National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Refresher on Stop & Frisk

The Michael Brown shooting has brought attention to certain police policies and how those policies scramble the opinions of liberals and conservatives.  Thus far, most of the attention has been on the militarization of police.  In this post, I want to briefly focus on another police tactic, “stop & frisk,”  and explain why this likely plays a part in the community unrest following the death of Michael Brown.

In 1968, the Supreme Court decided a case called Terry v. Ohio.  In that case, the Court approved the “stop & frisk” tactic.   Here is an excerpt from the Court’s opinion:

We … hold today that, where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where, in the course of investigating this behavior, he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others’ safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him. (emphasis added).

Several things must be noted.  First, that is a rather sanitized description of what can happen out on the street (more on that below).

Second, in the 1990s, at the suggestion of conservative intellectual, James Q. Wilson, police officials like William Bratton tasked police units to go out and pro-actively stop & frisk city residents.  (Wilson is well known for his “broken windows” work, but his misguided promotion of stop & frisk is another reminder that ideas have consequences).  The number of stops–especially in New York City–started climbing.  The liberal Michael Bloomberg also championed the tactic when he became NYC Mayor after Rudy Giuliani.

Third, what happens if the police act unreasonably and use this tactic arbitrarily against people?  Persons holding contraband get busted, but what if there are tens of thousands of stops where the police officer’s actions were unreasonable against totally innocent persons?  Absent physical injury, who would take a day off of work to see an attorney about that?  And how many attorneys would take a case where there was an illegal 20 minute detention, illegal search of the person, and no injury?  No one.  For young, black men there has been no effective redress.  Anger and tensions simmer.  And when a young black man gets killed (recall Amadou Diallo ; and the shooting of Patrick Dorismond is also worth noting) the anger boils over into the protests and unrest we have seen in Ferguson.

The white experience with police is different because the police do not typically use the stop & frisk tactic in white communities.   Here is an example of what the complaints are about:

Short version reporting on the video that went viral:

Longer version (recommended):

Because these officers were “caught on tape,” the Philly Police Department was embarrassed and so took disciplinary action.  How many bad encounters are not captured on tape?  99%?

Back to the Michael Brown shooting.  We have been told that Officer Darren Wilson rolled up on Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson and told them to move to the sidewalk.  According to Johnson, Wilson started the interaction by cursing at them.  Did Wilson lose his temper after some back talk?  Or because he was dissatisfied with the speed with which the young men were complying with his command?  Did Wilson escalate the situation by grabbing Brown’s throat, as Johnson has said?  Did Brown passively resist by backing away so he could breath? (Recall poor Eric Garner  who lost his life waiting for the police to release their grasp!).    At some point, Wilson drew his weapon and shot Brown.  Several times.

Maybe Wilson was behaving like the abusive Philp Nace in the above video.  Maybe his conduct did not come close to that.  But these are some of the questions on the minds of minorities (and others) as the investigation continues.

More background on stop and frisk here and here.

 

 

 

 

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-14-14

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, August 14, 2014:

  • Detroit, Michigan: Six members of the police narcotics unit that raided a suspected drug house have been suspended after a surveillance video captured them taking away a box they never logged as evidence. ow.ly/AhgPO
  • Denver, Colorado: A police officer convicted of DUI will spend 10 days in jail. He also was given two years of probation. The officer tried to get out of it, by telling the arresting deputy, “Bro, I’m a cop.” ow.ly/AhHNy
  • Syracuse, New York: A 20-year-old man and his family say police beat him and used racial slurs when they arrested him after a party. Police say they are reviewing the complain. ow.ly/AhjLz
  • Alton, Illinois: The police department improperly destroyed evidence from 130 pending criminal cases, according to the Madison County State’s Attorney. ow.ly/Aifau
  • Titusville, Pennsylvania: State police have filed criminal charges against a police officer accused of touching a woman inappropriately at a business. He has resigned. ow.ly/Aie94
  • Hillsdale, Missouri: A lieutenant and officer pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute and attempted distribution of heroin. ow.ly/AicBb
  • Update: Sulphur, Louisiana (Previously reported 06-06-14): The now-former police officer accused of fatally shooting a dog pled not guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals. ow.ly/AibTL

Cato Work on the Militarization of Police

New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo:

[T]he criticism of the so-called militarization of police has largely come from libertarian quarters for several years. They have kind of been the lone voice on this, folks like the Cato institute.

Yes, even before 9/11, we were trying to draw attention to the trend in American policing: Warrior Cops.  Since then, Radley Balko has written extensively on the problem.  First, with the Cato report, Overkill.  Next, more in-depth, with his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.

Perhaps in time more attention will come to the work we’re doing here on police misconduct.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-13-14

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, August 13, 2014:

  • New York, New York: The city has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a 27-year-old who died after a collision with a cop car. http://ow.ly/AhkHq
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: An off-duty officer was arrested on drunk driving charges. http://ow.ly/AhmDt
  • Madison, Wisconsin: A man who alleges police used excessive force against him and violated his constitutional rights has filed a lawsuit against the police chief and three police officers. http://ow.ly/Ahxnv
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: A highway patrol trooper is facing serious charges after allegedly sexually abusing a woman while on duty. ow.ly/AigZA
  • Los Angeles, California: A 24-year-old was shot and killed by police. His mother said her son was complying with officers’ orders, and that the shooting was unjustified. Her son, she said, was lying on the ground when he was shot in the back. He later died at an area hospital. The LAPD’s Force Investigation Division is looking into the shooting. ow.ly/AilMX
  • Kansas City, Missouri: A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the widow and parents of a man shot to death in a struggle with an off-duty police officer. ow.ly/Aheow
  • Columbus, Georgia: A now-former police officer was arrested and charged with two felony counts of violation of oath of office and two misdemeanor counts of simple battery as part of a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into his on-duty conduct. ow.ly/Ahd7l
  • Hebron, Illinois: A former police sergeant denied allegations that he stole weapons from the police department. He was arrested on seven felonies and entered a not guilty plea to all charges. ow.ly/AhcAL
  • Appleton, Wisconsin: A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the city of and two police officers, alleging excessive use of force. ow.ly/AhbO8
  • Middlesex County, New Jersey: A woman who was attacked and wrongly arrested by a sheriff’s officer two years ago has settled her federal civil rights lawsuit against the county and the now-former cop. She agreed to the $90,000 settlement. ow.ly/Ahbof
  • Willoughby, Ohio: An officer was suspended for three days after letting an officer off the hook for drinking and driving. The drunken driving officer was later stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and arrested for OVI after his blood alcohol level was nearly two times the legal limit of .08. ow.ly/Aha9t

Now Reporters Falsely Arrested

From the Washington Post:

Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.

“My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”

That was when I was most afraid — more afraid than of the tear gas and rubber bullets.

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.

 

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-09-14 to 08-12-14

Here are the 26 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, August 9, to Tuesday, August 12, 2014:

  • North Port, Florida: A police officer who kissed a 16-year-old girl faces unpaid suspension and probation for the act but will not be criminally charged. The teen and her father reported to the department that she was kissed by the officer against her will. http://ow.ly/AdaHr
  • Montgomery County, Maryland: A police officer has been indicted for one count of perjury. He testified in a drug paraphernalia trial and a complaint was raised regarding the accuracy of his testimony, police said. http://ow.ly/Adbe2
  • Jemez Springs, New Mexico: The now-former police chief, already fired by the town for “questions of judgment,” has been indicted on criminal sexual penetration and other charges that occurred while he was the chief. http://ow.ly/AdbDZ
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: A man has claimed he was illegally searched when he was arrested during a traffic stop. He says he had not committed any violation when he was stopped. The jury found that the stop and frisk, and the false arrest claims, brought by the lawsuit were unlawful. They ruled that officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk him, and no probable cause to arrest him. http://ow.ly/Ade3f
  • Update: Hartford, Connecticut (First reported 08-06-14): The police officer accused of shoplifting meat and electronics from a Walmart was arrested again. Police said this second arrest comes “from alleged actions taken prior to the allegations that led to his first arrest.” Both arrests remain under investigation. http://ow.ly/Ader3
  • Pike County, Ohio: Two now-resigned sheriff’s deputies say they were defending themselves against a violent, out of control teenager. But the boy’s family says the deputies were drunk and they were the ones who attacked him. An independent investigation found all three of them could have faced criminal charges. ow.ly/Ada1P
  • St. Louis County, Missouri: A police officer is being investigated for the possible use of excessive force on a woman. The incident in question was captured on camera. ow.ly/Ad6Mt
  • Portland, Oregon: An off-duty police officer was arrested after police say he was drunk and crashed his car. ow.ly/Acy8d
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut: A police officer has been charged with violating a man’s civil rights by using unreasonable force during an arrest captured on video, prosecutors said. ow.ly/AcxCN
  • Update: Fulton County, Georgia (First reported 05-07-14): A now-former deputy sheriff has been sentenced to a year and three months in prison for demanding bribe payments from people he scheduled to work as public swimming pool security guards. ow.ly/AcwXN
  • Long Beach, California: The family of a man shot to death by police is filing suit against the city. The claim alleges officers “unjustly used excessive force” against the man, who posed “no imminent threat of death or serious physical injury” to officers or others. The family also claims he was unarmed and that his hands were visible to officers when he was shot. ow.ly/Acvin
  • Anaheim, California: A man and a woman who took part in protests filed a federal lawsuit accusing the police department of using excessive force and falsely arresting them. City officials have not yet responded to the suit’s claims. ow.ly/Aci5f
  • Ferguson, Missouri: Tensions are high and a large police presence is on hand after a teenager was shot to death by a police officer. Witnesses say the 18 year-old was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was shot multiple times by a police officer. ow.ly/Ac3za
  • Buffalo, New York: A four-year veteran of the department admitted to running a marijuana-growing operation while he was a police officer. He made the admission as part of a plea deal that is likely to send him to federal prison for at least five years. ow.ly/Adp7h
  • Update: Atlanta Georgia (First reported 04-25-14): Ten former law enforcement officers from five agencies, in addition to two civilians, have been sentenced to from one to nine years in federal prison for selling their badges to protect drug dealers. ow.ly/Adp05
  • West Yellowstone, Montana: The town council fired its police chief after a state investigation found he selectively enforced the law, violated court orders and in some cases either did not know or chose not to follow the law. ow.ly/AdozY
  • Napa, California: A woman and her daughter are suing the police department, saying two officers allegedly used excessive force when they came to conduct an erroneous probation search at the mother’s house. The city is fighting back, though: “City defendants admit that following the arrest, they received information that sheriff’s personnel had provided inaccurate information, and that [the woman] was no longer on probation,” according to the document. ow.ly/AdnAO
  • Update: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (First reported 08-01-14): Three police officers charged with conspiring to rob drug dealers of more than $500,000 in cash and cocaine were granted house arrest, although two others were denied bail. ow.ly/Adn9m
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: A police officer began serving his four year prison term for falsely jailing a juvenile. He was convicted of intimidation and two counts of abduction for jailing a teen he knew committed no crime. ow.ly/AdmSM
  • Update: Richland County, South Carolina (First reported 07-29-14): The sheriff apologized for the actions of a deputy after the officer ran a red light, causing a crash that injured a civilian driver. He fired the deputy. ow.ly/AdlQZ
  • New York, New York: A now-former sergeant was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for duping people into investing $4.8 million in a dicey real estate deal in the Dominican Republic and then misusing the funds. He touted his position in the police department as proof that he was trustworthy. ow.ly/AdkJL
  • Update: Savannah-Chatham, Georgia (First reported 06-06-14): A now-former police chief pled not guilty in federal court to a new indictment adding a false statement charge to his gambling-extortion case. ow.ly/AdkjV
  • Update: Glouster, Ohio (First reported 07-07-14): The now-former police chief pled guilty to six second-degree misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty. The judge accepted the plea agreement, sentencing him to two years probation with an underlying 100-day incarceration suspended jail time. He also had to give up his Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certificate and will no longer be able to work as a police officer in Ohio. ow.ly/AdiUd
  • St. Petersburg, Florida: A police officer was fired after a review board said he used excessive force during a DUI arrest. ow.ly/Adibx
  • Montrose, Pennsylvania: A police officer has been accused of stealing thousands in cash from a woman’s wallet. She has been placed on administrative leave. ow.ly/Adh7g
  • Update: Mesa, Arizona (First reported 08-07-14): A police officer was fired from the force following allegations of sexual misconduct while on duty. He had been on paid leave for about a year. ow.ly/Adfij

The Michael Brown Case

The Michael Brown case is now all over the news.  The Washington Post has a front page headline, “FBI Will Investigate Shooting in Mo.”  It also has a helpful article, “What do we know about the shooting of Michael Brown, and of Brown himself.”  According to the reports, Brown had no history of trouble with the law.  He was supposed to start college this week.

Police have not disclosed the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown.   One can imagine the rationale for that.  There have been emotional protests and some violence by crowds.   Concerns for the officer’s safety, and perhaps for family members, could be the primary rationale.   That might justify a slight delay in releasing the name, perhaps to give a  family (if there is one) a chance to make some temporary arrangements, or for the department to arrange a security plan on the chance that protesters will go to the neighborhood.  However, it has now been several days and it is now necessary and appropriate for the officer to be identified.

The authorities keep saying that their investigation will be thorough.  Good.  That’s what we want to hear.  But deeds are more important than words.   At this point, it is important to know whether the officer has been the subject of police brutality lawsuits, and what were the outcomes of those cases.  On the other hand, maybe this officer has an unblemished record.  That would be good to know as well.

Michael Brown lost his life on Saturday.   We need to find out what happened and why.   Cases like this have 2 parts–the initial incident and then the response.   As bad as the initial incidents are; an inadequate response can be even more disturbing because it can be an indication of deeper problems within the police institution.  Fecklessness or, worse, abetting criminal conduct.  So far, the police have handled the Brown case very badly.

More here.

 

Problems in Los Angeles

From the Los Angeles Times:

The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies, a Times investigation found.

The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department’s performance.

Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14% higher than the official figure, The Times found.

The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher.

Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities. However, flawed statistics leave police and the public with an incomplete picture of crime in the city. Unreliable figures can undermine efforts to map crime and deploy officers where they will make the most difference.

More than two dozen current and retired LAPD officers interviewed for this article gave differing explanations for why crimes are misclassified.

Some said it was inadvertent. Others said the problem stemmed from relentless, top-down pressure to meet crime reduction goals.

If the information is deliberately manipulated to make the department look good, what else is the department willing to do?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-08-14

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, August 8, 2014:

  • Parma Heights, Ohio: A now-former police officer pled not guilty at his arraignment. He is accused of stealing drugs from the property room at the police station. ow.ly/A7ExT
  • Update: Little Rock, Arkansas (First reported 07-22-13): A now-former state plice lieutenant pled guilty to drug charges. In exchange for the plea, 4 additional charges will be dropped, but he could face jail time for pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge in the indictment. He is accused of stealing marijuana from the state’s evidence room then selling them to a dealer; he also admitted to stealing cocaine and heroin. ow.ly/A7zwj
  • Cortez, Colorado: A police officer has resigned after being charged with eight felony child sex crimes. He submitted his jailhouse resignation letter the day after charges were filed against him. ow.ly/A7FOw
  • Update: Sacramento, California (First reported 09-29-12): A now-former sheriff’s deputy was convicted on two felony firearms-related charges, one for providing a large-capacity ammunition clip to a federal undercover agent and another for possession of an illegal shotgun. ow.ly/A7riy
  • Update: Brusly, Louisiana (Previously reported 04-21-14): The former police chief pled not guilty to four felony charges. The charges stem from allegations that he gave seven of the town’s guns to a firearms dealer, forged signatures on two town checks and cashed them out for $600. ow.ly/A7dto
  • Rosepine, Louisiana: The police chief was arrested on charges of stalking and malfeasance in office, state police said. The complaint against him alleged he stalked his estranged wife while she was at her place of work and at her home. ow.ly/A7d8w
  • Spokane County, Washington: The sheriff’s office announced that a sheriff’s detective is resigning. The release says he chose to resign to avoid being terminated. ow.ly/A7bix
  • Atlanta, Georgia: A police officer has been arrested and charged with DUI for the second time in two years. ow.ly/A77lh
  • Palo Alto, California: A man is suing the Palo Alto Police Department and Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office in federal court over a “severely” broken arm and other alleged civil rights violations. ow.ly/A75j9
  • New York, New York: Prosecutors announced that a police officer has been indicted on charges that he contacted a woman with a pending application to the police department and offered to expedite the hiring process in return for sex. ow.ly/A73EF
  • Dedham, Massachusetts: A police officer was arrested in connection with the kidnapping of man. Officials said the officer gave his police department issued badge, handcuffs and empty holster to the mastermind of the kidnapping. ow.ly/A733r
  • Pierre, South Dakota: A mother is suing the city, it’s former police chief, and members of its police department, saying an officer used excessive force and violated her 8-year-old daughter’s rights when he shot her in the chest with a stun gun. ow.ly/A719S
  • Davenport, Iowa: The woman is suing the city for an incident while she was being arrested. She says an officer pushed her into a corner of a room and slammed her face into the floor. He then punched her in the head more than five times. The woman’s 2-year-old daughter was in the room, upset and crying. According to a police report of the incident, the woman was belligerent, aggressive and profane. ow.ly/A6Nh5

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-07-14

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, August 7, 2014:

  • Mesa, Arizona: A police officer has been indicted on charges of sexual assault and child molestation for acts that allegedly occurred on the job, authorities said. http://ow.ly/A2d4T
  • Update: Iva, South Carolina (First reported 07-28-14): The police chief has resigned after being charged with criminal domestic violence. He allegedly hit his teenage son with a piece of wood multiple times and grabbed his wife and threw her. http://ow.ly/A2eMd
  • New York, New York: An officer was arrested on burglary and assault charges. He is accused of breaking into a woman’s apartment and punching her repeatedly. http://ow.ly/A2fXx
  • Update: King County, Washington (Previously reported 07-16-14): A now-former sheriff’s deputy accused of helping his estranged wife work as a prostitute, stealing department ammunition and illegally delivering testosterone pled guilty. http://ow.ly/A2gcY
  • Ozaukee County, Wisconsin: A high school senior was arrested at a fair, and he says the police used excessive force. The department reviewed the video and said the situation was handled with proper police protocol. http://ow.ly/A2hDH
  • Update: Baltimore, Maryland (First reported 03-06-14): The lawyer for a police officer charged with beating and choking his girlfriend’s puppy, and later texting her a photo of the dog’s body, says his client will plead guilty to one count of felony animal cruelty. http://ow.ly/A2jxa
  • Sanford, Florida: A police officer was fired for activating his Taser because he didn’t like the way an inmate cleaned his patrol car. He was placed on leave and investigators even recommended criminal charges after the incident. http://ow.ly/A2abm
  • Update: Greenfield, Indiana (First reported 04-09-14): A police officer already under suspension was arrested for the third time on suspicion of drunk driving. http://ow.ly/A2p5B
  • Update: Wilcox County, Alabama (Previously reported 04-17-14):  A now-former deputy got 90 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He is said to have used his patrol vehicle to pick up what he thought was pure, powdered cocaine, and tried to deliver it, all while in uniform. ow.ly/A2EvM
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina: A 26-year veteran officer was charged with three counts each of first-degree sex offense, taking indecent liberties with a minor and crimes against nature. http://ow.ly/Acg4h
  • Enfield, Connecticut: A man who claims he was the victim of police brutality when he was shot with a stun gun multiple times by an officer has filed a notice of intent to sue. He is the second person to allege brutality against the officer, who is currently on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into that complaint. http://ow.ly/A2nG9 

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