CPD faces allegations of illegally recording attorney-client calls
Attorney Stephen Wyse: “The police are servants of the law and not above the law.”
Jan. 28, 2017
A dual criminal and internal affairs complaint was filed against the Columbia Police Department earlier this week for allegedly breaking federal laws that protect attorney-client communication.
Attorney Stephen Wyse filed the complaint Jan. 23 after reading a Columbia Daily Tribune article about a drunk driving case in which attorney-client privilege was violated.
On Oct. 25, 2014, Shayne Healea, prosecuting attorney for Moniteau County, was arrested on allegations of drunkenly driving his truck into the window of Addison’s, a downtown Columbia restaurant, according to court documents obtained by the Columbia Missourian. When he first requested to speak to his attorney, the arresting officer did not want to allow Healea privacy, so Healea chose not to call his attorney at that time. Healea was later granted permission to speak to his attorney, Shane Farrow, over the phone in private.
According to the complaint Wyse filed, “unbeknownst to Mr. Healea the arresting officer utilized electronic recording equipment to covertly observe and record this 15 to 20 minute attorney/client communication.”
“I was outraged when news reports from the Columbia Tribune and Columbia Missourian revealed that Columbia police officer(s) had committed a felony wiretap and I was concerned that my client(s) rights might also have been violated by similar criminal actions committed by the police,” Wyse wrote in a blog post.
Wyse filed two complaints against the department, both of which will be reviewed by Internal Affairs Officer Sgt. Brian Tate. In an email, Tate said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a case about a Columbia police officer. However, he did explain the process for handling complaints.
“Depending on the type of allegation(s), either the officer's supervisor, myself, or my investigator would investigate the matter,” Tate said in the email. “The investigation would proceed like any other investigation, interviews, collecting evidence, watch video, etc. Once the investigation is complete it would go to the employee's entire Chain of Command for review, findings, and discipline recommendations, with the chief having final say on each.”
Federal law makes it illegal to intentionally intercept, disclose or use any wire, oral or electronic communication through the use of a “device.” Law enforcement officers may only wiretap a conversation in which one of the parties involved in the conversation has consented to the recording.
In the blog post, Wyse explained why wiretapping is a violation of a person’s First Amendment right to privacy.
“This crime places the government in an unfair position by knowing a citizen’s secrets,” Wyse wrote. “When Columbia Police commit felony wiretap to secretly give the government inside information about the citizen’s involvement in the case under investigation and any non-case related concerns of the citizen (ie, family, financial, publicity concerns) it empowers the government to coerce results not supported by the law and facts.”
According to a Jan. 27 email from Wyse, Wyse called Boone County Prosecutor Daniel Knight multiple times in October to urge him to appoint a special prosecutor to determine if the use of wiretapping by CPD is a single incident or a repeated pattern.
“The public should call upon Prosecutor Knight to take the necessary steps to appoint a Special Prosecutor to review this incident and determine if this violation of Missouri’s Wiretap Law was an isolated instance and which Columbia Police Officer should be charged with a felony,” Wyse wrote. “The police are servants of the law and not above the law.”
Wyse was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Edited by Madi McVan | firstname.lastname@example.org