This site is devoted to increasing public awareness of police misconduct and detainee abuse in addition to providing support for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse. If you or someone you know have witnessed abuse or have been abused, please let us know.
Packratt@injusticeinseattle.org

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 12-28-08

A review of police misconduct and jail abuse stories making the headlines

Washington State Democrat Pushes For DNA Testing Upon Arrest
Democratic state representative Mark Miloscia is introducing a bill into the Washington state legislature that would allow police to collect a suspect's DNA upon arrest instead of at the time of conviction for a felony crime.

Washington state law currently only allows genetic information to be kept if a person is convicted of a felony or sex-related offense, but the democrat and some of his largest political donors, a lobbyist group that represents a coalition of Washington State police unions, are pushing to have the power to record genetic information without having to prove that a suspect is guilty first.

Currently 13 states mandate the collection of DNA upon arrest and federal authorities will begin doing so after this month as well. So much for being innocent until proven guilty.

A Retrospective On The Ten Year Anniversary of the Tyisha Miller Shooting
On a tip from Five Before Midnight, The Press-Enterprise issued a series of reports on the 1998 killing of Tyisha Miller by four Riverside California police officers and examines whether things have changed in the ten years since that fateful night when officers unloaded 12 rounds into Tyisha's body after she was found asleep in her car with a gun on her lap.

More Stories Of Torture In American Jails
This comes straight from the cover of the of the Sand Diego Weekly Reader released earlier this month. A story detailing human rights abuses in ICE detention centers and state prisons via the denial of medical care as a matter of policy.

One striking story that dominates this article is of an inmate who suffered untreated cancer of the penis while incarcerated, only to be released in time to have his penis amputated... and then to die a year later of a cancer that could have otherwise been easily treated. Horrific stuff.

Inglewood California's Police Department Sexcapades
The LA Times has another article in a series detailing problems with the Inglewood California police department. This one details a series of sex scandals that includes an officer accused of downloading child porn, an officer accused of photographing an inmate during a strip search, an officer accused of rape, and officers who may have frequented prostitutes.

Indictment of Suspected Drug Dealing Cop Results In Several Reversed Convictions
The indictment of a Benton Harbor Michigan narcotics officer for dealing drugs and accusations that he used drugs obtained from busts to obtain fictitious search warrants and embezzle funds has resulted in the dismissal of several convictions and charges against people that he was involved in arresting.

The common rumor comes to mind about how many officers often keep small amounts of drugs on them in order to frame people they bust... with so many stories like this coming out it makes you wonder if it really is just a rumor, huh?

Officer's Illegal Search Exposes Department To Lawsuit
Sarasota County Florida sheriff's department is facing a lawsuit over an illegal search without a warrant. A real estate agent says she told a deputy twice that he didn't have permission to enter her home but after asking a third time she turned to look at the back door where other deputies had moved to and when she turned back the deputy at the front door entered and commenced searching, saying that her silence when asked a third time equaled consent.

While the deputy involved was disciplined with a demotion, upon appeals a review board reduced the discipline to a brief unpaid suspension instead.

Cop Accused of Soliciting Sex In Exchange For Dropping Tickets Freed For Christmas
A North Las Vegas police officer accused of soliciting women he stopped for sex in return for getting out of traffic tickets was arrested on 7 felony counts of misconduct and color of law abuses after spending 5 months on paid administrative leave while the accusations were investigated.

The officer left jail after having his bail reduced on Christmas Eve... on the condition he not attempt to contact any of the 5 women who have stepped forward so far to testify against him.

Indicted Cop Sues Police Union For Refusing To Represent Him
Meanwhile, another North Las Vegas officer who has been accused of laundering money and providing false testimony to the FBI is still his firing from that police department. The officer is arguing that he should have been represented by a union official when he was fired and the state's review board agreed and has ordered the department to give the officer $28,000 in legal fees and back pay.

In this case, however, it's the union that's fighting the ruling, claiming that the officer in question was appointed as a chief marshal, and thus was never represented by the union.

The Chicago Press Calls Him "The Shakedown Cop"
An Oak Lawn Illinois (suburb of Chicago) officer was arrested on charges of official misconduct on allegations that he stole a gun from the department. This after he was already accused of pulling over drivers and threatening them with jail if they didn't bribe him and being convicted of drug possession earlier this year... of course he was released on his own recognizance anyway.

Capitol Cops Accused Of Being Toys For Tots Thieves
The Christmas issue of the Washington Post has a story about Washington DC police officers who have been accused of stealing toys from a Toys For Tots donation program that takes donations of new toys and gives them to needy children.

An investigation into those allegations has apparently uncovered evidence that at least 4 officers have taken toys that were donated to the toy drive.

Remember That Denver Police Union That Printed Those Shirts Celebrating Brutality?
A high ranking officer in the Denver Colorado police department has been suspended with pay during an investigation into unspecified allegations of police misconduct.

The department and city refuses to provide any information about the allegations or current investigation, which is the result of a secretive policy similar to the one in Seattle and a few other cities that try to hide cases of police misconduct from the public, but insiders say this officer was sexually involved with a junior officer and that there were video tapes and pictures taken of the affair.

The officer apparently used to be the vice president of the police union that created thousands of t-shirts which glorified the mistreatment of protesters at the hands of Denver officers during the DNC in 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Researching Top 10 Worst Cities For Police Misconduct

Results from reader poll ending on 01/01/09.

I'm currently working on a story that will list the 10 worst cities for police misconduct. It will be like a top ten list of cities you would never want to live in.

At this moment, since most cities still don't record misconduct statistics in a reliable manner, we'll be judging cities by the number of publicly cited reports of misconduct via the media along with the number of federal investigations, other reports of widespread misconduct, and possibly taking into consideration the severity of misconduct reported and whether cities attempted to address it or cover it up.

If you have a city, county, or other local law enforcement entity that you would like to see considered for addition to the list please let me know what city or cities you think should be considered along with any relevant details as to why they should be considered.

Deadline will be prior to December 29th.

Additionally, I've put up a poll for readers to pick which of the possible finalist cities for the top 10 worst list will ultimately be the worst of them all.

Thank you!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For Your Holiday Viewing


Alas, I'm old, but here's one of my favorites on my listening list all year round...

The Kinks with Father Christmas.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Happy Holidays

I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season. No matter what you believe, if you believe or celebrate anything or not, it's still nice to have a day or two out of the year where there is a bit more peace in the world and where we are a bit more like brothers and sisters to each other than usual.

I wish you all a day of peace, warmth, happiness, and the company of those you love.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

US ER Doctors Reveal They Know Police Use Excessive Force

A new report in the January 2009 edition of the Emergency Medicine Journal may contain evidence that the epidemic of police brutality in the US is very real. That report reveals that 99.8% of US Emergency Physicians believe that the police use excessive force when detaining suspects.

How are they so sure of this? The report goes on to say that 97.8% of those doctors surveyed have personally treated people that they suspect have been subjected to excessive force and nearly two-thirds of those have treated two or more victims of excessive force.

The problem, revealed in the report, is that doctors don't know what to do with that information, even though nearly half wish they did have procedures in place to report incidents where they suspect excessive force had been used by the police. This only adds to the problem as it allows those cases of misconduct to go unnoticed and even when reported by the victim, it means that doctors aren't interviewed as a means to corroborate reports of brutality.

The survey, performed primarily by Dr. Jared Strote of the University of Washington in Seattle, goes on to state that about 71% of physicians have not reported cases where they suspected excessive force and the reason for that is that nearly 97% of departments don't have any procedures in place to report such cases.

The most common forms of excessive force reported were blunt trauma caused by closed fist and foot strikes, followed by overly tightened handcuffs which have been known to cause permanent neurological damage.

However, one point to keep in mind with this report is that it only offers a glimpse of the problems with excessive force used by police officers. It does not take into account that many victims of police violence may never make it to an emergency room, instead many are taken straight to jail and some of those may never receive any medical treatment for their injuries at all.

As said before, police brutality in the US is a systemic problem and not just an issue of a few bad apples. Unfortunately the system works against victims of police misconduct and offers few chances to help those who could testify on their behalf and help stop this problem.

With reports like this, though, that finally offer a glimpse into the extent of the problem when law enforcement agencies refuse to gather any real statistics on cases of abuse, we might have some hope to convince the public that this is a real problem and that it can affect anyone, innocent and guilty alike, and thus must be addressed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Police Officer Threatens Woman Who Blogs About Officer-Involved Domestic Violence

A Screenshot of one threatening email messages sent to Officer-Involved Domestic Violence (OIDV)advocate at the Behind The Blue Wall blog.

Harassing and sending threatening messages to police accountability activists and people who report on police misconduct is a favorite pastime for police officers. Often unpunished and ignored by mainstream media, officers often feel as though it is their right to silence any critics... and most people tend to agree by telling advocates that they should simply expect to be threatened for talking about police misconduct and accept it.

This past year several sites devoted to uncovering issues of police misconduct have gone silent, including the well-known BadCopNews.com which compiled several cases of misconduct from around the world on a daily basis for years. While bloggers who write about political misdeeds or other issues enjoy protections from such abusive and threatening behavior, police misconduct bloggers have to suffer it and prepare as best they can for the eventuality when officers might make good on their threats.

Sadly, just last week another advocate against police misconduct has been added to the list of citizen reporters who have suffered such abuse and has learned that police departments always refuse to investigate threats issued by their own officers made against citizen reporters.

On December 14, the writer of Behind The Blue Wall started receiving harassing messages that she claims to have tracked down to a Palm Beach Sheriff's Deputy that she had posted some news articles about. The officer in question, Deputy Ira Peskowitz, has apparently been in the news quite often due to allegations ranging from domestic violence to alleged threats made to fellow officers.

She claims the officer, apparently upset that those articles had been republished on a her blog, created a fake Myspace page so he could initiate contact with the blogger via her Myspace presence and then escalated to emails that culminated with this message:
"When I find you and I will, your going to understand what it's like to be a fish out of water. God help you and your family. I tracked your IP address and I'm coming for you ...... you don't know when to stop and when you do it will be too late for you to start ever again."
The author apparently traced the messages back to officer Peskowitz and attempted to file complaints against the officer with the Palm Beach Sheriff's office to no avail. She also, fearing for her and her family's lives, contacted her local police department and was only told to call back if the officer was actually "banging on her door".

Fearing the officer would make good on his threats, and seeming to have good reason to do so as other officers who claimed to be threatened by him had resorted to filing restraining orders against him, went public with the threats in hopes that would cause the officer to think twice about making good on the threats.

Fellow bloggers, many of whom have also faced threats from police officers in response to their reporting, have offered their support and reposted information about the threats, including the author of the Riverside California blog Five Before Midnight, who has also had to suffer threats by police, as well as the Michigan OIDV Advocacy group who created a site devoted to the threats made so far.

Just as victims of police misconduct are often treated like third-class citizens, subjected to arrests made just to cover up for misconduct and ridiculed publicly by police officers and city officials, so too do the advocates for those victims become relegated to third-class citizen status and find themselves no longer protected by the same rights others enjoy.

In the end, all we can do as advocates against police misconduct is stand by each other and hope that, by shining a light on such misconduct as this, officers may think twice about making good on their threats of violence and the misuse of their authority to punish people who merely speak out against misconduct.

We too stand with the author of Behind The Blue Wall and offer what support we can in the hope that it might be enough to disuade further abusive retaliation against her for simply advocating for the victims of officer-related domestic violence.

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 12-23-08


Denver's "Independent Monitor" Refuses To Investigate Misconduct Claims
Denver's police monitor refuses to investigate allegations of misconduct during the DNC simply because he felt that the police "had no reason to lie" about what happened. (Guess he got some of those t-shirts the officers made to celebrate mistreatment of protesters for free).

The allegations against the Denver police include that the department withheld exculpatory evidence during trial against protesters, that they never gave an order to disperse before attacking protesters, that an undercover officer posing as a protester attempted to spark an aggressive response by resisting arrest, and that officers assaulted an innocent 80 year old man who was accidentally caught in the middle of the police department's attack against protesters.

Yet More Lawsuits Against Chicago's Corrupt "Proactive Policing" Special Operations Section
Chicago has reactivated the previously disbanded "Special Operations Section" while lawsuits caused by that unit continue to roll in... The chief just has faith it'll be different this time around, even though many of the same officers are still on that squad.

An Update On Chicago's Other Infamous Police Unit
Meanwhile, again in Chicago, other officers associated with Burge's torture division will likely not testify in order to avoid self-incrimination and the state's Attorney General is trying to duck responsibility in bringing the rest of the officers accused of torturing suspects to trial.

Officers Threatened To Arrest A Supervisor When He Wouldn't Help Them With Racially Motivated Attack
In a very egregious Charleston WV case of racially motivated brutality, a supervising officer testifies against two officers who beat a man because he was black and his wife was white. The supervisor also alleges that the officers threatened to arrest him as well when he tried to intervene. This apparently wasn't the first time these officers were accused of this either.

Officers Break A Man's Face In Six Places, Call It A Textbook Arrest
Salinas California police department claims officers were doing the right thing when they broke an innocent man's face in six places. The man claims he was kicked in the face by the officers while officers claim his face suffered such massive damage... from just being tackled.

Houston Texas Police Department Faces Diversity Training
Houston officers have been ordered to undergo diversity training after officers held a taser to a homeowner's head and handcuffed his family, the officers claimed they did it because the homeowner was wearing a turban and that made them suspicious... The officers arrived at the homeowner's residence because the homeowner called 911 to report a potential robbery and he was wearing a turban because he's a Sikh.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One DOJ Report And One Inquest Later, Abuses Continue At The King County Jail

In March of 2008 we reported that a woman who was recovering from reconstructive surgery was denied medical care while at the King County Jail despite just having surgery a few days before her arrest under allegations of shoplifting.

In that case the jail staff had verified that she was under a doctor's care and had valid doctor's instructions for care of that wound, but the staff ignored her requests anyway. Instead almost letting her go into shock while left in a cell with a small blanket and none of the medications she had been prescribed by her doctor.

It appears that this kind of mistreatment is still ongoing for people detained at the King County Jail. We've just received another complaint that is almost identical to the one we received in March, but this time it's from a woman who has actually worked as a corrections officer elsewhere... and she says she's never witnessed mistreatment like what routinely occurs at the King County Jail in all her years as a corrections officer.

She starts her story with her driving home just a few days after having major abdominal surgery, with her stomach still sutured, when she says she was pulled over by the police. At first she was confused about why she was stopped although she admits going maybe 2 mph over the limit.

During the stop and even after she was taken into custody she was never told by the officer why she was pulled over and never read her rights. Later she discovered that she was pulled over and arrested that night because she had mistakenly missed a court date for a traffic violation, a court date that she was not notified of, and because of this she was unknowingly driving with a suspended license as a result.

After she was arrested she was taken to the King County Jail. This is where she claims that she repeatedly told police officers and jail staff that she had recently had surgery and that she needed to be careful as to not reopen the surgical wound or cause any internal damage. Instead of at least looking to see if she was telling the truth, guards and officers alike ridiculed and made fun of her instead. All of this even though she offered to show them the sutures that were still running across her abdomen.

Once booked into the jail the abuse didn't stop. She told us that she was denied food and water for 10 hours and denied even a basic medical examination. Eventually, though, she was finally seen by a nurse, but even after that they continued to refuse her reasonable requests for things like some additional bedding to protect the surgical site, use of a wheelchair, assistance with getting to and from the restroom, or even the medication that she had been prescribed by her doctor.

In the letter she sent us she described her treatment as "The most egregious, inhumane treatment I've ever experienced by another human being." And that as a former corrections officer with a degree in Criminal Justice that "…despite all of the corruption and verbal and physical abuse I was subjected to while a CO, I can say with a clear conscience that I have NEVER EVER treated an inmate the way I was treated by the police officers and the King County Jail staff… their behavior toward me was absolutely inexcusable, inhumane, and totally unjustified."

She claims that she was never rude or belligerent to anyone during her arrest and the time she spent in the jail. She also claims that shortly after being released she went back to her surgeon in order to make certain that there wasn't any damage done and was admitted to the hospital for a few days. Her doctors have told her that they hope she files a civil suit over her mistreatment by the police and the King County Jail, and she says she intends to do just that.

In November of 2007 the United States Department of Justice issued a scathing report on their investigation into the King County Jail for alleged civil rights violations that continue to occur at that facility under the direction of King County DAJD director Reed Holgeerts and King County Executive Ron Sims.

That report detailed life threatening abuses that were termed as egregious violations of detainee civil rights which included a lack of reasonable medical care. The US DOJ Civil Rights division and the King County government are still in talks over whether the county will address the violations that were discovered at the jail, over a year after those findings were made public.

In addition to that, last week marked the end to an inquest into the gruesome 2007 death of a detainee named Lynn Dale Iszley at the King County Jail. Iszley's death due to lack of medical care was meticulously detailed and cited in the DOJ report that was released in November of 2007, over a full year ago.

That inquest, lasting only two days, came to the same conclusion that the Department of Justice investigators did, that the jail was ultimately responsible for that death due to a decided lack of appropriate medical care... that Iszley's death could have, and should have, been prevented.

Apparently, judging by the reports we received, many of which we don't publish at the request of the victim, the county has decided not to address the civil rights violations that were found during that investigation and it remains unclear whether the US DOJ will do anything to force the county to comply with their recommendations to address the deadly problems in that jail since it's been over a year since their report was released and almost a full year past the deadline provided for King County to address the problems found at their jail, which they clearly have refused to do.

Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit is in the works against the King County Jail for several detainees who contracted potentially lethal MRSA infections due to the lack of medical care in the jail. No court date has been set yet in that action, but it is restricted only to detainees who contracted MRSA and the lawyer in that action, Ed Budge, has told Sarah that he cannot represent her for her case, like others who were denied medical care but didn't contract MRSA.

The woman who contacted us and the others harmed by abuses in that jail, some of which were later found innocent of their charges, have pledged to continue their attempts to gain legal assistance and claim that they won't sit by quietly and let the county get away with violating their basic human rights like this, especially while the jail continues to mistreat other pre-trial detainees.

Meanwhile, King County Executive Ron Sims, who is currently in talks to gain a position in President-Elect Obama's administration, still refuses to address the problems that have been detailed to him by the DOJ, an inquest he himself asked for, and by the numerous reports in the media. Instead he has suggested all along that detainees don't have civil rights to protect… even those who are later found innocent of any crimes they might have been accused of committing.

Ultimately, the deadly problems at the King County Jail aren't due to just one guard, one police officer, or one doctor. It is a systemic problem that only continues to exist with, and due to, the express disregard for human rights and constitutional rights by the county administration itself. Until King County has a new administration, these problems will only continue to expose the county to liability and bad press while potentially innocent detainees continue to be exposed to deadly conditions at that jail.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No Good Deed Goes...Court Says Good Samaritans Can Be Sued


This story from California bugged me, not just the inherent injustice of someone being punished for doing a good deed, but because it also could apply to any of us... even here in Washington state, or wherever you live too.

The case, Van Horn v Torti, pits Alexandra Van Horn, who was injured as a passenger in a car that slammed into a light pole at 45 mph in November of 2004, against Lisa Torti who was a co-worker and friend of Van Horn's following in a car behind Van Horns who attempted to pull Van Horn out of the vehicle in the fear that her car might ignite in to flame.

Van Horn now blames Torti for her being paralyzed and has brought suit against Torti for damages, and the California Supreme Court has given the lawsuit a green light based on the assumption that the state's Good Samaritan Law only protects you when administering emergency medical care, not when you attempt to rescue others from potentially life threatening situations, like pulling a drowning victim out of the water or pulling someone from a burning car.

Think something like that can only happen in crazy California? Think again.

In 2005 Washington state governor Christine Gregiore signed a Good Samaritan Law that made it a crime for a person to not render aid to a person who has suffered physical harm.

Yet, the still existing Good Samaritan Liability Law on the books for Washington state only provides protection from liability while performing medical aid on persons already injured and does not cover rescue or other similar actions, just as the one in California is worded.

Worse, here in Washington state, you would be stuck in a catch-22, liable to be sued if you help, subject to criminal charges if you don't...

But, here's a warning for readers elsewhere, these kinds of laws are usually similar from state to state because each state usually just follows suit from the first one that wrote that kind of law. So I recommend you check up on your own laws before you think about doing anything helpful too.

All things considered, it really looks like we all might need to think twice before we try to help our fellow humans in need... because the law now seems ready to enforce the idea that no good deed should go unpunished.

It's chilling to think that it seems as though when I attempted to break up a stabbing I witnessed that night in November that I could have very well been sued for intervening to save that guy's life on top of being beaten and wrongfully arrested for it. Yet another reason to definitely think twice about doing that again now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 12-19-08

Stills from a video taken in December 2007 of a Knoxville Jail guard beating a mentally ill jail detainee while he was restrained in a device nicknamed "The Devil's Chair".

Reuters Reports Replicated Milgram Experiment Shows Most Would Torture Others If Ordered To
First performed in the 1960's the Milgram Experiment showed that most people would willingly torture others if told to. Experimenters used actors who pretended to cry out in pain when subjects believed they were administering electric shocks to the actors. While Milgram let subjects go to 450 volts, the reproduction of the experiment preformed this year stopped them at 150 but showed that 70% of subjects would have went beyond 150 volts if they were allowed to.

Critics of Milgram's experiment often claimed that people in the 1960's were more prone to be obedient than they are today... Apparently that's just not the case. The same could also be said of the Stanford Prison Experiment that was done in 1971 which showed how regular people would become abusive when given the kind of power a guard has over prisoners. The people chosen as guards in that study became so abusive the experiment had to be stopped after only 6 days instead of the planned 14 day duration.

My point in posting this on a site like this should be clear, but in case it isn't let me explain. Whenever you hear a story about police abusing someone or a story about corrections officers abusing detainees... remember that a full 70% of the population would willingly torture another human being with no compunction in regards to what they knew about that person or why they were told to torture that person. To think that police officers or corrections officers are not also capable of this is being dishonest with oneself at one's own peril.

Because it can happen to anyone, even the innocent.

Sharma Settlement Prompts Vancouver To Seek Independent Review Of Police Department
We covered the Navin Sharma case and the related developing Chris Kershaw case where officers have been fired from Vancouver's police department, not for misconduct, but because they didn't adhere to the blue code of silence.

There have been repeated calls for a DOJ investigation of Vancouver's police department after these cases came to light and the city, in response, is trying to come up with a plan to investigate itself instead... The problem, aside from questions over whether the city investigating itself would be unbiased, is that there appear to be few volunteers willing to risk the city's infamous wrath by doing so.

ABC NEWS 20/20: Bloomington Illinois Police Search For Serial Rapist, Only To Find It's One Of Their Own
A disturbing account that starts with testimony from victims of a serial rapist who would go so far as to make them bathe themselves and take their bedsheets after attacking them in their homes to the police department that tried to catch the rapist... only to discover that the serial rapist was a member of the Bloomington Police Department himself.

Washington DC Cop Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Assault Charges

From the DOJ press release:
The incident took place on Jan. 20, 2005, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., during an unauthorized march related to the 2005 Presidential Inauguration. Huxoll was on duty and responded to the Adams Morgan area when some of the marchers began engaging in incidents of vandalism.

In his plea hearing, Huxoll acknowledged that he threw the victim to the ground because he believed, erroneously, that the victim had thrown bottles at him and other officers. Huxoll also admitted that, although the victim did not resist and was not aggressive, he grabbed the back of the victim's head while he was still on the ground, lifted it up and struck the victim across the face with his riot baton. The victim suffered a broken nose, lacerations and abrasions as a result of this assault.

Photos Taken By Police Officers Of Women In The Nude Costs City $150,000
In Statin Island NY, two women won a settlement from the city in a case where detectives had taken photos of them in the nude while one was in the hospital being examined in a rape case and another while at the station for a traffic violation that was later dropped.

The women, one of whom is the daughter of David Bowie's ex-wife, settled for a combined $150,000. The officers involved were acquitted during a criminal trial sparked by the cases because the state failed to prove that the officers took the photos for their own sexual gratification.

One of the cops involved is now suing the department for wrongful termination after he was fired earlier this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

12 Year Old African American Girl Beaten And Arrested By Galveston Texas Police Who Mistook Her For A White Prostitute

I know, I normally don't do this for stories outside of the Seattle area... But... Offered in it's entirety from the Houston Press blog via Radley Balko's The Agitator with the only comment being some tidbits about the lawyers involved... and that I think I'm going to be ill.

"It was a little before 8 at night when the breaker went out at Emily Milburn's home in Galveston. She was busy preparing her children for school the next day, so she asked her 12-year-old daughter, Dymond, to pop outside and turn the switch back on.

As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, "You're a prostitute. You're coming with me."

Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

As it turned out, the three men were plain-clothed Galveston police officers who had been called to the area regarding three white prostitutes soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

All this is according to a lawsuit filed in Galveston federal court by Milburn against the officers. The lawsuit alleges that the officers thought Dymond, an African-American, was a hooker due to the "tight shorts" she was wearing, despite not fitting the racial description of any of the female suspects. The police went to the wrong house, two blocks away from the area of the reported illegal activity, Milburn's attorney, Anthony Griffin, tells Hair Balls.

After the incident, Dymond was hospitalized and suffered black eyes as well as throat and ear drum injuries.

Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, police went to Dymond's school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant. Griffin says the allegations stem from when Dymond fought back against the three men who were trying to take her from her home. The case went to trial, but the judge declared it a mistrial on the first day, says Griffin. The new trial is set for February.

"I think we'll be okay," says Griffin. "I don't think a jury will find a 12-year-old girl guilty who's just sitting outside her house. Any 12-year-old attacked by three men and told that she's a prostitute is going to scream and yell for Daddy and hit back and do whatever she can. She's scared to death."

Since the incident more than two years ago, Dymond regularly suffers nightmares in which police officers are raping and beating her and cutting off her fingers, according to the lawsuit.

Griffin says he expects to enter mediation with the officers in early 2009 to resolve the lawsuit.

We've got calls in to the officers' lawyer; we'll let you know if we hear something.

Update:
This is from the officers' lawyer, William Helfand:

Both the daughter and the father were arrested for assaulting a peace officer. "The father basically attacked police officers as they were trying to take the daughter into custody after she ran off."

Also, "The city has investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances," Helfand says. "It's unfortunate that sometimes police officers have to use force against people who are using force against them. And the evidence will show that both these folks violated the law and forcefully resisted arrest.""


Some somewhat interesting asides to this case include that the lawyer defending the cops, William Helfand, is a member of the libertarian-leaning Federalist Society that exists, supposedly, to increase individual freedoms and liberties... all this despite his penchant for defending bad cops and writing articles about how an absence of malice should negate police brutality claims since at least 1998.

Also interesting is that the lawyer representing the young girl and her family, Anthony Griffin, was essentially fired from the NAACP in 1993 for agreeing to represent a KKK Grand Dragon in a civil rights free speech case at the request of the Texas State ACLU, even though he himself is African-American.

The reason he gave for accepting that case was that "If I don't protect their rights to free speech, I won't have any rights either." Now that's a lawyer who's all about defending constitutional rights.

Hope he wins this case.

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 12-18-08

Watching the snow from a jail window

Been in a real funk lately, so I'm a little late with this one... Let's start local as usual, then fan out from there.

Urban Golfer Falsely Accused Of "Assault" By Man Hit By Foam Ball
Jonah at The Stranger posted about an "urban golfer" who's been charged with assault for allegedly accidentally hitting a bystander in the head with a foam ball. Besides it being a stretch to call being hit with a foam ball a matter of assault, it appears as though the SPD might have been arbitrary about who they arrested and charged for this "assault".

The person charged, a 25 year old computer security expert, says he's been falsely accused and is being used as a scapegoat by the SPD... and apparently he's right.

The person who actually "assaulted" the "victim" in this case has come forward... to talk to Jonah at least, even though he just did so to let people know why he's willing to let the accused swing in his place. This one ticked me off personally, not just because the charges of assault are utter bullshit, but also because the kid who is letting his pal take the fall for him, even though it is a bullshit charge.

In Jonah's article, the kid who actually hit the ball laughs while explaining that he's sure his friend will win the case since he's innocent... but the brat doesn't realize that being put through the justice system meat grinder is punishment in it's own right even when you're found innocent and his pal could still be railroaded, it happens all the time.

Now, the kid who actually hit the guy is unemployed. The guy taking the fall has a good job... so I'm wondering if the putz who's pressing assault charges for being hit with a nerf ball fingered the wrong guy on purpose in order to help with an eventual civil suit he's got planned, maybe?

In any case, lots of idiots in this one, from the city attorney moving ahead with this misuse of the court, to the SPD for grabbing the wrong people (they detained at least three people over this, none of them was the one who hit that ball), to the moron who got hit, and finally the butthead who let his pal get the shaft for this.

What a mess.

In National News:

Critical Mass NYPD Cop Indicted
That NYPD officer, Patrick Pogan, who had been caught committing perjury by falsifying a police report against a bicyclist he body-checked in order to cover for his assault on that cyclist has finally been indicted 5 long months after the incident.

If it weren't for video footage of that assault, apparently captured by a tourist, Pogan likely would have succeeded in punishing the cyclist for being the target of Pogan's pent up aggression. Instead, the video has made the rounds throughout the blogosphere and into mainstream news, costing Pogan his badge and gun while he now sits at a desk in the NYPD facing a number of charges ranging from felony counts of giving false statements to misdemeanor assault.

New Rochelle Police Officer Sues City For Suspending Him Due To A Parking Violation
Apparently this officer feels that he might have been kicked out for a minor parking infraction when other officers have done much worse there...

Hmm, now haven't I heard of New Rochelle's police department somewhere else recently?

Oh yeah, that's right, that's where Sgt. David Rodriquez worked when he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 17 year old. In that case, Rodriquez was allowed to resign and since he plead his felony charge down to a misdemeanor which meant he could be hired elsewhere as a police officer and, as far as we know, he isn't listed on any sexual predator lists either.

Maybe he's got a point?

Four Mt. San Jacinto College Police Officers Sue After Being Fired For Reporting Misconduct
Four campus cops are suing under allegations that they were sacked because they tried to report incidents of misconduct being performed by a friend of the police chief and it seems as though maybe the chief himself was doing a little dirty on the side too.

Former Flint Michigan Cop Denied Request To Expunge Manslaughter Conviction
A judge refused former Flint PD officer Martin Brock's request to have his record cleared of an involuntary manslaughter conviction over the beating death of Lance Lockrey in the 1980's, alleging that he's having a hard time finding work because of the conviction on his record.

Brock reportedly kicked and punched Lockrey even after Lockery was on the ground and unconcious. Lockery later died of head injuries and Brock was convicted of manslaughter, a conviction that was overturned in 1987 which prompted Brock to plead guilty to the lesser involuntary charge instead of risking going back to trial again for the more serious charges.

In his decision, the judge stated that if Brock wasn't a cop at the time of the crime, he likely would have granted the request... but, according to this judge at least, police officers must be held to a higher standard.

Hamilton Mass Police Department Operated Ambulance Service Without Certified EMTs
A city's selectmen have turned to the attorney general in Massachusetts about what to do with their police chief who has moved his retirement date up in order to keep his pension safe from the city firing him over a scandal involving the police department operating emergency medical services without certified EMTs.

Seems the off-duty officers that signed up to be EMTs never attended training and the trainer never even held the classes he let officers sign attendance forms for. The town is up in arms over this and demanding that the city do whatever it can to fire the chief before they're stuck paying his pension despite how he mishandled the department.

Misconduct Case Started In Ohio Over Police Chief Who Threatened His Own Son With Gun
Apparently the chief's fellow officers tried to keep the deteriorating mental condition of their chief under wraps, even after he threatened his own son with a gun and also threatened suicide as well. Now the officers who covered for the chief are facing allegations of misconduct over how they mishandled the incidents.


And for those neighbors in the great white north...

Remind me not to drive in Canada.
The Canadian Supreme Court has thrown out protections from unreasonable search and seizure for anyone traveling on Canadian roadways.Cops there can now stop you for any reason, at any time, and search you without any reasonable suspicion. When faced with the choice of how much misconduct to tolerate, the court erred on the side of misconduct instead of justice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Excessive Force Complaint Sustained In Mark Hays Case -Updated

Originally posted at 02:08 on 12/16/08, updated 13:52 on 12/16/08

The Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability's Civilian Auditor released her biannual report recently and in it was a revelation that I wasn't aware of. It appears as though the OPA, the SPD's internal investigations division, may have found that officers used excessive force when they arrested Mark Hays and Michael Lujan earlier this year.

If you didn't remember, Mark Hays and his friend were walking back from a night out when they apparently jaywalked in front of an unmarked SUV full of undercover Seattle Police officers. The plainclothes officers, part of the "proactive policing" "Anti-Crime Team" yelled at the pair and told them they could be arrested for pedestrian interference. The pair apparently told the officers where they could put their interference and the officers piled out of their unmarked SUV and started arresting them.

What happened next, supposedly in front of several witnesses, is a matter of dispute. Officers allege that when they began arresting Lujan on charges of pedestrian interference that Hays jumped on one officers back, even though witnesses who talked to reporters but later refused to testify said they never saw Hays tackle an officer.



The ACT officers then arrested Hays for assaulting an officer and pedestrian interference, an arrest that was also partially caught on a responding unit's dashcam, as seen above courtesy of The Stranger's coverage of the incident. That video shows an ACT officer repeatedly punching and kneeing Hays after he was under control and face-down on the ground even as the cruiser approached the scene, and then showed even more punches and knees hit Hayes afterward as well.

Hays was later found guilty of assaulting an officer when none of the witnesses testified but Lujan was found innocent of pedestrian interference, essentially meaning that the initial excuse to effect the brutal arrest of Hayes was unfounded.

The SPD OPA Auditor, Katrina Pflaumer, had this to say about her review of a case that had some remarkable similarities with the Hays arrest...
"In another case I agreed with a Sustained finding for excessive force where the back-up officer’s in-car video had recorded the interaction. The officer had been jumped on from the rear as he took control of the subject’s jay-walking friend. When the attacking young man was down and under control, the officer continued to use punches and knee strikes, which he claimed were necessary to control resistance. In the majority of cases, the in-car videos I have seen support the officers. In this case, however, the video was at 180-degree variance with the officer’s perceptions or recollections and a Sustained finding was recommended by OPA and confirmed by the Chief."

While this finding may have been noted in a previously released monthly report from the OPA, generally the description of events in those findings are intentionally left vague, which makes it difficult to determine which person's complaint that finding is related to, but the description the auditor supplied leaves few reasons to doubt as to who this case is referring to... but because the OPA lacks any transparency, it's impossible to determine for certain if they are talking about the Hays case.

One point to remember is the recent contract changes between the city and the police union states that any officers who are found to have lied during an internal investigation are to be fired. The auditor, in this observation about the case, appears to be hinting that she felt the officer in question lied by saying his testimony was a 180 degree contradiction of the video evidence... but we've not heard of any officers being fired from the SPD recently.

But, interestingly enough, the auditor's report doesn't end there as she describes an identical case involving the same officer and, if the case is the Hays case, a member of the rather infamous SPD ACT.

"I was troubled by a case with very similar circumstances three months later, involving the same officer, same kind of strikes delivered, same justification claimed, and same words spoken; but where no in-car recording was available. In that case a person with a felony warrant fled from the officers, was tackled, and was delivered knee strikes in the mid-section during handcuffing. Since the officers’ testimony was consistent and supportive of each other, the result was a finding of Exonerated. The Director and I agreed that, despite some similarities, there was no evidence available to sustain an allegation of excessive force against the employee."

As we covered shortly after the Hays incident, the SPD ACT is responsible for a large number of excessive force complaints due to their aggressive form of "proactive policing" methods. It should be interesting to see if a civil case does develop from this case, if it is the Hays case, as Hays reportedly told reporters that he was in talks with civil rights attorneys shortly after his arrest. Per departmental policy, there has been no word on how the officer was disciplined, or if any discipline had been given over the sustained finding at all.

UPDATE 12/16/08-13:48:
I just realized that this finding may have actually been reported in one of the monthly OPA reports back in October, but the description of the complaint was so vague that there would be no way to link the finding with the case. I covered that report here back in October too... Just struck me now that the two were likely linked.

But again, because of the way the OPA is set up to protect officers, even when they have been found to break the rules, it's impossible to tell if this is the Hays case for certain, even though the similarities are very striking.

More Raising Cain In Bainbridge Island


It started with a 911 medical assistance call made by Seth Chipman's wife, a registered nurse named Rickie Chipman, for her husband's head injury and ended with Seth in jail instead of a hospital. Seth was in a state of mental distress and had hurt himself so Rickie Chipman called 911 to have Seth transported to the hospital. Two Bainbridge Island police officers showed up with the EMTs, one of those being officer Stephen Cain, and apparently things just went downhill from there...

Rickie Chipman alleges that, without provocation, officer Cain used a hair-hold takedown technique on her husband, (the hair-hold takedown was criticized last year by the DOJ during an investigation into mistreatment at the King County Jail as being too dangerous and degrading to be approved for use by law enforcement and corrections officers), grinding his face into the gravel, and then "took a knee" on his back when he arrested him and took him to jail instead of the hospital. Rickie states that she plead with officers to show restraint and was threatened with arrest herself and told that if she didn't calm down they would taser her husband... She didn't get to see him again for another 24 hours.

The officers, in their own defense, allege that Seth threatened them with a six foot long stick and a chainsaw, and then assaulted them when they took him into custody. However, Rickie gives a different story entirely and says officers assaulted her husband with no provocation, essentially suggesting that they made up the justification for arrest and that when police attacked Seth he was posing no threat at the time.

There has been no word on what EMTs allege to have seen that night, but given their close working relationship with the police it's doubtful that they wouldn't corroborate the officer's report. Seth is facing trial for three counts of assault arising from that incident in February and the department has no comment on the complaint against officer Cain.

Some readers might remember Bainbridge police officer Cain, (Copycat Cops and Copycat Cops Revisited) as he was accused of manhandling a female civil rights lawyer, Kim Koenig, earlier this year during a traffic stop. The police officer's union later sued reporters and a local blogger who were attempting to release details about Cain's disciplinary history in relation to that story and won, effectively keeping officer Cain's misconduct history a secret.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 12-12-08

In Local News:

9th Circuit Court Rules Seattle's Parade Permit Law Unconstitutional
The court of appeals ruled that Seattle's permit laws violate the constitution's first ammendment since it vests the Seattle Police chief with full authority to decide whether people may use public property to broadcast their message.

The ruling stems from a dispute between the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality and the city when the police, in 2003, refused to allow the group to march even after they had gathered permits for the protest.

King County Deputy Testifies Against Fellow Deputy In Federal Civil Rights Case
King County Deputy Thomas Calabrese testified against deputy Brian Bonnar in a criminal deprivation of civil rights case stemming from an October 2005 case where a suspect rammed two police cars while trying to flee while allegedly under the influence of crack and alcohol.

Bonnar allegedly fired his taser at the female driver when she refused to get out of the car and another deputy smashed the window. The woman was then pulled from the car while she struggled against deputies. Another deputy punched the woman twice and she stopped resisting while she was put in restraints. But the allegations allege that Bonnar looked aroun then dropped a knee on her head twice while she was restrained.

Deputy Calabrese then alleges that Bonnar then yanked her up by her hair and that Bonnar then slammed her face down on the back of a patrol car while Calabrese tried to position her away from Bonnar. Calabrese later filed a misconduct complaint against Bonnar in relation to the incident which reportedly divided the department between deputies who wanted Bonnar fired and those who felt he shouldn't be punished.

The Sheriff, Sue Rahr, had to send out a memo to deputies ordering them to attend the trial in civilian clothes and on their own personal time after a memo circulated in the department asking deputies to attend the trial in support of Bonnar. Bonnar was suspended for 20 days after an internal investigation into the case, but was never fired despite recommendations suggesting he should be.

Gig Harbor Washington Cop's Perjury Trial May Endanger Several Drug Convictions
While Gig Harbor Washington police officer Matthew Dougil awaits his court date in February for charges of perjury related to allegations that he prevented other officers from searching an informant's car prior to drug buy sting operations and then filed police reports stating that those requisite searches were completed the city has aleady paid $45,000 to one person convicted by one of Dougil's busts... with more lining up to challenge their arrests and/or convictions.

In National News:

Sandy Oregon Officer's Plea Postponed In Bizarre Courtroom Twist
The Sandy Oregon police officer, William Bergin, who stands accused of giving teenage girls drivers licenses that he confiscated from drivers he stopped was due to enter his plea in court when, in a strange twist, his lawyer was served with a subpoena to testify against Bergin in a civil case against him for the wrongful death case of Fouad Kaady.

Bergin's lawyer asked the judge to reschedule the plea so he could recuse himself and help Bergin get a new lawyer. The Kaady case involved Bergin and a Clackamas County sheriff who shot the unarmed Kaady after Kaady was badly burned in an auto accident in 2005. While never charged or disciplined in that case, Kaady's family filed a civil suit against Bergin in a trial due to start in 2009.

Local papers have opined that if Bergin doesn't plea guilty in the identity theft criminal trial, that other details will emerge that could implicate Bergin in his relationship with those underaged girls he gave IDs to.

From Western Massachusetts Copwatch: Cops Who Shot Unarmed Teen Go Unpunished
The Hampden County DA will not charge two Springfield Massachusetts police officers for shooting an unarmed teenager, allegedly because they mistook a bottle the teen was holding for a gun.

The police commissioner hailed the officers as heroes for shooting the unarmed teen, stating that they "exemplify the type of courage that our officers display every day..." The injured teen is still recovering and is considering a civil suit against the city.

Also In Springfield Mass... Two Cops Arraigned For Theft
Two Springfield police officers are facing charges of larceny after they were accused of stealing at least $2,000 from three immigrants during a traffic stop. The trio claim that during the stop the officers took their wallets, presumably to review their ID's, but when the wallets were returned their money was missing.

In an odd "coincidence", a local restraraunt where the three usually hang out was recently raided by the police and workers there claim they were harassed by the police because of this case.

Tip thanks to akahn from www.westernmasscopwatch.net

Hunter NY Police Officer Charged With Rape And Child Endangerment
The North Country Gazette reports that a Hunter New York police officer has been arrested and charged with rape, criminal sexual acts, and child endangering related to accusation that he had sex with an underaged girl on multiple occations, some of those while he was on-duty.

New York State Trooper Indicted For Writing False Tickets For Revenge
A NY State Trooper is facing 17 charges related to his writing traffic tickets against someone he never pulled over. The tropper, Lester Hooper, apparently got into an argument with someone while off-duty and wrote down the person's licence plate number. Later, the trooper wrote him several tickets for speeding as revenge for his refusal to move his parked truck during that dispute.

Utah's Hero Cop Faces Multiple Misconduct Complaints
With the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against Ogden police officer Ken Hammond come new disclosures about an officer who racked up several misconduct complaints that were apparently ignored due to his newfound hero status after he stopped a man who had went on a murder spree in an area mall.

The lawsuit filed against the city of Ogden and Hammond alleges that Hammond took a woman he detained into a dark street away from other officers and began pulling her hair and wrenched her handcuffed wrists behind her back, causing her to fall. It then alleges that he slammed her to the ground, afterwards he then pulled her pants down while walking her back to his cruiser where he rubbed up against her while her pants were around her ankles.

Hammond was suspended earlier the same week this lawsuit was filed in a seperate, but as of yet unspecified, allegation of misconduct.

Worcester Massachusetts Police Finally Comply With Public Records Request... By Giving Paper Inked-Out Records
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusettes is considering asking a judge to force the Worcester Police Department to release more details about the history of complaints against police officer Mark Rojas. The newspaper claims that of 1,508 pages of internal affairs files related to complaints against the officer that were released under a public records request, 776 were completely or at least so blacked out with redactions.

State records experts say that it should be difficult, under disclosure laws in the state, to justify the redaction of so much information, especially related to such records.

Baton Rouge Newspaper and TV Station Fight To Gain Access To Misconduct Records
In a seperate effort to gain access to secretive police misconduct files, The Advocate in Louisiana is arguing in court that the rules surround what police may redact when they release disciplinary records should be less vague in their battle to get files related to alleged Katrina-related abuses that occured in Baton Rouge that were so bad they caused volunteer officers from other states to withdraw their offers of assistance during that disaster.

In International News:

"Rainbow Killer" Serial Murderer May Have Been A Cop
Finally, MSNBC reports that Brazil's Rainbow Killer, who is suspected of murdering 13 homosexuals, may be an ex-cop. Brazillian authorities have detained an ex-cop after a witness claimed to have seen the officer shoot a man multiple times in the park where the murders occurred and that he's seen the officer try to pick up other men in the park many times.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vindictive Vancouver - Punishing Good Cops For Telling The Truth



In 2006, the city of Vancouver Washington fired an officer that they described as the dirtiest cop in Clark County’s history for allegedly falsifying reports and they sent out Brady notifications which effectively ended his career in law enforcement.

Following that dismissal the city then fired another officer in 2008 for allegedly falsifying a search warrant, branding that officer as a dirty cop as well which effectively ended his career as well.

At first glance, this might Sound like a city taking steps to clean up it’s police department, it might sound like something that should be applauded...

But you might be surprised to learn that it might be the exact opposite; that it may well be an attempt by city officials to rid it’s department of officers who have refused to be silent about the corruption they’ve seen occur within their police department at the direction of the city government.

The Story of Officer Navin Sharma

This story starts with Officer Navin Sharma, a decorated and respected police officer who was described as distinguished and dedicated and who was credited for saving countless lives by incorporating a medical unit into the SWAT division…

at least until he testified against other officers in an 1998 internal investigation about misconduct that occurred during a domestic violence prevention presentation that ultimately led to two sergeants being disciplined.

In reward for his honest testimony Sharma was rewarded with 8 long years of retribution that included racial epithets, offensive messages broadcast over the 911 dispatch radio system, and even failures to provide Sharma with backup when he was responding to reports of shots fired.

In 2000 Sharma filed suit against the city for discrimination and in 2001 he won a settlement of $750,000 that he negotiated down to $287,000 in order to gain a provision that let him remain on the force. But that didn’t end the abuse which included a 2003 incident where a city supervisor referred to Sharma as “the sand nigger that won a lawsuit against the city” and culminated in his firing in April of 2006.

Officer Sharma was fired for what DUI experts with the Washington State Patrol described as training issues, he made some errors while filling out DUI reports that are quite typical and were described by those experts as incidences that normally wouldn’t result in discipline beyond requiring the officer to attend additional training.

Instead of additional training, Sharma was fired, the city sent out Brady letters describing Sharma as an officer who’s testimony cannot be used in court, and city attorney Ted Gathe attempted to file criminal charges against Sharma over the alleged offense.

Sharma then filed another lawsuit against the city and won a record setting $1.6 million dollar lawsuit against the city for civil rights violation, a win that many accredit to the testimony of fellow police officers like Chris Kershaw.

The Story of Officer Chris Kershaw

Chris Kershaw is described as a dedicated officer with no prior record of misconduct. He was a distinguished Gulf War veteran with 10 years of experience in law enforcement that included his being awarded the medal of valor and life-saving medal for his actions that saved a SWAT officer’s life after he was shot in the back during a hostage situation… at least this was how he was described until he testified on Navin Sharma’s behalf in his civil rights suit against the city of Vancouver.

In late 2006, shortly after Officer Sharma’s firing, Officer Kershaw offered his testimony on Sharma’s behalf and as duty required he reported that intent to his supervisors in the VPD. Kershaw’s testimony proved pivotal to Sharma’s win against the city and, as filing papers indicate, retribution was swift once city attorney Ted Gathe found out about Kershaw’s plans to testify.

It was a testimony that ended prophetically with Kershaw stating the following:

“I must spend time to prepare myself… and prepare my family for the hardships we will most likely endure as a result of the discipline I believe will soon be imposed upon me.”
Just as in Sharma’s case, an investigation that was overseen by a VPD Commander named Kistler and Ted Gathe was started and Officer Kershaw was eventually disciplined and fired for allegedly misdating a search warrant which was, incidentally, the first search warrant that he had ever filled out and had done so without any prior training… a search warrant that the issuing judge had reviewed and described the dating error as “inadvertent and something that could be addressed with additional training”.

The city of Vancouver, just as in Sharma’s case, didn’t stop there. Just like Sharma, Ted Gathe then sent out Brady letters describing Kershaw as a liar and effectively ended Kershaw’s distinguished career, all allegedly for inadvertently misdating a form that he had never filled out before and had no training to show him how to fill it out properly.

However, it’s far closer to the mark to say that Kershaw’s career has been ended and his reputation ruined for testifying on behalf of a good cop who was persecuted for his own honest testimony against officers who did something wrong.

In response to his own termination from the Vancouver Police Department, Officer Kershaw has also filed a suit against the city that alleges he was fired in retaliation for his testimony on Officer Sharma’s behalf and has garnered the support from fellow officers, including retired Command Lieutenant Bruce Hall, a 20 year veteran of the VPD who supplied the following testimony for Offficer Sharma’s case in regards to what he was repeatedly told during a meeting he attended with VPD commanders and city officials:
“There are three kinds of employees. The first are those that are absolutely loyal, to a fault. They back each other no matter what… The next are those who need to be moved laterally or given some kind of “pay off” to get them out. The third kind needs to be actively and aggressively pursued in order to get them out, and you do it anyway you can… ride them until they quit or write them up until you can fire them.”
All of this in a department where other officers have been found to have lied in the presence of internal affairs officers during investigations into sexual abuse, intentional falsifications of records, and other more serious abuses of power that resulted in far less disciplinary actions, if any actions at all.

These two officers, who both had distinguished careers and were described by other officers, officials, and citizens alike as dedicated, trustworthy, and passionate about saving lives in their roles as law enforcement officers and medics, were fired for what everyone involved describes as inadvertent training-related errors by a city attorney who has refused to discipline one of his own city attorneys who had recently been arrested for his third DUI… an attorney who also works in the prosecutor’s office.

It doesn’t even stop with the persecution of Navin and Kershaw, in fact the the Clark County 911 operator, Holly Starr, who reported the incidents of racially-charged broadcasts targeting Navin Sharma won a whistle-blower lawsuit settlement for $260,000.

Ultimately, what is happening in Vancouver is the complete opposite of a city holding officers accountable, it’s a city that is refusing to hold itself accountable… and ultimately the citizens are the ones who will suffer for the loss of good officers like Navin Sharma and Chris Kershaw, all while ignoring and defending the real misconduct that occurs around them.

As I said before, sometimes officers can be the victims of misconduct too, and by all the evidence piled against the city of Vancouver, this certainly appears to be a textbook example of injustice done to some of the best officers that city has ever had.

References:
Good Cop, Mad Cop - Willamette Week Online
Ex-Officer Files Claim Against City - The Columbian
Filing Papers -Chris Kershaw's Notice Of Tort Claim Against City of Vancouver
Navin Sharma - Injustice In Seattle

Monday, December 8, 2008

Construction Zone

Yes... I'm in the process of changing the site design, so don't be alarmed if you're a frequent visitor and things look different.

Thanks for visiting, and hopefully the changes are for the better... and, as always, constructive suggestions are welcome!

All Around The Blogs... And Some News Too

I'm mixing things up a bit for this edition of NewsWatch. There's been a lot going on that I wanted to cover, much of it already being covered in other blogs, so here we go.

...First we'll start out locally as always:

Is King County Executive Ron Sims' Head In The Clouds?
The Seattle Weekly asks if King County Executive Ron Sims already has his head somewhere other than in his own troubled county as rumors abound about him being offered a position in Obama's administration...

Well, given his abysmal record of civil rights abuses in King County in defunding the Sheriff's department's accountability efforts and for the deadly abuses still occurring at the King County Jail that he's personally defended by suggesting that detainees have no rights to protect, we can only hope that he'll be gone soon...

Of course, only given with the provision that he's not given a post with Obama that has anything whatsoever to do with civil rights.

Five Before Midnight Reports On Suit Against Riverside Police Filed By LAPD Officer
FBM at Five Before Midnight writes about the LAPD officer who is suing the city of Riverside, where he lives, after he was harassed in his own yard by Riverside police officers for, well, apparently for being black in the wrong neighborhood.

She posts some of the more disturbing details concerning how officers forced him to the ground and had him lay on hot pavement in 90+ degree heat while several other patrol cars arrived, despite the off-duty officer's plea to let him show officers he lived there and was a fellow officer.

Later in that same post, however, it gets more disturbing as FBM talks about how Riverside police officers have been harassing her over the years. Sadly, as citizens who report on police abuses and misconduct, we are expected to be harassed, at least according to lawyers I've talked with in the past about my own experiences with police writing me.

It's strange really, if any other public official were to use the threat of their own public office against a citizen it would be all over the news, but if it's a cop threatening civilians who report on police misconduct, it's looked at as a good thing by the public... which reminds me...

More Details Released About Maryland Cops Who Spied On Peace Activists
Apparently, the Maryland State Patrol had been spying on peace activists for years and had added many of them to federal terrorist watchlists and databases. Those accused of being terrorists include:
1 former congressional candidate, 1 registered lobbyist, and 2 catholic nuns...

The ACLU of Maryland has filed a lawsuit in the case, which led to the release of files which have now revealed the latest facts in this case and is working to have these people removed from the databases they were wrongfully added to and to prevent the police from doing this again.

Now, I'm pretty sure I've been spied on, I get several hits a month from the local police department here to the site. I'm also pretty sure I've been added to at least a TSA watchlist given the way I was treated the last time I flew... But the Washington State ACLU would never do what their counterparts in Maryland are doing to protect civil rights, judging by how they mishandled their obligation to monitor detainee treatment at the King County Jail. I guess the left coast isn't so left after all.

Will "KopBusters Cause More Harm Than Good?
Scott from Simple Justice wonders whether the sting operation performed by self-help video site "KopBusters" might turn into a shameless type of Running Man-type reality show, which would do more harm than good to the police accountability movement. I sort of wonder the same thing, actually...

but then I asked, if not that, what can we do to convince the public that addressing rampant police misconduct is in everyone's best interest? If all the news stories out there, all the video evidence, all the court trials and settlements, all the investigations, and even the shameless stunts by organizations like KopBusters can't convince the public that there is a systemic problem with police abuses that is affecting them... then what will?

We're all still looking for that answer, I'm afraid.

The Agitator: Policewoman's Home Surrounded By SWAT Teams...For Being Charitable
Radley Balko at The Agitator posts about Captain Christine Michalosky, a police officer long respected both inside and outside of the department, who prompted a SWAT team to surround her house and terrify her neighbors because the police thought she might be mentally ill...

why?

...because she bought presents for underprivileged kids in her district.

The Latest On Mineo at Blue Must Be True
Karl at Blue Must Be True discusses the latest development in the Mineo Case where three NYPD officers that were accused of assaulting and sodomizing Michael Mineo with a collapsible baton have been indicted.

Karl thinks this case doesn't seem to rise to the same purposeful intent of torture that the infamous Abner Louima case in NY did... of course, I can't say much because it seemed too outrageous to be believable at first that the same department that went through so much negative press for officers sodomizing someone in the past would have officers brazen enough to dare and do it yet again...

Shows what I know.

More Details Released About That FBI Sting Operation In Chicago
The Chicago Tribune has released some of the text in the DOJ's case against 15 law enforcement officers in the Chicago area, including this pertinent passage that explains exactly what those corrupt officers were caught doing:

"A six-passenger, twin propeller engine aircraft flew on May 13 this year into west suburban DuPage Airport where three men awaited its arrival. Two of them—Ahyetoro A. Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both Cook County Sheriff's Office correctional officers—accompanied an individual whom they believed brokered large-scale drug transactions but, in fact, was an undercover FBI agent. They boarded the aircraft, which was operated by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages of what was purported to be at least 80 kilograms of cocaine stashed inside four duffel bags.

Taylor, Manuel and the undercover agent they accompanied removed the duffels from the plane and took them through the airport lobby to the trunk of the agent's car in the parking lot. Taylor and Manuel, in a separate car, followed the agent to a nearby retail parking lot, where the agent parked and got into the officers' vehicle. Together, the trio watched as yet another undercover agent arrived, removed the duffels from the trunk of the parked car, placed them in a Mercedes and drove away. The FBI agent posing as the drug broker then paid Taylor and Manuel $4,000 each—allegedly their most profitable payday in the corrupt relationship they began with the undercover agent at least a year earlier."


Again, apparently even a sting like this, run by our own government, isn't enough to convince people that police misconduct is a serious issue that affects us all. After all, as one busted Chicago officer said a while back, it all starts out small, then the next thing you know, you're doing all sorts of illegal stuff as an officer while convincing yourself that you're still one of the good guys.

The Innocence Project Blog: DNA Tests Could Exonerate Connecticut Man
The Innocence Project Blog talks about how their requests to have evidence tested in a 20 year old murder case has led police to a different suspect with a history of sexual assaults.

The interesting thing about this is the news article they point to which merely mentions the fact that a man has sat behind bars for 20 years for a crime he never committed, while a guilty man ran free and committed more assaults and murders, as an aside... missing the point that when police go after the wrong person they have also caused the public harm by letting a guilty man go scott-free... and showing that the media tends to be reluctant to talk about when our justice system fails us.

West Haven Connecticut PD Pays $400,000 Excessive Force Settlement
In September of 2002, 18 year old Gary Tyson was hiding in bushes along side Route I-95 when officers released a police dog to flush him out. Tyson ran and was killed by a truck as he crossed the highway. An autopsy later revealed that he had 24 separate puncture wounds from multiple bites, all stemming from an alleged fist fight.

Officers were cleared in an internal investigation and never faced criminal trial, but the city claimed it didn't know how a jury would look at police unleashing a dog on a misdemeanor suspect like that and would rather have insurance pay a settlement instead of risking having to pay for a full finding against them in court.

Sadly, this is the way governments look at the problem... Apparently it's cheaper for them to let their cops abuse citizens and let insurance providers soak up the costs in the aftermath... Meanwhile, Gary's family will never get their son back, and who knows what the next family will have to endure as well.

We reported on another settlement yesterday in Connecticut... how can one state so small have so much police misconduct?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch For 12-06-08

Picture taken outside of the US Federal Courthouse in Seattle Washington

In Local News:


Seattle Officer Remained In SPD With Outstanding Warrant For Two Years
In October of 2005 Seattle officer Francis Estrada became so inebriated that he drove the wrong way on the I-5 freeway and crashed into a number of different vehicles on is way home. While drivers did get the number for his truck and charges were filed, the authorities reportedly sent the summons to the wrong address and Estrada remained an SPD officer for two years.

That ended when a routine background check spotted the warrant and Estrada turned himself in. Estrada entered a deferred prosecution for the charges which means his record will allow him to retain his police certification and he'll be able to be an officer elsewhere since he was allowed to resign from the SPD. As part of the deal the Seattle police guild agreed not to appeal on behalf of the officer.

Estrada claims he was in a "dark place" back then after he and his partner, Gregory Neubert, had hit an innocent bystander when shooting at a fleeing motorcyclist who they witnessed fire a shot at a crowd. The, then 19 year old, woman shot that night has a $500,000 civil suit pending against the city of Seattle for that incident that left a bullet lodged in her lung. Estrada and his partner were the only officers out of 7 who responded who fired on the suspect, the others reported that there were too many bystanders in the line of fire so they held their fire. However, Estrada and his partner were still cleared by an internal investigation into the incident.

In National News:

FBI Closes Police Department For Day While Executing Search Warrant
The FBI has conducted a search warrant on the Harvey Police Department in Illinois. Harvey, a suburb near Chicago, was without a police department for most of the day while the FBI conducted a search of the department related to the drug traffic sting operation that netted 4 Harvey police officers and 10 Cook County Sheriff's Department corrections officers.

This isn't the first time the Harvey PD has been in the midst of a corruption scandal as their department was raided by Illinois State Police in 2007 and has been shunned by other area police departments who refuse to cooperate with that department because of the sheer number of misconduct allegations filed against that department.

Six Innocent People Convicted On False Confessions Finally Cleared Of Wrongdoing
This stunning case of misconduct that forced 6 people into a false confession wasn't due just to aggressive police interrogation practices, but this time was the result of a police psychologist using knowledge gained from treating some of those who were falsely accused in his private practice to coerce them into falsely confessing to crimes they never committed.

Citizens Catch Police Misconduct In Elaborate Sting Operation
Anti-drugwar activists/self-help "nevergetbusted.com" video salesperson set up a sting operation in an Odessa Texas house with two "grow lights" that were setup up over a couple pine tree saplings and waited for the police... The police obliged and, for reasons yet unknown, they raided the house as a marijuana grow operation. A lawyer for the organization was waiting along with sophisticated surveillance equipment streaming to an off-sight location to catch officers in the act of a supposedly illicit raid based on no real evidence of illegal activity.

The organization's CEO says this is just the beginning of a nation wide series of sting operations to highlight police misconduct in the obtaining and execution of drug raids on citizens. This first site was chosen as a response to the conviction of a woman who allegedly had drugs planted on her by a police informant and who was convicted even though the informant admitted that he planted drugs on the woman at the request of arresting officers.

The police department caught in the sting has said it's currently in the process of determining what charges they can press against the organization for catching them in the act.

Police Union Vows To Defend Infamous Torture Cop At All Costs
The Fraternal Order of Police union for Chicago has pledged to pay for the defense of infamous Chicago police officer Jon Burge who is accused of purjury related to allegations of torture his unit was accused of during the 1970s and 1980s.

While federal prosecutors did find evidence that Burge's officers in his Area 2 unit did torture suspects into making false confessions, they could not bring charges due to statutes of limitations on those charges. However, this year, Burge was arrested at his Florida home for lying during that investigation. The union states these charges are politically motivated and that "The FOP will stand with the (accused) Police Officer every time."

Baton Rouge Media Still Battling For Police Department Transparency
Media outlets in Baton Rouge Louisiana are still fighting the Baton Rouge police department over access to disciplinary records related to allegations of police misconduct that occurred during Hurricane Katrina. The claims of misconduct were made by out-of-state police officers who volunteered to assist local departments during the crisis but then withdrew that assistance over the incidents of misconduct they witnessed.

The police department has refused to release records related to those incidents in the face of a legal battle and media pressure, even after other cases of misconduct have come to light, including an officer accused of raping a 16 year old girl and another officer with a history of misconduct being arrested for DWI.

Palo Alto Police May Have Used Illegal Tactics To Coerce Homeless Man Out Of His Van
On December 15th a Judge will decide whether police should be allowed to cite non-existent laws in order to coax civilians into following orders they would not have otherwise been allowed to make, essentially bypassing constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The case revolves around an incident where a resident complained about a homeless man parked on the street who was sleeping in his van. When police arrived the man told them he wanted to be left alone and the police had no grounds on which to do anything else. But, not satisfied, the police told him they were towing his van based on a non-existent law against overnight parking in order to trick him into leaving his van. Once he opened the door the police tasered him and arrested him for resisting arrest... again, resisting an arrest that originally had no basis in law.

 
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