National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Problems in Cleveland

From Cleveland.com:

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report in December, claiming that the Cleveland Police Department routinely violated citizens’ civil rights. But taxpayers already had been paying a heavy price: more than $8.2 million to resolve lawsuits that accused officers of brutality, misconduct or making wrongful arrests….

In a number of cases, the people who alleged brutality were the ones who called police for help in the first place.  [!!]

More than a year ago, The Plain Dealer and Northeast Ohio Media Group submitted public records requests to the city, in an effort to determine how widespread allegations of misconduct were and how much police behavior was costing the city. The records were turned over on the eve of the Justice Department’s release of its report….

Mayor Frank Jackson says the settlements don’t prove any pattern of police conduct. They don’t even mean officers were at fault for wrongdoing, officials have said.
But viewed as a whole, the details show that high-level city officials were, or should have been, on notice about allegations that officers too often used excessive force, escalated confrontations and needlessly disrespected citizens in the community they were hired to serve.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his Investigations

From the Sandusky Register:

An Ohio attorney general spokesman told the Register last week that state prosecutors hadn’t yet determined if recordings made by former Put-in-Bay police Sgt. Steve Korossy of interviews and interactions Korossy had just prior to arresting three island hotel employees was relevant to the ongoing police misconduct investigation.

The employees were cleared in October by a jury of all the criminal charges Korossy filed against them 13 months after they were arrested. They, and others, contend the employees were falsely arrested and wrongfully put on trial….

The fact DeWine cannot even acknowledge the relevancy of that material is an indicator just how seriously he’s taking the complaints, the lawsuits and the judgments against the PIB police department….

After four decades as a public servant, it seems obvious to us DeWine forgot a long time ago that public service is meant for the public. DeWine, it’s clear, serves the bureaucracy first and doesn’t appear willing to serve the people at all.

Grandfather Paralyzed by Police

From CNN:

It started out as a morning walk, but ended up with a 57-year-old grandpa laying partially paralyzed in an Alabama hospital bed.

Sureshbhai Patel required spinal fusion surgery to repair damage to his back when his family says police twisted his arm and forced him to the ground.

Video at the CNN link.   When the police department was asked for an explanation, a spokesperson said that Patel reached into his pocket while speaking to the officers on the scene.   Hmm.

Baltimore’s Top Officials Struggling With the Basics

From the Baltimore Sun:

While seeking approval this week for a $150,000 settlement in a lawsuit alleging brutality by a Baltimore detective, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration did not tell the city spending board that taxpayers had already paid $100,000 to settle another lawsuit against the officer….

The administration vowed to provide more details about settlements after a Baltimore Sun investigation found that taxpayers had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 in lawsuits alleging misconduct by officers — including some who had been sued multiple times. The investigation also showed that city officials lacked a comprehensive system to track such misconduct.

Two Philly Cops Charged With Brutality

From Philly.com:

[The arrest] on May 29, 2013, was allegedly so violent that District Attorney Seth Williams on Thursday charged two Philadelphia police officers with aggravated assault, conspiracy and related crimes.

After seeing the blood, [girlfriend] Scannapieco began asking questions.

She eventually found surveillance video, at a barber shop-auto detailing business on the block, that would exonerate Rivera and lead to the arrest of the officers who prosecutors say beat him without provocation and then falsely arrested him.

“This type of behavior has absolutely no place in our city, and I will prosecute these two officers to the fullest extent of the law,” Williams said.

The accused officers, Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight, turned themselves in to police Thursday.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey suspended the officers with intent to dismiss. Before the video of their arrest of Rivera surfaced, the officers’ account of what happened had been accepted as fact, Ramsey said….

Without the video, Rivera would have had little chance challenging the testimony of two police officers.

Post Editorial About Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

Everyone involved in this case has dropped the ball and dodged responsibility, enabling what now looks like a coverup in a case of police impunity.

 The police, who did not seek medical treatment for Mr. Geer or retrieve his body for more than an hour, falsely claimed Mr. Geer had “barricaded” himself inside his house after he was shot, then stonewalled prosecutors and the public for months.

The top prosecutor in Fairfax, Ray Morrogh, punted the case to the feds over a supposed conflict of interest involving a courthouse shouting match between Officer Torres and a rank-and-file prosecutor. That seems a far-fetched reason not to pursue the case.

The feds — first the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, then the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — sat on the case for months more, saying nothing.

Fairfax’s County’s governing body, the Board of Supervisors, seems incapable of getting its own employees — namely the police and the County Attorney’s office — to conduct themselves responsibly and transparently. The supervisors have managed nothing beyond tut-tutting that things don’t look quite right and calling for a review of policies.

That mind-set seems to have infected virtually every agency in Fairfax, in addition to the feds, that should have stepped up to see that justice was done in the Geer case. The case should be presented to a jury, which can weigh Officer Torres’s account against those of other witnesses. The delay and obfuscation represent a travesty of justice

“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution?”

Officer safety is important. Public safety is also important. Police should follow the law and respect the rights of citizens as part of their day-to-day jobs to keep both themselves and the public safer.

Over at Law and Order, a magazine for police management, three experienced leaders in law enforcement training and leadership explain the ethical and professional imperative of constitutional policing:

Federal Constitutional law governs a number of the most critical and often high-risk police actions: use of force, seizures of persons, investigative detentions and arrests, searches of persons, vehicle stops and searches, entry into private premises, and the concepts of reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

Violations of the Federal Constitution can cause evidence suppression in major cases, massive civil liability, career devastation, and even criminal prosecution of law enforcement officers. But avoidance of these horrendous negatives is not the best reason for an officer to follow the Constitution. The best reason is a shining positive: keeping faith with the oath of office.

On the day an officer takes that oath, the Constitution becomes more than a legal obligation. It becomes an ethical duty, a matter of promise keeping—keeping the most solemn promise made in a law enforcement career—to support, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.   But however lofty that promise, it is hollow—without a thorough understanding of what the Constitution requires of us.

Our training helps provide that understanding by teaching what we can and cannot lawfully do under the United States Constitution. This knowledge is a powerful tool for achieving investigative goals. It also helps us stay out of trouble. Most importantly, it empowers us to attain the ethical standards that we have so ardently pledged, adding meaning and value to our oath of office—the promise made to a community by those who police it, the promise in exchange for which one is allowed to be a police officer.

[…]

Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense. Positive peer pressure must be normative and organizational discipline should enter the picture as necessary.

More demand for accountability and transparency grants us opportunities to build stronger relationships with our communities that enhance officer safety in the most comprehensive sense. This atmosphere expands trust and exposes the true villains in our communities. We are not soldiers fighting a war, but servant leaders striving to find a way to inspire others to be accountable and to participate actively in securing safety and prosperity for all law-abiding community members, including police officers.

You should read the whole thing here.

H/T: Prof. Sean Stoughton

More on the John Geer Shooting

From the Washington Post:

How and why Geer died that afternoon in August 2013 after police responded to a domestic dispute at his home have remained a mystery, as police and prosecutors have declined to comment on the case for 17 months. But Friday night, under a court order obtained by lawyers for the Geer family, Fairfax released more than 11,000 pages of documents that shed new light on the police shooting….

Mike Lieberman, an attorney for the Geer family, said: “If this was a similar situation involving two ordinary citizens, there is little doubt that any individual who shot an unarmed man who was holding his hands up in the air and claiming that he did not want to hurt anyone would have been arrested and charged.

“Within days of the shooting, the police department, at the highest levels, knew of the gross discrepancies between Officer Torres’s version of the events and the accounts provided by every other eyewitness.”

According to the report, the local prosecutor was unable to get information from the police department about the officer who shot Geer.  Why did the police department withhold the information?  Hmm.

Police Arrest Public Defender

San Francisco Public Defender Jami Tillotson was arrested by police officers in the hallway of a courthouse for “resisting arrest.”  The false arrest was captured on tape.  Tillotson made the work of the police inconvenient, but that is not a crime.  Yet,  it is telling that the police think it is.  And if the police are willing to arrest a public defender in a courthouse hallway while being videotaped, what sort of illegal searches, detentions, and arrests occur in the neighborhoods?

More here.

Problems in Minneapolis

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The Minneapolis Police Department must revamp its system for identifying and weeding out problem officers if it hopes to regain public confidence, according to a new U.S. Department of Justice report.

A full version of the report, prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, was released Wednesday at a community meeting at police headquarters. The study comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of police conduct, following a series of high-profile police encounters across the country….

But several speakers at the meeting said the recommendations didn’t go far enough.

Longtime civil rights activist Spike Moss said federal officials had previously intervened, but had little to show for it. He wondered whether this time would be any different.