National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Problems in San Diego

From NBCSanDiego.com:

The San Diego Police Department enforced an “unwritten policy” that encouraged police misconduct and led to scandals involving former officers Anthony Arevalos and Christopher Hays, a new lawsuit against the department alleges….

The lawsuit claims officers felt they could get away with such inappropriate behavior after former SDPD Chief William Lansdowne and other officials disbanded the anti-corruption unit called the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) around 2003.

“The elimination of the PSU, this specialized unit, was a signal and affirmation to the SDPD, its police officers and its supervisory officials that those police officers who chose to exploit their positions of power, authority and trust by victimizing members of the very community they had sworn to protect would not be investigated, prosecuted, pursued or punished for their actions,” the lawsuit reads.

As an example, the court document claims another officer reported to his supervisors that Arevalos had taken Polaroid pictures of a nude, mentally disabled woman, taunting her to pose in a lewd manner with his baton.

Instead of punishing Arevalos or reporting the incident up the chain of command, the lawsuit claims his superiors instead destroyed the pictures and evidence of the incident and intimidated the officer who had reported it.

The lawsuit says the alleged cover-up is part of a “long-standing, unwritten SDPD policy that encouraged a two-tiered system of justice.”

That system includes laws that apply to ordinary citizens and a set of privileges and immunities that apply to SDPD officers and other members of the law enforcement community, according to the suit.

Additionally, the SDPD is accused of instituting a process that prevented the public from lodging complaints against officers directly with the internal affairs unit.

$40 Million Settlement in NY Central Park Case

From the New York Times:

The five men whose convictions in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park were later overturned have agreed to a settlement of about $40 million from New York City to resolve a bitterly fought civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment in the sensational crime.

The agreement, reached between the city’s Law Department and the five plaintiffs, would bring to an end an extraordinary legal battle over a crime that came to symbolize a sense of lawlessness in New York, amid reports of “wilding” youths and a marauding “wolf pack” that set its sights on a 28-year-old investment banker who ran in the park many evenings after work….

The five black and Hispanic men, ages 14 to 16 at the time of their arrests, claimed that incriminating statements they had given had been coerced by the authorities. The statements were ruled admissible, and the men were convicted in two separate trials in 1990….

The lawsuit had accused the city’s police and prosecutors of false arrest, malicious prosecution and a racially motivated conspiracy to deprive the men of their civil rights, allegations which the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg denied and fought vigorously for more than a decade in federal court….

If the proposed settlement is approved by the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, it would then be submitted for approval to Judge Deborah A. Batts of Federal District Court in Manhattan. In 2007, Judge Batts rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the suit and allowed most of the claims to proceed.

In such settlements, the city typically does not admit liability or wrongdoing

SWAT officer involved with drugs, prostitution, and illegal slush fund

From KOMONews.com:

SEATTLE — A King County Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested Thursday on suspicion of helping his wife start a prostitution business, as well as stealing ammunition from the Sheriff’s Office firing range and dabbling in a number of illegal drugs.

Seattle resident Darrion Holiwell, 49, is being held in King County Jail on $150,000 bail. He has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1995 and was a member of the department’s SWAT unit and its chief firearms instructor until his arrest.

According to the charges filed Thursday in King County Superior, Holiwell has been violating the public trust and the law for years, with the charging documents stating he “displays a high level of disdain for the very law he has sworn to uphold.”

Note that the corruption was not exposed by an Internal Affairs investigation.  It came to light during divorce proceedings.  And the divorce happened because Holiwell slept with a friend of his then-wife.  Had the corrupt officer only stayed away from his wife’s close friends, it seems like the corruption would have persisted for many more years.

Woman Jailed 28 Days Before Police Admit Their Mistake

From the Florida Times Union:

They’ve done it again.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has arrested the wrong person.

This time, the sheriff’s office extradited Ashley Nicole Chiasson, a 28-year-old single mother of two, from her home state of Louisiana in January and jailed her for 28 days before being convinced they had the wrong person.

Then during a previously scheduled May status hearing related to the charge that was being dropped, Chiasson was wrongly arrested again in a different case.

Twice?  Good grief.

Policing for Profit in Atlanta?

From WSB-TV:

Numbers show police and Park Atlanta are issuing nearly double the number of tickets from years prior.

Park Atlanta wrote 141,000 tickets in 2010 and two years later, wrote 221,000, according to documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News.  The city received thousands of dollars in ticket revenue, but Mayor Kasim Reed said money was not the motivation for the increase.

“The ticket and traffic enforcement process is actually a tool in combating crime. One of the off-shoots of that is you do have an increase in revenue,” Kasim said.

Atlanta resident Joe Williams say he remembers Reed telling Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne three years ago that this would happen.

“Police will be issuing more tickets to keep more people safe,” Reed said.

Williams said he wonders if the push for more tickets is just an easy chance to increase the city’s revenue.

“I thought the purpose of police departments was supposed to be to serve and protect, and not ticket and arrest,” Williams said.

Hundreds of Misconduct Complaints Not Investigated

From the Los Angeles Times:

The head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal government’s largest law enforcement workforce, was removed from his post Monday amid criticism that he failed to investigate hundreds of allegations of inappropriate use of force by armed border agents, officials said….

For years, Customs and Border Protection officials have refused to tell families of those injured or killed by border agents if internal affairs had determined that an agent had acted improperly, or if any disciplinary action was taken.

Between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013, for example, at least 22 people were killed by Border Patrol agents, mostly on the Southwest border, and many more were injured. Hundreds of immigrants and others filed formal complaints of official misconduct, including beatings, sexual abuse and other assaults.

Only 14 agents were disciplined during that four-year period for violating use of force policies, according to data provided to The Times on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

 

Cop Tries to Steal From Make-a-Wish Recipient

From wreg.com:

A bizarre crime lands a Memphis police officer in jail. Police say Ronald Harris, while off-duty, tried to rob a woman at the Memphis International Airport. According to the police report, he also injured a family member of a Make-A-Wish recipient who tried to stop him.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation gave a family a credit card so they could travel and make a wish come true. From the police report, it seems Harris was after that money….

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. Police say children were present when this alleged crime happened.

USA a War Zone?

From the Indianapolis Star:

“We don’t have a lot of mines in Johnson County,” confessed Sheriff Doug Cox, who acquired the vehicle. “My job is to make sure my employees go home safe.”

Johnson County is one of eight Indiana law enforcement agencies to acquire MRAPs from military surplus since 2010, according to public records obtained by The Indianapolis Star. The vehicles are among a broad array of 4,400 items — everything from coats to computers to high-powered rifles — acquired by police and sheriff’s departments across the state….

“The United States of America has become a war zone,” he said. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

But, to some, the introduction of equipment designed for war in Fallujah, Iraq, to the streets of U.S. towns and cities raises questions about the militarization of civilian police departments. Will it make police inappropriately aggressive? Does it blur the line between civilian police and the military?

And from the New York Times on broader trend around the country:

Pentagon data suggest how the police are arming themselves for such worst-case scenarios. Since 2006, the police in six states have received magazines that carry 100 rounds of M-16 ammunition, allowing officers to fire continuously for three times longer than normal. Twenty-two states obtained equipment to detect buried land mines.

In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.

To protect us against the returning veterans?  Hmm.

For related Cato work, go here, here, and here.

Mayor Moves to Assist a Disgraced Officer

From NBC10.com:

The Mayor of Vineland, New Jersey is at the center of controversy after he reportedly ordered that all charges be dismissed against a disgraced former police officer.

Former Vineland Police Detective Gamaliel “Gami” Cruz was fired two years ago after investigators discovered that he lied to a judge while trying to secure a search warrant.

Cumberland County prosecutors moved to drop the charges against 39 defendants — which in most cases involved drug offenses — because Cruz’s testimony would have been needed to carry on with the prosecutions.

Officials said the dismissals were necessary “in the interest of justice.”

Cruz was suspended and then fired from the Vineland Police force in 2012.

Two years later however, Cruz could possibly be rehired after Vineland Mayor Ruben Bermudez issued an order on May 21 which dismissed all the charges against the ex-officer, according to the Daily Journal.

Former Vineland Mayor Robert Romano told NBC10 he was outraged.

“To rehire this guy without being ordered by a judge is a travesty to the city of Vineland,” Romano said.

Trouble in the LA Jail System

From the Los Angeles Times:

The deputy described beating inmates unprovoked, slapping them, shooting them with a Taser gun and aggressively searching them to pick a fight — something he learned “on the job.” He would huddle with other jail guards to get their stories straight and write up reports with bogus scenarios justifying the brutality. If the inmate had no visible injuries, he wouldn’t report the use of force, period..

He did all this with impunity, former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Michel testified Tuesday, knowing that even if inmates reported the abuse it “wouldn’t go anywhere.” If they were to put it in writing and drop it in a complaint box, it was his fellow deputies who opened that box too….

From the witness stand, Michel, broad-shouldered with short-cropped hair, described a culture among deputies guarding the high-security floors of the jails that led to excessive force and frequent coverups. He matter-of-factly recounted incidents in which he said he and at least five other sheriff’s employees brutalized inmates on the third, or “3000,” floor of Men’s Central Jail, then falsified reports to legitimize their actions.