While we appreciate the opportunity to view the police video of the incident, we continue to convey our grave disappointment in the process used by the Paducah City Police officers on the scene.
For those who have inquired as to why or how we were driving this particular vehicle, Kliff is a manager at Linwood Motors and drives a company vehicle with a dealer plate each day, as do many others employed by car dealerships. It is important to note that anyone who test-drives a vehicle or uses a loaner car provided by a dealership is also driving with a dealer plate. This could have happened to any one in our community who has done so.
We also appreciate the information shared by the Paducah police chief and assistant chief during our meeting to better understand the details available to the officers at the time of the stop.
We learned that there was no moving violation to prompt the plate inquiry. We learned that police view it to be uncommon to see a vehicle with dealer plates driving through town at 7:30 p.m. They confirmed they believed they were handling a stolen plate, not a stolen vehicle, and there were no reports of other criminal activity involved with the plate.
Through other sources, we have learned that the plate that was reported stolen was reported by Linwood Motors in December 2011 from a service loaner vehicle parked on their lot, and this plate was never returned.
We are told that is common practice for even stolen license plate numbers to be used on new plates in subsequent years, as it is the year of the plate and the decal tag that identifies the plate. Linwood received a new plate with the same number in each year following, and the plate on the vehicle we were driving had a 2014 tag.
Finally, we learned that police dispatchers have a ready list of each individual authorized to use a dealer license plate.
In the Graham v Conner case cited by the police statement, the Supreme Court provides instructions to always ask three questions to measure the lawfulness of a particular use of force. First, what was the severity of the crime that the officer believed the suspect to have committed or be committing? Second, did the suspect present an immediate threat to the safety of officers or the public? Third, was the suspect actively resisting arrest or attempting to escape?
In terms of severity of the crime, police state that a stolen license plate can qualify as a felony. So does tampering with the U.S. mail and writing bad checks. Officers must use balance when examining each element of the Graham test. As for presenting an immediate threat or actively resisting arrest, it's pretty obvious that we did neither.
There are 10 car dealerships in close proximity to this incident. Each has multiple employees leaving work during this time frame, driving company vehicles, many going back out to dinner with their families, to soccer practice with their children, so it is actually very common for a dealer plate to be seen during this time.
While we admire and respect the office of law enforcement, recognizing that many put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of others, it is critical to understand that an officer may use only that force which is both reasonable and necessary. An officer must use actions that diffuse and de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation to prevent harm to themselves and to others.
From our view in this incident, particularly after viewing the video taken from police cruisers, the Paducah City Police officers used deadly force unnecessarily, and their verbal actions escalated what could have been a very calm and orderly procedure into a traumatic experience that we will not soon forget. I can recall only one other time in my life when I have been so afraid: about 12 years ago when my family and I experienced an F4 tornado that largely destroyed our home. I still feel panic when the winds pick up. You can't know how terrifying this is unless it happens to you.
Most importantly, all of the facts surrounding this incident make it so much more than something that is an "unfortunate incident for the Kesters." It should not matter who we are or are not. Compliant, non-threatening citizens do not require the use of deadly force, and such use is recipe for disaster.
Yes, there are proven cases where officers were injured or killed in a felony traffic stop. There are also plenty of cases where poor judgment, jumping to false conclusions, or mistakes made by officers led to the death of an innocent person. If this how the City Police truly view the need to exercise the use of force, I fear what may happen in our quiet little town. Excessive force breeds violence and mistrust. Violence destroys cities.
I have always held a high view of respect for our local law enforcement, and consider several to be personal friends. However, based on this traumatic experience, it pains me to admit that it dramatically changes how I feel about my personal safety when being approached by an officer. If this is common practice, how long will it take before everyone feels afraid and mistrusts the police?
Our city needs to have a positive view of law enforcement. They must evaluate their practices to maintain the trust and confidence of Paducah citizens.
We look forward to the findings of their internal investigation, and will reserve any further comments until it has been completed. We thank all who have reached out to support and encourage us during this difficult time.
HLS posted on: Saturday, August 30, 2014 10:53 AM
Great article! Thanks for sharing your experience!