National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

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.”

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’

From CNSPhilly.com:

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.

Hmm.

Atlantic City K-9 Officer Sterling Wheaten

From NBCPhiladelphia.com:

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.