So for November, we’ve selected the Albuquerque Police Department, (APD) which is now under investigation, again, for misconduct.
Here’s the background. After numerous complaints from community leaders, the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation of the APD. In April 2014, the DOJ announced its finding that there was indeed a pattern of excessive force by the APD. Police officials promised to change and improve.
Shortly thereafter, an APD officer shot and killed 19 yr old Mary Hawkes. It looks like Hawkes stole a car and the police were trying to catch her. The police said she was a threat and so deadly force was necessary. Hawkes’ family sued the city for excessive force. Prior to trial, lawyers asked to see any police body camera footage from the incident.
Now we come to the latest news reports of APD misconduct. Reynaldo Chavez was an employee of the City of Albuquerque and his job was handling records requests. Chavez says he was aware that the police department had a peculiar policy regarding police body camera footage. When the footage helped the police, it was released to the public. When the footage hurt the police, such as showing excessive force, the footage was altered or destroyed. In other words, the APD tampered with evidence, which is a crime.
Chavez reportedly turned over incriminating body camera footage to the lawyers representing the Hawkes family. Chavez then lost his job and he is now fighting to get his job back because he says he was punished for doing what he was legally supposed to do.
The APD has denied any wrongdoing, but the state attorney general has seen enough to launch another investigation into APD practices.
Overnight, cellular phone video of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana officer shooting and killing Alton Sterling went viral. Sterling, who was black, was on the ground when he was shot several times in the back and chest. Protests have started in Baton Rouge and the outrage is palpable all over social media.
Media reports are still coming in, and they are already bringing upsetting, if somewhat predictable, news:
Officers likely had not been interviewed by investigators, as the agency typically gives its lawmen 24 hours before questioning them after this type of incident, he said.
“We give officers normally a day or so to go home and think about it” before being interviewed, [BRPD spokesman Cpl. L’Jean] McKneely said. He said being part of a shooting is a stressful situation that can produce “tunnel vision” for the officers involved and might not lead to the best information.
These “cooling off” periods are common in many departments, and sometimes mandated by legislation known as Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. People who are not officers who shoot others, whether in cold blood or self-defense, are not automatically given such grace periods before answering questions. At a time when police need the community’s trust and cooperation most, such double standards can aggravate community tensions, making situations worse after tragic events.
But there is more:
Both officers at the store were wearing body cameras and cars had dash cameras, McKneely said. Muflahi said police also took surveillance footage from his store and seized his entire video system.
McKneely said both body cameras came loose and dangled from the officers’ uniforms during the incident.
Hopefully, the video from all available sources can supplement the cell phone footage to make clear what prompted the officer to shoot what appeared to be a prone man.
We will keep an eye on this case as the story develops.
From a New York Times editorial:
The cover-up that began 13 months ago when a Chicago police officer executed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on a busy street might well have included highly ranked officials who ordered subordinates to conceal information. But the conspiracy of concealment exposed last week when the city, under court order, finally released a video of the shooting could also be seen as a kind of autonomic response from a historically corrupt law enforcement agency that is well versed in the art of hiding misconduct, brutality — and even torture.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel demonstrated a willful ignorance when he talked about the murder charges against the police officer who shot Mr. McDonald, seeking to depict the cop as a rogue officer. He showed a complete lack of comprehension on Tuesday when he explained that he had decided to fire his increasingly unpopular police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, not because he failed in his leadership role, but because he had become “a distraction.”
Mr. Emanuel’s announcement that he had appointed a task force that will review the Police Department’s accountability procedures is too little, too late. The fact is, his administration, the Police Department and the prosecutor’s office have lost credibility on this case.
Still more on cover-up allegations here.
From a Special Report for the Buffalo News:
A Louisiana police chief ushers a drunken woman to his office and forces her into sex.
A Utah officer takes advantage of a suicidal woman before escorting her into a hospital.
A Buffalo cop insists a vulnerable mother give in to him whenever he pounds on her door.
In the past decade, a law enforcement official was caught in a case of sexual abuse or misconduct at least every five days. Nearly all were men. Nearly all victims were women, and a surprising number were adolescents….
More than 700 credible cases from the past 10 years are now detailed, county by county and state by state.
The violators pulled over drivers to fish for dates, had sex on duty with willing or reluctant partners, extorted favors by threatening arrest and committed rapes.
In more than 70 percent of the cases, officers wielded their authority over motorists, crime victims, informants, students and young people in job-shadowing programs.
Read the whole thing.
From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration is investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents, including a top member of the president’s protective detail, drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late-night party last week, an agency official said Wednesday.
Officers on duty who witnessed the March 4 incident wanted to arrest the agents and conduct sobriety tests, according to a current and a former government official familiar with the incident. But the officers were ordered by a supervisor on duty that night to let the agents go home.
From the Washington Post:
IN PRINCE George’s County, it is now clear that the police, without provocation, can beat an unarmed young student senseless — with impunity. They can blatantly lie about it — with impunity. They can stonewall and cover it up for months — with impunity. They can express no remorse and offer no apology — with impunity.
The agent of this travesty of justice, and this impunity, is Judge Beverly J. Woodard of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Ms. Woodard has presided in the case involving John J. McKenna, a young University of Maryland student who was savagely beaten by two baton-wielding Prince George’s cops in March 2010, following a men’s basketball game on the College Park campus.
The beating of Mr. McKenna was videotaped; had it not been, the police, who filed no report and then falsely claimed that he instigated the incident and attacked them, may never have been investigated or charged. Yet despite the fact that a jury convicted one of the police officers, James Harrison Jr., of assault nearly two years ago, Ms. Woodard has now thrown the verdict out and closed the case.
Read the whole thing.
From the Star-Tribune:
An Albuquerque police official says investigators waited more than 48 hours before they interviewed the officer involved in the troubled department’s latest shooting. Deputy Chief Robert Huntsman tells KOB-TV (http://bit.ly/1pz2JzK ) there were several reasons for the delay in interviewing the officer who killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes on Monday…. the department likes to give officers time to de-stress after a shooting.
If John Q. Citizen uses a gun in self-defense, the police do not give him/her a few days to “de-stress.” Shouldn’t the police be held to the same, or perhaps even a higher standard?
From PBS Frontline:
Domestic violence is one of law enforcement’s most challenging crimes. It’s vastly underreported, dangerous and difficult to prosecute, with repercussions that extend far beyond the two parties involved. The perils only deepen when the abuser comes from within the law enforcement family — armed with training, weapons and the community’s trust.“You get that kind of a character in a badge, you got a real problem,” said Mark Wynn, a veteran police officer who trains departments on officer-involved domestic violence. “When you train someone to be a cop, you train them to challenge when confronted. …You train them to [use] fighting skills that no one else has. …You teach them all these skills, and then you add all of that to someone who is violent, you’ve got a lethal combination on your hands.”A nine-month investigation by FRONTLINE and The New York Times found that law enforcement often downplays domestic violence allegations in their own ranks, letting abusers remain on their beats and victims fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system. Interviews with former prosecutors, judges and officers, and a review of police and court records show that most departments lack policies to deal with the problem, and harbor a general perception that OIDV isn’t as serious as other crimes. It’s an attitude that extends beyond law enforcement into the courtroom, where prosecutors and judges also play a role in failing to hold offenders accountable.“In many areas of law enforcement in general, we’ve been moving with jet-like speed,” said David Thomas, a 15-year veteran of the Montgomery County, Md. police department and domestic violence educator. “But with respect to violence against women and in particular OIDV, we’re still moving at a horse-and-buggy pace.”
Check your local listings to see the documentary film, A Death in St Augustine.