National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The Eric Garner Case: Time to Open Your Eyes

Harry Siegel in the New York Daily News:

Garner had a heart attack in the ambulance, and died.

As he lay dying, he was treated like a piece of meat. By Pantaleo. By the other cops on the scene. Even by the medical technicians.

Had Garner been treated with basic human dignity after he was violently, and needlessly, taken down, he might not be dead.

I’m no lawyer, but this is section 125.15 of New York’s penal code: “A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 1. He recklessly causes the death of another person.”

So I’m stunned, and saddened, by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to level no charges against Pantaleo.

Anyone unsure why so many people of color are upset with the police, and suspicious of the American justice system, put your politics down, open your eyes and watch the videos.

Regular visitors will recall that we selected the Garner case as the ‘worst of the month’ for July.

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Small request:  If you believe the work we’re doing here at policemisconduct.net is important and worthwhile, would you take a moment to blast a link to our site to all your Facebook contacts and other social media?  Since the president, mayor of New York, members of congress, and most media networks are now focused on police wrongdoing and what might be done about it, seems like a good time to pass the word about this site and perhaps remind skeptics that there are many more cases and victims out there.  With your help, we should be able to double or even triple the number of persons who check our site regularly.  Thanks for considering.

How Many Police Killings Are There Annually?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a front page story titled, “Hundreds of Police Killings Uncounted in Federal Statistics.”

Here is an excerpt (sorry for no link; there is a paywall):

A Wall Street Journal analysis of the latest data from 105 of the country’s largest police agencies found more than 550 police killings during those years [2007 – 2012] were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to determine how many people are killed by the police each year.

Public demands for transparency on such killings have increased since the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo. The Ferguson Police Department has reported to the FBI one justifiable homicide by police between 1976 and 2012.

Law-enforcement experts long have lamented the lack of information about killings by police. “When cops are killed, there is a very careful account and there’s a national database,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia University. “Why not the other side of the ledger?”

Good question.

However, there is an unstated bias at work here.  It is in the unfortunate title of the Journal article quoted above.  “Uncounted in Federal Statistics.”   But the Journal is hardly alone.  The bias/assumption is that the FBI “oversees” police departments across America.  Thus, it follows that those departments ought to be reporting data to the FBI.   This is incorrect.   Local police do not report to the FBI.   Often departments cooperate with one another.  Cooperation should not be confused with a legal obligation.

To clarify, we should know how many police killings there are.  We should even know more than that.  [If a guy is shot 5 times by an officer and is hospitalized for 8 months and manages to live, but is paralyzed, why should that incident not also be counted? ]    Governors should be responsible for this data-gathering task, not the federal government.   Btw, the article says, “Also missing from the FBI data are killings involving federal officers.”   Good grief.   Let the feds start there.  FBI, DEA, IRS, etc

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for pressing police agencies around the country for this information.  Good reporting.

Related articles here and here.

Is There a Connection Between Police Unions and Abusive Cops?

Conor Friedersdorf:

There are, of course, police officers who are fired for egregious misbehavior by commanding officers who decide that a given abuse makes them unfit for a badge and gun. Yet all over the U.S., police unions help many of those cops to get their jobs back, often via secretive appeals geared to protect labor rights rather than public safety. Cops deemed unqualified by their own bosses are put back on the streets. Their colleagues get the message that police all but impervious to termination.

That isn’t to say that every officer who is fired deserves it, or that every reinstated cop represents a miscarriage of justice. In theory, due process before a neutral arbiter could even protect blue whistleblowers from wrongful termination. But in practice, too many cops who needlessly kill people, use excessive force, or otherwise abuse their authority are getting reprieves from termination….

Society entrusts police officers with awesome power. The stakes could not be higher when they abuse it: Innocents are killed, wrongly imprisoned, beaten, harassed—and as knowledge of such abuses spreads, respect for the rule of law wanes. If police officers were at-will employees (as I’ve been at every job I’ve ever held), none of the cops mentioned above would now be walking the streets with badges and loaded guns. Perhaps one or two of them deserved to be exonerated, despite how bad their cases look. Does the benefit of being scrupulously fair to those individuals justify the cost of having more abusive cops on the street?

Read the whole thing.

The David Hooks Case

A criminal comes on to your property and steals your SUV.  Later, the criminal, perhaps still under the influence of meth, tells the police that he found drugs on your property.  The police proceed to sneak on to your property and, without announcing themselves, break down your back door.  Frightened that the criminals have returned to your home, you retrieve a gun to protect yourself and your spouse.  The police then open fire and you are killed in your own home.  By the police.

According to the Hooks family attorney, that is what happened to his client.  Here is an excerpt from the attorney’s statement:

On Wednesday, September 24th at 9:56 p.m., drug task force agent Chris Brewer made application for a search warrant before Faith Snell a non-attorney Deputy Magistrate of the Laurens County Magistrate Court. The facts submitted to Deputy Magistrate Snell to convince her that probable cause existed to issue the warrant consisted of the statement by Rodney Garrett a confessed burglar, thief, and a meth addict who was under the influence at the time of his arrest that the approximately 20 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, and 2 firearms found on him at the time of arrest had been stolen by him out of another vehicle at the Hooks home. Investigator Brewer also stated information he claimed came from an investigation involving Jeff Frazier. That investigation was in August 2009 over 5 years ago. A search warrant was issued at 9:56 p.m. by Judge Snell. This search warrant is invalid on its face as it does not comport with the requirements of the Constitution of State of Georgia nor the United States Constitution. Armed with an invalid search warrant and with less than an hour of preparation, at approximately 10:55 p.m. several members of the Drug Task Force and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Response Team arrived at David and Teresa Hooks home unannounced by emergency lights or sirens. There is no question the Officers were aware the home had been burglarized only two nights earlier.

David and Teresa were under the impression that the burglars were back and that a home invasion was eminent. David armed himself to protect his wife and his home. Despite the fact that the illegal search warrant did not have a “no knock” clause the Drug Task Force and SRT members broke down the back door of the family’s home and entered firing in excess of 16 shots. These shots were from multiple firearms and from both 40 caliber handguns and assault rifles. Several shots were fired through a blind wall at David with the shooters not knowing who or what was on the other side of the wall. The trajectory of the shots, coupled with the number of shots infers a clear intent on behalf of the shooters to kill David Hooks.

From WMAZ:

Lauren’s County Sheriff’s department says they are not making any more statements on this case. They are directing all questions to the GBI. They’ve not responded.

Neither agencies has identified the deputies involved in the raid, said how many of them fired shots, or said how many times Hooks was hit.

Hooks was buried on Tuesday.

Read the whole thing.

Problems with the Border Patrol

From the Washington Post:

FEW FEDERAL government agencies have grown as quickly as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the 21,000 agents, double the number in 2004, who patrol the nation’s frontiers with Mexico and Canada. That growth has been accompanied by an alarming number of incidents involving the use of lethal force, particularly along the Mexican border and all too frequently under circumstances that suggest the agency is indifferent or hostile to the most basic standards of restraint, transparency and self-policing.

Reports by news organizations and independent experts — including one report that was suppressed by Customs and Border Protection for more than a year — have finally prompted the agency to address its problems with accountability. The agency’s new commissioner, R. Gil Kerlikowske …has promised that the agency will be more forthcoming about future incidents involving the use of deadly force, which would be a constructive change from its deeply ingrained habit of stonewalling. To that end he is establishing a rapid-reaction force of investigators whose mission will be to gather evidence following incidents and allegations of abuse.

Internal Affairs Investigating Treatment of Pregnant Woman

From NBC New York:

The NYPD says its internal affairs division is investigating after a video was posted over the weekend that appeared to show officers push a pregnant woman to the ground when she tried to intervene as her son was being taken into custody.

The video, which the woman’s attorneys say was captured on Fifth Avenue at 41st Street in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park at around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, shows an officer who was trying to arrest another suspect grabbing Sandra Amezquita, who is five months pregnant, before pushing her belly-first onto the ground and then hopping atop her back.

The video then shows a second, unidentified woman being shoved to the ground in the middle of the street as she comes to help Amezquita.

Amezquita’s attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, told media Wednesday that the 43-year-old woman suffered vaginal bleeding and bruises on her arms and stomach after the encounter. He said she has persisting abdominal pain and showed a photo of bruising on her stomach.

Police Shooting in South Carolina

From NBC News:

A South Carolina state trooper who was fired after being captured on video shooting an unarmed driver during a routine traffic stop was arrested on Wednesday. Lance Corporal Sean M. Groubert was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in connection with the shooting in a gas station’s parking lot, which was filmed by a camera in his patrol car.

On Sept. 4, Groubert pulled over Levar Edward Jones for a seatbelt violation in Columbia, South Carolina, and subsequently shot the unarmed man in the hip. In newly released video, Groubert is heard asking Jones for his license. As Jones reaches into his car, the officer is seen moving quickly while pointing his gun and shouting, “Get out of the car!” He then fires four shots at Jones as he falls backwards away from the car with his hands in the air. Groubert cuffs the injured driver, who can be heard asking, “What did I do, sir?”

Chilling video.   To the department’s credit, upon review, the officer was promptly discharged and criminal charges are now pending.  That’s the manner in which one would expect an incident like this to be handled.   Safe to say that the video was the critical factor and that’s why body cameras are needed.

City Settles Excessive Force Lawsuit for $490,000; Denies Any Wrongdoing

From the San Bernardino Sun:

City Attorney Cristina Talley announced Tuesday at the council meeting that the council agreed to settle the federal lawsuit filed July 31, 2013, in U.S. District Court by the parents of 22-year-old Trevor Taylor of Colton, who was shot and killed a year earlier on July 31, 2012.

The wrongful death lawsuit lodged against the city alleges three Colton officers involved in the shooting used excessive force, were not properly trained, committed battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of the killing, according to court documents.

Officers Todd Smith, and Sgts. Steve Davis and Lou E. Gamache are still with the department in the patrol division….

“The use of force was reasonable and consistent with our policy,” said Colton Police Cpl. Ray Mendez. “We’re not changing any policy and we’re not amending anything.”

From the on-line comments section:

My city isn’t doing anything wrong, where MY payout?

Judge Beverly J. Woodard

From the Washington Post:

IN PRINCE George’s County, it is now clear that the police, without provocation, can beat an unarmed young student senseless — with impunity. They can blatantly lie about it — with impunity. They can stonewall and cover it up for months — with impunity. They can express no remorse and offer no apology — with impunity.

The agent of this travesty of justice, and this impunity, is Judge Beverly J. Woodard of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Ms. Woodard has presided in the case involving John J. McKenna, a young University of Maryland student who was savagely beaten by two baton-wielding Prince George’s cops in March 2010, following a men’s basketball game on the College Park campus.

The beating of Mr. McKenna was videotaped; had it not been, the police, who filed no report and then falsely claimed that he instigated the incident and attacked them, may never have been investigated or charged. Yet despite the fact that a jury convicted one of the police officers, James Harrison Jr., of assault nearly two years ago, Ms. Woodard has now thrown the verdict out and closed the case.

Read the whole thing.