National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

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.

Problems in San Diego

From NBCSanDiego.com:

The San Diego Police Department enforced an “unwritten policy” that encouraged police misconduct and led to scandals involving former officers Anthony Arevalos and Christopher Hays, a new lawsuit against the department alleges….

The lawsuit claims officers felt they could get away with such inappropriate behavior after former SDPD Chief William Lansdowne and other officials disbanded the anti-corruption unit called the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) around 2003.

“The elimination of the PSU, this specialized unit, was a signal and affirmation to the SDPD, its police officers and its supervisory officials that those police officers who chose to exploit their positions of power, authority and trust by victimizing members of the very community they had sworn to protect would not be investigated, prosecuted, pursued or punished for their actions,” the lawsuit reads.

As an example, the court document claims another officer reported to his supervisors that Arevalos had taken Polaroid pictures of a nude, mentally disabled woman, taunting her to pose in a lewd manner with his baton.

Instead of punishing Arevalos or reporting the incident up the chain of command, the lawsuit claims his superiors instead destroyed the pictures and evidence of the incident and intimidated the officer who had reported it.

The lawsuit says the alleged cover-up is part of a “long-standing, unwritten SDPD policy that encouraged a two-tiered system of justice.”

That system includes laws that apply to ordinary citizens and a set of privileges and immunities that apply to SDPD officers and other members of the law enforcement community, according to the suit.

Additionally, the SDPD is accused of instituting a process that prevented the public from lodging complaints against officers directly with the internal affairs unit.

$40 Million Settlement in NY Central Park Case

From the New York Times:

The five men whose convictions in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park were later overturned have agreed to a settlement of about $40 million from New York City to resolve a bitterly fought civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment in the sensational crime.

The agreement, reached between the city’s Law Department and the five plaintiffs, would bring to an end an extraordinary legal battle over a crime that came to symbolize a sense of lawlessness in New York, amid reports of “wilding” youths and a marauding “wolf pack” that set its sights on a 28-year-old investment banker who ran in the park many evenings after work….

The five black and Hispanic men, ages 14 to 16 at the time of their arrests, claimed that incriminating statements they had given had been coerced by the authorities. The statements were ruled admissible, and the men were convicted in two separate trials in 1990….

The lawsuit had accused the city’s police and prosecutors of false arrest, malicious prosecution and a racially motivated conspiracy to deprive the men of their civil rights, allegations which the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg denied and fought vigorously for more than a decade in federal court….

If the proposed settlement is approved by the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, it would then be submitted for approval to Judge Deborah A. Batts of Federal District Court in Manhattan. In 2007, Judge Batts rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the suit and allowed most of the claims to proceed.

In such settlements, the city typically does not admit liability or wrongdoing