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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month — May 2013

For May, the worst story was the David Sal Silva case.

From the New York Times:

LOS ANGELES — When Maria Melendez emerged from Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, Calif., just before midnight last Tuesday, she said, she heard screams that have kept her awake at night for an entire week.

A half-dozen Kern County sheriff’s deputies were across the street beating a man with clubs and kicking him, she said. So she whipped out her mobile phone and began to video the episode, announcing to the officers what she was doing.

For about eight minutes, Ms. Melendez said, the man screamed and cried for help. Then he went silent….

Sheriff Donny Youngblood of Kern County did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday. But in a news release last week, the sheriff’s office said Mr. Silva was “uncooperative” and had continued to resist arrest even after a number of officers had arrived.

Laura Vasquez, who was with Ms. Melendez, recalled the encounter very differently.

She said that sheriff’s deputies told Mr. Silva to stay on the ground. When he tried to get up, she said, deputies ran up and hit him in the head with their clubs. Soon, she said, he was crying for help as at least eight officers hit him, kicked him and pressed their knees into his chest and stomach.

“For the first couple minutes he was screaming for help, basically pleading for his life,” said Ms. Vasquez, 26. “Then we couldn’t see him anymore. That’s how many cops were on top of him.”

After everyone had gone home, sheriff’s detectives showed up at the house of Ms. Melendez’s daughter, Melissa Quair, about 3 a.m.

Ms. Quair said she and her boyfriend were kept from leaving the house for three hours. When her boyfriend tried to leave for work, a detective shoved him, closed the door and told him to hand over his phone, she said. Eventually he did.

Ms. Melendez said her phone was also confiscated by sheriff’s detectives at Ms. Quair’s house later the same day.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-07-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, June 7, 2013:

  • Richland County, South Carolina: A deputy has been fired after he allegedly forced a woman to expose herself and touch herself inappropriately in exchange for help with criminal charges. “The fact that one person decided to misuse his authority and victimize a citizen does not reflect the exceptional people that work for the Richland County Sheriffs Department,” said the sheriff.
  • Update: Laredo, Texas (First reported 03-08-13): A now-former officer has been sentenced to a year in prison after admitting to abusing a suspect in his patrol car.
  • San Francisco, California: Police sicced a dog on a man walking home from work, mauling him with 56 bites, and kept him in handcuffs even after the crime victim told them he was “the wrong guy,” said the man in court.
  • San Antonio, Texas: A police officer who became belligerent at a bar was arrested. He had been ordered to leave at closing time, and when employees locked the door behind him, he kicked the door off its hinges. He has been charged with criminal mischief.
  • Update: Schaumburg, Illinois (First reported 05-20-13): A former police officer has been charged with official misconduct for allegedly keeping a gun that a woman turned into police for disposal. He has been on paid leave since the incident.
  • Madison County, Illinois: A state trooper has been accused of allowing his police dog to bite a man who was unconscious on the ground. The man has claimed the incident was unreasonable force.
  • Update: Beaverton, Oregon (First reported 06-04-13): A police officer pleaded not guilty to child rape charges. He has been accused of raping his 5-year-old relative.
  • Orange County, Florida: A police officer has been fired and called a liar by police department leaders. He was off-duty because of an injury to his foot, and his boss thought he was lying, so they set up a sting outside of his home. They captured video of him walking his dogs, driving his daughters to school, doing yard work, and repairing his car.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-06-13

Here are the 17 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, June 6, 2013:

  • Los Angeles, California: A former police officer has been sentenced to nineteen years in prison after pleading no contest to sexually assaulting five women while on duty. He was charged with five felonies including two counts of rape and three counts of penetration of a foreign object.
  • Richmond County, Georgia: A sheriff’s deputy was fired after an internal investigation into the handling of evidence. A complaint had been filed claiming he had improperly handled property seized from a defendant.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: An officer has been fired for engaging in an improper high-speed chase and lying about it. “Officer Kezeske drove at speeds more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit through residential areas and in heavy traffic, at one point driving off the roadway,” the complaint filed by the chief says.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Two officers have been arrested and charged in trafficking drugs and robbing alleged drug dealers while in uniform. The two would stop and search people they suspected of drug trafficking for the purpose of stealing their drugs.
  • Saginaw County, Michigan: The sheriff’s department has suspended a deputy for his role in a crash that injured a pregnant woman. He was suspended for 24 hours with pay and 24 hours without pay. There were three children in the car, and the woman had to have an emergency c-section.
  • Edison, New Jersey: A police officer has been accused of attending a party and drinking while in uniform and on-duty. He had been drinking for several hours when someone called in and reported him. He was suspended with pay pending disciplinary action.
  • Carthage, North Carolina: The now-former police chief pleaded guilty to three felonies involving use of a town credit card for personal use, but he will do no jail time. He must pay restitution, a fine, and perform 250 hours of community service.
  • Fayette, Iowa: A former state trooper has pleaded guilty to charges he entered an ex-girlfriend’s home. He was charged with first-degree burglary and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse.
  • Dallas, Texas: A police officer was arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge. The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation.
  • Update: Edison, New Jersey (First reported 06-03-13): A police officer has pleaded not guilty to setting fire to the home of his police captain, while his family was sleeping in the home. He is charged with aggravated arson and five counts of attempted murder.
  • Albany, New York: A police officer pleaded guilty to slamming his SUV into a row of parked cars while he was drunk. He was sentenced immediately and will pay the maximum fine, court fees, and will serve community service.
  • Bristol, Florida: The sheriff has been accused of intervening and having charges dropped against a county resident arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.
  • Cranford, New Jersey: A 12-year-veteran police officer pleaded guilty to harassing a woman while he was on duty. He was suspended without pay following his arrest, and will now be let go. As part of the plea agreement he can never hold a public sector job again.
  • Clovis, California: A police officer has been arrested and his home searched. He was accused of domestic violence and false imprisonment with violence. The officer was already on leave from a different complaint against him.
  • Boerne, Texas: A police officer has been fired after a grand jury declined to indict him for shooting an arrow into his neighbor’s cat.
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The former commander of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force will plead guilty to stealing at least $125,000 from drug proceeds seized by the unit. He embezzled money that the task force seized.
  • Update: Meriden, Connecticut (First reported 11-15-12): A federal jury took less than three hours to find a police officer guilty of using unreasonable force on a prisoner and then obstructing justice in an effort to cover up his actions. He faces up to 30 years in prison at his sentencing.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-05-13

Here are the 22 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, June 5, 2013:

  • Baltimore, Maryland: A police officer accepted cash payments and provided protection for a man she believed to be a drug dealer, but he was actually working with investigators to build a criminal case against her. “As painful as this is to get before you and say that we have arrested one of our own, it is the steps that need to be taken in order … [to be] an organization that serves professionally, honorably and seeks to enforce the law without breaking the law,” the Police Commissioner said. “We will do whatever it takes to get there. We are not done.”
  • Woodfin, North Carolina: A police officer has been suspended after being pulled over and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was the officer of the year in 2010.
  • Austin, Texas: A police officer was fired after police say they found him with a prostitute who said he paid her $10 to perform oral sex. “Officer Garcia’s actions destroy police confidence in and respect for the department,” the police chief said in a memo.
  • Tampa, Florida: Two police officers were fired for drinking while on duty at a Gentleman’s Club. “It is very embarrassing to me personally and all the officers, and the citizens deserve better,” said the police chief.
  • Athens, Ohio: A sheriff is being criticized amid allegations that he illegally destroyed tons of public records during a cleaning of a storage area at his office. The county prosecutor has been digging through a landfill looking for any more of the closed criminal case files that may have been thrown out.
  • Bladensburg, Maryland: A police officer is being accused of credit card fraud. He is charged with theft of money having a value of at least $1,000 but not more than $10,000.
  • St. Louis, Missouri: A now-former police officer has admitted that he was drunk when he critically injured a passenger in his personal car by accidentally crashing into an on-duty officer’s official SUV. He was suspended and then resigned after the incident.
  • St. Petersburg, Florida: A police officer resigned from the force, but would have been terminated after screenshots of his text messages revealed an inappropriate relationship with a woman from a case. While he was investigating a domestic violence case involving the woman, he was also actively pursuing a relationship with her.
  • Austin, Texas: A police officer was fired after officials said he misled movie theater employees to get free tickets. “Honesty is of the utmost importance in the police profession and dishonesty is a serious policy violation for which indefinite suspension is mandated,” said the police chief.
  • Newark, Delaware: A state trooper has been arrested for allegedly filing false information in an arrest warrant from an investigation he conducted. He was suspended with pay and benefits while awaiting the outcome of his charges.
  • Bridgeville, Delaware: A 30-year state police veteran has been placed on administrative duty after being charged with drunken driving.
  • Update: McAllen, Texas (First reported 04-03-13): Five now-former law enforcement officials pleaded guilty to their role in ripping off drug loads from drug dealers and selling them to an alleged drug trafficker. Four of the officers were part of a narcotics group.
  • Update: Battle Creek, Michigan (First reported 08-20-12): An officer was sentenced to pay more than $1,000 in fines and court costs from a drunken driving crash.
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: Cell phone video shows deputies taking down a suspect who was resisting. But, the man’s family claims it also shows deputies using excessive force, which the Sheriff’s department denies.
  • Update: Box Elder County, Utah (First reported 02-13-13): A now-former sheriff’s deputy has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to illegally strip-searching women at traffic stops. Each of the two counts against him carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A police officer hit a parked car and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
  • Jasper, Texas: The city council voted unanimously to fire two police officers that are accused of using excessive force on a 25-year-old female suspect that resisted being placed into custody at the jail. “I think this lady’s actions weren’t good, but the officers’ actions weren’t either,” the Mayor said. “They’re the police and that means they should be held to higher standards.”
  • Altoona, Pennsylvania: A now-former officer will serve a prison sentence for assaulting two men at a lounge, and then conspiring with a fellow officer to cover up his involvement with the fight.
  • New York, New York: A police officer has been convicted of official misconduct for faking paperwork to conceal his involvement in a wrongful search and arrest of two men. He will be fired from the department.
  • Update: Denver, Colorado (First reported 04-23-13): The sheriff’s deputy charged with helping a felon escape the downtown jail has resigned.
  • Haverhill, Massachusetts: The police chief has recommended that a police officer be fired. This is a result of an internal investigation of the already suspended officer. The officer faces charges for allegedly stalking and threatening his estranged wife and her boyfriend.
  • Update: DeLand, Florida: The officer who investigators say ran over and killed a 38-year-old man has been fired. The incident occurred after law enforcement officers tried to pull him over for not wearing his sear belt.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-04-13

Here are the 13 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, June 4, 2013:

  • Tallassee, Alabama: The now-former assistant police chief has been convicted on ‘numerous’ felony ethics. She was found guilty of 10 counts of using her official position for personal gain, and 19 counts of unlawfully obtaining the criminal offender record information of multiple individuals.
  • Update: Highland Park, Michigan (First reported 05-03-13): A third police officer accused in a series of incidents involving bribery and cocaine delivery pleaded guilty to conspiring to take bribes. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
  • Villa Hills, Kentucky: An assistant police chief is under suspension after the city’s mayor ordered it. He was suspended for gross conduct and political activism.
  • Coral Springs, Florida: A police officer accused of masturbating in front of a woman at a gas station resigned days after the allegation surfaced. After an investigation, the chief said, “The department would not condone or tolerate his behavior, and he would have been terminated had he not resigned. We as an agency demand the highest level of professionalism from our officers. [His] behavior does not reflect the kind of conduct we demand from our officers.”
  • Update: Vineland, New Jersey (First reported 01-08-13): A now-former police officer has been sentenced to two years probation for stealing from the local Police Benevolent Association.
  • Beaverton, Oregon: A police officer already facing charges of food stamp fraud is now accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old child. In 2011, police department confirms the officer was fired because investigators thought he knew a friend was sexually abusing three girls under the age of 14 six years but refused to report it. An arbitrator disagreed, and he was reinstated to desk duty that same year.
  • Kansas City, Kansas: A former police officer is accused of threatening the lives of the police chief and a police captain. He faces four counts based on the allegations. He wanted to retaliate against them for providing information to FBI agents regarding an investigation. He was an officer when the investigation was taking place.
  • Norwalk, California: A police officer was charged today with 12 sex-related counts involving a 14-year-old-girl. If convicted, he faces up to seven years and four months in state prison.
  • Update: Scranton, Pennsylvania (First reported 04-25-13): A police chief already facing charges of intimidating a witness has been hit with new charges. He was originally charged with witness intimidation. He is now also being charged with tampering with evidence and solicitation to bribe.
  • Rockdale County, Georgia: A deputy has been arrested and terminated after being accused of child molestation. He has been charged with aggravated child molestation and aggravated sodomy.
  • Chicago, Illinois: A now-former police officer was sentenced to 144 in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering, drug, and robbery conspiracies and other related charges. He and another officer committed armed robberies on behalf of a gang member, in some instances while in uniform and driving police-issued vehicles. They stole drugs, weapons, and cash, and in some instances, they were given a portion of the funds as payment for committing the armed robberies.
  • Waukesha County, Wisconsin: An off-duty sheriff’s detective was arrested for allegedly driving drunk. He had three passengers in the car with him at the time of the arrest.
  • Update: Minneapolis, Minnesota (First reported 04-22-13): A now-former police officer, accused of using social media to try to lure girls into sexual encounters, faces five new felony charges, including an allegation of having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 06-03-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Monday, June 3, 2013:

  • Martinsburg, West Virginia: A state trooper accused of fraudulently obtaining $4,455 worth of leave pay by allegedly lying about attending military training was indicted on one count of felony fraudulent schemes.
  • Union Springs, Alabama: A police sergeant pulled over a driver suspected of being drunk and allegedly took the man’s billfold and stole hundreds of dollars. He faces two charges; third degree theft and an ethics violation, a misdemeanor and a felony. He has resigned.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: A 14-year metro police officer resigned before the police chief could fire him in a misconduct case. He was caught on video hitting a handcuffed man. “An officer striking a handcuffed prisoner who was in no way offering any kind of resistance that is unacceptable and something that our people need to understand and our community should understand I will not tolerate,” said the chief.
  • Arlington County, Virginia: Prosecutors say a sheriff’s deputy charged with fatally shooting a man while off-duty went home to get his gun after an argument. He has been on unpaid administrative leave since his arrest.
  • Boulder, Colorado: A former police officer who was assigned to enforce drunken-driving laws has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, with a blood-alcohol level of more than .02.
  • Ross Township, Ohio: A police officer and his girlfriend were arrested for allegedly leaving young children in a pickup truck while they were in a Florida bar. The kids were eleven months and three years old and the couple had also left a gun in the driver’s side door pocket, within reach of the kids.
  • Manatee County, Florida: A deputy was arrested and charged for allegedly molesting two underage girls. The State Attorney’s Office has recommended he be terminated.
  • Update: Grand Junction, Colorado (First reported 03-25-13): A now-former police officer who was convicted for sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust was sentenced to eight years in the Department of Corrections.
  • Wichita, Kansas: An officer and two other people were charged with conspiracy and wire fraud after an internal investigation by police concluded that they were involved in a scheme to keep the officer from losing her job. They are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.
  • Edison, New Jersey: A police officer was arrested and charged for allegedly setting fire to the home of the police captain and his family. His wife, two kids, and 92-year old mother were all inside asleep when he set the fire. They all escaped. The officer faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

Minneapolis Cops Rarely Disciplined After Lawsuits

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Despite nearly $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct over the past seven years, the Minneapolis Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis.

Of 95 payouts from 2006 to 2012 to people who said they were victims of misconduct, eight resulted in officers being disciplined, according to records from the police and the city attorney’s office.

The 12 costliest settlements were for cases that did not result in any officer discipline, the Star Tribune found. They included the $2.19 million paid in the case of Dominic Felder, a mentally ill man shot dead in 2006 by police, and the $1 million paid in the case of Rickia Russell, a woman severely burned by a police flash grenade in 2010.

The John Valluzzo Case

From the New York Times:

“Anna and John were in the kitchen,” Mr. Weller said. “Off the back door of the kitchen, there’s a step-down to a portico. That’s where the cops came. John was standing inside the kitchen. Anna said all she heard was: ‘Freeze! Freeze! Pop! Pop!’ Then she heard a thud — him falling — and then him moaning.”

Shortly afterward, Mr. Weller said, “the police officer was very upset and kept saying, ‘What did I do?’ The other officers were trying to console him.”

More Shootings, More Questions

Three stories from today’s Washington Post:

The FBI shooting of Ibragim Todashev: “Journalists have gotten a tangle of conflicting reports from law enforcement sources about what happened, many of which look bad for the FBI.”

Update 2: “It’s odd that this latest story is so different from the previous ones that have leaked out. A knife, a samurai sword, a metal pole, and a broomstick don’t seem like objects that would be confused for one another.”  More here.

The shooting of Mhai Scott: “As authorities continued to investigate Wednesday’s fatal shooting of a woman by a Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy, the Philippine Embassy on Thursday called on officials to take an aggressive look at whether deadly force was needed.”

Update 2: “Fortunately for investigators, there were apparently no shortage of witnesses in Costco to the incident, and the store’s own internal security video may also have recorded it. Given the extraordinary circumstances — a fatal shooting at mid-afternoon in a popular store in plain view of shoppers — the authorities would be well advised to release whatever footage of the incident exists as soon as possible. Failing to do so will only invite further questions, and suspicions, about the prudence of the deputies’ actions and the circumstances of Ms. Scott’s death.”  More here.

Deputy charged with murder for the shooting of Julian Dawkins.  This is an update.  Previous coverage here.

Update 2:  “Still, many questions remain about the case, which has tested the patience of Dawkins’s relatives and friends. Prosecutors and police have refused to say how the two men first encountered each other, what they argued about or what occurred immediately before the shooting.”  More here.

The Jabbar Collins Case

From the New York Times:

Jabbar Collins …  is suing the city after winning his release after serving 16 years in prison for a murder he said he did not commit. His conviction was tossed out after he provided evidence that the police and prosecutors coerced false testimony….

The judge presiding over Mr. Collins’s lawsuit, Frederic Block, said the facts showed that officers working on the case, Vincent Gerecitano and Jose. R. Hernandez, had pressured a heroin addict to implicate Mr. Collins, and that Mr. Vecchione had threatened the addict with prosecution and bodily harm unless he agreed to testify against Mr. Collins. Two other witnesses made similar accusations.


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