Patrol Commander USFS
R5, Angeles NF
444 East Bonita Ave.
San Dimas CA 91773
Dear Ms. Wears, April 9, 2015
Two weeks ago we offered four (4) witnesses to you by phone to provide testimony on interactions they had with your LEO’s in SNF. Throughout our conversations, you were provided information concerning no less than a dozen individuals who had similar incidents involving your LEO’s ignoring the 4th Amendment to the Constitution to the United States and violating their own code of conduct requiring probable cause prior to searches. Some of these incidents involved mining, 90% did not.
In your email response, you state “It is common for Forest Service personnel to make contact with persons involved in mining activities that could possibly create a significant disturbance. Often this activity is of a nature which results in a notice of intent or operating plan to be required. Requesting identification is appropriate when determining compliance”. In USA v Tierney, the federal district court clearly established a significant disturbance cannot be created by hand tools. Since the mining activities observed by your LEOs involved hand tools a Plan of Operation is not required. Using a small scoop not much bigger than a cooking spoon most certainly does not justify an investigation of a “significant disturbance” by your LEO’s. Pulling a Taser and pointing it directly at the face of someone using a cooking spoon to scoop dirt and requiring ID to be produced is equally unjustified. Your raising the issue of a significant disturbance for the first time, in your letter, makes it abundantly clear you are using this as an excuse to attempt to justify your agents’ the initial contact. Secondly, according to the USFS’ guidelines concerning the requirement for a Plan of Operation, it is the District Ranger’s responsibility to determine whether or not a significant disturbance is created and requiring a Plan of Operation, not your agents.
How are the USFS’ LEO’s trained to recognize what a significant disturbance? Do they know the requirements for a Plan of Operations? Do your agents know mining techniques and methods? Do they know what causes a significant disturbance as defined in USA vs Tierney? Since you state “it is common to make contact with persons involved in mining activities that could possibly create a significant disturbance”, just how common are these contacts? We know from our members and the public that these contacts are not common, and through a FOIA request we can prove it.
You fail to mention the other incidents we identified, and only refer to the one involving small mining. You completely ignored the illegal searches of citizens. This was after our telephone conversation that took well over an hour to discuss these searches in detail.
You made another statement in your email: “I do take this matter very seriously”. Quite obviously you do not take this seriously Ms. Wears. It brings another question to mind, what is your training for conducting investigations? Perhaps that too can be answered by a FOIA request. It is quite clear Ms. Wears that you do not take these matters very seriously, if you did, you would address the numerous incidents when your LEO’s blocked driving on public roads. Particularly, when the LEO’s blocked the road and without probable cause, demanded ID and without consent illegally searched vehicles. You have our word that this dangerous and egregious behavior will not be allowed to be swept under the table. The public demands better, they deserve better and from a public agency, paid for by public tax dollars. They are entitled to a complete and thorough investigation of the incidents. Accountability isn’t just an idea, it is a requirement. The glaring fact that all of these other incidents were ignored in your investigation involving citizens who had their civil rights violated, were humiliated, embarrassed, harassed and suffered from the actions of your own LEO’s violating numerous laws and codes, is astounding and unacceptable.
I would again like to remind you of the Bivens case. Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that an implied cause of action existed for an individual whose 4th Amendment freedom from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated by federal agents. The victim of such a deprivation could sue for the violation of the Amendment, despite the lack of any federal statute authorizing such a suit. The existence of a remedy for the violation was implied from the importance of the right violated. Bivens has been subsequently interpreted to create a cause of action against the federal government similar to the one 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates against the states. In Bivens, agents, like your LEO’s who violate the 4th Amendment rights against of an individual can be sued. We will be evaluating this avenue as well as your failure to investigate and your disregard for the rights of citizens being violated by your agents.
In closing Ms. Wears, we are appalled at your dismissive investigation and your lack of concern for egregious and dangerous behavior by your employees. Your lack of attention to this, the disregard for deadlines, dates and commitments proves that you do not believe you are answerable to those who pay your salary and provide you with a job, you fail to recall that you work for the people, not the other way around. AMRA has followed the procedures to bring these issues and violations to the attention of the USFS. We’ve tried to speak with Ms. Rieck, we have held face to face meetings with the SNF Supervisor Higgins, and we’ve made witnesses available to you and have provided their testimony. We’ve gone down every road we could to resolve this, but the road is like so many USFS managed roads, it has a gate barring it and you will not allow public access.
I can assure you of one thing Ms. Wears, we will spend our every waking moment on this issue, it is that serious and it is long past time the whole country knows of these reprehensible acts by you and your agents.
Mr. Shannon Poe
President, American Mining Rights Association, AMRA
PMB #607, 6386 Greeley Hill Rd.
Coulterville CA 95311