National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

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.

Albuquerque Police: There is a Pattern of Excessive Force

CNN:

Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officers killed a 19-year-old as he “lay motionless on his back,” an unarmed drugstore robber who was walking away from officers and a 25-year-old veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who threatened to shoot himself in the head.

So says the U.S. Justice Department, which on Thursday issued a report lambasting the Albuquerque Police Department for a longstanding history of police brutality and unnecessary deadly force….

“For too long, Albuquerque officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors in carrying out this fundamental responsibility,” the report says. “Despite the efforts of many committed individuals, external oversight is broken and has allowed the department to remain unaccountable to the communities it serves.”

To conduct its review, the Justice Department “reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including written policies and procedures, internal reports, data, video footage, and investigative files,” the report says. It also interviewed command staff, rank-and-file officers and community members, and held four community meetings where residents “provided their accounts of encounters with officers.”

Bureau of Land Mgt Under Fire in Nevada

Sacramento Bee:

A Republican U.S. senator added his voice Wednesday to critics of a federal cattle roundup fought by a Nevada rancher who claims longstanding grazing rights on remote public rangeland about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said he told new U.S. Bureau of Land Management chief Neil Kornze in Washington, D.C., that law-abiding Nevadans shouldn’t be penalized by an “overreaching” agency.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval pointed earlier to what he called “an atmosphere of intimidation,” resulting from the roundup and said he believed constitutional rights were being trampled…

“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” the governor said in a statement.

Sandoval said he was most offended that armed federal officials have tried to corral people protesting the roundup into a fenced-in “First Amendment area” south of the resort city of Mesquite.

The site “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution” and should be dismantled, Sandoval said.

BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon and Park Service spokeswoman Christie Vanover have told reporters during daily conference calls that free-speech areas were established so agents could ensure the safety of contractors, protesters, the rancher and his supporters.

On Improving Trust between the Black Community and the Police

From the Associated Press:

Henderson had just left a meeting of the Community Empowerment Association, which seeks to address problems in poorer black neighborhoods, and that night, had discussed ways to improve communication and trust between the black community and the police.

Henderson was speaking to a photographer for the New Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper that covers the city’s black community, in the street next to Henderson’s car when Gromek’s patrol car drove by close enough that Henderson and the photographer pressed against Henderson’s car for safety.

According to his lawsuit, Henderson said, “Wow!”—referring to the speed with which the officer was driving down a narrow street.

Gromek then turned around, stopped and confronted both of them and asked Henderson, “Do you have a problem?” eventually arresting the teacher when he and the photographer started using a cellphone to record the encounter as onlookers gathered.