National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

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.”

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.

‘Give me the phone, you bitch’


Costantino says [Officer] Wheaten arrested her brother after he got into an altercation with another patron.

“Wheaten had my brother in a headlock and his arms were limp and his legs were weak,” Costantino said. “I screamed out that it was police brutality and that I was videotaping it all.”
That’s when she claims Wheaten turned on her.

“He was running at me and he says, ‘Give me the phone you b**h,’” she said. “He grabbed my bun and he was slamming my forehead into the floor.”

Wheaten then arrested Costantino but court records show the charges against her were later dropped. Costantino says she’ll never forget what one officer told her the night of the incident.

“He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s your first mistake,’” she said. “You shouldn’t be videotaping police officers.”

And then the story says:

The Atlantic City Police Department is also at the center of another lawsuit from one of their own. Sergeant Mark Benjamin sued the department after claiming he received death threats for reporting police misconduct to his superiors.


Atlantic City K-9 Officer Sterling Wheaten


On June 5, 20-year-old David Castellani Jr. exchanged words with three Atlantic City police officers after he was kicked out of a casino for being underage.

A surveillance camera from the casino shows the officers force Castellani Jr. to the ground. It then shows two other officers get involved moments later.

“It was horrifying,” said David Castellani, the man’s father. “Absolutely horrifying.”

But Castellani says the most horrifying part of the recording comes the moment when a K-9 officer, identified as Sterling Wheaten, arrives.

“With his hands behind his back, the K-9 truck pulls up and without any assessment of the situation, the K-9 officer releases the dog on my son’s neck,” Castellani said…

“I’m an attorney in the community and I’ve represented police officers before,” Castellani said.

 ’“Never in my life have I seen anything like this before, let alone with my own son.”
Castellani is suing the officers involved, accusing them of excessive force.

There is a video at the link above.  In that video clip, the reporter says he asked the Atlantic City Police Department whether there were any other lawsuits against Officer Wheaten, and the department’s reply was….wait for it……. ‘we don’t know.’    Hmm.


Another False Arrest for Filming Police


From WECT:

LELAND, NC (WECT) – An officer with the Leland Police Department has been suspended without pay for 28 days after a teenager recorded video of an arrest on his cell phone.

According to police reports, 19-year-old Gabriel Self tried approaching Leland Police Sergeant John Keel as he was arresting another man on drug charges. Sgt. Keel told Self to leave the area….

The charge was resisting, obstructing, or delaying a law enforcement officer. Self was interfering with an investigation, according to the arrest report….

Self said Keel was simply standing in the parking lot, so he did not see how he could be interfering with anything.

Questions About a Virginia Police Shooting

From a Washington Post editorial:

The report by Mr. Plowman, the county’s top prosecutor, presents the results of a serious and substantive investigation into the May 29 shooting. It includes statements from shoppers and store employees who were witnesses, and from the officers, as well as images from store security cameras and photos of the knife and scissors.

All that is useful, as is the speed with which the report was produced. Still, some critical questions remain unanswered, including the central one: Why couldn’t the officers — five of them, including three who had drawn their Tasers — subdue Ms. Scott short of using lethal force? Would better training have yielded a different outcome?

According to Mr. Plowman’s report, just one of three officers who drew his Taser fired it. The device hit Ms. Scott but apparently malfunctioned. Rather than delivering an incapacitating five-second jolt, which the report says is the norm, the electrical burst lasted just one second, and Ms. Scott was unaffected.

Why? The report is vague, saying it is unclear whether human error or equipment malfunction is to blame. (The Taser in question has been sent to the manufacturer for “more thorough examination,” the report says.) And why didn’t the other two officers who had drawn their Tasers use them? …

[P]olice must be prepared to deal with psychotic, disturbed and aggressive people; that’s part of the job description. Did the deputies in Loudoun receive adequate training for such an encounter? On that question, the report is silent.

City of St. Paul Pays One Million in Police Lawsuits

From the Associated Press:

St. Paul spent about $1 million to settle or defend itself against lawsuits alleging police misconduct last year, which was the largest amount in at least 17 years, a newspaper reported Sunday….

The total costs — settlement amounts, city attorney staff time and court costs — were almost $800,000 in the Smith cases and more than $230,000 in the Harrington cases, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported ( ).

One case that was settled for $400,000 involved a woman who suffered serious burns when police used a flash-bang device while executing a search warrant at her home.

In another case, a man who ran from police wound up with a skull fracture, gashes on his head that required 21 staples to close and burns to his face caused by chemical spray. The city settled his lawsuit, which alleged that officers used excessive force, for $249,000.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins

From the Washington Post:

In March, a grand jury determined that no criminal charges against the officers involved in Mr. Saylor’s death were warranted. So why not release the results of the investigation that shed light on the officers’ actions — specifically, the statements of moviegoers who may have witnessed the altercation? For what possible reason do these accounts remain secret? Were they even presented to the grand jury?

Just two days before Mr. Saylor’s death, Frederick County deputies shot to death Daniel Vail, 19, who was a suspect in a home invasion. The sheriff’s office asserts that Mr. Vail pointed a shotgun at deputies when they executed a no-knock warrant at his mother’s home around 1 a.m. on Jan. 10. Mr. Vail’s mother and a lawyer for the family dispute that account. There are reports of a grand jury investigation, but precious little information has been made public.

The use of deadly force is exceedingly rare, even in big-city police departments. Back-to-back fatalities involving sheriff’s deputies in a county the size of Frederick is rarer still. Mr. Jenkins, the public deserves answers.

Previous coverage here.