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The Cash Machine: Philadelphia’s Forfeiture System

From the Philadelphia City Paper:

The size of Philly’s forfeiture program isn’t just unprecedented within Pennsylvania. In 2010, for example, Kings County (Brooklyn), with a population 1.5 times that of Philadelphia, reported taking by forfeiture about $1.2 million in assets — less than one-fifth of what Philly took. Los Angeles County, with a population more than six-and-a-half times Philadelphia’s, also successfully sued to keep just $1.2 million in seized assets.

Those numbers aren’t direct comparisons: They don’t include sums collected via a federal “equitable sharing” program in which forfeitures are outsourced to federal agencies, with local law enforcement keeping most of the proceeds. But these programs also contain certain safeguards not present in Philly: Namely, federal guidelines stipulate a minimum amount for seizure of $2,000.

Philadelphia’s civil forfeiture unit, by contrast, amasses its impressive annual take by itself pursuing thousands of vastly smaller cases — and many, many more of them.

In 2010, for example, Los Angeles County’s 48 successful forfeiture cases raised about $25,000 per case. In the same year, the Philadelphia District Attorney filed more than 8,000 forfeiture cases for currency alone, for an average of just $550. In a sample of more than 100 cases from 2011 and 2012 reviewed by City Paper, the median amount was only $178. In many of these cases, the Philadelphia District Attorney sued to seize amounts less than $100.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, in other words, isn’t just one of the most lucrative municipal  forfeiture units around; it also might be the pettiest.

Read the whole thing.

For additional background, go here.

National Police MIsconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 12-4-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, December 4, 2012:

  • Newport, Tennessee: An officer was fired after an investigation revealed she was sneaking contraband into the jail. She was smuggling items like tobacco, drinks, food, and cash both on and off duty.
  • New York, New York: An off-duty officer was arrested for drunk driving, and has been charged with resisting arrest, driving intoxicated and refusal to take a breath test. He is the third NYPD officer to be arrested for drunk driving in the span of a week.
  • Canandaigua, New York: An officer was pulled over for failing to keep right and improper lane usage. Deputies determined that she was intoxicated and arrested her for DWI.
  • Scranton, Pennsylvania: The police chief has been charged with having a three-year sexual relationship with a teenage girl. The accuser testified at length about the encounters; the police chief maintains his innocence.
  • Seminole County, Florida: Two men were roughed up during a traffic stop, and they are now suing the sheriff and three deputies, alleging that their civil rights were violated.
  • Conway, South Carolina: An officer who has been charged with 1st degree criminal domestic violence is still currently employed at the police department, but has not been on-duty since the arrest. The police report states when the arresting officer arrived the accused officer smelled of alcohol and was standing outside the home.  Police say he told them he and the victim were in an argument.
  • Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: The city approved a $900,000 settlement for the family of a man who died after attempts to subdue him included repeatedly tasering him.
  • Cleveland, Ohio: Thirteen police officers fired 137 rounds at a couple in a car. The police say that it was self-defense. The couple died, and there are now protests happening in the city.
  • Orlando, Florida: An officer has been arrested and charged with sexual battery after he had a “sexual encounter” with a woman he arrested before taking her to jail. “I want the Orlando community and its citizens to know that the Orlando Police Department remains committed to keeping the actions of its employees transparent,” said the police chief.

Drug-sniffing Dogs and their Handlers

H/T  Radley Balko at Huffington Post.

Please remember this video the next time someone says, “Well if you have not done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about.”  The officer admits putting illegal narcotics on cars randomly around town–enough to have a dog “alert” to anyone’s car, whether they have ever used drugs or not.  This isn’t an officer “caught on tape.”  The officer readily admits that this is what he does.

To fully appreciate the video above, you should watch this video first.   This victim of police misconduct filed a lawsuit against town and officer.  A year or two later, his attorney gets his opportunity to question the officer in a deposition.  That’s what the above video is all about.

There is a drug detection dog case pending before the Supreme Court this term.  Read the Cato amicus brief in that case to learn more about the law on the matter.

Controversial Police Shooting in Cleveland

13 officers fire 137 rounds and kill Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

Police say they fired in self-defense.


Russell ended up on a dead-end access road to an East Cleveland middle school, where the officers from various jurisdictions converged with the 13 Cleveland officers.

They surrounded the Malibu, and some officers were out of their cars when Russell rammed another police car, Gardner said.

Police are trained to use deadly force to stop a suspect from using a vehicle as a weapon. They opened fire.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is running gunshot-residue tests on Russell’s and Williams’ hands to determine if either fired a gun. The results should be in before week’s end.

No gun was found in Russell’s car or along the chase route. No bullet or casing was found outside the Justice Center.

Pathologists at the Medical Examiner’s Office removed 20 rounds from Russell’s body and 16 from Williams’ body. They both had additional wounds from bullets that entered and exited their bodies — Russell had 30 wounds, Williams had 20, an investigator said.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 12-1-12 to 12-3-12

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, December 1, to Monday, December 3, 2012:

  • New York, New York: An off-duty police officer was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol.\
  • Update: Hatboro, Pennsylvania: An officer was sentenced to 15 days in jail in connection with felony charges stemming from his theft of narcotic, funds, cash and for his misuse of informants to obtain drugs to feed his habit.
  • Smith County, Texas: A state trooper who told authorities that he swerved to miss a deer resulting in a crash was intoxicated at the time of the accident. He has been arrested.
  • Irvington, New Jersey: The police chief has been accused of ordering detectives in the Internal Affairs Unit to unfairly punish officers, doctor internal reports and run personal errands for him.
  • New York, New York: A police officer, and decorated former Marine, was arrested after driving drunk and becoming involved in an accident.
  • Freehold, New Jersey: An officer who was accused of raping an informant has been sentenced to 5 years of probation for criminal coercion and 3 years of probation for tampering with evidence. The sentencing was a result of a plea bargain. He had already forfeited his job.
  • Eugene, Oregon: A man has filed a $3 million civil rights lawsuit against the police department and three officers for allegedly entering his home without permission and taking his mentally ill adult son to a local hospital, where he died of cardiac arrest after being “prescribed an overdose of medication.”
  • McAlester, Oklahoma: An officer was suspended after he used a taser on a handcuffed female prisoner inside the police station.
  • Snohomish County, Washington: A sheriff’s deputy has been charged with burglary after a stove and other items were taken from a vacation property. The charges include second-degree burglary and third degree malicious mischief.
  • Peabody, Massachusetts: An officer has been charged with six counts of assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, plus a charge of disseminating obscene material to a minor.
  • Fort Worth, Texas: During a rash of incidents in 2010 involving Fort Worth police officers and alcohol, chief of staff Paul Henderson summed up the department’s frustrations when he declared: “We are absolutely fed up with dealing with this off-duty behavior.” He was arrested on suspicion of DWI this past weekend.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-30-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, November 30, 2012:

  • New Orleans, Louisiana: A police officer was arrested for allegedly stealing a gift card from an armed robbery victim’s purse.
  • Camden, New Jersey: A police officer has been suspended for four days without pay after he parked his patrol car in a handicapped parking space.
  • Long Beach, California: An officer was charged with 29 felony counts and 13 misdemeanor counts, including unlawful sexual intercourse, oral copulation of a person under 18, and false imprisonment by fraud or deceit. The incidents involved more than a dozen underage girls and three young women.
  • Surprise, Arizona: An officer was arrested on suspicion of pointing a semi-automatic handgun at a motorist after an apparent road rage incident.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Another police officer has been sentenced for his part in a scheme to extort tow truck operators. He will spend 42 months in prison.
  • Bennington County, Vermont:  A deputy has been charged with shooting and killing a neighbor’s dog. He has resigned from the department.
  • White County, Georgia: An officer pleaded guilty to taking sexually explicit pictures of a 7-year-old girl. “The defendant violated the trust of a young girl and his community,” said a U.S. Attorney. “That the defendant committed this offense while serving as a law enforcement officer makes this crime that much more atrocious.”
  • Update: New York, New York: An officer was sentenced to 15 ½ yeas in prison. He stole guns from police department lockers and sold them to drug dealers to pay for his addiction to oxycodone.
  • Franklin County, Ohio: A deputy was suspended after being pulled over and arrested for allegedly driving under the influence. He tried to use his position to avoid being arrested.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-29-12

Here are the 19 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, November 29, 2012:

  • Williams, Arizona: A police officer who used a chokehold on a handcuffed prisoner, and another officer who witnessed the incident, have resigned. The accused officer resigned after he was told he would be suspended; it is against police policy to put a chokehold on a handcuffed prisoner. The witnessing officer resigned after he made inconsistent statements in a separate case
  • Boulder City, Nevada: The city council voted for an independent investigation into the police chief. He has been accused of trying to destroy public records.
  • Seattle, Washington: The police have released a dash cam video showing an officer punching a suspect. The incident is still under investigation by detectives.
  • San Juan County, New Mexico: A lawsuit has been filed against six officers alleging false arrest, unlawful search, wrongful detention, deprivation of rights and unreasonable use of force.
  • Scottsdale, Arizona: An officer has been accused of having sex 50 times while on duty, and lying about it. He faces sanctions from the state police standards board. The day after he admitted to sex while on duty, he resigned.
  • Oxford, Mississippi: The former head of the metro narcotics unit has been accused of “doctor shopping” for prescription medicine. He was arrested on charges alleging that he got prescriptions from at least 17 doctors.
  • Des Moines, Washington: A couple whose dog was shot and killed is suing the police department in federal court.
  • East Hartford, Connecticut: A woman is planning to sue the town after her 12-year-old son was allegedly struck repeatedly by an officer. “It was an experience that I don’t want any mother to experience,” she said. The boy was taken to the hospital for injuries.
  • Update: Boulder, Colorado: A deputy has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and 20 years of intensively supervised sex offender probation.  He pleaded guilty in August to charges of sexual exploitation of a child, obscenity, and official misconduct.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Prosecutors have announced a felony perjury charge against a now-former officer. She is accused of lying about being hit in the face with a bottle by a woman who was riding in a funeral procession.
  • Sarasota, Florida: The police department is investigating an officer after a video surfaced of an officer allegedly slamming a homeless man’s face against a window. In a statement, the city manager said, “Sworn officers with the Sarasota Police Department have been counseled repeatedly to treat all others with respect and dignity at all times even under trying and challenging circumstances. Anything less is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
  • Buckeye, Arizona: The man who was tackled and knocked unconscious after being confronted in a Walmart is suing the town and a police officer.
  • Abingdon, Virginia: An officer has been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug distribution charges. He faces up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Grand Forks, North Dakota: A police officer has been accused of holding an unloaded handgun to another man’s head during a party. He has since resigned.
  • Fairfield, Connecticut: A state trooper has been charged with larceny, and has been accused of stealing jewelry and cash from the victim of a fatal crash.
  • Leola, South Dakota: The former police chief has admitted to embezzling more than $37,000 from the community’s fire department. He pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft. Each count is a felony punishable by as much as 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
  • Seattle, Washington: An off-duty police officer was arrested late last night for allegedly assaulting his estranged wife. He was booked into jail for investigation of misdemeanor domestic violence assault.
  • Jackson, Tennessee: The police department is investigating the alleged misconduct of a patrol officer. The investigation is centered upon an allegation of missing currency possessed by an occupant of a vehicle stopped by officers for traffic violations.
  • Hillsborough, Florida: An officer is on trial; he has been charged with four counts of committing lewd and lascivious battery with a teenager. The charges are second-degree felonies.

The Angela Jones Case: Taser and Cardiac Arrest

Video from California Highway Patrol here.

So much wrong here.  The entire encounter with the police seems dubious.  The use of the taser was unnecessary and excessive.

Some like to point out that the prisons are not filled with marijuana users.  True, but what’s hard to see are the countless injustices that go on because marijuana is illegal.  Ms. Jones was fearful of a search of her purse, which contained some marijuana.  If marijuana were legal, she would not have been concerned and this tragic incident would not have happened.

Recall that the rationale behind the criminalization of marijuana is to protect people:  keep them healthy and safe.  More and more people are recognizing that the war on drugs makes things worse, not better.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-28-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, November 28, 2012:

  • Memphis, Tennessee: An officer has been arrested and charged with rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, and incest against a 16-year-old girl. At least 20 other officers in the Memphis police department have been charged in some way this year.
  • Doylestown, Pennsylvania: An officer charged with faking his own shooting has pleaded guilty to making false reports to law enforcement. He resigned after his arrest.
  • Des Moines, IA: A now-former officer has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for repeatedly violating probation. Most recently, he cut off his ankle monitor and police found him hiding in a clothes dryer.
  • New York, New York: A sergeant was arrested for attacking someone. He allegedly punched the victim in the face.
  • Fairport, New York: An officer has been accused of fabricating evidence in a personal small claims case, which has forced him to step down from testifying in court on other cases. An attorney said, “I was mortified that we would go forward and give false testimony in a case like that particularly from a person who gives testimony frequently in cases and who the public relies upon to give truthful testimony.” More than a dozen DUI cases now must be dismissed, as the officer was the key witness in them.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: An officer has admitted to drinking when he drove the wrong way down a highway and struck a bus nearly head-on. He has been sentenced to 12 months probation; 10 days must be spent in jail.
  • Houston, Texas: A police officer has been arrested and charged in a domestic violence case. He is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Deputies say he showed up at his estranged wife’s house under the influence, with a gun.
  • Venture, California: A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against an officer over a shooting. The suit says he violated police policy and the civil rights of a man. This is not the first time the officer has been accused of excessive force.
  • Linden, New Jersey: A former Linden police officer admitted to filing false federal income tax returns for three years by failing to report income from the sale of rental property. He faces up to three years in jail, and penalty of up to $250,000.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 11-27-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, November 27, 2012:

  • St. Lucie County, Florida: A deputy flipped over a 62-year-old handicapped woman’s car when he used a Precision Immobilization Technique to stop her car by hitting her bumper. The deputy reported that a woman driving a car seemed slumped over the wheel and she did not slow down from her “consistent 57 mph” when he turned on his blue lights. He determined that she was a flight risk. The posted speed limit was 55 mph.
  • Utica, New York: A police officer was charged with driving impaired while in Niagara Falls, Canada, and is now suspended without pay. The department will not pay his attorney fees.
  • Smyrna, Georgia: A veteran officer has been arrested and charged with simple assault, simple battery, and third degree cruelty to children for allowing a minor to witness family violence.
  • Williamston, North Carolina: A police officer has resigned two days after he was arrested for drunk driving. His blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit when he was arrested.
  • Barrington, Rhode Island: After already being charged with threatening his ex-wife, an officer has not also been charged with misdemeanor cyber-stalking and felony obstruction of the judicial system.
  • Update, Coweta County, Georgia: The deputy who fired his taser at a 16-year-old as the student streaked in boxer shorts across the field at the recent football game has been suspended.
  • Oldham County, Kentucky: A deputy has resigned after an incident involving an erotic masseuse at his home. He allegedly solicited sex from her, and, when she refused, stole her cell phone.
  • Charles City, Iowa: An officer has been charged with misconduct in office. The criminal complaint against him claims he failed to perform his duties when he had reason to believe a sexual assault occurred.
  • Update: Nogales, Arizona: The police officer who had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl has been sentenced to two months in jail and three years probation. He pleaded guilty to one count of sexual misconduct with a minor.

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