National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

NPMRP in the News

From Frontline:

Rodney King, who was found dead this weekend in a swimming pool at his house, once said that he believed his beating by Los Angeles police officers back in 1991 had “made the world a better place,” by bringing attention to the problem of police abuse.

Following the King incident and other scandals, LAPD entered a consent decree with the Justice Department that imposed major reforms, including more aggressive internal audits and officer training. But in the 20 years since King’s beating, allegations of police misconduct have remained a serious problem in several cities nationwide.

What impact, if any, did the King case have on the problem? “Not enough,” said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the criminal law reform project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Edwards said that better training has made the police more professional and that there are more opportunities for accountability with the proliferation of cellphone cameras. But, he said, “This is still a significant problem around the country.

“People that have to deal with excessive force are often the most disenfranchised, living in communities that don’t have a lot of political power,” he said. “A lot of things happen in those communities that people aren’t seeing.”

The most recent data from the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, which offers one of the only comprehensive accountings of misconduct allegations against the 18,000-some law enforcement agencies nationwide, showed a slight uptick in the number incidents of reported misconduct and a 6 percent increase in the number of reported incidents involving excessive force from 2009 to 2010 (the most recent years for which data is available).

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has taken on more active role in pursuing abuse allegations, which has brought some changes on state or city levels.

Last year, we noted that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had 17 ongoing investigations into law enforcement agencies to pursue allegations of excessive force or discrimination — more than at any time in the division’s history. Those investigations are still open.

The DOJ also has entered into a consent decree to require major reforms, or a memorandum of understanding to address specific concerns, with seven departments: Los Angeles, Detroit, the Virgin Islands, Beacon, NY; Warren, Ohio; Easton, Penn.; and the Orange Country Sheriff’s office in California.

In Seattle, a federal investigation found last December that the Seattle Police Department engaged in “a pattern or practice of unnecessary and excessive use of force,” and that about 20 percent of the cases suspects’ civil rights were violated.

In Chicago, police paid $45.5 million in damages in cases of police misconduct between January 2009 and November 2011, according to a recent investigation by the Chicago Reporter, with 75 percent of those cases involving excessive force. Meanwhile, an independent commission set up to investigate allegations of two decades of torture by police has lost its funding after following up on only five cases. The court filings detail repeated, brutal abuse of suspects by police.

The Newark, N.J. police department is currently under investigation by the DOJ for an alleged pattern of excessive force and discrimination after the ACLU documented 407 allegations of police shootings, sexual assault, false arrests and other abuses.

And then there’s the investigation into police misconduct in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which we’ve been following since 2009 in our Law and Disorder project. The DOJ has accused the department of a “systemic violations of civil rights,” and is working to establish a consent decree with the department.  One of the incidents that drew the attention of the Justice Department: the conviction of five officers in the shooting deaths and cover-up of two civilians on the Danziger Bridge.

In September, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said the bridge shooting was the “most high-profile incident” since the beating of Rodney King.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-20-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, June 20, 2012:

  • Rochester, New York police and federal agents raided the wrong home for a drug bust. The police released a statement saying, “upon encountering an elderly resident, the team realized they were  at the wrong location and left the premises”
  • A Reno, Nevada police officer was arrested and charged with assault causing bodily injury and family violence. After a warrant was issued for his arrest the officer turned himself in
  • A 35-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and failure to stop after an accident resulting in injury after a suspected hit-and-run
  • An Ogden, Utah police officer was fired after he was charged with bribing a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on behalf of his friend, an ex-officer. The officer paid the trooper $2,000 not to appear at a hearing regarding his friend’s DUI arrest
  • Savannah-Chatham, Georgia police officer was fired after being arrested for domestic violence battery and domestic violence simple assault.  The officer pleaded guilty and was given four years probation
  • Chariton, Iowa police officers tased a “mentally troubled” woman after they had handcuffed and confined her to a police car
  • A former Auburn, New York police officer was found guilty of stealing thousands of dollars from his fellow officers. The District Attorney issued the following statement, “I am disheartened by the shameful conduct of this former police officer, hired to uphold the law.” The officer faces four to twelve years in prison
  • An Atlanta, Georgia police officer was arrested for drunk driving after reaching speeds over 120 mph. The officer has been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-19-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, June 19, 2012:

  • Former Austin, Texas police officer sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion after failing to report $63,000 in federal taxes on a $323,000 income. The District Judge said the sentence is designed to deter others from evading taxes
  • A Highland Heights, Kentucky former police chief has been accused of wire fraud after using credit cards in the name of the Highland Heights Southgate Police Authority and in the names of other members of his police department to steal over $115,000
  • A former Charleston, South Carolina state trooper pleaded guilty to growing and possessing at least 100 marijuana plants with intent to distribute. The trooper used his police cruiser to transport the marijuana to avoid the possibility of being pulled over
  • Executive officer of the Minneapolis Police SWAT Unit punched a man in the head, who is now on life support.  Following the incident, the officer allegedly fled on foot immediately.  The officer’s commander stated, “that type of behavior is out of line for civilian employees but it’s egregious on the part of a sworn law enforcement officer.”
  • Long Beach, California police officer was charged with 20 felony counts of domestic violence for the alleged on-going abuse of his wife. The officer has been suspended without pay and is being held without bail until his trial
  • A former Grand Junction Police Officer and Firefighter has been charged with four counts of sexual assault on a child while in a position of trust, with a pattern of abuse
  • A Dallas County, Texas sheriff’s deputy resigned while under investigation for tipping off a business that was going to be raided by a special task force
  • A former San Jose, California police officer has pleaded “no contest” to two counts of unlawful sexual contact with minors. The officer faces up to three years and eight months in state prison
  • A Coconut Creek, Florida sheriff’s deputy has been booked in jail on charges of DUI, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, and careless driving

DUI Arrest for Off-Duty Cop Clocked at 128 MPH

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

A DeKalb police officer clocked Jarvis Farley at 128 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-285, near Lavista Road, just before 3 a.m. May 25, police said. The officer pursued Farley, who was driving southbound in a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, until he exited onto Ga. 78 and pulled over.

The officer approached the car, and Farley immediately showed his police identification and apologized for speeding. The officer noted on the report that Farley’s eyes were “very bloodshot and glassy, and he had a strong unknown type alcohol on his breath with his speech being mumbled.”

When told how fast he was driving, Farley replied, “Oh, for real?” according to the report.

Farley told the officer he consumed a “few” beers that night and had been drinking throughout the day.

When the officer asked him to perform a walking test, Farley stumbled and failed to maintain a straight line, police said. The officer administered a field alcohol breath test, which indicated a positive result for alcohol.

Farley was then placed under arrest. As the officer searched him, he found an unopened miniature bottle of Tequila in the motorist’s left cargo shorts pocket. Farley was taken to jail and submitted an official alcohol breath test, which showed a .142 blood alcohol content.

Farley was charged with DUI, speeding and reckless driving, according to the report. A spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department said he has been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation.

Full story here.

New Report on Wrongful Convictions in Virginia

From the Associated Press:

RICHMOND, Va. – New DNA testing in hundreds of old Virginia homicide and sexual assault cases supports the exoneration of at least 38 suspects, according to a study released Monday by a national policy group that examined the test results.

The Urban Institute’s study is the first to say how many exonerations are likely from Virginia’s stash of archived, decades-old biological samples that so far have cleared at least five men who were convicted of sexual assaults. Officials with the state Department of Forensic Science, which is conducting the testing project, have said their job is not to suggest who should be exonerated, but to test the samples and deliver the results to law enforcement officials who determine whether they believe someone is innocent.

The institute’s researchers found that in 5 percent of homicide and sexual assault cases, DNA testing ruled out the convicted person. If the scope is narrowed to just the sexual assault convictions, DNA testing eliminated between 8 percent and 15 percent of convicted offenders. The wrongful conviction rate previously had been estimated at 3 percent or less.

Although all of these tests were done on Virginia cases, a lead researcher said the results likely could be applied elsewhere.

“I believe that there’s nothing about the Virginia situation that is much different from what was going on across much of the United States at that time,” said John Roman of the Urban Institute. “I think that states have a responsibility to take these findings seriously in other places and investigate other cases that they have where they have retained evidence, because chances are they’re going to find far more wrongfully convicted people than they would have anticipated before this study.”

Researchers analyzed the results of new testing of DNA samples archived from 635 murder, sexual assault and non-negligent manslaughter cases that led to convictions. The cases stemmed from 715 offenses in Virginia between 1973 and 1987.

Virginia was able to do the testing because a state serologist and those she had trained had retained cotton swabs and clothing swatches. The samples mainly contained semen and blood samples from the cases during an era when DNA analysis wasn’t widely used as an investigative tool. After two men were exonerated following the discovery of the old evidence, the state in 2005 ordered each of the samples tested.

The report acknowledged certain limitations. For instance, it said that in two- thirds of the cases the samples didn’t have enough DNA for testing. Roman said that may mean the number of false convictions is much higher.

Roman said there likely are “dozens, if not hundreds, of people who were convicted erroneously; dozens, if not hundreds, of people who were not convicted of a crime they committed who may have gone on to commit new crimes; and there were dozens, if not hundreds, of people who thought they had justice as a victim of a horrible crime who didn’t.”

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-16-12 to 06-18-12

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked from June 16-18, 2012:

  • Dorchester County, SC police used a taser on an 80-year-old woman after she allegedly attempted to hit police with her walking stick. She had to be taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment
  • Norwalk, Connecticut sheriff was arrested in connection to a federal investigation concerning a oxycontin, cocaine and marijuana distribution ring. The sheriff stepped down from his post shortly after federal agents arrested him
  • Maynard, Massachusetts police chief was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after two fights with his wife, as well as one count of intimidating a witness. The police chief has since been replaced and turned in his gun
  • A former Jasper, Alabama police officer borrowed money from a drug dealer and later sold the same person drugs taken from his department’s  evidence  storage area.  The officer used this money to help buy his then-girlfriend an engagement ring
  • Former Fort Lauderdale police officer Ronald Baker was sentenced to life in prison for repeatedly molesting an underage female relative at his Sunrise home.  “The crimes which you have been convicted of would be disturbing under any circumstances,” said Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan, who condemned Baker as a “rapist, child molester and child pornographer.”
  • A second Birmingham, Alabama police officer has been jailed in connection with a spate of arsons that struck west Birmingham in May
  • Freehold, New Jersey police officer was convicted of shoplifting flooring valued at $500 from a Home Depot. The officer faces up to 18 months in prison
  • Lake County, Indiana police officer has been suspended after being charged with possession of cocaine, a controlled substance and a syringe, all of which are Class D felonies. The officer faces up three years in prison
  • A Fayette County, Georgia police dog attacked an employee at a Walmart store. The deputy in charge of the dog was using the restroom while the attack occurred
  • A Jefferson County, West Virginia sheriff was sued and indicted for the manner in which he arrested a bank robbery suspect. Despite the robber’s peaceful surrender the sheriff kicked him in the head repeatedly, “with a deliberate and sadistic intention to inflict injury on him.”
  • A New Jersey police officer who engaged in a firefight with police, was taken into custody after a 10-hour standoff. The officer will be charged with 13 counts of criminal attempted homicide and reckless endangerment

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-15-12

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, June 15, 2012:

  • A Woodlawn, Maryland teen died following a struggle with an off-duty police officer. The seventeen-year-old’s death has been ruled a homicide
  • A Dekalb County, Georgia police officer has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, driving in an improper lane and speeding. The officer has been placed on restrictive duty
  • Six Wayne County, Michigan sheriff’s deputies have been suspended without pay after being charged with assaulting inmates at the county jail in recent years.
  • A new report revealed that an Oakland, California Police Department investigator may have compromised the investigation into the shooting of a Marine veteran
  • Former Valencia County, New Mexico sheriff’s deputy faces one charge of extortion and one charge of false imprisonment after being accused of trying to coerce a sexual favor from a woman so she could get out of a ticket
  • A Former Rancho Cucamonga, California police detective was found guilty of kidnapping and raping a waitress at gunpoint in a brutal attack. The detective blamed the anti depressant Zoloft for his behavior
  • The City of Baltimore backed out of a $150,000 settlement with the family of the teen who was allegedly kidnapped by the police. The family’s lawyer claims, “this is highly unusual and it is highly unethical”

Rodney King, George Holliday, and Police Misconduct

Rodney King died today.  For the younger readers, some quick background: In March 1991, several Los Angeles police officers beat and tasered King when he would not obey their verbal commands to lay down, put his hands behind his back, etc.  (more details here). The police response was excessive, brutal, illegal, and ugly.   King received much of the attention, but we ought to remember the role played by the lesser known George Holliday, the white bystander who was appalled by what he was witnessing and had the presence of mind to videotape the event.   It turned out to be powerful evidence and a  pivotal moment in the history of police misconduct in the United States.  Replayed over and over again on network television, the scales suddenly fell (or started to) from the eyes of middle-class America.   Without Holliday’s video, the event would have been buried in the LAPD files–‘the subject in question, R. King,  resisted arrest and was eventually subdued by officers on the scene.’   With the video, a very different story.  King received several million dollars and the officers involved were held accountable for their actions–prosecuted for crimes.  That was just the start of the fallout.  There were riots and then a blue ribbon commission to study problems in the police department.  The long time police chief, Daryl Gates, eventually lost his job.

Capturing police misconduct on tape is happening with greater frequency–thanks to smart phones–and that is making the problem harder to ignore.

For additional background, go here, here, here, and here.

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