National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month — March

For March, it has to be the conspiracy to frame an innocent man, Douglas Dendinger, in Bogalusa, Louisiana.

Mr. Dendinger agreed to take on the task of a “process server.”  That is, he would hand-deliver legal papers to a person who has been sued–putting that person on notice about the legal action.  In this instance, Mr. Dendinger was to serve papers upon a former police officer, Chad Cassard, who was being sued for police brutality.  Mr. Dendinger found Mr. Cassard as he was leaving the local courthouse and made the delivery.  At that moment, Mr. Cassard was in the company of several police officers and prosecutors.  These people became hostile and furious with Mr. Dendinger over what this lawsuit would mean for their friend/colleague.

Then the story takes a bizarre and disturbing turn.  Later that day, the police arrive at Mr. Dendinger’s home and place him under arrest on several charges, including two felonies (1) obstruction of justice and (2) witness intimidation.   Mr. Cassard and a few of his cohorts claimed that Mr. Dendinger had served the papers in a violent fashion.  Mr. Dendinger was in very serious legal trouble.  He was looking at many years in prison.

Fortunately, a cell phone video of the “incident” emerged.  Turns out, Mr. Dendinger did nothing wrong.  All he did was peacefully hand-deliver an envelope to Mr. Cassard.  The charges were then dropped.

But we now know that local police and prosecutors leveled false accusations about what happened that day.   Had the case proceeded to trial, it would have been Mr. Dendinger’s word against several witnesses with law enforcement backgrounds.  A jury would have been hard pressed to disbelieve several witnesses who claimed to see the same thing.  A miscarriage of justice was narrowly averted.

The cell phone video exposes an outrageous criminal conspiracy by officials in Bogalusa.  More here.

Philadelphia Police Shootings

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Roughly once a week, 390 times over the past eight years, Philadelphia police officers opened fire at a suspect. The shootings involved 454 officers, most of them on patrol. Almost always, the suspects were black. Often, the officers were, too.

Fifty-nine suspects were unarmed. Officers frequently said they thought the men — and they were almost always men — were reaching for a weapon, when they were actually doing something like holding a cellphone.

The statistics were laid out in a Justice Department report on Monday, which does not allege racial discrimination but offers an unusually deep look at the use of lethal force inside a major city police department, including information on the race of officers and suspects. It is the kind of data that has been nearly absent from the debate over police tactics that began last summer with a deadly shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

Only a handful of major departments regularly publish statistics on police shootings, and those that do are not always consistent. That makes comparing the records of police departments difficult. But even with such spotty figures, Philadelphia stands out when compared with the public data in other cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In many years, Philadelphia saw more police shootings than New York, a city with five times the number of residents and officers.

“I want to express regrets for all who have been shot and killed in Philadelphia — civilian and police officers,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said at a news conference Monday.

The Martese Johnson Case

From the Chicago Tribune:

Virginia’s governor has ordered an investigation into the arrest of a black college student from Chicago seen in photos and video with a bloody face as he was held down by an officer..

Martese Johnson, a 2012 graduate of Kenwood Academy, was charged with obstruction of justice without force and public swearing or intoxication, according to Charlottesville General District Court records.

An attorney for Johnson, Daniel P. Watkins, said Johnson was discharged from the hospital after receiving stitches.

About 1,000 students gathered at the University of Virginia campus Wednesday night to demand justice for Johnson, who attended  the event flanked by classmates.

Quick and prudent move by the governor to have the state police, an independent agency, investigate this incident.

The Natasha McKenna Case

Washington Post editorial:

THE FIGHT went out of Natasha McKenna shortly after she was shot at least four times with a Taser stun gun by sheriff’s deputies at the Fairfax County jail on Feb. 3. She rapidly lost consciousness and, five days later, died.

We have asked Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid whether her office is reviewing its policy on the use of stun guns. She won’t say. We have asked if her office is reassessing the need for crisis intervention training, which, as a candidate for the position she now holds, she dismissed. She won’t say.

Has the sheriff’s office learned any lessons from Ms. McKenna’s death? Sheriff Kincaid won’t say. Has it taken steps to avoid repeating such an incident? The sheriff won’t say. Have the deputies involved been disciplined in any way? Is this really the best the sheriff’s office can do?

So far, the authorities in Fairfax are silent.

Secret Service Agents Under Investigation

From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration is investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents, including a top member of the president’s protective detail, drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late-night party last week, an agency official said Wednesday.

Officers on duty who witnessed the March 4 incident wanted to arrest the agents and conduct sobriety tests, according to a current and a former government official familiar with the incident. But the officers were ordered by a supervisor on duty that night to let the agents go home.

Hmm.

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.