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National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 07-20-12

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, July 20, 2012:

  • Poland, Pennsylvania: A man who was involved in a police chase after officers tried to pull him over for speeding and a broken tail light died when he crashed.
  • Update: Saugus, Massachusetts: Charges against a police officer who was pulled over for drunken driving might be dropped because the officers who arrested him failed to give him a proper field sobriety test.
  • St. Louis County, Illinois: A family has called into question the death of their daughter, who was in a patrol car when she was shot in the head and killed.
  • Austin, Texas: An officer was suspended for slamming a man’s head onto the hood of a car while arresting him.
  • Pleasanton, California: A police officer pleaded not guilty to charges that he accessed and shared confidential information.
  • Union City, New Jersey: A Union City Police officer is suing the Little Ferry Police department. He claims malicious prosecution, false arrest, defamation per se and loss of consortium over his arrest and handling of his complaints.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Two men say that they were unarmed and their vehicle was stopped outside a store when officers opened fire at “close range,” according to the lawsuit filed.
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: A police officer involved in a 4-hour standoff faces 30 criminal counts. The charges filed include stalking, battery and invasion of privacy.
  • Lee County, Florida: An officer was let off the hook for drunk driving his patrol car. A witness of his driving, who called in and reported the incident, said “to me that shows a double standard.”
  • Colwyn, Pennsylvania: A police officer has 15 active warrants against her from the past eight years for failing to respond to or failing to pay numerous traffic violations. Her license has been suspended at least 17 times for a total of more than 500 days, and twice she paid fees with a bad check. The police chief said that he performed a background check but was unaware of any of the warrants of license suspensions.
  • Industry, Pennsylvania: A police chief was charged with misapplication of entrusted property for stealing from the police department’s bank account that was appropriated for the K-9 unit.
  • Kansas City, Missouri: An officer was fired after 5 years of delays. The police board voted unanimously to fire him after his handling of a handcuffed drug suspect in 2006. Police board members said “he used excessive force, unnecessary profanity and engaged in cruel, degrading, or inhumane treatment.”


Anaheim Shooting Brings Protests, Which, In Turn, Bring Still More Police Controversy

From the Washington Post:

As officers were investigating what happened at the scene, Dunn said an angry group of people began yelling and throwing bottles at them. He said that as officers detained several people, the crowd advanced on the officers so they fired tear gas and beanbag rounds at them.

Video captured by a KCAL-TV crew showed a chaotic scene in which officers fired beanbag rounds as some people ducked to the ground and others scattered screaming. A man is seen yelling at an officer even as a weapon is pointed at him; two adults huddled to shield a boy and girl. Meanwhile, a police dog ran into several people sitting on the grass, including a woman and a child in a stroller, before biting a man in the arm.

Dunn said the dog somehow got out of a patrol car and was “deployed accidentally.”

Throughout the night, police in multiple marked and unmarked squad cars attempted to control an unruly crowd gathered near the shooting scene, the Register reported.

Some in the crowd moved a Dumpster into an intersection and set its trash on fire on at least three separate occasions, while officers kept responding to move it out of the way of traffic.

Dunn said gang detectives are involved in the investigation.

Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who witnessed the shooting, told the Register that the man had his back to the officer. Ventura said the man was shot in the buttocks area. The man then went down on his knees, she said, adding that he was struck by another bullet in the head. Ventura said another officer handcuffed the man, who by then was on the ground and not moving.

“They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,” Ventura told the newspaper.

Dunn said he could not comment on these allegations because the shooting is under investigation.

One reporter said that several witnesses told him that police offered to “purchase” cell phones containing video footage of the bean bag/pellet gun shootings and the “accidentially deployed canine.”   Hmm.

Growing Evidence of Citizen Resistance to Marijuana Law Enforcement?

Ron Bailey blog post:

In Charlottesville, Va. (where I spend most of my time) a jury just found Philip Cobbs not guilty of marijuana possession. As the superb local weekly The Hook reports:

Cobbs, a 54-year-old who takes care of his elderly mother, was arrested last summer after a marijuana eradication helicopter flew over his southeastern Albemarle home and spotted two pot plants near his house. A team of approximately 10 law enforcement agents drove up bearing semi-automatic weapons and confiscated the illegal plants. A month later, he received a summons to court.

His case was taken up by the Albemarle-based Rutherford Institute, which focuses on Constitutional issues. Cobb was convicted of possession in October, and appealed the case.

“I feel like justice finally was done,” said Cobbs after a seven-person jury deliberated for about two hours– including a dinner of Domino’s pizza–July 18.

Two plants and ten officers? Really? Evidently aware of the inherent stupidity of the case, the local prosecutor feared jury nullification. The Hook reports how he attempted to forestall that problem:

Before the jury was selected, prosecutor Matthew Quatrara read the opening paragraph of a New York Times Paul Butler op-ed calling for jury nullification: “If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote ‘not guilty’– even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.”

That, instructed Quatrara, would not be the proper attitude for those chosen to serve on the jury.

Nevertheless, the judge and prosecutor had a tough time actually seating a jury in this case. The Hook interviewed several people who had been cut from the jury pool on the grounds that they disapproved of criminalizing marijuana use:

“I think this whole thing is a waste of time,” said Richard Merkel, a psychiatrist and potential juror in today’s marijuana possession trial against an Albemarle County man.

Merkel was among five people struck from the first group of 13 – all because they had a problem with this country’s criminalization of people using marijuana.

Aware that this attitude is growing among citizens, the judge ordered up a larger than usual jury pool:

This isn’t the first time Albemarle has had trouble seating a jury in a pot case. Judge Cheryl Higgins, who, during a break, chatted with a visiting gaggle of Rutherford Institute interns told them, “The last marijuana case we tried, we couldn’t even seat a jury because they were so biased against the marijuana laws.”

In any case, the jury decided to let Cobbs go on the grounds that while the plants may have been on his property there was reasonable doubt that he had “dominion” over them and so did not “possess” them.

Another potential juror, University of Virginia psychologist Douglas DeGood, was struck from service because said he would not be comfortable convicting someone of marijuana possession. He added: 

“Pragmatically, I don’t think it’s an efficient use of the legal system.” 

You think? And I would like to think that there was just a little bit of jury nullification.

Now Ignorance of Foreign Law Is, Apparently, No Excuse

From the Wall Street Journal:

Without warning, 30 federal agents with guns and bulletproof vests stormed our guitar factories in Tennessee. They shut down production, sent workers home, seized boxes of raw materials and nearly 100 guitars, and ultimately cost our company $2 million to $3 million worth of products and lost productivity. Why? We imported wood from India to make guitars in America….

The Aug 24 raid was authorized under the Lacey Act. Originally enacted as a means to curb the poaching of endangered species, the law bans wildlife and plants from being imported if, according to the interpretation of federal bureaucrats, the importation violates a law in the country of origin.

The fingerboards of our guitars are made with wood that is imported from India. The wood seized during the Aug. 24 raid, however, was from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified supplier, meaning the wood complies with FSC’s rules requiring that it be harvested legally and in compliance with traditional and civil rights, among other protections. Indian authorities have provided sworn statements approving the shipment, and U.S. Custom allowed the shipment to pass through America’s border and to our factories.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to enforce its own interpretation of Indian law, arguing that because the fingerboards weren’t finished in India, they were illegal exports. In effect, the agency is arguing that to be in compliance with the law, Gibson must outsource the jobs of finishing craftsmen in Tennessee.

This is an overreach of government authority and indicative of the kinds of burdens the federal government routinely imposes on growing businesses. It also highlights a dangerous trend: an attempt to punish even paperwork errors with criminal charges and to regulate business activities through criminal law. Policy wonks call this “overcriminalization.” I call it a job killer.

In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know – and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret – the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well. Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose like stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.

I testified before the Congress last fall on the overcriminalization problem.  More from Harvey Silverglate here.

If You Haven’t Done Anything Wrong, You Have Nothing to Worry About

From the Baltimore Sun:

Mary and Michael Major’s 18-year-old son, Miles, was roused from slumber and arrested at home early on the morning of Friday, April 27. He and another young man from the neighborhood were charged with first- and second-degree assault stemming from an attack by five boys on a fellow Lansdowne High School student in mid-March.

The victim claimed to have been held by one boy while another cut him several times with a knife. He showed a Baltimore County police officer more than two dozen small wounds, described in the police report as superficial.

The victim described Miles Major as a lookout for those who carried out the assault.

Mary Major’s son had never been charged with a crime.

And she had never experienced the court commissioner system.

“The commissioner set a bail of $325,000 and sent the young men to Towson Detention Center,” Mary Major says. “It happened so fast, I didn’t know what to do. I elected to obtain a bail bonds company and have [Miles] released on Saturday, as I don’t feel it would have been fair or good for him mentally to spend the weekend in the detention center awaiting a bail review.”

So she and her husband made a nonrefundable $10,000 payment — a break in the usual price, the bail bondsman told them — to get their son released until his trial.

But, ladies and gentlemen, there never was a trial.

The charges against Miles Major were dismissed a month after his arrest. Baltimore County police determined that the accusations were false. When confronted by a prosecutor, the victim had recanted his story, according to Scott D. Shellenberger, the county state’s attorney.

Of course, for the Major family, the damage had been done.

“My husband and I have had to drain our savings between paying the bail and paying an attorney $3,000, and this commissioner gets to sit back without repercussions, as well as the police officers . … Where is the justice? What happened to bringing people in for questioning first? I mean, really, how many tax dollars were wasted on this case? Not to mention my son’s loss of wages while being in jail, along with my loss of wages trying to get him released.”

Her complaints go back to the start of the process — to the “victim” who lied, of course, but also to the police who raided her house, and to the court commissioner whose actions cost her $13,000.

Bail is supposed to be about making sure a defendant shows up for trial. Miles Major hardly fit the profile of a flight risk — an 18-year-old boy with no criminal record, employed at a local restaurant, still living at home with his parents.

Can you spare $13,000?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-19-12

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked July, 19 2012

  • Los Angeles, California: A lawsuit was filed against DA Steve Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca that alleges the pair concealed evidence that potentially affects verdicts and pleas in thousands of criminal cases over the past decade.
  • Boston, New York: A policewoman was suspended without pay after she was arrested for driving drunk.
  • Hillsborough County, Florida: A deputy resigned after she was charged with animal cruelty. She allegedly deprived food and nourishment to two of her horses, and has been charged with one felony count and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: A police sergeant has been placed on administrative paid leave after he was caught on surveillance video pocketing several thousands of dollars in cash from a business while he was responding there on official duty.
  • San Diego, California: An officer pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of committing a lewd act in public.
  • Pueblo, Colorado: A motorcyclist was killed while fleeing police. They were attempting to pull him over for speeding.
  • Malta, Montana: A former officer has been arrested on child molestation charges. He faces four counts of sexual intercourse without consent, two counts of sexual abuse of children, and one count of solicitation of tampering with physical evidence.
  • Anderson County, South Carolina: A sheriff’s deputy was arrested for misconduct in office and is now facing an additional charge of illegally possessing hydrocodone.
  • Brockton, Massachusetts: A police officer accused of larceny, while on duty, is waiting to hear the fate of his job. He was caught on cameras, in his uniform, committing the theft and is currently on paid leave.
  • Pasco, Florida: The Sheriff’s office settled with a family for $175,000 over the death of their loved one.
  • Los Angeles, California: Occupy LA participants are filing a lawsuit against the police department claiming excessive force was used during a skirmish. They have accused the police of violating their rights.
  • Berlin Borough, New Jersey: The Police Chief was charged with simple assault in the wake of an alleged domestic violence incident with his wife. The investigation determined he struck his wife with a chair “causing injury that was visible to officers,” police said.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-18-12

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, July 18 2012:

  • Savannah, Georgia: Sheriff’s deputies deactivated a device that controls a man’s Tourette’s syndrome and allegedly beat him as “a form of amusement” when he could no longer control his physical and verbal actions. He is now filing suit against them.
  • Miami, Florida: An officer could be fired for off-duty speeding. Officer Lopez brought the spotlight on off-duty police speeding in October when he led a trooper on a high-speed chase. Caught on video, the chase and the trooper’s gunpoint confrontation was endlessly played on local television.
  • Athens-Clarke, Georgia: A high-ranking police official retired amid accusations of viewing pornography at work. “He used the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (computer) system to receive, store, or display communications or files of a sexual nature,” said the police chief. The county manager also said “We continue to investigate to determine if there are any other actions that may be necessary, administratively or criminally.”
  • Los Angeles, California: Sheriff’s officials are investigating whether or not a deputy wrongly stomped the head of a man suspected of groping women. In a video that was taken of the incident, three deputies struggled with the man, while he was laying on the sidewalk. He was resisting being handcuffed. One of the deputies can be seen stomping his head.
  • Jefferson Parish, LA: A deputy resigned while under investigation for allegedly crashing his patrol car while intoxicated.
  • Melbourne, Florida: An officer charged with having sexual relations with prostitutes in his patrol car is waiting to learn his fate from the Chief of Police. “He is still suspended with pay and the chief has not yet made a decision,” said a sergeant.
  • Lakeside, Oregon: One person is dead and three others injured after a driver fleeing from police caused a multi-vehicle crash. The driver was being pulled over for speeding, and tried to elude the police.
  • Saginaw, Michigan: A suspended Michigan State Police trooper charged with driving drunk and crashing into another car has opted to let a judge decide whether a serious injury occurred during the crash.
  • Leominster, MA: A police officer was put on paid leave for an alleged racial slur against a Red Sox player. He engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer, according to the Police Chief and the Mayor.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: Police Sergeant was charged with assault in an off-duty incident that left a man temporarily on life support. “If there hadn’t been medical intervention, Brian Vander Lee likely would have died.”
  • Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina: An officer was arrested for driving intoxicated. This was just an unfortunate lapse of judgment,” said Police Chief Daniel House Jr.




National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-17-12

Here are the 10 stories of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, July 17:

  • Saugus, Massachusetts: A state police officer, who admitted that prosecutors had enough on him to prove he was guilty of leading other Saugus officers on a late-night car chase, could be back on duty, thanks to a Judge who gave him a break.  
  • San Antonio, Texas: A car chase that began over a man speeding led to his death when he crashed his car on the interstate.
  • Denver, Colorado: The Denver city council approved a $60,000 payment divided between two plaintiffs in a lawsuit that alleged Denver Police Department misconduct. According to the lawsuit, the “police conduct was extreme, profane, and racially motivated.”
  • Scott County, Kentucky: A police officer was injured in a police chase that occurred when a speeding car refused to stop. The car being pursued and four police cruisers crashed in the incident.
  • Update: North Providence, Rhode Island: The Police Chief who was convicted of stealing cash from a stripper will be allowed to keep his pension, despite his theft.
  • Shreveport, Louisiana: A car chase that ended with the fleeing car striking a school bus, and sending 15 children to the hospital, started because the man driving was a suspect in a cocaine distribution operation.
  • Houston, Texas: “He wasn’t refusing to leave; he was leaving when he was placed under arrest,” said Adrian Peterson’s attorney, in regards to his arrest. “He did have some words with a police officer, but not anything that justifies an arrest, and he certainly never did anything physically toward them.” Peterson is saying that the police officers initiated the physical confrontation and gave him a black eye.
  • Clifton, New Jersey: When police tried to pull over a man for traffic violations and he would not stop, a high-speed chase ensued. The driver lost control of his car, and crashed.
  • Fulton County, Pennsylvania: There were no drugs or alcohol found in the body of a man who was shot and killed by a state trooper. The man’s mother is questioning his killing, and is wondering why he was shot, instead of subdued, when the only weapon he had on him was a metal flashlight.
  • Chevoit, Ohio: Two pedestrians were hit by a speeding car being chased by police because the driver was part of a heroin investigation.

Police Union to Police Chief: ‘We’re just going to kick your butt anyways, like we always have’

From the Oregonian:

In the past three decades, Portland police chiefs have fired officers who were convicted of driving drunk off duty, leaving dead animals outside a black-owned business, and selling “Smoke ‘Em, Don’t Choke ‘Em” T-shirts to officers after a man died in police custody from a neck hold.

The chiefs had to bring them all back.

More recently, an arbitrator overturned the firing of Officer Ron Frashour for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back; the 80-hour suspensions for Officer Chris Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice following the death of James P. Chasse Jr.; and the 900-hour suspension of Officer Scott McCollister for his actions leading up tohis fatal shooting of Kendra James.

So just what does it take to discipline a Portland police officer?

Frankly, if push comes to shove and it goes to arbitration, you can’t do it.

10 Days in the Police Academy, 14 Years on Disability

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Barnes is one of two officers collecting disability because of injuries sustained while still in the police academy.

The other, Michael Terrano, injured a knee 17 years ago, underwent surgery, then refused to return to work and was fired.

Despite that, he is getting disability checks that so far have totaled more than $560,000.

Terrano is also in business. He recently was part of a company hoping to sell medical marijuana in Arizona.

Of all the Chicago cops on disability leave, Barnes spent the least amount of time on the job — those 10 days in the police academy, which he entered six months before his father retired from the police department.

Despite not making it through two weeks at the academy, Barnes stands to collect a total of at least $1.2 million from the city’s police pension fund.

He can keep collecting his annual disability payment — which now stands at $46,343 and which will increase as the salary for an entry-level patrolman goes up — until he reaches mandatory retirement at age 63. Then, he can retire with a full police pension — based on all of his years as a disabled officer.


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