National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Police Shooting in South Carolina

From NBC News:

A South Carolina state trooper who was fired after being captured on video shooting an unarmed driver during a routine traffic stop was arrested on Wednesday. Lance Corporal Sean M. Groubert was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in connection with the shooting in a gas station’s parking lot, which was filmed by a camera in his patrol car.

On Sept. 4, Groubert pulled over Levar Edward Jones for a seatbelt violation in Columbia, South Carolina, and subsequently shot the unarmed man in the hip. In newly released video, Groubert is heard asking Jones for his license. As Jones reaches into his car, the officer is seen moving quickly while pointing his gun and shouting, “Get out of the car!” He then fires four shots at Jones as he falls backwards away from the car with his hands in the air. Groubert cuffs the injured driver, who can be heard asking, “What did I do, sir?”

Chilling video.   To the department’s credit, upon review, the officer was promptly discharged and criminal charges are now pending.  That’s the manner in which one would expect an incident like this to be handled.   Safe to say that the video was the critical factor and that’s why body cameras are needed.

City Settles Excessive Force Lawsuit for $490,000; Denies Any Wrongdoing

From the San Bernardino Sun:

City Attorney Cristina Talley announced Tuesday at the council meeting that the council agreed to settle the federal lawsuit filed July 31, 2013, in U.S. District Court by the parents of 22-year-old Trevor Taylor of Colton, who was shot and killed a year earlier on July 31, 2012.

The wrongful death lawsuit lodged against the city alleges three Colton officers involved in the shooting used excessive force, were not properly trained, committed battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of the killing, according to court documents.

Officers Todd Smith, and Sgts. Steve Davis and Lou E. Gamache are still with the department in the patrol division….

“The use of force was reasonable and consistent with our policy,” said Colton Police Cpl. Ray Mendez. “We’re not changing any policy and we’re not amending anything.”

From the on-line comments section:

My city isn’t doing anything wrong, where MY payout?

More on the John Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

Shot in the chest, he was left to bleed to death inside his doorway while police officers, remaining outside the house, did nothing for an hour. Five and a half hours after the shooting, his body remained sprawled on the floor where he died.

Incredibly, the authorities in Northern Virginia — including Fairfax County police and state and federal prosecutors — have refused to furnish any explanation for this stupefying sequence of events last Aug. 29 in Springfield. They have stonewalled.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. promised to “hold myself accountable” to Mr. Geer’s family, which includes two young daughters. He has done nothing of the kind. No official information about the shooting has been forthcoming. The officer who fired the shot, who remains on the force with full pay, has not been identified.

The authorities conduct themselves as if the case presented insurmountable complexities. This strains credulity. It involved one shot, one gun, one shooter and one fatality. It took place in broad daylight, at mid-afternoon. It was witnessed at close range by at least two other police officers, as well as friends and neighbors of Mr. Geer. And still authorities refuse to act or discuss Mr. Geer’s death.

The John Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

In the year since John Geer was fatally shot by a Fairfax County police officer, his family has struggled to cope with the sudden loss. His younger daughter, now 14, cried for weeks after the Aug. 29, 2013, incident.

His older daughter, now 18, marks the 29th of every month with some remembrance of her father. For years, he took her to every travel and high school softball practice and game, so his absence was obvious almost every day. The other fathers of her South County High team walked her onto the field on Senior Night, because hers couldn’t be there.

For Geer’s partner of 24 years and his parents, the grief was accompanied by waiting, they say. For information. For action. For answers from the prosecutors or police as to why a man who witnesses say was unarmed was shot in front of his home.

Police and federal investigators have not released any information publicly about the case. They have not said whether they think the shooting was justified and have not released the names of the officers involved.

“It’s been hell,” said Don Geer, John Geer’s father. “Frustrating to say the least — not knowing anything and having a feeling of helplessness, sadness, anger. Just wondering what’s going on and why nobody would tell us anything.”

The Gregory Towns Case

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Two former East Point police officers violated the department’s policies when they repeatedly activated their Tasers to shock a handcuffed 24-year-old man, who died in a creek, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Unlike other recent instances in New York and Ferguson., Mo., in which men died while interacting with police, there are no claims Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. was resisting, according to police reports and a Fulton County State Court lawsuit. Also in the case of Towns, everyone involved was black.

Records show police found Towns, who weighed 281 pounds, sitting on the ground, catching his breath, after a chase of less than a mile, and he asked officers at least 10 times to be allowed to rest before going with them. According to the suit and logs from the Tasers, the devices were activated 14 times over the following 29 minutes with the two officers pressing the electrified prongs against Towns’ skin.

Problems in Milwaukee

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Two Milwaukee police officers who admitted they were present during invasive body cavity searches that led to felony convictions against a third officer were neither criminally charged nor fired from the department after making deals with prosecutors, according to court records.

One of the two officers, Michael Gasser, was on the scene during a 2010 search that caused the victim to bleed from his anus for several days, according to Gasser’s deposition in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Not only did Gasser avoid termination, he has been allowed to continue training rookie officers — even though he told internal investigators he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the search, he testified in June.

The second officer, Zachary Thoms, admitted in a deposition that he and Officer Michael Vagnini coerced a suspect to try to defecate into a cardboard box at the District 5 police station in 2011, hoping he would expel hidden drugs.

Meanwhile, two supervisors who were in charge of District 5 while illegal searches were occurring there have been promoted to the highest levels of the department.

Problems at the Border Patrol

From the Washington Post:

FOLLOWING MONTHS of damning disclosures about the use of deadly force by Border Patrol agents, Department of Homeland Security officials tightened the rules of engagement this spring. But it remains unclear whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection — with 43,000 agents, the biggest federal law enforcement agency — will end what appears to be a culture of impunity that has shielded agents from consequences and even meaningful investigations following senseless and unjustified killings.

Full editorial here.

Chicago is Ready for Reform

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

We stand at a watershed in the long history of efforts to address patterns of police abuse in Chicago. On March 10, the state appellate court held in Kalven v. Chicago that documents bearing on allegations of police misconduct are public information. On July 11, the Emanuel administration announced that it will not appeal Kalven and that it has adopted a set of procedures for implementing the decision…

As the plaintiff and attorneys in Kalven, we engaged in extended negotiations with Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and his staff in order to settle the case. The Emanuel administration is to be commended. Not only does its new transparency policy conform to Kalven, in some respects it goes beyond what the decision requires.

This is real reform. It is important to understand why.

The documents at issue are: (1) the investigative files generated when a citizen files a complaint charging police misconduct, and (2) lists of officers who accumulated repeated complaints of abuse….

Until now, the city has fiercely resisted any and all efforts via the Freedom of Information Act and civil discovery to make public the identities of officers with repeated complaints and the contents of police misconduct files. From our perspective, it has often seemed to allocate more resources to maintaining official secrecy than to addressing the underlying problems.

The Emanuel administration’s new policy breaks with the past. From now on, the city will honor FOIA requests for police misconduct files, subject only to the redaction of private information such as the names of complainants and the accused officer’s address and Social Security number. If it believes a request is unduly burdensome, it will provide summary digests, detailed narratives of the investigation. Requesters will then have the option of asking the city for a subset of the requested files or specific documents they have identified within the files.

This policy will allow the public and the press to assess the quality of investigations and to identify groups of officers with a pattern of complaints. It will create incentives for investigators, knowing their work is subject to public scrutiny, to conduct rigorous investigations. And it will ultimately, we believe, move the department to address patterns of police abuse.