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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-17-12

Here are the 14 reports of Police Misconduct tracked for Friday, August 17, 2012:

  • Boulder, Colorado: A police officer accused of telling his roommate he planned to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend has resigned, just before an internal affairs review panel found he violated department rules.
  • Update: New Haven, Connecticut: A police sergeant has been suspended for 15 days for using excessive force outside of a nightclub. Video taken by witnesses captured the officer putting his foot on the neck of a man during the arrest.
  • Houston, Texas: A police officer crashed into a motorcyclist, and then admitting he was typing on his patrol car’s computer when the accident happened. There is dash-camera video showing the incident.
  • Saginaw, Michigan: A pastor said that more people will feel outrage after seeing video footage of police shooting and killing.
  • Hunterdon, New Jersey: An officer was involved in a one-car accident while off duty and has been charged with driving while under the influence.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: A state grand jury gave an indictment charging a police officer with one count of manslaughter after a fatal shooting during a raid inside a Gentilly home.
  • Bayonne, New Jersey: A Bayonne man who called 911 because his car was on fire charges in a lawsuit that he was pepper-sprayed, knocked out, and arrested by police for no reason. He also says there is videotape from a neighbor to prove it.
  • San Bernardino, California: Two deputies have been charged with misdemeanors after one allegedly assaulted a man and the other falsely impersonated another deputy, according to the criminal complaint.
  • Greenville, South Carolina: A state trooper is going to prison after he was found possessing child pornography. He also took pictures of young girls on the beach without their knowledge.
  • Lexington, Kentucky: A man is suing the city of Lexington, and the University of Kentucky. He alleges that officer used excessive force and violated his constitutional rights during a traffic stop.
  • Franklin County, North Carolina: The sheriff pleaded guilty to stealing more than $220,000 that was meant for undercover drug operations and from his office’s evidence room.
  • Columbus, Ohio: An officer was indicted by a federal grand jury with two counts of trying to coerce a minor to make sexually explicit videos.
  • Update: San Francisco, California: The Sheriff was found guilty of official misconduct. He was suspended after pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in a domestic violence case involving his wife.
  • Watsonville, California: A fired officer was charged with neglecting a second dog. The dog had to be euthanized. He was fired during an investigation into possible neglect of another dog before.

Jason Rios Files Brutality Lawsuit

In the video the police take three steps to conceal their actions from impartial bystanders/witnesses: (1) “Go inside with the camera,” orders one; (2) the fire truck is moved to block the view of the people watching across the street; (3) next, after noticing that the bystanders can still see Rios from another angle, police move the squad car so they can no longer see Rios.

Lawsuit: ‘They fired me for doing the right thing’

From the Chicago Tribune:

A former Des Plaines deputy police chief has sued the city and its former and current top officials, claiming he was forced to retire as retaliation for reporting the alleged misconduct of a police officer.

In the recently filed federal lawsuit, Richard Rozkuszka, 54, claims that he reported to former police Chief James Prandini five separate instances of misconduct by police Officer John Bueno, and that he was told each time by Prandini to “drop it.”

National Police Misconduct Daily NewsFeed Recap 08-16-12

Here are the 9 stories of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, August 16, 2012:

  • Brevard, Colorado: A deputy faces charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property after he was found with paintball equipment that was reported stolen in March. Investigators said they found two rooms full of paintball equipment, masks, guns, and other supplies in his home.
  • Update: Bogota, NJ: A judge recommended that suspended police officer Regina Tasca be dismissed from the department. She faces charges from two incidents, including failure to perform the duties of her rank, conduct unbecoming, and failure to assist other officers. “The failure of Officer Tasca to cooperate during both the incidents was paramount,” the Judge wrote. “She did not assist Officer Fowler and she interfered with Sergeant Rella.” Tasca was suspended without pay in May 2011 after a psychological examination found her unfit for duty.
  • Delray, Florida: David Chin, a member of the police department’s Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, went to great lengths to falsify reports so he could hide text messages outlining his romantic interest in a woman he arrested.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: An officer was charged with aggravated trespassing and public intoxication and fired. He had graduated from the police academy just two weeks prior.
  • Orlando, Florida: An 87-year-old war veteran says an officer used an excessive take-down technique on him and broke his neck. Two key witnesses testified in the trial, including a retired police chief. The chief was hired to evaluate the use of excessive force, and said the take down maneuver was “uncontrolled” and that a more thorough, in-depth investigation should have been conducted by the Orlando police department.
  • Union City, New Jersey: An officer was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. She was suspended, with pay, for one day for the incident.
  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Police say that Officer Robert Lee Baker has been charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretense.
  • Kansas City, Kansas: A police officer was charged with child endangerment. She left her 4-year-old daughter in a running car near the county jail on a 100 degree day.
  • St. Charles Township, Illinois: A former Elgin police officer pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence in a 2011 robbery case. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 24 months of probation, 200 hours of community service and given a $1000 fine.


More Coverage for the Crime of Video Recording

From the New York Times:

Q.  It seems like photographing in public is becoming a crime.
A.  Literally every day, someone is being arrested for doing nothing more than taking a photograph in a public place. It makes no sense to me. Photography is an expression of free speech.

Since 9/11, there’s been an incredible number of incidents where photographers are being interfered with and arrested for doing nothing other than taking pictures or recording video in public places.

It’s not just news photographers who should be concerned with this. I think every citizen should be concerned. Tourists taking pictures are being told by police, security guards and sometimes other citizens, “Sorry, you can’t take a picture here.” When asked why, they say, “Well, don’t you remember 9/11?”

I remember it quite well, but what does that have do to with taking a picture in public? It seems like the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into an assault on photography.

For related Cato work, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-15-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, August 15, 2012:

  • Seattle, Washington: A Seattle police officer caught on video kicking a handcuffed suspect in the head has been suspended for 10 days, but won’t have to serve the suspension as long as he stays out of trouble.
  • Gary, Indiana: An officer was arrested and is facing prison time on federal drug and weapons charges. “The vast majority of the men and women of the Gary Police Department are honest and hardworking people. This arrest should be a reminder to any officer who decides to cross the line and break the law that they will be arrested and prosecuted,” said Gary Chief Wade Ingram.
  • Westminster, South Carolina: Officials have asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate the city’s police department in connection with suspected criminal actions discovered in a departmental review.
  • Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: An 11-year veteran State Trooper faces charges that he drove drunk and hit another car while off-duty. The accident killed Robin Taneisha Williams, age 21, on the PA turnpike.
  • McHenry County, Illinois: A sheriff’s deputy was arrested for allegedly taking a 10-year-old boy to Wisconsin to sexually abuse him and produce child pornography, which he then transmitted through the internet.
  • Merrillville, Indiana: A state trooper was arrested for simple assault and has been reassigned to administrative duty.
  • Lexington, Kentucky: An officer has been charged with misconduct for allegedly receiving sexual favors from a woman and failing to charge her with a crime after finding drug paraphernalia in her purse.
  • Update: Lincoln, Rhode Island: The police officer who was found guilty of felony assault on a handcuffed woman outside a slot parlor resigned.


False Claims of Police Misconduct and Free Speech

Minnesota has a criminal law that punishes complaints of police misconduct that a person knows to be false.  The constitutionality of that law has been challenged and may now be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s some background.  Melissa Crawley complained that an officer forged her signature on a medical release form at a hospital.  Police looked into the matter and concluded that Crawley fed them false information.  Crawley was charged under the Minnesota law and was later convicted by a jury.

On appeal, Crawley’s lawyers argued that the law was unconstitutional because it criminalizes false speech that is critical of the police but not false speech that favors the police.  The appeals court agreed and reversed Crawley’s conviction.

The case then moved to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which overturned the appeals court.

Justice Stras filed a dissenting opinion.  Here’s an excerpt from his opinion:

The point of the foregoing discussion is not to conclusively resolve the historical debate over the primary motivation animating the ratification of the First Amendment, but rather to highlight the indisputable principle that criticism of the government—and those who run it—is at the core of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has recognized as much: “[c]riticism of government is at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free discussion[, and] [c]riticism of those responsible for government operations must be free, lest criticism of government itself be penalized.” Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75, 85 (1966). Put differently, “[i]t is vital to our form of government that citizens and press alike be free to discuss and, if they see fit, impugn the motives of public officials.” Janklow v. Newsweek, Inc., 788 F.2d 1300, 1305 (8th Cir. 1986); see also Snyder v. Phelps, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 1207, 1215 (2011) (“[S]peech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.” (citation omitted)). The statute at issue here, Minn. Stat. § 609.505, subd. 2, punishes precisely the type of speech that is at the “very center” of the First Amendment: statements critical of government officials—in this case, peace officers. Cf. Gray v. Udevitz, 656 F.2d 588, 591 (10th Cir. 1981) (collecting cases holding that police officers are considered public officials under the First Amendment).
Because subdivision 2 regulates within an area of core First Amendment expression, it risks chilling valuable speech unless it provides sufficient breathing space to prevent self-censorship or suppression. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 342 (1974). That is, in order to prevent the chilling of truthful speech on a matter of public concern—police misconduct—subdivision 2 must contain either “[e]xacting proof requirements,” Madigan, 538 U.S. at 620, such as a heightened mens rea, New York Times Co., 376 U.S. 279-80; a showing of specific harm, S.F. Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. U.S. Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522, 539-41 (1987); or a showing of materiality, United States v. Lepowitch, 318 U.S. 702, 704 (1943); or contain some other “limitations of context” that help to ensure that “the statute does not allow its threat of . . . criminal punishment to roam at large,” Alvarez, 132 S. Ct. at 2555 (Breyer, J., concurring). Given the breadth and practical application of subdivision 2, the statute fails to provide sufficient breathing space for core First Amendment speech.
The key risk posed by subdivision 2—a criminal statute—is that legitimate, truthful criticism of public officials will be suppressed for fear of unwarranted prosecution. “[E]ven minor punishments can chill protected speech.” Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234, 244 (2002); see also Alexander v. United States, 509 U.S. 544, 565 (1993) (Kennedy, J., dissenting) (“There can be little doubt that regulation and punishment of certain classes of unprotected speech have implications for other speech that is close to the proscribed line, speech which is entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.”). Thus, the mere threat of prosecution may cause some would-be government critics to refrain from voicing their legitimate criticism, “because of doubt whether [their statement] can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so.”

That’s the dissent in the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The majority of the court upheld the statute and Crawley’s conviction.  Crawley’s lawyers are expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this dispute.  Stay tuned.

H/T: Constitutional Law Prof Blog

State Trooper Kills Woman in DUI Crash

Prosecutors have charged a Pennsylvania State Trooper with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Searfoss was coming from an annual charity golf outing at Five Ponds Golf Course in Warminster, which began around 11:30 a.m., the affidavit says. The “Bump and Run Golf Event” was a fundraiser for youth scholarships in honor of Phoebe Blessington, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1997.

The off-duty officer was traveling about 70 mph when his vehicle slammed into the car of 21-year-old Robin Taneisha Williams.  A witness said a fire engulfed Williams’s car, killing her.

National Police MIsconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-14-12

Here are the 13 reports of Police Misconduct tracked for Tuesday, August 14, 2012:

  • Columbia, Wisconsin: A former police officer who lost his job after a holding cell altercation has been charged. The prosecuting attorney, appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, charged him with misdemeanor third-degree assault.
  • Reeds Spring, Kansas: A civil suit has been filed accusing a deputy of excessive force. The suit says that Seth Fagan was sitting on a guardrail near a bridge, texting on his cell phone for a ride home, when the officer told him to get off his phone and drop it to the ground. The officer then stepped on it, breaking it and arrested Fagan. The suit further says that the officer then put his knee to Fagan’s throat until he passed out.
  • Jackson, Mississippi: A federal jury awarded a resident more than $93,000 in a lawsuit against three police officers for excessive force and for violating his constitutional rights. They pepper-sprayed and body-slammed him when he complained that officers cars lights were shining into his home at night, where they routinely conducted a speed trap.
  • Greenville, North Carolina: A high speed chase that reached speeds of over 100mph ended with a crash. The chase began because the driver was texting.
  • Flint, Michigan: A deputy drove through a red light at a high rate of speed without his lights, flashers or sirens on. He caused a five car crash and seriously injured a 13-year old girl. The family is now filing suit.
  • Los Angeles, California: A sheriff pleaded no contest to charges of a sexual act with a minor. He is apparently serving no jail time for the felony offense.
  • Sacramento, California: A 17-year veteran officer was arrested on suspicion of a DUI after he hit another car.
  • Miami, Florida: A man says that a police officer broke his arm and falsely prosecuted him after he refused an undercover officer’s prostitution offer.
  • Kansas City, Kansas: A police officer resigned from the police department and has pleaded guilty to battery.
  • Concord, California: A man has sued the city and its police department, claiming an officer used excessive force by shooting him with Taser darts after a traffic stop. He is suing for damages, injuries, wage loss and medical expenses, claiming he is the victim of battery, assault, false arrest and illegal imprisonment.
  • New York, New York: An NYPD Detective was arrested for allegedly beating up other officers who pulled him over for a suspected DWI.
  • Amarillo, Texas: An officer, who is now the defendant in a lawsuit against him, shot and killed Ruben Flores, who was driving a stolen ice cream truck. The lawsuit says: “The shooter defendant attempted to put himself in harm’s way in front of Flores’ vehicle, but Flores maneuvered around him in an effort to avoid harming the shooter defendant…[he] then, without any legitimate fear of imminent bodily harm to himself or others, shot Flores through the passenger side door which was open, striking Flores in the chest and killing him. Flores was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone during the incident.”
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: Four officers were charged with falsifying DUI arrest reports so that officers not present would qualify for overtime. There is no indication that they have lost their jobs with the department.



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