Friday, October 31, 2008
In Local News:
Son Of... Peaches?
47 year old James Gilligan of Lake Stevens Washington has been sentenced to 4 years of prison and judge Ellen Fair is proposing to cordon off sections of the county as "James Gilligan-free zones"...
Gilligan's crime? He stole a child's backpack at a bus stop and a young girl's backpack off of a school bus after his pet poodle, Peaches, told him that the kids were transporting drugs on the bus. Peaches, sadly, had no comment.
Seriously though, perhaps everyone would have been better served if Gilligan was referred to get mental health treatment instead of risking him doing something else on the advice of his pets after he's released in 4 years.
Seattle Police In Trouble Again For Interrogation Practices
Ashley Howes, once accused of murdering a local infant she was babysitting, is now suing the Seattle Police Department for violating her rights when they denied her a lawyer and failed to inform her of her rights during a grueling 19 hour interrogation.
Ashley was 13 when questioned over the death that was ruled a result of shaken baby syndrome. A judge dismissed the case due to the coercive interrogation and the SPD's failure to rule out other possible suspects in it's investigation. This isn't the first time the SPD has jeopardized or lost a case due to interrogation techniques that violated civil rights.
King County Cuts Public Defender Services
King County's swath of budget cuts are now targeting the county's public defender's office and may stick 2,900 cases a year on the desks of just two defense attorneys. Lisa Daugaard of The Defender Association says the budget would undercut public defense by $2mil and runs counter to a 2005 promise to improve the county's public defense program.
Part of the problem, says Daargaurd, is a new fast track program that allows prosecutors to push drug or property crime suspects to plead to misdemeanor charges or face felony charges in court, which could add up to 1,800 cases to defense workloads. This may force innocent people and those facing flawed cases to be pushed into a guilty plea without understanding the consequences, says attorney Don Madsen, director of Associated Council for the Accused.
This comes after cuts to drug diversion programs and the dropping of a proposed police accountability program for the King County Sheriff's Department. The Washington Criminal Defense blog has more information along with a link to information about how you can help stop these cuts.
Victim Of Violent Contempt Of Cop Arrest Talks About What Happened
Marcel Richardson, who's arrest we covered here, talks about what led up to his violent arrest, which was video taped by a local news station, where he was punched in the back of the head, sprayed twice with pepper spray, and then tasered in the back while he was on the ground. All this in the context of the finding by the OPA that most mistaken stand-alone obstruction arrests in Seattle are made "in good faith".
Gee, does that mean it's ok for anyone to go out and beat the crap out of someone on the grounds of a mistaken claim of wrongdoing as long as you do it "in good faith"?
Fraternal Order Of Police Complains About Chief For Supporting Barack Obama
The Police Chief for the Chicago Police Department has had a complaint filed against him by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police for allegedly making comments that were construed as a vote of support for US Presidential candidate Barack Obama. While there is no word on who the FOP endorsed, the dispute was apparently spurred by the chief filing a misconduct complaint against an officer who appeared in a commercial endorsing a local alderman.
Third Officer Pleads Guilty In Atlanta Botched Drug Raid Death Case
A third officer, Aurther Tesler, who was involved in the fatal shooting death of 92 year old Atlanta Georgia resident Kathryn Johnston as well as the subsequent efforts to cover up the botched no-knock raid by planting drugs in her home has finally plead guilty to federal charges of conspiring to violate civil rights. He now faces a possible sentence of 121 months in prison. The two other officers involved, Jason Smith and Gregg Junnier, both plead guilty but have not been sentenced as they are still cooperating with feds in other investigations, presumably into the Atlanta Police Department which employed them.
More Citizens Demand Police Accountability
Citizens of Chula Vista California demand that the city implement a civilian review board to investigate complaints of police misconduct after city pays out $400,000 to a 2006 brutality victim who was beaten unconscious by police who mistook him for a "trailer thief". The department's chief responded that there are few complaints but, when pressed, admitted he had no figures for complaints made over the last two years.
It's A PoliceMAN's World?
An officer in Crescent City California has filed a million dollar discrimination suit against the Crescent City PD in what the lawsuit describes as a pattern of intentional gender discrimination which details allegations of 3 years of ongoing physical and verbal abuse.
Who's policing the Police's Police?
Henry O'Bryant has retired from the Cleveland Police Department's Office of Professional Standards after agreeing to repay $2,286 in "stolen overtime pay". The OPS investigates allegations of police misconduct in the CPD, but apparently has a hard enough time policing itself.
Have a safe and happy Halloween, folks.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
That NYPD Sodomy Story Gets Serious
At first even I was suspicious of this story, but it appears to have enough merit to prompt the District Attorney in Brooklyn New York to take the charges that NYPD officers sodomized a suspect with a police radio antenna to a grand jury. However, there are some new discrepancies being reported about this case as well.
A Tale Of Abuse
A teenager who was sexually assaulted by a New Rochelle, New York police officer talks to reporters and describes what happened that night. It's a truly disturbing story.
Convoluted Misconduct Hearing May Violate Court Order
Former Grant Park Illinois police chief who is facing a 10 count federal indictment for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of the police department is scheduled to testify in a police misconduct hearing against another officer who was interviewed by feds in the chief's case... after he was ordered not to have any contact with witnesses in his case. Talk about a conflict of interests.
Police Review Board President Blasts Judge Who Blasted The Board
St. Louis Police board pres complains about judge who described that board as being indifferent to police brutality claims after he found that only one complaint out of over 300 has been sustained in the last five years.
Another Good Cop Punished For Being A Good Cop
Cook County Illinois sheriff's deputy was ignored when he tried to report misconduct and illegal gambling activity being done by fellow deputies so he reported it to the FBI and local press. For that he's being disciplined for violating a supposed rule that forbids officers to report misconduct to anyone outside the department. Another story of a good cop being punished for doing what was right.
The NAACP Asks Candidates About Stance On Police Misconduct
The NAACP asked the candidates a series of questions, some of which affect the issues we cover here... the (un)interesting part is that the candidates pretty much gave the same answers to the specific issue of misconduct:
• What actions, if any, would you take to address the problem of racial profiling by law enforcement officials?
MCCAIN: “No one should be stopped by the police because of his or her racial or ethnic identity. At the same time, law enforcement officers must be permitted to carry out their duties based on fair, professional, non-discriminatory criteria, such as acting on a specific description. I will demand proper training and attention with respect to race relations and citizen rights.”
OBAMA: “As a United States Senator, I co-sponsored federal legislation to ban racial profiling and require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice. As president, I will continue my decades long fight against racial profiling, and sign legislation that will ban the practice of racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal funding to state and local police departments if they adopt policies to prohibit the practice.”
• What, if anything, would you do to address the issue of police misconduct?
MCCAIN: “If there is systemic misconduct, police brutality or violations of federal laws, including civil rights laws, it is the duty of the Department of Justice to take appropriate federal law enforcement action.”
OBAMA: “I will direct my attorney general to have the Justice Department work closely with state and local law enforcement to ensure the effective implementation of standards for use of force.”
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Latest OPA Reports
I was surprised that nobody mentioned the August OPA report, which is also interesting because it details a sustained finding of excessive use of force against an officer and specifically states that the officer was uncooperative with the investigation and mislead investigators.
That's interesting because, according to the new contract between the city and officer's union, any sustained finding of an officer misleading investigators during an internal investigation is suppose to lead to an automatic termination of employment... but we've not heard of any officers being fired during that period of time and nobody has covered that story.
Guess that contract isn't working out as advertised, just like I said it wouldn't.
Tacoma Washington Judge Decides On Police ID Demands
According the The Seattle Times, a Tacoma judge ruled that people are not obliged to show their identification on demand to officers that demand it just because they demand it. As you might recall, we reported on the case of Legrand Jones, a lawyer from Olympia Washington, who was fighting charges that were brought against him when he refused to show officers his ID when they demanded it while he was at an anti-war protest. The judge cited that an officer has to have cause to detain someone, and demanding ID is a form of detaining someone.
The police also charged the lawyer with trespassing because he was NEAR a fence that had a no trespassing sign on it... the same judge dismissed that charge saying that one would have to be on the other side of the fence to be trespassing.... duh.
When Civilian Oversight Isn't
According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Mayor Greg Nickels wants to put police department's civilian auditor under his administration in the department of executive administration instead of allowing that position to continue being independent as a non-city government contractor through the office of policy and management.
The obvious problem here is that the civilian auditor would cease to be a civilian and become a city employee, and thus inherit the appearance of bias that comes with such a role. This is particularly problematic because, as I reported earlier this year, all other roles within the civilian oversight process have already been replaced this year and the auditor is the last person left standing with any clear experience and the director has been replaced with someone who has a penchant for defending the police, which already lends the appearance of bias. The last thing the city should do, if it values the public perception of it's police department's trustworthiness, is to fold the auditor into the mayor's payroll.
The Dangers Of Consolidating Jail Services
Finally, according to KING 5 News, King County Executive Ron Sims is trying to find ways to save money while the county budget faces a record shortfall, but his latest proposal for cuts at the jail may end up costing more.
While most are arguing on the basis of travel costs that would increase if all bookings were done in the KCCF instead of at both the KCCF and Regional Justice Center in Kent, there is also the increased likelyhood of intake screenings being overwhelmed, which would increase the likelyhood of detainees who need medical care being overlooked, which is one of the US DOJ findings the jail was blasted for last year.
With the county already facing legal action from the US DOJ and a class action civil suit over failures to provide adequate medical care to detainees, this move may cost them even more than they think.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Chicago's Torture Squad Leader Finally Arrested
The infamous Jon Burge of Chicago PD's torture squad of Area 2 who has long been accused of being responsible for the torture of up to 122 people in efforts to coerce false confessions by electrocution and other means, has finally been arrested 26 long years after he had first been accused of such horrendous crimes. He now stands accused of two counts of Obstruction and one count of perjury that may land him in prison for up to 45 years. The wheels of justice, when they move at all, move slowly... so long as there are those who are dedicated to moving them.
Falsely Imprisoned Man Demands Justice After 5 Years Behind Bars
A Lee Summit Missouri man who spent 5 years behind bars on false child molestation charges that were made up by a Lee Summit detective and his ex-wife that the detective was dating, stood up in a city council meeting and demanded to know why that officer has never been disciplined for it.
Officer's Accused Of Brutal Beating Death Have Been Sued For Misconduct Before
Suffolk County NY officers who face a federal civil rights suit over the beating death of Kenny Lazo had been the subject of other lawsuits in the past. An independent autopsy reported Lazo died after being choked and bludgeoned by a flashlight for a prolonged period of time while cuffed while his face was resting on a hard surface.
Officials Blame Good Samaritan For Her Own Mistreatment
School officials blame the girl who intervened to break up a fight for being thrown to the ground by a school security officer in the now well known video seen on the national news. This would seem to contradict most good Samaritan laws though.
Police Union Distributes Disturbing Election Fliers
A Richmond Police Officers Association's election campaign efforts in California raises uproar over what activists decry as a "blatantly racist" mailers espousing the police unions position on this year's election. ACLU board member calls the police union fliers the most racist he's seen in his 10 years with the ACLU.
ACLU Study Finds Evidence of Racial Profiling
ACLU report alleges LAPD practices racial profiling against blacks and latinos, citing a rate of 4500 per 10000 field stops for minorities vs 1750 stops for whites. The LAPD responds that the study misses that they're doing better than they used to.
Police Department's Split With DEA Finally Explained
Previously reported split between Yakima Wa Police Dept and the DEA appears to be stem from sexual harassment and retaliation charges brought be a police officer against his DEA supervisor.
Officer Who Abused Police Dog Demands To Be Reinstated
North Carolina State Patrol is appealing a ruling by a state personnel commission that is forcing them to reinstate a trooper who was fired after it was found that he had kicked the police dog he was handling. Wouldn't that be considered as assaulting an officer?
Monday, October 20, 2008
Police unions have a very unique position in American politics due to the combination of power they can wield as a collective bargaining organization, the authority each member can wield as a police officer, the influence a police organization has that comes with the title of their office, and the influence they wield on elections with their endorsement activities during campaigns. In a sense, police unions are uniquely positioned to be the only union in the world that can actually control those who manage them and can directly influence the laws that govern them. If only for these reasons alone, it's important to hold these powerful agents of political power to the rules that govern how they may participate in the electoral process.
Prior to 2006, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, Seattle’s police union representing over 1000 uniformed officers, participated in campaign finance activities through a statewide political action committee for police officers called the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) which raised $102,733 in 2004 and $98,450 in 2006 for various campaigns and had registered under full financial disclosure laws as required for organizations that raise more than $5,000 in an election cycle.
According to the campaign report filing made by COMPAS to the Washington State Public Disclosure Committee, in 2006 the guild registered its own PAC under the name of the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs (COMPAS) and the COMPAS PAC's reported funding was reported to be $145,835 for that year. That PAC was also registered under the full disclosure rules as required for an organization that raises more than $5,000 and the records show that this organization gathered most of its funds from two organizations, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild and the King County Police Officer’s Guild and was registered to the same address as the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild.
In 2007 the guild formed yet another organization named the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild Political Action Committee (SPOG PAC) but this time registered that organization under the “mini reporting” exemption which is meant for small organizations that plan to only raise $5,000 or less AND only accept donations of $500 or less per donor, even though their last PAC raised much more than that. In 2007, the SPOG PAC raised nearly triple that limit, $14,638, in its efforts to get 3 sponsored candidates elected to Seattle City Council, of which it succeeded in getting 2 of them elected.
In 2008 the guild re-registered SPOG PAC as an ongoing PAC under the same mini-reporting rules , even though it raised more than that limit last year and had a prior PAC registered under full reporting rules in 2006, and raised $30,358 so far this year, all without any requirement to indicate exactly how it has raised or spent those funds as they would have under the full reporting requirements.
Who have they spent their money to support? How have they spent these funds? Who donated to their causes and how much did they donate? Such questions are important in this election cycle given the guild’s support of the Republican candidate for governor in the tight race between Dino Rossi and Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire… but we can’t tell because the mini-reporting laws exempt them from having to report their activities.
Of course, it’s not that police related PACs are exempt from reporting laws, the King County Police Officer’s Guild PAC reports under the full reporting laws even though they only raised a little over $5,000 this year. The WACOPS, however, do still function but they may have also been attempting to skirt campaign finance laws by registering a second PAC, (WACOPPS) which shows its sole donor of about $112,151 so far this year to be WACOPS, thus shielding its list of donors as the original WACOPS is no longer listed.
We’re not sure why these two different police-related PACs are taking these steps to shield their donor lists and their expenditures because of the different methods they appear to be using to skirt Washington state campaign finance reporting laws and we’re not certain why they haven’t been called on it yet either, especially given the attention to campaign finance irregularities in this close and contentious election cycle.
UPDATE 10/22/08: A representative from SPOG PAC has verified to us that, even though they have registered under the less stringent "mini-reporting" rules, that they are still submitting the detailed reporting forms to the PDC that would have been required under full-reporting regulations, the links to which are not being published in order to protect the personal information of police officers who are the primary contributors to the guild's funds.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Will Denver Police Print Shirts To Celebrate This Too?
A Denver Colorado Police officer accused of beating handcuffed teen until he broke his ribs, lacerated his spleen, liver, and kidneys may have cost the city nearly $900,000 in a lawsuit settlement over the incident. The officer in question still faces criminal charges of first degree assault over the incident. Just who don't they beat in Denver?
Seattle Parole Officer Charged With Assault After Testifying Against Police
Weeks after a Seattle parole officer testified in an NAACP press conference (see Racism Rising In Seattle) about an incident of racial profiling she witnessed by the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle police officers she accused of racial profiling charged her, over a month after the initial incident, with assault in an apparent attempt at retribution for her filing a complaint and going public about it.
Riverside Police Officer Arrested For Sexually Assaulting Homeless Women
A Riverside California police officer has been arrested for sexual battery under color of law against at least three victims over a two-month period. The police have been tight-lipped about the details and are requesting help from the public for more information about incidents of sexual misconduct by the officer in question. (link is to the Five Before Midnight blog which has much more details than the local news coverage of the incident).
Sexual Harassment Instructor Sues Police For... Sexual Harassment
Lawsuit filed by sexual harassment trainer claims harassment is wide-spread and tolerated at the Tennessee Highway Patrol and that she was a victim of that harassment as well and that the department and city refused to do anything about it.
No Means No, Officer!
A Stillwater Michigan police officer Has been charged with felony sexual assault against a motel registration desk worker. The victim in the case alleges that even after multiple demands to be left alone that the officer came back, finally relenting after failing to force her to put her hand on his crotch.
Officers Accused Of Detaining Woman For Sex
Two Cedar Grove West Virginia officers are being sued for allegedly kidnapping a woman and detaining her without charges unless she agreed to have sex with them. The same officer faces another suit and this is the fourth suit filed this year against officers in Upper Kanawha Valley WV.
Police Officer Convicted For Assaulting Detainee
Maywood California police officer sentenced to 18 months in jail for slamming a detainee's head into a wall which broke his nose, knocked him unconcious, and temporarily left his face paralyzed.
Sheriff Sentenced For Using His Authority To Punish Critics
Seneca County New York Sheriff Leo Connolly was sentenced to two years in jail and a $1,000 fine for official misconduct concerning charges that he used his official office to intimidate and punish people who criticized him on the internet. Four of his deputies also face various charges as well.
And You Thought I Was Paranoid For Thinking The TSA Took My Camera?
A TSA Agent at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey was caught stealing at least $200,000 worth of stolen goods including digital cameras, laptops, and specially made cameras for CNN and one from an HBO employee worth over $50,000. The agent had taken the goods from passenger's luggage that he would check in a back room but was caught when a CNN employee spotted their stolen camera being sold by the agent on E-bay. (As I reported a few months ago, my camera ended up missing after a recent flight back from a business trip, or it was mysteriously transformed into a note from the TSA telling me my bags were checked for my safety.)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In early July we reported on the case of Zsolt Dornay and how he is using tax payer funds to sue a man that he shot, along with four others who were involved in allegedly attacking him while he was off-duty, and in plain clothes, after he had allegedly hit a woman with his motorcycle and then threw her against a wall when his bike had been tipped over in 2006. Well, the story just got much more disturbing...
It's already a matter of public record that, after a lengthy investigation into the incident that included both the Seattle Police Department and an outside police department that was brought in after allegations were made that Seattle police were pressuring witnesses, prosecutors stated that no charges would be filed against the people who allegedly attacked the officer because the attack was justified given that it was done in response to the perceived danger that was posed to the woman the officer allegedly ran over and then assaulted.
Well, now the City of Seattle has reportedly paid at least $76,000 so far for a private law firm, retained under the city's contract with the Seattle Police Officer's Union to defend officers against civil rights suits, to sue these people in a civil suit on the officer's behalf. Which means, of course, that the officer and law firm would get the winnings, not the city or taxpayers.
Meanwhile, the civilians who have been named as defendants in that case have no such funding, they don't have a law firm paid for by taxpayer money. Indeed, some of them appear to be facing the nightmare scenario of going into court without any representation whatsoever to defend themselves against a multi-million dollar law firm that has received millions of dollars in taxpayer money defending misbehaving cops... simply because they cannot afford legal representation.
We know this, unfortunately, because one of those defendants contacted us, desperately trying to find out what to do since he cannot afford a lawyer. While we are currently trying to help him find a lawyer, it's a difficult endeavor considering he doesn't stand to win anything from defending himself against such a suit... a suit against him that he likely funded, ironically, with the very same taxes he paid to the city.
More appalling than this is the outrageous notion that the city would be funding a police officer's private lawsuit using taxpayer money after the defendants named in the lawsuit were found innocent by prosecutors who investigated the very same case. While, if this were a criminal case, the defendants could get a public defender, but since this is a civil suit, there is no such legal assistance available to defend against this city-funded attack.
How insanely unjust is it that a man who was found by government prosecutors to have legal justification for his actions on that night in 2006 to now face a private lawsuit financed by the city on behalf of the person who he was found to have legal justification to act against? A lawsuit that taxpayer can't even afford to defend himself against in a court of law?
It's absurd, it's unjust, and frankly, what the city is doing, with taxpayer money, should be considered a criminal offense in it's own right!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Feds To Investigate City Of Vancouver
Residents and the mayor of Vancouver Washington request an investigation by the US DOJ into allegations that the city manager, city officials, and several police officers violated the law when they used racially-charged intimidation and abuses to punish Navin Sharma for testifying against other officers during a police misconduct investigation. Lawyers for Sharma say the request doesn't go far enough and claims that other officers who supported Sharma are currently being harrassed and punished for that support.
Police Chief Seeks To Stop Investigation Into His Own Misconduct
Houma Louisanna Police Chief Seeks Injunction to prevent civil service board from investigating complaints of misconduct that were filed against him by several of his own police officers.
Oakland Officers Lied To Judges To Obtain Warrants
Oakland California officers may have lied to judges in order to obtain drug raid warrants and may have invalidated several cases against suspected drug dealers in the process. Local Lawyers say that the police could have used other legitimate reasons to obtain warrants instead and are unsure why officers took risks like this.
Officer Accused Of Lying To Cover For Accidental Shooting
A Leoni Township Ohio police officer has been arraigned on felony charges for lying about the accidental discharge of his service weapon by filing a false report that blamed the discharge on a suspect he was investigating.
Jury Candidate Jailed For Telling Judge He Didn't Trust Police
Walworth County Wisconsin judge sends juror to jail for contempt after he admitted that he felt police officers often lied to make their case and that he would find an officer's testimony unbelievable during a trial during jury selection questioning.
Hooters SWAT Cop Earns Fortune While On "Disciplinary" Leave
Hoboken New Jersy SWAT officer in the middle of the infamous "Hooters SWAT Scandal" has been collecting over $10,000 a month during his year-long paid administrative leave on which he was placed after a secretive finding of misconduct during an investigation that was never released to the public. That secret report concluded that the SWAT team brought no meaningful services to the city but, instead, only appeared to encouraged misconduct within the department.
A City Council Votes To Keep Public Records Secret
A Naperville Illinois City Council voted to keep police misconduct records a secret... from themselves.
Court Demands The Police Release Misconduct Investigation Findings
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals finds that police misconduct investigation records from complaints made after Hurricane Katrina must be made public despite police department efforts to keep those findings secret. That investigation was launched due to complaints made by police officers who claimed to have witnessed misconduct while working as volunteers after Katrina hit.
Princeton Student Attacked By Washington DC Cops
Princton student attacked by Metropolitan DC police officers was compliant and pleaded with officers that "I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I did but I’m sorry", according to several witnesses who were then threatened by police when they tried to make complaints.
Monday, October 13, 2008
For the anniversary of Injustice In Seattle I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the stories that we've published to see if there has been any progress in the fight against police misconduct and detainee abuse since this site had started and how some of the stories that we've published have turned out since we last published them. This is the first part in a series that recaps the issues and some of the specific stories that we've published.
Deadly Rights Violations At King County Jail
One of our very first stories focused on the findings of a Department of Justice investigation into the King County Jail (or KCCF as it's now called) which uncovered serious abuses of detainee rights that caused the horrific death of at least one detainee and exposed several to sexual and physical abuse in that downtown Seattle jail.
Unfortunately, there hasn't been any progress here as the King County government and local media have been unwilling to talk about these ongoing problems and negotiations between the DOJ and King County to improve conditions there have gone nowhere, even though the findings were released almost a full year ago. Even local civil rights groups are dead set against addressing the problems in that jail since they are focused on detainee abuses allegedly occurring thousands of miles away. Meanwhile there continue to be reports of detainees who are being denied medical care and of guards physically abusing prisoners still coming out of that facility.
While efforts to publicize those abuses and the federal investigation into the jail have failed, there may still be some hope. A class action suit has been initiated against the jail for the denial of medical care for detainees. That suit is still in the initial stages and no scheduled date has been set for that suit to start, so if you have been denied medical care in that jail and wish to be a part of that suit, contact attorney Ed Budge of Budge and Heipt. Hopefully the cost of that suit to the county will spur some changes when other efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
Seattle Police Department
After the civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department was shown to be ineffective in reigning in abusive officers in Seattle people stopped reporting cases of significant abuse, especially since it became well known that the city was using the complaint process to help lawyers defend against potential lawsuits instead of investigate allegations of corruption and brutality.
This led to a painful and embarrassing string of high-profile news stories of abuses and several successful civil rights suits against the city until it supposedly recognized the need to make sure an accountability and oversight system worked. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and instead of implementing changes to fix the oversight system, the city ignored it's own committees that recommended more transparency and worked to make the system even more secretive and easier to abuse under cover of supposedly fixing the system.
We've been hearing rumors that have grown more urgent in recent weeks that the city is battling desperately to keep another series of civil rights suits under wraps by offering settlements with strict non-disclosure agreements to keep stories of abuses out of the press. According to our sources, at least three very serious civil rights cases are pending against the city that haven't even been covered by the media and the city is desperate to keep them from going public because it has been losing officers to other towns because many officers reportedly are ashamed to be associated with the SPD because of the bad publicity and the city's desire to cover up problems with misconduct instead of directly addressing them.
According to the source we heard from, even the record pay increase officers won earlier this year that makes them the highest paid in the state wasn't enough to stem the tide of officers who are too ashamed to stay in Seattle... and this isn't good news to us because it means the officers who actually care about their reputations are the ones who are leaving and officers who care about how the public perceives them are more likely to make efforts to do the best job they can and least likely to abuse their position. This, unfortunately, could mean Seattle will be left with a higher proportion of officers with a history of abuses which would mean we may see higher rates of misconduct in the future.
To determine the veracity of the rumors, a search through the Justia databases indicates that there are at least three civil rights lawsuits currently filed and active against the Seattle Police Department, one of these cases involves witnesses to the Alley-Barnes beating who were detained and had their cell-phone cameras wiped clean. As for officers leaving, we've not had any indication from the city that previous problems retaining officers have improved or worsened recently, but the city does plan on hiring at least 40 officers this year.
...To be continued
(next issue: a recap on some of the exclusive stories we published this year)
Friday, October 10, 2008
I doubt there are many readers of this site who are not familiar with the ethics investigation into allegations that people within Alaska governor Sarah Palin's administration put undue pressure on public safety commissioner Walt Monegan to fire Palin's ex-brother in law over allegations of police misconduct that started during a contentious divorce between Alaska State Patrol Trooper Mike Wooten and Palin's sister. Allegedly, after repeatedly refusing to fire Wooten, Palin fired Monegan over supposed budgetary differences.
Of course, many may wonder where the problem is, after all, there are accusations of police misconduct that have been leveled against Trooper Wooten so the governor should supposedly be able to discipline him as she sees fit, right? And if her own appointed public safety commissioner refuses to do it, she should also be able to replace him with someone that would, right?
The reason why such allegations would be, at the least, a lapse of governmental ethics and, at worst, an outright violation of law are because of the nearly universal (in America at least) protections that civil service employees have against practices of cronyism and partisanship that have existed since the late 1800's. The concept of civil service protections were developed in response to the system of political spoils that encouraged the practice of cronyism and patronage within the US government whereupon politicians would replace civil service employees and appointed officials with the people who helped put them in office after every election.
There were many problems with such a system in that it was very susceptible to corruption and could be subverted into a system designed to punish the opponents of a given politician while exposing the public to risks associated with incompetence within public office. After all, imagine a mayor who could replace a police department with a bunch of friends and political allies and then use that department to harass his opponents at will. (Of course, this is still alleged to happen on occasion, but for different reasons I'll get into in another post.)
The system of public service employee protections is supposedly designed to simply ensure that a civil service employee or appointed official is never fired for political or personal reasons and may only be disciplined or fired for "just cause", that being a demonstrable and provable charge of misconduct or other justifiable reason, like a layoff for budgetary reasons.
This is done by forcing public officials to hold Loudermill hearings upon sustained charges of misconduct which allow the charged employee to make a case against the charges claimed against him or her and an appeal process that allows the employee to plead his or her case before a quasi-judiciary commission of non-partisan officials which, if successful, can force the government to rehire the employee with back-pay or otherwise penalize the government for disciplining a civil service employee without demonstrable just cause.
Of course, many argue that this system as become perverted after being staffed primarily with officials who have bias towards civil service employees and consistently side against government officials who are merely trying to clean up corruption within public service departments, such as the practice of staffing public safety commissions with ex-police officers who side with police officers accused of misconduct. Others also charge that such practices should be a two-way street, preventing civil servants from partisan activities that would hold elected officials beholden to those civil servants, (a matter of allowing public employees to elect their own boss), such as the way police unions allow police officers to use their office to help elect public officials who would be in charge of their departments, which is something these protections do not do.
However, these protections do exist for a reason, to prevent the manipulation of public offices by politicians for political and personal gain and the allegations laid against Sarah Palin's administration amount to just that, the use of her office for personal gain by way of the efforts on her behalf by her family and staff to punish a civil service employee for divorcing Palin's sister and, when that failed, by her administration's firing of an appointed official without just cause due to his refusal to perform a possibly illegal act of disciplining an officer without demonstrable just cause.
This is the heart of the issue, of the charges laid against Palin's administration, that it punished an appointed official for refusing to do something quite questionable, and possibly illegal, on that administration's behalf... all because of a possibly personal vendetta.
Regardless as to whether you agree with the system of protections that civil service employees enjoy which private sector employees do not, they do exist for a reason and, in fact, for the very same reason that Sarah Palin's administration is accused of violating. Even though these protections may make it difficult for governments to discipline police officers for alleged acts of misconduct, they are meant to protect our system government from manipulation by politicians for personal gain and we would be more at risk of corruption if that system didn't exist.
In the end, the investigation launched by the bipartisan committee of legislators in Alaska found that Sarah Palin did, in fact, abuse the authority of her office by way of her efforts to have officer Wooten fired. It was not her dismissal of Monegan that was a violation of Alaska's ethics statutes, but her efforts to bypass civil service protections in an effort to fire that Wooten which led to her firing Monegan which, ultimately, was sadly ironic since Monegan was attempting to prevent the governor from violating that statute by informing her that Wooten could not be fired based on the accusations of misconduct that had already been investigated and addressed.
To do so was, ultimately, an act of abusing a public office for personal gains which is what civil service protection statutes were designed to prevent.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
In Denver Colorado, again...
Denver Colorado police sued for staying true to those brutality-glorifying shirts they've been selling. Denver police face a million dollar brutality suit by a graphic artist who had to receive stitches and suffered permanent nerve damage after he was assaulted by police in the street but was never formally charged with any crimes.
In Marysville Pensylvania
A Marysville Pennsylvania cop who is currently facing charges of molesting and sexually harassing girls as young as 12 also faced allegations of sexually harassing young girls in the two other police departments he worked in before transferring to Marysville.
In Chicago Illinois
The Chicago Police Chief who has pledged to clean up the problematic department is now reforming the dreaded SOS squad that was responsible for torturing several people into coerced confessions and is doing so by offering the first slots to those who were previously on that infamous "proactive policing" team.
In Cook County Illinois
Cook County Illinois Sheriff refuses to evict renters from foreclosed homes, scolds banks for failing to make any effort to identify which homes are rented as required by law. The banks have responded by claiming that the sheriff is violating the law by not doing the bank's bidding even when they are negligently filing eviction papers. Sometimes good cops just aren't allowed to be good cops.
In Yakima Washington
A Yakima Washington police chief has severed ties with the Drug Enforcement Agency citing misconduct in the DEA Yakima office as the reason he refuses to allow his officers to cooperate with the DEA on investigations. No word yet on what specific kind of misconduct is at the source of the rift.
In Woodstock Georgia
Woodstock Georgia police are accused of choking a man until he hemorrhaged blood from his eyes and nose when he was just trying to pay a traffic fine at a local courthouse.
In Washington DC
The US Supreme Court is hearing a case that could decide just how hard it will be to sue the police for civil rights violations. The case will determine just how often the police can claim qualified immunity over charges of police brutality and misconduct and recent pro-brutality decisions by the conservative court indicate it will decide in favor of protecting police from being disciplined for their own misconduct.
And All Across The USA
Feministe has a great post about torture inside the US jail and prison system... and that abuse is just as bad as you didn't think it was, I know from personal experience.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Police Accused Of Setting Man's Home On Fire For Filing Complaint
In Kampar Malaysia a man has been assaulted, threatened, and had part of his home burned down for filing charges of police brutality on behalf of his young son who was allegedly slapped, choked, threatened, and almost had melted plastic poured over his genitals in an effort by police there to make him confess to supposedly stealing his teacher's purse.
Wrongfully Arrested In Prince Georges County
A man who was wrongfully arrested and detained for 9 months in a case of mistaken identity has won a civil case against Prince Georges County in Maryland. If that place sounds familiar it's because their police force has been in the news so many times lately that we've lost count.
Officer In Wrongful Death Case Never Disciplined
A Youngstown Ohio police officer who is now the subject of a wrongful death suit was found to be in violation of city's pursuit policy when he hit bystander's car at 75 miles per hour but apparently was never disciplined for it.
Jail Guard Assaulted Pregnant Detainee
Two Jacksonville Florida corrections officers are facing criminal charges one for falsifying reports and another for assaulting a pregnant detainee.
Police Officer Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Suicidal Woman
West Jordan, Utah officer is being held on charges that he allegedly committed sexual assault and battery against a suicidal woman while on duty in his cruiser. The officer in question was to take the woman to the hospital but instead, allegedly, he parked in a shaded part of the hospital parking lot and allegedly groped the woman while she was handcuffed for over an hour until dispatch called to ask where he was, at that point he finally took the woman to be checked into the hospital, according the the report.
Police Threaten Feds For Prosecuting Police
The head of the Gary Indiana's police union threatens that police officers will be unwilling to work with federal authorities in the future just because the justice department prosecuted the ex-chief and two other officers on federal civil rights violations stemming from a raid orchestrated by the chief against people he suspected of stealing from him... and they're going to take their ball and go home too.
Injustice In Seattle has hit a couple milestones this month... but might have to cut back soon...
First, October marks the first anniversary of this site and I would really like to thank all the people who made that possible... Mainly that would be you, the readers and supporters who have spread the word about the site in places I never would have thought that we would be talked about. Thank you all for sticking with us and for visiting, sincerely.
Second, we've had over 10,000 visits since we started a year ago, a milestone we hit and passed this month actually. Sure, that's not much when compared to other sites, but I think it's great given we're only a year old and for the type of content that we put out.
Friday, October 3, 2008
A MOOrestown NJ patrolman and his girlfriend face 45 charges of sexual assault for molesting at least three underage girls and four counts of animal cruelty for sexually assaulting... cows.
Interracial Couple Claims Brutality Was Racially Motivated
An interracial couple in Montgomery WV claim officers there used derogatory language when they were beaten and arrested for a traffic violation and that, while handcuffed at jail, one officer reacted violently to the couple kissing each other by stating "We're not having any of this shit here" and then he rubbed chemical irritants into the husband's face, eyes, and mouth.
Police Rough Up Several People At Festival
Iberia Parish LA officers accused of several acts of misconduct and brutality during the annual Sugar Cane festival there. People complained of being arrested just for trying to ask questions and never being told of their charges and of violent attacks that required one person to be hospitalized after arrest.
Witnesses Claim Officer Beat Mentally Ill Man
A Bryson City NC police officer stands accused of brutally beating a mentally ill 25 year old man who, according to at least 10 different witnesses, never gave the officer a reason to attack. Over two weeks after the incident the officer in question has now pressed charges against the victim he attacked.
Officer Involved Shootings Rile Community
"The burden is not on us to wait and be fired upon." says a Police union in Columbus Ohio during public forums on police related shootings and brutality in response to accusations that a Columbus police officer shot a man in the back and killed him.
Department Refused To Investigate Numerous Complaints
A New Haven Police Department faces numerous brutality and negligent indifference lawsuits that involve two officers who have racked up a surprising number of complaints involving violence against minorities that the department refused to investigate.
Michigan Cops Prefer Corrupt Sherrif
An Oakland County Michigan deputies union has endorsed an officer who was fired for misconduct in a bid to replace the existing sheriff because "they haven't had a raise in five years". The Ex-president of that union calls the endorsement "absurd".
Court Rules Cops Shouldn't Pay For Mistakes
The Washington State Supreme Court has rejected a plea by a Kent Washington property owner who was seeking compensation for damages done during a botched drug raid where police had knocked down a door after he had offered to unlock it for them... the police never found any drugs.
"The Stranger" Asks Readers To Support Police Brutality
Brendan Kiley over at the weekly Seattle independent paper "The Stranger" wants to support the Denver Police Union that has been selling those shirts we reported about almost a week ago and asks his readers to buy more of them for him because he thinks a shirt celebrating police brutality is funny.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Numerous sites, including this one, ran the story about how a Denver police officer’s union printed up thousands of shirts meant to commemorate the role of police officers during the Democratic National Convention which depicted a thuggish-looking police officer slapping a truncheon in the palm of his hand while standing menacingly over the city with the caption “We get up early to beat the crowd”.
At one of those sites, The Agitator, a set of comments from one reader who said the shirt upset him when he admitted that he was trying join law enforcement “for the right reasons” started me thinking… is it really possible to be a police officer “for the right reasons”? Is it possible to be a good cop in this day and age?
The Duty of a Good Cop
Before we get to that question, we must first establish what a good officer might be and I think that could easily be described as a person who joins law enforcement solely because of a desire to serve their community with the intention to follow the spirit of the law while enforcing the letter of the law.
Of course, this description covers a lot more than might be apparent at first, as can best be seen by examining an argument made by the writer of Simple Justice when he explains "If we assume that police aren't all criminals, and that most are dedicated to their job and oath, then the measure of wrong is not the cop who did the shoving, but the cop behind him who watched." Or, in other words, the perpetuation of the blue wall of silence is just as much a criminal endeavor as is the acts of police misconduct that it shields.
So, a good officer not only has a duty to avoid participating in acts of misconduct but also has the duty to report any misconduct he or she witnesses and not participate in covering up such activity either actively or passively… which leads to the root of our question; does the current law enforcement environment allow officers to do their duty when tasked to report misconduct performed by other officers?
…in other words, is it even possible for officers to do what is right and remain a police officer in an environment that does not encourage, or perhaps actively discourages, reporting acts of misconduct? For that answer we need only look at a few examples of officers who did what the spirit of the law demanded of them and see what became of them and their efforts as a result.
The Case of Navin Sharma
In 1998, Vancouver Washington police officer Navin Sharma testified against his fellow officers about a complaint filed by a city attorney who witnessed officers deriding an instructor during an “anti-domestic violence course” and who slept during the class, drew offensive cartoons about the instructor, and threw away class materials while walking out.
Sharma, who was responsible for creating a program that ultimately saved the lives of countless officers and civilians, was rewarded for his testimony with 8 years of extraordinary abuse from fellow officers, dispatchers, and even city officials that one ex-Vancouver police summed up by telling reporters that; “In 24 years with the department I never saw them do to another officer what they’ve done to him.”
Ultimately officer Sharma was fired for an alleged offense that was widely described as a training issue and fired in such a way that he could never work as a police officer again. He ultimately sued and won a discrimination suit against Vancouver but the abuse, while racial in nature, was all about retaliation, and all in response to testimony against other officers that only resulted in minor disciplinary action against two officers. Still, even though all parties now admit that Sharma was an exemplary officer who was honest to a fault, he still can never work in law enforcement again because of that honesty.
The Case of Karl Mansoor
In 1994 Karl Mansoor transferred from Norfolk Virginia, where he was a patrol officer, to Albemarle County where he had hoped to raise his family. At first he was enthusiastic about his new position within the county’s police force but that excitement was short-lived as he began to witness severe cases of misconduct, criminal activity, and cover-ups that even included sexual harassment of teenage girls within the department and brutality against suspects and innocent people.
When he approached supervisors and others about the incidents he was ignored or threatened, warned that if he dared to associate with others who were concerned about problems within the department that he wouldn’t make it anywhere within the department. His problems came to the forefront when, in 1997, he began recording conversations about misconduct and the mistreatment he was experiencing for trying to bring attention to problems within the department and he was forced to undergo treatment for the stress of working in such a hostile environment.
When he attempted to return to duty, however, he was forced to sign an agreement that forbade him from talking with any "third parties" about anything "critical or negative towards the county executive, the chief of police ... or any other county official or employee." But, in 2002 he won a civil rights suit against the county for unreasonably restricting his first amendment rights, but that only delayed the inevitable.
In 2004 Karl Mansoor was finally forced to resign from the police force due to the constant threat of having to respond to calls without backup and due to the constant animosity from his supervisors and fellow officers. Mansoor still works as a certified police instructor, teaching courses in law enforcement ethics, and is working on a book about ethics in policing as well as his own experiences trying to clean up his own police department... but he still does not work as a law enforcement officer as a result of his efforts to clean up his department.
The Case of Sam Costales
In 2006 Sam Costales reluctantly rejoined the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico at the request of the chief of police due to patrol shortages. He only joined after promising that he would report any misconduct he witnessed since he had previously resigned because of all the brutality he had witnessed over the 23 years as a police officer.
Shortly after rejoining he testified against three Bernalillo County officers who he witnessed drag Al Unser Sr. from his truck, throw him against the ground, and then handcuff him on Unser's own property after he had questioned why police had placed a roadblock on his land. Moments later he also witnessed police arrest 72 year old Bobby Unser who lived nearby. Costales' testimony not only contradicted the deputies but also claimed that their conduct was unprofessional and unreasonable.
After his testimony the Albuquerque chief of police initiated an investigation against Costales after sending a letter to the police union that stated “Like you, I was shocked and dismayed when I learned that Sam was on the stand sucker-punching our deputies. Make no mistake, while his testimony was a work of fiction, it was pretty much game over after he finished…Sam Costales is incapable of breaking the brotherhood that bonds these great agencies.”
Thereafter Costales was the subject of persecution and retaliation that left him fearful that officers would not give him backup if he responded to a dangerous call... and ultimately led to him seeking treatment for the extreme stress he had to endure as a result of testifying truthfully when called to do so. In the end, his own department and supervisors turned against him for testifying against officers in another department.
The Case of Frank Serpico
Of course, all of this is nothing new... In 1967 Frank Serpico sought to bring attention to widespread corruption within the NYPD, but it wasn't until 1970 when the New York Times finally broke the story about corruption in the NYPD that the mayor formed the Knapp Commission to investigate the claims made by officers and civilians alike.
In 1971, while working a drug bust, Frank Serpico was shot in the face while his fellow officers refused to provide backup. As officer Serpico laid on the floor of an apartment building slowly bleeding to death his fellow officers refused to call in a request for emergency services but another tennent in the building sat with Serpico and called for an ambulance.
For his attempts to bring to light the rampant abuses and corruption within the NYPD, officer Serpico had to endure a lifetime of chronic pain from bullet fragments left in his skull and the harassment from his fellow officers who taunted him in his hospital room. He still testified to the commission later that year and worked tirelessly thereafter helping officers who faced similar problems when they tried to do the right thing as well, people who he termed "lamp-lighters".
Even in Seattle
Sometimes, even when officers are not actively punished for testifying against their fellow officers, they are usually not protected from retaliation by their fellow officers when they try to do their duty and testify honestly when demanded to do so by law. Sometimes, too, officers do cave into the pressure to remain silent and not rat out their fellow officers.
In 2004 a four year FBI investigation into corruption within the Seattle Police Department ended abruptly after the investigation was compromised by those police officers themselves. The incomplete findings were turned over to the SPD and as a result one officer resigned, one was dismissed, and two others faced other disciplinary actions. One of the officers, a sergeant, ultimately faced discipline for allegedly referring to a subordinate who cooperated with the FBI as "a rat", an accusation which he later denied by stating: "I have denied saying anything to hurt the tender feelings of this young officer."
In a second hearing performed by the chief of police, the officer who made the accusation changed his story without explanation and as a result the sergeant wasn’t fired for violating rules against intimidating a whistleblower. There was never an investigation into whether or not there was any coercion involved with the officer's change of testimony.
Are There Good Cops?
What does all of this tell us? If anything it suggests that the blue wall of silence is still in force and still working to ensure that the thin blue line that enforces society’s laws does not extend into the police department itself. That officers are still actively discouraged from doing as duty demands, to enforce the laws evenly and fairly, even when the laws are broken by one of their own…
Ultimately, such stories show us that the blue wall of silence exists to ensure that if there is such a thing as a good cop, that such a cop will be punished until that cop conforms to the unspoken rule of silence or is exiled from the ranks of law enforcement. It shows us that while there are good cops out there, that their good deeds will not go unpunished and that those few good cops, no matter how dedicated they may be, just cannot remain cops for long... that it's a lot more difficult for a good cop to remain true to his or her ideals.
But, there is another lesson here as well, one not so bleak, in that these stories prove that there are good cops out there, cops who are devoted to doing what is right and are willing to enforce the law beyond the blue wall, even when that blue wall threatens to crush them.
…meanwhile, those shirts printed by the Denver police union have been so popular with police officers in the region, that they sold out of the 2000 they had printed and had to order more. So, now not only do cops remain silent when other cops abuse their authority, but they celebrate it brazenly without fear of repercussion, all thanks to the perpetuation of their blue wall of silence.
While there are good cops out there who can follow the legacy of sacrifice left before them, we need to wait and see if there are there enough out there to stem the tide against such apparently wide-spread corruption. Hopefully, someday, such officers will be rewarded and prized for their honesty and dedication instead of punished for it.
For more information about Navin Sharma see:
"Good Cop, Mad Cop" -Willamette Weekly
"Navin Sharma: A Good Cop Who Can't Be A Cop" -Injustice In Seattle
For more information about Karl Mansoor see:
"Former Officer Alleges Corruption in Albemarle County Police Department" -WCAV 19 News
"Virginia County Wrong To Muzzle Officer's Speech" -Freedom Forum
"Blue Must Be True" - www.karlmansoor.com
For more information about Sam Costales see:
"Cop of the Year-2007" -The Agitator
"Bully Cops May Cost Taxpayers" -The Citizen Media Group
For more information about Frank Serpico see:
"The Official Frank Serpico Website" -www.frankserpico.com
For more information about the FBI Investigation Into SPD Corruption see:
"Seattle police plan to fire officer in misconduct case" -The Seattle Times
"Police Chief Fires Officer, Disciplines 2 Sergeants" - The Seattle Times
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