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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Fairfax Officer Charged w/Murder

From the Washington Post:

A former Fairfax County police officer was charged with second-degree murder Monday, nearly two years after he shot and killed an unarmed Springfield man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home.

The indictment of Adam D. Torres in the killing of 46-year-old John Geer, who had a holstered gun at his feet when he was shot, marks the first time in the 75-year history of the Fairfax County Police Department that an officer has faced criminal prosecution in connection with an on-duty shooting.

Geer’s slaying in August 2013 sparked protests, shook trust in law enforcement and prompted county officials to begin a broad review of the department’s use of force and the way it communicates with the public about police shootings.

Reporter Tom Jackman with the Post has been following this case from the beginning and has done excellent work.

Update on the John Geer Case

Today, former Fairfax County, Virginia officer Adam Torres was indicted for second-degree murder for fatally shooting John Geer.

According to the statements of several other law enforcement officials at the scene, Geer was unarmed at the time of the shooting and had his hands up. However, that information took 17 months to be released and Torres wasn’t terminated until last month, just shy of the two-year anniversary of Geer’s death. The Washington Post and others repeatedly excoriated the Fairfax County government for the unexplained delays and secrecy surrounding the case.

According to today’s Post story, Torres is the first officer from Fairfax County to be criminally charged for a shooting on duty in the department’s 75-year history.

You can read our past coverage of the Geer case here. As always, we will be tracking this and other cases here, on our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-11-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, August 11, 2015:

  • Omaha, Nebraska: An officer was arrested for domestic assault. ow.ly/QKZ3N
  • Update: New Orleans, Louisiana (First reported 01-14-15): An officer has been arrested a second time for domestic violence. His first arrest was in January. ow.ly/QKZoA
  • Lawton, Oklahoma: An officer was arrested for driving to work drunk.  ow.ly/QL0TS
  • Update: Carrollton, Kentucky (First reported 06-02-15): The police chief and another officer were indicted on kidnapping and obstruction charges for putting a mentally ill inmate on a bus to Florida with a one-way ticket. ow.ly/QLL67
  • Update: Put-in-Bay, Ohio (First reported 03-03-15): The chief was fired by city council amid several allegations of misconduct in office. ow.ly/QLLAy
  • Update: Hillview, Kentucky (First reported 10-02-13): The now-former chief was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $5,000 for lying to FBI about a meth lab. ow.ly/QLVwB
  • Update: Huntsville, Alabama (First reported 11-20-12): An officer was found guilty of using excessive force against a suspect and attempting to cover it up. ow.ly/QMbNV
  • Decatur, Alabama: An officer was cleared after an internal investigation. He fired a gun at an unarmed man while serving an arrest warrant in the man’s home. ow.ly/QMqaw
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: An officer was charged with assault for an incident caught on camera. ow.ly/QMtwp

2015 Police Shootings

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Washington Post ran a lengthy article about its tracking of fatal police shootings this year.

Excerpt:

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Check out the Cato event from last year, Lessons from Ferguson.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 08-06-15

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, August 6, 2015:

  • Boscawen, New Hampshire: A now-former officer has been arrested for sexual assault of a minor. He is now police chief in Canterbury.  ow.ly/Qxte2
  • Konawa, Oklahoma: Two officers were arrested for firing weapons from a moving vehicle. ow.ly/QxJBv
  • Glen Rock, New Jersey: A detective assigned to child protection was accused of sending nude pics to young girls under his watch. ow.ly/QyhJt
  • Checotah, Oklahoma: A K9 officer was arrested for stealing drugs.ow.ly/QyhQw
  • Huntington Park and South Gate, California: Four officers were arrested for abusing 13 children at a police-run boot camp. ow.ly/Qyi0w
  • Wichita, Kansas: The City settled a lawsuit for $325,000. A man claimed he was beaten by officer after parking in a handicapped spot. ow.ly/Qyish
  • Rohnert Park, California: An officer pulled his gun on a man who was recording him. The department is investigating the incident. http://ow.ly/Qz1m1
  • Seattle, Washington: An officer was fired for dishonesty and false reporting. The 31-year-veteran had a documented history of misconduct and dishonesty. http://ow.ly/Qz1Qi
  • Athens-Clarke County, Georgia: A deputy was fired and charged with assault for actions during an arrest of a UGA student. http://ow.ly/Qz2Ae

Worst of the Month — July

For July, it was the case from Akron, Ohio.  Officer Eric Paull worked as a sergeant for the Akron Police Department.  He also taught a course on criminal justice at the University of Akron.  One of his students was a single mom.  According to news reports, the woman (name withheld) says they started a romantic relationship.  But after a year or so, that relationship turned ugly and violent.  After he beat her up on a Thanksgiving holiday, Paull told her that he was legally “untouchable.”

She believed him–so she did not file a complaint right away.  Instead, she just tried to avoid him.  But Paull stalked her and her boyfriends, using police databases to discover addresses, phone numbers, and vehicle information.  Paull would also text pictures of himself holding his gun.  There were threats to kill the woman and her boyfriend.  The woman did lodge complaints with the police and would later obtain a protective order, but the police department seemed indifferent.  Paull would not stop.

Finally, after months of harassment, Paull was charged with stalking, aggravated menacing, felonious assault, and burglary, among other charges.  His trial is expected to begin in a few weeks.

Paul Hlynsky, the police union leader, says he will try to have Paull back on the police force if he can avoid a felony conviction.

More from the Guardian on Homan Square

For several months, the Guardian (US) has been running an exposé of Homan Square, a virtual domestic “black site” in Chicago. People who have been detained and interrogated there allege improper conditions, illegal treatment, and unconstitutional denial of defense counsel. Today’s installment, by Spencer Ackerman and Zach Stafford, uncovers a dramatic racial disparity in those brought into this facility:

At least 3,500 Americans have been detained inside a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, newly uncovered records reveal.

Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from an attorney, according to a cache of documents obtained when the Guardian sued the police.

Despite repeated denials from the Chicago police department that the warehouse is a secretive, off-the-books anomaly, the Homan Square files begin to show how the city’s most vulnerable people get lost in its criminal justice system.

The Chicago police department has maintained – even as the Guardian reported stories of people being shackled and held for hours or even days, all without legal access – that the warehouse is not a secret facility so much as an undercover police base operating in plain sight.

The numbers, if true, indicate that the lack of access to counsel is standard practice:

Despite the quadruple-digit number of arrestees held at Homan Square, the Chicago police proffered only three arrestees receiving visits from lawyers between 3 September 2004 and 1 July 2015. Two of them occurred on the same day in January 2013.

Unless approximately 3,500 people in custody waived their right to counsel, the revelation complicates – if not contradicts – the police’s March statement that “any individual who wishes to consult a lawyer will not be interrogated until they have an opportunity to do so”.

The piece is well worth reading in full here. Past installments can be found at the Guardian website here.

 

Points for “Some” Honesty

Countless reports on this website include stories of police officers refusing to enforce the law against family or colleagues when they have committed a crime. Sometimes the offense is a DUI, other times it is drug dealing. Covering up a crime is not only a rules violation but sometimes a crime in itself. Either way, it is police misconduct. Except, apparently, in Methuen, Massachusetts.

The Boston Globe reports that applicants to the Methuen police department were awarded points for saying they would not arrest a family member or fellow officer for DUI. When called to testify about the practice, the officers responsible for reviewing the applications were surprisingly forthcoming.  According to the Globe:

“I’m looking for some bearing, some honesty, and how quickly the person can think on their feet,” Police Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo testified.

But Pappalardo also said he wouldn’t believe anyone who claimed they would arrest their family and friends. And when candidates said they wouldn’t arrest family or fellow officers, the hiring panel noted the person “knows discretion.”

While police officers are granted considerable discretion in how strictly to enforce the laws–such as issuing a verbal warning for speeding instead of issuing a ticket or putting someone in a cab who is drunk instead of booking them for public intoxication–favoritism is an ethical breach of that discretion. Such “professional courtesy” effectively insulates police officers and their families from the law. Put another way, favoritism places them above the law.

Unfortunately, the practice is quite common. The Globe story recounts the findings of a 2008 Civil Service Commission report:

“Every police officer who testified before the commission testified that the routine and customary practice when a stop is made on a fellow police officer, is to show professional courtesy and not call in the stop,” the report said.

Police officers should have more than “some” honesty to maintain the public trust. Read the whole thing here.

 

The Pool Party in McKinney, Texas

 

The video has gone viral.  Most of the talk seems to be about the way in which the officer took the teenage girl to the ground to handcuff her, but it is when he brandishes his handgun (deadly force) that is most disturbing.

More here from the Washington Post:

A police officer slams an unarmed 15-year-old girl in a bikini to the ground, pulls his gun and kneels on her as teens on either side of him shout and, of course, record the encounter. Within hours, millions watch the video: Some see a defenseless black teen being manhandled by an out-of-control white cop; others see a lone, scared officer in the crowded, chaotic aftermath of a fight he doesn’t yet understand….Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank, called the Texas video “appalling,” adding: “The people were in bathing suits. In this case, there isn’t anything that would justify taking out a gun.”