National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month — March 2014

So for March it was the case of the soon-to-be-former Philadelphia police officer, Kevin Corcoran.  Mr.  Corcoran was driving the wrong way down a one-way street near a group of individuals when one of them pointed out that the officer had made an illegal turn. The officer got out and aggressively approached the individuals, who readied their cell phone cameras to capture the incident.  The footage (warning: graphic language) shows Corcoran accosting one of the persons filming, an Iraq war veteran, and shouting “Don’t fucking touch me!” before slapping the vet’s phone out of his hand, throwing him up against his police vehicle, arresting him, and driving off.   Another of the cameras showed the vet with his hands up in a defensive posture, retreating from the officer.  When the vet asked why he had been arrested, Corcoran said it was for public intoxication.  Corcoran later cooled off and, after finding out the individual was a veteran, let him off without charges. 

Corcoran has a history of alleged misconduct, including allegations in 2008 that he entered a home without a warrant (and then administered a beating), allegations in 2009 that he falsely accused a man of assault and possession of a controlled substance (after administering a beating), and other similar situations.  In each case, the defendants ended up being acquitted of the charges.

Civil suits over Corcoran’s abuse of authority have been settled out of court in the past, but thanks to the quick cameras of the individuals he encountered here, Corcoran faces charges of false imprisonment, obstructing the administration of law, and official oppression—along with a suspension with intent to dismiss.  This incident shows the importance of the right to film police behavior.

Worst of the Month — January 2014

The worst police misconduct incident for January was the case of a Boiling Springs Lake, NC officer who callously shot a 90-pound, mentally-ill teenager while two other officers held the teen down. Keith Vidal’s parents called the police because their son was having a schizophrenic episode and they needed assistance subduing him. Keith had a small screwdriver in his hand when the first police unit arrived. The officers tased Keith and were holding him down when an officer from the second unit, which had arrived about a minute later, shot between the two officers holding Keith down, saying, “We don’t have time for this.” The officer claimed he was defending the life of one of the officers holding Keith down because Keith still had the tiny screwdriver in his hand. The family had recently lost a daughter in a car accident, and not had to watch their son die in front of them, shot heartlessly by one of the very people they had called for help.

Worst of the Month — December 2013

The worst misconduct incident for December was the case of Eric Crinnian, a Kansas City man who was threatened by police for refusing them warrantless entry into his home.  When Crinnian, a lawyer, refused to let officers search his home in the middle of the night without a warrant, he says an officer told him, “If we have to get a warrant, we’re going to come back when you’re not expecting it, we’re going to park in front of your house, where all your neighbors can see, we’re gonna bust in your door with a battering ram, we’re gonna shoot and kill your dogs, who are my family, and then we’re going to ransack your house looking for these people.”

That kind of conduct shows a clear contempt for the Constitution, which is supposed to be the law of the land.

Worst of the Month — November 2013

For November, it had to be the repeated, forced, anal rape-search of young men—in two separate occurrences—in New Mexico.  The first victim, David Eckert, was pulled over and detained for not making a complete stop at a stop sign.  After a judge gave the arresting officers a warrant for a body cavity search because the officers said the victim appeared to be “clenching his buttocks,” the officers took him to a local hospital.  After a doctor at the first hospital denied the agents’ demands, they took Eckert to another hospital, where the officers demanded he be subject to forced, repeated anal penetration.

First, the doctors took an x-ray of Eckert’s abdomen, which showed no hidden narcotics.  Next, the doctors forcibly probed Eckert’s anus with their fingers, which uncovered no hidden narcotics.  Undeterred, the doctors penetrated Eckert once again to insert an enema and force Eckert to defecate in front of the officers: no drugs.  Eckert was given two additional enemas and forced to defecate so the officers could watch a few more times.  No drugs were found. Another x-ray was taken: no drugs.  To cap off Eckert’s torture-rape-search, the officers had the doctors sedate Eckert and give him a colonoscopy, penetrating his anus, colon, rectum, and large intestines.  No drugs found.  All of this was done against Eckert’s protest, in a county not covered by the search warrant, with part of the search done after the warrant had expired.

Timothy Young was brutalized in the same manner after failing to put his blinker on before a turn.  He was taken to the same hospital and subjected to similar searching methods against his protests.  In both cases, the police officers used the same uncertified K-9 to get a positive alert for marijuana to justify the warrants.

This website often reports instances of police rape and sexual misconduct, but in these cases, the offending officers typically do not contend that they have the right to abuse their victims’ bodies and are typically punished for their crime, even if often more lightly than others would be punished.  Cases like this are entirely different.  These cases show that officers can drum up warrants—for a dog’s bark and a perceived “clench”—to repeatedly and forcefully penetrate the depths of the human body for hours on end, and still think they have the power and lawful authority to repeat the process.  Even worse, the futile, repeated nature of the searches seriously calls into doubt whether the officers were actually searching for drugs or just torturing the victims under the banner of law enforcement.

Trouble with Maryland Correctional Officers

From the Washington Post:

Fourteen current or former Maryland corrections officers were arrested Thursday, accused of aiding members of a violent prison gang, the latest development in a sweeping corruption investigation at two state-run detention facilities.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday charges the prison guards with racketeering and drug- and money-laundering conspiracies. Officers allegedly smuggled cellphones inside of sub sandwiches and Percocet pills in their underwear. One estimated making as much as $15,000 in one week….A former corrections officer authorities interviewed in July estimated that 75 percent of the guards at the detention center engage in smuggling….In court papers, federal officials renewed their criticism of the state’s disciplinary process for corrections officers. The system was overhauled three years ago, with O’Malley’s backing, giving officers the right to appeal certain punishments to a board of their peers….

It is “well-known to [corrections officers] that it is very unlikely that they will be fired or severely disciplined for smuggling contraband or fraternizing with inmates,” according to the affidavit. The system set up by the so-called Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights is “ineffective as a deterrent to [corrections officers] smuggling contraband or getting sexually involved with BGF gang members.”

Friendly reminder to readers: The focus of this web site is on sworn police officers and prison guards are usually not sworn officers.  However, from time to time, we will highlight other matters pertaining to the American criminal justice system and this story falls into that category.  Sometimes readers send us misconduct stories about judges, prosecutors, prison guards, security guards, but they fall outside the purview of this project.

 

Worst of the Month — October 2013

So for October it was Atlantic City Police Officer Sterling Wheaton.  Recall that David Castellani had exchanged words with police outside a casino.  Those officers took Castellani to the ground.  Officer Wheaton then arrives on the scene and he immediately releases his dog to attack Castellani, who is still on the ground.  The dog proceeds to bite Castellani’s head and neck.

The runner up goes to the Houston police officer who raped a handcuffed woman in the backseat of his patrol car.  Responding to a fender bender, officer Adan Carranza handcuffed and arrested the victim and then waited for the other drivers involved in the accident to leave.  The victim said Carranza, wearing his gun and badge, then raped her in the back of the patrol car before driving her to jail for a reckless driving charge.  DNA evidence from the victim and back seat confirm the allegations, and Carranza has pled guilty—but only to attempted sexual assault.  Carranza’s lawyer is hopeful his client will be paroled after only two or three years of his ten year sentence, of which he could serve as little as six months if a judge agrees to “shock probation”.  One has to wonder how many rapists get that kind of deal.

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.

Worst of the Month — July 2013

For July it was the Anthony Mitchell Case:

LAS VEGAS (CN) – Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.
Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court.
Henderson, pop. 257,000, is a suburb of Las Vegas.
The Mitchell family’s claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States. The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.
“On the morning of July 10th, 2011, officers from the Henderson Police Department responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s residence,” the Mitchells say in the complaint.
It continues: “At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a ‘tactical advantage’ against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call.
Mitchell claims that defendant officers, including Cawthorn and Worley and Sgt. Michael Waller then “conspired among themselves to force Anthony Mitchell out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use.” (Waller is identified as a defendant in the body of the complaint, but not in the heading of it.)

More here.  Like the ‘Worst of June’ incident, another case of the police abusing citizens for exercising their rights–a particularly egregious aspect of police misconduct, since they are supposed to be defending our rights.