Friday, October 29, 2010

When Does Shopping Become "Shoplifting"? Spanish Fork Police Chief Dee Rosenbaum Under Scrutiny Once Again By Unidentified Cop; Provo Police Defend Their Actions

On June 5th, 2010, Spanish Fork Police Chief Dee Rosenbaum was briefly detained and investigated by the Provo Police Department on suspicion of possible shoplifting from a Dillard's store in Provo. He was ultimately cleared because evidence showed he never attempted to leave the store, nor walked past all of the "points of sale", an act that might constitute evidence of intent to shoplift.

Now an unidentified law enforcement officer based in Utah County wants to re-open the case. Both the cop's name and specific agency are omitted to shield the cop from possible official retaliation. The individual essentially believes that Provo Police may have bent over backwards to help clear Rosenbaum. The individual believes there's a mismatch between the video evidence and the official report filed. Specifically, the source questions the seven references in the police report to Rosenbaum's lack of intent to steal, claiming it is uncommon for cops to document a suspect's intent. The source's objective is for the case should be investigated further, either by an outside agency or Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), the agency that certifies law enforcement officers. Gallery of 10 photos available at KSL; KSL news video embedded below:


Video Courtesy of KSL.com

To recap the case: On June 5th, 2010, Dee Rosenbaum entered the store at 12:09 P.M. with two used shopping bags, one of them from Dillard's. Rosenbaum subsequently claimed he brought the bags because Dillard's does not offer shopping carts or baskets; in addition, there's a growing national trend towards shoppers bringing reusable bags to minimize the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. During the ensuing 24 minutes, Rosenbaum places three pairs of pants in one of the bags, but also behaves in a manner attracting the suspicion of loss prevention personnel, glancing around frequently as if to ascertain the location and vigilance of store workers. Loss prevention personnel then confront Rosenbaum and detain him, even though Rosenbaum never at any point showed clear intent to leave the store without paying. Provo Police then responded. The loss prevention personnel have not fully disclosed how exactly Rosenbuam attracted their notice for fear of disclosing trade secrets which could be used against them by criminals.

Capt. Cliff Argyle, a spokseman for the Provo Police Department, defends his agency's handling of the case, saying that the police report and video are cohesive and part of a thorough investigation conducted by the department. He dismissed any allegation of special treatment or any intent to protect Rosenbaum in any way, and says the case remains closed.

So when does shopping become shoplifting in the eyes of the law? We turn to Utah Code Title 76, Chapter 06 to find out. Sections 601 through 608 address Retail Theft. In this case, section 602 is the most applicable section:

76-6-602. Retail theft, acts constituting.
A person commits the offense of retail theft when he knowingly:
(1) Takes possession of, conceals, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or with the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the retail value of such merchandise; or
(2) Alters, transfers, or removes any label, price tag, marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value of any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale, in a retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of such merchandise; or
(3) Transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment from the container in or on which such merchandise is displayed to any other container with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of such merchandise; or
(4) Under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of the merchandise; or
(5) Removes a shopping cart from the premises of a retail mercantile establishment with the intent of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.

Subparagraphs (4) and (5) do not apply here. But subparagraphs (1) through (3) are applicable. And none of the evidence brought forth to date clearly shows beyond reasonable doubt that Dee Rosenbaum intended to commit the crime of retail theft. Consequently, the decision not to prosecute was sound.

Nevertheless, the Provo Police Department's handling of the case should be re-examined to determine whether or not Rosenbaum was treated more solicitously than an ordinary citizen. But such an inquiry should not result in the re-opening of the case against Rosenbaum himself. Besides, Rosenbaum has already been banned from all Dillard's stores for life.

No comments: