I spent a great deal of my time yesterday responding in several Facebook threads about the fatal shooting of Sam Dubose by former U.C. Police Officer Ray Tensing. Needless to say, no matter how hardened some of us pretend to be, the taking of a human life by another is horrible. An incident of this type needs to be fully investigated by the authorities, appropriate charges need to be placed, and the matter needs to be determined in the court system. No matter how passionate or dedicated a person may be the matter is not going to be solved in a Facebook discussion. And in particular in a Facebook discussion where the participants are not allowing common sense and good judgment to rule their statements but instead are using outrage and uninformed decisions to do so. The bottom line is this. A person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That includes Ray Tensing.
All that I know is that Ray Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati Police Officer made a traffic stop for a violation of law. The violation, which has been described by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters as “chicken crap” was for failure to display a front license plate. Well Mr. Deters, let me explain why the violation is of interest to a police officer and not really “chicken crap”. Frequently, if a license plate is stolen from one car and placed on another typically only one plate is taken. This alone is enough to get the attention of most police officers.. It is also enough to provide probable cause for the police officer to make a traffic stop which is also an investigatory stop where often other violations of law are discovered. So not only was Ray Tensing not making a “chicken crap” traffic stop, he was engaging in good police work and he was performing his sworn duty.
Ray Tensing was a member of the University of Cincinnati Police Department. Members of this police department are fully certified and trained as peace officers in the state of Ohio. They operate under full color of the law and have the same police powers as Cincinnati Police Officers. Ray Tensing was fully within his rights to make a stop for a violation off campus. An agreement has been in place between the Cincinnati Police Department and the U.C. police Department that U.C. Police would patrol on campus and the areas off campus that were in near the campus. This was done due to an ever-increasing crime problem affecting U.C. students, not only on campus but near campus. The U.C. Police Department has an obligation to protect the University faculty, staff, and students. Because of off campus housing and transit people walking to and from campus facilities on City streets, the ability to protect them was enhanced by the cooperative efforts of both departments patrolling these areas. The traffic stop began at the intersection of Vine St. and Thill St, just a few blocks away from campus end at Vine St. and Calhoun St. This would show that Tensing was in an area he had every right to be and was operating within the CPD/UCPD agreement.
After Tensing made the traffic stop he approached the vehicle and began to question Mr. Dubose about the lack of a front license plate and his inability to produce a driver’s license. Some have complained that questions were asked an answered and should not have been asked again. Traffic stops are not in a court of law and the famous attorney line “your Honor, I object, asked and answered” does not apply here. A police officer is not under any ruling that a question can only be asked one time. In fact, again this is good police work as often a question when asked one time will receive one answer and when asked a second time will receive another answer. This can be an indication of evasiveness, intoxication, or drug use. Ray Tensing wanted Sam Dubose to remove his seat belt and he began opening the door of the vehicle, presumably to have Dubose exit the vehicle. For those who seem to think a police officer has no right to request an individual to exit their vehicle, rest assured that he does. This may be for further investigation or for the officer’s safety. We do not know why Tensing wanted him out of the car but it would have been a legal request, had he the opportunity to make the request. It was at this point that something went terribly wrong. The video tape is not clear, or at least is not clear to me. Due to a flurry of activity even the sound of the gun shot is muffled and difficult to distinguish. I do not know if Tensing intentionally fired his weapon or if it was accidentally discharged. In either case, that would be an act that Tensing has to answer for. Sam Dubose is dead, and that is something he has to answer for as well. I am sure the body camera video of all the officers involved will be analyzed by video forensic experts, frame by frame, until a very clear picture of the event is presented. I am sure these analysis, along with a mountain of other evidence will be produced by both prosecution and the defense. While the trial is going on, Mr. tensing is innocent because he has not yet been proven guilty.
For those who have asked, the legal process is this. The case was investigated, very quickly I might add. The results of this investigation were presented to the Grand Jury. The only purpose of the Grand Jury is to hear the evidence as presented by the prosecution and determine if the evidence supports prosecution for a crime, and if so, what crime or crimes. If the Grand Jury returns a True Bill, as was done in this case, then Mr. Tensing was sent to court where he will enter a plea. In this case Mr. Tensing entered a plea of “not guilty”. Which of course, he still is not guilty. Mr. Tensing has been bailed out and is awaiting trial, at which point he will be found guilty or not guilty. But until then, he is not guilty. I keep belaboring the point that he is not guilty until proven otherwise in a court of law because so many have already determined him to be guilty.
At this point I am going to jump up on my soapbox. It is my opinion, and just my opinion, that collectively and individually, the Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, the City of Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, the City of Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black, and to a lesser extent, the City of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley acted irresponsibly with remarks they made about this case. Mr. Deters earlier expressed concern that he was not releasing the tape so as not to taint the pool of potential Grand Jurors. Following the indictment, he and the others, henceforth collectively called the gang of four, have quite effectively tainted the pool of potential petit jurors who may eventually make the decision to incarcerate Ray Tensing for life. And that, in my opinion, was irresponsible of them. The Gang of Four, because of their positions,have a great deal of influence on public perception. People listen to them because they assume they know what they are talking about due to their elevated stations in life. I think most of us know that not to be true.
I think the Gang of Four presented as they did due to a wish to keep the peace. I do feel there was real concern that this incident could lead to rioting in Cincinnati, as it has in the past. I think they looked to Ferguson Missouri and Baltimore Maryland, and decided it would be best to throw Ray Tensing under the bus to appease the masses. It calls to mind the Christians being thrown to the lions to appease the angry Roman Crowd. The problem is, who is going under the bus if Ray Tensing is found not guilty. Who will be fed to the hungry lions if Ray Tensing is not only found not guilty but sues to get his job back? I don’t know if any of this will ever happen, I am just saying what if. But please remember, even if it is your only take away from this article. Ray Tensing is innocent until proven guilty.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?