The Elgin Police Department is a little out of touch, maybe.

You know how whenever the government does something that it’s already paid to do it tells us how it did something so that we all know that it’s doing something which we expected all along, anyway?  That’s a big part of why police press releases exist.  I don’t necessarily blame the men in blue for this, though.  It’s a political system and people are always trying to cut budgets here and spend money elsewhere.  So, maybe they need to over-state what they do.

I don’t know.

I do know that a lot of the police press releases are amusing.  Like this one from the Elgin Police Department.  It seems that an officer from the Elgin PD arrested a man with a gun and, well, they wanted us all to know.  According to their press release:

On November 1, 2013 the Mulberry Court Resident Police Officer was on patrol in his neighborhood when he observed suspicious activity from subjects in a vehicle and conducted a traffic stop in the area of Allison Drive and Jane Drive. While conducting the investigation two subjects in the vehicle fled on foot. One subject, identified as 19 year old, Devonne L. Montgomery, of Crestwood, was apprehended in the 200 block of Robert Drive after a short foot pursuit, and taken into custody on two outstanding criminal warrants.

While officers continued to investigate the incident, a citizen advised officers that they observed Montgomery throw an item in the bushes where he was apprehended. Officers searched the area and recovered a loaded handgun.

Now, I’m going to go ahead and pretend my little criminal defense eyes didn’t read that first sentence.  I mean, while “suspicious activity” can be a reason for an officer to perform a traffic stop on a car, without more detail it isn’t necessarily the case that it does.  And, if it actually didn’t here, that means it’s possible the entire case might be thrown outin which case the Elgin PD would really just be announcing a bollixed case.

Without more details, we’ll just assume the stop was legitimate for today’s purposes.  It won’t be easy for me to do, but I’ll do it.

Aside from that, the part that I was surprised they included was the following (with my emphasis added):

While officers continued to investigate the incident, a citizen advised officers that they observed Montgomery throw an item in the bushes where he was apprehended. Officers searched the area and recovered a loaded handgun.

 ***

It should be noted that officers were assisted greatly by residents in the neighborhood providing witness information.  It is cooperation such as this that continues to improve the Elgin community.   

Ever watch The First 48 and wonder why nobody in the community will ever talk to the detectives?  I mean, nobody on that show ever talks- except for the defendant who, 75% of the time, seems to think that confessing is the clear path to a “not guilty” (hint: it’s not).  Nobody talks because they believe that if they do, the defendant or his buddies will find out.  If that happens, the person who talked may just be retaliated against (related sidenote: “retaliated against” is a nice way for saying “murdered” or “severely injured”).

Before you go off the deep end and accuse me of somehow endorsing this mentality- read that again.  The reality is that the quickest way for crime-riddled communities to clean themselves up is to ensure that crimes are quickly solved.  Sadly, though, the other side of that reality is that many crime-riddled communities are that way because people who talk to the police aren’t exactly embraced by the community- like it or not, that’s how it is.

So, you know who doesn’t want anybody to know who they are and that they just talked to police?  The people who just told the police that one of their neighbors threw a gun in the bushes. Did the Elgin Police Department identify those people by name? Of course not.  That doesn’t mean they should have mentioned it at all, though. Just because we don’t know who the person was (and we shouldn’t), doesn’t mean the guy who threw the gun (or his buddies on the outside) can’t figure it out.  How many people will keep talking to the police if they know that a press release posted to the public will brag about how people are giving information?

I get that the Elgin PD is trying to let us know that Elgin is looking out for itself and possibly trying to turn around an undeserved reputation among people living in other cities.  Press releases like this might ultimately be counter-productive, though.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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