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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct Newsfeed Daily Recap 08-05-16

Here are the eight reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, August 5, 2016:

  • Portsmouth, Virginia: An officer was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed shoplifting suspect William Chapman.
  • Bossier Parish, Louisiana: A deputy was fired after his arrest for mishandling statutory rape case as a school resource officer.
  • Bexar County, Texas: A deputy was suspended without pay after mishandling DUI crash and subsequently having sexual contact with the drunk driver. A criminal investigation is underway.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: An officer was charged with aggravated sexual battery, misconduct, and oppression.
  • Update: Douglas County, Missouri (First reported 08-02-16): A deputy was fired after a DUI crash while he was on duty.
  • Wilmington, Delaware: A detective was arrested for 2nd-degree arson for hiring a man to set fire to his car so he could collect insurance money.
  • Brenham, Texas: An officer was fired after excessive force investigation.
  • Update: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (First reported 08-04-16): The officer who was arrested for fighting her aunt at a funeral home had her charges dropped.

DOJ Will Now Investigate Chicago Police Department

This morning the Department of Justice announced that it will be launching a broad civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department.  Federal investigators are already conducting their own probe into the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.  Today’s announcement goes well beyond that particular case and will be looking at whether there is a pattern or practice of police misconduct in the City of Chicago.

Civil rights advocates and police reformers typically welcome these announcements from federal authorities.  They believe federal intervention will finally bring about needed reforms.  That view is sadly mistaken.  The scrutiny on the Mayor and City Council is now intense.  There is no better time to overhaul the department. The immediate effect of this announcement is to postpone action.  The opportunity for real change is going to slip by.  Chicago does not need another report and more promises of reform.  It needs an overhaul–and it needs one now.

Related Cato work here.

Trouble in Chicago

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.

Vice President Biden and the Police

According to news reports, three White House officials will be attending the funeral for Michael Brown today.  Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending and that is no surprise.   Why?  Because the Brown family has been demanding a vigorous, impartial investigation into the shooting and Biden is fond of saying that he “has the back” of the police force.  Biden’s presence would be awkward, to say the least.

Here is a clip where Biden is urging a police audience to get behind President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Biden has kept a low profile since the unrest began in Ferguson–and no wonder.   The last thing protesters there want to hear is that the White House “has the back” of the police.   Indeed, that’s why there is so much concern about the local county prosecutor who is handling the investigation and why there have been calls for Governor Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor.  A special prosecutor would be more likely to follow the evidence impartially.

Beyond the Brown shooting, we have seen other abuses by the police there.  The false arrest of reporters, the tear gas rounds fired into the yards of homes, and the reckless weapon handling by officers against protestors.   One wonders if Biden has been on the phone to Obama … saying the administration’s approach thus far has been all wrong… It should “have the back” of the police–not the reporters, the residents, the protesters.

Beyond Ferguson, African-Americans (and others) have been protesting in other cities.  On Saturday, thousands of New Yorkers turned out to protest the killing of Eric Garner by New York City police.   Other cities have other incidents to relate.

Make no mistake, Biden has been part of the problem.  The long simmering tensions in communities around the country did not spring out of nowhere.  Misguided policies and unaccountable bureaucracies bear much of the blame.  And so do powerful politicians like Biden, who have been deaf to the cries of police abuse and harassment.


Fighting City Hall — The Kelly Thomas Case

From Huffington Post:

Kelly’s Army worked tirelessly to publicize the beating, which Establishment types would have liked to sweep under the carpet, subtly or not-so-subtly trying to blame Kelly for his own death. Kelly’s Army got the ear of the Orange County DA, which in itself was a stunner considering how the System protects its own. For the first time ever in Orange County an on-duty police officer was charged with murder — as if it were the first time in the history of Orange County that an innocent person was killed by rogue cops.

Kelly’s Army then dealt with the other part of the System. They got the unresponsive city council majority recalled. Travis Kiger, a smart and mild-mannered computer professional, who was one of the first to express his outrage and blog about Kelly’s killing, went from anti-Establishment blogger to City Councilman. The winds of change are indeed blowing through Fullerton.

Read the whole thing.   Previous coverage here.

NYPD On the Alert For … Citizens With Smart Phones!

From the NY Daily News:

A pair of  Occupy Wall Street lovebirds has been branded “professional agitators” by the NYPD, who have plastered their mugs on flyers the couple says look like wanted posters.

Christina Gonzalez, 25, and Matthew Swaye, 34, of Harlem say they’ve been singled out for simply posting dozens of videos on YouTube of cops conducting stop-and-frisks.

“What we do is not a crime,” said Swaye, adding that the NYPD flyer looks more like a “wanted poster” than a police department advisory.

“It’s more insidious than a wanted poster because it’s undefined,” Swaye said. “People can take their pick: Are we dangerous, criminal, insane?”

Swaye and Gonzalez, who met at a Pace University rally in December and shared their first kiss on New Year’s Eve at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park, insisted, “There’s nothing radical about us.”

The couple said they first learned they were featured in an NYPD be-on-the-watch poster when they attended a precinct council meeting at the 30th Precinct stationhouse in Harlem on Thursday.

The poster with their mug shots from previous arrests for civil disobedience was taped to a precinct podium.

“Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators,” read the flyer, warning cops that the “subjects’ MO” is to videotape officers “performing routine stops and post on YouTube.”

“Subjects’ purpose is to portray officers in a negative way,” the poster reads.

Gonzalez said she was shocked when she saw it. “I came in. I’m sitting down. I’m looking around, and all of a sudden I glanced to my left and I just see my face. And I am just like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Gonzalez said.

“My neighbors will look at it and think we are criminals and think we are bad people.”

Posting the couples’ home address too? 

Police Send Threatening Emails When Lawmakers Seek Police Accountability

Column by Thomas Shapley:

OLYMPIA — “We humbly apologize.”

Those are words no appointed state official wants to utter to the chairman of a key legislative committee after just three weeks on the job.

But Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste had little choice in making that apology after a state legislator received a barrage of nasty, even threatening, e-mail messages apparently sent by troopers and their families.

Batiste, who took the top WSP job earlier this month, offered the apology “as an individual and as a group,” to House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Rep. Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland, at a committee hearing Wednesday evening. “I and the union representative want to apologize for the behavior of a few,” he said.

Those few ripped into Nixon for sponsoring a bill on how traffic accidents involving state troopers are handled. The legislation grew out of the February 2002 death of Brock Loshbaugh as he tried to cross the Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek one evening after dark.

The trooper whose vehicle hit him, Jason Crandall, had been a member of the State Patrol for only about eight months at the time of Loshbaugh’s death but had been involved in two previous accidents and reportedly has been involved in three other accidents since. The state has settled a lawsuit with Loshbaugh’s parents, who are outspoken proponents of the legislation, also known as the “Brock Loshbaugh Act.” The State Patrol cleared Crandall of any wrongdoing in the accident. He is apparently still on the road.

As recently redrafted, House Bill 2228 would require that an outside agency at least supervise the investigation of any serious crash in which any law enforcement officer is involved. The idea is to let the public see that police officers are not above the law and that agencies are not covering up for their officers’ mistakes.

The bill would also require that law enforcement officers determined to be at fault in four accidents in any three-year period be suspended from driving on duty for at least a year. It would also require drug and alcohol tests of all parties in any fatal auto accident.

The onslaught of e-mails to Nixon ran from the personal to the political.

“Shame on you, Mr. Nixon,” read one. “And hope one day you and your family need the help of a trooper or a police officer to save one of you, and that those officers would not respond on time.”

Another referred to the legislation as the “Crock” rather than “Brock” bill and threatened Nixon’s political future. “It is simple math … 1,100 troopers (times) 1,100 spouses/partners (times) all of their family members/friends/co-workers … .” The missive also credited the WSP with defeating the election bid of veteran Mercer Island Republican Sen. Jim Horn last November.

Another e-mail said Horn “lost his (seat) thanks to the WSPTA (Washington State Patrol Troopers Association). I hope you are next!”

That was news to Horn, who told me he had no knowledge of the agency or the troopers’ association having any role in his defeat, which he links to how poorly the Bush/Cheney national ticket fared among voters in his district.

Coming from the father of a son who’s honorably worn a badge, here’s the bottom line on this bill: Serious accidents involving police officers should get extraordinary and thoroughly transparent attention and investigation. They’re driving the taxpayers’ rigs, at taxpayers’ expense, acting in the public interest. Law enforcement management should have a mechanism to take demonstrably unsafe drivers out from behind the wheel of police vehicles.

Officers Accused of Breaking Laws–Trespass, Perjury–to Make Cases

From the Tampa Bay Times:

LARGO — Hydroponic marijuana has cast a disturbing haze over Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s election campaign.

Narcotics detectives pursuing indoor pot farmers have been put on leave, accused of breaking the law and lying to judges. Prosecutors have had to drop charges.

Former Sheriff Everett Rice, who wants his old job back, has said this issue is one reason Gualtieri should be tossed from office.

Yet Rice had similar problems during his administration.

One detective from the Rice era (1988-2004) gathered evidence illegally then lied about it under oath. He also justified a search warrant by calling in his own “anonymous tip” that pot farming was afoot.

In another case, deputies secured a search warrant without revealing that a key tipster had an axe to grind: His wife was having an affair with the suspect.

Three Pinellas judges wiped out grow house cases because Rice’s detectives seriously distorted facts. One detective was prosecuted for perjury.

“We’ve been seeing this go on for decades,” said Largo lawyer John Trevena, who has defended pot growers under both sheriffs.

Rice came into office as a reformer, vowing to clean up corruption complaints against his predecessor. ….

Current allegations involve detectives who obtained search warrants by telling judges they stood on public sidewalks or in neighbors’ yards and detected the scent of indoor pot farms.

Defense lawyers theorized that deputies actually gathered evidence by illegally trespassing. One grower said his surveillance camera images of a narcotics sergeant vaulting his fence were seized, then erased.

Suspicions gathered steam after the Tampa Bay Times reported that one narcotics detective had refused to answer under oath when asked if his colleagues ever trespassed.

Gualtieri has put four deputies on leave while investigating and prosecutors have dropped 18 pending cases, compared with three during Rice’s time in office.

Problems within Gualtieri’s department are not limited to grow house warrants, Rice noted, citing reports about slipshod internal affairs investigations, deputies loafing on the job and possible theft.

Chicago Police Misconduct Cases Drag on for Years

From the Chicago Tribune:

A Chicago police officer cracked Greg Larkins’ head open with a baton back in 2006, requiring him to be stitched up at a hospital.

Within a few days, several relatives of Larkins who said they witnessed the allegedly unprovoked attack gave statements to an investigator for the city. His mother also handed over photos of his injuries.

Yet more than five years passed before the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against police, filed charges of excessive force against Officer Bruce Askew and called for his firing.

But the long delay proved costly. Late last month, the Chicago Police Board, which decides the most serious disciplinary cases, dismissed the charge not based on the evidence, but because by state law, the disciplinary action had to be filed before a five-year statute of limitations ran out.

“It just went on and on,” Larkins’ mother, Alice, 71, said of the investigation into her son’s alleged beating.

Because Everything Else in the IL Budget is Absolutely Vital

From Frontline:

In a scandal that’s unraveled over decades, a longtime Chicago police commander and some of his subordinates allegedly tortured more than 100 people, all of them black and some of them teenagers into confessing to murders and other crimes in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, after pursuing only a fraction of the cases, the commission set up to investigate the abuse victims’ complaints is set to close later this month due to budget cuts.

The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission was established in 2009 after reports emerged that Jon Burge, a Chicago police commander, and some of his subordinates had beaten, suffocated and in a few cases, submitted suspects to electrical shocks to force confessions.

David Thomas, the inquiry’s executive director, said Wednesday that he’d been given 48 hours notice of the loss of funding. The budget for the first year was $150,000, but it was set to rise to $235,000 this year. “I’ve heard it was a question of priorities and allocation of money,” he said.

The budget for the state will be about $24 billion next year.