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

New York Law Hides Police Misconduct

From New York Times editorial:

The uniquely restrictive New York State law that is used to conceal the disciplinary histories of police officers — even some who have committed crimes — reared its head again last week in misconduct proceedings against the officer who brutalized the retired tennis player James Blake during a mistaken arrest in Manhattan last month.

The public has the right to be kept informed of police misconduct cases, especially at a time of heightened concern over police brutality. But when the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated excessive force charges against James Frascatore, the officer who attacked Mr. Blake, it was allowed to release its findings to Mr. Blake’s lawyer but was barred from making them available to the public. Had Mr. Blake’s attorney not released the information, the public would still be in the dark.

The state law on officers’ histories is the only one of its kind in the nation. It was enacted in 1976 to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using freedom-of-information laws to gain access to personnel records for information to use against officers in trials.

The law says an officer’s personnel record cannot be publicly released or cited in court without a judge’s approval. But municipalities and courts have since broadened the definition of “personnel record” to shield almost any information.

For additional background, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-08-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, October 8, 2015:

  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 09-14-15): The Civilian Complaint Review Board found that the officer who tackled ex-tennis star James Blake used excessive force.
  • Douglas County, Colorado: A deputy was arrested for domestic violence.
  • Greenville County, South Carolina: A deputy was fired and arrested for punching a handcuffed suspect in the face at a medical facility.
  • Update: Seabrook, New Hampshire (First reported 01-08-14): A now-former officer pled guilty to assault against an inmate in 2009. The video of the incident was released in January 2014 and soon went viral, prompting his termination and criminal charges.
  • Richfield, Minnesota: Two officers were placed on leave after a video showing an officer striking a black teen who was standing in a park made news.
  • Farmington, Maine: An officer faces two civil counts for excessive force for 2011 shooting death of Justin Crowley-Smilek.
  • Update: Boynton Beach, Florida (First reported 10-31-14): An officer was found not guilty of raping a woman at gunpoint on his patrol vehicle.
  • Sonoma County, California: The sheriff’s office is being sued in federal court by 20 jail inmates alleging beatings and abuse.
  • East Cleveland, Ohio: Three officers face charges for ripping off thousands of dollars from drug dealers over a two-year period.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-07-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, October 7, 2015:

  • Oklahoma County, Oklahoma: A corporal was charged with felony strangulation for an attack on his girlfriend. He resigned.
  • Kenosha County, Wisconsin: A deputy was charged with obstruction and misconduct for stealing drugs during a sting.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (Laredo, TX): An officer was arrested for pulling his gun on a driver. He was placed on leave.
  • Darien, Connecticut: Two officers were arrested for shooting a vehicle with their firearms.
  • Breckinridge County, Kentucky: The sheriff was arrested for DUI and terroristic threatening.
  • Donna, Texas: An officer pled guilty to tampering and was sentenced to 120 hours of community service for fixing a ticket.
  • Carlsbad, California: A woman is suing the city for being punched in the face while she was subdued during a 2013 arrest. There is video of the incident.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: An officer was indicted on a vehicular homicide charge for hitting a pedestrian in March.
  • University of Oklahoma: An officer was arrested for breaking into a car, stealing a cell phone, and attempting to send sexual content with it.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-06-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, October 6, 2015:

  • Maui, Hawaii: An officer was arrested for theft. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Update: Cleveland, Tennessee: The new chief fired three officers implicated in recent scandals. Two were fired as a result of an incident off-duty that resulted in sexual assault charges against one of them (those charges were eventually dismissed). The third officer was indicted last month for insurance fraud. His criminal case is pending.
  • Zephyrhills, Florida: An officer was fired for unjustified use of force with a Taser.
  • Update: Deptford, New Jersey (First reported 01-07-13): A now-former officer was found guilty of murder for shooting his friend in an incident at his home.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: An officer was charged with theft and misconduct for fraudulently claiming overtime pay.
  • Update: Shreveport, Louisiana (First reported 10-01-15): An officer that had been suspended for undisclosed misconduct has been fired. There is no word on whether there is or will be a criminal investigation.
  • Clark County School District (Nevada): An officer was arrested for DUI after an auto crash.
  • Update: Salt Lake City (Unified), Utah (First reported 03-23-15): A now-former officer was sentenced to two years’ probation and to pay nearly $8,500 in restitution for misuse of public funds.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-03-15 to 10-05-15

Here are the ten reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, October 3 through Monday, October 5, 2015:

  • Santa Clara County, California: Two deputies were arrested in unrelated incidents. One illegally accessed a confidential database to find information on people he knew. The other filed a false injury claim.
  • Georgia State Police: A trooper was fired after a fatal automobile crash that killed two teens. The now-former trooper had previous crashes on his record. It is unclear whether criminal charges are being considered.
  • Update: Rochester, New York (First reported 03-09-15): An officer had criminal hit-and-run charges against him dropped. He remains suspended pending an internal investigation.
  • Lafayette Parish, Louisiana: The parish settled a brutality lawsuit brought by a former inmate for $400,000. According to the report, two deputies “sprayed him with pepper spray and beat him in a holding cell, breaking three of his ribs and puncturing a lung. He says they then left him restrained in a chair for an hour before taking him to a hospital.” Two deputies who did not report the incident were brought up on administrative charges but remain with the department. The two deputies who allegedly perpetrated the assault were fired and face criminal charges.
  • Update: Owasso, Oklahoma (First reported 06-22-15): An officer was charged in an excessive force case for beating a motorist with the butt of a shotgun in an incident caught on tape. This is the same officer who was fired and reinstated by an arbitrator in 2012 for excessive force for elbowing an inmate in the face. In February of this year, he was awarded $280,000 in back-pay for the time he was terminated before his reinstatement.
  • Buffalo, New York: A now-former officer as sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay $100,000 restitution for filing a false disability claim.
  • Orlando, Florida: Two officers were fired for rupturing the spleen of an inmate who was bound hand-and-foot. They ignored his screaming pleas for help for two hours before taking him to the hospital.
  • Elyria, Ohio: An officer pled no contest to DUI after a crash. He was given 90 days in jail, with all but three of those suspended, and fined.  The three days not suspended will be used for alcohol abuse classes.
  • Cleveland, Mississippi: An officer was accused of extortion in a ticket-fixing scheme.
  • Kentucky State Police: A trooper pled guilty to sex with a minor. Four troopers were terminated and charged for having sexual contact with the same girl.

Worst of the Month — September

So for September we have chosen the Chicago Police Department, particularly, the officers who were responsible for arresting George Roberts.

CBS Chicago reports on a lawsuit filed by Roberts against the Chicago Police Department.  According to Roberts, he was falsely arrested and roughed up by police following a traffic stop.  Here’s the thing: Roberts investigates police misconduct for the Independent Police Review Authority.  And it was when the police discovered that fact that the abuse of power began.  Mysteriously, several police cameras on the scene were turned off:

It is against policy in both Chicago and Illinois for a police officer to turn off his dashboard camera, CBS Chicago reports.

Vehicles belonging to two other officers on the scene were equipped with audio recording devices, though no audio of the encounter was saved, according to the lawsuit.

Roberts said in the lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 15, that the camera was shut off after officers realized he worked for the Independent Police Review Authority — or IPRA — the agency responsible for investigating police misconduct.

Roberts said he was initially stopped for a minor traffic violation, but was then pushed in the back by one of the officers and forced to the ground. He said in the lawsuit that an officer shouted, “Don’t make me [expletive] shoot you.”

But “when the (officers) turned off the dash camera, things got worse,” his attorneys write in the lawsuit.

Roberts, who was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle, complained that the handcuffs were too tight, according to the lawsuit. The 6-foot-3, 315 pound man says that, instead, it would have have been appropriate for officers to use multiple handcuffs strung together for someone of his size.

He says in the lawsuit that one of the officers responded to his complaints: “What are you going to tell me next, you can’t breathe?” — an apparent reference to Eric Garner, a New York City man who died in 2014 as a result of a police choke hold.

Roberts also says he was told “that’s your fault,” when he pointed out that his weight made the single set of handcuffs painful.

Read the whole thing.  Roberts was suspended from his job while charges were pending.  Following his acquittal, he returned to work.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-02-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, October 2, 2015:

  • Providence, Rhode Island: An officer was arrested for threatening his superiors. He had already been suspended for weapons tampering violations.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: A now-former officer was sentenced to four years’ probation for assaulting his then-girlfriend and pointing his service weapon to her head.
  • Mt. Vernon, Ohio: A detective was arrested by the FBI for extortion and drug trafficking.
  • Update: Belchertown, Massachusetts (First reported 09-15-15): The chief resigned after a report of a drunk driving incident in February recently went public. He was pulled over in another jurisdiction and driven home by officers without citation or arrest.
  • Auburn, New York: An officer was arrested with three corrections officers for an off-duty incident at a state park.
  • Update: Hatch, New Mexico (First reported 07-15-15): An officer was indicted on false imprisonment charges and pled not guilty.
  • Alabama State Police: A trooper was arrested for domestic violence.
  • Greenville, Tennessee: A now-former officer was sentenced to 18 months in prison for misconduct. He had sexual relationships with several jail inmates.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 10-01-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, October 1, 2015:

  • Danbury, Connecticut: An officer was arrested and charged with grand larceny for a string of car break-ins.
  • El Paso, Texas: An officer was arrested for DWI after crashing into a wall.
  • South Miami, Florida: An officer was arrested for inappropriate conduct with underage girls.
  • Dallas, Texas: An officer was fired after arrest for soliciting prostitution.
  • Shreveport, Louisiana: An officer was placed on leave for alleged policy violation. Details of violation have not been disclosed.
  • Wright County, Minnesota: A deputy was arrested for DWI after a colleague turned him in for showing up to work intoxicated.
  • Update: Moundsville, West Virginia (First reported 01-21-15): A now-former officer pled guilty to 3rd-degree sexual assault against a minor.
  • Audubon, New Jersey: An off-duty officer was arrested at his home after attempting to take a responding officer’s gun.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-30-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

  • Update: Baltimore, Maryland (First reported 04-21-15): The six officers charged for the death of Freddie Gray have trial dates tentatively set. The first is slated to start November 30. The other five are staggered through the last trial starting March 9.
  • Chicago, Illinois: The City faces another lawsuit regarding the Jon Burge torture scandal. A man who was wrongfully convicted of rape and served 31 years after he was coerced into a false confession had his lawsuit approved by a
  • Update: State College, Pennsylvania (05-15-15): A now-former officer was sentenced to 23 months in prison followed by five years of probation for stealing drugs from the evidence room. According to the report, he stole “1,265 grams of cocaine, 88 tablets of OxyContin, 123 tablets of oxycodone and seven tablets of hydrocodone.”
  • Port Barre, Louisiana: An officer resigned after he was accused of assault when he was off duty. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
  • Update: Austin, Texas (First reported 06-03-15): An officer who arrested for DWI in May has been fired.
  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 2010): The City settled the lawsuit filed by now-former officer and whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft for $600,000.
  • Update: Tulsa County, Oklahoma (First reported 04-13-15): The sheriff was indicted for willful violation of law for actions in the wake of Eric Harris shooting. He resigned.
  • Tunica County, Mississippi: A commander was fired after a deputy accused him of coercing her into sex under threat of termination.
  • Update: Middlesex County, New Jersey (First reported 09-24-15): A deputy who was recently arrested for assaulting a woman faces additional charges for illegal possession of an assault weapon.

NYPD: New Use-of-Force Guidelines Issued after Highly Critical Report Released

This morning, the NYPD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that found police leadership ignored over 35 percent of sustained excessive force complaints against its officers. This afternoon, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton announced new use-of-force guidelines to improve reporting and responsiveness. The guidelines will require NYPD officers to document and grade each use of force occurrence on duty. They also require officers to intervene if they witness a fellow officer using excessive force.

According to BuzzFeed:

The scathing [OIG] report, the first of its kind prepared by the new regulatory agency, was based on an analysis of 179 cases from 2010 through 2014 in which the Civilian Complaint and Review Board, the independent agency that investigates police misconduct, found that officers had used excessive force. The report also examined internal NYPD records for over 100 of those cases.

Among the Inspector General’s most troubling findings was the fact that top department brass declined to discipline a large portion of officers who were found to have used excess force. In 36% of the cases where independent investigators found evidence of misconduct, the police commissioner, who ultimately decides the fate of police officers accused of wrongdoing, “refused to impose any form of discipline.”

In spite of these revelations, NYPD’s largest union objected to the new reporting requirements. Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolence Association, told BuzzFeed, “more paperwork coupled with a serious shortage of police officers and the continual second-guessing of their actions is a formula for disaster.”

The OIG also found the percentage of sustained force complaints that garnered no discipline is down considerably under Commissioner Bratton’s leadership. This decline indicates that Bratton’s NYPD is serious about addressing these entrenched problems of responsiveness, union objections notwithstanding.

As the nation’s largest police department, the NYPD often sets the operational standard (for good or ill) for many of law enforcement agencies across the country. Police departments and reformers alike will be watching closely as the NYPD implements these new guidelines.

You can read today’s OIG report here. You can read more about the new guidelines from yesterday’s preview in the New York Times. And you can read my testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the widespread lack of transparency regarding the use of force and officer discipline here.

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