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

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.

 

Worst of the Month — May 2014

Our choice for May was not difficult–the Georgia police officers who threw a flashbang grenade into an infant’s crib after ramming the door open to look for a drug dealer.  The officers were executing a no-knock warrant when they threw the flashbang grenade through the cracked door without looking or knowing who was inside the room.  The grenade (sometimes the government uses the euphemism “distraction device”) landed on the 19-month-old’s pillow and exploded, causing severe burns to his face and chest.  The child and his relatives, who were also sleeping in the converted garage room, were temporary visitors in the home because theirs had recently burned down.  The person the police were looking for was not there.  Hmm.

The officers involved expressed regret, and said that they had no idea there was a child present and that if they had, they would have done things differently.  The police chief said the incident is going to make them “double question” next time.  Hmm.  First, why would anyone not already “double question” before blindly tossing a grenade into a room?  Second, is the indication that a child is present really the only reason not to go full-Rambo on a house where human beings live?  Think about it.  Even if the police had solid proof that an adult was selling marijuana, meth, or cocaine from his home, is a flash bang grenade on his pillow a legit police tactic?  A legit risk?

Cases like this one not only underscore the brutal collateral damage of the drug war, but also the lack of adequate oversight over police raids like this one.   Yes, there will be a lawsuit, but that’s an insufficient response.

Check out the Cato raid map for more police raids that went awry.

Cleveland Officers to be Prosecuted for Barrage of Gunfire

From Cleveland.com:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County grand jury Friday indicted six Cleveland police officers for their roles in a 2012 police chase and shooting that left two people dead and carved deep schisms into the community. The grand jury charged Patrolman Michael Brelo with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony. The panel also accused five supervisors of dereliction of duty…

On Friday, McGinty said that after officers fired more than 100 shots at the car, Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal ones, downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Russell’s car.

“This was now a stop-and-shoot, no longer a chase-and-shoot,” McGinty said. “The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot.” …

“Let’s be clear what happened here,” McGinty said about the case. “(Russell) was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over. The public was no longer in danger because the car was surrounded by police cars and 23 police officers in a schoolyard safely removed from pedestrians and traffic.

Police Throw Grenade into Home and It Lands in Baby’s Crib

From the Associated Press:

Officers raiding a Georgia home in search of a drug suspect used a flash grenade not knowing children were inside, severely burning a toddler who was sleeping just inside the door, authorities and the boy’s family said.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said the officers were looking for a suspect who may have been armed and followed proper procedure by using the device, which creates a bright flash and loud bang to distract suspects

“It’s a tragic incident,” Terrell said. “The baby didn’t deserve this.”

Alecia Phonesavanh told local media her son was sleeping in his playpen when the raid began Wednesday morning.

“The cops threw that grenade in the door without looking first, and it landed right in the playpen and exploded on his pillow right in his face,” Phonesavanh told WSB-TV.

No one thinks the police set out to hurt this child.  But were the tactics sloppy, reckless, and unnecessary?  Yes.

These raids and injuries are more common than many realize.  Check out the Cato raid map.

You Can’t Fight City Hall, Part XXIVXX

From the New York Post:

He’s been dead for eight years, but try telling that to the NYPD.

Cops have barged into James Jordan Sr.’s family home looking for him more than a dozen times since he died in 2006 — prompting his exasperated relatives to finally post his death certificate on the front door.

“I tell them over and over, ‘James isn’t here! He’s dead! It’s that simple. What’s so difficult to understand about that?’ ” the Brooklyn security guard’s widow, Karen, told The Post on Monday….

Jordan said the NYPD’s visits leave their home a wreck.

“They tell me to be quiet or they’ll lock me up,” she said. “So they go through my entire house, turning out drawers, looking in closets, harassing my children and asking them terrible questions.

The Jordans are filing a lawsuit to try to halt the police raids on their home.