Monday, November 26, 2012



Under the category of "no good deed goes unpunished," the Canton Police Department, apparently (a SCPR opinion) not having been thoroughly checked out by the Canton Law Department's prosecutor's office (in terms of the quality of police department's case), recently proceeded against a Mister Tony Porterfield of 12th Street, Northeast on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business.

(See Despite run-in with police, man still wants a better neighborhood, The Repository, Shane Hoover, 11/22/2012)


Mr. Porterfield in recent years purchased and moved into a residence on 12th Street right in the heart of 2nd Ward Councilman Thomas West's neighborhood.

His motive?  To have a quality home of his own and to help himself and his neighbors reclaim their neighborhood from the criminals and thugs who seem to have the run of Canton's inner wards.

Talk about a counterintuitive move, Porterfield's move into Mister West's neighborhood has to be a prime example.


That is, if the website "Neighborhood Scout" data is to be believed.

According to the website, Canton has a safety "crime index of 4."  Yes, "4" out of a possible maximum index of 100 which at 100 would be a completely safe neighborhood.

Of course, at the other end:  "4," - the neighborhood is completely unsafe.


So much for the Healy administration's Zero Tolerance program now that he has been reelected mayor for a second term, no?


February 9, 2010?

It's been nearly three years since Healy has been trumpeting on the city's website his crime interdiction success (i.e. Canton crime rate down 19.5%).



Porterfield seems to be a "good Samaritan" of sorts.  He says in Hoover's report of his acquittal by jury of his peers (eight Canton Municipal Court jurisdiction citizens) within minutes their getting the case (as quoted in the Hoover article):
“I was looking for a place to reside and stay forever,” the 43-year-old Alliance native said.

The bushes and grass around his home are neatly trimmed. A flag hangs from a corner of the porch. A red metal roof is the most visible sign of Porterfield’s effort to remodel the house and a building next door.

The neighbors on his block look out for each other. If a strange car is parked in the neighborhood, he will get a call or a text from a neighbor asking him to check it out, Porterfield said.

On July 9th of this year, a couple of Canton's finest parked their unmarked vehicle close to Porterfield's home on a mission to document an undercover police drug buy.

Unmarked car?

Police presumably in plain clothes?

In a neighborhood that is one of the most crime infested in all of America?

A man and neighbors who are determined to take their neighborhood back from the criminals?

Of course, the highly civic minded Porterfield is going to be asking questions, no?

And, indeed, he does!

Perfectly understandable and as it turns out, in the view of The Report, heroic.

According to Hoover, the police said:
  • "they politely explained they were conducting an investigation and showed their badges, but Porterfield refused to leave and began talking loudly and drawing attention to their vehicle,"
  • Porterfield refused to stop drawing attention to their vehicle, and persisted to the point of trying to record the license plate number of the unmarked vehicle whereupon he was arrested
Porterfield's account was quite different, to wit:
  • he was sworn at and told to get back in his house, and
  • the policemen never showed him a badge
The Report finds Porterfield's account more believable than the officers on the basis of:
  • his motivation to make the neighborhood a safer one,
  • a reading of Hoover's report (the actual lines and between the lines), and
  • a lifetime of experience of dealing with policemen

The SCPR picks out some key points from the report to chew on just a little:
  • KEY POINT ONE - If Tony Porterfield had his way, a police cruiser would be parked on his street and officers would get to know the neighborhood by patrolling on foot.
    • COMMENT:  A man who not only does not resent a police presence in his neighborhood but wants them there and on foot to boot.  Hardly, someone who going to get testy with police, unprovoked.
  • KEY POINT TWO - What exactly happened to Porterfield is in dispute — he has his version, the police have theirs and a jury acquitted him [within minutes of receiving the case] of misdemeanor obstructing official business — but the incident comes at a time when officer conduct and the department’s relationship with the community have been under scrutiny.
    • COMMENT 1:   "... acquitted him [within minutes of the jury having received the case]... ."   Hmm?  Within minutes?   Doesn't take a rocket scientist, err legal professional, to tell one something about the quality of the case notwithstanding what Chief Lawver and what Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio say about the unpredictability of jury decisions.
    • COMMENT 2:  "... incident comes at a time when officer conduct [e.g. Daniel Harless] and the department's relationship with the community [outbreak of summer shootings] have been under scrutiny."  Hmm?  Perhaps Chief Lawver is feeling a bit defensive these days and in no mood to square up with the Canton public and admit that he has some major reform to do within the Canton Police Department (CPD) in terms of how to connect to, relate to, and work with everyday Cantonians?
    The SCPR believes that the Healy administration has politicized the effectiveness of policing in Canton.

    Mayor William J. Healy's trump card in getting elected in 2007 was to promise zero tolerance of crime in Canton.

    Even though it is apparent that his political campaign ploy has not worked, Cantonians nonetheless are putting increasing pressure on the CPD to deliver on the failed Healy administration promise to make Canton's neighborhoods safer.

    But the police lack the manpower and financial resources to do so.  Accordingly, you get folks like Porterfield who get directly involved in making neighborhoods safer.  And you have the police turning to community policing efforts to make up for their inadequacies.

    It seems to The Report that the newly appointed chief (Lawver) is feeling pressure big time to roll back an apparent upsurge in Canton crime.

    And the July 9th incident and its attendant failure to deal effectively with a well-meaning citizen did not help matters any.

    Hoover's article insofar as it refers to the chief, reeks (in the opinion of the SCPR) of a man grasping for excuses/justifications (e.g. runaway jury?; uncharacteristic of McWilliams [one of the involved officers]; won't second guess; "highly successful and conscientious officers") and of a public official who may be out-of-touch with the citizenry and communicates such to his rank-and-file policemen/women.

    And there may be another factor.

    The SCPR addresses the possibility in the form of a question:  Is the Canton city prosecutor's office too tight with the Canton Police Department?

    Yours truly addressed that question to Canton law director Joseph Martuccio this past Friday.

    With the jury voting to acquit Porterfield "within minutes" of receiving the case, one has to wonder what kind of vetting that the prosecutor's office did on the quality/strength of the McWilliams/Gabbard (the other involved officer) case against Citizen Porterfield?

    Yours truly's daughter was a police prosecutor in Georgia for some five years (probably 2005 - 2010) and so thereby The Report does have some insight into a typical prosecutor/police relationship.

    One of the things daughter did as prosecutor was to shore up some pretty sloppy police work (before she got on the job) in terms of having a provable case.  Moreover, she always made sure she was the decider-in-chief as to whether or not a prosecution would go forward.

    While the Porterfield case is not quite the same thing (i.e. sloppy police work) inasmuch as it boiled down to a "my word against your word" situation; the "within minutes" verdict indicates to a reasonably thinking person that there may have been something very wrong in terms of the Canton prosecutor office's analysis of the quality of the case to be brought to prosecution.


    Back to the SCPR's question of Law Director Martuccio.

    The essence of his answer?

    "You never know what a jury is going to do."

    Additionally, Martuccio denied that if a Canton policeman makes an arrest, it automatically parlays into a prosecution in terms of the relationship between his prosecutors and the police.  However, he added that "it is rare" when an arrest does not result in a prosecution.

    As for Martuccio's "you never know what a jury is going to do," such is the identical thing that Canton Police Chief Lawver said to Rep reporter Hoover.

    Is that to say that law enforcement/prosecutions are a roll of the dice?

    Prosecutions must have a rock-solid basis to them.

    After all,  you are dealing with ramifications on the future of citizens who have differences with Canton police officials.

    As reported by Hoover:
    Porterfield said he does his best to look out for trouble, but a run-in with two undercover city police officers this summer almost cost him his freedom and his military career, and left him with a sense of unease about calling 911.
    The Report does not accept, nor should the Canton public, that in prosecuting cases that the police department appear to be treated by the Canton prosecutor's office as being determinative clients.

    And, as indicated previously as implied in The Report's reference to daughter-prosecutor; in working closely on quality case preparation prosecutors and police are susceptible of developing too tight of a relationship.  Perhaps, so much so that prosecutors might forget who their real client is.

    As the SCPR sees it, prosecutions are always to be pursued on behalf of "the people" in the pursuit of truth and justice; not as vindication of a police decision to arrest.  In fact, in many jurisdictions the cases are captioned:  "People versus John Doe."

    The SCPR chooses not to think in terms of the Lawver/Martuccio posited implication.

    Rather The Report sees the situation as being a jury of responsible citizens doing their civic duty.

    The Report is told that The Repository does not generally cover misdemeanor cases.

    That it did in the Porterfield situation, from the SCPR's perspective, is important in terms of The Report's thinking that Canton police and law department officials and the Canton safety director (former Canton policeman Tom Ream) of the Healy administration being put on notice that they all need to clean up their processes.

    The Report thinks for Tony Porterfield to have:
    • located into a notoriously crime-infested Canton neighborhood,
    • spent his hard earned dollars rehabbing the property, and
    • working collaboratively with neighbors and the police to clear the community of crime
    and to have gotten kicked in the teeth by Canton police officialdom is an outrage.

    The Porterfield case should give us all pause for thought.

    There but for the grace of God go you and I.

    And Canton officials wonder why people are moving out of Canton in droves?

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