National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Florida Newspaper Exposes Speeding Cops

From the Sun-Sentinel:

“All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing,” James Loftus, director of the countywide department, said in a statement.

The crackdown follows a Sun Sentinel investigative series published in February that found South Florida police officers blatantly violating the laws they’re sworn to uphold, driving at excessive speeds often while commuting to and from work.

Using SunPass toll records, the investigation revealed almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies drove 90 to 130 mph at least once over a 13-month period. Many were habitual speeders.

Police conducted their own investigations to verify the newspaper’s results. A total of 138 officers have now been punished, including 36 from the city of Miami, 31 Florida Highway Patrol troopers and 27 cops from four departments in Broward — Plantation, Sunrise, Margate and Davie.

The epidemic of police speeding has infuriated South Florida motorists, who called it a double standard for officers who write tickets yet ignore the law when they’re behind the wheel. And until now, cops largely got away with it, racing to and from work in police vehicles, unlikely to be pulled over by one of their own.

The clampdown is being cheered by ordinary drivers, happy to see cops finally held accountable. But public opinion is mixed over whether the punishment is enough.

A Survey on How Cities and Counties Handle Police Oversight

From the Connection Newspapers:

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement supports member cities and counties with citizen police oversight functions. Its U.S. membership is approximately 100 organizational and individual members and growing. The association exists to provide a means for technical support to requesting cities and counties, share information among its membership, and to annually meet to conduct seminars and workshops to advance the professionalism of police-community relations and police citizen oversight.

A review of the NACOLE membership demonstrates a varying array of citizen review organizational models, authorities and functions, ranging from some with subpoena power and authority to access police incident reports, to other purely advisory and no authority to compel reports, convene hearings, or conduct independent investigations. A typical model includes citizen oversight participation independent of the police department.

Radley Balko has a related post here.

To Ease Concerns, the Police Painted the Tank a Different Color


From Wired:

Small police departments across America are collecting battlefield-grade arsenals thanks to a program that allows them to get their hands on military surplus equipment – amphibious tanks, night-vision goggles, and even barber chairs or underwear – at virtually no cost, except for shipment and maintenance.

Over the last five years, the top 10 beneficiaries of this “Department of Defense Excess Property Program” included small agencies such as the Fairmount Police Department. It serves 7,000 people in northern Georgia and received 17,145 items from the military. The cops in Issaquah, Washington, a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.

In 2011 alone, more than 700,000 items were transferred to police departments for a total value of $500 million. This year, as of May 15, police departments already acquired almost $400 million worth of stuff. Last year’s record would have certainly been shattered if the Arizona Republic hadn’t revealed in early May that a local police department used the program to stockpile equipment – and then sold the gear to others, something that is strictly forbidden. Three weeks after the revelation, the Pentagon decided to partly suspend distribution of surplus material until all agencies could put together an up-to-date inventory of all the stuff they got through the years. A second effort, which gives federal grants to police departments to purchase equipment, is still ongoing, however. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, since 9/11, the grants have totaled $34 billion.

Which means billions of dollars’ worth of military gear are in the hands of small-town cops who neither need the equipment nor are properly trained to use it, critics charge. At best, it’s a waste of resources (since the gear still has to be maintained). At worst, it could cost lives.

For related Cato work on the militarization of police work, go here and here.


National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-23-12 to 06-25-12

Here are the 9  reports of police misconduct tracked from June 23-25, 2012:

  • Lumberton, North Carolina police officer, Jason Walters, was charged with attempted trafficking in opium by possession by the FBI. Walters is the second Lumberton police officer charged with drug-related offenses in the past year. The officer has been suspended without pay
  • Jerome, Illinois police officer, Steven Stirmell, was indicted on charges of obstructing justice, a Class 4 felony and official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.  Stirmell turned himself in at the Sangamon County Jail and posted $1,000 bond
  • Twin Rivers, California police officer choked two subjects who were detained at the Twin Rivers Police Department while they were handcuffed to benches. During a separate incident the officer kicked a handcuffed subject in the head. The officer faces up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine
  • A retired Troy, New York police DARE officer will serve six years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage boy. The teenage victims father described in court how his son, “suffered sexual abuse from the time he was 15 until he was 17.” In court the officer said, “I offer my sincere apologies.”
  • NYPD officer, Michael Daragjati, has been sentenced to nine months in prison for violating a man’s civil rights. The officer was recorded on the phone bragging to a friend that he had falsely arrested a black man and kept him in jail for nearly two days. The US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York stated, “Crimes such as these erode the public’s confidence in our system of justice and will be met with the full resources of this office.”
  • Shelton, Connecticut police officer was arrested on March 23 on five drug counts by state police, he was fired by May of the same year. The fired officer, however, reached an agreement that allows him to retire with a pension
  • A former Frankfort, New York police officer, Daniel Herrman, used his former position as an officer to get a fellow employee’s phone records from Verizon. Herrman pleaded guilty to forgery and officer misconduct and was sentenced to five years probation
  • Dubuque, Iowa former sheriff’s department sergeant, James Doyle, was accused of stalking and burglarizing a private citizen. Doyle has pleaded not guilty to the charges of third-degree burglary and stalking
  • Stearns County, Minnesota sheriff’s sergeant, Phil Meemken, has been sentenced to nine months in jail for criminal sexual conduct and providing alcohol to minors. Meemken, who had been on the job for 18 years, pleaded guilty to the charges against him

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-22-12

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, June 22, 2012:

  • Saluda County, South Carolina sheriff resigned after a Grand Jury indicted him for charges of misconduct in office. The sheriff used an inmate for work on his private property during a period of almost six years
  • San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was suspended without pay after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully restraining his wife. The sheriff was sentenced to one day in jail and three years of probation
  • An ex-NYPD officer pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault. His victim, a young school teacher, said she will never be the same and the attack will haunt her ever day for the rest of her life. The officer is appealing his 75-year sentence
  • Yakima, Washington police Sgt. Erik Hildebrand resigned under pressure due to misconduct. The officer was already under close scrutiny after an incident last year in which he used his police credentials to get a free motel room with a young woman
  • An Aiken County, South Carolina deputy was fired after being arrested for drunk driving. The deputy was pulled over at 3:30am for speeding, and failed a field sobriety test
  • The Culpeper, Virginia police officer, who was charged with murder after killing a 54-year-old woman while on duty, has been fired
  • Walkill, New York police has charged an off-duty NYPD officer with engaging in sexual acts with a 16-year-old boy. The NYPD officer has been suspended without pay for 30 days pending a Civil Service hearing
  • Baltimore, Maryland law enforcement charged a man with “conspiracy to commit murder” for using his cell phone to film drunks in a late night brawl. University of Baltimore law professor, Byron Warnkin, says it’s technically not a crime to hit record, even if you catch someone breaking the law

Teen Dies in Struggle With Off-duty Officer; Death Ruled a Homicide

From the Associated Press:

BALTIMORE –  A teenager who died in a struggle with an off-duty police officer in Maryland was an athlete, church usher and mentor, family members said Thursday as they sought to piece together the circumstances of his death.

Baltimore County police said the unidentified officer was at home Wednesday evening when he heard a loud noise, went outside and found his front door damaged — and three or four people running.

Authorities said the officer chased Christopher Brown for several blocks through the Baltimore suburb of Woodlawn before pulling him from some bushes and struggling with him. They said the officer called for help once the teen lost consciousness.

Despite efforts by the officer and paramedics to revive Brown, the teenager was later declared dead at a hospital, police said.

The medical examiner’s office determined Brown died of asphyxiation and has ruled the death a homicide, according to police. The state’s attorney’s office will decide whether the homicide was justified after police complete their investigation, police added.

Police Send Threatening Emails When Lawmakers Seek Police Accountability

Column by Thomas Shapley:

OLYMPIA — “We humbly apologize.”

Those are words no appointed state official wants to utter to the chairman of a key legislative committee after just three weeks on the job.

But Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste had little choice in making that apology after a state legislator received a barrage of nasty, even threatening, e-mail messages apparently sent by troopers and their families.

Batiste, who took the top WSP job earlier this month, offered the apology “as an individual and as a group,” to House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Rep. Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland, at a committee hearing Wednesday evening. “I and the union representative want to apologize for the behavior of a few,” he said.

Those few ripped into Nixon for sponsoring a bill on how traffic accidents involving state troopers are handled. The legislation grew out of the February 2002 death of Brock Loshbaugh as he tried to cross the Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek one evening after dark.

The trooper whose vehicle hit him, Jason Crandall, had been a member of the State Patrol for only about eight months at the time of Loshbaugh’s death but had been involved in two previous accidents and reportedly has been involved in three other accidents since. The state has settled a lawsuit with Loshbaugh’s parents, who are outspoken proponents of the legislation, also known as the “Brock Loshbaugh Act.” The State Patrol cleared Crandall of any wrongdoing in the accident. He is apparently still on the road.

As recently redrafted, House Bill 2228 would require that an outside agency at least supervise the investigation of any serious crash in which any law enforcement officer is involved. The idea is to let the public see that police officers are not above the law and that agencies are not covering up for their officers’ mistakes.

The bill would also require that law enforcement officers determined to be at fault in four accidents in any three-year period be suspended from driving on duty for at least a year. It would also require drug and alcohol tests of all parties in any fatal auto accident.

The onslaught of e-mails to Nixon ran from the personal to the political.

“Shame on you, Mr. Nixon,” read one. “And hope one day you and your family need the help of a trooper or a police officer to save one of you, and that those officers would not respond on time.”

Another referred to the legislation as the “Crock” rather than “Brock” bill and threatened Nixon’s political future. “It is simple math … 1,100 troopers (times) 1,100 spouses/partners (times) all of their family members/friends/co-workers … .” The missive also credited the WSP with defeating the election bid of veteran Mercer Island Republican Sen. Jim Horn last November.

Another e-mail said Horn “lost his (seat) thanks to the WSPTA (Washington State Patrol Troopers Association). I hope you are next!”

That was news to Horn, who told me he had no knowledge of the agency or the troopers’ association having any role in his defeat, which he links to how poorly the Bush/Cheney national ticket fared among voters in his district.

Coming from the father of a son who’s honorably worn a badge, here’s the bottom line on this bill: Serious accidents involving police officers should get extraordinary and thoroughly transparent attention and investigation. They’re driving the taxpayers’ rigs, at taxpayers’ expense, acting in the public interest. Law enforcement management should have a mechanism to take demonstrably unsafe drivers out from behind the wheel of police vehicles.

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