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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Fighting City Hall — The Kelly Thomas Case

From Huffington Post:

Kelly’s Army worked tirelessly to publicize the beating, which Establishment types would have liked to sweep under the carpet, subtly or not-so-subtly trying to blame Kelly for his own death. Kelly’s Army got the ear of the Orange County DA, which in itself was a stunner considering how the System protects its own. For the first time ever in Orange County an on-duty police officer was charged with murder — as if it were the first time in the history of Orange County that an innocent person was killed by rogue cops.

Kelly’s Army then dealt with the other part of the System. They got the unresponsive city council majority recalled. Travis Kiger, a smart and mild-mannered computer professional, who was one of the first to express his outrage and blog about Kelly’s killing, went from anti-Establishment blogger to City Councilman. The winds of change are indeed blowing through Fullerton.

Read the whole thing.   Previous coverage here.

National Police Misconduct News Feed Daily Recap 08-01-12

Here are the 14 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, August 1, 2012:

  • Los Osos, California: a San Luis Obispo County deputy has been arrested on a domestic violence charge. “The Sheriff’s Office holds our employees to the same or higher standards than other members of the comunity,” according to the department’s spokesperson.
  • Payson, Arizona: a civilian has sued the town police department and three officers. The complaint claims that he was subjected to excessive force.
  • Auburn, New York: a former police officer has been sentenced to seven years for embezzling from a Police Benevolent Association while serving as its treasurer. “This defendant has let down the public. He’s let down his comrades,” per the Cayuga County District Attorney.
  • Horicon, Minnesota: an off-duty officer was arrested for allegedly driving drunk and having his personal handgun in the car with him.  “He remains on the police department and has an otherwise good service record,” according to the department’s chief.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: a former officer has pleaded guilty to federal drug, assault, and theft charges. He faces up to life in prison.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: a fired police officer has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for molesting a crime victim. He raped the 19-year-old in question after she had called 911 because her house was being vandalized. His sentence was extended for an additional two years for perjury.
  • St. Louis, Missouri: a South St. Louis County officer tased a 12-year-old girl in Victoria’s Secret. The officer had been looking for the girl’s mother, who had warrants out for her arrest for “numerous unresolved traffic tickets”. We posted some relevant news footage here
  • El Dorado Hills, California: a retired El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to five years for embezzlement. He stole more than $300,000 from the county deputies’ union, of which he was president.
  • Orlando, Florida: a man suspected of credit card theft is suing the city of Orlando and the officers who arrested him. The officers claimed that they shot at him in the incident because he had rammed their patrol cars. A surveillance tape, however, suggests that an unmarked police car hit the suspect’s van first, pushing it into the other cars.
  • Queens, New York: an NYPD detective has been suspended without pay after a kidnapping victim was found, bound and gagged, in his garage.
  • Austin, Texas: an officer has been fired for violating department policies in addition to his having been charged with assault in March. The charges stemmed from an altercation with his wife.
  • Los Angeles County, California: a sheriff’s deputy has been charged with perjury and filing a false police report. He allegedly falsely accused a couple of being under the influence: “I’d seen it in the movies, but never in a million years did I think it would happen to me,” said one of them.
  • Anderson, South Carolina: a deputy has been charged with misconduct and drug offenses. He was arrested and fired. “We take our officers’ conduct very seriously,” per the sheriff. “When there is a problem, we deal with it and we deal with it strictly.”
  • Wilder, Vermont: a civilian has filed a lawsuit against police officers and town officials. He alleges cops beat and pepper-sprayed him inside his own home because he is African-American.

National Police Misconduct News Feed Daily Recap 07-31-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, July 31, 2012:

  • Update: Atlanta, Georgia: the chief of police fired an officer who crashed his car into another motorist, killing her. The officer has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide.
  • North Chicago, Illinois: the police have paid out $40,000 to settle a complaint over a police dog attack and has fired the officer in question. Per the complaint, he allowed a dog to bite a fleeing suspect and break his leg. The settlement comes amid concerns voiced by a retired operations commander about problematic levels of excessive force.
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland: a police officer has been indicted on charges of first- and second-degree assault and misconduct after he allegedly assaulted a 13-year-old at gunpoint.
  • Tempe, Arizona: a police officer has resigned after admitting to stealing police property and about $1,000 in cash. Among the items he stole were two police bicycles he claimed to have given his children as gifts.
  • Wichita, Kansas: a police chase nearly ended in tragedy as the suspect car came within four feet of 3 young girls in a swimming pool. The chase started over a minor traffic violation.
  • Columbus, Ohio: a police and school resource officer has been arrested by the FBI after allegations that he sexted a student. He’s been relieved of duty and his badge and gun have been confiscated.
  • Taft, Texas: a police officer has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. He’ll pay restitution and spend five years in prison; his wife, found guilty of attempted sexual assault, has been sentenced to 60 days and community service. “He got a short time, compared to my daughter’s lifetime agony. She, she has to live with this, for the rest of her life,” said the victim’s father.
  • New York, New York: the city has settled for $225,000 with a bicyclist whose jaw was broken during an argument with a police officer. He had stopped her for using her bike on the sidewalk.
  • Rooks County, Kansas: a sheriff has pleaded guilty to four felony counts of distributing meth. He dealt at the Rooks County Fairgrounds and within 1,000 feet of a local high school.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-28-12 to 07-30-12

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, July 28 to Monday, July 30, 2012:

  • Update: Melbourne, Florida: A police officer was fired for picking up prostitutes from his patrol car, while he was in uniform. He didn’t know that dashboard cameras were gathering evidence against him.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: An officer pleaded not guilty on multiple counts of tampering with evidence, possession of narcotics and dangerous drugs, computer tampering , felony theft, and fraudulent schemes.
  • Dallas County, Texas: A former deputy was formally charged with bribery for tipping off a business about an impending raid. He was seen “hastily leaving the location prior to their arrival,” sheriff reports said. The deputy resigned after the accusation.
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey: Two State police officers escorted a high-speed caravan of luxury cars, will be criminally charged. One motorist who saw the incident described it as “Death Race 2012.”
  • Syracuse, New York: An officer, who was responsible for investigating child abuse cases for the county, admitted to having child pornography on his home computer.
  • Manhattan, New York: The man who was charged with disorderly conduct for giving the finger to officers is now suing the city. “I’ve never seen a single case in New York saying that a middle finger is an obscene gesture under the disorderly conduct statute,” said attorney Robert Quackenbush, who specializes in civil rights law.
  • Frankfurt, Illinois: An officer was arrested and charge with domestic battery after allegedly choking and headbutting a woman. The officer is on administrative leave pending the investigation.
  • Lakeside, Oregon: A man died, and three others were injured, in a four car crash that occurred because of a chase. The chase began over a speeding driver.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A police officer pleaded guilty to pocketing hundreds of dollars in payoffs from a tow truck operator who was secretly working for the FBI as part of an undercover probe that exposed widespread bribery at crash scenes.
  • Louisa, Virginia: A police officer pleaded guilty to embezzling thousands of dollars from the volunteer fire department.
  • Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina: The police chief has been suspended as the investigation into allegations that he abused his power begin. The investigation began at the request of a judge and the district attorney’s office.


Milton Friedman on the Drug War

100 years ago, the great champion of liberty, Milton Friedman, was born.  Thus, it is  an appropriate day to recall some of his words about the American criminal justice system, particularly the drug war.



Here is Dr. Friedman’s foreword to my book, After Prohibition:

This book contains revised versions of papers given at a conference on “Beyond Prohibition: An Adult approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century,” held at the Cato Institute on October 5, 1999. The papers presented range widely over all aspects of current drug policy. The final two chapters record a debate held at the conference on whetherAmerica should legalize drugs.

Whatever your view about that issue, I believe that you cannot read this book without recognizing the social tragedy that has resulted from the attempt to prohibit people from ingesting an arbitrary list of substances designated “illegal drugs.” That list includes marijuana, for which there is no recorded case of human death from overdose in several thousand years of use and which has important medicinal uses, but excludes alcohol, which also has important medicinal uses but for which the annual death toll in theUnited Statesalone is measured in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Not since the collapse of the attempt to prohibit the ingestion of alcohol has our liberty been in such danger from the misnamed “war on drugs.”

How can there be a war on drugs? Can there be a war on stones, on buildings, on aspirin? Surely, wars are on living, not inanimate, objects. And this war is being waged on people. Like every war, it is being waged in wanton disregard of “Life,Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”-“unalienable rights” with which we are endowed by our Creator, according to the Declaration of Independence.

As a nation, we have been destroying foreign countries because we cannot enforce our own laws. As a nation, we have been responsible for the murder of literally hundreds of thousands of people at home and abroad by fighting a war that should never have been started and can be won, if at all, only by converting theUnited Statesinto a police state. The annual arrest of nearly a million and a half people suspected of a drug offense, most of them for simple possession of small quantities, is frightening evidence of how far along that road we have already gone. So too is the overcrowding of our prisons, despite an unprecedented increase in capacity, leading to the release of persons convicted of violent crimes in order to make room for persons convicted of a drug offense and given minimum required sentences. Minimum required sentences that are sometimes so harsh that at least one judge has resigned rather than be the instrument for imposing cruel and inhumane punishment, and numerous other judges have registered strong protests (see chapter 8). So too is the fact, noted by Nova University law professor Steven Wisotsky, that “law enforcement officials-now joined by the military forces of the United States-have the power, with few limits, to snoop, sniff, survey, and detain, without warrant or probable cause, in the war against drug trafficking. Property may be seized on slight evidence and forfeited to the state or federal government without proof of the personal guilt of the owner….[and] and increasingly imperial federal government has applied intimidating pressures to shop owners and others in the private sector to help implement federal drug policy.

Why is it that laws against the ingestion of a class of substances have proved to be so much greater a threat to our freedom than laws against theft, assault, and murder? The answer is simple. Persons who have been harmed by theft, assault, and murder have a strong incentive to report the crime to law enforcement officials. There is a clear and evident victim. Enforcement of the law is a cooperative enterprise that enlists the assistance of the persons harmed.

By contrast, when a willing seller and a willing buyer transfer a substance that has been designated illegal, no one has an incentive to report what the law in its majesty has declared a crime. NO on has a direct incentive to cooperate with law enforcement officials. Evidence must be obtained in other ways, such as the use of informers-a practice that every totalitarian state has engaged in when it made it a crime to hold or publish the “wrong” beliefs, a crime that willing participants have no incentive to report. The Nazis and the Communists alike encouraged children to spy on and report their parents for “crimes against the state,” and so does the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (see chapter 10).

The lack of anyone who has a direct incentive to report an offense is also the reason drug enforcers are driven to warrantless searches, seizures of property without due process, and all of the other violations of civil liberties that have become so common in the relentless prosecution of the drug war.

The high financial stakes enhance the danger to our liberty. The produce widespread corruption, which requires the use of ever more resources to monitor the monitors, and enable drug dealers to finance armies and arms not obviously inferior to the armies and arms of the drug warriors. Only the well-financed and well-armed drug dealers can survive, with the ironic result that our drug enforcement efforts protect the major drug cartels from competition-more effectively than the OPEC cartel was ever able to protect itself from competition!

Law enforcement agencies are major beneficiaries of the drug war at the same time that law enforcement is a major victim. The agencies benefit from the many billions of dollars spent on pursuing the drug war and from the proceeds of forfeiture, an increasingly attractive and lucrative source of funds. Law enforcement suffers because the attempt to enforce laws against victimless crime breaks the link between law enforcers and the community; widespread corruption engendered by the vast sums at stake destroys the trust between police and public that is essential for the proper enforcement of the law (see chapter 7). Moreover, though total expenditures on law enforcement has increased greatly, so large a fraction goes to the drug war that less is available to enforce the laws against theft, assault and murder.

The Declaration of Independence tells us that “governments are instituted among men” in order “to secure” “certain unalienable rights” and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” A nanny government has become destructive of these ends. It is past time that we alter it.

Milton Friedman
Hoover Institute
Stanford, California
September 8, 2000

Ever so slowly, policymakers are starting to come around on this subject.  

Police organizations too!  More here and here

For more info about the legacy of Milton Friedman, check out the Cato Institute home page.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-27-12

Here are the 16 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, July 27, 2012:

  • Bexar County, Texas: Two K-9s died after an officer left them in a hot patrol car overnight.
  • Wilmington, North Carolina: A state trooper was placed on leave amid accusations of criminal behavior.
  • Maricopa, Arizona: An officer was fired for having sex with a married woman while he was on-duty. “I want to ensure the residents as soon as we found out about the conduct it was investigated very quickly and it was handled very quickly,” said the police chief.
  • Tukwila, Washington: The police agreed to pay $33,500 to settle a civil rights lawsuit that alleged a man was pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and left to sit in agony. The police officer who was accused was also involved in a taser incident that resulted in the city paying $12,500 three years ago.
  • Franklin, Indiana: The County Sheriff said that a detective was suspended because he was filing incorrect mileage reports. A GPS was placed in his car when his mileage was called into question, and it showed that he was falsifying his reports.
  • Trenton, Pennsylvania: A police officer was suspended without pay for sleeping in his patrol car. He was in uniform and carrying a gun. A passerby took a photo and posted it online. The incident is “dangerous to the city whether the officer is working or not,” said the City Police Director
  • St. Louis, Missouri: An officer was arrested and accused of assaulting a handcuffed suspect.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A paraplegic man says that two officers threw him down and pepper-sprayed him because he was videoing them with his cell phone. The suit says the officers “did not have a reasonable basis for using the amounts of force used against the plaintiff.”
  • Seattle, Washington: A man filed suit against the officer who pulled a gun on him while in plain clothes. The officer got angry that the man parked in his way.
  • Update: Leominster, Massachusetts: The officer who yelled a racial slur at one of the outfielders at a Sox game was fired.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A woman has filed suit against the police department. She says they tasered her husband, causing him to fall and injure his brain. He is still in a coma more than a year later.
  • Update: Boston, Massachusetts: An officer who was drunk-driving and hit another car, severely injuring the woman driving, is now being charged with operating under the influence, causing serious injury, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, and civil infractions.
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa: A man who was arrested died in the back of the police cruiser he was being held in. The investigation is pending.
  • Wrightstown, New Jersey: An former police officer was accused of destroying a computer hard drive to throw off agents investigating allegations he possessed child pornography.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: An officer was charged in the death of a woman after a crash. He is on paid leave pending investigation.
  • Tompkinsville, Kentucky: A police officer was convicted of first degree sexual assault toward a girl younger than twelve.


Rethinking Police Shooting Policies

Steven Greenhut:

I covered one police shooting in Anaheim in 2008. A 20-year-old newlywed stepped outside his house with a wooden rod in his hand after hearing a ruckus nearby. Police had been chasing a robbery suspect, and when the young man came out of his house, they shot him to death. Even Police Chief John Welter, who still leads the department, said the man “was innocent of anything that the officer thought was going on in that neighborhood.” Yet, apparently, nothing has changed since then.

While Anaheim has a greater need than some other cities to re-evaluate its policing policies, problems with police use-of-force problem are endemic throughout the country and, especially, in California, where police union priorities – i.e., what’s best for officers, not the citizenry – have dominated policy decisions for decades.

Recent news reports show a significant increase in police-involved shootings in many areas of California. Police shootings account for one of every 10 shooting deaths in Los Angeles County, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Videotapes of the encounters often show that the official version of the story is at odds with what really happened. No wonder police agencies spend so much time confiscating video cameras from bystanders, something that should chill every freedom-loving American, whether on the political Left or Right.

The California Supreme Court’s Copley Press v. San Diego decision in 2006 allows allegations of police misconduct to remain shrouded in secrecy. The public can access complaints against doctors, lawyers and other professionals but, in California, misbehavior by public employees who have the legal right to use deadly force often is off-limits to scrutiny. Because of an exemption in the public-records act, police agencies need not release most details of their reports of officer-involved shootings.

Furthermore, the Peace Officers Procedural Bill of Rights in California’s Government Code gives accused officers such strong protections that officers can rarely be disciplined or fired. The “code of silence” is alive and well in police agencies.

Most police department citizen-review panels are toothless. We should never condone violent protests, but it’s not hard to understand the recent frustration in central Anaheim. What if it were your child or your neighbor’s child?


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-26-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, July 26, 2012:

  • Chicago, Illinois: A man who was shot in the chest by police while riding his bike is filing suit. He claims that he was unarmed when it happened. The lawsuit says that the officers also used excessive force when he was handcuffed and had fallen to the ground.
  • Kenyon, Minnesota: A lawsuit was filed against a state trooper and a police chief, alleging they slammed the plaintiff into a wall and hit him in the face, giving him a nosebleed, while taking him into custody.
  • Wilcox County, Georgia: Jailer admitted he was present when several people, including the then-Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth and his son, assaulted three inmates. He also admitted he and others were present when Bloodsworth concocted a false story in order to cover up the fact that law enforcement officials and others had used excessive force against three inmates.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A man filed an excessive force lawsuit against an officer, alleging that he was assaulted during an arrest, and saying that the city ignored warnings of a pattern of rogue policing.
  • New Britain, Connecticut: An internal affairs report just released says that the now retired police captain was having sex while on duty for years, even while he was working overtime. “The behavior described in the report was unacceptable,” said the interim Police Chief. “We are public servants and should be held accountable when we engage in inappropriate activity as documented in that investigative report.”
  • Anderson, California: An officer pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of possessing child porn, one felony for unauthorized use of a computer, and one misdemeanor for annoying a child. His wife is a teacher at the local school, and a former student says that he frequently took pictures of them in her classroom.
  • Pueblo, Colorado: A bar patron is suing the officer who, he says, used excessive force when he was tased twice after the officer had already knocked him to the ground. The incident started after the patron asked the officer to stop harassing his friends.
  • Los Angeles, California: Former Miss Nevada has filed suit against Los Angeles police officers. She says that the police wrongly raided her home in the middle of the night, and then forced her to get out of bed naked while they openly stared. She said that they then joked about the mistake when they finally realized they had the wrong house.
  • Pickett County, Tennessee: A former state trooper has pleaded guilty to five criminal counts stemming from a sexual assault investigation, and was sentenced to eight years in jail.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Witnesses say an officer shot a man in the head, without warning, from the inside of his car. An investigation is now underway. Police Commissioner Thomas Wright said “We’re not going to tolerate any improper behavior by police officers…. If there’s anything we need to do that needs to be corrected, we’ll ensure that happens.”


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-25-12

Here are the 10 stories of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, June 25, 2012:

  • Update: Chicago, IL: The police officer accused of beating a 19-year-old while he was handcuffed was found guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct. The incident was caught on tape.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Three New Orleans officers were implicated in misconduct incidents. One was taking funds from a nonprofit illegally. She is scheduled to be sentenced in October. Another was arrested for writing a worthless check. The third was booked for a DWI.
  • Franklin Park, Illinois: An off-duty sheriff’s deputy was charged with an aggravated DUI after a fatal crash. He was taken into custody after the crash.
  • Huntsville, Alabama: The Dash-Cam video released by police shows the incident that cost an officer his job. He is now appealing his termination.
  • Prince George County, Maryland: An officer was sentenced to almost four years in prison for his role in protecting shipments of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol. “It degrades what we expect from people we put in positions of trust,” said the Assistant U.S. Attorney. “We have to show law enforcement that you can’t do this and walk away.” The scheme is said to have cost the government, and taxpayers, about $2.8 million.
  • Los Angeles, California: An officer was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing suspects with pepper spray and a stun gun.
  • Coral Gables, Florida: An officer was arrested after allegedly attacking his girlfriend by pushing her against a door and biting her. He was relieved of duty pending criminal charges.
  • Vohees, Township, New Jersey: A police officer has been accused of misusing police database information about a woman in order to ‘friend’ her on Facebook.
  • Gwinnett County, Georgia: A deputy accused of sexually assaulting an inmate confessed his guilt. He is now being charged in court.
  • Chicago, Illinois: The City Council signed off on settlements in 2 lawsuits totaling $7.17 million filed by men who allege they were victims of police torturing. One man will receive $5 million after he said police tortured him for 4 days before he confessed to murder. He served 23 years and was then exonerated.


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