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.

Trouble in the LA Jail System

From the Los Angeles Times:

The deputy described beating inmates unprovoked, slapping them, shooting them with a Taser gun and aggressively searching them to pick a fight — something he learned “on the job.” He would huddle with other jail guards to get their stories straight and write up reports with bogus scenarios justifying the brutality. If the inmate had no visible injuries, he wouldn’t report the use of force, period..

He did all this with impunity, former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Michel testified Tuesday, knowing that even if inmates reported the abuse it “wouldn’t go anywhere.” If they were to put it in writing and drop it in a complaint box, it was his fellow deputies who opened that box too….

From the witness stand, Michel, broad-shouldered with short-cropped hair, described a culture among deputies guarding the high-security floors of the jails that led to excessive force and frequent coverups. He matter-of-factly recounted incidents in which he said he and at least five other sheriff’s employees brutalized inmates on the third, or “3000,” floor of Men’s Central Jail, then falsified reports to legitimize their actions.

Problems with the Border Patrol

From the New York Times:

On Feb. 16, 2010, a Mexican teenager caught trying to cross into the United States near Douglas, Ariz., filed a formal complaint accusing a Border Patrol agent of punching him in the face during his arrest.

Three months later, a pregnant woman in or around El Paso reported that a Border Patrol agent had kicked her during an apprehension, causing her to miscarry.

In both cases, records show, no disciplinary action was taken. And it was no different for the vast majority of cases that reached United States Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs office, according to new data obtained through a public records request by the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based immigrant advocacy group. Of 809 abuse complaints against agents within 100 miles of the Southwest border from January 2009 to January 2012, only 13 led to disciplinary action, and typically that meant counseling, internal affairs records showed.

“These stark findings exemplify the culture of impunity that prevails at C.B.P.,” said Melissa Crow, director of the council’s Legal Action Center. “Given the tremendous resources appropriated to C.B.P., the agency must do a better job of holding its officers accountable.” …

[U]nder increasing scrutiny from Congress for its use of force and lack of transparency, the 44-page list of complaints is now among the most comprehensive — and damning — publicly available portraits of alleged border misconduct.

It shows that in 40 percent of the cases with internal affairs, no decision had been made or reported, in some cases for more than three years after complaints were filed. And in the other 60 percent where a conclusion had been reached, “no action” was the end result 97 percent of the time.

Buffalo Police Officers Suspended

From the Buffalo News:

Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda this afternoon announced that six police officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into an April 19 incident captured in a YouTube video that showed one of the officers slapping and kicking a man after he had been subdued and was lying on the ground in handcuffs.

Earlier this morning Derenda held a news conference, where he condemned the officers’ actions.

“The Buffalo Police Department does not condone or tolerate inappropriate behavior,” Derenda said, adding that he has spoken with U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III about the incident.

He would not say whether a federal investigation has been opened into the alleged police brutality.

After receiving a copy of the video emailed to Derenda and Mayor Byron W. Brown late Friday, the commissioner said he immediately instructed his Internal Affairs Division to start an investigation, which continued through the weekend and is nearing completion.

Brown told The News today that he watched the video.

“Certainly, when I saw the video, I was extremely and deeply concerned about what I viewed,” Brown said. “I told Commissioner Derenda to conduct a swift and complete investigation. We have made it clear that we will not tolerate inappropriate behavior by police officers.“

The man who allegedly was assaulted has been identified as John Willet, 22, of Williamsville. He has been charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, suspected heroin and crack cocaine; unlawful possession of marijuana; resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration.

Teaching Them a Lesson

From the New York Times:

The confusion and trouble began that day when Officer Anthony Giambra arrived at the apartment door a few minutes after the 911 call, as an ambulance and fire truck pulled up outside. Ms. LaFont started to tell Officer Giambra about her husband’s condition, but the dog broke loose and raced into the street. She went after the animal.

When she returned, Officer Giambra had thrown Mr. Peltomaa up against a hallway wall and was trying to handcuff him. The professor’s surgical wound was pressed hard against the surface, she said. She gripped the officer’s shoulder and yelled at him to stop. “You’re under arrest,” the officer told her, as another officer hustled her back into her apartment and handcuffed her….

Mr. Peltomaa denies he ever fought with Officer Giambra, though he recalls being confused about why he needed handcuffs to go the hospital. After he was cuffed, he said, the officer shoved him down face first on the tile floor, splitting open his chin and dislocating his thumb.

Then the officers flipped Mr. Peltomaa over, grabbed him by his clothes and dragged him to the ambulance. Ms. LaFont said she was taken to the precinct and put in a squalid cell. Officer Giambra, munching a candy bar, told her Mr. Peltomaa was fine and would be home before she would. “He said he needed to teach me the lesson that you are never allowed to touch a police officer,” she recalled.

Groups Protest Dallas Police Dept

From the Dallas Morning News:

The families of several men killed or wounded by Dallas police officers lambasted the department Thursday for what they said was a pattern of excessive force, civil rights violations and police brutality under color of law.

The newly formed Mothers Against Police Brutality held a news conference at City Hall where they called for a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the Dallas Police Department’s deadly force practices.

“It is not a black problem,” said Collette Flanagan, whose son Clinton Allen was fatally shot this year by a Dallas police officer. “It is not a Hispanic problem. It’s not a poor people’s problem. It is our problem” ….

Late Thursday, Police Chief David Brown issued a statement saying that he shared many of the group’s concerns.

“I look forward to working with this group, and moving forward towards positive changes for our department,” Brown said.

Phoenix Police Taser Man, Drag Him Down Stairs By His Feet

I do not know what the anchorman is talking about when he says the police had to make a “split second” decision.  I’m skeptical the use of the taser was really a “split second” situation.  And leaving that aside, the manner in which the man was dragged down the stairs is indefensible.

Chicago to Pay $10 Million for Police Misconduct Case

From the Chicago Tribune:

Caine’s case was the latest in a series of lawsuit settlements involving disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and detectives under his command that have brought the tab to nearly $70 million when legal fees are counted.

Caine’s attorney, Jon Loevy, used Wednesday’s news conference to sound a warning that even as cases involving Burge and his men get resolved, there are scores of others involving other Chicago detectives who “made cases regardless of guilt or innocence.”

Loevy said that while the city has been forced to come to terms with Burge’s wrongdoing, the tendency is to resist acknowledging that the problem of police misconduct was systemic.

“There are obviously a small number of police officers where there are great clusters of accusations that improper tactics were used and wrongful convictions occurred,” Loevy said. “The city would have us believe that if we just take care of the Jon Burge cases, the problem will go away. Not so.”