It is far from certain that there was wrongdoing at any level in the Chesapeake Police Department in the tragic incident that took the life of Detective Jarrod Shivers and placed Ryan Frederick at risk of losing his freedom, if not his life, but the refusal of the Police leadership to fully inform the public of the facts of the incident have created at least the impression that there is something that they wish to hide. It is intolerable in a free society for the police to behave as though they were some sort of third world secret police force.
The gross overcharge of first degree murder against Mr. Frederick has the appearance of an attempt to pressure him into a plea bargain so the evidence need never be made public. That is also intolerable. At a minimum, it is time for the police to answer a number of questions that cannot compromise an honest case against Frederick so that the trust of the public might be restored. Among those questions are:
- Was the Confidential Informant also the burglar who broke into Frederick’s garage in the days before the raid? If so, was he directed to that address by his police handlers, a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment?
- Why was the Search Warrant served in this manner, instead of simply conducting the search peacefully or even in Frederick’s absence? The usual reasons for such entries: evidence that can be destroyed, dangerous criminals more safely taken by surprise, or hostages to rescue, were not present in this case. Such entries are clearly dangerous to both police and citizens, so why, other than to terrorize the subject of the search, was this method chosen?
- At what level was the decision made to serve the warrant in such a violent and dangerous manner? There was nothing in the warrant specifically calling for such a forced entery, was this decision made by the officers on the scene or their supervisors? Is this standard policy for all drug searches in Chesapeake, and if so, will this policy be changed for subjects with no history of violence?
- Why have all Police statements to the press been made by officers who were not at the scene when the raid was conducted? A succession of spokesmen have given contradictory versions of the event, first stating the officers were plainclothes, then in SWAT gear with “Police” on the vest and helmet which Fredericks was supposed to have been able to see, and now finally, the story is that he shot through the door and thus could not have seen those markings. Which version is true? Det. Shivers’ partner knows but he has not given a public account.
- The inventory of the search stated marijuana was found but specified no amount. The inventory further specified that indoor gardening equipment was seized, including lights and 4 small and one large container, adding to the impression that an illegal marijuana growing operation had been found. It was not until Frederick was arraigned two weeks later that we learned that the amount was less than an ounce, and not a commercial quantity. Were those containers empty, or did they contain cold-sensitive plants being wintered in the garage as Frederick claims? The police knew the night of the raid that the suspected marijuana growing operation did not exist. Why was the impression that Frederick was guilty of cultivating marijuana maintained for weeks after the police knew it was not the case?
- The inventory states that three cartridge cases, two .380 ACP cases and one .223 rifle case, were recovered. Frederick had only a .380 pistol. Nowhere in the police account has there been an admission that either Det. Shivers or his partner fired a shot, and over a month has passed with no explanation for that .223 leading many to speculate that there is a sinister reason for not accounting for that round. Who fired that round and where did the projectile go?
- Now that differing versions of the incident have been given to the press regarding shots being fired through the door, the truth can only be determined by the physical evidence, in particular the door which was taken by the police. Modern forensic methods can determine whether Det. Shivers was shot through the door or not with certainty, and no doubt this evidence has been examined by now. Why are the results of that analysis being withheld?
All of this information is in the hands of the Chesapeake Police. It will all eventually come out in court, and the defense attorney already knows the truth or it will be revealed to him in the course of discovery procedures, so there is no reason to withhold this information from the press or the public other than to try to prejudice potential jurors with pre-trial disinformation.
The Chesapeake Police owe full disclosure of the facts to the public, to Mr. Frederick, to the Chesapeake City Council, to Det. Shivers’ survivors and most of all, to the rank and file officers of the Chesapeake Police Department whose lives and effectiveness are placed at greater risk by these risky procedures and by the loss of cooperation and trust by the public.
At the least, the leadership of the Chesapeake Police Department have demonstrated that they lack a proper understanding of the relationship between a police department and the citizens they serve in a free society, and the Chesapeake City Council should reconsider whether they have placed that trust in the proper hands.