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A Housekeeping Note

The Twitter feed and Daily Recaps will be on a short break until after Labor Day. We will still be updating any major developments in big cases on the blog and the Worst of August should be posted soon.

In the meantime, please continue to send in tips and cases to our submissions page. Thanks for reading!


NewsFeed Break

Please know there will be a one-day break in the NewsFeed. We will resume tracking and posting Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

As always, we appreciate it when readers use our submissions page to send us stories they find from around the country.

Use-of-Force Briefing at John Jay

I will be speaking Monday at a briefing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on police tactics and the use of force. The event is being held at John Jay College in New York City. The full roster and schedule may be found here.

I am looking forward to the briefing because I am familiar with the work and contributions of many of the other participants and their organizations. The panelists represent a broad range of perspectives on criminal justice. I believe we will provide a thought-provoking discussion on current policies and what changes need to be made to them going forward.

You can stream the event at this link starting just after 9 AM.


“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution?”

Officer safety is important. Public safety is also important. Police should follow the law and respect the rights of citizens as part of their day-to-day jobs to keep both themselves and the public safer.

Over at Law and Order, a magazine for police management, three experienced leaders in law enforcement training and leadership explain the ethical and professional imperative of constitutional policing:

Federal Constitutional law governs a number of the most critical and often high-risk police actions: use of force, seizures of persons, investigative detentions and arrests, searches of persons, vehicle stops and searches, entry into private premises, and the concepts of reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

Violations of the Federal Constitution can cause evidence suppression in major cases, massive civil liability, career devastation, and even criminal prosecution of law enforcement officers. But avoidance of these horrendous negatives is not the best reason for an officer to follow the Constitution. The best reason is a shining positive: keeping faith with the oath of office.

On the day an officer takes that oath, the Constitution becomes more than a legal obligation. It becomes an ethical duty, a matter of promise keeping—keeping the most solemn promise made in a law enforcement career—to support, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.   But however lofty that promise, it is hollow—without a thorough understanding of what the Constitution requires of us.

Our training helps provide that understanding by teaching what we can and cannot lawfully do under the United States Constitution. This knowledge is a powerful tool for achieving investigative goals. It also helps us stay out of trouble. Most importantly, it empowers us to attain the ethical standards that we have so ardently pledged, adding meaning and value to our oath of office—the promise made to a community by those who police it, the promise in exchange for which one is allowed to be a police officer.


Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense. Positive peer pressure must be normative and organizational discipline should enter the picture as necessary.

More demand for accountability and transparency grants us opportunities to build stronger relationships with our communities that enhance officer safety in the most comprehensive sense. This atmosphere expands trust and exposes the true villains in our communities. We are not soldiers fighting a war, but servant leaders striving to find a way to inspire others to be accountable and to participate actively in securing safety and prosperity for all law-abiding community members, including police officers.

You should read the whole thing here.

H/T: Prof. Sean Stoughton

Conservatives and the Police

From National Review Online:

Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond….

But it’s time for conservatives’ unconditional love affair with the police to end….

The new video and photo evidence invites the troubling thought that this kind of behavior has long been routine. Only now is it coming to the attention of people who have led lives insulated from heavy interaction with the police. There is some statistical reason to believe that police today may actually be better-disciplined than they were in the past, and there’s certainly reason to hope that dashboard cams, wearable audio and video devices, and other technologies will lead to better outcomes for law-abiding cops as well as for law-abiding civilians.


Ice Cream Stops in California

Scott Greenfield: “[T]his was a very cute bit of public relations on the part of the Quincy cops and Wall’s Ice Cream.  And it was also very wrong, very unconstitutional, and a very poor idea.  If the police want to hand out ice cream cones, that’s great. Let them have a pushcart and do so honestly. They do not get to use their authority to add hilarity to their show of force, and they should never sell their shield to any business, even one that makes something as happy as ice cream.”   Read his entire post.

From Our Mailbox

From the mailbox:

Twenty-two years ago I was a cop in Loudoun County, Virginia.  I testified that the Commonwealth’s Attorney and a Sheriff’s Office captain had withheld exculpatory evidence that led to the conviction of a man for attempted murder.  An almost twelve year career with a spotless record, commendations, Criminal Investigator of the Year in 1986, all meant nothing.  My reputation, character and integrity was attacked by corrupt officials including the sheriff.  It was a living hell for a year.  Thank God that I had an honest judge who after hearing my testimony believed me over the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Sheriff’s Captain and released the man from jail and ordered a new trial (which he was later found not guilty.)   My point is the system, then and today, does nothing to protect honest cops who speak out against misconduct and corruption.  I lost my career because all I did was tell the truth.  If it was not for the local and national news media my story would have been lost in the pages of another sad statistic of someone who did the right thing and paid for it. 

About ten years ago I was lecturing at a police ethics class on what happened to me.  All the officers agreed that I did the right thing.  What was sad was that most of them told me if they were confronted with the same incident they probably would not have pushed the issue.  That, my friends, is very sad.  When I wore a badge it was a symbol of public trust. I lived by that standard all my professional career and years since.  I still pay the price for doing what is right.

More background here.

Two points worth repeating:

(1) The judge in the case listened to Mr. Poppa, the prosecutor’s denial, and then concluded that Mr. Poppa’s account was credible.

(2) The sheriff said Mr. Poppa’s reassignment and discipline were not related to his testimony.   Hmm.

Worst of the Month – August 2013

For August, it was the home invasion by the Dekalb County officers.

There were probably worse consequences in some of the other August reports, but the DeKalb case didn’t result from a mere momentary lapse in judgment.  It resulted from an environment where an officer can rise to a high rank within a police force and think it acceptable and within his authority to harass and threaten citizens in the middle of the night in their own home, without any resistance.  This case shows officers that are either unfamiliar with, or totally indifferent about, what the Constitution has to say about searches.