|Chief Dan Oates.|
As the veteran cop was finishing up his last few days as police chief in Aurora, CO in May, Denver attorney David Lane presented Oates with a going-away present: a 30-page federal lawsuit [embedded below] alleging that Oates, and his officers, violated the Fourth Amendment rights of 14 plaintiffs when they were detained at a roadblock in 2012 as police searched for an armed bank robber.
From the Denver Post:
Motorists who were detained at an Aurora intersection nearly two years ago while officers attempted to locate and apprehend an on-the-run bank robber have sued the city for violating their Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure.
The suit was filed Friday in federal district court on behalf of 14 plaintiffs, some of whom were approached at gunpoint by police at the intersection of Iliff Avenue and Buckley Road, handcuffed and made to wait for two hours while the scene was cleared.
"They had no probable cause to pat my clients down and then handcuff them when they found that they had no weapons," said David Lane, the attorney representing the group. "This was overreaching."
He said police should have used more precise location tracking technology to pinpoint the location of Christian Paetsch, the man eventually convicted and imprisoned in the robbery of a Wells Fargo branch June 2, 2012. Hidden in the stolen money was a GPS tracking device that brought officers to the busy intersection but was unable to provide vehicle-by-vehicle location information.
To surround 19 cars stopped at a light and detain 28 occupants in those vehicles in an attempt to find a robbery suspect violated the motorists' Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure and excessive force, Lane said.
At the time, Oates defended the tactics used during the search that included ordering motorists out of their cars at gunpoint, and handcuffing both men and women.
Some of the people caught up in the search were detained for more than two hours. A few days later, according to the Aurora Sentinel, Oates apologized: “No question we inconvenienced citizens, and I feel badly about that," Oates said.
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A few days after the roadblock incident, Fox News political analyst and former judge, Andrew Napolitano, compared the tactics used by Oates and his officers to those of the SS in Nazi Germany:
The big picture here is that the police in this small Colorado town applied tactics that are forbidden by the U.S. Constitution, and which were perfected by the SS in Nazi Germany, in order to make their job easier. Nazi Germany had the lowest crime rate of any modern society; but it had no freedom. The cops and the SS regularly arrested groups until they found the person they wanted. We fought World War II in large measure to prevent such behavior by the government.
The behavior of the cops on Aurora, CO will cost the town a great deal of money; and it should provoke a federal criminal investigation of the police behavior. The Aurora police violated basic constitutionally-guaranteed rights, federal law, rights guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution, and state law.
Last week the Miami Herald's David Smiley reported that Oates plans "to review [MBPD’s] Taser policies and change the rules involving officers and dangerous drivers."
“I will be looking at all use-of-force policies,” [Oates] said.
There's no word on whether or not Oates plans any changes in the way Miami Beach officers look for bank robbers.