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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

“Conduct Unbecoming” Part 2

On Tuesday, I shared the first part of KVUE’s four-part investigation “Conduct Unbecoming,” tracking police misconduct through the Texas criminal justice system. Part Two on conviction rates aired last night. You can view the video here.

KVUE’s data indicates that police are convicted at a lower rate than the general public, but the data is inconclusive due to the difficulty in obtaining records of the final dispositions. Many times, police officers’ convictions may be expunged after successful completion of probation or other non-carceral sentence. (N.B.: The general public gets these too, but the expungement makes collecting data about their prevalence virtually impossible to track and, thus, compare.)

KVUE also found repeat offenders who demonstrate histories of violence and other misconduct but remain eligible for law enforcement positions for lack of felony conviction:

KVUE’s findings also identified some officers have repeat offenses cleared in court. That includes former Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana, who shot and killed 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders in 2009 while on duty.

A grand jury investigated and declined to indict him. The decision ignited outrage in Austin.

One year later, police arrested Quintana for assaulting his girlfriend. A jury found him not guilty. His records were likely expunged because the Williamson County Clerk’s office no longer has evidence of his arrest, despite numerous media reports of the assault.

A few months later, police arrested Quintana for a DWI. He was given a year probation. Today, he’s a sheriff’s deputy in south Texas.

As regular readers may recall, last February’s NPMRP Worst of the Month was a Texas law enforcement officer who held his family at gunpoint and had a standoff with police. He pled to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a small fine. Although he was fired from the San Antonio Police Department, the absence of a felony conviction means he is still eligible to be a law enforcement officer in Texas.

Read or watch the KVUE report here.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-24-16

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 24, 2016:

  • Update: Reynoldsburg, Ohio (First reported 02-19-16): Two officers were suspended in connection with the drug investigation of a fellow officer, but have not yet been criminally charged. The officer and DEA task force member who was arrested killed himself in his jail cell.
  • Washington, District of Columbia: An officer was charged with DWI after off-duty chain reaction crash.
  • Florien, Louisiana: An officer was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and weapons violations while on duty.
  • Camden, South Carolina: An officer was arrested for misconduct after fondling himself in his patrol car while on duty.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: An officer was charged with DUI for an incident off duty. Her BAC was nearly three times the legal limit and she had two young children in the car at the time.
  • Lithonia, Georgia: The chief and another officer are being investigated for excessive force after allegedly abusing a handcuffed teen.
  • Pennsylvania State Police: A trooper was arrested on two counts of access device fraud and two counts of theft.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The City settled a lawsuit for $85,000 with a man who was sucker punched by an officer. The man had been trying to break-up a fight outside of a bar when the officer came up from behind him and punched him. The officer did not report the use of force to his superiors and did not offer medical assistance to the man, who suffered facial fractures as well as neck and teeth injuries. The officer was ordered to pay $5,000 to the plaintiff and was suspended 120 hours for the incident. He was not charged with a crime.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-23-16

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, February 23, 2016:

  • Deschutes County, Oregon: A captain was fired and indicted for allegedly stealing more than $200,000. The charges include theft, money laundering, and passport fraud.
  • Wharton, Texas: A now-former officer was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child.
  • Champaign, Illinois: An officer has been named in a fourth excessive force suit. The City settled the previous three for a total of $320,000. He was fired by the department but reinstated by a labor arbitrator.
  • Benton Township, Indiana: A now-former officer was sentenced to 60 days in jail for killing a pedestrian while speeding in his cruiser without lights and siren.
  • Bethel, Alaska: A now-former officer was charged with assault and misconduct for the use of excessive force during an arrest. The incident was captured on a surveillance camera. The victim had his conviction thrown out and the City settled his lawsuit for $175,000 after the video came to light.
  • Massachusetts State Police: A trooper was suspended and will be criminally charged for assaulting a Belchertown police officer.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: An officer was placed on leave and is being investigated for corruption.
  • Update: Euclid, Ohio (First reported 01-22-16): An officer pled not guilty to firing a gun in a park while off-duty and intoxicated.
  • Belknap County, New Hampshire: A deputy was charged with raping and sexually abusing six female inmates.
  • Suffolk County, New York: A lieutenant has been criminally charged for allegedly stealing $80,000 from the department by claiming time he did not work. He retired the day his pension vested.
  • Norfolk, Virginia: An officer was placed on leave after allegedly exposing himself to a woman in a Wal-Mart while off duty.
  • Maui, Hawaii: An officer was arrested for abuse of a family member. He has been placed on administrative duty.

Judge Denies First Amendment Right to Record Police

As my colleague Adam Bates noted over at Cato at Liberty, Radley Balko details a strange decision in Pennsylvania that runs counter to the most common understandings of First Amendment protections.

A federal judge ruled that there is no First Amendment right to record the police unless the person affirmatively declares their right to do so. An excerpt:

“[U.S. District Court Judge] Kearney unconvincingly compares the act of recording the police without some clear articulation that you’re doing so for the purpose of protest or expression to refusing to move along when a police officer is trying to clear a sidewalk or roadway.

Judge Yohn’s cogent and exhaustive analysis in Montgomery v. Killingsworth applies a similar test for assessing conduct protected by the First Amendment. As Judge Yohn observed last year, “Peaceful criticism of a police officer performing his duties in a public place is a protected activity under the First Amendment.” Judge Yohn noted, “this protection, however, is not absolute.” Quoting the Supreme Court in Colten v. Kentucky, and as it relates to Fields, Judge Yohn found “conduct in refusing to move on after being directed to do so was not, without more, protected by the First Amendment. “

Balko continues, “[I]t’s a pretty dangerous thing to say that you must explicitly declare your rights in order to have them respected.” Unfortunately, that danger is not entirely unprecedented. The good news is that recent First Amendment jurisprudence supports the photographers who will appeal and, hopefully, win.

For more on this case, read Adam’s post here and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh here. For more on the importance of recording police, check out this short Cato video.

For a broader discussion about the dos and don’ts of recording police misconduct, watch the event below featuring retired U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, Flex Your Rights founder Steve Silverman, and me.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-22-16

Here are the 14 reports of police misconduct tracked for Monday, February 22, 2016:

  • Update: San Jose, California (First reported 09-14-14): An officer’s trial for raping a woman in 2013 ended in a hung jury.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A detective was suspended in lieu of termination for kicking a man at his knee and breaking his leg. The detective had escorted the man outside of the Special Victims Unit and out of the view of surveillance cameras before the attack. The detective was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and official oppression.
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee: A detective has been placed under state investigation for perjury in alleged rape of high schooler.
  • Update: Solebury, Pennsylvania (First reported 09-25-15): A now-former detective pled guilty to tampering for covering up his petty theft from a construction site.
  • Update: Ramsey County, Minnesota (First reported 06-29-15): A deputy was ordered to pay a fine and restitution after he pled guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty for beating a K9 unit. A previous report stated that he will retain his job with the department but has been transferred and has taken a pay cut.
  • Update: Columbus, Ohio (First reported 02-19-16): An officer was sent to “John School” after he pled guilty to solicitation. Employment status remains uncertain.
  • Alamance County, North Carolina: A deputy was terminated for conduct unbecoming. She was allegedly running an illicit Internet lottery with her husband. No criminal charges have been filed yet but may be forthcoming.
  • Pima County, Arizona (2): A deputy relinquished his certification after fraudulently collecting compensation for on-duty injury. In a separate instance in the same news report, another deputy retired after falsely blaming his father for a hunting mishap. The deputy shot and killed a different kind of deer than the one they were permitted to hunt. They tried to cover it up and lied to authorities. As a result, the deputy may lose his law enforcement certification.
  • Pima County, Arizona: A deputy resigned after coming to work intoxicated. His law enforcement certification status uncertain.
  • Denver, Colorado: An officer was suspended 60 days after calling off sick, going to a lacrosse game, and getting in DUI crash that evening.
  • Paris, Kentucky: Six officers were suspended without pay for undisclosed conduct unbecoming. One of the six has resigned.
  • San Jose, California: An officer who was fired for posting inappropriate messages on social media has been reinstated and has returned to duty.
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: Two deputies are being investigated by New Orleans PD and the FBI for fatally shooting Eric Harris.

“Conduct Unbecoming” Part 1

An investigative news team in Austin, Texas is airing a four-part series on police misconduct in the Lone Star State. The first segment aired last night on KVUE. You can watch it here:

Their research uncovered 4,870 Texas law enforcement officers who had been arrested since 2008. Of those, 1,205 were for assault and more than 500 officers were arrested more than once. Only nine percent of all officers arrested ultimately lost their law enforcement licences.  The remaining 91 percent remain eligible for law enforcement jobs. You can read more about KVUE’s investigation here.

While law enforcement licensing and certification can be a useful way to keep the wrong people from becoming law enforcement officers, prosecutors and the criminal justice system have to do their part to hold officers accountable for their actions. The next installment will deal with precisely that issue. It is set to air this Thursday.


National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-19-16

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 19, 2016:

  • Reynoldsburg, Ohio: An officer who also served as a DEA task force member was arrested for drug possession with intent to
  • Update: Port St. Lucie (First reported 12-02-14): A now-former officer was sentenced to 40 months in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old girl whom he met while he was on duty.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: An officer was charged with harassment for threatening a paralegal over a criminal case implicating the officer’s former colleague: “I will hunt you down and ruin your life.”
  • Columbus, Ohio: An officer was placed on desk duty after his arrest for solicitation.
  • San Bernardino County, California: Two deputies are being sued by a man who claims he was hit by their patrol vehicle and assaulted while on a run.
  • San Diego County, California: A jury awards a man $600,000 in an excessive force case against two deputies.
  • Buffalo, New York: An officer overdosed on heroin while he was off-duty. He was saved by an on-duty officer with an overdose reversal drug.
  • Fulton, Mississippi: An officer was cleared of aggravated assault charges for attempting to strangle his girlfriend. He has returned to his work duties.
  • Update: Georgia State Police (First reported 10-05-15): A trooper who was fired after an auto crash that killed two teens will not face criminal charges.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-18-16

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, February 18, 2016:

  • Los Angeles, California: Two officers were charged with multiple counts of sexual assault against four women, including rape under color of authority. Allegedly, while they were both on duty, one officer would act as lookout as the other one perpetrated the assaults.
  • Harris County, Texas: A deputy became the third to be fired in connection to the investigation of a murdered colleague. He and the other fired deputies had inappropriate contact with a witness to the killing.
  • Lucas County, Ohio: A deputy was fired after his third disciplinary violation. His offenses included OVI, discourtesy, and language.
  • Webster Parish, Louisiana: A deputy was arrested and fired after trying to buy prescription pills from a colleague for personal use.
  • Chicago, Illinois: An officer who was involved in a homicide investigation of the now-former Mayor Daley’s nephew has resigned in lieu of termination.
  • Huntsville, Alabama: An officer was charged with harassment for an unspecified off-duty incident.
  • Jefferson County, Texas: A deputy was arrested for DWI after he crashed into a ditch.
  • Update: Plaquemine, Louisiana (First reported 01-07-16): An officer pled no contest to battery and misconduct. He had been charged for kidnapping and assaulting his estranged wife. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he was given probation.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-17-16

Here are the ten reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 17, 2016:

  • Laredo, Texas: An officer was arrested for stealing $10,000 from a private business. The investigation started after his domestic violence arrest.
  • Update: Portland, Oregon (First reported 07-24-15): An officer pled guilty to misconduct for coercing a woman into unwanted sexual contact.
  • St. Clair Shores, Michigan: An officer was found guilty of willful neglect of duty. He was acquitted of other charges—including unlawful imprisonment, felony assault and armed robbery—after he tracked and assaulted a group of men who stole his daughter’s cell phone.
  • Everett, Washington: An officer was fired after a DUI rollover crash.
  • Pennsylvania State Police: A trooper was charged with two counts of oppression and one count of simple assault for kicking a handcuffed skateboarder in the face. In addition, his partner was fired for the incident but not criminally charged.
  • Update: Bibb County, Georgia (First reported 04-21-14): A now-former deputy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for identity fraud. He used photos of a crime victim to harass his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
  • Centerton, Arkansas: A now-former officer was given a one-year suspended sentence and 40 hours of community service for steroid possession. He was discovered
  • Update: Cleveland, Ohio (First reported 07-01-15): The Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s investigation into the in-custody death of Tanisha Anderson has been taken over by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 12-09-15): An officer was fired amid accusations he and another officer took bribes from karaoke bar owners.
  • Update: Newark, New Jersey (First reported 02-05-16): The City is being sued by the family of an eighth grade boy whose arm was allegedly broken by plainclothes

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-16-16

Here are the 15 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, February 16, 2016:

  • Meriden, Connecticut: Two officers were suspended for threatening and verbally abusing an intoxicated man. One threatened to “pop him.”
  • Dalton, Massachusetts: An officer is facing charges for allegedly assaulting a group of teens.
  • Ligonier Borough, Pennsylvania: An officer was fired and criminally charged for pointing a gun at and threatening to kill his ex-wife’s husband.
  • Pima County, Arizona: The sheriff’s department is being investigated by the FBI for the misuse of public funds and corruption.
  • Multnomah County, Oregon: The County settled a sexual harassment suit filed against the sheriff for $250,000.
  • Granger, Washington: The chief was charged with felony stalking and perjury for lying at a hearing regarding a no contact order.
  • Monroe County, Florida: A deputy was arrested and demoted for writing a ticket to unlicensed driver’s girlfriend who was a passenger in the car at the time. He also threatened them if they went to the authorities about it.
  • Jennings County, Indiana: A deputy was one of three men arrested for beating up a man.
  • Harris County, Texas: A deputy was fired for lying during an investigation into the murder of a fellow deputy.
  • Brevard County, Florida: A deputy was fired and charged with sexual misconduct for having sex with a jail inmate.
  • Update: Chilton County, Alabama (First reported 12-02-15): A now-former deputy who also served as a school resource officer was sentenced to 20 years for rape, sodomy, and other crimes against minors.
  • Waco, Texas: An officer was placed under investigation by the Texas Rangers for filing a false affidavit in a narcotics investigation. The officer claimed he was ordered to fill out the affidavit in the manner he did. Consequently, all of the department’s drug cases have also been placed under review.
  • Update: Westlake, Ohio (First reported 07-08-15): An officer was acquitted of excessive force and lying to investigators in federal civil rights case.
  • Delaware County, Indiana: A now-former deputy was arrested for stealing $8,580 of ammunition over a three-year period while on force.
  • Update: Austin, Texas (First reported 11-11-15): Four officers are being sued by two pedestrians who were subjected to violent arrest for jaywalking. Video of the arrest went viral in November.

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