Sunday, July 6, 2008

PA game deputies under fire.....

Here in Pennsylvania the Game commission deputies are under fire. Seems they made a powerful enemy.... State Senator Armstrong. Gib Armstrong is a moneyed man from a moneyed family, and doesn't seem above using his office for his own benefit.

In this case, it appears his son (adult businessman) got entangled with a game commission deputy. He pleaded guilty to the charges, he says, to stop the legal harassment that goes with such charges here in PA.

On it's face, it appears 'Ol Gib is taking a shot at the game commission in retaliation for messing with his family. It appears that way... but dig deeper.....

Game deputies have a unique standing here in PA. They are unpaid, except for compensation resulting from fines levied. In other words... they don't make a dime unless they charge someone and fine them. They are empowered to do so by an unusual law that makes the unpaid deputy equal to the sworn game commission officer in authority:

Sec. 304. Deputy Game Commission officers.

(a) Appointment. - The commission may appoint deputy Game Commission officers as necessary. Except as otherwise provided, they shall possess the rights and powers given by law to Game Commission officers and be subject to all requirements and regulations, either of the law or of the commission, controlling the action of Game Commission officers.

(b) Compensation and expenses. - Deputy Game Commission officers shall not be entitled to compensation for either time or expenses incurred in the performance of their duties unless specifically employed for special duties by written order of the director. The commission shall, from time to time, fix the rate of compensation and allowable expenses for special duty services.

(c) Collection of fees. - Any deputy Game Commission officer not specifically employed, in writing, for special duties under subsection (b) shall, with written authorization of the director, be entitled to collect the fees as are now or may hereafter be paid to constables, to be assessed and collected as costs of prosecution for services legally rendered in the performance of any duties in the enforcement of this title.

It gets better... far better. Just take a look at what authority a game commission officer has over us mere mortals, and by extension all the deputies have the same power:

Sec. 901. Powers and duties of enforcement officers.

(a) Powers. - Any officer whose duty it is to enforce this title or any officer investigating any alleged violation of this title shall have the power and duty to:

    (1) Enforce all laws of this Commonwealth relating to game or wildlife and arrest any person who has violated any of the provisions of this title while in pursuit of that person immediately following the violation.

    (2) Go upon any land or water outside of buildings, posted or otherwise, in the performance of the officer's duty.

    (3) Serve subpoenas issued under the provisions of this title.

    (4) Carry firearms or other weapons, concealed or otherwise, in the performance of the officer's duties.

    (5) Purchase and resell game or wildlife, or any part thereof, for the purpose of securing evidence.

    (6) Stop and inspect or search, at any time, any means of transportation within this Commonwealth. Any officer who stops any means of transportation shall be in uniform and present a badge or other means of official identification and state the purpose of the inspection or search.

    (7) Inspect and examine or search, at any time or place, any person or means of transportation or its attachment or occupants, or any clothing worn by any person, or any bag, clothing or container when the officer presents official identification and states the purpose of the inspection or search.

    (8) Inspect and examine or search, at any time, any camp, tent, cabin, trailer or any means of transportation or its attachment being used when the officer presents official identification to the person in charge and states the purpose of the inspection or search.

    (9) Secure and execute all warrants and search warrants for violations of this title or, with proper consent, to search or enter any building, dwelling, house, tavern, hotel, boardinghouse, enclosure, vehicle or craft or any attachments thereto, to open, by whatever means necessary, any door, compartment, chest, locker, box, trunk, bag, basket, package or container and to examine the contents thereof and seize any evidence or contraband found therein.

    (10) When making an arrest or an investigation or when found in the execution of a search warrant, seize and take possession of all game or wildlife or parts of game or wildlife which have been taken, caught, killed, had or held in possession, and seize all firearms, shooting or hunting paraphernalia, vehicles, boats, conveyances, traps, dogs, decoys, automotive equipment, records, papers, permits, licenses and all contraband or any unlawful device, implement or other appliance used in violation of any of the laws relating to game or wildlife.

    (11) Administer any oaths required by the provisions of this title or relative to any violation of any law relating to game or wildlife and, where game or wildlife is found in a camp or in possession or under control of any individual or hunting party, question the person or persons, under oath, relative to the taking, ownership or possession of the game or wildlife.

    (12) Operate or move any vehicle, permanently or temporarily equipped with a type of flashing or rotating red light or lights or audible device or both, approved by the commission, upon any street or highway within this Commonwealth when performing duties within the scope of employment.

    (12.1) Operate any vehicle owned or leased by the Commonwealth and used for law enforcement purposes, equipped with flashing or rotating lights of such color and combination and audible devices as authorized in the definition of "Emergency vehicle" in 75 Pa. C.S. §102 (relating to definitions) and approved by the Commission upon any street or highway within this Commonwealth when performing duties within the scope of employment. Drivers of Commonwealth-owned or Commonwealth-leased vehicles equipped with lights and audible devices as authorized in this subchapter may exercise the privileges and shall be subject to the conditions as set forth in 75 Pa. C.S. §3105 (relating to drivers of emergency vehicles).

    (13) Demand and secure assistance when the officer deems it necessary.

    (14) Demand and secure identification from any person.

    (15) Enforce all the laws of this Commonwealth and regulations promulgated thereunder relating to fish, boats, parks and forestry and other environmental matters, under the direction of those agencies charged with the administration of these laws.

    (16) Require the holder of any license or permit required by this title or by commission regulation to sign the holder's name on a separate piece of paper in the presence of the requesting officer.

    (17) When acting within the scope of the officer's employment, pursue, apprehend or arrest any individual suspected of violating any provision of 18 Pa.C.S. (relating to crimes and offenses) or any other offense classified as a misdemeanor or felony. The officer shall also have the power to serve and execute warrants issued by the proper authorities for offenses referred to in this paragraph and to serve subpoenas issued for examination. All powers as provided for in this paragraph will be limited by such administrative procedure as the director, with the approval of the commission, shall prescribe. The regulations shall be promulgated within 90 days of the effective date of this paragraph.

    (18) When acting within the scope of the officer's employment and under the procedures outlined by the Executive Director, to use a facsimile in the enforcement of the provisions of this title and the regulations promulgated hereunder.

Lets just wrap this up, shall we?

Unpaid volunteer 'deputies' can come on any land, search any person, search any vehicle, search any locked compartment, without a warrant, at any time of the day or night, for any reason. They carry weapons and are afforded the protection of the same laws regarding sworn officers. The only compensation they receive is from levying fines. They have the power to confiscate privately owned weapons, vehicles, and personal property they deem has been used in any 'game laws' related crime.

One more thing...... If you are a retired game officer, park ranger, or just any old officer from anyplace, you get the same authority:

Retired wildlife conservation officers, retired waterways conservation officers, state park rangers, state forest rangers or current or retired state or municipal police officers shall exercise all powers and duties conferred on deputy game commission officers, including the right to issue citations, and field acknowledgments of guilt for violations.

I think I better understand Gib Armstrong's ire in this case.
Reading these laws and regulations...... I am truly uncomfortable with the way this is set up. The authority granted the deputies, and the officers for that matter, is deeply unsettling.


1 comment:

Chris in SE TX said...

I may be sadly mistaken, but isn't there little ol' somethin' called THE CONSTITUTION?????

I distinctly remember something about search and seasures!

How, in God's name, can this be legal?