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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Two Philly Cops Charged With Brutality


[The arrest] on May 29, 2013, was allegedly so violent that District Attorney Seth Williams on Thursday charged two Philadelphia police officers with aggravated assault, conspiracy and related crimes.

After seeing the blood, [girlfriend] Scannapieco began asking questions.

She eventually found surveillance video, at a barber shop-auto detailing business on the block, that would exonerate Rivera and lead to the arrest of the officers who prosecutors say beat him without provocation and then falsely arrested him.

“This type of behavior has absolutely no place in our city, and I will prosecute these two officers to the fullest extent of the law,” Williams said.

The accused officers, Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight, turned themselves in to police Thursday.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey suspended the officers with intent to dismiss. Before the video of their arrest of Rivera surfaced, the officers’ account of what happened had been accepted as fact, Ramsey said….

Without the video, Rivera would have had little chance challenging the testimony of two police officers.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-04-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 04, 2015:

  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 07-29-14): An officer seen on video stomping on the head of a subdued suspect was indicted for assault and misconduct.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: An officer who worked as an SRO at a middle school was arrested for assaulting two 13-year-old students. Both incidents were caught on video. He appears to punch one in the face, with injuries that sent the student to the hospital. In a separate incident, he appears to put another student in a choke hold that rendered him unconscious.  The officer cuffed him and took him home without medical treatment and without telling the boy’s parents what happened. According to the news report, the student suffered brain damage from the choke-hold incident.
  • Bothell, Washington: An officer working as an SRO at a high school was charged with sexual misconduct for having a sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old student.
  • Update: San Antonio, Texas (First reported 07-08-13): An officer who held his wife and children at gunpoint, and had a standoff with police after the incident, pled no contest to disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to one day of probation and ordered to pay a $100 fine. According to the news report, “The plea deal struck out any reference to a gun or family violence,” and thus the officer will retain his peace officer’s license whether or not the SAPD terminates his employment.
  • Walton County, Georgia: A deputy was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct for his actions that resulted in the death of his girlfriend.
  • King County, Washington: A deputy was arrested on domestic violence charges. He has surrendered his weapon and is on leave.
  • Buckeye, Arizona: An officer was cited for DUI and speeding after suffering a motorcycle crash that left him badly injured.
  • Update: Park Forest, Illinois: An officer was acquitted of criminal charges for using a succession of beanbag rounds against a 95-year-old WWII veteran. The veteran, who was allegedly wielding a knife, died hours after the incident.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-03-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, February 3, 2015:

  • New York State Police: A trooper was arrested for DWI after he was in a one-car accident.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: An officer was arrested for assaulting his wife as they were driving home from a party, causing an accident. When witnesses approached the vehicle to check for injuries, the officer yelled at them before attacking his wife again. One witness subdued the violent and highly intoxicated officer until police arrived on the scene.
  • Gasconade County, Missouri: A now-former deputy was charged with multiple criminal counts including acceding to corruption, sexual assault, statutory rape, and use of a child in a sexual performance.
  • Update: Edwardsville, Illinois (First reported 01-05-15): An officer that had already been arrested earlier this year for a string of robberies faces additional charges, including arson and money laundering.
  • Stockton, California: The district attorney filed a complaint against a school police officer for strip-searching a student against department protocol.
  • Miami-Dade, Florida: An officer was arrested and charged with misconduct for lying to investigators about vandalism to his patrol vehicle. The investigation into the damage implicated the officer in a hit-and-run accident, perhaps inside his station’s garage.
  • Update: St. Paul, Minnesota (First reported 06-09-14): A now-former officer was sentenced to 30 days in jail for identity theft. Through accounts she set up, she wired money to her incarcerated and gang-affiliated boyfriend under her friend’s name. Her friend was not aware that her name was being used for the illicit transactions. The now-former officer was acquitted of two counts of aggravated forgery.
  • Miami, Florida: An officer was arrested by the FBI for providing paid protection to an illegal gambling operation.

Worst of the Month — January 2015

The worst police misconduct for January comes from Miramar, Florida. The misconduct took place in the 1980s, but it took some time for it to be exposed.  A federal appeals court recently upheld a $7,000,000 judgment against two now-former officers

In 1983, the officers coerced a mentally challenged 15-year-old boy, Anthony Caravella, to confess to rape and murder. Furthermore, they withheld exculpatory evidence in his case. The victim served 26 years before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2009.

From the Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Caravella was arrested by Mantesta and Pierson on Dec. 28, 1983, on a juvenile case that alleged he stole a bicycle and didn’t show up for court.

Over the next week, while in juvenile custody, Caravella gave a series of statements to the officers that culminated in him confessing to the murder.

Heyer said Caravella trusted Mantesta and the officers, who spent hours alone with him, fed him information about the crime scene and got him to repeat it back to them.

Caravella and his childhood friend, Dawn Simone Herron, testified in the 2013 civil trial that the officers coerced Caravella into falsely incriminating himself by telling him that if he gave a statement they would free the 16-year-old girl who was with him when he was arrested.

After that “police work,” prosecutors actually sought the death penalty, but the jury opted for a life sentence.

The man who was actually responsible for the rape and murder remained free, potentially endangering other members of the community.  The man implicated by the DNA analysis died in 2010 and never faced justice for this crime.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 01-31-15 to 02-02-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked between Saturday, January 31 and Monday, February 2, 2015:

  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 06-12-12): The City settled a wrongful death suit for $3.9 million. A police officer chased an unarmed 18-year-old man into his home and fatally shot him in 2012. The officer believed the victim, Ramarley Graham, had participated in a drug deal. The U.S. Department of Justice continues to investigate the possibility of civil rights charges against the officer and the department.
  • Seattle, Washington: An officer pepper-sprayed an activist walking by and talking on his cell phone at a Martin Luther King Day/Black Lives Matter rally. The man had previously spoken on stage at the rally and appeared to be leaving at the time of the incident.
  • Update: Cleveland, Ohio (First reported 12-18-14): An officer that had been arrested for domestic violence has been arrested again on new charges of domestic violence as well as kidnapping and intimidation.
  • Update: Fairfax, Virginia: According to four police witnesses, John Geer had hands up when he was fatally shot by an officer in 2013. The Washington Post editorialized, “Everyone involved in this case has dropped the ball and dodged responsibility, enabling what now looks like a coverup in a case of police impunity.”
  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 01-05-15): The police officer who allegedly choked an MTA (subway) conductor was charged with misdemeanor assault. Some critics have complained that assaulting an MTA employee is a felony, and thus the officer’s charge should reflect that.
  • Mission, Texas: A now-former officer and deputy U.S. Marshall pled guilty to fraud charges. He had an “accident only” insurance policy and forged a doctor’s signature on his false claim to the insurance company.
  • Update: Detroit, Michigan (First reported 09-27-13): A now-former officer was sentenced to 2-20 years in federal prison for racketeering, fraud, and bribery charges. For a fee, working in cooperation with a financial consultant, he filed false identity-fraud reports to a credit agency in order to raise the credit of the consultant’s clients. Additionally, he improved his own score by filing a report that he was a victim of identity fraud, but under the name of another police officer without that officer’s knowledge.
  • Jefferson County, Idaho: The sheriff was indicted for misuse of public funds. He allegedly bought personal cell phones for himself and his wife, as well as a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association.
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: An officer was charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide after he was involved in a car crash that resulted in the death of a 79-year-old woman.

Post Editorial About Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

Everyone involved in this case has dropped the ball and dodged responsibility, enabling what now looks like a coverup in a case of police impunity.

 The police, who did not seek medical treatment for Mr. Geer or retrieve his body for more than an hour, falsely claimed Mr. Geer had “barricaded” himself inside his house after he was shot, then stonewalled prosecutors and the public for months.

The top prosecutor in Fairfax, Ray Morrogh, punted the case to the feds over a supposed conflict of interest involving a courthouse shouting match between Officer Torres and a rank-and-file prosecutor. That seems a far-fetched reason not to pursue the case.

The feds — first the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, then the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — sat on the case for months more, saying nothing.

Fairfax’s County’s governing body, the Board of Supervisors, seems incapable of getting its own employees — namely the police and the County Attorney’s office — to conduct themselves responsibly and transparently. The supervisors have managed nothing beyond tut-tutting that things don’t look quite right and calling for a review of policies.

That mind-set seems to have infected virtually every agency in Fairfax, in addition to the feds, that should have stepped up to see that justice was done in the Geer case. The case should be presented to a jury, which can weigh Officer Torres’s account against those of other witnesses. The delay and obfuscation represent a travesty of justice

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 01-30-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, January 30, 2015:

  • Fairfax, Virginia: The police use a SWAT team to raid a home poker game and seize 40 percent of the money through asset forfeiture.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: A detective was arrested for attempted sexual assault and battery. The incident allegedly began as a dispute over fees for prostitution and escalated when the detective attempted to retrieve his money.
  • Valdosta, Georgia: An officer was arrested on evidence tampering and theft charges. He was fired. He allegedly failed to turn in a shotgun he had collected as evidence.
  • California Highway Patrol: A now-former officer was sentenced to three years of probation for sending nude photos from arrestees’ phones to himself and others. After arresting female drivers, he would go through their cell phones to find pictures of them and forward them to fellow officers. The two other officers involved were not charged.
  • Update: Franklin County, Ohio (First reported: 03-31-14): A now-former deputy pled guilty to possession of child pornography.
  • Kankakee County, Illinois: A now-former deputy who had once served as president of the state’s chiefs of police pled guilty to fraud and tax evasion. He misused $250,000 from a fund for helicopters. According to the news report, he’ll be sentenced in May for mail fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and filing false tax returns.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: A now-former officer pled guilty to stealing nearly $160,000 of government funds. The money was a subsidy meant to encourage landlords to rent out their spaces cheaply to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The officer filed for the paperwork but did not lower the rates on the properties she rented out, thereby violating the law’s requirements.
  • Update: Holcomb, Missouri (First reported 05-16-14): A now-former officer pled guilty to failure to execute an arrest warrant, a misdemeanor. He was initially charged with obstruction, a felony, for warning a burglary suspect that she was wanted for arrest.

“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution?”

Officer safety is important. Public safety is also important. Police should follow the law and respect the rights of citizens as part of their day-to-day jobs to keep both themselves and the public safer.

Over at Law and Order, a magazine for police management, three experienced leaders in law enforcement training and leadership explain the ethical and professional imperative of constitutional policing:

Federal Constitutional law governs a number of the most critical and often high-risk police actions: use of force, seizures of persons, investigative detentions and arrests, searches of persons, vehicle stops and searches, entry into private premises, and the concepts of reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

Violations of the Federal Constitution can cause evidence suppression in major cases, massive civil liability, career devastation, and even criminal prosecution of law enforcement officers. But avoidance of these horrendous negatives is not the best reason for an officer to follow the Constitution. The best reason is a shining positive: keeping faith with the oath of office.

On the day an officer takes that oath, the Constitution becomes more than a legal obligation. It becomes an ethical duty, a matter of promise keeping—keeping the most solemn promise made in a law enforcement career—to support, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.   But however lofty that promise, it is hollow—without a thorough understanding of what the Constitution requires of us.

Our training helps provide that understanding by teaching what we can and cannot lawfully do under the United States Constitution. This knowledge is a powerful tool for achieving investigative goals. It also helps us stay out of trouble. Most importantly, it empowers us to attain the ethical standards that we have so ardently pledged, adding meaning and value to our oath of office—the promise made to a community by those who police it, the promise in exchange for which one is allowed to be a police officer.


Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense. Positive peer pressure must be normative and organizational discipline should enter the picture as necessary.

More demand for accountability and transparency grants us opportunities to build stronger relationships with our communities that enhance officer safety in the most comprehensive sense. This atmosphere expands trust and exposes the true villains in our communities. We are not soldiers fighting a war, but servant leaders striving to find a way to inspire others to be accountable and to participate actively in securing safety and prosperity for all law-abiding community members, including police officers.

You should read the whole thing here.

H/T: Prof. Sean Stoughton

NYC Settles Lawsuit Involving Teen Killing

From the New York Times:

The family of a Bronx teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer who had barged into his apartment after suspecting him of taking part in a drug deal has agreed to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city for $3.9 million.

The agreement to settle the case, reported Friday by The Daily News, comes nearly three years after the Feb. 2, 2012, shooting of the teenager, Ramarley Graham….

A criminal case against Officer Haste collapsed in August 2013 when a Bronx grand jury chose not to indict him. An earlier case in which he had been indicted on manslaughter charges related to the shooting was dismissed by a judge on a technicality.

More on the John Geer Shooting

From the Washington Post:

How and why Geer died that afternoon in August 2013 after police responded to a domestic dispute at his home have remained a mystery, as police and prosecutors have declined to comment on the case for 17 months. But Friday night, under a court order obtained by lawyers for the Geer family, Fairfax released more than 11,000 pages of documents that shed new light on the police shooting….

Mike Lieberman, an attorney for the Geer family, said: “If this was a similar situation involving two ordinary citizens, there is little doubt that any individual who shot an unarmed man who was holding his hands up in the air and claiming that he did not want to hurt anyone would have been arrested and charged.

“Within days of the shooting, the police department, at the highest levels, knew of the gross discrepancies between Officer Torres’s version of the events and the accounts provided by every other eyewitness.”

According to the report, the local prosecutor was unable to get information from the police department about the officer who shot Geer.  Why did the police department withhold the information?  Hmm.

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