Law Enforcement "Support"
of Gun Control

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(Commentary followed by substantiating articles)

Many "anti-gun" lobbyists and politicians often proclaim the support of gun bans by law enforcement. There are many instances when "union leadership" of a law enforcement agency has given support for such actions (often in direct contradiction to the wishes of their membership). There is usually a huge political and/or financial benefit to doing so.

Most "on the street" law enforcement officers realize gun bans restrict only law abiding citizens. They also know they have nothing to fear from these people and can count on them for support if needed.

Blatant Misrepresentation

The most blatant example of misrepresentation of law enforcement opinions was on May 5, 1994. On television and in newspapers we were shown closeups of uniformed officers lining the steps of the Capitol greeting Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Benson and showing support for the semi-automatic gun ban.

The truth of the matter: Only ten officers from one police department were present, they were lied to about the original purpose of their detail, and were faced with disciplinary action when they stated their objections.

On May 3, 1994 a teletype was sent out to all district commanders. All district commanders were asked to encourage as many off duty officers as possible and to "compel" as many on-duty officers as possible to attend the May 5th assembly in uniform.

One police chief in Arlington County offered time and a half overtime pay to officers who would participate in a "photographic opportunity". Several of those who signed up did so because they were actually told it was a Photo opportunity to kick off Police Week.

When officers discovered the truth they were ordered to attend the function. They were also ordered to not express their opinions and to speak to no one other than the representative from the International Chiefs of Police (the organization that initiated the teletype to all area departments).

On October 12, 1994 the announcement was made that Arlington County was awarded a "Clinton Crime Bill" federal grant of $425,475.

The above comments are substantiated by the following articles which are reprinted from the LEAA Advocate, Fall-Winter, 1994, pages 17-25.

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Police Officers Forced to Lobby
For Gun Ban
LEAA Member, Police Officer Both Sue
Chief of Police

by Jim Fotis
LEAA Executive

Everyone who followed the congressional action on the federal ban on semi-automatic firearms will remember the CBS Evening News report of May 5, 1994, the day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the ban by a mere 2 votes. The newscast opened with a close-up of 10 Arlington County, Virginia police officers in their Class A uniforms standing armed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol greeting Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen. The reporter covering the story intoned that crime caused by "assault weapons" is "why cops came to hate assault guns andjoined Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen today in a last ditch bid to sway crucial votes."

Many probably also saw the next day's issue of USA Today, where, on page two, there was a photograph of the same scene with the caption "Arlington County, VA., police officers greet Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen as he arrives at Capitol Hill on Thursday to lobby for a ban on assault-style weapons."

And in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer ran a front-page story with a large color photograph of the scene with the caption "Out in force against assault weapons: Arlington County, VA., police officers greet Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen as he arrives at Capitol Hill to lobby House members in favor of legislation to ban assault-style weapons."

From these stories and similar ones around the country, most Americans were left with the impression that rank-and-file law enforcement officers actively supported a federal ban on semi-automatic fire-arms owned by millions of law-abiding Americans. The truth is far different. What really happened with the IO Arlington County officers tells the tale.

That tale is told, in large part, in two lawsuits brought against the Arlington County Chief of Police, William K. Stover.

A Taxpayer Takes Action

The first suit brought was filed by LEAA member Dr. Paul H. Blackman, a long-time resident and taxpayer of Arlington. Dr. Blackman's suit, brought against Chief Stover and all I 0 of the officers, asks the Arlington County Circuit Court, on behalf of the county taxpayers, to order the Chief and/or the officers to reimburse Arlington County for the salary payments made to the officers at the direction of Chief Stover and for the expenses of travel, in county vehicles, to the Capitol. Dr. Blackman also asked the court to award attorney's fees.

Dr. Blackman's suit contends that Chief Stover exceeded his authority under Virginia law in sending the officers to the Capitol, since the officers were not "enforcing the criminal laws of the Commonwealth and the ordinances and regulations of the county," nor were they concerned with "any law enforcement emergency involving any immediate threat to life or public safety, or . . . any emergency resulting from the existence of a state of war, internal disorder, or fire, flood, epidemic, or other public disaster ... He brought suit in the capacity as an Arlington taxpayer since Virginia law allows courts "to compel the restitution of public funds which have been illegally diverted and lodged in the hands of persons not entitled to the same . . . "

Unfortunately, the circuit court has dismissed Dr. Blackman's case, saying that Chief Stover had the power to send the officers to lobby on federal legislation. Dr. Blackman will be appealing the dismissal to the Virginia Supreme Court since the issue is one of tremendous importance to law enforcement officers and taxpayers throughout Virginia.

A Courageous Officer Steps Forward

The second case is probably a direct result of Dr. Blackman's suit. It was brought by one of the 10 officers, John Donaggio, against both Chief Stover and Arlington County. In his case, brought in federal court under the federal Civil Rights Act, Officer Donaggio alleges that he was deprived of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance. He has also contended that the Chief and the county misappropriated his name, likeness, and reputation; that they caused a statement to be published concerning him which they knew to be false; and that they used his likeness against his will to further a political goal not within the scope of his employment duties. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs. Officer Donaggio's case will have been heard initially by the time this is read.

What is particularly chilling about Officer Donaggio's suit is the Story it tells about how the 10 Arlington County police officers came to be at the Capitol on May 5.

Officer Donaggio's suit begins by explaining that the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a private membership organization not affiliated with Arlington County, called Chief William K . Stover (Smokey), an IACP member, and requested that he send 10 Arlington County Police Officers to the Capitol on May 5, to demonstrate in favor of the "assault weapon" ban legislation that was to be voted on that day.

Complying with this request, Chief Stover authorized 10 off-duty officers to participate in this demonstration. Chief Stover also authorized overtime pay for the officers by Arlington County at time and a half. Several patrol supervisors thus announced that a special detail - at time and a half - was available on May 5. The officers were told that the special detail would be for a photographic opportunity in Washington, D.C., and that other police departments would participate. Officer Donaggio and nine other officers were approved for the special detail.

On May 3, Officer Donaggio was informed by a sergeant that it was the sergeant's belief, although he was not sure, that the demonstration was related to the bill banning "assault rifles." Officer Donaggio informed the sergeant that, since he did not agree with the bill, he did not want to participate in the demonstration. The setgeant directed Officer Donaggio to attend.

Later in the day, Officer Donaggio saw another officer and asked him if he was working the detail, and when the officer told him that he was glad to do it and that it was "easy overtime," Donaggio was surprised he volunteered, because he knew this officer to be very pro-Second Amendment. When Donaggio asked him if knew what the detail involved, the officer said that sure he did - it was for a photo opportunity to kick off Police Officer Memorial Week. The officer told Donaggio that his supervisor said it was for Police Week when he made the announcement for the overtime detail. Another officer, who was standing nearby and overheard the conversation, added that his supervisor also said the overtime detail was for a photo opportunity to kick off Police Week when he made the overtime announcement.

A fourth officer, also very opposed to the "assault weapon" gun ban and who had been following the debate in Congress, was the first one to put two and two together and realize that the 11 photo op" was going to take place at the very same time Congress was going to be voting on the gun ban. This officer even went as far as to question the deputy chief as to the true purpose of the photo op, and when the deputy chief confirmed it was to show support for the gun ban, the officer informed him that the officers who had "volunteered" for the event did not know the true purpose of the detail, and that many were opposed to the gun ban.

Then, late in the evening of May 4, Officer Donaggio came home and played a message on his answering machine from another officer who said that the "photo op" was indeed to support the "assault weapon" ban at the same time Congress was to vote on it.

Since it was too late to do anything about it then, Officer Donaggio called his corporal the next morning, May 5, and questioned him as to the exact nature of the detail. The corporal said yes, that the detail was in fact to support the gun ban. This was the first time Officer Donaggio confirmed with a supervisor the true nature of the "photo op." When the corporal stated that it was to support the gun ban, Officer Donaggio informed him that he did not wish to demonstrate in favor of banning "assault weapons" because he disagreed with the bill.

The corporal ordered Officer Donaggio to attend, stating that he might be disciplined if he refused. Officer Donaggio stated that he still would not attend.

Shortly after the conversation with the corporal, a lieutenant called Officer Donaggio and informed him that, if he did not go, he would be disciplined for failure to follow a direct order. The lieutenant did state, however, that Officer Donaggio could find a replacement to avoid discipline - but the replacement had to be at the Department on time and in his Class A uniform. The lieutenant stated that, if Officer Donaggio refused to attend without a replacement, he would recommend a letter of corrective action and a minimum of four hours leave be subtracted from Officer Donaggio's leave bank.

Fearful of this disciplinary action, and with only a short time to decide what to do, Officer donaggio decided to attend the demonstration as ordered.

Before they left Arlington County Police Headquarters for the Capitol, the officers were informed that an IACP representative (read lobbyist) would meet them on the Capitol grounds to coordinate the photograph on the East steps of the Capitol. The officers were ordered not to speak to any members of the press or to anyone other than the IACP "representative" while at the Capitol building. Officer Donaggio was instructed not to express his opposition to the bill to anyone while at the Capitol.

At the Capitol, representatives from a handgun control organization and from Secretary Benson's office, as well as congressional staff, organized the officers so that they could be photographed with Secretary Bensen. Contrary to what the officers had been told, no other police departments were at the Capitol to demonstrate in favor of the ban on "assault weapons."

I might note that the absence of police officers from other jurisdictions was not from lack of trying on the part of the IACP. On May 3, a teletype directive was issued under the authority of Washington, D.C. Assistant Chief R. Pennington to all Washington Metropolitan Police Department District Commanders. Citing a request by Kevin Patrick of the IACP for uniformed officers to appear at the Capitol steps in support of the ban, the directive urged the District Commanders "to encourage as many off-duty members as possible" to attend and 11 also compel as many onduty uniformed members to attend this assembly as manpower will allow." (emphasis added.)

After Secretary Bentsen went inside to lobby in favor of the bill, a representative from the IACP asked the officers to wait until the voting was over so that more photographs could be taken.

At this point, since you might ask why the IACP is so willing to help out the Administration, I should tell you that it might have something to do with dollars.

In 1993, the National Institute of Justice - a unit of the United States Justice Department presided over by Attorney General Janet Reno - issued grants and contracts to the IACP in the amount of $637,452. In 1994, the IACP is sharing $4,400,000 in a Justice Department grant to "study" community policing with three other police groups that also strongly supported the Clinton Administration's "assault weapon" ban: The Police Executive Research Forum, National Sheriff's Association and the Police Foundation. Without such grants, these groups would certainly have a more difficult time balancing their books.

Although Officer Donaggio is the only officer who has publicly challenged being sent to participate in the demonstration against his will because he opposed the "assault weapon" ban, LEAA has been informed by reliable sources that many of the other officers also opposed the ban, but were afraid to say so publicly for fear of adverse actions being taken against them by Chief Stover. Some of the other officers, who didn't feel strongly one way or the other about the ban, were still very upset about being "duped" and "tricked" into volunteering for a detail different than what they were led to believe. Indeed, LEAA cannot even reveal the source of our information since that would almost certainly lead to reprisal against the officers.

Other Abuses of Power

The efforts to have Washington, D.C. area police officers lobby Congress in support of the "assault weapon" ban did not end with the House vote on May 5. According to the The Washington Post, a dozen on-duty D.C. officers were sent to Capitol Hill in uniform on August 21 at the request of the White House to help "answer questions" from House members preparing to vote on the crime bill - which included the gun ban. A police inspector said that when he saw the officers outside the House office buildings, many of whom were bravely vocalizing !heir opposition to the gun ban, he sent them back to their regular duties.

Compelling police officers to support political goals is also not limited to the Washington, D.C. area. When President Clinton went to Minneapolis on August 12 and posed with police officers the day after the crime bill was initially defeated, they had to bring in on-du officers from four Minneapolis Police Department units and from surrounding suburbs because they could not find enough off-duty officers to volunteer to go up on stage with Mr. Clinton in support of his gun ban and crime bill.

Minneapolis P. D. sources told LEAA that White House aides even ordered officers working at the event in a perimeter security capacity to "get up on stage andfill up the holes"!


Because we believe that rank-and-file police officers should not be compelled to participate in lobbying efforts at any level of government, LEAA is fully supportive of Dr. Blackman's lawsuit. And we are fully supportive of Officer John Donaggio.

Indeed, LEAA heartily commends Officer Donaggio for his courage and willingness to do what must be done to preserve the rights of police officers to let the truth be known. We hope his courage in standing up for the Constitution and the truth will be a model for other officers, and that his case will be the first of many by police officers who have had enough of being told that they must support violating the Constitution's Second Amendment as a "crime control" tool.

If you wish to make a contribution to support either Dr. Blackman's lawsuit or Officer Donaggio's, please send your check to LEAA with a note enclosed specifying which lawsuit - or better yet, both - you would like to support; we will see that the funds are promptly delivered to the attorneys.

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Former Arlington County
Police Officer Speaks Out
Reveals Intimidation, Threats Made by Chief

by Andrew Hays
LEAA Member

As any Pro-Second Amendment police officer (i.e., working cops) will tell you, working for a chief who supports politically correct gun control propaganda makes life at one's department trying at times. If an officer dares to speak out about Second Amendment rights, he or she must be prepared to endure often intense intimidation by the brass to keep quiet - or else.

Having just recently secured new employment, I have the luxury that no active duty officer has: don't have to keep quiet any longer; the threats and intimidation no longer apply to me.

Up until October 28, 1994, 1 was a uniform patrol officer with the Arlington County Police Department in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

I worked with, and immensely respect, Officer John Donaggio, the officer who is suing Arlington County Police Chief "Smokey" Stover and the county itself for forcing him and nine other officers to-"lobby" in favor of the "assault weapon" gun ban legislation [Editor's Note: See Executive Director's Corner for additional details].

My confrontation with Chief Stover over gun control may provide readers with a little insight, and perhaps some appreciation, as to the tremendous courage that Officer Donaggio is exhibiting in taking a stand for the right of a police officer to not be forced to support a political agenda he or she opposes.

Here's the story from a cop who witnessed it firsthand from the inside.

The events began on Sunday, May 1, 1994,four days before the House of Representatives voted on the misnamed "assault weapon" gun ban (and passed by a one-vote margin). At afternoon roll call that Sunday, the on-duty Sergeant asked for three volunteers from our shift to participate in a photo shoot. We were not told what the event was about, only that it was to be held on Thursday, May 5, and that any officer who would be off duty that day could volunteer and collect overtime pay. The Sergeant said he needed three officers from each shift plus one more, for a total of 10 officers.

Nobody knew what the event was about, but many of us believed that it was connected to the upcoming Police Officer's Memorial Week. I volunteered.

On Tuesday evening, May 3, 1 received a message on my home answering machine from my Sergeant telling me that I should report at I 1:00 a.m., Thursday morning, May 5 for the detail. I called him back early in the morning on Wednesday, May 4, to c onfirm what the event was about, and he said it was in support of "banning guns that are used to kill cops."

I asked the Sergeant if he meant the "assault weapon" gun ban legislation, and he said yes. I then informed the Sergeant that I was familiar with the legislation and did not know of any reference to firearms that were used to kill cops as being any part of this bill. After some "discussion" of the bill in which the Sergeant clearly did not know what he was talking about, he said he would take me off the list when I told him there was no way I could support this sham of a bill.

Later that day, May 4, I went to see Deputy Chief Brewer to inform him that this gun ban was not about crime and that these guns were used in a minuscule amount of crimes, an almost infinitesimal number. I asked Deputy Chief Brewer to scour our 315-man department to see if any of the weapons that were about to be banned had been used in any crimes involving our department. He said "I grant you I don't know of any such cases." However, he did cite that there was one female officer killed in California involving one of the listed guns, although he conceded that particular instance entailed an unbalanced person who killed the officer and not a gang member, or a drug dealer, or other "usual" criminal.

I said that, irrespective of the politics involved, it was wrong to send county police officers, at taxpayers' expense, to participate in a political rally. I told him that there was no difference between this and punching in on the County time clock and attending a pro-choice rally, a pro-life rally, or an NRA rally. That it was political activism and that it was wrong.

Deputy Chief Brewer replied that there were "benefits" to be gained by the department for supporting the gun ban, and that by sending Arlington County officers to the Capitol, the department would be in a much better position to obtain federal funding to hire more officers. He specifically mentioned CBPOP (Community Based Problem Oriented Policing) officers. He stressed that Arlington County's participation in the photo shoot in support of the 11 assault weapon" ban could be a way to help secure federal funding.

I then raised the issue with him that none of the officers involved knew what this event was about. I asked him if he would mind if I contacted the 10 officers personally, at home, to tell them the details. He said he didn't mind, and then provided me with a list of the officers slated for the detail; he was very courteous and polite.

Later that evening, Wednesday, May 4, 1 called every one of the 10 officers. Of all the officers I personally spoke with, not a single one knew the details of what the photo shoot was about. Several believed it was the kick-off event for Police Officers Memorial Week. When I told them that it was in support of the "assault weapon" gun ban, more than a few were outraged. Officer Donaggio was not home when I called him, so I left a message on his machine.

As the first officer to find out what the photo shoot was actually about, I had been able to get out of the detail, and that was the end of my direct involvement for about a month.

Then on June 10, 1994, a letter was distributed to all county employees by Arlington County Manager Anton Gardner asking for input on the issues of employees' political rights and the "Little Hatch Act." (Section 6 of the county code which essentially prohibits political activism in uniform or in any way that identifies a person as a county employee.)

I wrote a letter and delivered it to County Manager Gardner on June 17 detailing to him what had happened on May 5. 1 wrote that the officers had been duped and that I thought it was reprehensible that they were coerced to participate in a political activity against their will. I stated that it was my understanding that the county code already expressly prohibited this type of activity, and that I believed the county code had been violated and that it was wrong that taxpayers' money had been spent.

Six days later, on June 23rd, a scheduled day off for me, I received a call from Deputy Chief Brewer asking if I could come in and talk to Chief Stover regarding to the letter I had sent to County Manager Gardner.

Per the request, I went in to talk to the Chief. Present in the Chief's office were Chief Stover, Deputy Chief Brewer and myself. They closed the door and the Chief put my letter in front of me and asked me if I recognized it. I responded that I did and that it was the letter that I had sent to the County Manager at his request.

Chief Stover then said "Are you tired of working here, son?" He then started going through my letter part by part, asking me how the county code had been violated.

He asserted, contrary to my reference of the code section, that categorically there had not been a violation. He said that as a police officer, I should know how to "read between the lines. " Political activity, he said, "means supporting a candidate running for office. "

Chief Stover then said that "If you ever pull any 'horseshit' like this again, and if I hear any more about this, when the smoke clears one of the two of us won't be here any longer. " He said I could guess which one would be gone. He repeatedly asked me, in a threatening manner, if I was tired of working for the department.

One part of the Chief's tirade in particular is etched in my brain, like it happened yesterday, when he read aloud one part of my letter to the County Manager, in which I wrote: "...this affair may have been in haste and may have been a mistake. Ifthis is the case, I hope you willfind an apology to these officers to be reasonable. "

After he read it he circled it with a pen and said, "I will tell you what my mistake was. My mistake was asking for volunteers rather than ordering officers to attend. Next time I will make it a detail, then I will order them to go and if they don't I willfire them. " He said that to me twice directly and repeated it once again to Deputy Chief Brewer.

When Chief Stover threatened to fire me, he never mentioned what he would fire me for. Normally, when an officer screws up, they pull out the manual and show the officer what specific sections have been violated. He did not do that with me, because he knew I hadn't violated any regulation. He simply wanted to intimidate me into silence.

This whole episode is a perfect example of how far the gun control extremists will go to perpetuate the deception that police officers support gun control legislation. Sure police support gun ban legislation... if you count the cops that are coerced. That's the tactic that Chief Stover employed.

Based on my personal experience in law enforcement, I have found very little support among police officers for additional gun control efforts. Most cops know that someone who will shoot a 7-11 clerk to death for $40.00 will not pay much attention to another gun law. The concept is absolutely laughable.

I believe that there were some crucial votes in favor of the "assault weapon" ban in the House of Representatives that were swayed by the perception that law enforcement supported it, in no small measure, by coercing 10 of my fellow officers to go to the United States Capitol Building to lobby in "support" of the ban.

These officers were used as political puppets against their will - to stifle their own Constitutional rights. And if that doesn't sear the soul, I don't know what does.

That's the crux of this whole gun control debate. It's not about law enforcement, it's not about police, it's not about crime. It's about politics, the politics of control.

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