National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Blue on Blue Confrontation on NJ Turnpike

We don’t usually post on police misconduct that involves violations of police dept rules and protocols, such as using police vehicles for personal use or things like that.  This video involves a state trooper who is checking out plainclothes officers from Bergen County because there have been some cases of criminals impersonating cops in his area recently.  The plainclothes officers are outraged–wait till around the 6-7 minute mark for the fireworks.  Here’s the thing–if the plainclothes officers lose their temper in these circumstances and treat a fellow officer like this, one can only imagine how they deal with ordinary civilians.

More here.

‘Humane Officer’ Shoots the Kittens

A woman called the police department to complain about a family of cats was making a home in her wood pile in the backyard.  The woman was astonished by the responding officer’s conduct:

From Cleveland.com:

“He informed her that shelters were full and that these cats would be going to kitty heaven,” Landon said of Accorti. “She assumed he would be trapping them or something and taking them to a shelter and they would be humanely euthanized if they were not adopted.

“Instead, he went to his truck and got a gun, which she thought was a tranquilizer gun, and walked around to the back of the house and approximately 15 feet from her back door shot and killed the 8- to 10-week-old kittens . . .

“She was very distraught when this happened. He started shooting them right in front of her. Her children were upstairs in view of the windows. They started screaming and crying because they heard the gunshots. They started screaming, ‘Mommy, he’s killing the kittens,’ ” Landon said.

The police chief said the officer acted properly.

Show ‘COPS’ – 25 Years on TV

From the American Conservative:

The show “COPS” is celebrating its 25th season on television, the opening strains of its signature opener as familiar as the images of mascara-stained prostitutes, half-naked wife beaters, and obscured faces of a thousand different men, planted in the asphalt by the boot of Johnny Law himself.

After all these years, the gratuitous flash of  “viewer discretion advised,” followed by the COPS trademark and the peal of sirens, still marks a half hour of testosterone-fueled, fast food entertainment, or a prompt to quickly change the channel, depending on who’s on the other side of the remote control.

For teenagers, voyeurs, and red-blooded law-and-order types who’ve made this show one of the longest running in American history, the pioneer cinéma vérité format ratifies the correct order of things—beginning smartly with heroes and villains, and ending with the crank of handcuffs and the door of a squad car slamming on another case, closed. …

“What disturbs me is that the audience is led to believe that they’re getting a fair peek at ‘real policing,’ but they don’t realize they’re seeing a distorted picture,” said Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, who guesses among the throwaways are “awful mistakes, incompetence, or misconduct.”

Arrested on suspicion of maybe, possibly, about to cause a disturbance

News item from Great Britain:

A PARKINSON’S sufferer who was arrested during the Olympic cycle races in Surrey has questioned why he was dragged to the ground for “not smiling”.

Mark Worsfold, 54, was sat on a wall in Leatherhead as the riders approached at around 3pm on Saturday, July 28 – but officers decided his manner was a cause for concern, and he was hauled off to Reigate police station.

Not possible in the USA?   Similar legal trend may be at work over here:

A dramatic new way to track criminals and potential terrorists was unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

It melds cameras, computers and data bases capable of nabbing bad guys before they even know they’re under suspicion.

Crime and terrorism “prevention” sound like good ideas because the concept implies that a crime was thwarted before anyone got hurt, but it can also mean that people get detained and arrested for … nothing.

Help James Fix His Laptop

RAISED SO FAR: $60 of $60

NEEDED: $0.00

THANKS EVERYONE!

UPDATE: The new drive arrived Friday and I was able to meet with James, fix the laptop, and return it to him with a new OS and the applications he needed by Sunday morning. Thanks again for everyone’s help, we both appreciate it! -06/21/10

As I mentioned previously, I need help to fix a laptop for James. I’ll need about $60.00 for the part he needs to get it running again and we already have $18.00 towards that total thanks to one reader who donated already.

So, if you want to help, just click the donate button to the left and in the comment section of the donation screen just put “For James” and I’ll add it to the total. Once I get enough I’ll arrange to fix his laptop and get him what he needs to help him find work.

If the total goes over for whatever reason I’ll offer refunds on donations over the amount needed.

Thanks for your generosity.

UPDATE: Another $20 added to the tally, Thank You!

Also, I have to go and cover a shift working the door at a local pub tonight, so if you donate later and don’t see an update right away, that’s why. As I said, any extra raised will be refunded.

UPDATE 2: We’ve reached our goal. I’ll let James know! Thanks everyone!

Friday Miscellany

Since I have a little free time, but not much since I’m WAY behind on managing the NPMSRP database, I thought it would be good to talk about a few things…

A Request…

First, some of our long-time readers may remember James, a former IT professional who was convicted on drug charges based entirely on the word of a deputy who was later fired for dishonesty about another drug bust and how James later had his wrongful conviction overturned thanks, in a small part, to the article we wrote about his case.

Some might also remember that he’s still struggling with homelessness and a lack of job opportunities since, even though the conviction against him was dismissed, it’s still on his record and that our readers stepped up to help him out by supplying him with a laptop.

Well, he’s let us know that the hard drive for that laptop has failed and he needs help getting a new one so he can keep looking for work and brushing up his IT skills in hopes that efforts to get his record expunged finally pay off. So, if you think you can help out with that, send me a message and I’ll relay it to him. Thanks!

And A Question…

Speaking of being jobless and helping people out, something happened on my way home from turning in my equipment to my now-former employer that has been bugging me… so I have a question for the readers here that doesn’t have too much to do with police misconduct for once…

So, anyway, as a few of you might know, this whole thing started when one of my attempts at doing a good deed ended very badly for me a few years ago… so badly in fact that my wife has been insisting that I get a tattoo that reads “No good deed shall go unpunished” someplace on my anatomy where I would see it often and be reminded to think twice before doing good deeds.

Anyway, so I was walking to my bus stop to catch a bus home and saw a man stumble and fall in the middle of a busy 4-lane road. There were other people around who saw it too, along with several motorists, but everyone stood there even when it was obvious the guy was having trouble getting back up.

So, what do I do? I start running out to help the guy up and get him across the street… which I did after he stumbled and fell again across the far 2 lanes of the road. He ended up being ok aside from some scrapes and being a bit disoriented from hitting his head when he fell so I sat with him for a while to make sure he was alright. He ended up that he wasn’t drunk or anything, but he was having some sort of vision problem that his doctors are trying to figure out, so his depth perception wasn’t there anymore.

Now, the punishment for this good deed was just a bit of an inconvenience as I missed my bus and had to wait for the next one, so no big deal… but I’ve been wondering, especially since nobody else went out to help him… was I wrong to do that?

So, my question to all of you is whether you would have done the same thing if you were in my shoes? If not, why?

Be honest now…
[poll id=”23″]

So, that’s it for today for now… thanks for reading!

Reader Poll – Is It Police Misconduct?

[poll id=”19″]

Today has been a busy day on the National Police Misconduct News Feed, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about a couple reports that I’m having a bit of trouble with in regard to determining whether or not they qualify as police misconduct for the purposes of our National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.

If you weren’t aware, we track reports of police misconduct for the purpose of creating statistical and trending data about police misconduct in order to help determine if patterns can be discernible about police misconduct from media reports. A part of that process of tracking reports involves determining if the report is credible and if the report qualifies as misconduct by NPMSRP standards.

First, we don’t include minor policy infractions or incidents where there wasn’t intent or clear negligence that was in violation of law, constitutional rights, or departmental policy. Also, we don’t include reports that would be considered as minor internal policy infractions such as not having one’s uniform tucked in or being late to work.

Simply put, we add reports of incidents that would pose a risk to, or result in, injuries to property, persons, or an individual’s rights… even if that individual is a police officer (which means we include most reports of lawsuits filed by police against their own departments).

With that in mind, three reports today are in the fuzzy area for me, seemingly existing between being misconduct and not. So I thought it would be a good time to explain how we qualify a report as misconduct and see what our readers viewed misconduct to see if it’s in line with how the project is set up.

  1. First, in Lebanon Tennessee, two police officers are under investigation after one of them fatally shot a suspect after a car chase when his partner slipped and accidentally fired his gun, apparently mistakenly thinking that the gunshot was due to the suspect opening fire. So, is this just a bizarre and tragic accident where a suspect, who did lead police on a chase, unnecessarily lost his life or is it an act of negligence? While I did add it to the feed after the person who told us about the story said it’s being investigated as a policy violation, I’m still not sure about it… but what do you think? Is it misconduct?
  2. Second, the city of Camden New Jersey settled a lawsuit for $2.25 million to the families of 3 boys who were found dead in the trunk of a car where they were last spotted playing before police were called when they went missing. The basis of the suit was that police were negligent and didn’t follow proper search procedure when they started the search and didn’t look in the trunk of that car whereas if they did go by the book, the kids would have been found before they died, which was estimated to take about 13 hours after they got stuck in the trunk. I’m not sure about this one as it’s not clear why the families didn’t think to look in the trunk too and if it really was spelled out in policy to check the trunks of nearby cars when kids go missing. I don’t know, do you think this was police misconduct?
  3. Third, A Seattle Washington police detective is suing his own department for allegedly maligning him when he was arrested in South Dakota after he shot an alleged member of the Hells Angels during a bar fight while he was there off-duty as a member of the Iron Pigs motorcycle club. He’s claiming that he never would have been charged with a crime if the police department didn’t accidentally report that the firearm used in the shooting was a departmentally issued firearm… which it was at one time until the detective bought it from the department. While he was charged in the incident, those charges were later dismissed once the issue of the firearm was cleared up. So, is the detective’s own police department involved in an act of misconduct against the detective for mistakenly reporting that the gun was department issue? What do you think?

Now, before you vote I do want you to consider that the strength of the statistical data we develop is dependent on the strength of the underlying data we use to generate those statistics. If someone could go through our list of reports and point out a bunch of questionable or weak reports and say we’re biased and point to those as proof, then the project is worthless.

This is why gathering the data we use has to be a manual process and why that process is very labor-intensive. Each report has to be reviewed and I have to measure that report against our criteria to make sure that, when people read the reports we gather each day, it’s pretty clear cut that it’s really police misconduct we’re talking about and not just griping or biased cop-bashing.

Remember, a majority of people in the US don’t believe that police misconduct even happens, let alone that it might be a problem worth looking into. So it’s not like I can just put any old report up there and say it’s misconduct and expect it to be accepted as such. People need to look at the reports themselves and step away saying, “That really is police misconduct.”

So… what do you think? Were those reports cases of police misconduct?

Midweek Miscellany

Well folks, the month of March is just about over and, let me tell you, it really kept marching on and on. Our National Police Misconduct News Feed captured nearly 540 reports of police misconduct this month and I still have to sort through over 300 of those reports to categorize and classify those reports before I can merge those into the Q1 list, cross-check the 1,300+ reports in that total Q1 2010 list with the 3,446 reports in the total 2009 aggregate to weed out duplicates and status updates, and then begin the long process of generating statistical information from that remaining data to create our NPMSRP Q1 Police Misconduct Statistical Report…

That’s over 4,700 reports for me to sort through that we tracked since April 2009 by the way… which is one year’s worth of tracking. I guess that means April will be the NPMSRP’s one year anniversary/birthday. Yay us…

Needless to say, it’s going to be a while before the Q1 statistical report comes out, probably sometime around mid-April unless I get lucky and get a lot of free time one of these weekends.

Speaking of reports, I’m probably going to stop doing the daily reviews. Believe it or not those take me about 2.5 hours to create each night, which means I generally don’t get to bed until 3:30-4:00 in the morning, only to wake up about 3-4 hours later for a brand new day at my day job and of tending the news feed. If you’re wondering why my writing has been suffering lately, sleep deprivation may have a tad bit to do with it. Besides, those daily reports don’t seem to be very popular anyway and may give new visitors the false impression that we’re just a news aggregation site.

I’ve been thinking of new ways to format and present our statistical reports and part of my idea is to present them as PDFs instead of regular blog posts. It’s just a thought I’m toying with, just like that who podcast idea that I may or may not try out… I do want to make the statistical reports easier to read and more “attention-grabbing” so that people read them all the way through instead of stopping before they get to the meaty bits. We’ll see.

You know, one of the more difficult aspects of doing this project is that I do it alone and, for the most part, don’t have anyone that I can really talk with about it. While my wife knows what I’m doing and supports it, she generally doesn’t want to hear about the police misconduct I read and write about because that stuff really upsets her… especially since it reminds her of what we went through when I became a victim of it. So today it was interesting when she asked me what was going on with the site today and I started running down the list of reports that we tracked today… she was pretty stunned not just by the types of bad things police do sometimes, but at the number of reports we track each day… to which she said “there shouldn’t be 20 reports a month, let alone a day!”

I wonder… how many of you readers feel the same way? Are you surprised and stunned at the number of police misconduct reports we track? Does it overwhelm you or do you think it’s not really that bad?

Let me know in the comment section, I’d be interested in what all of you think. (I’d ask via a poll but that feature is still busted from our outage earlier this month, I haven’t had time to troubleshoot it).

Anyway, until next time, stay safe out there!

News Feed Note

The National Police Misconduct News Feed is going to be a bit sporadic today as I will be at a site for work today and may not be able to keep it updated. I’ll do my best to get it caught up when I have a chance, and you can help by sending any stories of police misconduct you find that you think haven’t been on the news feed yet to news@policemisconduct.net

Thanks!

Weekend Miscellany

Weekends are notoriously slow news cycles so there isn’t much work involved with tending the news feed, so I figured it would be a good time to talk about some of the issues we spotted that didn’t qualify for being on the news feed lately.

Looking at ourselves in a distorted mirror

First, some might recall when I talked about how China had created a mock-up human rights report for the US in response to the US report on human rights conditions in all the nations in the world… excluding the US. I mentioned that China could have done a better job fact-checking their information, especially where they discussed police misconduct.

Well, the US, by way of Hillary Clinton’s State Department, answered the criticism by promising to write a report on the human rights situation in the US and claims that they are going across the country to talk with different rights activists and groups about the information they feel should go into that report…

Interestingly enough our site did get a hit from the US State Department computer network, but it was only a brief one and, as I’m sure you guessed, I haven’t received an invite to any of these cross-country information gathering events. However, I didn’t really expect one. Given the Clintons’ history as avid supporters of law enforcement, including a controversial pro-police campaign stop during Hillary’s bid for president, and that the current Vice President, Joe Biden, is known for his efforts as a senator to push for laws that would hide police misconduct from the public… or even current president Obama’s, at best, mixed record on civil liberties.

All things considered, it’s a sure bet that Clinton’s State Department will do it’s best to show the state of law enforcement in the US in the best possible light in their self-reporting of human rights in the US, even if other human rights concerns get fair treatment.

Yet another city questions why arbitration always favors bad cops

The Shreveport Times in Louisiana published an article today about how their arbitration system has overturned disciplinary action in over half the cases of police misconduct challenged by the police union. The article reads disturbingly similar to all the other articles I’ve read about the use of arbitrators to challenge disciplinary actions in response to police misconduct.

As we noted before, this is not a localized issue, it’s the same wherever police unions have been able to push for the use of arbitration to settle matters of police discipline. This is because of the nature of arbitration itself and how arbitrators are trained to do whatever they can to salvage the employee’s job.

There’s an inherent bias in the arbitration system that makes police officers the most difficult type of employees to discipline in the US and, conversely, the type of employee that can cause the most damage to society when they are not disciplined… and it’s a problem all over the US, not just in Shreveport Louisiana.

Does this mean we should put felons on juries too?

The lawyer for former BART police officer Johannes Mehersle, who is facing a murder trial for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back while he was restrained on the floor of a train station, has petitioned to force the judge in the case to allow police officers to serve on the jury panel for Mehserle’s trial, claiming that police are his peers and should serve in the jury.

Police are generally excluded from jury service as they are considered biased in criminal trials since it’s their jobs to put suspects (note I don’t say criminals) in jail. In this case the bias would be reversed considering many law enforcement officers believe in the concept of professional courtesy and a culture that believes it’s wrong to rat on a fellow officer, some of which to an extent where they would never consider arresting or reporting a fellow officer for any crime.

But, what will be interesting is that if the judge granted this request based on the idea that police officers are a police officer’s only real peer, does that mean police officers are their own special class of citizens in the US with their own bill of rights and their own seperate, more lenient, justice system… or at least official recognition of this practical fact. Or will it allow defense attorneys in criminal trials to look at this trial as precedence to demand that only other people who were arrested and charged with crimes are a suspect’s true peers? Will this mean juvenile suspects can get kids to serve on juries for their trials too?

Yeah, probably none of the above, but it’s an interesting box of worms.

Good Cop v Bad Cop: Bad Cop Wins

An interesting story from the Chicago Reader this week examined what happened to two Oak Park Illinois police officers who reported corruption within their department… as you might guess, they were made into outcasts and cannot work any longer as they fear for their lives. Of course, this isn’t just an Oak Park problem, it’s systemic within the whole of America’s police culture that you just don’t rat on a fellow cop.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, this is a story that repeats itself all over the US, time and time again… in Colorado, in New York, in Minnesota, in Montana, in Oregon, in Washington, in Pennsylvania, in Alabama, in California, in Idaho, in Kentucky, etc…

The point is, retaliation against officers for reporting misconduct is rampant and occurs all across the US… and if we cannot protect police officers who report police misconduct, how can victims expect fair treatment when they report incidents of misconduct? This is why under reporting of police misconduct is such a problem in the US… we know this because even our own project gets several reports a month from individuals that we can’t report because they are afraid to come forward publicly.

That’s it for today folks, I have a lot of work to do, even on a Sunday… so, in the meantime, stay safe out there.