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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-22-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, June 22, 2012:

  • Saluda County, South Carolina sheriff resigned after a Grand Jury indicted him for charges of misconduct in office. The sheriff used an inmate for work on his private property during a period of almost six years
  • San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was suspended without pay after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully restraining his wife. The sheriff was sentenced to one day in jail and three years of probation
  • An ex-NYPD officer pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault. His victim, a young school teacher, said she will never be the same and the attack will haunt her ever day for the rest of her life. The officer is appealing his 75-year sentence
  • Yakima, Washington police Sgt. Erik Hildebrand resigned under pressure due to misconduct. The officer was already under close scrutiny after an incident last year in which he used his police credentials to get a free motel room with a young woman
  • An Aiken County, South Carolina deputy was fired after being arrested for drunk driving. The deputy was pulled over at 3:30am for speeding, and failed a field sobriety test
  • The Culpeper, Virginia police officer, who was charged with murder after killing a 54-year-old woman while on duty, has been fired
  • Walkill, New York police has charged an off-duty NYPD officer with engaging in sexual acts with a 16-year-old boy. The NYPD officer has been suspended without pay for 30 days pending a Civil Service hearing
  • Baltimore, Maryland law enforcement charged a man with “conspiracy to commit murder” for using his cell phone to film drunks in a late night brawl. University of Baltimore law professor, Byron Warnkin, says it’s technically not a crime to hit record, even if you catch someone breaking the law

Teen Dies in Struggle With Off-duty Officer; Death Ruled a Homicide

From the Associated Press:

BALTIMORE –  A teenager who died in a struggle with an off-duty police officer in Maryland was an athlete, church usher and mentor, family members said Thursday as they sought to piece together the circumstances of his death.

Baltimore County police said the unidentified officer was at home Wednesday evening when he heard a loud noise, went outside and found his front door damaged — and three or four people running.

Authorities said the officer chased Christopher Brown for several blocks through the Baltimore suburb of Woodlawn before pulling him from some bushes and struggling with him. They said the officer called for help once the teen lost consciousness.

Despite efforts by the officer and paramedics to revive Brown, the teenager was later declared dead at a hospital, police said.

The medical examiner’s office determined Brown died of asphyxiation and has ruled the death a homicide, according to police. The state’s attorney’s office will decide whether the homicide was justified after police complete their investigation, police added.

Police Send Threatening Emails When Lawmakers Seek Police Accountability

Column by Thomas Shapley:

OLYMPIA — “We humbly apologize.”

Those are words no appointed state official wants to utter to the chairman of a key legislative committee after just three weeks on the job.

But Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste had little choice in making that apology after a state legislator received a barrage of nasty, even threatening, e-mail messages apparently sent by troopers and their families.

Batiste, who took the top WSP job earlier this month, offered the apology “as an individual and as a group,” to House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Rep. Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland, at a committee hearing Wednesday evening. “I and the union representative want to apologize for the behavior of a few,” he said.

Those few ripped into Nixon for sponsoring a bill on how traffic accidents involving state troopers are handled. The legislation grew out of the February 2002 death of Brock Loshbaugh as he tried to cross the Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek one evening after dark.

The trooper whose vehicle hit him, Jason Crandall, had been a member of the State Patrol for only about eight months at the time of Loshbaugh’s death but had been involved in two previous accidents and reportedly has been involved in three other accidents since. The state has settled a lawsuit with Loshbaugh’s parents, who are outspoken proponents of the legislation, also known as the “Brock Loshbaugh Act.” The State Patrol cleared Crandall of any wrongdoing in the accident. He is apparently still on the road.

As recently redrafted, House Bill 2228 would require that an outside agency at least supervise the investigation of any serious crash in which any law enforcement officer is involved. The idea is to let the public see that police officers are not above the law and that agencies are not covering up for their officers’ mistakes.

The bill would also require that law enforcement officers determined to be at fault in four accidents in any three-year period be suspended from driving on duty for at least a year. It would also require drug and alcohol tests of all parties in any fatal auto accident.

The onslaught of e-mails to Nixon ran from the personal to the political.

“Shame on you, Mr. Nixon,” read one. “And hope one day you and your family need the help of a trooper or a police officer to save one of you, and that those officers would not respond on time.”

Another referred to the legislation as the “Crock” rather than “Brock” bill and threatened Nixon’s political future. “It is simple math … 1,100 troopers (times) 1,100 spouses/partners (times) all of their family members/friends/co-workers … .” The missive also credited the WSP with defeating the election bid of veteran Mercer Island Republican Sen. Jim Horn last November.

Another e-mail said Horn “lost his (seat) thanks to the WSPTA (Washington State Patrol Troopers Association). I hope you are next!”

That was news to Horn, who told me he had no knowledge of the agency or the troopers’ association having any role in his defeat, which he links to how poorly the Bush/Cheney national ticket fared among voters in his district.

Coming from the father of a son who’s honorably worn a badge, here’s the bottom line on this bill: Serious accidents involving police officers should get extraordinary and thoroughly transparent attention and investigation. They’re driving the taxpayers’ rigs, at taxpayers’ expense, acting in the public interest. Law enforcement management should have a mechanism to take demonstrably unsafe drivers out from behind the wheel of police vehicles.

The Jason Fyk Case: Attempted Murder for Using a Cell Phone?!

Story from WBFF Fox45:

A man who took out his cell phone to record an act, that turned out to be a crime, has ended up in jail.

The next time you hit record in public in Baltimore you might want to think twice. A fateful decision to do just that, put a Pennsylvania business owner in jail for first degree murder. It was a move that web site publisher Jason Fyk cost him dearly. “I couldn’t believe, I could not believe the ignorance of how they twisted this story into something I did,” says Fyk.

His ordeal started last February in a downtown parking garage new Power Plant Live. Fyk had been conducting an interview for his web site with stunt bicyclists when they decided to leave to resume the talk elsewhere. They encountered another group of downtown revelers parked nearby.

After a few heated exchanges, a fight with both sides exchanging blows ensued. Fyk said he stopped recording and intervened when the brawl turned violent. Both parties went their separate ways.

Shortly after posting his video of the scuffle online, police showed up at his home with a search warrant. Several weeks later, another warrant was issued, for his arrest. Fyk says he was charged with “conspiracy to commit first degree murder for taking a cell phone video.”

The charges against Fyk have since been dropped. University of Baltimore Law professor Byron Warnkin says it’s technically not a crime to hit record, even if you catch someone breaking the law.

Both the police department and the attorney general’s office have declined to comment on the issue.

The level of ignorance here is truly astounding.  This isn’t a new cop and a new prosecutor screwing up the appropriate charge in some off-the-wall misdemeanor case.  One must presume the more experienced people are handling the murder and attempted murder cases–and yet Jason Fyk finds himself facing the most severe cases on the law books!  And do note how the system offered him a “break” if he pled guilty.  A less sophisticated person might have caved in and accepted that nightmarish deal.  Plea bargaining is a problem folks.

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

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-21-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, June 21, 2012:

  • A Philadelphia police officer was fired after he was arrested and charged in federal court with four counts of distributing heroin and two counts of carrying a firearm during a drug crime
  • Reno, Nevada photo editor Tim Dunn was ‘roughed up’ by Nevada sheriff’s deputies while he was taking photos of a fire. Dunn said the deputies accused him of trying to impersonate a firefighter because he was wearing yellow protective fire gear, a helmet and goggles. But he noted that area fire personnel who conduct annual training for media are adamant about wearing such clothes while covering wildfires. Dunn’s Executive Editor released a statement stating that, “the brutal nature in which Tim, a veteran photographer with more than 20 years of experience, was treated by sheriff deputies is beyond comprehension. Their use of excessive force on a fellow professional who also has an important job  to do is shocking. His rights were clearly violated.”
  • Dallas, Texas Deputy Sheriff pulled over a motorcyclist who hadn’t committed any crimes in order to confiscate the camera attached to his helmet. After being pulled over the motorcyclist stated, “I haven’t committed any crimes, and you cannot take my personal property from me, sir.” To which the officer replied simply, “that’s fine. Need to see your license and registration.”
  • A Carlsbad, California police officer was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested for stealing heroin from his police department’s evidence room
  • Harrisburg, Illinois police officer, Joel Stanley, was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. The officer has been suspended and will be fired if the merit board votes to do so
  • A Long Beach, California police officer has been charged with 40 sex-related counts involving 13 underage girls and 3 young women. The nine-year police veteran is currently in jail on more than $1.2 million bail
  • A north Minneapolis woman has filed a suit against the Minneapolis Police Department. The suit charges that enraged officers ransacked her house, breaking windows and doors, damaging furniture, ripping a large-screen TV from the wall and dumping a fish tank onto the floor, killing the children’s pet fish and hermit crabs. The officers also killed her 8-month-old dog after shooting it 10 times
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland deputy sheriff raped an inmate while she was in a holding cell at the county courthouse. The deputy sheriff has been charged with second-degree rape and has been suspended without pay while the incident’s investigated

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.


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