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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-27-12

Here are the 13 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, June 27, 2012:

  • Two Richfield, Ohio police officers were fired after pleading guilty to stealing fencing that had fallen off a truck on Interstate 271. The police chief said, “after reviewing the case and the internal investigation we found that the charges had merit.”
  • Chicago police officer, Chris Gofron, is being sued for brutality and is being investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority after beating a couple. After the attack, the victims called 911 and told the operator, “A cop, an off-duty cop- is very drunk, he just assaulted us and put a gun in our face…he was pistol-whipping my boyfriend.”
  • Two Hialeah, Florida school transit officers have been fired for inappropriate conduct, one for drinking during working hours outside the school and another for not reporting the incident. A spokesman for the mayor’s office stated, “this will not be tolerated, especially when it comes to people who are responsible for the safety of children.”
  • A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to six months in jail after he admitted to stealing drugs from a suspect he arrested while on patrol
  • Kenton County, Kentucky grand jury is reviewing an officer’s fatal shooting of a 21 year-old male. The victim’s father said, “I think my son said something that made him mad and he took fire. After all this funeral stuff, I want to get a lawyer, I believe my son has been murdered for no reason.”  The officer has placed on administrative duty
  • A New York City police detective was arrested and charged with burglarizing a Linderhurst home. A task force trailed the officer and his accomplices and caught them red-handed. The officer has been suspended without pay
  • Grand Jury is reviewing a case involving a Dallas, Texas police officer who shot and killed a teenager during a confrontation while off-duty. The officer says that after he pulled out his gun, the teen began to run from him, then fell and pulled out a gun of his own. The victim’s sister doesn’t believe the cop’s account of what happened, stating, “I know my brother. He ain’t going to pull out no gun for no reason.”
  • Update: Rancho Cucamonga, California jury found that the police detective who blamed the antidepressant Zoloft for his behavior was sane when he abducted and raped a waitress at gunpoint. Prosecutors say the off-duty officer used his service weapon to force the woman to drive to a self-storage lot, where he sexually assualted her and shoved a gun in her mouth. The woman was able to escape when the officer was distracted by an incoming cellphone call
  • Ingham County, Michigan sheriff’s detective pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for child abuse. The charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The Chief Deputy said, “as soon as we found out the charge was going to be issued, he was suspended.”
  • A New Mexico police officer’s  sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl (they are now a married couple) is the subject of a New Mexico state police investigation. Sierra County Sheriff, Joe Baca, is outspoken in saying that Pestak, the officer, should be criminally charged, claiming, “if this was anybody else, he’d already be in jail. Because he’s a former police officer and a judge’s son is the only reason he’s free right now.” The girl’s father believes the pair met when Pestak made an on-duty stop of a car in which the teen was driving
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania state trooper is under investigation for leaking information to a dangerous motorcycle gang member. The officer has been suspended without pay during this ongoing investigation
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts state trooper has been accused of provoking a violent brawl while assigned to Vice President Joe Biden’s security detail. The trooper allegedly instigated several fights that left members of the Air Force, also assigned to Biden’s detail, bloodied and bruised
  • The Arkansas Ethics Commission says there’s probable cause that a state police captain, who provided security for former Razorbacks coach, broke the law when he accepted tickets and a Sugar Bowl ring from Arkansas’ football program

Jury Nullification Law Signed by New Hampshire Governor

With all the buzz and anticipation surrounding the final rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court the past week, there has been little attention to an interesting legal development in New Hampshire:  On June 18, Governor John Lynch (no relation)  signed HB 146 into law and it becomes effective on January 1, 2013.   HB 146  concerns “the right of a jury to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.”  It’s popularly known as “the jury nullification bill.”  In this post, I will try to explain what impact this new law may have in the  New Hampshire courts.

Continue Reading →

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-26-12

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, June 26:

  • Los Angeles, California sheriff’s deputy, Henry Marin, has been sentenced to two years in jail for attempting to smuggle heroin, hidden inside a burrito, into a courthouse. Marin pleaded no contest to one count of bringing drugs into a jail
  • Trenton, New Jersey state police trooper admitted to stealing more than $7,000 worth of gasoline from state fuel pumps for his personal vehicles. A month after being suspended without pay, the trooper left the police force
  • An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper was sentenced to 50 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of making false statements and false oaths in bankruptcy and one count of witness tampering. The trooper was ordered to pay restitution of $617,600 to lenders he deceived through mortgage fraud
  • Hendersonville, NC police officer was fired for his involvement in the shooting of a fleeing burglary suspect. The officer claims he thought the fleeing suspect was reaching for a weapon while he was running away, the suspect, however, told the Time-News that, “police were harassing him and he didn’t have a weapon.”
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico police officer, Jon Lopez, has been placed on administrative leave after he was arrested for battery on a household member and interfering with communications. The officers who responded to the domestic dispute call said they saw that, “she (Lopez’s wife) had marks on her arms consistent with bruising and a scratch.”
  • A Pennsylvania State Police trooper is being charged with homicide by vehicle in connection with the death of a 21-year-old Philadelphia woman, Robin Williams. The off-duty trooper rear-ended Williams and she died at the crash scene. The trooper was immediately taken into custody on suspicion of DUI
  • Update: the Las Vegas police officer accused of stopping female drivers while on duty has pleaded guilty to oppression under the color of office and open or gross lewdness. The officer faces up to two years in jail and will be required to register as a sex offender
  • Buffalo, New York state trooper was fired for promoting wild soirees with prostitutes. The prostitution ring imported hookers from Canada for parties in the Buffalo area
  • Waltham, Massachusetts police chief was arrested for a domestic violence incident and will remain held without bail for two days
  • A Newport News, Virginia shop owner is suing the Newport News Sheriff’s Office for confiscating $611,388 in cash as well as a 2011 Ford Mustang from his companies as a part of their investigation into the suspected sale of synthetic marijuana from his shops. The investigation found that the shop owner was innocent
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts state trooper, Adam Paicos, is under investigation by the state police for four incidents, including driving the wrong way down a street. Paicos has been placed on restrictive duty until the investigation is completed
  • A Florida state trooper has been sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to a federal charge for his role in a conspiracy to sell painkiller pills. The trooper traveled to Connecticut three times last year to serve as the bodyguard for a drug dealer during illegal oxycodone transactions

The Robert Charles Leone Arrest Video

A short video documentary was recently released about the 2010 arrest of  Robert Charles Leone by Pennsylvania State Troopers.    The gist of the story is that when Leone failed to pull his vehicle over to the side of the road–despite the presence of several police cars with flashing lights and sirens right behind his slow moving car–the police became enraged, forced him off the road, and then brutally beat their submissive prisoner.

Much of the documentary consists of the dash cam footage from one of the police cars on the scene. A man named Larry Hohol created the documentary film and he is apparently working with the Leone family to draw more attention to the criminal case, now on appeal, and a federal civil lawsuit alleging police brutality. Mr. Hohol says he has a law enforcement background, and in the video, he comments on the conduct of the officers–reminding viewers that even if an arrestee is a murderer, it is not only unprofessional, but illegal, for the police to beat up a prisoner. Mr. Hohol also says that Leone has a bi-polar condition and that’s why he did not pull his car over. That is, since Leone knew he had not done anything wrong, he was locked in a mindset that the police cars in his rear view mirror were not focusing upon him and that they would eventually pass his slow moving car whenever they were good and ready to do so.

Pennsylvania authorities claim that Leone was under the influence of drugs and that Leone attacked the officers–so the police only used the force that was necessary to subdue Leone.

Go here to see the video. The documentary has graphic and disturbing images–so viewer discretion is advised. Additional background here.  Readers are invited to gather more information and draw their own conclusions. My own view is that a special prosecutor needs to be appointed to fully investigate this matter.

Florida Newspaper Exposes Speeding Cops

From the Sun-Sentinel:

“All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing,” James Loftus, director of the countywide department, said in a statement.

The crackdown follows a Sun Sentinel investigative series published in February that found South Florida police officers blatantly violating the laws they’re sworn to uphold, driving at excessive speeds often while commuting to and from work.

Using SunPass toll records, the investigation revealed almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies drove 90 to 130 mph at least once over a 13-month period. Many were habitual speeders.

Police conducted their own investigations to verify the newspaper’s results. A total of 138 officers have now been punished, including 36 from the city of Miami, 31 Florida Highway Patrol troopers and 27 cops from four departments in Broward — Plantation, Sunrise, Margate and Davie.

The epidemic of police speeding has infuriated South Florida motorists, who called it a double standard for officers who write tickets yet ignore the law when they’re behind the wheel. And until now, cops largely got away with it, racing to and from work in police vehicles, unlikely to be pulled over by one of their own.

The clampdown is being cheered by ordinary drivers, happy to see cops finally held accountable. But public opinion is mixed over whether the punishment is enough.

A Survey on How Cities and Counties Handle Police Oversight

From the Connection Newspapers:

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement supports member cities and counties with citizen police oversight functions. Its U.S. membership is approximately 100 organizational and individual members and growing. The association exists to provide a means for technical support to requesting cities and counties, share information among its membership, and to annually meet to conduct seminars and workshops to advance the professionalism of police-community relations and police citizen oversight.

A review of the NACOLE membership demonstrates a varying array of citizen review organizational models, authorities and functions, ranging from some with subpoena power and authority to access police incident reports, to other purely advisory and no authority to compel reports, convene hearings, or conduct independent investigations. A typical model includes citizen oversight participation independent of the police department.

Radley Balko has a related post here.

To Ease Concerns, the Police Painted the Tank a Different Color


From Wired:

Small police departments across America are collecting battlefield-grade arsenals thanks to a program that allows them to get their hands on military surplus equipment – amphibious tanks, night-vision goggles, and even barber chairs or underwear – at virtually no cost, except for shipment and maintenance.

Over the last five years, the top 10 beneficiaries of this “Department of Defense Excess Property Program” included small agencies such as the Fairmount Police Department. It serves 7,000 people in northern Georgia and received 17,145 items from the military. The cops in Issaquah, Washington, a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.

In 2011 alone, more than 700,000 items were transferred to police departments for a total value of $500 million. This year, as of May 15, police departments already acquired almost $400 million worth of stuff. Last year’s record would have certainly been shattered if the Arizona Republic hadn’t revealed in early May that a local police department used the program to stockpile equipment – and then sold the gear to others, something that is strictly forbidden. Three weeks after the revelation, the Pentagon decided to partly suspend distribution of surplus material until all agencies could put together an up-to-date inventory of all the stuff they got through the years. A second effort, which gives federal grants to police departments to purchase equipment, is still ongoing, however. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, since 9/11, the grants have totaled $34 billion.

Which means billions of dollars’ worth of military gear are in the hands of small-town cops who neither need the equipment nor are properly trained to use it, critics charge. At best, it’s a waste of resources (since the gear still has to be maintained). At worst, it could cost lives.

For related Cato work on the militarization of police work, go here and here.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-23-12 to 06-25-12

Here are the 9  reports of police misconduct tracked from June 23-25, 2012:

  • Lumberton, North Carolina police officer, Jason Walters, was charged with attempted trafficking in opium by possession by the FBI. Walters is the second Lumberton police officer charged with drug-related offenses in the past year. The officer has been suspended without pay
  • Jerome, Illinois police officer, Steven Stirmell, was indicted on charges of obstructing justice, a Class 4 felony and official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.  Stirmell turned himself in at the Sangamon County Jail and posted $1,000 bond
  • Twin Rivers, California police officer choked two subjects who were detained at the Twin Rivers Police Department while they were handcuffed to benches. During a separate incident the officer kicked a handcuffed subject in the head. The officer faces up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine
  • A retired Troy, New York police DARE officer will serve six years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage boy. The teenage victims father described in court how his son, “suffered sexual abuse from the time he was 15 until he was 17.” In court the officer said, “I offer my sincere apologies.”
  • NYPD officer, Michael Daragjati, has been sentenced to nine months in prison for violating a man’s civil rights. The officer was recorded on the phone bragging to a friend that he had falsely arrested a black man and kept him in jail for nearly two days. The US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York stated, “Crimes such as these erode the public’s confidence in our system of justice and will be met with the full resources of this office.”
  • Shelton, Connecticut police officer was arrested on March 23 on five drug counts by state police, he was fired by May of the same year. The fired officer, however, reached an agreement that allows him to retire with a pension
  • A former Frankfort, New York police officer, Daniel Herrman, used his former position as an officer to get a fellow employee’s phone records from Verizon. Herrman pleaded guilty to forgery and officer misconduct and was sentenced to five years probation
  • Dubuque, Iowa former sheriff’s department sergeant, James Doyle, was accused of stalking and burglarizing a private citizen. Doyle has pleaded not guilty to the charges of third-degree burglary and stalking
  • Stearns County, Minnesota sheriff’s sergeant, Phil Meemken, has been sentenced to nine months in jail for criminal sexual conduct and providing alcohol to minors. Meemken, who had been on the job for 18 years, pleaded guilty to the charges against him

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