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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Problems in Oakland Police Department

From Bay City News:

Oakland police officers who are fired for misconduct are reinstated at arbitration hearings 75 percent of the time because department officials and the city attorney’s office do a poor job of handling the cases, a report says.

San Francisco attorney Ed Swanson compiled the report at the request of U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who is supervising the Oakland Police Department’s slow progress in complying with a police misconduct lawsuit settlement in 2003 that requires the department to implement 51 reforms in a variety of areas….

Swanson criticized the Oakland City Attorney’s Office for what he said is its “neglect and indifference and handling of police disciplinary cases and arbitration” because it doesn’t prepare well for them. He also said the relationship between the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office has been “dysfunctional.”

Philadelphia Police Shootings

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Roughly once a week, 390 times over the past eight years, Philadelphia police officers opened fire at a suspect. The shootings involved 454 officers, most of them on patrol. Almost always, the suspects were black. Often, the officers were, too.

Fifty-nine suspects were unarmed. Officers frequently said they thought the men — and they were almost always men — were reaching for a weapon, when they were actually doing something like holding a cellphone.

The statistics were laid out in a Justice Department report on Monday, which does not allege racial discrimination but offers an unusually deep look at the use of lethal force inside a major city police department, including information on the race of officers and suspects. It is the kind of data that has been nearly absent from the debate over police tactics that began last summer with a deadly shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

Only a handful of major departments regularly publish statistics on police shootings, and those that do are not always consistent. That makes comparing the records of police departments difficult. But even with such spotty figures, Philadelphia stands out when compared with the public data in other cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In many years, Philadelphia saw more police shootings than New York, a city with five times the number of residents and officers.

“I want to express regrets for all who have been shot and killed in Philadelphia — civilian and police officers,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said at a news conference Monday.

Problems at U.S. Border Patrol

One of the greatest challenges to resolving police misconduct allegations is the opaqueness of internal investigations in any police department or agency. This is true at the local, state, and federal levels.

Today, the Los Angeles Times has a report on the backlog of use-of-force cases, particularly fatal shootings, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There is an added wrinkle here, due to bureaucratic overlaps, that other agencies in the Department of Homeland Security share responsibility for oversight and have been unable to further these investigations.

Nearly a year after the Obama administration vowed to crack down on Border Patrol agents who use excessive force, no shooting cases have been resolved, no agents have been disciplined, a review panel has yet to issue recommendations, and the top two jobs in internal affairs are vacant.

The response suggests the difficulties of reforming the nation’s largest federal law enforcement force despite complaints in Congress and from advocacy groups that Border Patrol agents have shot and killed two dozen people on the Southwest border in the last five years but have faced no criminal prosecutions or disciplinary actions.

Customs and Border Protection, which has more than 60,000 agents and officers, saw most of its abuse investigations outsourced to a sister agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and to the Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. Internal affairs instead conducted lie detector tests, did performance reviews, and dealt with questions from outside agencies.

Read the whole thing here.

You should also check out this Cato Policy Analysis calling for the abolition of DHS.

“So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution?”

Officer safety is important. Public safety is also important. Police should follow the law and respect the rights of citizens as part of their day-to-day jobs to keep both themselves and the public safer.

Over at Law and Order, a magazine for police management, three experienced leaders in law enforcement training and leadership explain the ethical and professional imperative of constitutional policing:

Federal Constitutional law governs a number of the most critical and often high-risk police actions: use of force, seizures of persons, investigative detentions and arrests, searches of persons, vehicle stops and searches, entry into private premises, and the concepts of reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

Violations of the Federal Constitution can cause evidence suppression in major cases, massive civil liability, career devastation, and even criminal prosecution of law enforcement officers. But avoidance of these horrendous negatives is not the best reason for an officer to follow the Constitution. The best reason is a shining positive: keeping faith with the oath of office.

On the day an officer takes that oath, the Constitution becomes more than a legal obligation. It becomes an ethical duty, a matter of promise keeping—keeping the most solemn promise made in a law enforcement career—to support, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.   But however lofty that promise, it is hollow—without a thorough understanding of what the Constitution requires of us.

Our training helps provide that understanding by teaching what we can and cannot lawfully do under the United States Constitution. This knowledge is a powerful tool for achieving investigative goals. It also helps us stay out of trouble. Most importantly, it empowers us to attain the ethical standards that we have so ardently pledged, adding meaning and value to our oath of office—the promise made to a community by those who police it, the promise in exchange for which one is allowed to be a police officer.

[…]

Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense. Positive peer pressure must be normative and organizational discipline should enter the picture as necessary.

More demand for accountability and transparency grants us opportunities to build stronger relationships with our communities that enhance officer safety in the most comprehensive sense. This atmosphere expands trust and exposes the true villains in our communities. We are not soldiers fighting a war, but servant leaders striving to find a way to inspire others to be accountable and to participate actively in securing safety and prosperity for all law-abiding community members, including police officers.

You should read the whole thing here.

H/T: Prof. Sean Stoughton

Problems in Los Angeles

From the Los Angeles Times:

The LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies, a Times investigation found.

The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the department’s performance.

Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults. If those incidents had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14% higher than the official figure, The Times found.

The tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7% higher.

Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities. However, flawed statistics leave police and the public with an incomplete picture of crime in the city. Unreliable figures can undermine efforts to map crime and deploy officers where they will make the most difference.

More than two dozen current and retired LAPD officers interviewed for this article gave differing explanations for why crimes are misclassified.

Some said it was inadvertent. Others said the problem stemmed from relentless, top-down pressure to meet crime reduction goals.

If the information is deliberately manipulated to make the department look good, what else is the department willing to do?

Another DC Cop Arrested

From NBCWashington.com:

A D.C. police officer tried to kill his wife last month, using Lysol, a metal light post and knives to attack and restrain her in their home, according to prosecutors.

Officer Samson Lawrence has been indicted in Maryland on charges of attempted first- and second-degree murder in connection with the Nov. 24 attack, Prince George’s County State Attorney Angela Alsobrooks announced Friday….

According to court documents, Lawrence was trying to hang a projection TV in his Accokeek home when he became angry that his wife didn’t know where the screws to hang it were. He allegedly grabbed a can of Lysol and sprayed his wife in the face every time she spoke.

Legal Payouts for Deputy Now Surpass $2 Million

From the Sacramento Bee:

Once referred to by a local attorney as the “Million Dollar Man,” a former sheriff’s deputy cost the county of Sacramento more than $2 million in awards and settlements during his 23 years on the force.

By the time Donald Black retired Oct. 1 following his arrest on suspicion of child molestation and steroid possession, his actions had resulted in at least 10 payouts by the county, most of them involving excessive force allegations, according to a spreadsheet provided to The Sacramento Bee in response to a Public Records Act request. The largest payout – $1.5 million – went to a woman who had a 3-inch chunk of flesh taken out of her calf by Black’s then-K-9 partner. In another case, according to a court complaint, Black and another deputy allegedly terrified a man during a traffic stop by pointing an unloaded pellet gun at his head and pulling the trigger….

At the time that he retired, Black, 43, earned about $95,000 annually, including educational incentive pay. He has begun to draw his pension, totaling almost $5,400 per month, according to county spokeswoman Chris Andis. Even if Black is convicted of any of the charges he faces, he is likely to remain eligible for that money, according to guidelines in the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2014.

Minneapolis Cops Rarely Disciplined After Lawsuits

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Despite nearly $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct over the past seven years, the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis.

Of 95 payouts from 2006 to 2012 to people who said they were victims of misconduct, eight resulted in officers being disciplined, according to records from the police and the city attorney’s office.

The 12 costliest settlements were for cases that did not result in any officer discipline, the Star Tribune found. They included the $2.19 million paid in the case of Dominic Felder, a mentally ill man shot dead in 2006 by police, and the $1 million paid in the case of Rickia Russell, a woman severely burned by a police flash grenade in 2010.

Ticket Quotas in Fort Worth

From cbslocal.com:

We have obtained internal Fort Worth Police Department memos that show some officers who are part of a special enforcement program – funded by a federal grant and administered by the state — must make at least four traffic stops an hour.

 It is against the law in Texas for police to have a traffic ticket quota. But a veteran Fort Worth officer, who spoke to the I-Team on the condition that he remains anonymous, says the Fort Worth PD runs a quota system anyway….

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead initially agreed to be interviewed, but he cancelled only hours before the meeting was to begin.

The department said the police chief could not address our questions about a quota system because of pending court cases against several officers accused of falsifying information on traffic tickets.