National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The NYPD Twitter Campaign

From Yahoo News:

New York police Tuesday were eating extra helpings of humble pie after asking people to post images of themselves and NYPD officers on Twitter — only to face a deluge of pictures of alleged police brutality.

“Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook,” the department posted on its NYPD News Twitter feed, hoping to fuel a feel-good, low-cost public relations campaign.

The result was anything but.

Sample:

NYPD's Twitter photo contest backfires with images of aggressive police force

Editorial on Police Accountability

From the SyracuseNewTimes:

When it comes to the men and women in blue, there are no serious consequences for misdeeds. Last year, the city spent months revamping its Citizen Review Board legislation, filled the board and hired new staff. The CRB can look into complaints against the police, and then what do they do? They turn the results over to the chief and ask him to do something about it. He might take action, and even if he does, he can keep that action secret. It’s a personnel matter. So the public that pays the bill and bears the burden of police misconduct does not even have the right to see how discipline is handed out….

I don’t understand why my conservative friends who are always all up in arms about big government don’t seem to be able to get worked up about a flagrant case of police abuse of the rights of a criminal defendant. Is it because we don’t seem to realize that police and prosecutorial misconduct are a threat to all of us? Is it too easy to forget that the only thing standing between any one of us and being labeled a criminal is a decision made by a police officer? And the only thing standing between any of us and being convicted are the Constitutional protections that insist that we be given due process. If you get arrested, the charges, the determination, and the sentence if you are convicted, will all be on the public record. Wouldn’t you like to know that the people holding your life in their hands are accountable to someone other than their chief?

So why such is deference given to law enforcement, so much benefit of the doubt given to those who can wreck our lives so easily? Especially when we see how the men and women in blue time and time again break the rules without any hint of accountability. They break the rules because they can.

And we all pay the price.

The Carlos Miller Case: Jury Says ‘Not Guilty’

Carlos Miller was arrested for filming the police.  Resisting the pressure to accept a “deal,” he risked more prison time simply by insisting on his right to a jury trial.  According to Miller, the prosecutor told the jury that Miller did not behave like a “real journalist” because a “real journalist” would have obeyed all police requests and orders.  Miller’s attorney responded to that argument with the following:

“In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate.

Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see.

No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’

He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president.

In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.

What’s he describing is Cuba. What he’s describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here.

And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away.

That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.”

Congratulations to Miller and his attorneys.  More info, including video from the trial, at the link above.

A Premature Alarm Regarding Police Fatality Rates

The big law enforcement related news piece dominating the media today comes courtesy of a press release from the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (LEOMF) insisting that an apparent increase in law enforcement officer deaths in 2010 in comparison to 2009’s record low number of officer deaths should be alarming and attributes the rise to a number of factors including reduced funding for law enforcement officers and increasingly violent criminals.

While we definitely do find it alarming when any law enforcement officer loses his or her life in an act of violence, we do feel it necessary to examine these numbers in order to put them into perspective, especially since the LEOMF and a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice cited police accountability projects such as ours here at the NPMSRP as the reason for the rise in police officer deaths they claim they were seeing around mid-year.

Interestingly, in response to those wild allegations, we examined the alarming trend cited by the LEOMF in July and did some statistical analysis to determine what the actual homicide rate was for law enforcement officers and, surprisingly, our projected rate of officers who died in acts of homicidal violence ended up being pretty accurate.

Back then we determined that:

…in 2009 there were 127 line of duty deaths, of which, 57 of those fatalities could be attributed to an act of violence that specifically targeted a police officer whether by firearms, intentional vehicular assault, or assault.

So far in 2010, there have been 98 line of duty deaths, of which, 28 are attributed to an intentional act of violence against a police officer.

So, in 2009 the homicidal fatality rate for law enforcement officers was an estimated 8.14 deaths per 100,000 law enforcement officers. Currently the homicidal fatality rate is at 4.16 per 100,000 and, if projected to the end of year at the current rate, that homicidal fatality rate for 2010 would potentially be 8.31 per 100,000 law enforcement officers… a 0.17 per 100,000 increase or, roughly, a 2.1% increase.

The actual numbers cited by the LEOMF for 2010 are that 160 officers died and that 59 of those law enforcement officers died due to apparent homicidal causes for this year. This would translate to a homicide rate of 8.35 officers per 100,000 based on an estimated employment rate of 706,886 sworn law enforcement officers in the US per the latest FBI-DOJ UCR numbers released earlier this year.

So, the homicidal death rate for law enforcement officers in 2009 was 8.14 per 100,000 and the 2010 homicidal fatality rate was 8.35 per 100,000 which translates to a 2.5% increase in the homicide rate for police officers. If we use the numbers according to LEOMF sources in that there are 800,000 active sworn officers in the US, then the homicide rate drops to 7.38 per 100,000 but that 800,000 number cited does not seem to reflect a general decline in law enforcement employment rates that we’ve seen lately due to the declining economy.

So, in conclusion, yes, there has been an increase in deaths by homicidal violence for police officers in 2010 and any increase should be examined rationally to determine if there are prudent ways to address preventable deaths. But the increase seen for 2010 is not as alarming as we are told it should be and definitely not extensive enough from which one could derive any conclusive causative effect, such as blaming it on efforts to increase accountability and transparency within law enforcement agencies in the US as was done earlier this year.

While we do not track total officer-related fatalities, we do track fatalities associated with allegations of police misconduct or use of excessive force.

Per our latest projected 2010 statistical data we determined that, in comparison with the stated law enforcement homicidal death rate of 8.35 per 100,000, that the fatal use of excessive force rate for law enforcement in 2010 was 18.3 per 100,000 and the rate of officers officially charged with murder was 5.3 per 100,000 (compared to an estimated 4.9 per 100,000 murder rate by officers in 2009) as opposed to the murder rate for the general public which was 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 per the latest UCR data available from the FBI DOJ.

However, these are just projections from our Q3 statistical data and our full 2010 statistical report won’t be released until sometime in mid to late January of 2011.

Does Honesty Kill?

Something interesting caught my eye the other day as I was reading Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog. Apparently, FoxNews ran a piece the other day in which a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice suggested that police are being targeted and that sites like this one are to blame because we discuss the topic of police misconduct.

Now, this was interesting because it made me wonder what empirical evidence this person, a Eugene O’Donnell, had to back up his claim that “an unprecedented level of disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers all over the place.” was to blame for an alleged increase of violence specifically targeting law enforcement.

So, I decided to do the heavy lifting for Mr. O’Donnell and see if his hyperbole had any real factual merit.

Homicide Rates

So far this year, Mr. O’Donnell claims that there has been a 43% increase in line of duty deaths for police officers in the US. But, does this number reflect an actual increased level of violence specifically targeting police?

Well, in 2009, per ODMP.ORG, there were 127 line of duty deaths, of which, 57 of those fatalities could be attributed to an act of violence that specifically targeted a police officer whether by firearms, intentional vehicular assault, or assault.

So far in 2010, there have been 98 line of duty deaths, of which, 28 are attributed to an intentional act of violence against a police officer.

So, in 2009 the homicidal fatality rate for law enforcement officers was an estimated 8.14 deaths per 100,000 law enforcement officers. Currently the homicidal fatality rate is at 4.16 per 100,000 and, if projected to the end of year at the current rate, that homicidal fatality rate for 2010 would potentially be 8.31 per 100,000 law enforcement officers… a 0.17 per 100,000 increase or, roughly, a 2.1% increase.

While an increase, it’s a very slight one which is far less ominous than the 43% increase cited as a cause for alarm.

So, is this 2.1% increase in homicidal fatalities possibly related to an alleged increased availability of reports about police misconduct?

Causality

If what Mr. O’Donnell alleges had any basis in fact we would be able to see a correlation between homicidal fatalities and an increased availability of information about police misconduct. In other words, we would see a notably higher rate of homicidal deaths of police officers in states where police misconduct information was openly available.

But, when we break down the homicidal fatality incidents by state we don’t really see a correlation:

So, what do we see? We see that, of the homicidal fatalities for police officers so far in the US this year:

  • 6 occurred in states with laws that keep police misconduct information open to the public.
  • 10 occurred in states that keep police misconduct information secret.
  • 12 occurred in states that have some limitations on the availability of  police misconduct information.

In fact, when I examined this issue earlier this year, I not only found no correlation between violence against law enforcement officers, but found the opposite may be true, that officers suffer an increased rate of violence in states that keep information about police misconduct a secret than in states where the government is open about incidents of misconduct.

Graph displaying comparison of assault and homicide rates for police officers by state misconduct transparency levels.

Conclusion

So, we see that if we look at the total line of duty deaths we might see an increased fatality rate, but most of that increase appears to be associated with auto accidents, accidental deaths, and fatalities associated with natural causes than with actual homicides. While total deaths may be up over the same period last year, the homicidal death rate increase is a negligible 2.1% from 8.14 per 100,000 to 8.31 per 100,000 (projected).

If we look further into the numbers, we see that there is no real evidence that indicates that any perceived increase is related to an increased amount of information being shared about police misconduct and, in fact, the inverse may be true, that there maybe an increased amount of violence against law enforcement officers in areas where information about police misconduct is kept secret from the public.

Therefore, we’re left to question where Mr. O’Donnell is coming up with the basis of his opinion about violence against police and the causative factors behind this alleged increase. Because, as we can see, the evidence just isn’t in the numbers… or the facts.

At the least, there is no evidence that an honest and transparent discussion about police misconduct puts anyone at risk, but remaining silent about it can.

Is It Misconduct – Media Bias Edition


The story of the above video, showing a Seattle Washington Police Gang Task Force detective tell a detainee who was later found to be innocent “You got me? I’m going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?” seconds before he stomps on his head then stands on his hand and before a female patrol officer walks over and stomps on his leg then poses like he’s a trophy, just got a lot more disturbing.

According to the station that first aired the video, KIRO 7, and a local alternative weekly The Stranger, the man who shot that video was a freelance photojournalist who had just ended his shift working for local FOX affiliate KCPQ Q-13 when he encountered the incident and filmed it on April 17, 2010. But it wasn’t until late last night, May 6, 2010, that the video aired on KIRO 7.

Why the delay? According the the man who filmed it, Jud Morris, he offered the video to Q-13 and, at first, they were interested in airing it. But a few days later they told him that there was no way they would air the video because “the cop did nothing wrong.”

Now, after it aired on KIRO 7 there was quite a bit of uproar and the people defending police were in a very clear minority for once. So why was it that Q-13 was so wrong about how the video would be perceived? Well, the person who filmed it has an idea and he says it’s because the station has a very close relationship with area police agencies which it’s highest rated show, Washington’s Most Wanted, depends upon so that the station can get scoops on crime stories ahead of it’s competitors and that, releasing the video, would have jeopardized that close relationship.

In other words, he alleges that Q-13 sought to hide the story from the public to protect their close relationship with the police. They chose to hide a story and protect the police from scrutiny so that they could maintain an advantageous relationship with the police.

Q-13 denies the allegations and claims they weren’t sitting on the story, just reviewing it to see if they wanted to air it… for 20 days. Meanwhile they’ve hired their lawyers to demand that KIRO take down the video. KIRO responded that it’s theirs legally since the photographer signed it over to them and proved to them that he took the video using his own equipment.

As for the man who was kicked, he has not yet been identified and it’s not known if he sought medical treatment after he was released since police didn’t provide it. The gang task force officer has made a rare public apology for his actions and is on paid leave, as is the female patrol officer, while both are under investigation.

Meanwhile, a few days after he showed Q-13 the video of the incident, Morris was fired.

So, what do you think? Was Q-13 protecting the police from scrutiny in order to maintain a close relationship with them? Or were they right to keep it from the public because it’s not really misconduct like they are claimed to have said?

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