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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Holding Bad Cops Accountable

From the Washington Post:

[W]hen I interviewed community members who had filed complaints against officers, I was disappointed to learn that, despite my reassurances and best efforts to conduct impartial inquiries, many complainants believed that a fair investigation was simply not possible. Nor do misconduct investigations satisfy a skeptical public. If an officer is exonerated, the community often believes that malfeasance is being covered up. …

And why shouldn’t every police contact with the community — every traffic stop, every interrogation — be recorded on video? If Dorner and his partner had had a cop-cam, his claim that his partner used excessive force might have been resolved the same day. There’s just no excuse for not recording police contacts with the public. Technology has made cameras effective and affordable. Some officers already record their arrests to protect themselves against false allegations of misconduct. This should be standard operating procedure.

New Orleans Cops Caught on Tape

The police commander says he saw no wrongdoing in the video. Hmm.

A few questions:

1. What would have happened if the young man’s mother had not arrived so quickly?
2. What would have happened if she had not been a police officer herself?
3. What would happen if these undercover officers tried to swarm on a person who was carrying a firearm? The police often remind us that they must make split-second decisions. True.  But note that this tactic gives the citizen only a split second to decide if he’s being attacked by thugs or whether it’s a police stop.
4. The other day a columnist at the Wall Street Journal heaped praise on the stop and frisk tactics of the New York City Police Department. He said the police have an “uncanny” ability to discern who is carrying a gun. He is looking at paper statistics and gets a warped view of what’s actually happening out there. Consider two scenarios.  (A) The police swarm on someone. If they find a handgun, they take him downtown–paperwork shows arrest and gun confiscated. (B) How many times do the police swarm on a person, no gun is found, and the police just walk away as above? No paperwork on that (usually).  From the paper records, it is as if frightening incidents like this never even happened.

What if they happen a lot? What then?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-14-13

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, February 14, 2013:

  • Cottage Grove, Oregon: The mother of an elementary school student who says local police coerced her 10-year-old son into confessing to alleged sex offenses is suing the police department and the school district. She says in the lawsuit that she previously told the school district that her son was not allowed to be interviewed by police without her being present.
  • Kingsville, Texas: A now-former police corporal was indicted on a charge of continual sexual abuse of a child under 14-years old.
  • Trenton, New Jersey: An officer will go before a grand jury to determine if he is to be indicted on an aggravated assault charge for his alleged role in a bar brawl. Prosecutors say that he beat a man with a flashlight outside of a bar while off-duty.
  • Bozeman, Montana; A judge has found that police intentionally erased a portion of an audio recording made during a welfare check on a man who claims officers used excessive force on him. He said he will instruct a jury that the missing audio “would be relevant and favorable to some or all of the plaintiff’s claims of excessive force.”
  • Update: Sarasota, Florida: An officer who was fired after being caught on camera punching a man in the face will not be charged with a crime.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida: An officer copped a plea for an alleged unlawful arrest outside a convenience store. More than three years after the incident, it cost him his badge. He will serve 12 months probation.
  • Volusia County, Florida: A deputy has been suspended after being arrested on grand-theft charges. He is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a homeowner’s association.
  • Update: Seattle, Washington: A police lieutenant who was charged with violating a domestic-violence court order reached an agreement that could lead to charges being dropped. The officer has a checkered history with the department.
  • Knoxville, Tennessee: Administrators haven’t decided yet if an officer involved in a crash will face a citation for running a red light.
  • Update: Schaumburg, Illinois: A lawsuit against the village of Schaumburg claims that two police officers recently accused of corruption improperly raided a man’s home as part of a pattern of illegal conduct allowed by the department.
  • Boone County, Missouri: A $2.7 million dollar lawsuit was filed; the plaintiffs are citing constitutional violations regarding unreasonable searches, freedom of speech, privacy, wrongful seizure, right to bear arms, and due process. The officers deny all of their allegations.

Police Officer Shoots a Trainee

From the Baltimore Sun:

According to sources familiar with the investigation, Kern was at the Rosewood Center for a training exercise when recruits peered through a window from another room. He playfully pointed a weapon in their direction, the sources said, and did not intend to harm anybody.

The shot struck the trainee — who remained in critical condition Thursday and has not been identified — in the front of the head, and a second officer was injured from broken glass, police have said.

Looks like an accident, not a (real) crime.  Should he still be a trainer?  Still be a cop? Probably not, but let the investigation proceed and let his full record be taken into account as higher-ups decide how to handle the incident.

But let’s consider how an ordinary citizen would be treated under similar circumstances.  Let’s say an NRA instructor had been “playing around,” picked up a loaded weapon, and accidently fired at some spectators during a training session.  Would reckless endangerment charges be brought?

If a Virginia gun owner drove into Washington,DC and forgot that his rifle was still in the trunk from his time at the shooting range over the previous weekend, DC prosecutors would bring charges if the gun was discovered during a traffic stop.  Even if no one was harmed.  Even if it was an accident.  And even if the owner had a stellar reputation for integrity.

People do get criminal records and go to jail for having unregistered guns (no one hurt).    The “universal background check” sounds nice, but it means that if one hunting buddy tells another “Hey, I’ll give you $300 for that shotgun you never use anymore” and the other says “You’re right. I don’t use it much anymore and I could use that money to fix a problem on the house.  Here you go.”   Federal crime–“unauthorized transfer.”   Recently, here in DC, a man saved the life of a boy who was being attacked by pit bulls.  The man saw what was going on, ran into his house, got his gun, ran back out and shot one of the dogs.  That man saved a life and instead of being praised, he’s under criminal investigation.

DC Moves to Reduce Wrongful Convictions

From the Washington Post:

Courts and police in the nation’s capital will change how they conduct lineups of suspects, when they notify defendants about informants and how long they retain criminal trial records, all in response to errors that have put innocent people in prison.

A task force created by D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield recommended that police use computers and staff not associated with a particular case to administer photo lineups to prevent influencing potential witnesses.

The court acknowledged that DNA often has cleared defendants long after their convictions, so officials will by March begin keeping trial records permanently rather than destroying them after 10 years.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-13-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 13, 2013:

  • Honea Path, South Carolina: A police officer was charged with causing a two-vehicle accident. He was backing a truck across the highway when he was hit by a car.
  • Newton Falls, Ohio: The village council voted unanimously to terminate the police chief amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made by a female employee. The measure was passed as an emergency “to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.”
  • Greenville, South Carolina: The family of a man shot and killed by officers is filing a wrongful death suit. The family’s attorney said, “They didn’t fire any warning shots. There was no effort, apparently, on the part of the officers to ascertain whether he was, in fact, a threat to them.” He was shot seven times.
  • Box Elder County, Utah: A sheriff’s deputy accused of sexually assaulting women during a series of traffic stops has reached a plea agreement that could land him in state prison for up to five years.
  • Kettering, Ohio: A police officer remains on paid administrative leave after being found guilty of misdemeanor assault.
  • Salem, Ohio: A police officer charged with drunk driving is on unpaid leave. Police charged the patrolman with operating a vehicle under the influence.
  • Selmer, Tennessee: A police officer has been charged with domestic assault; he is accused of throwing his girlfriend to the floor and then grabbing her by the neck during an argument. According to a Lieutenant, the police are taking the accusations very seriously. He has put on suspension without pay pending the investigation.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-12-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, February 12, 2013:

  • Atlanta, Georgia: Ten current and former law enforcement officers across several metro Atlanta agencies have been charged in an undercover police corruption investigation. Federal agents made most of the arrests. The officers are accused of taking thousands of dollars in payoffs to drug dealers.
  • Irvington, New Jersey: An officer was found guilty of kidnapping, aggravated assault, hindering apprehension, and official misconduct. He was sent to jail to await sentencing.
  • Jackson, Mississippi: Bond was denied for a police officer who was charged with capital murder in connection with the death of his one-year-old daughter. An autopsy confirmed that she died of internal hemorrhage after suffering blunt-force trauma to the abdomen.
  • Rushville, Indiana: A police officer has been arrested after state police say he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl. According to court documents, he sent the 15-year-old girl messages on Facebook and via text.
  • Update: Boulder, Colorado: A police officer accused of stalking and plotting to kill a fellow officer pleaded guilty in a county courthouse. He faces one to three years in prison and remains free on a $500,000 bond.
  • Maplewood, Minnesota: A police officer is scheduled to appear in court on allegations he provided alcohol to juvenile girls at his home. He has been reinstated to active duty, but will not interact with the public until the incident is resolved.
  • Douglas County, Colorado: A sheriff’s deputy has been fired after being tied to a child sex exploitation investigation. Investigators received information about inappropriate text messages involving a juvenile, and determined a deputy was alleged to be involved.
  • Plattsburgh, New York: A state trooper charged with raping two women has been charged with attacking a third woman.
  • Bonita Springs, Florida: A man is suing the sheriff and a deputy, alleging excessive force, and that his civil rights were violated, when he was arrested after questioning why his 5-year-old son couldn’t bring a lime green toy gun to the county fair.
  • Haines City, Florida: A police officer who was arrested in an investigation of underage prostitution has pleaded guilty and received 10 years in prison. The report says that the man, Paul Aaron, who ran the prostitution ring, exploited runaway girls younger than 18; one of them was forced to have sex with the officer for free so Aaron could receive favors from him in the future.

More on Police Lies

Letter to the editor published in the New York Times:

Last fall, the criminal defense clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law represented a young black man charged with possession of a knife (recovered from his pants pocket) after he was searched by a police officer who swore — under penalty of perjury — that the client was blocking the entrance to a building in violation of a disorderly conduct statute. A video obtained from an adjacent store revealed a very different reality — just a young kid talking with friends, never blocking anyone’s way.

Too often, though, without a video, our clients’ accounts of the lies told by police fall on deaf ears. Prosecutors and judges engage in cognitive dissonance — on the one hand understanding that police lie; on the other, failing to address the issue in any meaningful way.

Perhaps this is because our criminal justice system relies so heavily on the assumption of police as truth tellers. Acknowledging the problem threatens the very foundation of an already dysfunctional system.

For those who have experienced the corrupting effect of police lies, however, the question remains: what will it take to break a police practice that leads to so much injustice?

New York, Feb. 4, 2013

The writer is a clinical assistant professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-09-13 to 02-11-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, February 09 to Monday, February 11, 2013:

  • Auburn, Washington: A police officer is under investigation for allegedly groping a pregnant, handcuffed woman. Another police department is now conducting a criminal investigation.
  • Orlando, Florida: A veteran officer, who was jailed twice last year on allegations of domestic violence, has been fired. He violated two department policies.
  • Springdale, Pennsylvania: A police officer is facing federal charges after he allegedly punched and used a taser on a man who was in handcuffs.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: A police officer was decommissioned after an investigation into his use of force during the arrest of a woman suspected of driving under the influence. He had been an officer for 23 years at the time of the incident.
  • Orange County, California: A sheriff’s deputy was arrested and charged with accepting bribes, including some connected to businesses, from a murderer inmate. He faces a maximum sentence of four years and eight months in state prison if he is convicted on all counts.
  • Los Angeles, California: A mother and daughter who were mistakenly shot by police hunting for a rampage suspect had no warning before bullets started whizzing through their newspaper-delivery truck, their lawyer said. “They still have to give the guy an opportunity to surrender. You can’t just execute him,” the lawyer said. The LAPD had no comment.
  • Yardville, New Jersey: A corrections officer who helped smuggle contraband into a prisoner is now in prison for 30 months.
  • Update: Pasadena, California: A detective will be placed on administrative leave after a judge declared a mistrial in a homicide case because of the detective’s mishandling of evidence.
  • East Chicago, Illinois: An 18-year veteran was indicted on 12 fraud charges relating to an alleged ghost payrolling scheme, federal court records state. “It is never good to see a police officer’s name on a federal indictment,” said the police chief.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 02-08-13

Here are the 17 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 8, 2013:

  • Hillsboro, Oregon: An officer surrendered after a gun fight with ten county officers. He allegedly got into a domestic dispute with his wife, when she called the police. When they arrived he armed himself, and fired at officers attempting to enter the house numerous times. His wife finally convinced him to leave the house with her, and their 6-year-old daughter.
  • Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania: A state police trooper has been placed on unpaid leave after he was charged with assaulting his wife. According to documents, he got into an argument with her, and pushed her, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs and break her ankle.
  • Twin Peaks, California: A sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty to a grand-theft charge stemming from a salary-boosting scheme involving seven former department employees. They allegedly falsified department records to increase their pay.
  • Pueblo County, Colorado: An officer will face multiple counts of sexual assault and kidnapping, along with menacing and another count of tampering with evidence. He is accused of kidnapping his estranged girlfriend at gunpoint, taking her to his home and sexually assaulting her, before taking her back to her home.
  • Meigs County, Tennessee: An officer was arrested after being indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from a shooting incident. He allegedly shot at his stepfather twice, although he did not hit him.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A police officer has been ordered to serve six months in federal prison for his role in a multi-state steroid distribution ring orchestrated by a former police colleague. Both men were active-duty officers at the time of the activity but were later fired from the force.
  • Hendersonville, North Carolina: An officer was arrested for driving while under the influence. He was on-duty and in his highway patrol cruiser.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: A police officer is in jail after his arrest for allegedly having off-duty sexual encounters with several girls between the ages of 12 and 14, according to the Sheriff’s office. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13 that caused personal injury.
  • Los Angeles, California: Seven sheriff’s deputies have been notified that the department intends to fire them for belonging to a secret law enforcement clique that allegedly celebrated shootings and branded its members with matching tattoos.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: A police officer who allegedly threatened a man has now been arrested on a charge of harassment.
  • Rindge, New Hampshire: A police officer accused of sexually assaulting a teenager is slated to plead guilty to lesser charges. He allegedly engaged in sex acts with a girl he knew between the age of 13 and 16, according to court documents.
  • Mount Joy Borough, Pennsylvania: A police officer was suspended for two days without pay for unspecified misconduct. The discipline is the latest in several involving Mount Joy police.
  • Weymouth, Massachusetts: An officer charged with assaulting his 9-year-old twin daughters has resigned. They told other officers he pushed them and warned them not to tell anyone because no one would believe them, according to a police report on file.
  • Rockwood, Michigan: A now ex-police officer has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in connection with an allegation of inappropriate contact involving a female prisoner in his custody. As part of his plea, he has agreed not to challenge his termination.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: An officer admitted that he deposited money meant to avoid bank-reporting requirements in an alleged marijuana smuggling operation.
  • Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: An officer has been suspended with pay amid a police investigation into an “alleged excessive force incident,” city officials have said.
  • Hale County, Alabama: A deputy has been indicted on charges accusing him of keeping drugs he acquired during investigations.

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