National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Dana Holmes Files Lawsuit for Illegal Strip Search

Police arrested Dana Holmes on a DUI charge.

The controversy concerns what they did to her later at the police station.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Dana Holmes was drunk, naked and being recorded on video.

The 33-year-old was facedown on the floor of a LaSalle County jail cell while cameras captured images of her nude body on the facility’s video system. Minutes earlier, four deputies — three men and a woman — had pulled her to the ground and carried her into the cell, where they quickly and forcibly stripped Holmes and walked out with her clothes.

“There was no excuse or anything to give them a reason to put their hands on me,” said Holmes, who filed a federal lawsuit against LaSalle County authorities Monday. “I was just scared. I didn’t want them to have any reason to come back inside.”

Holmes, whose blood-alcohol level registered nearly three times the legal limit when she was arrested for drunken driving earlier in the night, said she lay on the floor crying. After a few minutes, the cell door opened, and a deputy tossed in a pile of blankets and what authorities describe as a “padded suit.”

More than an hour later, when deputies fingerprinted and photographed Holmes, she was covered only in one of the blankets wrapped around her body, the jail video showed. It was provided to the Tribune by Holmes’ attorneys. The images show several male officers entering the room as a still-inebriated Holmes struggles to keep the blanket around her shoulders while being fingerprinted.

Holmes, who lives in Coal City and works at a local convenience store, alleges the LaSalle County sheriff’s department and four deputies violated her civil rights after her May arrest and caused her emotional harm by stripping her naked without legal justification for such a search.

Her lawyer, Terry Ekl, said he planned to seek a meeting with the LaSalle County state’s attorney to contend the officers committed official misconduct by deliberately strip-searching Holmes without justification.

“It’s not only a violation of her civil rights. It’s also a crime,” said Ekl, who provided the Tribune with copies of the video as well as written reports filed by sheriff’s officers and Marseilles police. The lawyer said the video and documents were produced by authorities in court as part of her DUI case….

Sheriff’s officers did not note any justification for removing her clothes, nor did they note any suspicion that she was hiding a weapon or drugs. She had already been searched by Marseilles police officers who arrested her, according to their report. She also was monitored by a female Marseilles officer while she used the bathroom at the police station there.

Under Illinois law, a strip-search is permitted only when officers have a “reasonable belief” that the subject is hiding a weapon or a controlled substance on their body. The law also requires that the strip-search be done by an officer of the same sex as the subject and cannot be observed by people not conducting the search.

An expert on criminal procedure said it was hard to see what legal justification sheriff’s officers may have believed they had for a strip-search, regardless of Holmes’ demeanor.

“Nothing in the statute says resisting arrest is justification for a strip-search,” said Len Cavise, who teaches criminal law at the DePaul University College of Law.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-28-13 to 09-30-13

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, September 28 to Monday, September 30, 2013:

  • Troy, Ohio: A former police officer has been indicted for felony theft in office for allegedly using a DARE program credit card for personal benefit of more than $13,000. He has resigned from the police department.
  • Update: Parker, Arizona (First reported 08-27-13): The Department of Public Safety has closed one criminal investigation into the police chief but also opened a new one. The new allegations have prompted an investigation for tampering with emails while using town equipment.
  • Update: Austin, Texas (First reported 08-23-13): An officer has been fired for shooting at a driver during a traffic stop. The police chief said that not only was the shooting unreasonable, but also the manner in which the officer acted after he fired the gun. The civil rights attorney handling the case says termination is not enough.
  • Centreville, Illinois: The now-former assistant police chief was sentenced to two years in federal prison for lying to investigators in what turned out to be a sting about his sale of a gun to a felon.
  • Update: San Diego, California (First reported 06-12-12): A woman who was sexually assaulted by a police officer settled a lawsuit against the city for $795,000. He has been convicted of sexual battery and other charges and was sentenced to almost nine years in state prison.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: A former police officer, who handled drunken driving cases, has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty in a forgery case. He has resigned. Dozens of the cases he worked could now be altered or dismissed.
  • Plymouth, Massachusetts: A state trooper is being charged with drunken driving in a head-on collision that killed a mother and daughter. He was not on duty at the time of the crash. He has been temporarily relieved of duty and his license to carry a firearm has been revoked.
  • Tampa, Florida: In a situation the police chief called a “stunning betrayal,” a police detective has been arrested and charged with grand theft. She stole $1,900 in money orders from the evidence room. She was arrested and booked into the county jail.
  • Lakeland, Florida: A police officer is suspended with pay pending a criminal investigation. The police chief acknowledged that the investigation is of a criminal nature but wouldn’t discuss the case.
  • Hoover, Alabama: A woman claims that police waited more than an hour and a half to enter the home where an armed intruder was attacking her 39-year-old daughter. She filed a wrongful death suit.
  • Mount Vernon, Ohio: A police officer has been suspended two days for not wearing his seatbelt and traveling at an unsafe speed just before a crash occurred.
  • Radcliff, Kentucky: A police officer was arrested and booked into the detention center. He was charged with misdemeanor counts of third-degree terroristic threatening and alcohol intoxication.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-27-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, September 27, 2013:

  • Connell, Washington: The police chief has been fired after city officials accused him of alleged sexual harassment and viewing pornography on a city-issued cell phone. In his termination letter, written by the Mayor, it states the chief’s actions “constitute incompetency, inefficiency and inattention to duties.”
  • Conroe, Texas: Prosecutors say a police officer has been indicted on manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of a teenager accused of shoplifting. The charges also include tampering with a government document and making a false report.
  • Bay City, Michigan: A woman has filed a lawsuit alleging two city police officers and a prosecutor violated her civil rights. She says she was illegally detained and her rights were violated when authorities sought her testimony in a court case.
  • Update: Richmond County, Georgia (First reported 08-01-13): A sheriff’s deputy was fired after an internal investigation into the handling of evidence. The officer had confiscated a large amount of marijuana, money, and a handgun but did not document the property in his report.
  • Detroit, Michigan: A police officer and a businesswoman have been charged with felony racketeering and bribery. They are accused of taking part in an elaborate scheme involving fake police and fraudulent credit reports. “I am committed to ensuring that the members of the Detroit Police Department conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of the public’s trust,” said the police chief. “To that end, every allegation of police misconduct is thoroughly and impartially investigated.”
  • Milwaukee County, Wisconsin: The county board approved an $110,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by a man who was handcuffed when a sheriff’s deputy punched him in the face. The incident occurred in the back of a squad car and was captured on video.
  • Update: Chattanooga, Tennessee (First reported 11-08-12): An administrative law judge has ruled that two police officers should be reinstated with full back pay and benefits. A video showed them raining down dozens of blows on an inmate who was left with two broken legs.
  • Lakeland, Florida: A suspended police officer has been charged with two counts of armed sexual battery and one count of aggravated stalking. According to a police report, he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while in uniform and on duty.
  • Greenfield, Wisconsin: A police officer was charged on suspicion of flinging a female prisoner into a holding cell. He was charged with misdemeanor misconduct in public office/acting in excess of lawful authority.

Jury Rejects Police Story and Awards Chicago Man $1 Million for Beating

From ThinkProgress:

Seven years ago John Collins was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, a felony in Illinois. He was sent to a Cook County jail and bond was set at $75,000, which he could not pay. The jail was overcrowded, so Collins slept on the floor. He remained there for 385 days, during which time he missed the birth of his first child, a baby boy. His fiancé brought his infant son to visit but he was not allowed to hold him, separated by a pane of glass. Sometimes, those visits were canceled “when the jail was put on lock-down for stabbings and murders.” Eventually, his fiancé left him, saying his time in the jail had changed him — he wasn’t the same person anymore.

Today Collins is a free man, acquitted of all charges, and the Chicago Police owe him $1 million. His seven-year odyssey may have finally ended this week, when a jury unanimously found the two officers involved guilty of malicious prosecution for fabricating the case against him.

Court documents and interviews reveal a remarkable story of a barber who blew the whistle on two veteran police officers and was vindicated. But the details of Collins’ case also underscore just how difficult it is for an ordinary citizen to prove misconduct by the police. Innocence, of course, is helpful. But luck is essential….

Several members of the jury, speaking with Collins’ lawyers after the trial, admitted that — despite the weight of the evidence favoring Collins — they still struggled mightily with the idea that police officers might not tell the truth. Which raises the larger question: What happens to people who are victims of police misconduct when there aren’t three disinterested witnesses to the event? Collins’ redemption is the exception that proves the rule. In many disputes between alleged criminals and the police, the police will win regardless of the facts.

According to data compiled by the CATO Institute, from April 2009 to December 2010 there were “8,300 credible reports involving allegations of police misconduct” but only 3,238 resulted in criminal charges. The conviction rate for law enforcement officers who were charged is just 37 percent, compared to a 70 percent conviction rate among members of the general public charged criminally. The CATO report notes that “prosecuting police misconduct in the US is very problematic with conviction rates, incarceration rates, and the amount of time law enforcement officers spend behind bars for criminal misconduct are all far lower than what happens when ordinary citizens face criminal charges.”

Dallas County Sheriff Acquires ‘Mine Proof’ SUV

From Dallas Observer Blog:

There’s a very glaring, very fundamental question we haven’t yet addressed: Why in holy hell does Dallas County need an armored military vehicle built to withstand a minor apocalypse? The underlying reason seems to be that military trucks are fucking cool, but no one’s actually saying that. The sheriff’s office is touting it as a tool that will help them better serve warrants. “Having a tactical vehicle will not only provide warrants execution with the equipment to assist in performing their jobs but will provide an overall safety arch,” Chief Deputy Marlin Suell wrote to commissioners. Because there’s no telling when North Texas might descend into sectarian warfare and start planting IEDs along Riverfront Boulevard.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-26-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, September 26, 2013:

  • Estelline, Texas: A woman filed a federal wrongful arrest lawsuit against the city, its former police chief and a former officer, alleging they violated her Fourth Amendment rights during a traffic stop last year. The suit says she was “arrested, searched, and her money was seized, despite the fact that she is a law-abiding citizen who had done nothing worse than speeding — simply because she chose to carry with her lawfully obtained money.”
  • Broward County, Florida: Four high-ranking officers could be demoted or suspended following a nearly three-year investigation into erroneous overtime compensation. They have been accused of allowing their subordinates or themselves to receive overtime money “without providing proper documents of justifying the need of the expenditures.”
  • Egg Harbor City, New Jersey: A police detective was charged with official misconduct for exploiting his position as a police officer in order to engage in sexual conduct with several women. Official misconduct, a crime of the second-degree, carries a state prison sentence of 5-10 years and up to $150,000 in fines.
  • Starr County, Texas: A sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for helping protect drug dealers and their smuggling routes. He resigned amid the corruption investigation.
  • Burlington, Massachusetts: A police officer has been indicted on charges of forgery, larceny over $250, uttering false prescriptions, fraudulently obtaining controlled substances, and more. He allegedly received disability payments, collecting tens of thousands in fraudulent benefits, all while working as a police officer.
  • Barbour County, West Virginia: A sheriff accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old is set to stand trail. He denies charges that he assaulted the young woman when she was applying for a job at the county 911 center.
  • Rome, Georgia: A sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for obstructing a public corruption investigation.
  • Powhatan County, Virginia: The county sheriff says a deputy sheriff has resigned after making inaccurate statements about a vehicle fire. He also said inconsistent statements about the incident prompted an internal investigation.
  • Update: Lakeland, Florida (First reported 06-24-13): The police officer at the center of the bra-shaking case has been cleared by the FBI. The report released revealed that he did not violate a woman’s civil rights when he told her to shake out her bra during a traffic stop. No drugs were ever found.
  • Kaufman, Texas: A police officer is “on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation into a possible policy violation,” according to a police Captain.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-25-13

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, September 25, 2013:

  • Update: Manchester, New Hampshire (First reported 03-26-13): Felony hit-and-run charges against a now-fired police sergeant have been reduced to misdemeanors, charges that would allow the 17-year police veteran to avoid a state prison sentence. The charges say he was fiddling with a cell phone when he hit two teenagers with an unmarked police vehicle outside their homes.
  • Roseville, California: The city has settled a lawsuit accusing a now-former police officer of stalking and harassing a married woman while he was on-duty and in uniform. The lawsuit also says the police department encouraged the officer to resign before their investigation wrapped up, which would keep a black mark off his record.
  • New Haven, Connecticut: A man has filed a lawsuit saying police violated his civil rights. He was on his bike when he noticed a police incident with several people and he stopped to record video on his iPhone. The police approached him, placed him under arrest, confiscated his phone, and deleted the video. He was charged with interfering with an officer and was held overnight, but the charges were later dropped.
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama: A police sergeant was sentenced to serve ten years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for violating federal civil rights laws. He admitted to stopping and detaining a female without placing her under arrest, and then driving her to a remote area and sexually assaulting her.
  • Deptford, New Jersey: A man, who was arrested and held in jail, is suing the municipal police department and the county and corrections department, claiming he was not resisting arrest but instead having a seizure. He says he informed the police of his condition and requested medical attention. The case against him was dismissed.
  • Sacramento County, California: A veteran sheriff’s deputy was arrested on charges of lewd acts with a child under 14 years old. He has been placed on administrative leave.
  • Chicago, Illinois: The brother of a man fatally shot by an off-duty officer during a confrontation is suing the city. He says police had no reason to arrest his brother after he complied with a security guard’s request to leave a building. The officer shot “in fear for his safety and the safety of the security guard,” according to a police statement.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: A now-former officer will spend at least five years in prison after a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault for pointing his gun at the head of a domestic-violence suspect during a confrontation that ended with the man’s death. The officer’s own partner testified against him.
  • Update: Mahoning County, Ohio (First reported 09-12-13): A sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced after being convicted of drunk driving. He was fined $500 and placed on probation for five years.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: A police officer was arrested after authorities said he used his resources as an officer to try to get his ex-girlfriend fired from her job. He was decommissioned during the investigation and submitted his resignation papers, which ended his 15-year career.
  • Update: Snohomish County, Washington: A former sheriff’s deputy, convicted of burglary, was sentenced to two weeks on work release. When the allegations of burglary surfaced, he was placed on administrative leave and was then fired.
  • Delcambre, Louisiana: A police officer has been arrested after being accused of altering his pain medication prescriptions. He has been charged with obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud, altering any prescription for a CDS [controlled dangerous substance], and health care fraud.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-24-13

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, September 24, 2013:

  • Update: Edmonds, Washington (Previously reported 08-02-13): A now-former police officer convicted of custodial sexual misconduct was sentenced to one year in jail. “Your conduct exploited a vulnerable woman and disgraced your profession,” the judge said.
  • Leland, North Carolina: A police officer is off the streets after he was cited for DWI. Other drivers called 911 to report his erratic driving and then he was pulled over.
  • Mission, Texas: After an internal investigation, the police department fired a patrolman. The interim police chief said he was fired for a “policy violation,” but would not release further details. His attorney, however, confirmed that he was fired for excessive force.
  • Johnstown, New York: A city police officer has been arrested and charged with rape. An internal investigation revealed evidence that he had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl. He has been placed on paid suspension.
  • Yuma, Arizona: A police officer has been arrested and booked into jail on charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation of a minor.
  • Belleville, New Jersey: The wife of a man who was shot two dozen times by police and killed in his family’s apartment after a domestic dispute plans to file a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit against the town’s police department. The lawsuit says that police used excessive force and violated the man’s civil rights when they opened fire.
  • Oak Grove, Kentucky: A now-former police officer pleaded guilty to evidence tampering in a case connected to a double-homicide. The murders haven’t been solved.
  • Harris County, Texas: A deputy sheriff was charged with two counts of cruelty to animals after allegedly mistreating horses. She has been put on administrative leave.
  • Houston, Texas: A police officer, who was already on suspension, has now been indicted by a grand jury. He is accused of kicking a handcuffed inmate in the head.
  • Update: Ecru, Mississippi (First reported 02-27-13): A police officer has been sentenced to one year in prison for two civil rights violations. He demanded money in exchange for destroying their traffic tickets, and has since been fired.
  • Update: Meriden, Connecticut (First reported 06-09-13): A federal judge sentenced a now-former police officer to 14 months in federal prison for using excessive force against a prisoner and falsifying a police report to cover it up. “These offenses become more serious because of the distinction of the pledge to ‘serve and protect,’” said the judge. “The purposeful distortion of the report to justify the use of force makes this all the more serious.”

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-23-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, September 21 to Monday, September 23, 3013:

  • Update: Irvington, New Jersey (First reported 12-03-12): The police chief, who was suspended with pay for alleged misconduct, has earned $115,000 so far during his suspension. He is accused of quashing a probe into alleged misconduct by his police officer nephew. Altogether the chief has been accused of more than 130 violations.
  • Arcadia, Florida: The City Marshal was arrested on charges stemming from a financial audit. He faces one count of an organized scheme to defraud (greater than $50,000), one count of grand theft (over $100,000), and one count of official misconduct. He resigned his post during the audit.
  • Madison, Wisconsin: The police department has suspended an officer couple after a shooting incident involving alcohol at their home. The husband was suspended without pay for 30 days and the wife was suspended for nine days without pay.
  • Update: Dolton, Illinois (First reported 05-08-13)L: A police officer was sentenced to 75 months in federal prison for violating the civil rights of two men when he hit them in the head with a metal police baton outside a nightclub.
  • Park County, Colorado: A sheriff’s deputy who shot a family’s dog has resigned. “(The deputy) exercised extremely poor judgment in this case. He has submitted his resignation, which was accepted,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “This case has been submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review and to determine if charges should be brought forward.”
  • Update: Middlesex County, New Jersey (First reported 06-27-13): The now-former sheriff was sentenced to nine years in prison for an “unabashed and shameless” jobs-for-cash scheme that transformed a law enforcement agency into his personal piggy bank for more than a decade.
  • Newton County, Georgia: A sheriff’s office deputy was arrested by the FBI on drug trafficking charges and has been terminated. He was arrested after allegedly selling marijuana to an undercover law enforcement agent and a FBI confidential source on multiple occasions. He was charged with distributing marijuana and using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence.
  • North Brookfield, Massachusetts: A police officer has been sentenced to serve 3 ½ years in jail after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. The charges included child rape and distribution of obscene matter for sending the girl a sexually explicit photo. He was placed on administrative leave after being charged.

Bystander, Donald Gravelet-Blondin, Gets Tased

Recent decision concerning excessive force by the police using a taser against a bystander, Donald Gravelet-Blondin.

Here’s the background:

Donald and Kristi Gravelet-Blondin stepped outside in slippers one May night in 2008 in Snohomish, Wash., to find out what was going on at their neighbor Jack’s house. The police were trying to get Jack out of his car, which, in an apparent suicide attempt, had a hose running from the exhaust pipe into one of its windows. Jack reportedly had a gun, and when he refused to show his hands after turning off the car, officers moved to put him in handcuffs, Tasing him twice.
The Blondins got within about 37 feet of the scene, heard Jack moaning and saw him pinned on the ground. Donald Blondin said, “What are you doing to Jack?” and faced a barrage of orders to get back. When he didn’t move, or didn’t move enough, Sgt. Jeff Shelton rushed him with Taser drawn.
A witness said that Blondin seemed to be “frozen with fear.” Shelton warned Blondin that he was about to be Tased, but fired before he finished saying it, according to the ruling.
“Sgt. Shelton tased Blondin in dart mode, knocking him down and causing excruciating pain, paralysis, and loss of muscle control,” the ruling states. “Blondin, disoriented and weak, began to hyperventilate. Sgt. Shelton asked Blondin if he ‘want[ed] it again’ before turning to Ms. Blondin and warning, ‘You’re next.'”
Blondin was later charged with obstructing a police officer, but the case was dropped. The Blondins then sued the city of Snohomish and Shelton for excessive force, unlawful arrest and various violations of state law, including common-law outrage for causing a wife to watch her husband being shot with a Taser.

The lower court threw out the Blondins’ lawsuit, saying the officer was “immune” from suit in these circumstances.  The appeals court says the lower court erred.  That does not mean the Blondins “won.”  It means the case will proceed to trial.  The lower court, to repeat, thought the police conduct was so obviously right, that the case did not even have to go to a jury.

The court ruling is here.


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