National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Feds to the Rescue?

James Bovard on Attorney General Eric Holder’s record:

Attorney General Eric Holder arrives today in Ferguson, Missouri, in response to the unrest after a local policeman shot 18-year-old Mike Brown. Holder assured the people of Missouri: “Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.”

But Holder’s own record belies his lofty promise. As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little to protect Washington residents from rampaging lawmen…

There was such a dearth of oversight from Holder’s office that Washington police failed to count almost a third of the people killed by their officers between 1994 and 1997. Even when police review boards ruled that shootings were unjustified or found contradictions in officers’ testimony, police were not prosecuted. In one case, a police officer shot a suspect four times in the back when he was unarmed and lying on the ground. But Holder’s office never bothered interviewing the shooter….

As the smoke clears in Ferguson, Missouri, Americans have no reason to presume that either the local police or the feds have the market cornered on truth or justice.

Read the whole thing.

The Michael Brown Case

The Michael Brown case is now all over the news.  The Washington Post has a front page headline, “FBI Will Investigate Shooting in Mo.”  It also has a helpful article, “What do we know about the shooting of Michael Brown, and of Brown himself.”  According to the reports, Brown had no history of trouble with the law.  He was supposed to start college this week.

Police have not disclosed the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown.   One can imagine the rationale for that.  There have been emotional protests and some violence by crowds.   Concerns for the officer’s safety, and perhaps for family members, could be the primary rationale.   That might justify a slight delay in releasing the name, perhaps to give a  family (if there is one) a chance to make some temporary arrangements, or for the department to arrange a security plan on the chance that protesters will go to the neighborhood.  However, it has now been several days and it is now necessary and appropriate for the officer to be identified.

The authorities keep saying that their investigation will be thorough.  Good.  That’s what we want to hear.  But deeds are more important than words.   At this point, it is important to know whether the officer has been the subject of police brutality lawsuits, and what were the outcomes of those cases.  On the other hand, maybe this officer has an unblemished record.  That would be good to know as well.

Michael Brown lost his life on Saturday.   We need to find out what happened and why.   Cases like this have 2 parts–the initial incident and then the response.   As bad as the initial incidents are; an inadequate response can be even more disturbing because it can be an indication of deeper problems within the police institution.  Fecklessness or, worse, abetting criminal conduct.  So far, the police have handled the Brown case very badly.

More here.

 

Death by Chokehold

From the New York Times:

The 350-pound man, about to be arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes, was arguing with the police. When an officer tried to handcuff him, the man pulled free. The officer immediately threw his arm around the man’s neck and pulled him to the ground, holding him in what appears, in a video, to be a chokehold. The man can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” over and over again as other officers swarm about.

Now, the death of the man, Eric Garner, 43, soon after the confrontation on Thursday on Staten Island, is being investigated by the police and prosecutors. At the center of the inquiry is the officer’s use of a chokehold — a dangerous maneuver that was banned by the New York Police Department more than 20 years ago but that the department cannot seem to be rid of.

Read the whole thing.

Cop Overturns Man in Wheelchair

From Wane.com:

[Police Chief Patrick] Flannelly said after an internal review of the incident, he and six other members of the command staff unanimously felt Davidson used both conduct unbecoming an officer and an excessive use of force and should be fired….Flannelly said he still has full confidence in Davidson’s abilities.

Hmm.

More from Wane.com:

Flannelly said an electronic malfunction delayed the review of the case by about three months, but did not affect the outcome.

Electronic malfunction?  Hmm.

Worst of the Month — May 2014

Our choice for May was not difficult–the Georgia police officers who threw a flashbang grenade into an infant’s crib after ramming the door open to look for a drug dealer.  The officers were executing a no-knock warrant when they threw the flashbang grenade through the cracked door without looking or knowing who was inside the room.  The grenade (sometimes the government uses the euphemism “distraction device”) landed on the 19-month-old’s pillow and exploded, causing severe burns to his face and chest.  The child and his relatives, who were also sleeping in the converted garage room, were temporary visitors in the home because theirs had recently burned down.  The person the police were looking for was not there.  Hmm.

The officers involved expressed regret, and said that they had no idea there was a child present and that if they had, they would have done things differently.  The police chief said the incident is going to make them “double question” next time.  Hmm.  First, why would anyone not already “double question” before blindly tossing a grenade into a room?  Second, is the indication that a child is present really the only reason not to go full-Rambo on a house where human beings live?  Think about it.  Even if the police had solid proof that an adult was selling marijuana, meth, or cocaine from his home, is a flash bang grenade on his pillow a legit police tactic?  A legit risk?

Cases like this one not only underscore the brutal collateral damage of the drug war, but also the lack of adequate oversight over police raids like this one.   Yes, there will be a lawsuit, but that’s an insufficient response.

Check out the Cato raid map for more police raids that went awry.

Cleveland Officers to be Prosecuted for Barrage of Gunfire

From Cleveland.com:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County grand jury Friday indicted six Cleveland police officers for their roles in a 2012 police chase and shooting that left two people dead and carved deep schisms into the community. The grand jury charged Patrolman Michael Brelo with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony. The panel also accused five supervisors of dereliction of duty…

On Friday, McGinty said that after officers fired more than 100 shots at the car, Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal ones, downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Russell’s car.

“This was now a stop-and-shoot, no longer a chase-and-shoot,” McGinty said. “The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot.” …

“Let’s be clear what happened here,” McGinty said about the case. “(Russell) was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over. The public was no longer in danger because the car was surrounded by police cars and 23 police officers in a schoolyard safely removed from pedestrians and traffic.

Broward Deputies Accused of Excessive Force

From CBS Miami:

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Two Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies are under fire, accused of using excessive force—and all of it was caught on camera.
BSO is conducting an internal affairs investigation to find out if the two officers involved were justified in using force and are also questioning why Sheriff Scott Israel wasn’t notified until three months after the incident….
This incident happened just three months after BSO shelled out $350,000 to settle a federal lawsuit involving Deputy Lambert, who allegedly beat and abused another Broward citizen.
Federal Documents obtained by CBS4 allege Deputy Lambert of “striking, pummeling and pounding” a party host while responding to a noise complaint in Dania Beach back in 2009.
Deputy Lambert ended up back on the streets, now embroiled in another internal investigation involving force. BSO says they are currently looking into why Lambert was allowed back on duty after that case.

Video at the link.

Buffalo Police Officers Suspended

From the Buffalo News:

Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda this afternoon announced that six police officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into an April 19 incident captured in a YouTube video that showed one of the officers slapping and kicking a man after he had been subdued and was lying on the ground in handcuffs.

Earlier this morning Derenda held a news conference, where he condemned the officers’ actions.

“The Buffalo Police Department does not condone or tolerate inappropriate behavior,” Derenda said, adding that he has spoken with U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III about the incident.

He would not say whether a federal investigation has been opened into the alleged police brutality.

After receiving a copy of the video emailed to Derenda and Mayor Byron W. Brown late Friday, the commissioner said he immediately instructed his Internal Affairs Division to start an investigation, which continued through the weekend and is nearing completion.

Brown told The News today that he watched the video.

“Certainly, when I saw the video, I was extremely and deeply concerned about what I viewed,” Brown said. “I told Commissioner Derenda to conduct a swift and complete investigation. We have made it clear that we will not tolerate inappropriate behavior by police officers.“

The man who allegedly was assaulted has been identified as John Willet, 22, of Williamsville. He has been charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, suspected heroin and crack cocaine; unlawful possession of marijuana; resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration.