National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

‘Just Having Fun’ … Luring Another Cop into a 90 mph Chase

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Officer Christina Fowler was working the night shift March 5 when she spotted a speeding car heading south on U.S. Highway 27 around 11:20, according to an investigative report. She tried to pull the car over, but the driver only tapped the brakes before taking off.

Fowler followed.

The video from her patrol-car camera captured the scene as the car raced away.

“Man, he’s doing over 80,” she said. And then, moments later, “Wow, he’s doing over 90.”

Inside the fleeing car were three fellow officers from the Clermont police force on their way back from a trip to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, according to the report obtained Monday.

Fowler continued to pursue the car, turning on her emergency lights when it pulled into the Clermont Landing shopping-center parking lot, the report said.

The driver jumped out of his vehicle, and Fowler drew her weapon. Then she realized it was Officer Marc Thompson — who was laughing.

As a result of that off-duty prank, two police officers were fired from the Clermont squad. Sgt. Mark Edwards and Thompson were terminated Thursday by police Chief Steve Graham for department violations. A third officer, Dennis Hall, was suspended for one day without pay.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident at Graham’s request and determined: “[A]ll officers involved in this incident felt that the prank was not malicious in nature but was intended to be a joke.”

The report continued: “Officer Fowler felt however that the driver, Officer Thompson, she was pursuing was driving at unsafe speeds which had the potential to cause a serious accident especially near S.R. 50 where there is road construction and a dangerous intersection.”

Thompson, behind the wheel of his personal vehicle, laughed hysterically when he was finally pulled over by Fowler, and said “he was just having fun,” according to the report. Hall and Edwards were passengers in the car.

Good to see some accountability, but note:

A police-union official said Monday that the officers would not comment because an appeal to the city manager is pending.

 

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-07-12 to 07-09-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for July 7 – July 9, 2012:

  • Prince George’s County, Maryland: Almost three weeks have passed since the fatal shooting of a man, Chester Crestwell, and Metro Transit Authorities are still refusing to release the name of the Metro officer who shot him. Authorities are investigating whether Crestwell was involved in an attempted abduction. wapo.st/NfvX0K
  • Queens, New York: An off-duty police officer crashed his car while driving intoxicated. He has been suspended without pay. nyp.st/N9dUaJ
  • Los Angeles, California: Sheriff’s Captain Daniel Cruz, who ran the Men’s County Jail, openly joked about hitting inmates, and encouraged misconduct in the jail. Michael Bornman, a department captain, told of a culture of brutality in his testimony against Cruz. bit.ly/LJOYqm
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The District Attorney’s office filed charged, including voluntary manslaughter, against two former police officers. A man was shot and killed in 2008, by one of the officers, allegedly over a pizza. cbsloc.al/L6uTO6
  • Roswell, New Mexico: A Roswell police officer has been accused of an aggravated DUI after crashing into a parked car. The officer has since been placed on leave. bit.ly/MdO3h2
  • Milan, Tennessee:  Police Officer Adam Scott Martin was arrested and charged with sexual battery by an authority figure against a 19-year-old girl. He was accused of fondling her, and has been suspended without pay. bit.ly/MPxkoI
  • Spokane, Washington: The autopsy of a 23-year-old who was shot by a police officer shows that his death was caused by a bullet that entered his neck and traveled directly down his spine. That trajectory is consistent with him lying on the ground when he was shot. His family is now suing, alleging “excessive force, deadly force, and/or inadequate training.” http://bit.ly/LUAlDd
  • Red Lodge, Missouri: A motorcyclist who claims an officer “physically and emotionally brutalized” him is suing the city of Red Lodge. The lawsuit also alleges that the officer’s conduct was “sanctioned and promoted by” the city and the police department. http://bit.ly/Ng1IXs
  • New York, New York: A couple was arrested, and put in jail, for dancing on a subway platform. They were in jail for 23 hours before they were released without charge. The couple is now suing the city. http://bit.ly/RIE6w4
  • Update: Dallas, Texas: Police Officer Kelly Schumpert has been fired for driving while under the influence of alcohol. http://bit.ly/Ow2m4w

‘Not in the Face’

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles County sheriff’s captain who ran the Men’s Central Jail fostered a culture of brutality by protecting dishonest deputies and permitting his underlings to use excessive force on inmates, his former lieutenant alleged in testimony Friday.

Capt. Daniel Cruz even joked at the department’s annual Christmas party about hitting inmates, according to Michael Bornman, who is now a department captain. While toasting deputies at the party, Cruz allegedly asked a banquet hall-full of jailers: “What do I always tell you guys?”

In unison, Bornman said, the jail deputies — many of whom were laughing — responded “Not in the face.”

“That’s right,” Cruz replied, according to Bornman. “Not in the face.” Bornman said the slogan was an instruction to strike inmates on parts of the body where their blows wouldn’t leave marks.

 

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-06-12

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, July 6th, 2012:

  • Houlton, ME: A 24 year veteran police officer was accused of operating her state police cruiser while under the influence of alcohol. She was issued a summons after she failed her field sobriety and BAC tests. http://bit.ly/Rlo4YI
  • Update: Providence, Rhode Island: Police Col. John Whiting was found guilty of larceny and solicitation to receive stolen goods, after he stole $714 from a stripper’s pocketbook. He will be sentenced September 14th. http://bit.ly/MC61i2
  • Atlanta, Georgia: Teresa Culpepper spent 53 days in jail because the police mistook her for another woman. “All she has is the same first name. The only descriptions that match are ‘Teresa’ and ‘black female,'” said her attorney. “I just don’t think in another side of town this would have ever happened.” http://yhoo.it/nyDVMQ
  • Salem, Massachusetts: A police officer was arraigned and charged with raping the woman watching his children. He pleaded not guilty, and has been place on administrative leave. “The Salem Police Department takes any allegation against a member of the department very seriously,” said Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker. http://bo.st/MLwr0m
  • Hamilton County, Tennessee: A sheriff’s deputy was arrested after she was accused of attempting to pass a fake prescription in a Walgreen’s. She has previously been arrested after assaulting her husband. http://bit.ly/M4TCnl
  • Duchesne, Utah: A female member of the Ute Indian Tribe has filed a one million dollar lawsuit accusing a sheriff’s deputy of groping her at a traffic stop. “We’re pretty frustrated about this,” said the Sheriff, Travis Mitchell. “We’ve got a situation that happened nine months ago that we had no clue about. If our officers were doing something wrong, we’d want to investigate it. We’d have an independent investigation done.” http://bit.ly/N3pbcB
  • Bakersfield, California: A sheriff’s deputy was arrested for spousal abuse. This officer was involved in a crash that killed another deputy in 2008, and he was also previously arrested for domestic violence in 2009. http://bit.ly/Pfjj4u
  • Clayton County, GA: Deshawn Balka is filing suit against the county and the sheriff after she gave birth to her baby in jail and he died. She says she called out for help for three hours while giving birth in her cell, and that jail staff arrived 5-10 minutes after the baby was delivered into the toilet. http://bit.ly/MtjMNa
  • Las Vegas, NV: A group of Nevada Highway Patrol Troopers and a retired police sergeant filed a racketeering complaint against the NHP and Las Vegas Metro Police. The suit alleges that the K9 program was being manipulated so that illegal searches and seizures could be conducted for financial benefit. http://bit.ly/QfaJRj
  • Georgetown, DE: A deputy sheriff was fired for falsifying records, abusing county equipment, and requesting $6000 worth of overtime over a 10 month period. http://bit.ly/LuMQY7
  • Eric, CO: A woman filed suit against the police officer who shot and killed her dog. The officer said the dog charged him, while the woman’s lawyer says that there are witnesses that will back up the owner’s statements: “Ava was a sweet dog who was well-known in the neighborhood for being well-behaved.” http://bit.ly/MP80iG

‘Reckless’ Prosecutors Escape Accountability

Attorney Brendan Sullivan:

In late May, the Justice Department finally completed its three-year investigation of the miscreant prosecutors who obtained an illegal verdict against Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008. That verdict caused the Alaska Republican to lose his reelection bid and changed the balance of power in the Senate. The department’s actions in this matter have fallen too far short.

After the trial, new prosecutors — appointed after the original prosecutors were held in contempt for failing to produce documents — discovered that the government had engaged in wrongdoing affecting the case’s most important evidence. The conduct was so outrageous that newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder concluded the case should immediately be dismissed. And when trial Judge Emmet Sullivan (no relation) dismissed the case in April 2009, he said it was the worst misconduct he had seen in 25 years on the bench.

Sullivan appointed an independent investigator, former federal prosecutor Henry Schuelke, who noted in a 500-page report that the prosecution was “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witnesses.”

The results of the Justice Department’s own investigation came in a 672-page report released in May. Its publication on the eve of Memorial Day weekend stood in sharp contrast to the many front-page stories the department’s public relations experts orchestrated during the unlawful prosecution of the senator….  Among its many conclusions:

  • Some prosecutors engaged in “reckless professional misconduct.” This new term in the law appears to be an effort to characterize wrongdoing of a lesser grade than “intentional.”
  • Prosecutors violated Justice’s obligations under constitutional principles (and department policy) by failing to disclose exculpatory statements by a chief witness and others. Specifically, the government failed to disclose that its chief witness obtained a false affidavit from a woman with whom he had sex when she was underage. This was of great significance to the defense, to show that the witness had suborned perjury on a prior occasion. Lies in a letter in which prosecutors purported to disclose information to which the defendant was entitled are characterized by the report as “poor judgment.” In any other situation, the department would call sending a false letter an “intentional” act.
  • The government failed to disclose statements of its chief witness that contradicted written accounting records the government had introduced into evidence as accurate business records.
  • One prosecutor engaged in “reckless professional misconduct” when he failed to correct the chief witness’s testimony at trial about when the witness first advised the government about a concocted story. It was crucial to the defense to learn when the witness made up the false testimony. The jury was entitled to know that the fabrication came only two weeks before trial. All prosecutors, not just one, knew that their chief witness concocted a story to deliver at trial — yet not one of them fulfilled his or her individual duty to correct the false testimony.
  •  Two prosecutors engaged in “reckless professional misconduct.” One received a 40-day suspension without pay; the other, a 15-day suspension without pay — “punishment” that pales next to the misconduct.
  •  One supervisor in the department’s Public Integrity Section was found to have “exercised poor judgment by failing to supervise certain aspects of the disclosure process.” There was no punishment at all for the most senior prosecutor in the case….

The Innocence Project has shown in recent years that there is widespread injustice in our system and many wrongful convictions. It is hard to catch a wrongdoer prosecutor. When we do, the punishment must fit the crime. The Justice Department’s failure to adequately punish is unbecoming to the department and unfair to the thousands of honest prosecutors who do follow the law.

If we don’t learn from these mistakes, we are doomed to repeat this miscarriage of justice.  And if this can happen to a U.S. senator in a Washington, D.C., courtroom, it can happen to anyone, anywhere in America.

I would also recommend this article, which makes related points.  

When misconduct is discovered at the local level, some look to the feds to remedy the situation, but the feds have problems in their own house.

Agency Declines to Name Officer Involved in Fatal Shooting

From the Washington Post:

Nearly three weeks after a Metro Transit Police officer shot and killed a 44-year-old man in a Lanham neighborhood, officials have not disclosed the identity of the officer or divulged many details of the deadly encounter.

Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, identified the dead man as Chester Joseph Crestwell Jr. of Lanham. However, because of concerns about the safety of the officer involved in the incident, Stessel said, the transit authority would not identify the officer.

The Prince George’s County Police Department, which is leading the investigation into the fatal shooting, typically releases the names of county officers who are involved in shootings. A spokesman for Prince George’s police said the agency was deferring to the wishes of Metro and was withholding the name of the Metro Transit officer.

The region’s largest police agencies have different policies on information related to officer-involved shootings. In Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, departments generally release the names of officers involved in such incidents. In Fairfax, police typically release the names of officers involved in shootings but only after the county prosecutor has reviewed the shooting and only if the officer is not undercover or would not be endangered by being publicly identified. In the District, the D.C. police generally do not release the names of officers involved in such cases.

Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct in Texas

From the Dallas Observer:

He stood, encircled by reporters. After some thank yous, he lit the fuse: “I want to say that me and my lawyer, Cheryl Wattley, we’ll make a formal complaint against Thomas D’Amore for prosecutorial misconduct,” Miles said, referring to the lawyer who prosecuted him. “My life was taken because of malicious acts by a prosecutor. I can’t just let that go by.”

As he spoke, several of the 33 innocent men freed in recent years by Dallas County watched from the gallery, dressed as if for mass. At least seven of their cases had contained “official misconduct,” mostly exculpatory evidence that wasn’t disclosed to defense lawyers, according to Michigan and Northwestern University’s National Registry of Exonerations. Misconduct contributes to 42 percent of exoneration cases nationally, those researchers say.

It’s a problem that’s had a particularly profound effect in Texas. In 91 criminal cases between 2004 and 2008, Texas courts found that prosecutors withheld evidence, made improper arguments or committed other misconduct, according to a report by Veritas Initiative, part of a national Prosecutorial Oversight coalition. But only one prosecutor was disciplined in that time period by the State Bar of Texas. (His license was suspended for two years.)

As Miles and his fellow exonerees know well, prosecutors are virtually immune from accountability. They’re protected from civil action, and the statute of limitations for prosecuting them generally runs out before a prisoner even goes free. Miles could file a grievance with the State Bar, the organization charged with attorney discipline. But there’s a statute of limitations on those complaints, too….

“It’s a prosecutor’s responsibility to never fabricate evidence or manipulate witnesses or take advantage of victims,” Siegler told reporters in dismissing [another] case, according to Texas Monthly. “And unfortunately, what happened in this case is all of those things.”

H/T:  Grits for Breakfast

Manslaughter Charges Filed Against Philadelphia Officers

From CBS Philly:

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has filed numerous charges, including voluntary manslaughter, against two former police officers in connection with a fatal shooting in 2008.

DA Seth Williams is following the recommendations of a grand jury which spent nearly two years investigating the case against 39-year-old Chauncey Ellison, Sr. and his ex girlfriend, 44-year-old Robin Fortune.

Both officers were off-duty on November 17, 2008 when they drove around in search of a local teen who had stolen a pizza from the couple’s two sons.

They found the suspect on the 1900 block of Renovo Street in front of Lawrence Allen’s home.

Williams says when Ellison drew his gun, Allen stepped in and tried to be a peacemaker.

“He actually said to Sgt. Ellison, ‘why do you have a gun out? All this over a pizza? I will give you money for the pizza. Let’s just calm all this down’.”

But witnesses told the grand jury that Ellison, who was egged on by his enraged girlfriend, shot Allen once in the back. The victim died nearly three months later.

Ellison faces 33-and-a-half to 67 years behind bars. Fortune is looking at charges of reckless endangerment and conspiracy and could go to prison for a minimum of 11 years.

 

 

After Baby Dies in Jail Cell, Mother Sues Sheriff

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Deshawn Balka, 25, who was 5 1/2 months pregnant at the time, is alleging a lack of adequate medical care and a slow response to her cries for help when her son was born prematurely in April.

“I wish and I pray that I would have gotten the care that I requested,” she told Channel 2.

Balka’s baby boy was delivered in the toilet of her jail cell. The suit alleges that it took about three hours for someone to respond to Balka’s calls after the pain started. She said jail staff arrived five to 10 minutes after the baby was born.

Sheriff Kem Kimbrough did not comment to Channel 2 Tuesday on the pending litigation, but in April he said Balka received adequate medical care.

Balka was in jail on a probation violation for marijuana possession, the report said. That warrant was later dismissed.

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