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Police Unions Lobby for Special Legal Protections

From the New York Times:

As Justice Department officials began meeting with community leaders in Baltimore this week in the early stages of their civil rights inquiry into the death of Freddie Gray, they heard repeated complaints about a state law that gives special legal protections to police officers suspected of abusing their power.

The law is similar to at least a dozen across the country, commonly known as police officers’ bills of rights. But Maryland’s, enacted in the early 1970s, was the first and goes the furthest in offering layers of legal protection to police officers. Among its provisions is one that gives officers 10 days before they have to talk to investigators….

The United States Supreme Court in 1967 determined that because police officers had in some instances been deprived of their constitutional right against self-incrimination, officers could not be compelled to give evidence against themselves, including as part of administrative investigations.

Since then, the extra layer of legal protection for officers has expanded, in large part because of the power of police unions, which have had similar rules inserted in union contracts and have frequently paid for television advertisements that label politicians who disagree with them as antipolice. In Maryland, law enforcement unions have donated tens of thousands of dollars to state and local elected officials, including to Ms. Rawlings-Blake.

Officers Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death

This morning Baltimore prosecutors announced that they have filed criminal charges against the six police officers who were involved in the Freddie Gray incident.  The driver of the police van, Officer Caesar Goodson, has been charged with second degree murder.   In theory, this is the way in which our system is supposed to work.  That is, everyone agrees that if police officers break the law, they should be held accountable and treated like anyone else.  In practice, the system does not always work that way.

It is important to remember how the Freddie Gray case is different:

  • Gray’s arrest was caught on cell phone camera.
  • Gray’s family has retained one of the best attorneys in Maryland, Billy Murphy.
  • The incident brought scrutiny from the federal Department of Justice.
  • Protesters in Baltimore brought international media attention and scrutiny to the case.

With all of these factors in play, the police and prosecutors moved on the case aggressively.  The accused officers will be able to consult with defense counsel and assert their rights in court.  If these cases go to trial, a jury will hear from both sides before rendering a verdict.

It’s also important to remember that the protests in Baltimore and other U.S. cities are not just about the Freddie Gray case.  They are about police misconduct and tactics that trouble Americans all around the country.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 04-29-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, April 29, 2015:

  • Update: Kirtland Hills, Ohio (First reported 10-14-14): The now-former police chief was sentenced to two years in prison for fraud and tampering charges. According to the news report, “Prosecutors say he defrauded the village out of at least $80,000 by making unauthorized purchases of clothing, tools and goods for his own use.”
  • Update: Miami-Dade, Florida (First reported 08-06-14): A now-former officer pled guilty to aiding and abetting marijuana distribution. He faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for tipping off marijuana growers to when the police were investigating them and how to avoid capture.
  • Sweetwater, Florida: An officer was arrested and suspended for buying cocaine.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: The department released a video that led to the firing of a detective. The now-former detective knocked out an 18-year-old man’s teeth after he surrendered.
  • Allen County, Ohio: A now-retired sergeant was charged with 112 counts related to 35 thefts from the evidence room. The alleged thefts occurred while he was employed with the department.
  • Sidney, Nebraska: The chief was charged with obstructing government operations by a state attorney. Allegedly he did not pursue a criminal case that he should have.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: An officer was fired after a lengthy investigation. He fought a man after a fender bender in 2013 and though he was acquitted of criminal charges, his position was terminated after a disciplinary review.
  • Update: Prescott Valley, Arizona (First reported 01-20-15): A now-former commander was sentenced to three years of probation. He pled guilty to stealing drugs from the evidence room.

New York Considers Reform Proposals

From the Times Union:

As Baltimore smoldered following the death of an unarmed man in police custody, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered lawmakers a choice about future oversight of similar controversial cases in New York state.

If lawmakers don’t approve his call for an independent monitor to oversee legal proceedings that follow such deaths, Cuomo will use his executive powers to go even farther and create a special prosecutor who would have the power to pursue charges against officers….

Calls for greater scrutiny and oversight following the deaths of unarmed civilians emerged after Garner’s death and a grand jury’s decision not to indict any of the officers involved. But they haven’t gained traction in the full Legislature.

Senate Democrats have pushed for a creation of a special investigator within the Attorney General’s Office to investigate unarmed deaths, but Republicans who control the majority haven’t moved it forward.

The creation of a special prosecutor is opposed by many district attorneys and police unions around the state.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 04-28-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, April 28, 2015:

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: An officer was arrested for aggravated battery. He allegedly hit a suspect during an arrest. The officer and his partner were suspended. The department learned of the incident through a police cadet who was shadowing the pair on the call.
  • Detroit, Michigan: An officer was arraigned on weapons charges after a drive-by shooting.
  • Update: Marion, South Carolina (First reported 04-24-14): Two now-former officers were sentenced to prison for repeatedly Tasing a mentally ill woman. After the victim was on the ground and in handcuffs, and having Tased her several times already, one of the officers “offered to let her go if he could shoot her in the forehead one more time with his Taser.” That officer was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The other officer received a sentence of one year and one day.
  • Los Angeles County, California: The sheriff’s office is being sued by a woman who claims her son was beaten to death while in the jail there. The coroner’s autopsy results indicated that the man hung himself in his cell. The family’s autopsy indicated he died of blunt force trauma to the head.
  • St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana: A deputy was fired after his domestic violence arrest.
  • Grant County, Washington: A deputy was arrested for assault after an incident while off duty.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina: An officer pled not guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell.
  • North Dakota State Police: A trooper resigned amid allegations that he wrote fake traffic tickets without distributing them.

Fraternal Order of Police Opposes Bad Cops

James Pasco, executive director of the National FOP, as quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The fact of the matter is no self-respecting member of the law enforcement community holds any brief for a bad cop.

Of course.  It would be news if Mr. Pasco would have said the opposite.  Yet, too often police unions lobby against measures that would bring greater accountability to the bad cops.


Settlement in Civil Rights Lawsuit

From Reuters:

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an accord on Tuesday with the U.S. Justice Department to settle findings that the country’s largest sheriff’s department systematically harassed and intimidated low-income minority residents….

The report concluded that county sheriff’s deputies, along with authorities in the towns of Lancaster and Palmdale, routinely targeted blacks and Hispanics in a “pattern and practice” of unlawful traffic stops, raids and excessive force.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 04-25-15 to 04-27-15

Here are the 13 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, April 25 to Monday, April 27, 2015:

  • Hodgeman County, Kansas: A deputy was arrested for killing his 2-month-old child.
  • Columbia County, Georgia: A deputy was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $300 fine for giving accident reports obtained from a law enforcement database to injury lawyers.
  • Clay County, Missouri: A deputy was arrested for assaulting his estranged wife.
  • Dunn County, Wisconsin: A deputy was arrested for DUI.
  • Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: An officer was arrested after an alleged drunken burglary and assault. He subsequently resigned.
  • Update: Berkeley County, West Virginia (First reported 10-27-14): A now-former captain was acquitted on a fraud charge, but the jury was hung on an embezzlement charge. The State plans to re-try the embezzlement case.
  • Belmont, North Carolina: The City suspended and fired the police chief. Allegations of intimidation and payroll manipulation led to the dismissal. A captain also resigned as a result of the investigation.
  • Redstone Township, Pennsylvania: An officer was indicted for striking a suspect and then lying about the incident to justify the violence.
  • Update: Shreveport, Louisiana (First reported 09-23-14): An officer was sentenced to 20 days in jail for an off-duty bar fight. He has been fired.
  • Update: Fruitport Township, Michigan (First reported 12-01-14): A now-former officer was sentenced to one year of probation for DUI with a minor in the car.
  • Vermont State Police: A trooper was arrested for DUI and has resigned. He responded to a late-night call and colleagues smelled alcohol on his breath.
  • Peachtree City, Georgia: The police chief was indicted for shooting his wife in an apparent accident at home.
  • Update: Ipswich, Massachusetts (First reported 04-28-14): A now-former officer and brother of the chief was sentenced to two years of probation after plea deal for off-duty assault. He also agreed never to work in law enforcement again.

Freddie Gray Funeral

From the Baltimore Sun:

In a funeral service Monday that was both personal and political, family, friends and strangers alike said farewell on Monday to Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose death from injuries sustained in police custody has sparked a national furor…

[S]peaker after speaker drew both cheers and tears.

“The eyes of the country are all on us,” former judge and Gray family attorney William “Billy” Murphy told the crowd. “They want to see if we have the stuff to get this right.”

Murphy denounced “the blue wall” that he said protects police from accountability.

“Let’s don’t kid ourselves. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for video cameras,” he said of the cellphone recordings made by bystanders of Gray’s arrest on April 12. “Instead of one cover-up behind that blue wall after another cover-up behind that blue wall … and one lie after another lie, now we see the truth as never before. It’s not a pretty picture.”

Gray was transported in a van to the Western District police station, emerging with what turned out to be a severed spinal cord and crushed voicebox, dying a week later.

Here is a Cato Institute podcast interview with Billy Murphy about police tactics, minorities, and constitutional rights.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 04-24-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, April 24, 2015:

  • Dallas, Texas: A grand jury declined to indict two officers who fatally shot 38-year-old Jason Harrison.
  • Palm Beach County, Florida: Recently released dashcam video contradicts statement by deputy who had been cleared in the 2013 shooting of unarmed black man.
  • Latimer County, Oklahoma: A now-former deputy was arrested for stealing drug evidence. The drugs were discovered in his patrol vehicle during a routine cleaning.
  • Oakland, California: The city paid $275,000 to two innocent teens. One of the teens was shot in the jaw by a police officer because he was mistaken for robbery suspect, the other was present at the time of the shooting. The officer who shot at the boys was, at the time, a field training officer. He claimed the victim made “a sweeping motion toward his waistband.”
  • Coral Springs, Florida: An officer was arrested for domestic battery. He allegedly dragged his wife out of a car and drove off with their one-year-old son
  • Update: Inkster, Michigan (First reported 03-30-15): An officer was fired and charged with assault after violent arrest video was released. The police chief resigned in the wake of the incident.
  • Dallas, Texas: Two officers were fired for maintaining inappropriate personal relationships. One officer had a relationship with someone in their Explorers program. The other had a relationship “with a person of immoral character.”
  • Mt. Juliet, Tennessee: An officer was suspended for falsifying time cards.
  • Greenwood, Mississippi: An officer was suspended after arresting activist who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. The activist was recording a traffic stop.

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