A Saratoga County, N.Y. sheriff’s sergeant abruptly resigned Monday after a video showing him apparently slapping a young man during a routine traffic stop because the motorist would not allow the cop to search his car for a firearm, was subsequently arrested and now faces criminal charges, WNYT has reported.
The slap is apparently heard on the video at the 30-second point but not actually seen due to the camera angle. Delivering the alleged blow was former Sheriff’s Sgt. Shawn R. Glans. He has now been charged with official misconduct and harassment, according to the Albany Times Union.
Published reports say Glans allegedly confronted two men outside of a Walmart, as he was investigating a call about a suspicious vehicle. Glans apparently spotted a rifle in the car and demanded to be allowed to search the vehicle.
But Colin Fitch would not turn over the keys. That ignited an expletive-filled tirade during which Glans can be heard threatening to “rip (Fitch’s) head off and s— down your neck.” Fitch’s companion, identified as Adam Roberts, reportedly secretly recorded the confrontation. The video has gone viral and the sound of that slap is being heard around the world.
There may be more to the story than appears in the video. Nobody knows for sure what was said before the recording started. But threatening physical harm, and then delivering it, may not stack up with the law and guidelines of conduct. That will likely shake out during the investigation.
Glans reportedly told the Times Union that he was “concerned about public safety” after spotting the gun in Fitch’s car. But he also said something else that could be disturbing to civil rights activists and especially gun owners. He told the newspaper he would have acted differently, had he known the incident was being recorded.
Does that suggest Glans’ primary concern is that his bad behavior was caught on camera? It’s the kind of complaint citizens have about police and sheriff’s deputies across the country. Sometimes those complaints are legitimate, other times they are not.
Sue Rahr, executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission at the state police academy in Burien, was shown the video by Examiner. The former King County sheriff – the first woman to hold that position – was not impressed.
“The behavior portrayed in this video reinforces the importance of reminding police recruits that we are charged with protecting safety and liberty,” Rahr told this column via e-mail. “As true patriots, police officers should not view the constitution as an impediment to our mission – it IS our mission.”
Rahr said that comment is part of the welcoming speech she delivers to each new recruit class. She also hands out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, which she encourages them to carry at all times.
Rahr left her job as sheriff two years ago to run the academy. Her approach to law enforcement training made headlines last year in the Seattle Times. The story may be read here.
There’s something else about the video that nobody is talking about. Glans worked in New York state, where the new gun law, called the SAFE (for Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act, was allegedly authored primarily by people working for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the anti-gun billionaire who helped bankroll Initiative 594 in Washington state.
One wonders if the incident would have gone differently, had there not been a firearm involved that the former sheriff’s sergeant felt compelled to examine. West of the Mississippi River, with the exception of California, spotting a rifle in someone’s car might be considered commonplace, especially this time of year, because it is hunting season.
However, warrantless searches for firearms have been part of the gun control agenda for quite some time. It was part of a bill, introduced in Olympia at least three different times over the past decade that sought to ban so-called “assault weapons.” The section, which was exposed by the Seattle Times, would have allowed warrantless searches of gun owners’ homes by sheriff’s deputies. Once the provision was exposed, the legislation died.
Back in Saratoga County, Glans is facing charges and his law enforcement career is almost certainly finished. To his credit, Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo took swift action, suspending Glans immediately and launching an investigation. He told reporters that Glans’ actions “both as a police officer and a sergeant were completely inappropriate” and that “I am very disturbed. I have zero tolerance for that type of activity.” Glans is reportedly due back in court on Dec. 9.