National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The Chavis Carter Case: Was It Suicide?

From the New York Times:

[W]hat started as a routine arrest then took a fatal turn. As the officers were about to drive Mr. Carter to jail, they found him slumped over, his hands still cuffed behind his back, drenched in blood. According to the police report, he had fatally shot himself in the head.

In the weeks since the death of Mr. Carter, 21, heavy scrutiny has fallen on the police and their procedures, and calls for justice have lighted up Twitter and Facebook.

The police say Carter was searched twice before he was handcuffed and placed in the police car, so one question is where did the gun come from?  Another question is why Carter would want to kill himself (and in these circumstances)?

‘She was more afraid of the police’

Opinion column from the New York Times:

I MET her at 2 a.m. on a cold and windy morning in Washington, when she ran over to the outreach van to get a warm cup of coffee. Volunteers were offering condoms and health information to sex workers. She took only two condoms, and I urged her to take more. She told me that although she was worried about H.I.V., she was more afraid of the police. A month earlier, she had been harassed by officers for carrying several condoms. They told her to throw them out. She thought if they picked her up with more than a couple of condoms again, she might be taken to jail on prostitution charges.

Her story is not unique. Over the last eight months, Human Rights Watch has interviewed more than 200 current and former sex workers in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco. The interviews were part of an investigation into barriers to H.I.V. prevention for sex workers, who, worldwide, are more than 10 times as likely to be infected as the general population. What we found was shocking: While public health departments spend millions of dollars promoting and distributing condoms, police departments are harassing sex workers for carrying them and using them as evidence to support arrests.

Many of the women we interviewed asked, “How many condoms is it legal to carry?” One wondered,  “Why is the city giving me condoms when I can’t carry them without going to jail?”  Some women said they continued to carry condoms despite the consequences. For others, fear of arrest trumped fears of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Most of those we interviewed told us they were afraid to carry the number of condoms they needed, and some – about 5 percent – told us they had unprotected sex with clients as a result.

Police officers confiscate condoms and prosecutors try to enter them as evidence not because it is official policy to do so, but simply because they have not been trained to do otherwise. An act of the legislature (like one bill pending in the New York State Assembly), or even a directive from a police chief or district attorney, could end the practice immediately. Categories of evidence – like testimony regarding the sexual history of rape victims – are excluded as a matter of public policy in many legal systems. In this case, the value of condoms for H.I.V. and disease prevention far outweighs any utility they might have in the enforcement of anti-prostitution laws. Law enforcement efforts should not interfere with the right of anyone, including sex workers, to protect his or her own health.

Later this month, the 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington. The United States’ response to the epidemic will be in the spotlight; it is an opportunity for our government to announce new policies that protect those at risk of H.I.V. infection and to eliminate those that undermine prevention. Police and public health officials both seek to protect individuals and make our communities safer. They can – and should –  work together to keep condoms in the hands of those who need them the most.

When “Just Following Procedure” is a Crime Under the Color of Law

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Officials stood by two Casselberry officers who tased a man three times after he refused to show them his identification.

“They followed procedure. They followed the law,” spokeswoman Sara Brady said Thursday.

Zikomo Peurifoy, 25, of Casselberry was riding his bicycle Saturday at 5:14 p.m. across State Road 436 with Noelle Price, 27, of Casselberry when they were stopped by two officers who said they were jaywalking.

Saying he did nothing wrong, he accused the officers of making a false arrest, police said.

After his continued denial, one officer tased Peurifoy several times. When he was finally subdued, the arrest affidavit says, the officers searched him and found a loaded handgun on his waistband that “was easily accessible at any time during our encounter.”

Peurifoy had a permit for the weapon and never reached for it in the tussle. Police said Price had a small knife, brass knuckles and an unloaded gun, found when the two were brought to the Seminole County Jail.

Police officers must get used to people complying with their requests day in and day out–so some officers overreact when they encounter a citizen who just refuses, say, a request for ID.  This appears to be a outrageous overreaction by the police–indeed a crime

For additional background on identification demands by the police, go here and here.  Also, check out the Know Your Rights video featured on the home page above.  Btw,  it’s always a good day to blast that video out to friends, message boards, etc  — so please remember that.

German Bosque ‘Joked About His Record of Misconduct’

From the Miami Herald:

He has been accused of cracking the head of a handcuffed suspect, beating juveniles, hiding drugs in his police car, stealing from suspects, defying direct orders and lying and falsifying police reports. He once called in sick to take a vacation to Cancún and has engaged in a rash of unauthorized police chases, including one in which four people were killed.

Arrested and jailed three times, Bosque, 48, has been fired at least six times. Now under suspension pending yet another investigation into misconduct, Bosque stays home and collects his $60,000-a-year paycheck for doing nothing.

The Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association has successfully fought Bosque’s dismissals.

Officers Accused of Breaking Laws–Trespass, Perjury–to Make Cases

From the Tampa Bay Times:

LARGO — Hydroponic marijuana has cast a disturbing haze over Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s election campaign.

Narcotics detectives pursuing indoor pot farmers have been put on leave, accused of breaking the law and lying to judges. Prosecutors have had to drop charges.

Former Sheriff Everett Rice, who wants his old job back, has said this issue is one reason Gualtieri should be tossed from office.

Yet Rice had similar problems during his administration.

One detective from the Rice era (1988-2004) gathered evidence illegally then lied about it under oath. He also justified a search warrant by calling in his own “anonymous tip” that pot farming was afoot.

In another case, deputies secured a search warrant without revealing that a key tipster had an axe to grind: His wife was having an affair with the suspect.

Three Pinellas judges wiped out grow house cases because Rice’s detectives seriously distorted facts. One detective was prosecuted for perjury.

“We’ve been seeing this go on for decades,” said Largo lawyer John Trevena, who has defended pot growers under both sheriffs.

Rice came into office as a reformer, vowing to clean up corruption complaints against his predecessor. ….

Current allegations involve detectives who obtained search warrants by telling judges they stood on public sidewalks or in neighbors’ yards and detected the scent of indoor pot farms.

Defense lawyers theorized that deputies actually gathered evidence by illegally trespassing. One grower said his surveillance camera images of a narcotics sergeant vaulting his fence were seized, then erased.

Suspicions gathered steam after the Tampa Bay Times reported that one narcotics detective had refused to answer under oath when asked if his colleagues ever trespassed.

Gualtieri has put four deputies on leave while investigating and prosecutors have dropped 18 pending cases, compared with three during Rice’s time in office.

Problems within Gualtieri’s department are not limited to grow house warrants, Rice noted, citing reports about slipshod internal affairs investigations, deputies loafing on the job and possible theft.

Why we pulled the 7/16 San Francisco shooting report

Around 4:45pm on Saturday San Francisco police fatally shot a young man who fled after being detained for jumping fare on a light rail vehicle. Initial reports were that police insisted the young man was armed and had opened fire and officers returned fire without being injured. However, police could not find the alleged weapon and people claiming to be witnesses were contradicting their version of events by insisting the man was not armed and had his arms up when he was shot.

I initially added this to the news feed since it did meet our reporting criteria with 3rd party witnesses alleging misconduct and a lack of evidence supporting the police narrative. However, as time went by the story changed and finally came to a point where I felt it was no longer sufficiently credible to keep for our database.

What was the turning point? An alleged bystander’s cell phone video posted to YouTube in the aftermath of the shooting appeared to capture what seems to be a firearm on the ground approximately 6-7 yards away from the victim which, according to the person posting the video, was retrieved by a person in the crowd who later disappeared.

A clip from the video with an enlargement of the object alleged to be a firearm.

Now, this does not mean that either narrative is correct. After all, it seems strange that the person who took the video doesn’t alert anyone to the alleged gun, that others appear to walk right past it, and at least 5 officers with a line of sight on the alleged weapon do not react to it either. It is also questionable as to how the person who shot the video claims to know who picked up the gun when the video doesn’t pan over to where that alleged incident occurs but does capture someone picking up a cell phone that may have belonged to the victim.

However, it does cast enough questions on the incident to make the police version of events plausible where it wasn’t before. So, in fact, this may well be an incident where private citizens videotaping police may turn in favor of the police, which at least should make officers who want to make recording the police a crime think twice about that stance.

What are your thoughts on the case? Take our poll or let us know in the comment section.

[poll id=”4″]

*UPDATE: The SFPD now say they have retrieved a weapon they believe was used by the person they shot during the incident. They claim that a number of videos taken by witnesses led them to the person who is accused of picking up the alleged weapon in the aftermath of the officer-involved shooting incident.

Another update: Police are now saying that the young man had a criminal record in Washington state and was a person of interest in a Seattle WA shooting that injured 4, including a pregnant woman who later died from her injuries.

Review Update: As new footage comes to light a reader comments that a second video does not appear to show the object alleged to be a gun that was shown in the first video we reviewed. I’ve taken a look at the second video, available here (caution, it is very graphic and upsetting), and have highlighted a frame taken at full screen resolution between 1:03 and 1:05 and compared that to a frame from the initial video where the object appears closest to the viewer. Since this site is 3-column you’ll have to click the images to see them full size.

Image of alleged gun from 1st video

Image of unknown object from 2nd video

The grid lines are my best effort at trying to line up reference points between the two videos to determine whether the object that appears in the second video is in the same approximate position as what is alleged to be the gun in the first video and the position does appear to correspond as best as I can tell. Though, due to the poor quality at distance of the second video and because these are grabs from copies of the videos on YouTube instead of the raw video files I cannot determine for certain if they are the same object.

Unfortunately this is the best analysis I can do with the rather limited equipment and resources I have at my disposal. But it does appear as though the second video does not debunk the allegations of a gun appearing in the first video.

Now, again, I feel I have to say that I know being skeptical about this report isn’t going to earn me any friends and would appear to be counter to what some people might think this site is about. But this project must maintain a degree of credibility since we use our data to create statistics about police misconduct so it would be counter to our mission to record an incident in our database when there is evidence that it isn’t a case of misconduct.

Again, that’s not to say that there may or may not be some other component of misconduct involved here, but there just isn’t enough evidence to support that this was a case of non-defensive use of force at this time and there is no other evidence that I’ve been presented with that indicates that it is. Yes, it is difficult and upsetting to watch a young man suffer and die like this. But I cannot let my feelings about that affect how I analyze the evidence I’m shown. If anyone has any other videos or witness claims they feel should be weighed in this case, please do let me know.