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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

KVUE’s “Conduct Unbecoming” Part 3

Last week, Austin television station KVUE aired two of their four-part series on police corruption, “Conduct Unbecoming.” Last night, they aired the third installment, which tackles police misconduct’s price tag for taxpayers.

By their estimate, Texas taxpayers have paid out about $54 million in lawsuits related to police misconduct since 2009. In one case they highlight, Austin paid one million dollars to a Carlos Chacon, who was repeatedly tased and suffered lacerations to his face after he called the police at a motel. The judge in the case said, “[T]he worst decision he made that night was to call 911.”

In a separate incident, the same officer who tased Mr. Chacon was suspended 90 days for tasing a suspect twice. He is still an Austin police officer.

You can check out the full piece at KVUE here. You can read our take on part one here, and part two here.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-26-16

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 26, 2016:

  • U.S. Marshals Service (Albuquerque, New Mexico):  A raid on the wrong trailer killed the occupant, 23-year-old Edgar Alvarado. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
  • Newburyport, Massachusetts: An officer was allowed to resign without criminal charges after he was caught performing a lewd act in public.
  • Update: Fairview, Tennessee (First reported 02-08-16): The chief retired amid an investigation into the questionable hire of a man who was soon after caught in a prostitution sting.
  • Galveston, Texas: An officer was indicted on a criminal trespass charge for searching the vehicle of a man who was recording him.
  • Goshen, Ohio: An investigation and audit revealed missing money from evidence. All of the affected cases involved the same officer.
  • Lee County, Florida: An officer was arrested after a standoff with police. The officer allegedly fired his weapon while highly intoxicated during a family dispute.
  • Update: Albany, New York (First reported 11-23-15): An officer who had been suspended for a Halloween altercation with a child has been hired by Schenectady County Sheriff’s
  • Update: Del Rio, Texas (First reported 01-20-16): An officer who was suspended last month was arrested on assault charges.
  • Benton County, Arkansas: A deputy was arrested and fired for having sex with a minor.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-25-16

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, February 25, 2016:

  • Update: Spokane, Washington (First reported 07-17-15): An officer was suspended for five days after pleading guilty to misdemeanor trespassing for domestic violence arrest.
  • Marion County, Florida: Three deputies resigned after they were accused of misconduct. Dash cameras revealed one deputy was using excessive force, conducting traffic stops without sufficient cause, and conducting searches pursuant to those stops without proper consent. The other deputies’ violations were related to suspected drug use.
  • Columbia County, Georgia: Two deputies were arrested and fired for stealing cellphone accessories from a crash scene.
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland: An officer was arrested for threatening and hitting his wife with a gun. He is alleged to have said, “You know I can kill you.”
  • Winston County, Alabama: The sheriff resigned amid allegations he pressured deputies to give him marijuana.
  • Update: Chesterfield, Missouri (First reported 06-09-14): A now-former officer pled guilty to recording men in bathrooms engaging in sexual acts in two jurisdictions. He is slated to be sentenced in both cases in April.
  • San Antonio, Texas: An officer was fired again. He was reinstated after the DWI that led to his termination was thrown out of court. This time, he was fired for getting in a bar fight the night he was celebrating his reinstatement.
  • Update: Albuquerque, New Mexico (First reported 01-12-15): A review panel has recommended firing the officer who shot and critically wounded an undercover officer during a drug operation.

“Conduct Unbecoming” Part 2

On Tuesday, I shared the first part of KVUE’s four-part investigation “Conduct Unbecoming,” tracking police misconduct through the Texas criminal justice system. Part Two on conviction rates aired last night. You can view the video here.

KVUE’s data indicates that police are convicted at a lower rate than the general public, but the data is inconclusive due to the difficulty in obtaining records of the final dispositions. Many times, police officers’ convictions may be expunged after successful completion of probation or other non-carceral sentence. (N.B.: The general public gets these too, but the expungement makes collecting data about their prevalence virtually impossible to track and, thus, compare.)

KVUE also found repeat offenders who demonstrate histories of violence and other misconduct but remain eligible for law enforcement positions for lack of felony conviction:

KVUE’s findings also identified some officers have repeat offenses cleared in court. That includes former Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana, who shot and killed 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders in 2009 while on duty.

A grand jury investigated and declined to indict him. The decision ignited outrage in Austin.

One year later, police arrested Quintana for assaulting his girlfriend. A jury found him not guilty. His records were likely expunged because the Williamson County Clerk’s office no longer has evidence of his arrest, despite numerous media reports of the assault.

A few months later, police arrested Quintana for a DWI. He was given a year probation. Today, he’s a sheriff’s deputy in south Texas.

As regular readers may recall, last February’s NPMRP Worst of the Month was a Texas law enforcement officer who held his family at gunpoint and had a standoff with police. He pled to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a small fine. Although he was fired from the San Antonio Police Department, the absence of a felony conviction means he is still eligible to be a law enforcement officer in Texas.

Read or watch the KVUE report here.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-24-16

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, February 24, 2016:

  • Update: Reynoldsburg, Ohio (First reported 02-19-16): Two officers were suspended in connection with the drug investigation of a fellow officer, but have not yet been criminally charged. The officer and DEA task force member who was arrested killed himself in his jail cell.
  • Washington, District of Columbia: An officer was charged with DWI after off-duty chain reaction crash.
  • Florien, Louisiana: An officer was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and weapons violations while on duty.
  • Camden, South Carolina: An officer was arrested for misconduct after fondling himself in his patrol car while on duty.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: An officer was charged with DUI for an incident off duty. Her BAC was nearly three times the legal limit and she had two young children in the car at the time.
  • Lithonia, Georgia: The chief and another officer are being investigated for excessive force after allegedly abusing a handcuffed teen.
  • Pennsylvania State Police: A trooper was arrested on two counts of access device fraud and two counts of theft.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The City settled a lawsuit for $85,000 with a man who was sucker punched by an officer. The man had been trying to break-up a fight outside of a bar when the officer came up from behind him and punched him. The officer did not report the use of force to his superiors and did not offer medical assistance to the man, who suffered facial fractures as well as neck and teeth injuries. The officer was ordered to pay $5,000 to the plaintiff and was suspended 120 hours for the incident. He was not charged with a crime.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-23-16

Here are the 12 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, February 23, 2016:

  • Deschutes County, Oregon: A captain was fired and indicted for allegedly stealing more than $200,000. The charges include theft, money laundering, and passport fraud.
  • Wharton, Texas: A now-former officer was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child.
  • Champaign, Illinois: An officer has been named in a fourth excessive force suit. The City settled the previous three for a total of $320,000. He was fired by the department but reinstated by a labor arbitrator.
  • Benton Township, Indiana: A now-former officer was sentenced to 60 days in jail for killing a pedestrian while speeding in his cruiser without lights and siren.
  • Bethel, Alaska: A now-former officer was charged with assault and misconduct for the use of excessive force during an arrest. The incident was captured on a surveillance camera. The victim had his conviction thrown out and the City settled his lawsuit for $175,000 after the video came to light.
  • Massachusetts State Police: A trooper was suspended and will be criminally charged for assaulting a Belchertown police officer.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: An officer was placed on leave and is being investigated for corruption.
  • Update: Euclid, Ohio (First reported 01-22-16): An officer pled not guilty to firing a gun in a park while off-duty and intoxicated.
  • Belknap County, New Hampshire: A deputy was charged with raping and sexually abusing six female inmates.
  • Suffolk County, New York: A lieutenant has been criminally charged for allegedly stealing $80,000 from the department by claiming time he did not work. He retired the day his pension vested.
  • Norfolk, Virginia: An officer was placed on leave after allegedly exposing himself to a woman in a Wal-Mart while off duty.
  • Maui, Hawaii: An officer was arrested for abuse of a family member. He has been placed on administrative duty.

Judge Denies First Amendment Right to Record Police

As my colleague Adam Bates noted over at Cato at Liberty, Radley Balko details a strange decision in Pennsylvania that runs counter to the most common understandings of First Amendment protections.

A federal judge ruled that there is no First Amendment right to record the police unless the person affirmatively declares their right to do so. An excerpt:

“[U.S. District Court Judge] Kearney unconvincingly compares the act of recording the police without some clear articulation that you’re doing so for the purpose of protest or expression to refusing to move along when a police officer is trying to clear a sidewalk or roadway.

Judge Yohn’s cogent and exhaustive analysis in Montgomery v. Killingsworth applies a similar test for assessing conduct protected by the First Amendment. As Judge Yohn observed last year, “Peaceful criticism of a police officer performing his duties in a public place is a protected activity under the First Amendment.” Judge Yohn noted, “this protection, however, is not absolute.” Quoting the Supreme Court in Colten v. Kentucky, and as it relates to Fields, Judge Yohn found “conduct in refusing to move on after being directed to do so was not, without more, protected by the First Amendment. “

Balko continues, “[I]t’s a pretty dangerous thing to say that you must explicitly declare your rights in order to have them respected.” Unfortunately, that danger is not entirely unprecedented. The good news is that recent First Amendment jurisprudence supports the photographers who will appeal and, hopefully, win.

For more on this case, read Adam’s post here and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh here. For more on the importance of recording police, check out this short Cato video.

For a broader discussion about the dos and don’ts of recording police misconduct, watch the event below featuring retired U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, Flex Your Rights founder Steve Silverman, and me.

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-22-16

Here are the 14 reports of police misconduct tracked for Monday, February 22, 2016:

  • Update: San Jose, California (First reported 09-14-14): An officer’s trial for raping a woman in 2013 ended in a hung jury.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A detective was suspended in lieu of termination for kicking a man at his knee and breaking his leg. The detective had escorted the man outside of the Special Victims Unit and out of the view of surveillance cameras before the attack. The detective was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and official oppression.
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee: A detective has been placed under state investigation for perjury in alleged rape of high schooler.
  • Update: Solebury, Pennsylvania (First reported 09-25-15): A now-former detective pled guilty to tampering for covering up his petty theft from a construction site.
  • Update: Ramsey County, Minnesota (First reported 06-29-15): A deputy was ordered to pay a fine and restitution after he pled guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty for beating a K9 unit. A previous report stated that he will retain his job with the department but has been transferred and has taken a pay cut.
  • Update: Columbus, Ohio (First reported 02-19-16): An officer was sent to “John School” after he pled guilty to solicitation. Employment status remains uncertain.
  • Alamance County, North Carolina: A deputy was terminated for conduct unbecoming. She was allegedly running an illicit Internet lottery with her husband. No criminal charges have been filed yet but may be forthcoming.
  • Pima County, Arizona (2): A deputy relinquished his certification after fraudulently collecting compensation for on-duty injury. In a separate instance in the same news report, another deputy retired after falsely blaming his father for a hunting mishap. The deputy shot and killed a different kind of deer than the one they were permitted to hunt. They tried to cover it up and lied to authorities. As a result, the deputy may lose his law enforcement certification.
  • Pima County, Arizona: A deputy resigned after coming to work intoxicated. His law enforcement certification status uncertain.
  • Denver, Colorado: An officer was suspended 60 days after calling off sick, going to a lacrosse game, and getting in DUI crash that evening.
  • Paris, Kentucky: Six officers were suspended without pay for undisclosed conduct unbecoming. One of the six has resigned.
  • San Jose, California: An officer who was fired for posting inappropriate messages on social media has been reinstated and has returned to duty.
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: Two deputies are being investigated by New Orleans PD and the FBI for fatally shooting Eric Harris.

“Conduct Unbecoming” Part 1

An investigative news team in Austin, Texas is airing a four-part series on police misconduct in the Lone Star State. The first segment aired last night on KVUE. You can watch it here:

Their research uncovered 4,870 Texas law enforcement officers who had been arrested since 2008. Of those, 1,205 were for assault and more than 500 officers were arrested more than once. Only nine percent of all officers arrested ultimately lost their law enforcement licences.  The remaining 91 percent remain eligible for law enforcement jobs. You can read more about KVUE’s investigation here.

While law enforcement licensing and certification can be a useful way to keep the wrong people from becoming law enforcement officers, prosecutors and the criminal justice system have to do their part to hold officers accountable for their actions. The next installment will deal with precisely that issue. It is set to air this Thursday.


National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 02-19-16

Here are the nine reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, February 19, 2016:

  • Reynoldsburg, Ohio: An officer who also served as a DEA task force member was arrested for drug possession with intent to
  • Update: Port St. Lucie (First reported 12-02-14): A now-former officer was sentenced to 40 months in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old girl whom he met while he was on duty.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: An officer was charged with harassment for threatening a paralegal over a criminal case implicating the officer’s former colleague: “I will hunt you down and ruin your life.”
  • Columbus, Ohio: An officer was placed on desk duty after his arrest for solicitation.
  • San Bernardino County, California: Two deputies are being sued by a man who claims he was hit by their patrol vehicle and assaulted while on a run.
  • San Diego County, California: A jury awards a man $600,000 in an excessive force case against two deputies.
  • Buffalo, New York: An officer overdosed on heroin while he was off-duty. He was saved by an on-duty officer with an overdose reversal drug.
  • Fulton, Mississippi: An officer was cleared of aggravated assault charges for attempting to strangle his girlfriend. He has returned to his work duties.
  • Update: Georgia State Police (First reported 10-05-15): A trooper who was fired after an auto crash that killed two teens will not face criminal charges.

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