands,regardless of official and unofficial spin.
This is a cluster f—-k.

Theresa M said...

Where is Serpico when you need him !

Goetz said...

He is in Italy with Sal Panto (legend in his own mind).

Anonymous said...

Plenty of case law on the "duty to act" in response to calls for assistance to police. Stick with searching deeds. To think there is no basis for a claim unless you prove the woman was alive is off the charts. Bernie - are you loosing it?

Anonymous said...

Not to worry.
Larry Palmer is well versed in the art and science of the cover-up.
Few come to the table with his experience.

Anonymous said...

"Unless you can prove the victim was still alive when officers arrived, I see no basis fora lawsuit."

At this time? Or after the "bald man standing motionless in the bedroom" brings harm to someone else?

Anonymous said...

Did the murdered woman die just before or soon after the 911 call?
I wonder where a juries sympathies will rest on the question?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Obviously, she died AFTER making the call. Where is your brain?

Bernie O'Hare said...

”At this time? Or after the "bald man standing motionless in the bedroom" brings harm to someone else?”

If he hurts someone else, a civil suit is the least of the problems for these cops. They could be charged criminally with recklessly endangering the lives of others. But I consider that possibility highly remote. The only person he is likely to kill is himself, sadly enough.

Anonymous said...

“Mistakes were made.”

I’m gonna guess that the 911 call was the last call that the poor woman ever made.

Anonymous said...

She could have died during the call, we have not heard the 911 tapes. For all we know her murder was partially recorded.

Anonymous said...

This is all making my head spin!
I’m going to go on vacation.

Anonymous said...

Good people make mistakes, it’s the cover up that is difficult to stomach.

Anonymous said...

Frank Reagan would know what to do.

Anonymous said...

@1:29pm. BTW/FYI: The next day after my son's probation officer spoke to him privately and said he wasn't being detained, he came out of the meeting, smirked at me and said, "I got away with it again". That's how I was recognizing another VJ in my midst.

Anonymous said...

“Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur,” said Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor and associate dean at the University of Florida School of Law. “Police can watch someone attack you, refuse to intervene and not violate the Constitution.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government has only a duty to protect persons who are “in custody,” he pointed out.
The US Supreme Court has made it clear that law enforcement agencies are not required to provide protection to the citizens who are forced to pay the police for their "services."

In the cases DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, the supreme court has ruled that police agencies are not obligated to provide protection of citizens. In other words, police are well within their rights to pick and choose when to intervene to protect the lives and property of others — even when a threat is apparent.

In both of these court cases, clear and repeated threats were made against the safety of children — but government agencies chose to take no action.

A lawsuit will go nowhere against Palmer PD and can be vigorously defended with success.

Anonymous said...

Palmer P.D. has lost all credibility.