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The Donald Gates Case

From the Washington Post:

THE DISTRICT of Columbia’s agreement to pay $16.65 million to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit of a man who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit should not be the end of this troubling case. That a jury found there to be egregious police misconduct demands rigorous review of other cases handled by the detectives involved, to ensure there haven’t been similar miscarriages of justice. Also needed is resolve by prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system to tackle the systemic issues that contribute to wrongful convictions.

Last week, Federal Judge Alex Kozinski was here at Cato to debate problems in our criminal justice system, including the problems that contribute to wrongful convictions.  That event can be viewed here.

Police and Sexual Misconduct

From the Associated Press:

In a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, The Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.

The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action. California and New York — with several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies — offered no records because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. And even among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.

“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”

Even as cases around the country have sparked a national conversation about excessive force by police, sexual misconduct by officers has largely escaped widespread notice due to a patchwork of laws, piecemeal reporting and victims frequently reluctant to come forward because of their vulnerabilities — they often are young, poor, struggling with addiction or plagued by their own checkered pasts.

A Bonus for DEA Agents?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Half the federal agents who were investigated for allegedly attending sex parties with prostitutes in Colombia received financial bonuses during the investigation or afterward, according to a new internal review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s handling of the scandal.

Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz issued a report on Thursday analyzing the aftermath of the internal probes of DEA agents in Colombia for allegedly patronizing prostitutes. The allegations were originally investigated in 2010, but the issue created a firestorm earlier this year when the details became public….

DEA policy prohibits employees from receiving promotions, awards or other favorable personnel actions for a three-year period after being subject to discipline for significant misconduct or while a misconduct probe is continuing, though officials are allowed to create exceptions to the policy.

Cato Conference: Policing in America

On December 1, the Cato Institute will be hosting a full day conference, Policing in America, to examine the current state and future of American law enforcement. We have collected a diverse group of expert panelists to discuss emerging technologies and crime control strategies, as well as recurring problems like accountability and negative impacts on minority communities.

Confirmed speakers include Prof. Jerry Ratcliffe, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University; Prof. Cynthia Lum, George Mason University Department of Criminology, Law and Society and director of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy; Prof. David A. Klinger, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Regional Center for Border Rights, ACLU-New Mexico; Prof. Samuel Walker, University of Nebraska-Omaha (emeritus); Prof. Wadie E. Said, University of South Carolina School of Law; Prof. Pete Kraska, School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University; Michael Kurtenbach, Assistant Police Chief, Phoenix, Arizona Police Department; Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project; and Prof. William Jelani Cobb, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut.

We’re very excited about the conference and hope you can join us. More details and speakers will be forthcoming. You can register for the free event here.

 

New York Law Hides Police Misconduct

From New York Times editorial:

The uniquely restrictive New York State law that is used to conceal the disciplinary histories of police officers — even some who have committed crimes — reared its head again last week in misconduct proceedings against the officer who brutalized the retired tennis player James Blake during a mistaken arrest in Manhattan last month.

The public has the right to be kept informed of police misconduct cases, especially at a time of heightened concern over police brutality. But when the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated excessive force charges against James Frascatore, the officer who attacked Mr. Blake, it was allowed to release its findings to Mr. Blake’s lawyer but was barred from making them available to the public. Had Mr. Blake’s attorney not released the information, the public would still be in the dark.

The state law on officers’ histories is the only one of its kind in the nation. It was enacted in 1976 to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using freedom-of-information laws to gain access to personnel records for information to use against officers in trials.

The law says an officer’s personnel record cannot be publicly released or cited in court without a judge’s approval. But municipalities and courts have since broadened the definition of “personnel record” to shield almost any information.

For additional background, go here.

NYPD: New Use-of-Force Guidelines Issued after Highly Critical Report Released

This morning, the NYPD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that found police leadership ignored over 35 percent of sustained excessive force complaints against its officers. This afternoon, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton announced new use-of-force guidelines to improve reporting and responsiveness. The guidelines will require NYPD officers to document and grade each use of force occurrence on duty. They also require officers to intervene if they witness a fellow officer using excessive force.

According to BuzzFeed:

The scathing [OIG] report, the first of its kind prepared by the new regulatory agency, was based on an analysis of 179 cases from 2010 through 2014 in which the Civilian Complaint and Review Board, the independent agency that investigates police misconduct, found that officers had used excessive force. The report also examined internal NYPD records for over 100 of those cases.

Among the Inspector General’s most troubling findings was the fact that top department brass declined to discipline a large portion of officers who were found to have used excess force. In 36% of the cases where independent investigators found evidence of misconduct, the police commissioner, who ultimately decides the fate of police officers accused of wrongdoing, “refused to impose any form of discipline.”

In spite of these revelations, NYPD’s largest union objected to the new reporting requirements. Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolence Association, told BuzzFeed, “more paperwork coupled with a serious shortage of police officers and the continual second-guessing of their actions is a formula for disaster.”

The OIG also found the percentage of sustained force complaints that garnered no discipline is down considerably under Commissioner Bratton’s leadership. This decline indicates that Bratton’s NYPD is serious about addressing these entrenched problems of responsiveness, union objections notwithstanding.

As the nation’s largest police department, the NYPD often sets the operational standard (for good or ill) for many of law enforcement agencies across the country. Police departments and reformers alike will be watching closely as the NYPD implements these new guidelines.

You can read today’s OIG report here. You can read more about the new guidelines from yesterday’s preview in the New York Times. And you can read my testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the widespread lack of transparency regarding the use of force and officer discipline here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 09-19-15 to 09-21-15

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, September 19 through Monday, September 21, 2015:

  • Johnston County, North Carolina: A deputy was arrested for DWI in Durham. He has been fired. ow.ly/Stjqs
  • Saco, Maine: An officer was arrested for OUI after a traffic stop.ow.ly/StAeM
  • Update: Isabella County, Michigan: A deputy pled no contest to charges stemming from attempts to extort sexual favors from female suspects. ow.ly/StQdV
  • East St. Louis, Illinois: An officer is under investigation for drug possession. Another is under investigation for sexual assault in a separate incident. ow.ly/StWST
  • Update: Edgewood, Indiana: A now-former officer was sentenced to 11 yrs, three of which were suspended, for reckless homicide. He crashed under the influence. ow.ly/StXQf
  • Update: Troy, New York: A now-former officer who tipped-off drug dealer sentenced to 2 yrs probation, a fine and community service. ow.ly/StYGC
  • Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: An officer was charged with theft for taking $7,500 of pay he was not entitled to. ow.ly/StZ40
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: An officer was arrested for OWI while off duty. ow.ly/Su29f

Worst of the Month — August 2015

So for August it was the case of Officer Kevin McGowan.  According to news reports, Patrick D’Labik, age 18, admits to running away from the police.  He said he ran because he had some marijuana in his pocket and did not want to go to jail.  Officer McGowan caught up with D’Labik in a convenience store and the encounter was caught on the store’s surveillance tape (video at the link above).  D’Labik has his hands raised in surrender and is in the process of getting on the floor when McGowan kicks him in the face.

When police commanders saw the surveillance tape, they concluded it was unnecessary, excessive force and fired McGowan.

Wait, McGowan is now back on patrol because the city’s Civil Service Board reinstated him.

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.