National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month — November 2014

The worst police misconduct in November goes to the Cleveland Police Department.

To begin with, in late November, a Cleveland officer shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice.

The press reports based on the police accounts at the time of the incident read:

A rookie Cleveland police officer shot a 12-year-old boy outside a city recreation center late Saturday afternoon after the boy pulled a BB gun from his waistband, police said.

Police were responding to reports of a male with a gun outside Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m., Deputy Chief of Field Operations Ed Tomba said.

A rookie officer and a 10-15 year veteran pulled into the parking lot and saw a few people sitting underneath a pavilion next to the center. The rookie officer saw a black gun sitting on the table, and he saw the boy pick up the gun and put it in his waistband, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeffrey Follmer said.

The officer got out of the car and told the boy to put his hands up. The boy reached into his waistband, pulled out the gun and the rookie officer fired two shots, Tomba said.

As detailed in this video report by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, the initial reports by the police do not jibe with video evidence in several major respects.

The video shows Rice, alone, playing with his toy gun and also with the snow, as 12 year olds are wont to do. He was not, as the police said, with “a few people” in the pavilion. Other police reports to the press said the shooting officer got out of his car and told Rice three times to put his hands up. The video, unfortunately without audio and recording at the speed of two frames per second, shows the officer shooting Rice within 1.5-2 seconds after exiting the police vehicle.

The officers also waited several minutes before administering CPR to the fallen boy.

The original call that drew the police to the park in the first place said the person with the gun in the park was likely a minor and likely was a toy gun. Apparently, this information was not relayed to the responding officers, who called-in the shooting victim as “possibly 20” years old.

The officer who shot Rice “was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun” according to subsequent reporting. The internal memo that informed the report concluded that the officer be “released from the employment of the City of Independence [,Ohio].”

And here’s the thing: The Cleveland Police hired the officer without checking his personnel file from his previous law enforcement job, where he was deemed unfit!

The Department of Justice took a close look at the Cleveland Department and issued a highly critical report:

The Justice Department report on Cleveland cataloged many instances of unjustified force, including officers who assaulted, pepper-sprayed and even Tasered people already being restrained. In one case last year, the police fired two shots at a man wearing only boxer shorts who was fleeing from two armed assailants. In a 2011 case, a man who had been restrained on the ground with his arms and legs spread was then kicked by officers. He was later treated for a broken bone in his face.

The city’s policing problems, [Attorney General] Holder said, stemmed from “systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.”

NYT on Police Misconduct: Millions of Americans Subjected to Intimidation

New York Times editorial:

The Justice Department report describes the Cleveland Police Department as something far closer to an occupying military force than a legitimate law enforcement agency. The officers, for example, seem to take a casual view of the use of deadly force, shooting at people who pose no threat of harm to the police or others. In one case in 2013, for example, they actually fired at a victim who had been held captive in a house — as he escaped, clad only in boxer shorts.

The report cataloged numerous incidents of wanton violence, with officers beating, pepper-spraying and Tasering people who were unarmed or had already been restrained. Officers escalated encounters with citizens instead of defusing them, making force all but inevitable.

The record in Cleveland is extreme. But aspects of illegal police conduct can be found in cities all over the country, subjecting millions to intimidation and fear that they could be killed for innocent actions.

Subjecting millions to intimidation.  Stop what you’re doing and think about that.

The Eric Garner Case: Time to Open Your Eyes

Harry Siegel in the New York Daily News:

Garner had a heart attack in the ambulance, and died.

As he lay dying, he was treated like a piece of meat. By Pantaleo. By the other cops on the scene. Even by the medical technicians.

Had Garner been treated with basic human dignity after he was violently, and needlessly, taken down, he might not be dead.

I’m no lawyer, but this is section 125.15 of New York’s penal code: “A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 1. He recklessly causes the death of another person.”

So I’m stunned, and saddened, by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to level no charges against Pantaleo.

Anyone unsure why so many people of color are upset with the police, and suspicious of the American justice system, put your politics down, open your eyes and watch the videos.

Regular visitors will recall that we selected the Garner case as the ‘worst of the month’ for July.

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The David Hooks Case

A criminal comes on to your property and steals your SUV.  Later, the criminal, perhaps still under the influence of meth, tells the police that he found drugs on your property.  The police proceed to sneak on to your property and, without announcing themselves, break down your back door.  Frightened that the criminals have returned to your home, you retrieve a gun to protect yourself and your spouse.  The police then open fire and you are killed in your own home.  By the police.

According to the Hooks family attorney, that is what happened to his client.  Here is an excerpt from the attorney’s statement:

On Wednesday, September 24th at 9:56 p.m., drug task force agent Chris Brewer made application for a search warrant before Faith Snell a non-attorney Deputy Magistrate of the Laurens County Magistrate Court. The facts submitted to Deputy Magistrate Snell to convince her that probable cause existed to issue the warrant consisted of the statement by Rodney Garrett a confessed burglar, thief, and a meth addict who was under the influence at the time of his arrest that the approximately 20 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, and 2 firearms found on him at the time of arrest had been stolen by him out of another vehicle at the Hooks home. Investigator Brewer also stated information he claimed came from an investigation involving Jeff Frazier. That investigation was in August 2009 over 5 years ago. A search warrant was issued at 9:56 p.m. by Judge Snell. This search warrant is invalid on its face as it does not comport with the requirements of the Constitution of State of Georgia nor the United States Constitution. Armed with an invalid search warrant and with less than an hour of preparation, at approximately 10:55 p.m. several members of the Drug Task Force and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Response Team arrived at David and Teresa Hooks home unannounced by emergency lights or sirens. There is no question the Officers were aware the home had been burglarized only two nights earlier.

David and Teresa were under the impression that the burglars were back and that a home invasion was eminent. David armed himself to protect his wife and his home. Despite the fact that the illegal search warrant did not have a “no knock” clause the Drug Task Force and SRT members broke down the back door of the family’s home and entered firing in excess of 16 shots. These shots were from multiple firearms and from both 40 caliber handguns and assault rifles. Several shots were fired through a blind wall at David with the shooters not knowing who or what was on the other side of the wall. The trajectory of the shots, coupled with the number of shots infers a clear intent on behalf of the shooters to kill David Hooks.

From WMAZ:

Lauren’s County Sheriff’s department says they are not making any more statements on this case. They are directing all questions to the GBI. They’ve not responded.

Neither agencies has identified the deputies involved in the raid, said how many of them fired shots, or said how many times Hooks was hit.

Hooks was buried on Tuesday.

Read the whole thing.

Internal Affairs Investigating Treatment of Pregnant Woman

From NBC New York:

The NYPD says its internal affairs division is investigating after a video was posted over the weekend that appeared to show officers push a pregnant woman to the ground when she tried to intervene as her son was being taken into custody.

The video, which the woman’s attorneys say was captured on Fifth Avenue at 41st Street in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park at around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, shows an officer who was trying to arrest another suspect grabbing Sandra Amezquita, who is five months pregnant, before pushing her belly-first onto the ground and then hopping atop her back.

The video then shows a second, unidentified woman being shoved to the ground in the middle of the street as she comes to help Amezquita.

Amezquita’s attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, told media Wednesday that the 43-year-old woman suffered vaginal bleeding and bruises on her arms and stomach after the encounter. He said she has persisting abdominal pain and showed a photo of bruising on her stomach.

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.

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.

Vice President Biden and the Police

According to news reports, three White House officials will be attending the funeral for Michael Brown today.  Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending and that is no surprise.   Why?  Because the Brown family has been demanding a vigorous, impartial investigation into the shooting and Biden is fond of saying that he “has the back” of the police force.  Biden’s presence would be awkward, to say the least.

Here is a clip where Biden is urging a police audience to get behind President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Biden has kept a low profile since the unrest began in Ferguson–and no wonder.   The last thing protesters there want to hear is that the White House “has the back” of the police.   Indeed, that’s why there is so much concern about the local county prosecutor who is handling the investigation and why there have been calls for Governor Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor.  A special prosecutor would be more likely to follow the evidence impartially.

Beyond the Brown shooting, we have seen other abuses by the police there.  The false arrest of reporters, the tear gas rounds fired into the yards of homes, and the reckless weapon handling by officers against protestors.   One wonders if Biden has been on the phone to Obama … saying the administration’s approach thus far has been all wrong… It should “have the back” of the police–not the reporters, the residents, the protesters.

Beyond Ferguson, African-Americans (and others) have been protesting in other cities.  On Saturday, thousands of New Yorkers turned out to protest the killing of Eric Garner by New York City police.   Other cities have other incidents to relate.

Make no mistake, Biden has been part of the problem.  The long simmering tensions in communities around the country did not spring out of nowhere.  Misguided policies and unaccountable bureaucracies bear much of the blame.  And so do powerful politicians like Biden, who have been deaf to the cries of police abuse and harassment.

 

Police Abusing Government Database

From CBS Sacramento:

FAIRFIELD (CBS13) – Court documents show that Fairfield Police Officers Stephen Ruiz and Jacob Glashoff used company time and equipment to search for women on internet dating sites.

The documents also show that two used the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System – a statewide police database – to screen the women they liked.

“I feel like it’s an abuse of their power, using it for their own personal gain,” said Fairfield resident Carlos Thompson.