National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

More on the John Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

Shot in the chest, he was left to bleed to death inside his doorway while police officers, remaining outside the house, did nothing for an hour. Five and a half hours after the shooting, his body remained sprawled on the floor where he died.

Incredibly, the authorities in Northern Virginia — including Fairfax County police and state and federal prosecutors — have refused to furnish any explanation for this stupefying sequence of events last Aug. 29 in Springfield. They have stonewalled.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. promised to “hold myself accountable” to Mr. Geer’s family, which includes two young daughters. He has done nothing of the kind. No official information about the shooting has been forthcoming. The officer who fired the shot, who remains on the force with full pay, has not been identified.

The authorities conduct themselves as if the case presented insurmountable complexities. This strains credulity. It involved one shot, one gun, one shooter and one fatality. It took place in broad daylight, at mid-afternoon. It was witnessed at close range by at least two other police officers, as well as friends and neighbors of Mr. Geer. And still authorities refuse to act or discuss Mr. Geer’s death.

The John Geer Case

From the Washington Post:

In the year since John Geer was fatally shot by a Fairfax County police officer, his family has struggled to cope with the sudden loss. His younger daughter, now 14, cried for weeks after the Aug. 29, 2013, incident.

His older daughter, now 18, marks the 29th of every month with some remembrance of her father. For years, he took her to every travel and high school softball practice and game, so his absence was obvious almost every day. The other fathers of her South County High team walked her onto the field on Senior Night, because hers couldn’t be there.

For Geer’s partner of 24 years and his parents, the grief was accompanied by waiting, they say. For information. For action. For answers from the prosecutors or police as to why a man who witnesses say was unarmed was shot in front of his home.

Police and federal investigators have not released any information publicly about the case. They have not said whether they think the shooting was justified and have not released the names of the officers involved.

“It’s been hell,” said Don Geer, John Geer’s father. “Frustrating to say the least — not knowing anything and having a feeling of helplessness, sadness, anger. Just wondering what’s going on and why nobody would tell us anything.”

Vice President Biden and the Police

According to news reports, three White House officials will be attending the funeral for Michael Brown today.  Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending and that is no surprise.   Why?  Because the Brown family has been demanding a vigorous, impartial investigation into the shooting and Biden is fond of saying that he “has the back” of the police force.  Biden’s presence would be awkward, to say the least.

Here is a clip where Biden is urging a police audience to get behind President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Biden has kept a low profile since the unrest began in Ferguson–and no wonder.   The last thing protesters there want to hear is that the White House “has the back” of the police.   Indeed, that’s why there is so much concern about the local county prosecutor who is handling the investigation and why there have been calls for Governor Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor.  A special prosecutor would be more likely to follow the evidence impartially.

Beyond the Brown shooting, we have seen other abuses by the police there.  The false arrest of reporters, the tear gas rounds fired into the yards of homes, and the reckless weapon handling by officers against protestors.   One wonders if Biden has been on the phone to Obama … saying the administration’s approach thus far has been all wrong… It should “have the back” of the police–not the reporters, the residents, the protesters.

Beyond Ferguson, African-Americans (and others) have been protesting in other cities.  On Saturday, thousands of New Yorkers turned out to protest the killing of Eric Garner by New York City police.   Other cities have other incidents to relate.

Make no mistake, Biden has been part of the problem.  The long simmering tensions in communities around the country did not spring out of nowhere.  Misguided policies and unaccountable bureaucracies bear much of the blame.  And so do powerful politicians like Biden, who have been deaf to the cries of police abuse and harassment.

 

The Michael Brown Case

The Michael Brown case is now all over the news.  The Washington Post has a front page headline, “FBI Will Investigate Shooting in Mo.”  It also has a helpful article, “What do we know about the shooting of Michael Brown, and of Brown himself.”  According to the reports, Brown had no history of trouble with the law.  He was supposed to start college this week.

Police have not disclosed the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown.   One can imagine the rationale for that.  There have been emotional protests and some violence by crowds.   Concerns for the officer’s safety, and perhaps for family members, could be the primary rationale.   That might justify a slight delay in releasing the name, perhaps to give a  family (if there is one) a chance to make some temporary arrangements, or for the department to arrange a security plan on the chance that protesters will go to the neighborhood.  However, it has now been several days and it is now necessary and appropriate for the officer to be identified.

The authorities keep saying that their investigation will be thorough.  Good.  That’s what we want to hear.  But deeds are more important than words.   At this point, it is important to know whether the officer has been the subject of police brutality lawsuits, and what were the outcomes of those cases.  On the other hand, maybe this officer has an unblemished record.  That would be good to know as well.

Michael Brown lost his life on Saturday.   We need to find out what happened and why.   Cases like this have 2 parts–the initial incident and then the response.   As bad as the initial incidents are; an inadequate response can be even more disturbing because it can be an indication of deeper problems within the police institution.  Fecklessness or, worse, abetting criminal conduct.  So far, the police have handled the Brown case very badly.

More here.

 

Chicago is Ready for Reform

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

We stand at a watershed in the long history of efforts to address patterns of police abuse in Chicago. On March 10, the state appellate court held in Kalven v. Chicago that documents bearing on allegations of police misconduct are public information. On July 11, the Emanuel administration announced that it will not appeal Kalven and that it has adopted a set of procedures for implementing the decision…

As the plaintiff and attorneys in Kalven, we engaged in extended negotiations with Corporation Counsel Steve Patton and his staff in order to settle the case. The Emanuel administration is to be commended. Not only does its new transparency policy conform to Kalven, in some respects it goes beyond what the decision requires.

This is real reform. It is important to understand why.

The documents at issue are: (1) the investigative files generated when a citizen files a complaint charging police misconduct, and (2) lists of officers who accumulated repeated complaints of abuse….

Until now, the city has fiercely resisted any and all efforts via the Freedom of Information Act and civil discovery to make public the identities of officers with repeated complaints and the contents of police misconduct files. From our perspective, it has often seemed to allocate more resources to maintaining official secrecy than to addressing the underlying problems.

The Emanuel administration’s new policy breaks with the past. From now on, the city will honor FOIA requests for police misconduct files, subject only to the redaction of private information such as the names of complainants and the accused officer’s address and Social Security number. If it believes a request is unduly burdensome, it will provide summary digests, detailed narratives of the investigation. Requesters will then have the option of asking the city for a subset of the requested files or specific documents they have identified within the files.

This policy will allow the public and the press to assess the quality of investigations and to identify groups of officers with a pattern of complaints. It will create incentives for investigators, knowing their work is subject to public scrutiny, to conduct rigorous investigations. And it will ultimately, we believe, move the department to address patterns of police abuse.

Hundreds of Misconduct Complaints Not Investigated

From the Los Angeles Times:

The head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal government’s largest law enforcement workforce, was removed from his post Monday amid criticism that he failed to investigate hundreds of allegations of inappropriate use of force by armed border agents, officials said….

For years, Customs and Border Protection officials have refused to tell families of those injured or killed by border agents if internal affairs had determined that an agent had acted improperly, or if any disciplinary action was taken.

Between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013, for example, at least 22 people were killed by Border Patrol agents, mostly on the Southwest border, and many more were injured. Hundreds of immigrants and others filed formal complaints of official misconduct, including beatings, sexual abuse and other assaults.

Only 14 agents were disciplined during that four-year period for violating use of force policies, according to data provided to The Times on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

 

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.

Deputy Crashes into Woman’s Car, Then Falsely Charges Her With DUI

 

From UPI:

A Wisconsin woman is still fighting to make things right after a sheriff’s deputy allegedly hit her with his car and then arrested her for drunk driving more than a year ago.

Tanya Weyker’s Camry was allegedly struck by Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Quiles’ patrol car last February and she suffered a broken neck in the collision….

Blood tests later revealed that Weyker had no alcohol or drugs in her system at the time of the crash and the district attorney declined to file charges.

Police Disciplinary Records: None of the Public’s Business?

From the Sacramento Bee:

[O]pen-records advocates say California residents today have some of the least access to law enforcement records of anywhere in the country. Bills to tighten the restrictions, pushed by politically influential law enforcement unions, routinely sail through the Legislature. Attempts to provide more disclosure have been few and unsuccessful.

Under state law, peace officer personnel records are confidential, including personal data, promotion, appraisal and discipline records, and “any other information the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Only a judge can order their release as part of a criminal case or lawsuit.

The restrictions regularly come into play. In Lodi, police officials have released little about the officers involved in the Jan. 25 shooting of Parminder Singh Shergill, an Iraq War veteran. In West Sacramento, Latino groups demanded information after the June 2005 police beating of brothers Ernesto and Fermin Galvan. There also was anger at the lack of details following the April 2009 shooting of Luis Gutierrez Navarro by Yolo County sheriff’s deputies.

Civil-rights lawyer Cruz Reynoso said community members in such cases confront a police “wall of silence.”