National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The Michael Brown Case

The Michael Brown case is now all over the news.  The Washington Post has a front page headline, “FBI Will Investigate Shooting in Mo.”  It also has a helpful article, “What do we know about the shooting of Michael Brown, and of Brown himself.”  According to the reports, Brown had no history of trouble with the law.  He was supposed to start college this week.

Police have not disclosed the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown.   One can imagine the rationale for that.  There have been emotional protests and some violence by crowds.   Concerns for the officer’s safety, and perhaps for family members, could be the primary rationale.   That might justify a slight delay in releasing the name, perhaps to give a  family (if there is one) a chance to make some temporary arrangements, or for the department to arrange a security plan on the chance that protesters will go to the neighborhood.  However, it has now been several days and it is now necessary and appropriate for the officer to be identified.

The authorities keep saying that their investigation will be thorough.  Good.  That’s what we want to hear.  But deeds are more important than words.   At this point, it is important to know whether the officer has been the subject of police brutality lawsuits, and what were the outcomes of those cases.  On the other hand, maybe this officer has an unblemished record.  That would be good to know as well.

Michael Brown lost his life on Saturday.   We need to find out what happened and why.   Cases like this have 2 parts–the initial incident and then the response.   As bad as the initial incidents are; an inadequate response can be even more disturbing because it can be an indication of deeper problems within the police institution.  Fecklessness or, worse, abetting criminal conduct.  So far, the police have handled the Brown case very badly.

More here.


Problems in Los Angeles

From the Los Angeles Times:

The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies, a Times investigation found.

The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department’s performance.

Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14% higher than the official figure, The Times found.

The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher.

Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities. However, flawed statistics leave police and the public with an incomplete picture of crime in the city. Unreliable figures can undermine efforts to map crime and deploy officers where they will make the most difference.

More than two dozen current and retired LAPD officers interviewed for this article gave differing explanations for why crimes are misclassified.

Some said it was inadvertent. Others said the problem stemmed from relentless, top-down pressure to meet crime reduction goals.

If the information is deliberately manipulated to make the department look good, what else is the department willing to do?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-08-14

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, August 8, 2014:

  • Parma Heights, Ohio: A now-former police officer pled not guilty at his arraignment. He is accused of stealing drugs from the property room at the police station.
  • Update: Little Rock, Arkansas (First reported 07-22-13): A now-former state plice lieutenant pled guilty to drug charges. In exchange for the plea, 4 additional charges will be dropped, but he could face jail time for pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge in the indictment. He is accused of stealing marijuana from the state’s evidence room then selling them to a dealer; he also admitted to stealing cocaine and heroin.
  • Cortez, Colorado: A police officer has resigned after being charged with eight felony child sex crimes. He submitted his jailhouse resignation letter the day after charges were filed against him.
  • Update: Sacramento, California (First reported 09-29-12): A now-former sheriff’s deputy was convicted on two felony firearms-related charges, one for providing a large-capacity ammunition clip to a federal undercover agent and another for possession of an illegal shotgun.
  • Update: Brusly, Louisiana (Previously reported 04-21-14): The former police chief pled not guilty to four felony charges. The charges stem from allegations that he gave seven of the town’s guns to a firearms dealer, forged signatures on two town checks and cashed them out for $600.
  • Rosepine, Louisiana: The police chief was arrested on charges of stalking and malfeasance in office, state police said. The complaint against him alleged he stalked his estranged wife while she was at her place of work and at her home.
  • Spokane County, Washington: The sheriff’s office announced that a sheriff’s detective is resigning. The release says he chose to resign to avoid being terminated.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: A police officer has been arrested and charged with DUI for the second time in two years.
  • Palo Alto, California: A man is suing the Palo Alto Police Department and Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office in federal court over a “severely” broken arm and other alleged civil rights violations.
  • New York, New York: Prosecutors announced that a police officer has been indicted on charges that he contacted a woman with a pending application to the police department and offered to expedite the hiring process in return for sex.
  • Dedham, Massachusetts: A police officer was arrested in connection with the kidnapping of man. Officials said the officer gave his police department issued badge, handcuffs and empty holster to the mastermind of the kidnapping.
  • Pierre, South Dakota: A mother is suing the city, it’s former police chief, and members of its police department, saying an officer used excessive force and violated her 8-year-old daughter’s rights when he shot her in the chest with a stun gun.
  • Davenport, Iowa: The woman is suing the city for an incident while she was being arrested. She says an officer pushed her into a corner of a room and slammed her face into the floor. He then punched her in the head more than five times. The woman’s 2-year-old daughter was in the room, upset and crying. According to a police report of the incident, the woman was belligerent, aggressive and profane.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-07-14

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, August 7, 2014:

  • Mesa, Arizona: A police officer has been indicted on charges of sexual assault and child molestation for acts that allegedly occurred on the job, authorities said.
  • Update: Iva, South Carolina (First reported 07-28-14): The police chief has resigned after being charged with criminal domestic violence. He allegedly hit his teenage son with a piece of wood multiple times and grabbed his wife and threw her.
  • New York, New York: An officer was arrested on burglary and assault charges. He is accused of breaking into a woman’s apartment and punching her repeatedly.
  • Update: King County, Washington (Previously reported 07-16-14): A now-former sheriff’s deputy accused of helping his estranged wife work as a prostitute, stealing department ammunition and illegally delivering testosterone pled guilty.
  • Ozaukee County, Wisconsin: A high school senior was arrested at a fair, and he says the police used excessive force. The department reviewed the video and said the situation was handled with proper police protocol.
  • Update: Baltimore, Maryland (First reported 03-06-14): The lawyer for a police officer charged with beating and choking his girlfriend’s puppy, and later texting her a photo of the dog’s body, says his client will plead guilty to one count of felony animal cruelty.
  • Sanford, Florida: A police officer was fired for activating his Taser because he didn’t like the way an inmate cleaned his patrol car. He was placed on leave and investigators even recommended criminal charges after the incident.
  • Update: Greenfield, Indiana (First reported 04-09-14): A police officer already under suspension was arrested for the third time on suspicion of drunk driving.
  • Update: Wilcox County, Alabama (Previously reported 04-17-14):  A now-former deputy got 90 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He is said to have used his patrol vehicle to pick up what he thought was pure, powdered cocaine, and tried to deliver it, all while in uniform.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina: A 26-year veteran officer was charged with three counts each of first-degree sex offense, taking indecent liberties with a minor and crimes against nature.
  • Enfield, Connecticut: A man who claims he was the victim of police brutality when he was shot with a stun gun multiple times by an officer has filed a notice of intent to sue. He is the second person to allege brutality against the officer, who is currently on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into that complaint. 

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-06-14

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, August 6, 2014:

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: Two police officers have been arrested following the shooting death of a 19-year old. One is facing a charge for first degree murder. The other is facing a charge of “accessory to murder after the fact.”
  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 07-18-14): The medical examiner’s office confirmed what demonstrators have been saying: A police officer’s choke hold on a man being arrested for selling loose cigarettes killed him. The death has been ruled a homicide.
  • Lee County, Florida: A deputy has resigned after an internal affairs investigation found he improperly accessed personal information using the department’s secure database.
  • Update: Spavinaw, Oklahoma (First reported 07-25-14): Community leaders formally suspended a police chief accused of molesting two teenage girls. He is charged with two counts of lewd molestation.
  • Update: Washington County, Arkansas (First reported 05-15-14): Prosecutors will not file charges against a fired deputy accused of performing a sex act on a man without his consent.
  • Baltimore County, Maryland: A veteran police officer was suspended and faces several criminal charges after the department said he tried to break into a home in search of drugs.
  • Miami-Dade, Florida: A police officer has been arrested after a grand jury indicted him on charges he gave confidential information to illegal pot growers and was given $1,500 in exchange for keeping mum on the criminal operation.
  • Greenville County, South Carolina: A former deputy has been arrested after authorities found missing items inside his home. He was jailed on charges of breach of peace, misconduct in office and breach of trust.
  • Hartford, Connecticut: A police officer has been suspended from the department after being arrested on a larceny charge. He turned himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He has been charged with larceny in the fifth degree and possession of a shoplifting device.

Worst of the Month — July 2014

The worst police misconduct of July was the case of Eric Garner, who was killed by New York City police officers using a banned chokehold maneuver. A cell phone video of the incident shows Garner (who stood at least 6’3” and 350+ lbs.) arguing with police officers in an agitated state, then pulling back when officers tried to arrest him. Almost immediately, one of the officers started using an illegal chokehold maneuver to subdue Garner, at which point the 350+ pound asthmatic can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” repeatedly.  Garner was pronounced dead a short time later.  The medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide.

Garner was accused of and being arrested for selling single, untaxed cigarettes on the street corner.

Chokeholds have been banned since 1994 because they were determined to be too dangerous. Every officer and recruit is trained not to use them.  In response to the incident, NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has ordered a top-to-bottom review of use of force training methods, with retraining programs likely to follow. It’s a good step, but it won’t do Eric Garner and his six children any good.


The sexting case from Virginia is too awful and bizarre not to include as a “runner up.”

Recall that 17-year old Trey Sims had been arrested for allegedly sending a video of his erect penis to his girlfriend, also a minor. Prince William County prosecutors charged the teen with two felony charges: for possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography. These charges could have landed him in jail until he reached 21 years of age and then put him on the sex offender list, potentially for the remainder of his life. All for ‘sexting’ his girlfriend.

If it wasn’t bad enough already that prosecutors were willing to go forward with such drastic charges—and ones intended to protect children like Trey from adult predators—it gets worse. Manassas city police had already forcibly taken pictures of the teen’s penis when he was arrested, but that, apparently, wasn’t enough. Commonwealth’s attorney Claiborne Richardson told the teen’s lawyer that he either had to plead guilty or they would obtain a search warrant for pictures of his erect penis—which would be obtained by bringing the teen to a hospital and forcing him to take an erection-inducing drug while police officers took pictures of his forcibly-erect penis. Apparently, special software would then be used to compare the penises. When he did not plead guilty, substitute Juvenile Court Judge Jan Roltsch-Anoll granted the search warrant.  Thankfully, it was never actually served.

When word got out about what was happening, the government agents backed off a bit.  Sims just recently agreed to a year of probation to avoid the more serious charges.



National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-05-14

Here are the 5 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, August 5, 2014:

  • Update: Lyons, Illinois (First reported 10-01-13): A now-former police officer was sentenced to five years in federal prison for illegally extorting more than $48,000 from targets of criminal investigations he was supposedly conducting.
  • Chelmsford, Massachusetts: A veteran state police sergeant was put on probation without pay after police say he was driving drunk while off-duty when he ran a red light and totaled a local woman’s car. He was later fired.
  • Update: Bull Shoals, Arkansas (Previously reported 07-22-14): The police chief has agreed to resign and never serve in law enforcement again in exchange for federal prosecutors dropping a charge against him.
  • Los Angeles County, California: A sheriff’s deputy inadvertently shot and killed the resident of a home during a gunfight.
  • Orange Beach, Alabama: A police officer is facing allegations after his arrest on charges of sex abuse on a minor younger than 12 years old.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-02-14 to 08-04-14

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, August 2, to Monday, August 4, 2014:

  • Romulus, Michigan: A police officer is accused of being the aggressor in a road rage incident. He was charged with felonious assault and felony firearm.
  • Buffalo, New York: A now-former police officer sentenced to 10 months home confinement for mail fraud. He was also ordered to pay $6,400 in restitution to his victims. 
  • Prineville, Oregon: Police chief fired for falsifying records, misusing city equipment and bad leadership
  • Update: Huntsville, Alabama (First reported 03-27-14): A man has reached a settlement after being badly beaten during an arrest.  He had filed a civil lawsuit against the sheriff and eight of his deputies, claiming false arrest and conspiracy to cover up a “revenge beatdown.”
  • Broward County, Florida: Sergeant was charged with misdemeanor battery after a fight and tried to use his personal friendship with the sheriff to “make this go away,” according to police reports.
  • Update: Pickens, South Carolina (First reported 06-26-14): A police officer at the center of a SLED investigation has resigned, according to the mayor. The officer resigned after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on duty.
  • Miami-Dade, Florida: County taxpayers will pay $600,000 to the families of three men who were shot to death in a botched police sting, despite police claims that the shootings were justified.
  • Middlefield, Ohio: A man was pulled over for going over the center line, although police dashcam video doesn’t show that he did. A K-9 then searched the van and didn’t find any drugs. Police wound up arresting the man for not having a driver’s license. It’s a minor misdemeanor. “You can’t arrest someone for not having a valid drivers license,” said the Geauga County Prosecutor. A lieutenant at the arrest admitted that police made mistakes and said the type of mistakes they made “happen all the time around the country.”
  • Mt. Olive, New Jersey: A  man was pulled over for going over the center line, although police dashcam video doesn’t show that he did. He was then arrested, though whether he should have been was disputed among officers. “You can’t arrest someone for not having a valid drivers license,” said a county prosecutor.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A city finance committee approved the use of $1.2 million of taxpayer money to compensate the family of a 17 year-old boy shot and killed by police officers.

FBI Grading News Stories

From the Washington Times:

The FBI is hiring a contractor to grade news stories about the agency as “positive” “neutral” or “negative,” but the agency won’t say why officials need the information or what they plan to do with it.

FBI officials wouldn’t even reveal how they will go about assigning the grades, which were laid out in a recent contract solicitation. The contract tells potential bidders to “use their judgment” in scoring news coverage as part of a new “daily news briefing” service the agency is seeking as part of a contract that could last up to five years.

Just a guess, but this story is probably not going to be recorded as “positive.”

J. Edgar Hoover did some of this sort of thing.  He would give friendly journalists advance notice of FBI raids.  When other reporters and newspapers started wondering why this or that newspaper always seemed to be getting good scoops on FBI stories, they’d eventually learn that it really, really helps if one does not run “negative” stories about FBI agents or FBI management.  Even if those negative stories are true.  Good reporters have to work hard to avoid being manipulated by law enforcement agencies.

Additional background here.

UPDATE: Apparently, they are now backing off of this idea.


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