As seen in...
ABC News
Washington Post
The Economist
The Atlantic
National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Officer Dies After Car Chase & Crash

From the Washington Post:

As the [police officers] caught up with the car on I-95 and relayed information about the Acura to a dispatcher, a supervisor got on the radio and questioned whether they were chasing the car, according to law enforcement officials.

That caution came too late. Morris, who was driving, lost control of the cruiser and crashed in a ravine, police said.

Morris was ejected and fatally injured, police said. Risher was hospitalized but was released the same day.

Police said Tuesday that they had not yet determined how fast Morris was driving. They said that detectives think Morris was not wearing a seat belt but that Risher was belted.

In September, Prince George’s police toughened their chase policies, limiting pursuits to suspects involved in just four crimes: homicides, shootings in which someone was hit, armed robberies and armed carjackings. By those standards, Morris seems to have violated policy and the supervisor acted appropriately, a law enforcement official said.

By all accounts, Morris was a great guy with a promising career in law enforcement.  Police agencies everywhere need to reexamine chase policies for the sake of both officers and civilians.

The Chavis Carter Case: Was It Suicide?

From the New York Times:

[W]hat started as a routine arrest then took a fatal turn. As the officers were about to drive Mr. Carter to jail, they found him slumped over, his hands still cuffed behind his back, drenched in blood. According to the police report, he had fatally shot himself in the head.

In the weeks since the death of Mr. Carter, 21, heavy scrutiny has fallen on the police and their procedures, and calls for justice have lighted up Twitter and Facebook.

The police say Carter was searched twice before he was handcuffed and placed in the police car, so one question is where did the gun come from?  Another question is why Carter would want to kill himself (and in these circumstances)?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-21-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, August 21, 2012:

  • Update: Boiling Spring Lake, North Carolina: The police chief who aided and abetted his criminal son was indicted on a felony count.
  • Venice, California: A man says that police beat him during an arrest and used unnecessary excessive force. The family is demanding justice and that the department look into it. Video of the incident shows the man being punched repeatedly in the head while four officers hold him down.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: An officer was arrested on suspicion of driving intoxicated. He was driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: An officer was sentenced to ten years in prison for child sex crimes, including aggravated sexual battery, and taking indecent liberties. The crimes occurred over a period of three years with a child under the age of 13. He is now no longer an officer.
  • Austin, Texas: An officer has been suspended for running a red light and causing an accident. This is the fourth red light crash caused by Austin officers this year. “In this particular case, the officer had his lights on with no siren,” said the assistant police chief. “In cases like that – we take it very seriously.”
  • Osceola, Arkansas: An officer was accused of using social media to bully her daughter’s classmates, who were bullying her. “It’s upsetting to know that a person that’s out there that’s supposed to be protecting and solving crimes against children would also be the type of person committing crimes,” said a family friend of the victim. “She sent harassing, bullying messages to one or possibly more children of her daughter’s age and in the same class. Insulting, degrading remarks, things of that nature.”
  • New York, New York: An ex-city official is suing the city. He alleges that he was assaulted by police during a confrontation at a Parade last year. There is a video showing him being slammed to the ground by officers.
  • Birmingham, Alabama: An officer was indicted for firing into an occupied vehicle and for third degree assault. He was assigned to traffic duty and shot the man after the man parked his car in the pick-up lane, left his car, and then returned.
  • New Hanover County, North Carolina: A former lieutenant will spend seven days in jail. He pleaded guilty to a DWI and resigned after the charge.
  • Bergen County, New Jersey: Two officers were indicted on seven charges of official misconduct, including tampering with evidence and lying to other officers about the incident. They were attempting to cover up their involvement in a car chase in which two shots were fired. “This is about making sure that police officers understand that they’re held to a high standard,” said the county prosecutor.


Wrongful Conviction: The Michael Hash Case

From the Washington Post:

On Monday, Hash walked out of the Culpeper County courthouse with the charges against him dismissed, 12 years after being wrongly convicted of murder. Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who had been brought in to reassess a case that has raised widespread concerns about deceit and misconduct, asked the judge to dismiss all charges and lift any legal constraints against him.

Now 31, Hash hugged his mother tightly when she burst into tears. He struggled for words as the decision began to sink in.

“It brings validity to what we’ve said all along,” Hash said, “that this was never right.”  …

Scott Jenkins, one of the lead investigators, whose role the judge described as “outrageous misconduct . . . because it was intentional, and not merely negligent,” is now Culpeper County sheriff.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-18-12 to 08-20-12

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, August 18 to Monday, August 20, 2012:

  • Lawrence County, Alabama: The chief deputy was indicted by a grand jury. He was indicted on two counts of fraudulent use of the law enforcement tactical system (L.E.T.S.), which is a felony, and two counts of fraudulent use of the national crime information center (N.C.I.C) system, which is a misdemeanor.
  • Pensacola Florida: An officer was fired after a routine review of his patrol vehicle’s camera revealed he used unnecessary force in making a recent arrest. He was arrested and charged with battery. “This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said the police chief.
  • Battle Creek, Michigan: Two officers were disciplined after a drunken driving incident. The lieutenant was demoted, and the other officer suspended.
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: An officer was charged with misdemeanor counts of battery and aggravated battery and two other officers remain under investigation. He could be in prison for 18 months. The officers broke into a home without a warrant and tased a man. They then chased down a man and beat him.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: The city is paying $25,000 to a man who filed an excessive force suit. The police shot him with pepper balls while he was naked and unarmed.
  • Hempstead, New York: An officer pleaded guilty to charges of selling opiate based prescription painkillers. The District Attorney said that the officer “chose to disgrace the uniform rather than honor what is stands for. Instead of protecting and serving, this police officer made our neighborhoods more dangerous.”
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida: A man is being paid $30,000 after a video surveillance tape proved that officers reports were contradictory to what actually happened when the man was arrested.
  • Greenville, South Carolina: A mentally ill man’s family is filing suit against the police department. The suit says that officers used “excessive force” when trying to mentally commit the man, who suffered from schizophrenia. The man died after police used a taser on him.
  • Seattle, Washington: An officer, who was removed as a leader in the city’s police reform plan after his arrest in a domestic violence case, is under criminal investigation for allegedly being in the company of his wife, the purported victim, despite a judge’s no-contact order.



Remember Ruby Ridge

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Ruby Ridge scandal.

Here is an article that I wrote on the case ten years ago:

“Ruby Ridge” used to refer to a geographical location in the state of Idaho, but after an incident that took place there 10 years ago on Aug. 21, the phrase has come to refer to a scandalous series of events that opened the eyes of many people to the inner workings of the federal government, including the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now that 10 years have passed, the feds will accelerate their ongoing effort to “move forward” and have the scandal declared “ancient history.” But the Ruby Ridge episode should not be soon forgotten.

On August 21, 1992 a paramilitary unit of the U.S. Marshals Service ventured onto the 20-acre property known as Ruby Ridge. A man named Randy Weaver owned the land and he lived there with his wife, children, and a family friend, Kevin Harris. There was an outstanding warrant for Weaver’s arrest for a firearms offense and the marshals were surveilling the premises. When the family dog noticed the marshals sneaking around in the woods, it began to bark wildly. Weaver’s 14-year-old boy, Sammy, and Kevin Harris proceeded to grab their rifles because they thought the dog had come upon a wild animal.

A firefight erupted when a marshal shot and killed the dog. Enraged that the family pet had been cut down for no good reason, Sammy shot into the woods at the unidentified trespasser. Within a few minutes, two human beings were shot dead: Sammy Weaver and a marshal. Harris and the Weaver family retreated to their cabin and the marshals retreated from the mountain and called the FBI for assistance.

During the night, FBI snipers took positions around the Weaver cabin. There is no dispute about the fact that the snipers were given illegal “shoot to kill” orders. Under the law, police agents can use deadly force to defend themselves and others from imminent attack, but these snipers were instructed to shoot any adult who was armed and outside the cabin, regardless of whether the adult posed a threat or not. The next morning, an FBI agent shot and wounded Randy Weaver. A few moments later, the same agent shot Weaver’s wife in the head as she was standing in the doorway of her home holding a baby in her arms. The FBI snipers had not yet announced their presence and had not given the Weavers an opportunity to peacefully surrender.

After an 11-day standoff, Weaver agreed to surrender. The FBI told the world that it had apprehended a band of dangerous racists. The New York Times was duped into describing a family (two parents, three children) and one adult friend as “an armed separatist brigade.” The Department of Justice proceeded to take over the case, charging Weaver and Harris with conspiracy to commit “murder.” Federal prosecutors asked an Idaho jury to impose the death penalty. Instead, the jury acquitted Weaver and Harris of all of the serious criminal charges.

Embarrassed by the outcome, FBI officials told the world that there would be a thorough review of the case, but the Bureau closed ranks and covered up the mess. FBI director Louis Freeh went so far as to promote one of the agents involved, Larry Potts, to the Bureau’s number-two position.

When Weaver sued the federal government for the wrongful death of his wife and son, the government that had tried to kill him twice now sought an out-of-court settlement. In August 1995 the U.S. government paid the Weaver family $3.1 million. On the condition that his name not be used in an article, one Department of Justice official told the Washington Post that if Weaver’s suit had gone to trial in Idaho, he probably would have been awarded $200 million.

With the intervening events at Waco, more and more people began to question the veracity of Department of Justice and FBI accounts and whether the federal government had the capacity to hold its own agents accountable for criminal misconduct. Like the Watergate scandal, however, the response to the initial illegality turned out to be even more shocking and disturbing.

When an FBI supervisor, Michael Kahoe, admitted to destroying evidence and obstructing justice, he was eventually prosecuted but only after being kept on the FBI payroll until his 50th birthday — so that he would be eligible for his retirement pension. And when Larry Potts was finally forced into retirement, FBI officials flew into Washington from around the country for his going-away bash. Those officials claimed to be on “official business” so they billed the taxpayers for the trip. After the fraud was leaked to the press by some anonymous and apparently sickened FBI agent, the merry band of partygoers were not discharged from service. Instead, a letter was placed in their personnel file, chiding them with “inattention to detail.”

An Idaho prosecutor did bring manslaughter charges against the FBI sniper who shot Vicki Weaver. That move really outraged the feds because they insisted that they were capable of policing their own — so long as they did not have any outside “interference.”

The Department of Justice was so disturbed by the indictment of its agent that they dispatched the solicitor general to a federal appellate court to argue that the charges should be dismissed. (The solicitor general ordinarily only makes oral arguments to the Supreme Court). The solicitor general told the judicial panel that even if the evidence supported the charges, the case should be thrown out because “federal law enforcement agents are privileged to do what would otherwise be unlawful if done by a private citizen.” The appeals court rejected that sweeping argument for a license to kill, but by the time that ruling came down last June, a new local prosecutor was in office in Boundary County, Idaho, and he announced that it was time to put this whole unpleasant episode behind us and to “move on.” Thus, the criminal case against the sniper was dropped.

A new generation of young people who have never heard of Ruby Ridge are now emerging from the public school system and are heading off to college and will thereafter begin their careers in business, education, journalism, government and other fields. This generation will find it hard to fathom that the federal government could have killed a boy and an unarmed woman and then tried to deceive everyone about what had actually occurred and, in some instances, rationalize what did occur. That is why it is important to remember Ruby Ridge. Someone needs to remind the young people (and everyone else) that it really did happen — and that it will happen again if the government is not kept on a short leash. No one will learn about the incident when they tour the FBI facility in Washington. It goes unmentioned for some reason.

Much has been written about Ruby Ridge–some of it good, some of it bad.  For those interested in reading more, go here, here, and here (pdf).

This mini-documentary about the Ruby Ridge scandal is also well done.

Observation: When liberals find police misconduct at the local level, they tend to turn too quickly to the federal authorities to remedy the problem–as if the feds always come riding to the rescue.  Not so.   As noted, their hands are not so clean.  Please remember that.


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.”

Creative Commons License
This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.