National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Will ‘Community Policing’ Help?

From the New Republic:

On January 30, the USCM released a report on strengthening “police-community” relations in American cities. The six-page report came full of recommendations for everything from “youth study circles” to new equipment. The report was completed with the help of a working group of police chiefs, including Philadelphia Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the man appointed by President Obama to chair his Task Force on 21st Century Policing in response to rising unrest around around the issue of police brutality.

Absent from their suggestions, however, was a single mention of officer discipline….

What the #BlackLivesMatter protests made clear is that communities of color are increasingly fed up with the over-policing of our neighborhoods, extrajudicial killings of unarmed black people and the failures of the justice system to hold killer cops accountable. To ignore those complaints and suggest that the issue is merely one of distrust is dishonest, and it evades the very obvious fact that police brutality is a national problem that persists, in part, because cops can get away with it.

I’ve commented before on “community policing,” but it’s worth noting again how troubling that term is. “Community policing” reframes the conversation around police reform from one that addresses police brutality to one that addresses the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, as though they’re mutually combative. The relationship between the two isn’t the issue. It’s the manner in which law enforcement relates to communities of color that’s proven deadly, time and time again.

Comedian Chris Rock provided an apt analogy for this during his recent New York Magazine interview.

“If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, ‘Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.’ It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner.”

Similarly, ending police brutality isn’t up to the communities that are brutalized.

Read the whole thing.

 

Accountability Measures Getting Talked About. Awaiting Enactment…

From the Washington Post:

More than a dozen states are considering new legislation aimed at increasing police accountability in the wake of incidents in Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island, N.Y.; and Cleveland that left unarmed black men dead at the hands of officers.

Dozens of bills addressing body cameras for police have been filed in at least 13 states. Other proposed measures would change the way police departments report officer-involved shootings, racial profiling and the way courts deal with low-level offenders.

“There is a concrete coherent legislative agenda that we are pushing for,” said Cornell Brooks, president and chief executive of the NAACP. “We’ve been doing this from state capital to state capital, as well as here in Washington, D.C.”

Post Editorial About Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

Everyone involved in this case has dropped the ball and dodged responsibility, enabling what now looks like a coverup in a case of police impunity.

 The police, who did not seek medical treatment for Mr. Geer or retrieve his body for more than an hour, falsely claimed Mr. Geer had “barricaded” himself inside his house after he was shot, then stonewalled prosecutors and the public for months.

The top prosecutor in Fairfax, Ray Morrogh, punted the case to the feds over a supposed conflict of interest involving a courthouse shouting match between Officer Torres and a rank-and-file prosecutor. That seems a far-fetched reason not to pursue the case.

The feds — first the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, then the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — sat on the case for months more, saying nothing.

Fairfax’s County’s governing body, the Board of Supervisors, seems incapable of getting its own employees — namely the police and the County Attorney’s office — to conduct themselves responsibly and transparently. The supervisors have managed nothing beyond tut-tutting that things don’t look quite right and calling for a review of policies.

That mind-set seems to have infected virtually every agency in Fairfax, in addition to the feds, that should have stepped up to see that justice was done in the Geer case. The case should be presented to a jury, which can weigh Officer Torres’s account against those of other witnesses. The delay and obfuscation represent a travesty of justice

NYC Settles Lawsuit Involving Teen Killing

From the New York Times:

The family of a Bronx teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer who had barged into his apartment after suspecting him of taking part in a drug deal has agreed to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city for $3.9 million.

The agreement to settle the case, reported Friday by The Daily News, comes nearly three years after the Feb. 2, 2012, shooting of the teenager, Ramarley Graham….

A criminal case against Officer Haste collapsed in August 2013 when a Bronx grand jury chose not to indict him. An earlier case in which he had been indicted on manslaughter charges related to the shooting was dismissed by a judge on a technicality.

More on the John Geer Shooting

From the Washington Post:

How and why Geer died that afternoon in August 2013 after police responded to a domestic dispute at his home have remained a mystery, as police and prosecutors have declined to comment on the case for 17 months. But Friday night, under a court order obtained by lawyers for the Geer family, Fairfax released more than 11,000 pages of documents that shed new light on the police shooting….

Mike Lieberman, an attorney for the Geer family, said: “If this was a similar situation involving two ordinary citizens, there is little doubt that any individual who shot an unarmed man who was holding his hands up in the air and claiming that he did not want to hurt anyone would have been arrested and charged.

“Within days of the shooting, the police department, at the highest levels, knew of the gross discrepancies between Officer Torres’s version of the events and the accounts provided by every other eyewitness.”

According to the report, the local prosecutor was unable to get information from the police department about the officer who shot Geer.  Why did the police department withhold the information?  Hmm.

The Tamir Rice Case

From the New York Times:

Within two seconds of the car’s arrival, Officer Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen from point-blank range, raising doubts that he could have warned the boy three times to raise his hands, as the police later claimed.

And when Tamir’s 14-year-old sister came running up minutes later, the officers, who are white, tackled her to the ground and put her in handcuffs, intensifying later public outrage about the boy’s death. When his distraught mother arrived, the officers also threatened to arrest her unless she calmed down, the mother, Samaria Rice, said.

Officers Garmback and Loehmann did not check Tamir’s vital signs or perform first aid in the minutes after he was shot. But Officer Garmback frantically requested an emergency medical team at least seven times, urging the dispatcher to “step it up” and to send medical workers from a fire station a block away. It would be eight minutes before they arrived.

California’s Secretive Policies

From the Sacramento Bee:

California has one of the nation’s most restrictive laws for public access to information about police officer misconduct. State law bars disclosure of all police personnel records – a restriction that prevents the public from finding out which officers have engaged in serious misconduct. What’s more, courts and police agencies have interpreted that confidentiality broadly to cut off public access to nearly all information that might be used in personnel decisions, including internal affairs investigations and hearings on civilian complaints.

Under California law, civilians who file complaints against officers find out little about what happens next. To avoid violating state law, departments often don’t disclose even whether the officer was found to have violated policy, much less exactly what policy the officer violated, what kind of discipline resulted, or any explanation of why the department reached the result it did.

The Wire: Police Commanders Discuss Prospects of Grand Jury Indictment for Brutality Case

Does this scene from an HBO show tell us that the outcome in every grand jury case involving police misconduct is preordained?  Of course not.  Do prosecutors exert their power and influence to have grand juries refrain from criminal charges against police officers — even when the available evidence is incriminating?  It happens.

Cato study on grand juries here.

The Eric Garner Case: Time to Open Your Eyes

Harry Siegel in the New York Daily News:

Garner had a heart attack in the ambulance, and died.

As he lay dying, he was treated like a piece of meat. By Pantaleo. By the other cops on the scene. Even by the medical technicians.

Had Garner been treated with basic human dignity after he was violently, and needlessly, taken down, he might not be dead.

I’m no lawyer, but this is section 125.15 of New York’s penal code: “A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 1. He recklessly causes the death of another person.”

So I’m stunned, and saddened, by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to level no charges against Pantaleo.

Anyone unsure why so many people of color are upset with the police, and suspicious of the American justice system, put your politics down, open your eyes and watch the videos.

Regular visitors will recall that we selected the Garner case as the ‘worst of the month’ for July.

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