National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Atlantic City K-9 Officer Sterling Wheaten


On June 5, 20-year-old David Castellani Jr. exchanged words with three Atlantic City police officers after he was kicked out of a casino for being underage.

A surveillance camera from the casino shows the officers force Castellani Jr. to the ground. It then shows two other officers get involved moments later.

“It was horrifying,” said David Castellani, the man’s father. “Absolutely horrifying.”

But Castellani says the most horrifying part of the recording comes the moment when a K-9 officer, identified as Sterling Wheaten, arrives.

“With his hands behind his back, the K-9 truck pulls up and without any assessment of the situation, the K-9 officer releases the dog on my son’s neck,” Castellani said…

“I’m an attorney in the community and I’ve represented police officers before,” Castellani said.

 ’“Never in my life have I seen anything like this before, let alone with my own son.”
Castellani is suing the officers involved, accusing them of excessive force.

There is a video at the link above.  In that video clip, the reporter says he asked the Atlantic City Police Department whether there were any other lawsuits against Officer Wheaten, and the department’s reply was….wait for it……. ‘we don’t know.’    Hmm.


Jury Rejects Police Story and Awards Chicago Man $1 Million for Beating

From ThinkProgress:

Seven years ago John Collins was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, a felony in Illinois. He was sent to a Cook County jail and bond was set at $75,000, which he could not pay. The jail was overcrowded, so Collins slept on the floor. He remained there for 385 days, during which time he missed the birth of his first child, a baby boy. His fiancé brought his infant son to visit but he was not allowed to hold him, separated by a pane of glass. Sometimes, those visits were canceled “when the jail was put on lock-down for stabbings and murders.” Eventually, his fiancé left him, saying his time in the jail had changed him — he wasn’t the same person anymore.

Today Collins is a free man, acquitted of all charges, and the Chicago Police owe him $1 million. His seven-year odyssey may have finally ended this week, when a jury unanimously found the two officers involved guilty of malicious prosecution for fabricating the case against him.

Court documents and interviews reveal a remarkable story of a barber who blew the whistle on two veteran police officers and was vindicated. But the details of Collins’ case also underscore just how difficult it is for an ordinary citizen to prove misconduct by the police. Innocence, of course, is helpful. But luck is essential….

Several members of the jury, speaking with Collins’ lawyers after the trial, admitted that — despite the weight of the evidence favoring Collins — they still struggled mightily with the idea that police officers might not tell the truth. Which raises the larger question: What happens to people who are victims of police misconduct when there aren’t three disinterested witnesses to the event? Collins’ redemption is the exception that proves the rule. In many disputes between alleged criminals and the police, the police will win regardless of the facts.

According to data compiled by the CATO Institute, from April 2009 to December 2010 there were “8,300 credible reports involving allegations of police misconduct” but only 3,238 resulted in criminal charges. The conviction rate for law enforcement officers who were charged is just 37 percent, compared to a 70 percent conviction rate among members of the general public charged criminally. The CATO report notes that “prosecuting police misconduct in the US is very problematic with conviction rates, incarceration rates, and the amount of time law enforcement officers spend behind bars for criminal misconduct are all far lower than what happens when ordinary citizens face criminal charges.”

Phoenix Police Taser Man, Drag Him Down Stairs By His Feet

I do not know what the anchorman is talking about when he says the police had to make a “split second” decision.  I’m skeptical the use of the taser was really a “split second” situation.  And leaving that aside, the manner in which the man was dragged down the stairs is indefensible.

Police Union Says Videos Are ‘Gotcha’ Tools Against Cops

To their credit, the police fired the officer and the prosecutors filed charges.  But according to the news article, the judge did not view the tape!  And the police union wants the officer rehired!

With respect to the “gotcha” comment from the police union rep, that is just some sorta bizarre spin on the subject.  The tape shows what it shows.  Take each incident at a time on its own merits.  What the judge did here is very hard to understand.

H/T: Jonathan Turley blog.

ABC Agents Mistake Water for Beer

Consider this recent report.  It’s 10 pm and some college students are returning to their car after picking up some items from the grocery store.  Out of nowhere, six guys approach quickly in an odd, non-friendly manner.  One guy actually jumps on the hood of the car. Another brandishes a gun.  The men are talking, but you’re in panic mode thinking a criminal attack is underway.  One of your friends is in the back seat yelling to the driver to “Go!  Go!”   So the driver pulls away.  Talk about a harrowing encounter!

Moments later, a police vehicle with flashing lights shows up and so the college students pull over.  Turns out the men who had approached the students before were ABC agents (that’s Alcohol Beverage Control) in plain clothes.  The agents mistakenly thought the students were in illegal possession of beer.

Let’s pause here to consider the reckless tactics of the police.  The police created a situation where citizens had only seconds to respond to what they reasonably perceived to be a criminal attack.  Outnumbered and seeing a gun, the driver might well have been justified in driving right over an agent in self-defense had he been blocking the way.  It should also be noted that there are now some ten million Americans with carry permits.  Had a permit holder been confronted in this situation, he might have fired on these plain clothes officers.  And then the officers likely would have fired back.   A high risk of deadly force and loss of life over what?   Young adults suspected of  beer purchase.

But this story is not over.

One of the students, Elizabeth Daly, is arrested and charged with three felonies!   2 counts of assaulting an officer and one count of eluding the police.  Add up the possible prison time and she is facing 15 years.  She spends time in the jail and her family scrambles to find her an attorney.

Fortunately, the prosecutor exercises his independent judgment on this affair and he drops the charges.

A happy ending?  Well, as noted, it could have been much worse.  An agent might have been run over.  In response to that, another agent might have shot one of the students.  Or there might have been a miscarriage of justice with a prison sentence for Elisabeth Daly.  None of that happened, but, still, consider:

1.  Ms. Daly now has an arrest record.

2.  The Daly family has a legal bill to pay.

3.  Those ABC agents may well be still out on “patrol.”

Story here.