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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-08-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, October 8, 2015:

  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 09-14-15): The Civilian Complaint Review Board found that the officer who tackled ex-tennis star James Blake used excessive force.
  • Douglas County, Colorado: A deputy was arrested for domestic violence.
  • Greenville County, South Carolina: A deputy was fired and arrested for punching a handcuffed suspect in the face at a medical facility.
  • Update: Seabrook, New Hampshire (First reported 01-08-14): A now-former officer pled guilty to assault against an inmate in 2009. The video of the incident was released in January 2014 and soon went viral, prompting his termination and criminal charges.
  • Richfield, Minnesota: Two officers were placed on leave after a video showing an officer striking a black teen who was standing in a park made news.
  • Farmington, Maine: An officer faces two civil counts for excessive force for 2011 shooting death of Justin Crowley-Smilek.
  • Update: Boynton Beach, Florida (First reported 10-31-14): An officer was found not guilty of raping a woman at gunpoint on his patrol vehicle.
  • Sonoma County, California: The sheriff’s office is being sued in federal court by 20 jail inmates alleging beatings and abuse.
  • East Cleveland, Ohio: Three officers face charges for ripping off thousands of dollars from drug dealers over a two-year period.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-18-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, September 18, 2015:

  • Chesterton, Indiana: An officer was arrested for pointing his gun at his wife.
  • Polk County, Florida: A deputy was arrested for assaulting her husband. There was an altercation over a gun and it went off. No one was injured by the gunfire.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: An officer was charged with assault for allegedly choking a man in custody who was already in restraints.
  • Blackfoot, Idaho: A school resource officer was arrested for felony drug possession.
  • Toledo, Ohio: A now-former officer was convicted of felony theft for stealing a cell phone from a crime scene.
  • San Jose, California: An officer was suspended and arrested for indecent exposure and committing a lewd act in public. He was allegedly masturbating in his car.
  • Hartford, Connecticut: An officer was fired for code of conduct violations at a casino.
  • Update: Madison, Alabama: A now-former officer will face state charges for assault of an Indian national in February that left the man paralyzed. The federal civil rights trial ended with a hung jury, but the DOJ said they will retry the case.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-03-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, May 3, 2015:

  • New York, New York: An officer was arrested for stealing a credit card from deceased man and buying herself a diamond ring with it.
  • Update: Simpsonville, South Carolina (First reported 02-24-14): A now-former chief and now-former detective had the misconduct charges against them dropped.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The City will settle two lawsuits alleging police brutality for $100,000 (combined). Those settlements put the citywide payout for misconduct over $5,000,000 since 2010.
  • Update: Darien, Georgia (First reported 10-21-14): A now-former officer was indicted for stealing $1,500 worth of drugs from the evidence room.
  • Update: Seabrook, New Hampshire (First reported 04-11-14): A now-former officer’s assault case ends in a mistrial. Video showed the officer slamming the victim into a wall. Three other officers were fired or disciplined for the event. According to the report, the foreman said one juror believed marijuana gave a user super-human strength and therefore he refused to convict the officer because the victim had drugs in his possession.
  • Austin, Texas: An officer was arrested for DWI.
  • Update: Washington County, Arkansas (First reported 05-07-15): A deputy resigned after being targeted in a fraud investigation. After he was charged, he pled not guilty to insurance fraud and assault of his ex-wife.
  • Update: Minneapolis, Minnesota (First reported 02-08-13): A now-former officer who lured young girls for sex was re-sentenced to 102 months in prison. The appellate court ruled that his previous sentence of 30 months was not within the permissible scope of downward departure, the mechanism by which a judge may reduce a sentence below normal range for a given crime.
  • Update: Fresno, California (First reported 07-23-12): A now-former officer pled no contest to a rape charge.

NewsFeed Hold

Please know that our NewsFeed will be on hold for a few days.

We expect to resume reporting on Monday, December 15.

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

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-05-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, September 5, 2012:

  • Youngstown, Ohio: Two deputies have been placed on leave while there is an investigation going on into a deputy that was caught on video beating an inmate. “I was horrified when I seen the film. Somebody’s going to have to pay the consequences of what happened there,” said the Mahoning County Sheriff.
  • Nogales, Arizona: A federal lawsuit has been filed against the police department for allegedly shooting a stun gun at a disabled man in a department store. The man says police used excessive force after he suffered a seizure. The lawsuit claims the man wasn’t fully aware of his surroundings when they used the stun gun. A woman working at the time disagreed with they way officers responded. “They should first investigate what’s wrong with a person because he could’ve died after all shocks they gave him.”
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: An officer was suspended for 30 days for drunk driving and being involved in a crash while he was off-duty.
  • Jackson, Mississippi: A police officer was indicted for allegedly accepting a bribe in exchange for granting a field release for a suspect. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years behind bars.
  • Union City, California: A police officer resigned from the force after being convicted of a misdemeanor count of lewd or dissolute conduct in public, authorities said. He exposed himself to two women in their home, and they filed a complaint, which led to his arrest.
  • Dartmouth, Massachusetts: A detective was arrested for allegedly blackmailing his 37-year-old stepdaughter into having sex with him.
  • Simi Valley, California: An off-duty officer was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after crashing a pickup into a utility pole, house, and retaining wall. The truck came to a stop upside-down on the side of the road.
  • Richland County, North Dakota: A lawsuit was filed against the Sheriff’s office claiming two of its deputies used excessive force on three young men during a traffic stop last year.


False Claims of Police Misconduct and Free Speech

Minnesota has a criminal law that punishes complaints of police misconduct that a person knows to be false.  The constitutionality of that law has been challenged and may now be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s some background.  Melissa Crawley complained that an officer forged her signature on a medical release form at a hospital.  Police looked into the matter and concluded that Crawley fed them false information.  Crawley was charged under the Minnesota law and was later convicted by a jury.

On appeal, Crawley’s lawyers argued that the law was unconstitutional because it criminalizes false speech that is critical of the police but not false speech that favors the police.  The appeals court agreed and reversed Crawley’s conviction.

The case then moved to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which overturned the appeals court.

Justice Stras filed a dissenting opinion.  Here’s an excerpt from his opinion:

The point of the foregoing discussion is not to conclusively resolve the historical debate over the primary motivation animating the ratification of the First Amendment, but rather to highlight the indisputable principle that criticism of the government—and those who run it—is at the core of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has recognized as much: “[c]riticism of government is at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free discussion[, and] [c]riticism of those responsible for government operations must be free, lest criticism of government itself be penalized.” Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75, 85 (1966). Put differently, “[i]t is vital to our form of government that citizens and press alike be free to discuss and, if they see fit, impugn the motives of public officials.” Janklow v. Newsweek, Inc., 788 F.2d 1300, 1305 (8th Cir. 1986); see also Snyder v. Phelps, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 1207, 1215 (2011) (“[S]peech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.” (citation omitted)). The statute at issue here, Minn. Stat. § 609.505, subd. 2, punishes precisely the type of speech that is at the “very center” of the First Amendment: statements critical of government officials—in this case, peace officers. Cf. Gray v. Udevitz, 656 F.2d 588, 591 (10th Cir. 1981) (collecting cases holding that police officers are considered public officials under the First Amendment).
Because subdivision 2 regulates within an area of core First Amendment expression, it risks chilling valuable speech unless it provides sufficient breathing space to prevent self-censorship or suppression. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 342 (1974). That is, in order to prevent the chilling of truthful speech on a matter of public concern—police misconduct—subdivision 2 must contain either “[e]xacting proof requirements,” Madigan, 538 U.S. at 620, such as a heightened mens rea, New York Times Co., 376 U.S. 279-80; a showing of specific harm, S.F. Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. U.S. Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522, 539-41 (1987); or a showing of materiality, United States v. Lepowitch, 318 U.S. 702, 704 (1943); or contain some other “limitations of context” that help to ensure that “the statute does not allow its threat of . . . criminal punishment to roam at large,” Alvarez, 132 S. Ct. at 2555 (Breyer, J., concurring). Given the breadth and practical application of subdivision 2, the statute fails to provide sufficient breathing space for core First Amendment speech.
The key risk posed by subdivision 2—a criminal statute—is that legitimate, truthful criticism of public officials will be suppressed for fear of unwarranted prosecution. “[E]ven minor punishments can chill protected speech.” Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234, 244 (2002); see also Alexander v. United States, 509 U.S. 544, 565 (1993) (Kennedy, J., dissenting) (“There can be little doubt that regulation and punishment of certain classes of unprotected speech have implications for other speech that is close to the proscribed line, speech which is entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.”). Thus, the mere threat of prosecution may cause some would-be government critics to refrain from voicing their legitimate criticism, “because of doubt whether [their statement] can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so.”

That’s the dissent in the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The majority of the court upheld the statute and Crawley’s conviction.  Crawley’s lawyers are expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this dispute.  Stay tuned.

H/T: Constitutional Law Prof Blog

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-04-12 through 08-06-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, August 4, 2012 through Monday, August 6, 2012:
  • Perkasie, Pennsylvania: a Perkasie officer is on leave during an internal investigation for his having allegedly shot an “unarmed young man, in the throes of mental illness” while the suspect was cuffed.
  • Wagner, South Dakota: update: the Wagner, SD police chief charged with misprision of felony last week has been accused of covering for girlfriend’s meth use by storing needles at a department storage unit.
  • Hanover Park, Illinois: four cops have been accused of excessive force in a lawsuit filed in federal court which also claims false arrest and malicious prosecution.
  • Richmond County, GA: a Richmond County deputy has been fired in connection with a tax return scheme. He funneled names, addresses, and Social Security numbers to the group in question.
  • Chicago, Illinois: a former Chicago cop has admitted that he used his badge to steal drugs, guns and money for the Latin Kings. By his own admission, he routinely pulled people over and entered homes using his badge and police-issued equipment: the stops and entrances looked legitimate, but he stole during them, including while on-duty.
  • Edinburg, Texas: a former Hidalgo County deputy has been arrested on felony charges. He’s alleged to have had a romantic relationship with an informant; the sheriff noted that “[he has]” little tolerance when deputies violate policy and no tolerance when they break the law. I hold narcotics officers to a much higher standard because of the trust we place in them.”
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: a police department instructor who specializes in deadly force training noted to an Appeal Board that an officer’s force was not justified. The officer was fired in 2011.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: a Cincinnati officer has been accused of having child porn; he was indicted by a federal grand jury.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: the 16th (and final) Baltimore officer has been sentenced in a towing extortion scheme. He, along with others, got paid for every accident victim he directed to an unauthorized towing company.
  • Tacoma, Washington: the police used a Taser on a deaf crime victim. We posted about this here