National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month — February 2014

So for February, it was the case from Towson, Maryland, where the local police seem to think they can suspend the First Amendment.

A young man was recording a late night altercation involving arrests in downtown Towson when Baltimore County police noticed him recording, roughed him up, and threatened him with arrest if he continued to record the ongoing arrests. When the man cited the First Amendment right to record the police (which Baltimore County Police policy fully recognizes), the officer accosted him and shouted “You have no rights!”

Earlier in the recording, another officer tries to justify ordering the man to leave the scene, shouting “you diverted my attention from that… LEAVE!”  Then the officer immediately resorted to physical force to push the video recorder away from the scene.  The video shows multiple officers on the scene reacting violently to being recorded.  The fact that they are flouting the law and their department policy so willfully, while knowing they are being recorded, makes these Baltimore County police officers our prime candidates for the worst police misconduct for February.

For additional background, go here.

Texas Police Messing with the Homeless

From nbcdfw.com:

Two police officers in an oil-rich West Texas city spent weeks competing to see who could take the most cardboard signs away from homeless people, even though panhandling doesn’t violate any city law.

Nearly two months after the Midland Police Department learned of the game, the two officers were suspended for three days without pay, according to findings of the internal affairs investigation obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Advocate groups immediately blasted the department’s handling, suggesting that the punishment wasn’t harsh enough and that the probe should have been made public much earlier, before news organizations, including the AP, started asking about it….

Police Chief Price Robinson said the actions were an isolated incident in a department of 186 officers and didn’t deserve a harsher punishment. After the investigation all officers were reminded to respect individual rights and human dignity, he said.

If it doesn’t stop here, it could escalate.  Remember poor Kelly Thomas.

Poor Hispanics ‘Easy Prey’ for Corrupt Police

From the Associated Press:

KING CITY, Calif. — A California farming town was grappling Wednesday with a profound violation of trust after learning the acting police chief and a handful of officers were charged with selling or giving away the impounded cars of poor Hispanic residents and other crimes.

The misgivings had been building for some time. Investigators heard people — many unable to speak English — complain that police were taking their cars and money, and there was nothing they could do about it….

Tuesday’s arrests, which also included a former police chief, came after a six-month probe of the police department launched in September when a visiting investigator — there to check out a homicide — heard from numerous sources that the community didn’t trust its police department. By this week, authorities said they had enough evidence to arrest a total of six people linked to the department for a variety of crimes ranging from bribery to making criminal threats.

New Jersey’s Largest Police Dept Plagued with Problems

From The Star-Ledger:

The Justice Department will place the Newark Police Department under a monitor later this year, the first time in state history that a municipal police agency will operate under a federal watchdog, according to four sources familiar with the situation.

The decision follows a federal review of the way the state’s largest police force swept aside accusations of misconduct against hundreds of officers and its almost-total failure to address complaints of brutality and abuse lodged by Newark residents over the years.
The investigation began in 2011, a year after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a scathing 96-page petition with the Department of Justice, accusing Newark’s police of rampant misconduct.

The ACLU investigation found citizens filed 261 complaints with the department accusing officers of using excessive force, biased actions, improper searches or false arrests in 2008 and 2009. Only one complaint was sustained by the department.

One officer faced 62 internal affairs investigations during a 14-year career, according to the petition, while Newark shelled out nearly $5 million in response to civil lawsuits from 2007 to 2009.

Another Police Pension Racket

From NJ.com:

The Paterson police officer who has been on paid administration leave for nearly seven years over allegations he forced a female prisoner to perform oral sex on him at police headquarters could receive $70,000 in paid leave time when his impending retirement becomes official, according to a news report….With more than 25 years on the force, Avila is eligible to retire with a full pension that includes lifetime medical benefits.

Hmm.  Sometimes you have to wonder about the things that are legal and the things that are illegal.

‘A Wild West of ethical lapses’

From the Chicago Tribune:

This is Illinois, where the state-imposed ethical standards for a cosmetologist are far higher than those for a cop.

A Tribune investigation found that police departments are largely left to police their own in what can be a Wild West of ethical lapses — unlike the high standards of some other states, or even the higher standards Illinois imposes on other professions. And that reality allows Illinois officers with questionable pasts to remain in what is supposed to be among the most trusted professions….

The Tribune reported Sunday on the south suburb becoming arguably the most lawless place in the area, with chronically high violent crime rates and few arrests, and about the people who suffer as a result.

In the latest investigation, the newspaper has found that state law allowed the department to keep officers whose work records are full of allegations of wrongdoing — incidents that could have gotten them disciplined by the state if they were accountants, physical therapists or dental hygienists.

In one example, a special state panel gave a bravery award to a Harvey officer two months after he was accused of slamming a pregnant teen to the ground so severely that she miscarried. A Cook County juvenile judge later found that the officer’s explanation of what happened with the teen was not credible, according to court records. That didn’t trigger a state review.

As for the officer who shot the teen and allowed the dump, he rose to become a veteran detective in Harvey, entrusted with investigating some of the worst crimes in one of the area’s most violent communities. His bosses later disciplined him for mishandling cases, but he kept his badge.

Overseeing the detective at one point was a commander previously fired for misconduct, then rehired, only to be pushed out again after a judge forced him to reveal tattoos that suggested ties to a violent gang.