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Trouble with Maryland Correctional Officers

From the Washington Post:

Fourteen current or former Maryland corrections officers were arrested Thursday, accused of aiding members of a violent prison gang, the latest development in a sweeping corruption investigation at two state-run detention facilities.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday charges the prison guards with racketeering and drug- and money-laundering conspiracies. Officers allegedly smuggled cellphones inside of sub sandwiches and Percocet pills in their underwear. One estimated making as much as $15,000 in one week….A former corrections officer authorities interviewed in July estimated that 75 percent of the guards at the detention center engage in smuggling….In court papers, federal officials renewed their criticism of the state’s disciplinary process for corrections officers. The system was overhauled three years ago, with O’Malley’s backing, giving officers the right to appeal certain punishments to a board of their peers….

It is “well-known to [corrections officers] that it is very unlikely that they will be fired or severely disciplined for smuggling contraband or fraternizing with inmates,” according to the affidavit. The system set up by the so-called Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights is “ineffective as a deterrent to [corrections officers] smuggling contraband or getting sexually involved with BGF gang members.”

Friendly reminder to readers: The focus of this web site is on sworn police officers and prison guards are usually not sworn officers.  However, from time to time, we will highlight other matters pertaining to the American criminal justice system and this story falls into that category.  Sometimes readers send us misconduct stories about judges, prosecutors, prison guards, security guards, but they fall outside the purview of this project.


False Arrests in Miami Gardens

From the Miami Herald:

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years….

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

It’s a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black….

Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police….

The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.

If the story checks out, Alex Saleh, should be nominated for an award of some kind.  How many Earl Sampsons are out there without a lawyer to defend their rights?  Without a supportive employer like Mr. Saleh?

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-21-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, November 21, 2013:

  • South Brunswick, New Jersey: A schizophrenic man who was off his medications barricaded himself in his house for hours and assaulted a police officer before he was shot and killed, authorities said. His death marks at least the third fatal police shooting in northern or Central New Jersey in the past two weeks.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: A police officer was arrested after he allegedly choked his teenage son and pushed his wife down the steps.
  • Allegheny Co, Pennsylvania: A man who was charged with luring a child, corruption of minors, harassment, and stalking was found not guilty on all charges after evidence showed that police had concealed aspects of the victim’s initial report. The man now has filed a complaint that says the officer filed an arrest warrant that “contained material falsehoods and omissions,” ignoring the discrepancies between youth reports.
  • Avalon, Pennsylvania: A police officer will report to jail after his conviction on an assault charge related to mistreatment of a prisoner.
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: A now-former sheriff’s deputy, pled guilty to one civil rights violation, five bank fraud violations, and one aggravated identity theft violation.
  • Update: Greenfield, Wisconsin (First reported 09-27-13): A police officer has resigned as part of a plea agreement to resolve criminal charges filed against him for violently throwing a woman into a jail cell.
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina: A man has filed a lawsuit against a police officer who shot him after a chase. He alleges in his suit that he has suffered “numerous physical health problems,” after being shot four times.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: A police officer has been charged with lying to get a warrant to search a home. The 19-year veteran of the department lied when he said he saw a suspect leaving a house carrying a black bag, according to the state’s attorney’s office. He faces charges of perjury and misconduct in office

‘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.


Highway Robbery

From NewsChannel 5:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There was stunning testimony Wednesday before a state Senate committee as a local drug task force found itself facing tough questions.

The director of the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force responded to those questions — about whether his agency was “policing for profit” — with new claims that agents are really taking money out of the hands of terrorists.

While there’s absolutely no evidence that the terrorism claim is true, the task force director ended up inadvertently conceding that interstate interdiction units do indeed have a profit motive.

“You said if the money is not there they could potentially lose their jobs or they could potentially lose those bonuses,” observed Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, toward the end of the hearing.

Hmm.  It is a very, very bad idea to set up a situation where police officers must find their next rent check or mortgage payment (or aspiring for a better personal vehicle or boat or whatever) by hunting for violations.

For more on the abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-20-13

Here are the 6 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, November 20, 2013:

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A victim of a now-former police officer who offered women legal breaks in exchange for sex acts filed a federal lawsuit today saying the officer, the city and several bureau administrators violated her civil rights.
  • Columbia, Mississippi: A former police chief pled no contest to a lesser charge in an embezzlement case. The indictment alleged he used city funds to buy “squad equipment” and “shotgun shells,” which later turned out to be two firearms that weren’t recorded into police inventory.
  • Bloomington, Illinois: An off-duty police officer is on paid administrative leave following a crash that led to his arrest on drunken-driving charges.
  • Update: Toledo, Ohio (First reported 11-20-13): A police officer facing a domestic violence charge pled not guilty. In court documents, police allege that the veteran officer grabbed the woman he lives with by her arms and threw her into a wall, knocking her down.
  • Laredo, Texas: A police officer has been arrested and accused of driving drunk following an accident, according to police.
  • Burlington, Massachusetts: A police officer was arraigned on charges of falsifying prescriptions and making false disability claims.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-19-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, November 19, 2013:

  • Detroit, Michigan: Two off-duty police sergeants robbed three men they apparently suspected in the theft of a cellphone belonging to the teenage daughter of one of the officers, prosecutors said.
  • Update: North Texas, Texas (First reported 03-01-13):A high-speed chase ended with an officer shooting 41 bullets at, and killing, a suspect. The officer involved could face up to 20 years in prison. A grand jury has indicted the officer for manslaughter.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A teacher and the American Civil Liberties Union accused an officer of violating his rights to free speech, freedom from unlawful search and seizure and due process.
  • Update: Deptford, New Jersey (First reported 01-16-13): A police officer pleaded not guilty to all charges associated with the fatal shooting of a man inside the officer’s home.
  • Update: Irwindale, California (First reported 04-11-13): A now-former police officer was sentenced to one year in county jail and five years probation for stealing his 89-year-old father’s life savings of $250,000.
  • Dallas, Texas: A Police Senior Cpl. was arrested by police on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Update: Brownsdale, Minnesota (First reported 11-01-13): A former police chief has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual misconduct.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-16-13 to 11-18-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, November 16, to Monday November 18, 2013:

  • Update: Montgomery, Alabama (First reported 11-13-13): Police say an officer who resigned after he was recorded drag racing on a department motorcycle will be reinstated to his position.
  • Arlington, Texas: A police assistant chief was arrested following a domestic disturbance call at his home.
  • New Brunswick, New Jersey: Theft by deception charges have been filed against a police officer accused of improperly accepting more than $20,000 in rent subsidies paid by a municipal housing authority.
  • Taos, New Mexico: An incident turned into a wild scene when the driver took off as she was being ticketed for driving 71 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone. Officers then opened fire on her minivan with her five kids inside. The officer’s actions are now under internal investigation.
  • Update: Skokie, Illinois (Previously reported 10-31-13): A police officer charged with shoving a woman face-first into a cell bench has resigned rather than face possible firing, village officials announced.
  • Taylorville, Illinois: A police officer was arrested by state police on theft charges.
  • Update: Washington, DC: A now-former police officer has been convicted of sexually abusing a girl who participated in his church choir.
  • Coal Township, Pennsylvania: A police officer was suspended 5 days for violating a departmental policy.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 11-15-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, November 15, 2013:

  • Update: Iberia Parish, Louisiana (First reported 10-11-13): Two civil suits were filed against the department for damages as a result of an officer allegedly hitting a handcuffed man who was sitting on the ground and leaning against a police car.
  • North Chicago, Illinois: A man has taken legal action over allegations of excessive force. He was allegedly bitten 16 times by a police dog. “It’s unfortunate the man got bitten,” said the city’s attorney. “Had he surrendered like the other men in his group, this never would have happened.”
  • Sorrento, Louisiana: A police officer’s patrol car clocked him at going more than 75 miles per hour 737 times, oftentimes out of his jurisdiction. “You’re driving like that outside of your jurisdiction, surely you’re not chasing people outside of your jurisdiction,” said an attorney involved with the case.
  • Niceville, Florida: A police officer was given a criminal citation and placed on administrative leave after he allowed his girlfriend to drive to the police station to pick him up even though her driver license had been suspended. “We hold police to a higher standard and he’s been relieved of his duty until his court date,” the police chief said.
  • Jennings, Louisiana: A police chief pled guilty to two counts of malfeasance in office. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and $5,000 for each count.
  • Raleigh County, West Virginia: A sheriff’s deputy pled guilty to a charge of domestic battery. He had been suspended since he was first charged and has resigned.
  • Suffolk County, New York: A federal jury agreed with a man that he had been beaten up by a deputy sheriff and awarded him $95,000 in damages. The verdict came less than a day after the jury began deliberating in the civil rights suit. The man sought $2.7 million in damages for face, neck, back and knee injuries as well as psychological trauma he said was caused by two deputy sheriffs.

Police Shooting in New Mexico

More here.  I don’t presume to know what the woman was thinking.  She made bad choices and broke some laws.  But her actions do not make any police response reasonable.  Good police respond professionally to unreasonable people in the community.

The police officer who fired at the van was probably aiming for the rear tires.  Still, under the circumstances, seems like an unjustified use of deadly force.  An impartial review is needed.

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