The decisions officers make from day to day are often called into question by a public whose understanding of policing is often distorted by Hollywood myth.
The latest case of this occurred on January 23, 2018, when officers of the East Haven Police Department in Connecticut were investigating an occurrence of domestic violence. A woman had been seriously beaten by her 32-year-old son.
Officers received a tip the son was hiding in the Old Stone Church in town. Church employees allowed the officers inside to search for the suspect. The man, Ryan Champlin, was in the church and was arrested for domestic violence.
Everything was going well until Rev. Care Goodstal-Spinks blocked the officers’ vehicles from leaving. She confronted an officer and sergeant who attempted to explain the circumstances, including that Champlin had committed a violent assault.
Goodstal-Spinks was convinced the officers could not enter the church due to the sanctuary status of the church protected by state and federal law. She demanded that Champlin be released to her. The problem is, no such laws have existed since the 1600s.
The sergeant called for a lieutenant, who attempted to reason with the irate pastor. After about 10 minutes, the officers left with their prisoner and a still-irate Goodstal-Spinks.
Practicing the patience of Job, the East Haven lieutenant spent nearly 10 minutes trying to explain the circumstances with no success. Eventually, the officers left. Unwilling to let the incident go, Goodstal-Spinks notified the media of the great injustice she believed had been committed.
After local media responded, the department decided to release the redacted video on its Facebook page to offset the public’s concerns.
In reaction to the video and the public uproar it has created, Goodstall-Spinks resigned. The Old Stone Church leadership announced her resignation on its Facebook page, stating, “The behavior and language on video by the Intentional Interim Pastor, do not necessarily express the opinions of the wider congregation. We have accepted a letter of resignation from the interim pastor -effective immediately.”
This is just another lesson that just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.