Author Archives: Leo Libertatis

Columbia Police Draw Gun and Taunt Black Teens

The audio starts after a bit in both videos.

From the CFJ video

On March 7, 2015 Cezan “CJ” Stock and a group of friends were hanging
out in their neighborhood in Columbia, MO when they noticed a Columbia
Police Department patrol cruiser approach.

Sergeant Roger Schlude and Street Crimes Officers Chris Papineau were
in the area on a “Check Subject” when they parked and began observing
the teenagers. Upon spotting the officers, CJ and several other
teenagers began using their camera phones to record the officers.

Schlude responded by exiting his vehicle and pointing his service
weapon at CJ, while demanding he take his hand out of his pocket. The
teen complied but the weapon remained aimed at CJ while the two
debated the officer’s actions. Schlude repeatedly tells the teen to
“Walk on!”

CJ’s mother, Andrea Brookins, says her son is known for filming his
encounters with law enforcement to hold the police accountable for
their actions. She believes this has garnered ill-will with members of
CPD and leading to situation such as this. “These officers were trying
to intimidate my son from filming the police,” she said in an
interview with CFJ.

As the situation unfolded Officer Papineau engaged in a verbal
argument with CJ, threatening to “mop the floor” with the teen and
making fun of his weight, as well as that of a fellow teenager on the
scene.

Schlude claims that CJ had been arrested for concealing a firearm on a
previous occasion, leading him to fear CJ. Reports indicate the
firearm was located in the glove box of his mother’s vehicle, which CJ
was driving her vehicle at the time.

Andrea says the firearm belonged to her, stating she has a Second
Amendment Right to bear arms. “I have a right to defend myself and
they used that to arrest my son in retaliation for his filming the
police,” Brookins said. This gun case against CJ was later dismissed
by prosecutors.

Missouri Law specifically states that an individual has a right to
keep a firearm concealed in their vehicle, whether or no they have a
Conceal and Carry Permit: http://bit.ly/2b1EmIb

Brookins filed complaints against the officers for their actions.

Her complaint against Officer Papinuea for Discourteous,
Disrespectful, or Discriminatory Treatment of Any Member of the
Public, and Guidelines for Corrective Action were sustained. He
received a Written Warning.

Her complaint against Schlude for Excessive Force (Response to
Resistance) was marked as Exonerated and cleared of any wrong-doing.

Several months later, officers attempted to pull CJ over while he was
on lunch from his job. Based on this situation, CJ drove to his
mother’s house where he peacefully surrendered as Brookins filmed. “I
wanted to ensure his safety. He was scared and I could understand
why,” Brookins said.

As she filmed, Sergeant Schlude charged and shoved Brookins. Her video
of this situation can be seen here: http://bit.ly/2bk84Ls

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The Columbia Police Officers’ Association on Ferguson

fopWe won’t make any judgments about the CPOA, our local police union and Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge #26. You can judge for yourself. It is important to have some insight into how our local police see the events in Ferguson and how they likely view the citizens of Columbia.

Here are a few things to look for while perusing the following posts…

  1. The use of the term “Hug-A-Thug”
  2. Citing of questionable and often xenophobic, “click-bait” sources like LibertyNewsOnline.com, MrConservative.com, TheFederalistPapers.orgTheTruthAboutGuns.com, etc. Take a look around some of these sites and judge them for yourself.
  3. The sometimes “colorful” comments from followers which include “PANTS UP!! DON’T LOOT!!” and instructions for inserting earplugs in a bad guy’s ear with a .45 caliber pistol.

The CPOA leadership has garnered national attention in the past for Facebook posts that were seen by many as indicating racial bias.

It seems that it would be better for everyone involved, both police and the public alike, for the CPOA to work to ease racial tensions in this troubling time. All we can hope for is an honest, transparent, and just investigation into the incidents in Ferguson.

The following posts are from the CPOA’s Facebook wall.

hug a thug excuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hug a thug excuse comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hug a thug 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shots Comments

block door bully and thief do crime do time dowis fox beating friend wanted mr cons not dr fed pap Pants up dont shoot pros robbery rubber 45 to head shawn parcells shirt sup wils tools

 

 

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Save Rock Quarry Rd.

Rock Quarry Rd. may be the last remaining scenic drive in Columbia. Most everyone in the area is familiar with the old road that winds through the grand wooded hills and valleys south of the University. What most do not know is that our local government is hatching a plan to change all of that — supposedly in the name of safety.

The flags are out and trees are marked for removal. Concerned citizens contacted Public Works to see what was afoot and were told by Director John Glasscock that the road is going to be widened. This comes after a 2011 report that stated no change to the road was warranted.

The accident rate on Rock Quarry — determined through a complex formula — is 37 percent higher than the state average; however, according to the report, redesigning the road for safety would not be considered prudent until the accident rate exceeds twice the state average.

Rock Quarry Rd. is narrow and curvy to be sure. Couple that with an uptick in traffic from ill-conceived, behemoth student housing projects at the road’s south end and the rate of traffic accidents starts to climb. Sure, there are better-lit, wider, and straighter thoroughfares to choose from, but for the late-night run from downtown for those headed south, the dark relatively un-policed road is inviting.

The Columbia Police Department has requested a new study for updated accident statistics, apparently concerned about driver safety. Linked here is story from 2011, when the discussion about Rock Quarry Rd. was taking root.

The report indicated the leading causes of accidents on the road were speeding, inattention and drunken driving, accounting for 55, 25 and 23 accidents, respectively.

But is the road really the problem? Are we tax payers really responsible for the poor driving skills and lack of good judgement on the part of drivers who venture down the old road during the wee hours? If the safety of ill-equipped and sometime impaired drivers is really our concern shouldn’t we bulldoze, flatten, and pave everything?

Roughly half of the accidents resulted from vehicles hitting fixed objects such as ditches or trees.

And do people really need to be walking and cycling on Rock Quarry Road? Who are these people?!?!

Commission members also expressed concern that the road lacks accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.

This all seems like a silly waste of money that may drive down the property value for those who own homes along the quaint and scenic path. Implementation of this plan would be a waste of scarce resources at a time when the City is complaining about a lack of funds for updating long-ignored infrastructure in the central city.

Should we allow our government to butcher the last remaining scenic drive in our city simply because developers built student housing on a road that could not support the traffic?

I say we save everyone the headache, heartache, and money and simply post a large and well-lit sign at each end of the road bearing the message, “SCENIC ROADWAY: NARROW ROAD WITH DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD. DRIVE WITH CAUTION.” Then we can sit back and let nature take its course.

Let us at least brainstorm for some less invasive means to make the road safer while preserving the scenic and real value of existing properties. The government answer is always to use a sledge hammer when a small finishing hammer will get the job done with more finesse and less mess.

Please contact your City Council representative and tell him/her to leave Rock Quarry Road alone.

 

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Banning Ryan Ferguson From Hickman: The Rest of the Story

After most media accounts failed to report the whole story surrounding Hickman Principal Dr. Tracey Conrad’s decree forbidding Ryan Ferguson to set foot on the school campus during the school day, it seems important to present the facts. Read the blog post that started it all HERE.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

The district bosses are doing some serious backpedaling, mounting a public relations assault that attempts to present the entire incident as a big misunderstanding. Big boss Superintendent Belcher even went so far as to accuse Keep Columbia Free of posting “an erroneous report.”

 

Belcher said he was surprised and disappointed when a local blog posted an erroneous report saying Conrad banned Ferguson from the school. He said that led to many “negative, hateful emails to some of our staffers.”

Chris Belcher

Chris Belcher

Well, Superintendent Belcher, this community is not surprised, but certainly disappointed that you chose to use your public pulpit to accuse Keep Columbia Free of spreading false information. I guess it is easier to deny mistakes and berate the work of the citizen journalist instead of simply admitting that your staff made a glaring mistake.

The good news is that most people don’t buy the explanation that Mr. Ferguson “wasn’t really ‘banned,’ we just told him he couldn’t come.”

So, what does it mean to be banned? The Oxford Dictionary defines “ban” as:

Ban: Officially or legally prohibit: officially exclude (someone) from a place

For instance, The City of Columbia has banned smoking in all businesses during business hours. Smokers must go outside and smoke on the sidewalk. In the same way, Dr. Conrad has banned Ryan Ferguson from visiting Hickman during normal school hours. The interview with the school paper must be done outside the school boundaries, perhaps at the neighboring McDonald’s.

bannedphones

It is clear that Ryan Ferguson was “banned” from Hickman High School. The district is attempting to say he was only banned from the school during class hours. If this were the case, why did Dr. Conrad suggest the interview be conducted as McDonald’s? Even if Mr. Ferguson was only prohibited from visiting during school hours, he was BANNED during those hours. That is not an erroneous claim. If anyone is making erroneous claims, it is Chris Belcher and his administration.

Here is the timeline of Keep Columbia Free’s involvement:

Wednesday 11.20.2013, evening: A Keep Columbia Free volunteer was approached by a Hickman student who was upset at being told the interview with Ryan Ferguson had been cancelled by the school principal. The student said that Dr. Conrad had said that too many students believed he was guilty and his presence at Hickman would be a class disruption. The student said that when Ryan’s Mother, Leslie Ferguson, was told that Ryan was not welcome on the Hickman campus, she said that if her son could not come, she did not feel comfortable visiting the school.

Tracey Conrad

Tracey Conrad

Wednesday 11.20.2013, 9:30-9:45PM: A Keep Columbia Free volunteer sent emails to several Hickman teachers and Dr. Conrad requesting comment and verification of the student’s story.

Thursday 11.21.2013, 9:34AM: A reply from a Hickman teacher was received verifying the story told by the student. The teacher declined to make a comment about the story and referred KCF to Dr. Conrad for comment.

Thursday 11.21.2013, mid-afternoon: Keep Columbia Free decided to go ahead with the story after receiving no response from Dr. Conrad explaining her decision.

 

Thursday 11.21.2013: The story began to receive viral attention via social networking sites, garnering over 1200 “likes” in the first few hours, and fielding nearly 8000 page views by midnight. Keep Columbia Free alerted the local media about the growing story.

Friday 11.22.2013: The viral spread of the blog intensified with the post receiving nearly 19,000 visitors in a 24 hour period – over 26,000 hits since originally posted. The post received over 4000 “likes” and was shared via Facebook and Twitter several thousand times. Radley Balko of the Huffington Post tweeted the blog to his followers as did Ryan Ferguson’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner. All day, call and email floods targeting CPS were being spontaneously planned by Ferguson supporters across the country. Unfortunately, some of these calls and emails were reportedly hateful and borderline threatening. Keep Columbia Free does not condone hateful and/or threatening calls or emails to any person or group.

balko tweetzellner

Friday 11.22.2013, late-morning: After receiving a flood of calls and emails denouncing Dr. Conrad’s decision and receiving a protest letter from the student staff of the school newspaper, Superintendent Belcher, his staff, and School Board Member Helen Wade meet with the newspaper staff and reach a compromise stating that Ryan Ferguson can visit the school before and/or after regular school hours.

The Local Media:

What we at Keep Columbia Free found quite amazing was the markedly lackluster reporting done by the local main-stream media. After Keep Columbia Free uncovered, researched, blogged, and tipped off the local MSM to the story, the role that we citizen journalists played was summarily ignored. Traditional journalists should be able to work peacefully, hand in hand, with citizen journalists, not against them.

Click HERE for the KOMU story that indicates the outrage came from thin air.

The Missourian also ignored the role of the citizen journalist. Read their account HERE

The Tribune’s original story HERE makes no mention of the blog, but the followup story HERE contains at least a backhanded jab at the blog from Superintendent Belcher.

The Complaint:

There are a few unanswered questions surrounding the original complaint(s) that prompted Dr. Conrad to ban Ryan from the school. Some of the media accounts linked above indicate that Dr. Conrad fielded complaints personally. The rather lengthy Missourian article makes it clear that the complaints were fielded by John White, the district’s safety and security director.

Conrad said she learned of the interview Wednesday afternoon when John White, the district’s director of safety and security, told her about parents objecting to Ryan Ferguson’s presence on campus.

White told her that parents contacted him to say they wouldn’t send their children to school Thursday if Ryan Ferguson were there.

Conrad said she expressed her concerns to the journalism teacher at Hickman. Later Wednesday night, Conrad talked with a student in the journalism class on the phone and further explained her reasoning.

This passage indicates a few interesting things.

First, Dr. Conrad didn’t know about the interview as of Wednesday morning. This would indicate that the plan to interview Ryan was not common knowledge around the school. This means that there was little likelihood of some sort of major disruption.

Second, Dr. Conrad found out about the complaints fielded by White on Wednesday morning and called off the interview by early Wednesday evening. This brings into question the notion that Dr. Conrad was overrun with concerned parents and students – enough to reasonably indicate that there would be a disruption if Ryan visited the campus.

Third, the complaints were fielded by Security Chief John White. White is a former officer of the Columbia Police Department, an agency with a great deal of time and emotion invested in the prosecution of Ryan Ferguson. Is there any formal record of these complaints?

Another source inside the Columbia Public Schools administration contacted Keep Columbia Free with some information regarding the source of the complaints which prompted the ban. Apparently the family of slain Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt was the source of the original complaint. This begs the question – How did the Heitholt family find out about the interview before Dr. Conrad?

As more information comes in, we will share it here. Stay tuned.

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Hickman Principal Bans Ryan Ferguson From School

Concerned journalism students at Columbia’s Hickman High School contacted Keep Columbia Free with a story that is sure to raise a few eyebrows. It seems that these enterprising students working on the school newspaper, The Legacy, had arranged for a press conference and interview with the recently exonerated – after spending 10 years in prison on a wrongful murder conviction – Ryan Ferguson and his mother, Leslie Ferguson. Most of the local and national media attention had been focused on Bill, Ryan’s father, so the students decided they would blaze new territory and tell the story of the long battle against the justice system from Leslie’s perspective.

ryan and les

Ryan Ferguson and his mother Leslie

The plan was a good one — a once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity par excellence. The students were geared up to interview Columbia’s newest national celebrity and his mother. They had all chipped in for a “Freedom Basket” as a gift for Ryan. Everything was a go. The excitement was palpable.

Enter Hickman Principal Dr. Tracey Conrad.

Tracey_Conrad

When Dr. Conrad learned of the plan, she contacted the school newspaper staff and told them that Ryan Ferguson would not be allowed on the Hickman campus. She told students that Mr. Ferguson would be a “disruption to class.”  Dr. Conrad did indicate, however, that Ryan’s mother was welcome to come to the school.

Certainly high-profile guests have visited our local schools before. Certainly there is some sort of protocol for high-profile visitors. Does Dr. Conrad not believe in Ryan Ferguson’s innocence? Does Dr. Conrad believe Ryan Ferguson is some sort of liability? United States Representative Vicky Hartzler visited Hickman High School just last month and seemed to have a grand ol’ time with Dr. Conrad.

hartzler

 

In 2010, Hall of Fame NASA astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson visited the school and there wasn’t a riot.

When students contacted Mrs. Ferguson to tell her she was welcome, but her son was not, she told them that if her son was not welcome at the public school, she did not feel comfortable visiting the school.

The students are currently attempting to arrange for an interview at an off-campus location.

A Hickman staffer has corroborated the story told to Keep Columbia Free by the disappointed Hickman students, but understandably declined to go on the record with any opinion regarding the situation. Keep Columbia Free staff has reached out to Dr. Conrad, but as of now has received no response. KCF staff has also reached out to the Ferguson family via their website. If new information emerges, we will bring the information to light.

It is certainly sad that the school administration could not interrupt the rote exercises aimed at improving government standardized test scores for a few hours for an unprecedented educational opportunity for these bright and energized students on the school newspaper staff. At least these young students are getting a taste of what it is like for a free press to attempt to operate under some sort of autocratic regime. Hopefully they will learn to ever value our beloved American First Amendment to the United States Constitution which secures not only freedom of speech, but freedom of the press and the right to petition one’s government for a redress of grievances. I hope these young students find a way to petition Dr. Conrad, a government employee, for redress in this situation.

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Red Light Retrospective: Red Light Cameras and the Birth of Keep Columbia Free

While Missourians far and wide are celebrating the ruling issued by the Eastern District Court of Appeals regarding the legality, or illegality as it were, of red light camera programs in the state, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at Keep Columbia Free’s relationship with Columbia’s own red light camera program. Most Columbians would not be surprised to find that Keep Columbia Free has long been opposed to the use of red light cameras, but few people know the seminal role these Orwellian cash machines played in bringing together this merry band of liberty lovers.

Early in 2010 a local liberty group known as Liberty on the Rocks, part of the national Liberty on the Rocks organization, was fomenting opposition to the deployment of Red Light Cameras in Columbia under the leadership of Liz DeFoe-Thomas. Another liberty group in Kansas City, The Liberty Restoration Project, had been sounding the alarm via social media and Liz had heard the call.

Mark Flakne had also heard the LRP call and, via some mutual friends on Facebook, was contacted by DeFoe-Thomas and invited to a sign-making party in preparation for Columbia’s first protest against the Red Light Cameras. It was at that party that Mark met Mitch Richards and the two immediately became fast friends.

The protest received a great deal of interest from the media and was a smashing success, drawing an endless chorus of enthusiastic honks from passing motorists.

Here are a few scenes from the party and the protest…

More protests and more honks followed…

As the first camera protest was winding down, local attorney Dan Viets stopped by and chatted with Flakne and Richards. Viets invited the two — and the rest of the group — to join in a local coalition he was forming to push back against another Orwellian camera scheme, the Downtown Safety Cameras. A week or two later, DeFoe-Thomas, Richards, and Flakne sat down with Dan, the then local ACLU, local Libertarian Party officials, and various other non-affiliated individuals concerned with government overreach. It was at this meeting that the first incarnation of Keep Columbia Free was born.

Following the failed campaign in opposition to the Safety Cameras, the committee was officially dissolved. Sensing the need for a liberty-centered organization with a broader scope, Richards and Flakne took on the mantle of leadership and re-registered the group as the political action committee you know today.

Over the last three-and-a-half years, Keep Columbia Free has often spoken against Columbia’s red light camera program. Here are a few tidbits from these past articles.

From Red Light Rip-Off:

The spin doctors in the Columbia City Manager’s Office have been hard at work twisting the reports regarding the city’s red light cameras. They claim that the red light cameras are to thank for fewer accidents at the intersections where they are installed. Both of our local papers have printed these claims without so much as a peep regarding the legitimacy of the study, so let’s break it down.

From Red Light Cameras: The Documents:

Was the practice of an all-red pause at intersections considered? An all-red pause and longer yellows would do more to improve the safety of intersections than red light cameras, but this change would not generate profits for Gatso and its partners at the City of Columbia. It’s all about the money, folks.

What it boils down to is that these statistics say nothing about the effectiveness of Gatso’s red light cameras. Assuming that Tony St Romaine and Bill Watkins are both intellegent enough to understand these statistics, it is frightening to see that our City Manager’s Office would attempt to distort the truth by feeding lies to the media and the citizens of Columbia whom they serve.

Does this prove that our city government couldn’t care less about the safety of our city, especially when there is a profit to be had?

From Toni and Tony Twist the Truth:

I think we all know that the system is all about the money. A silver-tounged salesman comes in from out of town and with a little Harold Hill song and dance, convinces Mayor Shinn — er– Hindman that there’s trouble in River City that only Gatso cameras can fix. Of course, the city loves the plan — they get to add money to the general fund. The City Manager’s office loves the idea because their respective résumés appear more robust as most of the funds are used to add to our already bloated city bureaucracy. And who can argue with the plan? Heck, it has to make us safer. It’s for the children, right?

What these government agents… I mean… city officials have failed to tell us is the real reason red light violations are down in Columbia. It has nothing to do with these silly cameras.

You see, earlier this year MODOT, in an attempt to reduce accidents at intersections governed by stoplights, changed the timing of the lights by adding more time to the yellow portion of the light timing.  And, wouldn’t ya know it, all of Columbia traffic cameras are at intersections governed by MODOT.

From Is Tony St. Romain Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?:

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine might be smarter than a 5th grader, but when he talks about red light camera statistics, he’s definitely not smarter than a 12th grader.

I asked my 12th grade son the following:

The City of Columbia installed red light cameras at four intersections two years ago. The number of citations issued by the camera machinery dropped 28 percent in 2012 when compared with 2011. The City says that this indicates that the cameras are working. Is that a reasonable claim?

Without hesitation, my 12th grader reasoned that this claim could not be reasonable without knowing the traffic rates for the time periods in question and the number of citations at non-camera intersections during the same time periods (provided that enforcement patrol patterns had not changed at the non-camera intersections).

So why does Tony St. Romaine continue to claim that the red light cameras are a stunning success based on phony, partial statistics and tortured logic? Is he really a simpleton?

From Banning Red Light Cameras in Columbia:

I’ve written a couple of  blogs on the subject of red light cameras in Columbia, questioning the City Manager’s assessment of their effectiveness. You can read them HERE and HERE. I contend, and the city’s own documents support the fact, that red light cameras do not keep us safe from accidents at intersections. Instead, these Orwellian tools serve only to extract a profit for international corporate giant, Gatso, and the City of Columbia. Along with financial profits, the cameras added over $80,000 to the city budget and bureaucracy which gives a boost to the resume of any up and coming assistant city manager.

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City of Columbia Targets Gays and Students

Op-Ed from Stanley Diaz — President, Columbia Apartment Association 

STUDENTS and GAYS UNFAIRLY TARGETED BY CITY

Students are the main target of the new Over-Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance.  In January of this year, the Columbia City Council voted, in effect, to remove your right to privacy as granted by the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  It also discriminates against gay couples. The ordinance says no more than three unrelated adults can live in an R1 residence but what constitutes a related family?   Are two gay couples two “families” or are they four unrelated adults?

In 2012, there were only 14 cases of over-occupancy being prosecuted by the City.  According to the homeowner associations who spoke in favor of this ordinance, the problem is almost always with students.  Over-occupancy has been against the law in Columbia for many years, but because of this handful of complaints, the City made it a law  (Columbia, Missouri City Code Section 22.184(c)) in January 2013 that all 25,000 rental unit occupants must sign a disclosure document that allows any “police officer or city inspector investigating any code violation” to see “all lease, rental payment, tenant information”.

“Tenant information” means your social security number, birth date, and more.  Note that the law says, “ANY code violation”, not just over-occupancy complaints!

I doubt that there is a single building in town that does not have one code violation.

For instance: a cracked switchplate cover, too many leaves in the gutter, a vine or tree too close to the building, missing smoke detector batteries, peeling paint, etc. are all code violations.  Is it right that 25,000 rental units, or about 50,000 adults should be subjected to this kind of treatment because of a couple of dozen complaints?

The Columbia Apartment Association does not condone  true over-occupancy violators.  They should be investigated and prosecuted when necessary.  But this disclosure ordinance is a violation of federal law, is insulting to all renters and discriminatory to Gays and Lesbian couples.  Also note that only Renters are required to fill out the Disclosure form, not homeowners.  Read the ordinance form yourself and see.

If you care about your rights or the rights of MU students in the years to come, then call the City of Columbia at 573-874-7222 or email them at ward1@gocolumbiamo.com, ward2@gocolumbiamo.com, ward3@gocolumbiamo.com, ward4@gocolumbiamo.com, ward5@gocolumbiamo.com, ward6@gocolumbiamo.com.  tell them to rescind the Over Occupancy DISCLOSURE Ordinance.

This issue comes up for vote again on July 15th please contact the city before that date.

Stanley Diaz — President, Columbia Apartment Association

Read what KCF had to say when the ordinance was introduced HERE

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