Searching for safety: Armed, uncuffed, and in the back of a squad

Metro Transit Officers Jason Malland and Adam Marvin found "an open bottle of liquor" on 21-year-old Wesley Rogers, but their pat-down failed to reveal the revolver secreted in the waistband of Rogers' pants

Two police officers in Minneapolis are lucky to be alive after an incident in which they allowed an armed man to sit uncuffed in the back of their patrol car.

Metro Transit Officers Jason Malland and Adam Marvin found “an open bottle of liquor” on 21-year-old Wesley Rogers, but their pat-down failed to reveal the revolver secreted in the waistband of his pants. 

Because Rogers was determined to be “obviously drunk,” the two officers decided to take Rogers to his North Minneapolis home as a “courtesy.” 

Video of the incident — which happened in December — was released this week, showing Rogers pulling the gun during transit, and briefly pointing it in the direction of the two officers in the front seat before twice dropping it to the floorboard of the squad. 


Guardian Angels and Teaching Points
Police Chief John Harrington told a local media outlet that his two officers may have had a guardian angel sitting on their shoulder.

Harrington also said that, in his judgment, “this is a training issue...”

Yes, Chief, I agree. 

I try very hard to never use such an obviously-negative video in my news analysis or training tips, but in this case, I’ve got no alternative. The problem is, I don’t really know where to start...

Obviously, this reminds us of the vital importance for thorough searches of subject who are placed into a squad car. 

Chief Harrington pretty much summed it up when he said, “That’s almost the definition of not thorough.”

Remember that interview room video in which the suspect sips a bottle of water, pulls a gun from his waistband, and commits suicide? Or what about the incident in Jonesboro (Ark.), in which 21-year-old Chavis Carter managed to fatally shoot himself in the head while seated in the back of a police car.

This could have been far, far worse than either of those.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: No matter whom you're putting in the back seat of your squad car, no matter what the reason or the destination, your safety requires a thorough search of the subject.

As one Police1 Member commented on our original news article on this incident: “Those officers likely survived the incident because that drunken subject really didn’t mean them any can’t count on that attitude among armed people who are impaired.” 

Okay, there are several other training opportunities in this video that I don’t want to touch here — I bet you can name them all (as well as why I don’t want to call them out). You can (and should) have those discussions in your squad rooms. 

However, one thing in particular merits mention here. Numerous police trainers I know have decried the need to better merge hands-on / personal-body-weapons training with live-fire range training. 

There may be no better argument for that concept than this video.  

Upon exiting the passenger seat, we see an officer who appears to pursue two tactics at the same time. He seems to want to “go hands-on” in the back of a squad while also holding his service pistol in his dominant hand. He moves backward briefly toward what we might call a gunfighting position, then holsters and goes hands-on again.

When I first watched this thing, there was a moment at which I was sure I was going to see that pistol go bang. It’s good to have a Plan A and a Plan B — not so good to pursue both at the same time. 

Here are two more questions to consider. Please ask (and answer) your own questions in the comments area below

•    Do you allow anyone (even a witnesses/victim) to ride in the back seat without being thoroughly searched? 
•    If you’re an FTO, do you have a two-search policy for a suspect taken into custody by your rookie trainee?

Penalty, Punishment, and Penance... 
Neither Malland, who at the time of the incident had been with MTPD just two months, nor Marvin, who had been on with the department for three years, were disciplined for this incident. 

One of the police trainers I spoke with today was flabbergasted that no departmental penalty was meted out. 

Personally, I tend to believe that having to watch themselves during the mandatory two-hour training subsequently ordered by Chief Harrington is punishment enough.  

Or, as another Member said beneath today’s news piece, “These two officers need to go home and apologize to their wives and kids for almost getting themselves killed.”

That seems a perfectly-suitable penance.

I’m really reluctant to second-guess or arm-chair-quarterback officers who do a dangerous and difficult job. And I’m extremely glad these two officers got to go home safe that day in December. 

I’m hopeful that by highlighting this incident here on Police1, we can work to ensure that the officer safety nemesis of complacency is stamped out once and for all. 

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