As seen in...
The Economist
ABC News
Washington Post
The Atlantic
National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Citizen Review Board Rules for Police 16 Years and Counting

From the Charlotte Observer:

Mayor Anthony Foxx is questioning how Charlotte’s Citizen Review Board handles allegations of police misconduct.

Also, the review board’s chairman says the panel will consider drafting reform proposals for City Council to consider.

In his first public comments on the issue, Foxx said Friday that he has asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe to respond to last Sunday’s Observer investigation showing that the oversight panel has ruled in favor of police every time in its nearly 16-year history.

More here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-22-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 22, 2013:

  • Update: Indianapolis, IN: A suspended police officer received an eight-year sentence after he was found guilty earlier this month of two counts each of robbery and official misconduct. Three years of his sentence will be spent in prison, with a year of home detention. He will be on probation for the remaining four years.
  • Albemarle, Virginia: A now-former fourth grade teacher and police officer will spend three years in prison for possessing child pornography. He pleaded guilty to two of the ten felony counts against him as part of an agreement. He received two ten-year sentences, each with all but 1.5 years suspended.
  • Update: Jackson, Mississippi: A now-former police detective is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. A jury found him guilty of capital murder in the death of his 1-year-old daughter.
  • Mobile, Alabama: A second state trooper has been convicted of using his state credit card to buy gasoline for personal use. He pleaded guilty to a felony ethics charge.
  • South Bend, Indiana: The city’s Board of Public Safety accepted the suspension of a police officer who was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
  • Update: Asheville, North Carolina: A police officer admitted to physically abusing a 3-year-old girl left in his car. He avoided jail time, but must do 24 hours of community service and pay a one hundred dollar fine. The child must stay in therapy, and he can never be an officer again.
  • Peoria, Illinois: A newly retired Peoria police officer was sentenced to 90 days in the Peoria County Jail for attempting to mislead investigators probing a drunken driving crash.
  • Update: Milwaukee, Wisconsin: An inquest jury recommended that there police officers should be criminally charged with failure to render aid in connection with an in-custody death. The man in custody died gasping for air in the back of a squad car.
  • Newark, New Jersey: A police officer has been convicted of aggravated assault for striking a city resident in the face with his service weapon.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-21-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, February 21, 2013:

  • Memphis, Tennessee: A police officer who was involved in a car crash that killed two people has been fired.
  • Nassau County, New York: A jury has convicted the former deputy police commissioner on two counts of official misconduct and one count of conspiracy. The conviction was in connection with his role in preventing the arrest of a teenager whose father was a personal friend and financial benefactor of the police.
  • Greenville, North Carolina: A police officer was placed on administrative leave after his arrest for drunk driving. “None of us are above the law and we hold each other accountable for our actions,” said the police chief in a statement.
  • Lea County, New Mexico: A jury has found a now-former deputy guilty; he was arrested following the investigation of a claim that he sexually assaulted a 9-year old girl, and her 16-year-old sister. He faces a prison sentence of 18 years and a lifetime of parole and sex offender registration requirements. A second, separate trial involving the allegations of the 16-year-old girl is still pending.
  • Update: Melbourne, Florida: A former police officer who was fired for having sex with a prostitute while on the job took a plea deal. He will get 6 months probation and treatment for sex addiction.
  • Lubbock, Texas: The parents of a man fatally shot filed suit for wrongful death, seeking $1 million and access to investigative records. The police say they shot his son in defense of another person.
  • Dekalb County, Georgia: An indictment in federal court states that officers worked together to protect drug dealers during cocaine transactions. In return for their protection, the men were given thousands of dollars in payouts. They were arrested after a year-long investigation.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Reap 02-20-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 20, 2013:

  • Washington Park, Illinois: Court documents show a police officer was accused of violating a woman’s civil rights by allegedly arresting her with no justification, then shooting her twice with a taser while she was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car.
  • Update: Oxford, Mississippi: Court records show an ex-state trooper will plead guilty to a federal charge. He has been accused of stomping a woman in the county jail, while he was on the job.
  • Washington, DC: An officer with nearly 2 decades on the force has been convicted of stealing her brother’s identity and taking out thousands of dollars of loans in his name. She faces up to 150 years in prison if given the maximum time.
  • New York, New York: A sergeant with fifteen years on the force has been arrested and charged in connection with having child pornography on his computer. He has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal proceeding brought against him.
  • Greenville, North Carolina: Two deputies have been suspended after an altercation with a former highway patrol trooper.
  • Mount Horeb, Wisconsin: A police officer was arrested on a tentative charge of sexual assault on a child. He is accused of repeated assault on the 14-year-old.
  • St. Petersburg, Florida: A couple is suing after two police officers confronted them while they were in their home. The officers suspected they were burglars, when the couple was actually legally renting. The couple says that the officers used unnecessary excessive force.
  • Pawtucket, Rhode Island: An officer has been charged with one count of domestic simple assault and three counts of domestic disorderly conduct. He was ordered to stay away from the alleged victim.
  • Decatur, Illinois: A narcotics detective was arrested on charges of official misconduct and theft of more than $500 for stealing money related to his work and creating false documents to cover up the thefts.
  • Update: Lebanon, Pennsylvania: A city police officer was placed on accelerated rehabilitative disposition. He was fined $600 and given 12 months probation for driving under the influence.

Robert Ethan Saylor and the Garrity Precedent

Ethan Saylor had Down syndrome.  He was in a movie theatre and Zero Dark Thirty had just ended.  Saylor wanted to watch the film all over again.  A theatre employee said he either had to buy another ticket or leave.  When Saylor didn’t budge, they called security, which turned out to be some off-duty sheriff’s deputies working security in the mall.  The deputies claim Saylor resisted arrest and died while being restrained.  The coroner has now ruled Saylor’s death a homicide.

According to a story in today’s Washington Post, Saylor idolized the police and loved to watch police TV shows.  Here’s an excerpt:

When Foss learned of Saylor’s death, he said, he informed about 60 members of the church that night. The following Sunday, they brought bouquets to fill Saylor’s empty chair. The flowers overflowed onto the floor and an adjoining seat.

Cam Overs has a son Saylor’s age and has been friends with his family for 30 years. He remembered how Saylor would run curiously toward whatever caught his eye and was a pro at hide and seek because he had the endurance to stay in the same spot until he was found.

Saylor would get breakfast with Overs every Sunday at McDonald’s. Both scoffed at change, and so their orders were always the same: a No. 1 for Overs and a No. 7 for Saylor.

“Now I don’t have my buddy for breakfast every Sunday morning,” Overs said. “There’s a void that nobody expected.”

Overs said Saylor knew how to spell “satellite” because of his fascination with satellite photos and was thrilled when Overs’s son Jonathan, who is in the military, brought him a Kevlar vest. Overs said Saylor didn’t understand that he could call a non-emergency number for the police and dialed 911 so often that he was known to members of the law enforcement community.

On the day of Saylor’s funeral, two law enforcement officers sent a text that was read aloud; it said they, too, would miss him.

“What a fitting memorial it would be if a training module was created in his name,” Overs said, “so no other family or police force would have to suffer this pain.”

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s office says “We’re taking it very seriously.”  The deputies involved in the incident, however, have thus far declined to speak with investigators.

One would think that such noncooperation would be unacceptable under the circumstances.  Can’t the Sheriff call them in and say, “A young man lost his life in your custody.  I want to know what happened and why.  If  you decline to answer, surrender your badge and gun.”

That sounds like a sensible response to me, but the law is perverted.  There is a Supreme Court precedent on the books by the name of Garrity v. New Jersey–and that case says the above procedure would violate a police officer’s right against self-incrimination.  The reasoning was lousy.  If the officers accused of wrongdoing want to remain silent and speak to a lawyer–that is their right, just the same as everyone else.  What they cannot do is remain silent and also demand to keep exercising police powers in the community.  If the police commanders determine that a sworn officer’s conduct is egregious or criminal, the culprit should be given his walking papers.

Garrity is an obstacle to police accountability and should be overturned.  In 1967, the year it was decided, four Supreme Court justices thought it was a mistake.  Here is an excerpt from their dissenting opinion:

It can hardly be denied that New Jersey is permitted by the Constitution to establish reasonable qualifications and standards of conduct for its public employees. Nor can it be said that it is arbitrary or unreasonable for New Jersey to insist that its employees furnish the appropriate authorities with information pertinent to their employment. Cf. Beilan v. Board of Education, 357 U.S. 399 ; Slochower v. Board of Education, 350 U.S. 551 . Finally, it is surely plain that New Jersey may in particular require its employees to assist in the prevention and detection of unlawful activities by officers of the state government. The urgency of these requirements is the more obvious here, where the conduct in question is that of officials directly entrusted with the administration of justice. The importance for our systems of justice [385 U.S. 493, 508]   of the integrity of local police forces can scarcely be exaggerated. Thus, it need only be recalled that this Court itself has often intervened in state criminal prosecutions precisely on the ground that this might encourage high standards of police behavior. See, e. g., Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 322 U.S. 143 ; Miranda v. Arizona, supra. It must be concluded, therefore, that the sanction at issue here is reasonably calculated to serve the most basic interests of the citizens of New Jersey.

Garrity came down in the heyday of the liberal Warren Court.  Today’s Supreme Court is much more conservative–and it is highly doubtful that Justice William O. Douglas’s  fanciful interpretation of the self-incrimination clause would find the support of five justices.   Here’s the thing: In order to get the Supreme Court to reconsider Garrity, the precedent has to be challenged.  Right now, police chiefs around the country abide the current rule with a shrug, “Can’t do anything about this situation.”

What we need is a good test case.  Maybe this Saylor incident is the case, maybe it isn’t.  But where the evidence of police wrongdoing is strong and the culprits invoke their “Garrity rights” and decline to tell investigators what happened, we need a police chief to fire them.  Let the discharged officers appeal their case to the Supreme Court so that the justices can overturn Garrity.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-16-13 to 02-20-13

Here are the 15 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, February 16 to Tuesday, February 20, 2013:

  • Mt. Pleasant, Texas: An officer pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14-years-old. He has been sentenced to 50 years in prison, and will be required to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
  • Altus, Oklahoma: Two long-time police officers have been arrested on conspiracy complaints following a six month investigation and are being held in jail pending a bail hearing.
  • Whitehouse, Texas: An officer was arrested for DWI after being stopped by a state trooper for a traffic infraction.
  • Glasgow City, Kentucky: A police lieutenant colonel was arrested on a domestic violence charge. He was charged with assault 4th degree, domestic violence, and lodged in the county jail.
  • Greenville, North Carolina: A 20-year officer was terminated after an administrative investigation. The police chief called for the investigation after allegations arose that he called serious “policy violations and potential criminal activity.”
  • Jacksonville, Florida: An officer was busted stealing found items during what police call an integrity check. The undersheriff said that sometimes when police get information that an employee is doing something he or she shouldn’t be, they’ll try to set that person up.
  • Mansfield, Louisiana: An officer is in jail on multiple charges after driving a patrol car to her estranged husband’s house and striking him with her duty flashlight.
  • Union City, Pennsylvania: A state trooper has been accused in a fatal DUI accident; court officials say he will be entering a guilty plea.
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey: An officer was indicted on official misconduct and other charges for allegedly lying about where he was living to take advantage of a discount rent program, and then make money by subletting the apartment. Under the Live-In Police Officer’s Program, he was allowed to rent an apartment at a more than 80 percent discount.
  • Alabaster, Alabama: A Birmingham police officer was arrested after he fled from police during a traffic stop. He has been charged with attempting to elude.
  • New Port Richey, Florida: A police officer has been arrested on drug charges and was fired. He remains in jail for those charges.
  • Birmingham, Alabama: A robbery detective was taken into custody at his home. He was arrested and charged with domestic violence/physical harassment.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: A police officer found himself on the other side of the law, accused of pulling a gun on an unarmed man. “What, in my mind, is more important is how that weapon was used,” the police chief said.  “Was there justification for him to pull that weapon; was there justification for his conduct in that situation.”
  • Albany, New York: A ten-year veteran officer is facing DWI charges after he allegedly crashed into multiple cars.
  • Update: Salem, Ohio: The police officer who was arrested for drunk driving has resigned from the force.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-15-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 15, 2013:

  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Police are denying allegations of police misconduct after a video was released that shows multiple plainclothes officers accosting two teenage boys for no apparent reason. When one of their mothers, who is also a police officer, approached the scene, they let the boys go and all left abruptly.
  • Update: Orlando, Florida: The police officer who was charged with murdering his son has been acquitted by a jury.
  • Sandwich, Massachusetts: An off-duty officer is accused of ramming the rear of a family member’s car several times. He was suspended and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: After an Internal Affairs review of a fight, seven police officers have been suspended without pay.
  • Macon, Georgia: Two officers have been arrested and accused of illegally acquiring guns. They have been charged with fiduciary theft and violating their oaths of office. Both men resigned in lieu of termination.
  • Birmingham, Alabama: A police officer was arrested after an altercation with her husband’s ex-wife. She was reassigned to administrative duties after her department learned of the arrest.
  • Portland, Oregon: An officer pleaded guilty to reduced charges and has been sentenced in a harassment case that resulted from an incident. He was accused of breaking into his estranged wife’s apartment and threatening to kill her boyfriend.
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: An officer has been accused of causing a fatal car crash by driving drunk. He faces charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless homicide, and criminal recklessness.
  • Fort Worth, Texas: A police officer, who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, when he already had a DWI charge pending, has been fired.
  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas: A police officer has been arrested for felony theft. He faces burglary charges along with felony and misdemeanor counts of theft of property.

Holding Bad Cops Accountable

From the Washington Post:

[W]hen I interviewed community members who had filed complaints against officers, I was disappointed to learn that, despite my reassurances and best efforts to conduct impartial inquiries, many complainants believed that a fair investigation was simply not possible. Nor do misconduct investigations satisfy a skeptical public. If an officer is exonerated, the community often believes that malfeasance is being covered up. …

And why shouldn’t every police contact with the community — every traffic stop, every interrogation — be recorded on video? If Dorner and his partner had had a cop-cam, his claim that his partner used excessive force might have been resolved the same day. There’s just no excuse for not recording police contacts with the public. Technology has made cameras effective and affordable. Some officers already record their arrests to protect themselves against false allegations of misconduct. This should be standard operating procedure.

New Orleans Cops Caught on Tape

The police commander says he saw no wrongdoing in the video. Hmm.

A few questions:

1. What would have happened if the young man’s mother had not arrived so quickly?
2. What would have happened if she had not been a police officer herself?
3. What would happen if these undercover officers tried to swarm on a person who was carrying a firearm? The police often remind us that they must make split-second decisions. True.  But note that this tactic gives the citizen only a split second to decide if he’s being attacked by thugs or whether it’s a police stop.
4. The other day a columnist at the Wall Street Journal heaped praise on the stop and frisk tactics of the New York City Police Department. He said the police have an “uncanny” ability to discern who is carrying a gun. He is looking at paper statistics and gets a warped view of what’s actually happening out there. Consider two scenarios.  (A) The police swarm on someone. If they find a handgun, they take him downtown–paperwork shows arrest and gun confiscated. (B) How many times do the police swarm on a person, no gun is found, and the police just walk away as above? No paperwork on that (usually).  From the paper records, it is as if frightening incidents like this never even happened.

What if they happen a lot? What then?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-14-13

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, February 14, 2013:

  • Cottage Grove, Oregon: The mother of an elementary school student who says local police coerced her 10-year-old son into confessing to alleged sex offenses is suing the police department and the school district. She says in the lawsuit that she previously told the school district that her son was not allowed to be interviewed by police without her being present.
  • Kingsville, Texas: A now-former police corporal was indicted on a charge of continual sexual abuse of a child under 14-years old.
  • Trenton, New Jersey: An officer will go before a grand jury to determine if he is to be indicted on an aggravated assault charge for his alleged role in a bar brawl. Prosecutors say that he beat a man with a flashlight outside of a bar while off-duty.
  • Bozeman, Montana; A judge has found that police intentionally erased a portion of an audio recording made during a welfare check on a man who claims officers used excessive force on him. He said he will instruct a jury that the missing audio “would be relevant and favorable to some or all of the plaintiff’s claims of excessive force.”
  • Update: Sarasota, Florida: An officer who was fired after being caught on camera punching a man in the face will not be charged with a crime.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida: An officer copped a plea for an alleged unlawful arrest outside a convenience store. More than three years after the incident, it cost him his badge. He will serve 12 months probation.
  • Volusia County, Florida: A deputy has been suspended after being arrested on grand-theft charges. He is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a homeowner’s association.
  • Update: Seattle, Washington: A police lieutenant who was charged with violating a domestic-violence court order reached an agreement that could lead to charges being dropped. The officer has a checkered history with the department.
  • Knoxville, Tennessee: Administrators haven’t decided yet if an officer involved in a crash will face a citation for running a red light.
  • Update: Schaumburg, Illinois: A lawsuit against the village of Schaumburg claims that two police officers recently accused of corruption improperly raided a man’s home as part of a pattern of illegal conduct allowed by the department.
  • Boone County, Missouri: A $2.7 million dollar lawsuit was filed; the plaintiffs are citing constitutional violations regarding unreasonable searches, freedom of speech, privacy, wrongful seizure, right to bear arms, and due process. The officers deny all of their allegations.

Creative Commons License
This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.