Friday, May 22, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
This just in via an e-mail from a reader... Press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. Posting it here since the new site is still in transition and I have something to link to for the news feed...
LAPD Officer pleads to assault while off-duty
LOS ANGELES – A 39-year-old LAPD officer pleaded guilty today to assault with a semiautomatic firearm stemming from a 2008 off-duty encounter with restaurant patrons at the Redondo Beach pier, the District Attorney’s office announced.
David Woon Chong was ordered to undergo a 90-day evaluation by the Department of Corrections by Judge Stephen Marcus. Deputy District Attorney Amy Pellman Pentz with the Justice System Integrity Division said Chong faces up to six years in state prison when he returns on Aug. 14 for sentencing.
On March 15, 2008, Chong pulled out a knife and threatened a restaurant patron after getting into a verbal altercation with two men. A witness interceded and the off-duty officer then walked away. But he returned a short time later, kicked some food out of the victim’s hand and pulled a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun and pointed at the man’s head. The same witness again interceded and walked Chong out of the restaurant.
Redondo Beach Police, responding to a disturbance call, stopped Chong in his car and arrested him. He allegedly had a .11 blood alcohol level at the time of his arrest.
In exchange for his guilty plea and admitting the gun allegation, two felony counts of making criminal threats and three misdemeanors will be dismissed.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Updated 04/19/09 11:21 - fixed link to NAACP retaliation story.
Updated 05/17/09 22:20 - added new information concerning deputy Schrimpsher's background.
NOTE: Story Update 01/14/10 - Prosecutors file to dismiss conviction against Simmons after motion to vacate is filed.
Early in 2005, James E Simmons III flew into Seattle to work as a consultant. With several years-worth of experience in information technology security and regulatory compliance, his skills were highly valued, sometimes bringing in over $90 an hour on each contract gig.
James says that he first ran into trouble one night in 2005 when he was returning home from a jazz club and asked a Seattle police officer where he could catch a cab. The officers didn’t answer him, but instead questioned him about a cigarette he was holding and jumped out of the cruiser after James replied that it was nothing and dropped it.
The officers claimed that the cigarette was a joint and that it contained crumbs of crack when they arrested and held him for four days, which cost him his contract gig. However, when the case went to trial a year and a half later, the charges were dismissed when the two officers who arrested him didn’t bother to show up at court and because of a lack of actual evidence other than the word of the arresting officers.
Fortunately, that time, even though he was arrested, he was able to continue working in the IT field since the case was dismissed. But, unfortunately, he returned to Seattle again for another contract job… and something even worse happened.
According to James, he was waiting at a bus stop when King County Sheriff’s Deputy James Schrimpsher accused him of selling crack. In Schrimpsher’s report, Schrimpsher claims he had seen Simmons sell from two different bus stops while he was working the Metro Transit patrol and when he attempted to detain Simmons at the second bus stop that he had bitten his arm during arrest so Simmons was charged with assaulting an officer and possession with intent to distribute.
However, Simmons claims that Schrimpsher fabricated his account of seeing Simmons deal at two locations because the first location Schrimpsher cited in his report didn’t even have a bus stop, at least according to an investigator hired for his defense who went to photograph the locations mentioned in Schrimpsher's report.
Simmons also claims that he never bit Schrimpsher and that this was a cover story for when Simmons was stomped on until his collar bone broke and then tasered until he defecated, and then tasered again in, what Simmons claims, was an apparent attempt to humiliate him by forcing him to defecate himself again. Simmons also says that the evidence used against him was never found on his person, but happened to be in the cruiser already when he was thrown in by Schrimpsher.
When the case went to trial, Simmons was found not guilty of assaulting an officer but was still convicted to 12 months on charges of possession with intent based on deputy Schrimpsher’s testimony, despite the contradictions raised by defense investigators.
Of course, Simmons' allegations may seem questionable until we consider Simmons’ background as a gainfully employed IT professional who made good money… why would he be dealing crack cocaine without the need to do so and with the risks being so huge?
Simmons further claims that the only reason officers singled him out is because he is black and was well-dressed. While his claims that he was framed because of his race might cause some to be skeptical, consider that the number of complaints of racial profiling have been rising in Seattle and that police haven't been above retaliating against people who have reported racial profiling incidents either.
If that's not enough to give a bit of credibility to James Simmons' story, consider this as well…
Late in 2007, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr took disciplinary action against two officers for dishonesty in relation to a drug bust the two performed in December of 2006, while working on a Metro Transit detail. One of the deputies resigned and the other deputy, James Schrimpsher, was fired in December 2007.
When officers are disciplined on grounds of dishonesty, especially when it relates to arrests or prosecution efforts, that officer is placed on a Brady list which is distributed to defense and prosecuting attorneys to inform them that the officer’s testimony should not be considered reliable.
This is why, in general, when officers get in trouble on allegations of dishonesty or perjury, the cases which depended on their testimony are supposed to be reviewed to determine if any relied entirely on their word and if there were any reasonable claims of impropriety.
When King County deputy Schrimpsher was terminated, prosecutors claimed that they performed just such a review, but it only turned up one ongoing case that they subsequently dismissed. But was that really the only case that should have been dismissed or overturned?
If that wasn't enough, also consider that Schrimpsher, during his time with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department in Missouri as a Detective he apparently cost the county a case against a suspected drug dealer due to his mishandling of evidence, at least according to this court document filed in October of 2004.
So it seems that Schrimpsher not only has a questionable history handling drug evidence, but also has skipped between at least two departments with his last jump from Phelps County to King County resulting in a rather steep drop in rank.
Simmons says that he is now unemployed and homeless because of the conviction, which makes it impossible for him to find work in the IT field in which he was once a hot commodity. He’s since turned to alcoholism because of the trauma being beaten and convicted have caused. Even still, now he wants to try and do something about what happened to him, but has been unable to find an attorney who would take his case on a pro-bono basis, since he’s now homeless and unemployable.
It would seem to me, independent of whether Simmons’ claims are factual or not, that the firing of Schrimpsher on grounds of dishonesty would merit his case being seriously reviewed in order to determine whether this was another case of dishonesty on Schrimpsher’s part or not.
The fact that Simmons did have so much to lose adds to the credibility of his claims, as well as the fact that, before the arrests, he had a security clearance as well.
With all of these factors in his favor there would seem to be enough probable cause to, at the very least, ask some very serious questions about the case against Simmons... a case which he claims was based on nothing more than the word of a cop that racially profiled him, lied about his reasons for beating him, and who was later fired for allegations of dishonesty in another drug bust case.
If you would like to contact James Simmons or have information that could help him, please let us know at email@example.com and we'll pass the information along to him. He's still desperately looking for an attorney to help him clear his name so he can take back the life he once had.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Based on the feedback I've received about the site, and based on the lack of support locally here in Seattle for nearly two years, I'm planning on ditching the "Injustice In Seattle" site and transferring to a new site. The support I've been getting nationally for the news feed project has really shown me that this is the direction I should be going instead of wasting time trying to fix things here in Seattle.
The new site will be focused on national issues of police misconduct, gathering statistics on police misconduct, and research into the underlying causes of police misconduct as well as possible solutions for the problem on a wider scale.
UPDATE: The new site is now live, thanks for reading!
PS: Nothing personal to the 4 or 5 people in Seattle that actually liked what I was doing for this city. Seriously, thanks for the support, but take a look around the site... anytime I do a local story there's no comments, no interest, no traffic, no discussion on other sites... but the national stories I've done at least get some response and interest. I'm not here to talk to walls, I'm here to make a difference.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (the collective name for the department's internal investigations unit and the civilian police oversight system in Seattle) has actually been busy for once... Though not productively, as you'll see in a minute.
The SPD OPA issued several reports last month, the first, interestingly enough, is a report on the progress towards implementing recommendations(pdf) made by two separate "blue ribbon" panels to improve the accountability system. Of course, the city says all of them are in place or progressing forward...
Of course, that's not the case in reality as borne out by all the publicized, and some not so publicized, problems the department has had lately with their attempts to discipline officers being overturned on appeal by the union.
One of those recommendations was that any officer caught lying would be terminated. But, so far, that's proven to be far from the case thanks to language added by the union that made this unenforceable. That's proving to be the case lately... of the three officers who have been disciplined on that new rule, two officers have successfully overturned disciplinary actions taken against them and a third is currently in the process of appealing his, with all expectations being that he'll win as well.
The next problematic recommendation that the city says is working like a charm concerns a 180 day limit the department has for investigating complaints of misconduct. Once those 180 days is up, any findings of misconduct are automatically exonerated unless the union agrees to extend the deadline... which would be like asking a student in detention if he would agree to stay if he had the option to leave early.
As you can guess, the union never agrees to extend the deadline... and the last we heard from the OPA the average time for an investigation to complete is 173 days. Which, as you could imagine, means there are a few investigations that go over that 180 day limit.
In fact, based on recent OPA reports and the latest Seattle Police Officer's Guild newsletter(pdf), there have been 5 investigations that would have resulted in sustained findings but went past the 180 day limit. Two of those have already been overturned on appeal and 3 others are pending appeal... again, with all expectations being that those disciplinary actions will be overturned as well.
So... I guess those recommendation implementations aren't going as well as the OPA and the city are trying to lead us to believe in their reports.
Speaking of, a few of those changes utterly neutered the civilian review board, turning them into a public relations board for the police department, and apparently they've been doing a great job of it lately...
I say that because another report recently released was the OPA auditor's report on SPD relations with diverse communities(pdf) which, according to her, look really positive and shows that the community trusts the police more than ever before...
Guess they haven't been reading.
Oh well, so long as nobody comes crying to me asking why they weren't warned the next time a big police misconduct scandal breaks and the officers involved can't be disciplined like last time. After all, last year I predicted that these exact problems would start happening before that contract was even approved by the council.
...meh, maybe next time.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
That, and with the economy as it is, things are extremely tight, as they probably are for most of you out there.
So, there's a donate button now... but it won't change anything, nothing is being restricted, it doesn't buy you any special access... but it would help me keep things going here. So if anyone out there feels the police misconduct news feed and this site are worthwhile and have a bit to spare, it would be appreciated.
Sorry... and thanks in advance.
Those cases of police misconduct allegations involved 531 officers and 49 police chiefs. Of those, 156 were convicted, sentenced, fired, disciplined, or successfully sued as a result.
So far in the first 8 days of this month there have been 143 reported cases of police misconduct that involve 146 officers and 9 police chiefs or sheriffs and cost the lives of at least 16 people. If the trend holds, there would be 554 reported cases of police misconduct this month.
As was the last time I contemplated posting some of the worst stories recorded so far, I would be left with too many to fit in a reasonably sized post... so instead I'll show you some of the weirdest ones recorded so far this month:
Just Being Neighborly?
An Arlington Texas police officer is being investigated for allegations that he posted a fake Craigslist ad that offered up his neighbor's tether-ball set for free, telling readers of the site to just stop by and pick it up... all without the neighbor's knowledge or consent.
The problem now, even though they're pretty sure he did it, is that prosecutors have no idea what to charge him with, if anything at all.
Just What Is It With Cops And Sodomy?
Two Baltimore MD drug task force cops are accused of kidnapping an inner-city teenager, repeatedly threatening to sodomize him with a billy club over a 3 hour period in the back of a van in an attempt to get information about one of his alleged friends, and then dropping him off in the middle of a wooded area in the countryside in the rain after forcing him to take off his socks and shoes.
The boy made it to a gas station and called 911. Thankfully county deputies responded instead of Baltimore cops and he was driven home after he gave a statement. The department, in some weird attempt at defending the undercover officers' actions, claims that the task force has been ramping up anti-drug activities in that area.
...After a Story Like That, Maybe This Cop Has A Point.
A different Baltimore MD cop who is facing trial for shooting an unarmed suspect in the back and killing him when he ran away after being searched twice is now trying to get the trial moved out of the city, but not for the usual reason...
This particular case hasn't had any extraordinary coverage, especially with all the other reported cases of police misconduct there... So, instead of claiming that the jury pool is tainted because of press coverage of this case, his lawyers are claiming that Baltimore cops have such a bad reputation that there would be no way for their client to get a fair trial within the city.
Last month Baltimore ranked 6th in the top 10 worst cities for police misconduct with 6 reported cases, so far this month that city has been in the news 4 times for allegations of misconduct.
What Would He Do For A Klondike Bar?
A Chicago IL police officer is accused of stiffing a cab driver of an $8.00 fare. According to a complaint filed by the driver, when the officer got out of the cab without paying the driver asked for his money. In response the cop turned around, told the driver that he didn't owe him anything, then pointed his gun at the driver and challenged him to get out and see what would happen next.
What happened next was that the cabbie decided the fare wasn't worth it and watched quietly as the officer walked away and then passed out face-down in the middle of the street. The cabbie says that when he went to file a complaint, the officers at the station treated him like he was the criminal.
Now, to be fair, I should say that at least this cop didn't drive drunk and kill two people like another Chicago cop did recently. But I'd really hate to see what he would do when he doesn't get his free donut and coffee in the morning.
Drugs Are Bad, Mmkay?
A Twin Falls ID police officer and DARE instructor who visited local schools to tell children about the dangers of drugs is now facing five felony counts of obtaining fraudulent prescriptions of hydrocodone and oxycodone from a nurse while he was still an officer.
Do as I say, kiddies, not as I do.
Wanted: Experience Forcing Men To Wear Pink Panties...
One of Maricopa County AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio's own officers was rounded up in a prostitution sting and arrested on several felony and misdemeanor charges...
No word yet on whether he's going to deport her or put her in the tent city and force her to march down the street in pink panties...
Friday, May 8, 2009
(I wonder if they've seen Blue Must Be True? He keeps asking where I get all my hate-mail from.)
Well, last time some cops showed us some love like this it was from a fine group of officers in Chicago whose site is now, sadly, defunct. (I didn't do it, honest). Those law enforcement professionals sure did send me some wonderful correspondence, so I can't wait to see if the NYPD represent themselves with as much professionalism as the good ole boys from the CPD showed me.
Oh, and speaking about how police officers love to hear criticism, for some unknown reason the police watchdog website RateMyCop.com is currently offline. You might recall how, last year, their hosting site shut them down and forced them to get a new host after cops started complaining about it... Maybe it happened again? Nobody's saying anything yet, so stay tuned...
UPDATE: RateMyCop is back online after apparently being the victim of a hacker.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Since there have been a few questions and concerns going back and forth about what stories should and should not go into the National Police Misconduct News Feed I decided that it might be a good time to go over the criteria I've developed for picking stories that qualify and then open it up to comments, questions, and suggestions.
First, any allegations, investigations into, criminal charges for, disciplinary actions on, lawsuits for, or judgments regarding misconduct by an active law enforcement officer while on-duty qualify for the feed.
Second, any story about an officer listed as a former officer but who was an active officer at the time of an alleged incident of misconduct but resigned or was fired afterward will be included in the feed.
Third, any story about off-duty criminal offenses alleged, charged, or convicted or any story about off-duty activities that would be construed as misconduct due to misuse of one's position as a law enforcement officer will also be included. These include incidents of theft, DUI, domestic violence, and assault.
Fourth, other stories may be included in the feed that relate to legal issues that affect police misconduct, such as department policy issues that obscure misconduct, legislative efforts that hinder efforts to prevent misconduct or handicap efforts to document or reduce misconduct, but will not be included in the statistics as a case of misconduct.
Fifth, when compiling statistics from the feed, duplicate stories about the same instance of misconduct and updates regarding a single incident of misconduct are removed from the offline database. So if you see multiple stories about a single incident, those will be addressed on the back-end of the statistic gathering process.
Finally, a note for those who wish to correspond with me via the Twitter feed, since it's used on other sites as a sort of news scroller I really try to limit personal communications and keep it reserved for stories of misconduct as much as possible... so please don't be offended if I don't reply publicly or if I choose to reply via a direct message instead of publicly.
With this in mind, I now open the floor for any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions... and, of course, I always welcome submissions for articles that you think I might have missed!
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
While the National Police Misconduct NewsFeed project has just begun to give us a glimpse at the possible breadth of America's police misconduct problem, it sometimes fails to show just how deep it runs perhaps.
Sure, when most people think of police departments where corruption and misconduct run deep, we think of big cities like Chicago, Oakland, New York, or Philadelphia. So, does that mean smaller cities and towns are exempt from the problem of deep-seated police corruption and a culture of misconduct?
Furthermore, when we see more than one story of misconduct being reported from a specific location, is this just coincidence, or is this indicative of a deeper, more disconcerting problem?
Still sound confusing? Then consider some of these cases, buried deep within the police misconduct news feed:
Spring Lake Police Department in North Carolina was told it's officers may no longer make felony arrests in 2007. But recently things have gone from bad to worse as two of it's officers have been arrested on multiple felony charges and the state's district attorney is promising even more arrests while also admitting that he has to dismiss a majority of the misdemeanor charges filed against suspects by the department as well.
To sum it up, the department is so corrupt, so inept, that it cannot be trusted to even make a simple misdemeanor arrest, effectively shutting it down and forcing an already thinly stretched county sheriff to pick up the extra slack.
Think of it... an entire department of bad or inept cops. Would that make you feel a bit less secure if you lived there? No? How about this...
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul left the Sheriff's Department in tatters as he resigned under civil and criminal allegations of nepotism, political favoritism, and a publicized search of his office and home by FBI and IRS agents.
After his departure the county requested an audit of the department and has recently found out that nearly half of their officers were never given civil service exams but instead were hired at the recommendation of friends and family within the department... in fact, many were members of the sheriff's own family or recommended by them without any other real qualifications. But since they've been employed for so long, the county can't fire them.
Still not wondering how entire departments could be problematic like this? Here's some more...
Since the beginning of this year, 1/3 of Smith Township's police department, near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, have been arrested on criminal charges that include burglary, assault, perjury, and drug possession. One officer alone was accused of assaulting a 59 year old man and later accused of attacking a 19 year old fast food worker while on duty, just because he thought the kid was talking about him.
Then last week they found themselves in the crosshairs of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force was used when officers arrested a couple after a concert. Smith Township's residents have taken to describing their police officers as incapable of controlling themselves and scary...
Would you be scared living there too? No? Well how about here...
Greece New York's Police Department is missing most of it's command staff, including it's chief, as they are suspended pending criminal and civil charges... in fact, many of the department's police officers are too. Things have gotten so bad in Greece that state officials have come down to do a complete audit of the department that has been in the news, in a bad way. So often, in fact, that the city recently canceled a ceremony that was supposed to honor the department because, well, I guess there wasn't anything left to really celebrate about it.
Does a police department with nothing left to honor make you think twice about how your own police department might operate behind closed doors? No?
Then I have one more place to tell you about... the place where cops like those who end up listed on the news feed go...
Because, if you've ever wondered where all the cops fired for misconduct go when they try to find a new job in law enforcement, wonder no longer... they went to the Maywood Police Department in California where they nicknamed themselves "The Police Department of Second Chances"...
Well, looks like they'll be hoping for third chances now that the effort to cut costs by lowering standards and recruiting officers from disciplinary hearings instead of job fairs and academies has resulted in a blistering audit by the California State Attorney General who found an environment of gross misconduct and widespread abuses against the citizenry.
So, would you want to move your family to Maywood and trust their safety in the hands of a department full of "second chances"?
As I said, the news feed does give us a glimpse into how widespread the problem of police misconduct is... but, just how deep does it run in each police department? Maybe that will become more clear in time as well.
In the meantime, maybe we should all start asking ourselves this question about our own local police force... before your department ends up in my feed too.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In 2007, several incidents of police misconduct, including allegations that officers who lied were never punished, brought public outrage to a head in Seattle and prompted city officials to create 2 review boards to look into the Seattle Police Department's policies and methods of dealing with allegations of misconduct and disciplinary actions against officers.
The results of those efforts were touted and the city proudly declared that they implemented all of the recommended reforms suggested by those reviews in 2008... though, in truth, they really didn't.
The problem was that Washington State requires Seattle to negotiate all disciplinary policies with the police officer's union, which is about the same thing as if they were to require each school to negotiate rules and discipline with their students or requiring jails to negotiate terms of discipline with their inmates.
So, 11 of the recommended reforms had to be approved during contract negotiations between the city and the union. After initially suggesting that they would not negotiate any changes to disciplinary policy, the union changed tact and said that they would sell some of the reform items, after modifications, in exchange for more pay. So, the city and union picked and chose which reforms the city could afford to pay off the union to accept.
One of those reforms that was altered and then bought involved a proposed policy that would force the chief to fire any officer who was dishonest during the internal investigation process... The union said that was unacceptable unless the city added that the finding of dishonesty could only be used if the city established an INTENT to mislead with clear and convincing PROOF. The city relented and bought that modified reform, as worded below:
In the case of an officer receiving a sustained complaint involving dishonesty in the course of the officer's official duties or relating to the administration of justice, a presumption of termination shall apply. For purposes of this presumption of termination the Department must prove dishonesty by clear and convincing evidence. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally providing false information, which the officer knows to be false, or intentionally providing incomplete responses to specific questions, regarding facts that are material to the investigation. Specific questions do not include general or 'catch-all' questions. For purposes of this Section dishonesty means more than mere inaccuracy or faulty memory.
Fast forward to the present day and we find that the city bought and paid for a reform item that it can never enforce because, as the union bragged shortly after the contract was agreed upon, there is no real way to prove intent and that, so long as an officer is smart about it, all they have to do is say that any inconsistency found in testimony was a lapse of memory and all would be well.
Only now has the city realized their blunder as the union has overturned two rulings of dishonesty upon appeal which resulted in the rehiring of one officer who was fired on a finding of dishonesty involving a case of alleged brutality.
And now with a third case where the city attorney forced the police chief to change his planned disciplinary actions against another officer who was found to have been dishonest during his investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
It's interesting that it's only just now that the city and the media are realizing that they didn't get all the reforms that they thought they paid for, even though I immediately noticed this problem shortly after the proposed contract was released in June of 2008, (here and here).
So, will the city keep telling citizens that they enacted all the reforms that were supposed to improve police accountability now? Will the press keep parroting the city's releases without doing research of their own to verify those mistaken claims?
Or will this new development cause people to reexamine the problems with police accountability in Seattle and Washington State as a whole and finally discover that the root of the problem cannot be solved at the local level because the problem is that the state is forcing cities to let their police officers dictate if, how, and why they can and can't be held accountable for their actions?
Keep watching to find out.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Hmm, two months of effort getting the news feed process right, hours upon hours scanning and entering reports of misconduct each day into Twitter and a database, a full 24 hours of effort analyzing the data and preparing the results to see how extensive police misconduct might be...
...and I had less traffic yesterday and today than I've had for weeks and absolutely zero feedback.
So, there (was) a new poll on the right, is the Twitter news feed worth it?
Is gathering all this information and generating stats worth my limited time?
Heck, is this site even worthwhile?
Let me know... Because I don't like wasting my time or yours.
UPDATE: I've decided to try and keep at it for one more month and see how it goes... For those who wrote, commented, or voted. Thank you for the support and suggestions.
at 9:05 AM
Friday, May 1, 2009
PLEASE NOTE: The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project and all associated police misconduct statistical reports have been moved to http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com
Thursday, April 30, 2009
View 2009 April US Police Misconduct Reports in a larger map
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Google maps can only handle 200 entries per map, and since there are over 490 stories so far this month, I can't make an interactive map of police misconduct stories... I'll keep looking into it, but for the people who wanted to see this come out, I'm sorry.
I'm thinking of creating an interactive map of police misconduct cases in the US each month, but it's a gigantic pain in the butt and will take a lot of my time...
(Time is something which I barely have already between the working 2 jobs, taking care of family, this site, and the news feed... sleep and food happens every now and then too.)
So, the question is, does anyone think they would find this useful?
If so, does anyone know of an easy way to make a Google map like this?
NOTE: The above map is just a work-in-progress, it's not even close to being completed with close to 500 entries for this month alone pending so far.
Monday, April 27, 2009
As the end of April draws near I'm getting ready to compile the statistics from the first month of the national police misconduct tracking project.
In case you didn't know, that project, of which the National Police Misconduct News Feed on Twitter is but a by-product, is an attempt to gather statistics on the extent and types of police misconduct in the US, as well as localities where misconduct may be more prevalent than others.
As I compile these stories of police misconduct, I keep thinking about posting up the worst of them each week or so... but so many of them are so horrific to me that the lists each week would be too long for a mere blog post.
So, instead, I've decided to post a brief list of the weirdest stories I've seen this month and post them for your review.
I think that cop just gave you the finger, kid
A Tolleson Arizona police officer assigned to a local elementary school, where the grade-school kids are apparently so dangerous that he needed to cary his gun around, appears to have accidentally shot his own finger off while standing in the school doorway.
At the time there was no reported need for the officer to be, erm, fingering his weapon, and there was no word in the report on whether or not there were any small children nearby at the time. But the officer was last reported to be in the hospital while his department looks into the incident.
This cop certainly deserves the finger though!
Ever here that lame urban myth about police officers who were so corrupt that they would charge victims of police brutality with assaulting the cops fists with their faces?
Well, in Albany New York, they seem to delight in turning nightmarish myths into reality now that the Albany police department has charged a man with felony assault... are you ready for it?
...because an officer broke his finger while punching him in the face.
What does it take to be a police chief these days?
Well, for the city of Columbus New Mexico, apparently, it takes a bit of criminal experience. Apparently, after sifting through resumes of potential candidates, the city of Columbus New Mexico picked an interim police chief who might have intimate knowledge of the criminal mind.
To be precise, their new chief comes with a value-added criminal record that includes indictments for extortion in 1996 and allegations of stalking and harassment in 2001. If that's the kind of person they want leading their police, I hate to see the requirements for the officers that will serve under him.
Can you say "backfired"?
Philadelphia's police union was furious when a judge ordered a picture they put up of a recently killed officer because it gave the appearance of bias in his courtroom when the officer's accused killer was scheduled to appear.
So, the union has been demanding that he be fired and have even gone so far as to illegally remove his parking sign from the court parking lot in retribution. But, citizens don't appear to agree with the police union's sentiment that the judge offended everyone in the world by trying to keep the court impartial and have held protests in support of their besieged judge.
Speaking of unions...
Teamsters vs Police
No, this isn't a story of cops busting up union picket lines like back in the old days. This time, it was the story of the Teamsters and the Fraternal Order of Police who were in a pitched battle to represent Nashville TN police officers.
One enterprising Nashville Tennessee cop and Teamster's union representative was caught breaking into the rival union's camp for underprivileged children and installing cameras in an attempt to discredit the FOP in 2007.
Now he's facing 10 months in prison and a Shelby County deputy will be joining him for pleading to perjury in connection with the case.
Buy that cop a leash?
A Pittsburgh Pennsylvania police sergeant cost city $500,000 in a settlement against the city over an incident where the officer had choked a fellow officer last year. Now, you might think that, well, maybe the cop was told not to do that sort of thing again, or maybe disciplined, fired, or even prosecuted?
Nope... and now Sgt. Chokey McChoker been accused of choking yet another cop in new lawsuit against the city. If that's what this Sgt does to coworkers and subordinates, I sure hate to see what this cop does to citizens.
Will it really be that big of a surprise, Surprise?
The city of Surprise Arizona recently fired two of it's police officers but has remained very tight lipped about exactly why the two officers were fired. Of course, whenever there's a secret like that, the press gets interested. So, the local paper sued after the city denied a FOIA request for the disciplinary reports.
The police department and city officials have given a very odd reason for their refusal in that they say the reports will cause a "chilling reaction in the community's trust in their police department"... and the judge isn't buying it and has ordered the city to be a bit more precise about exactly why this case, while not associated with any known criminal charges, will chill the hot Arizona city to the bone.
The Peter Police Principle?
A Reno Nevada police detective who ran a program that travelled around different schools to warn teens about the dangers of drinking & driving was recently arrested... yep, you guessed it, for driving while under the influence.
A Manitowoc Wisconsin police officer who worked in the notorious anti-drug D.A.R.E program was convicted for, you guessed it again, being involved in an accident while under the influence. The chief won't disclose that officer's discipline, but we know it's not a dismissal.
A forfeiture fit...
Auditors recently began to question why a Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota joint gang taskforce used $16,000 of funds obtained by forfeiture in various drug raids to fund a "working vaction" trip to Hawaii. So, what did they do in response?
...fit to be tied?
They apparently held a secret, and quite illegal, meeting to discuss ways they could spin the story when they found out the local paper was getting ready to print a story about the whole scandal. I guess they decided to go for double or nothing.
Is sharing really caring?
Culpeper Virginia police officers sure love to share... in fact, after arresting a young man for a DUI, officers decided to look through the suspect's cell phone and found pictures of his girlfriend in the nude.
The officers called all their pals in the department to come take a look... and agreed they were so interesting they even called out over the radio and invited officers from other departments to come see.
Now those brilliant officers are faced with a lawsuit seeking $350,000 in damages which may jump now that the plaintiff's lawyers have discovered evidence that the images were distributed outside of the department.
Well, after swerving all over, and then pulling a u-turn in front of another cop, they got pulled over and arrested... for a lot more than just a joy ride.
It appears that Gail Buckner, the deputy's wife, was a felon and so was the 19 year old guy she and her mom were with. So, in addition to grand theft they also got busted for impersonation, felon in possession of a firearm, and firearm theft.
The hubby deputy has since resigned while the sheriff's department looks into how the whole debacle came about.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
What always impressed me were that her reports were always packed with very useful information. Often times there would be no way to tell what OPA finding applied to which case in the OPA's monthly reports until the bi-annual auditor reports came out and cited some of those cases as examples of problems seen within the current system.
In that aspect alone it seems that the auditor's position is the most important within that system since it is the only one that actually gives the system at least a small semblance of transparency.
Ten days after Pflaumer's term expired, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced the appointment of a new auditor for the Seattle Police Department on Monday, April 20th.
That auditor, Michael Spearman, served as a King County Superior Court judge from 1993 through 2007 and before that he was a public defender with The Defender Association.
Currently he's been employed as a mediator with Judicial Dispute Resolution LLC where he's been involved with mediating and acting as an arbitrator in personal injury and family law cases.
Additionally, he's mediated complaints against the Seattle Police Department from citizens through the OPA's mediation program for people who filed complaints against officers in minor misconduct cases.
From most accounts he's generally considered fair and has a reputation for being quite dedicated to the impartiality that's required of a judge despite his past history on the defense side of criminal law.
For those unfamiliar with Seattle's civilian police oversight system, the Office of Professional Accountability or OPA, is made of three parts:
OPA Director - provides general oversight of the OPA. Responsible for reviewing and certifying finalized investigations performed by the OPA, which is staffed entirely by Seattle Police officers, and providing recommendations on findings and disciplines, but the chief has final say in how officers are disciplined and can overturn her findings.
The current director has been a staunch supporter of the SPD, it's officers, and the current OPA process, but is otherwise rarely heard from.
OPA Review Board - The OPARB consists of seven members who are basically limited to review of general statistics on OPA results and heavily redacted files from completed investigations in order to make general recommendations to council and the mayor.
Recent changes to the OPARB has limited it to nothing more than a public relations role after the last board became highly critical of the OPA process and were censored as a result. All previous members have been replaced since then.
OPA Auditor - The auditor is responsible for reviewing investigations as the occur as well as review of finalized investigations in order to provide feedback on any problems with the process and on any specific issues with ongoing investigations to improve the process.
The auditor does not have any real say in determination of findings or recommendations for disciplinary action, but has access to all information available to an investigation, unlike the OPARB, and can make recommendations or annotate investigations as they occur.
The auditor also releases reports to the public twice a year, which is probably the only real informative information released by the OPA so far.
For all intent and purposes, I don't see any problems with this appointment, though I also think that even the best auditor in the world would still be limited by the system in which that person is placed, and the OPA system is incredibly limiting since any changes to that system must be approved by the police union in their contract.
When I asked former judge Spearman about the nomination and what his plans are for his term as OPA Auditor, he was gracious enough to reply, which is alot further than I've gotten with any other member of the OPA, even the OPARB which are supposed to do outreach. So that's a good sign right at the start of his term.
Here's what Spearman had to say about the new challenge he's about to face...
You've asked a number of questions that it is too early for me to give a good answer. I need to make myself more familiar with Ms. Pflaumer's approach to the position before I can really say what I might do differently than her.
I also would like a chance to meet with and talk to Ms. Pflaumer, the members of the review board, members of the community at large, the SPD Guild and get a good sense of the bigger picture beyond retrospectively addressing allegations of police misconduct.
However, I do think that the idea of being pro-active and taking steps to prevent instances of misconduct is a good one that is well within the scope of the auditor's charge.
Initially my biggest challenge will be to assimilate the data that has been collected by the OPA Review Board and the input that has been provided by the community and the guild, which I understand is substantial.
I do think my experience as a judge will be helpful in the position of auditor since I have often had to weigh the practices of law enforcement against the rights guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions. I also have considerable experience in criminal law as both a former judge and a former public defender.
In any case, I certainly wish judge Spearman the best of luck in this new position and I hope that he continues the the same practices of transparency and honest effort that the previous auditor appeared to put forward as the only clear, but small, window that we have into the police department's secretive and opaque disciplinary process.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
There's a new poll up. I wanted to see what readers thought would be the most common police misconduct problem for this, the first month, of our national police misconduct tracking project.
But, before you vote, some explanation...
First, the options listed are among the top ten most reported types of police misconduct so far this month, so you already have a 1 in 10 chance of getting it right.
Second, let me explain what the terms mean:
Assault - Physical violence that occurs while off-duty.
Brutality - The use of excessive physical force while on-duty.
Color of Law - The misuse or abuse of one's position of authority, such as false arrest, selective enforcement, or intimidating witnesses.
Domestic Violence - Assaults occurring against someone in a relationship with the officer.
Drug Abuse/Dealing - The abuse of or distribution of drugs or providing illegal assistance to those who do either.
DUI - Driving while under the influence, on-duty or off.
Racism/Discrimination - Applying prejudicial bias in the performance of duty, such as the use of racial profiling, use of racial slurs, homophobia, or discriminatory practices within a department.
Sexual Assault - This includes rape, groping, stalking for sexual purposes, and child molestation.
Shootings - On or off-duty use of a firearm against policy or while committing a criminal offense.
Theft/Fraud - Self-explanatory, the act of theft or fraud from businesses, individuals, or police organizations.
Lastly, the poll criteria is culled from this month's ongoing National Police Misconduct News Feed on Twitter, the poll ends on the 30th, soon after that I hope to have the stats compiled from the first month of this project and you can see how you did.
at 9:02 AM
Monday, April 20, 2009
As I progress through the police misconduct tracking project and review each day’s stories of police misconduct, one of the many things I think about as I enter each dismal story of police misconduct that occurs across the US into Twitter and into my tracking database is; “which one of these stories might grow legs and go national this time?”
It’s a difficult thing to figure out, after all, since each story is deserving of equally broad attention to me. Whether it’s a story about several officers being arrested on allegations of raping prostitutes, some of them children, in Memphis or a story about thousands of cases falling into question or being dropped because of multiple allegations against officers of lying on warrant applications for drug raids in St. Louis... all of these stories need to be heard and all of their victims are equally deserving of a loud voice.
When a story of police misconduct does hit the national mainstream media though, I try to figure out what it is about that story that sparked broad interest out of the multitudes of stories put out each day across the US. I do this because it helps me figure out just what the public is willing to hear and what they believe about the issue of police misconduct.
The latest story going national appears to be the story about an Erie Pennsylvania police officer who decided it would be great for laughs at a local bar to denigrate the dead, speak ill of those who mourned that homicide victim, and jest about tasering and clubbing suspects… and who didn’t think it was a problem until the video of his performance ended up on YouTube.
So concerned was he, that he and a fellow officer, the officer put in charge of the investigation into his performance on that video, went down to the workplace of the videographer’s relative to threaten him into a state of crying hysterics, saying if he didn’t do everything he could to make that video go away that there would be consequences for his relative.
Incidentally, it’s also interesting to me why the video itself is still getting all the national interest while the backstory of the subsequent efforts by the police to investigate and punish the person who took the video instead of investigating and disciplining the officer shown on the video.
Most curious to me, though, was why a story about an officer's words, his state of mind, would capture attention more than an officer's actual harmful acts of misconduct? After giving the matter some thought, I think I’ve happened upon an answer.
The video shows what we’ve only guessed at so far in the way it gave us a startling glimpse at how some police officers really think. It affirmed our inner-most fears about the police in this nation, that many really do consider everyone who isn’t a fellow law enforcement brother as an enemy, whether that person is a victim, an innocent bystander, or a suspect… It gave us notice that, to many of them, we are all the same to them and worthy of the same amount of respect, which is very little going by how he talked about the shooting victim and his grieving mother.
It made people pause, I think, to consider that… if this is the way this officer held a shooting victim and his mother in his regard, how might this affect how he treated others throughout his career? After all, if he considers the loss of a life and the grief of a mother in such disregard, how then does he treat the living?
More than this, I think, it makes people wonder how many officers like this might be working for their local police department and how many times their own city’s police officers might have spoken ill about their family or friends who have died or have been victimized in some way... or how they will treat them when they are suffering or how they will be described as they slowly die and officers stand around to watch.
I think that, perhaps, this video gives us the most startling, and frank, insight into the “Us vs Them” mentality many police officers have towards the general public to date… and I suppose that I shouldn’t be shocked that this glimpse was so disturbing as to merit national attention, especially since so many are still so ignorant of that mentality and the capacity for abuse that it nurtures.
Beyond this, though, are his actions after his public commentary in a public place went more public than he anticipated. His attempt to bully and threaten the family of the man who took the video was merely an effort to save his own job, in his own words in fact… which goes to show that not only does he hold others in such low regard as to mock their suffering, but that he holds others in such low regard that his job is more important than their rights and freedom.
So, why did the video make more headlines than the police response to that video? Maybe it's because both of the stories together would be too large a glimpse into an officer’s disturbing psyche when it seems that even this small picture into the mind of a problematic cop in a short video clip may already be too much for the public to stomach.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I received this last night from the local chapter of the October 22nd Coalition. Apparently they, along with the Tacoma chapter of the National Action Network and Revolution Books, are holding a meeting at Uptown Espresso in Belltown at 4pm on Saturday about the Malika Calhoun incident.
They've requested that the flier be posted and redistributed... It's available in PDF format here.
NOTE: this site is not affiliated with any of the groups sponsoring this event nor is it involved with the event in question.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I received a rather angry email from an, apparently, new reader the other day… I won’t reveal the whole message since I didn’t get permission to publish the person’s story… but it ended on this note:
“Either way [assuming that you are NOT the police running a fake website], we're fucked.”So… I thought it would be a good idea to, again, clarify:
This site here, http://injusticeinseattle.blogspot.com and the www.injusticeinseattle.org domain I purchased are not run by police officers and I am not, nor have I ever been, a police officer.
However, this site: www.injusticeinseattle.com (pictured at top) is run by police officers in some sort of undetermined attempt to confuse people looking for this site and coax them into submitting their personal information for unknown purposes.
Now, whether you believe me or not, well… that’s up to you I suppose.
Either way, I hope none of you have submitted your information to that site. Because I have no clue how it would be used or where it would end up.
Thank you for your time, and be careful out there on the interwebs!
(NOTE: the fake site was previously noted here and here)
Sunday, April 12, 2009
-Updated 9:17 04/14/09
Thought I would give everyone a quick update on the Twitter NewsFeed project.
If you didn't know, I'm using Twitter as a means to aggregate all news stories about police misconduct in order to have a handy reference to compile statistics on just how much police misconduct occurs in the US, where it occurs most often, and what types of police misconduct are most prevalent.
As a byproduct of this effort, you can follow our National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Twitter @Injust_Seattle in order to see how many stories about police misconduct are reported across the US each day... and the number of stories each day are much more than even I expected.
Before I give a peek at what numbers I've gathered so far this month, I want to thank some of the people who have been really supportive of this effort, they've given me the encouragement that helps me keep it going even though it's a lot of work each day.
Radley Balko at The Agitator was the first to actually mention the feed, that meant a lot, always a fan of his great work, thanks! A big thanks to Carlos Miller over at Photography Is Not A Crime for using the feed on his site, I didn't think that other sites would try to use it that way, what a great idea! Also, thanks to TJICistan for suggesting that people can get the feed via RSS if they don't like using Twitter.
On the legal side,Scott at Simple Justice gave it a big vote of confidence and this was seconded by Rick Horowitz at Fresno Criminal Defense! I really can't say how much support I've gotten from the criminal defense legal community, it's been overwhelming.
But, a big surprise, I even got some rare local votes of confidence for once! @WAKX who works at KBCS gave it some Twitter support and Lee over at HorsesAss even had something nice to say about the site and the Twitter Feed!!! Thanks guys!!!
(if I forgot anyone, I'm sorry, just remind me and I'll give you a shout out, I've been overwhelmed with all the support this effort has gotten, I'm very appreciative of it, it means a lot!)
So, this is what April is shaping up so far as the statistics are concerned... Each of these are individual and unique cases, duplicates and updates of original stories have been removed from the stats, so these are each stories that came out during the first 11 days of April:
In the first 11 days of April, 2009:
195 Cases were reported in the news.
146 Individual officers were convicted, arrested, charged, jailed, accused of, or sued for misconduct.
16 Different Police Chiefs were convicted, arrested, charged, jailed, accused of, or sued for misconduct.
That boils down to:
17.72 cases of misconduct reported in the news each day.
532 cases would be reported in the month of April if the trend continues.
6468 cases per year would be reported if the average holds...
Which would mean that there is a reported act of police misconduct every 81 minutes in the USA if the average is sustained.
Of the cases reported, the most common types of misconduct were:
1. 36 were reports of police brutality
2. 18 were reports of domestic violence
3. 17 were reports of criminal sex acts such as rape and child molestation
4. 12 were officer involved shooting incidents
5. 12 were cases of false arrest, wrongful detention, or wrongful deportation
The worst states for police misconduct in the first 11 days of April and number of cases in each:
1. Illinois with 16 cases
2. Pennsylvania with 15 cases.
3. Texas with 15 cases.
4. New York with 14 cases.
5. Florida with 13 cases.
(Washington state had 5 cases)
The worst cities for police misconduct in the beginning of April were:
1. Chicago - 8
2. Dallas - 5
3. Philadelphia - 5
4. Minneapolis - 4
5. Denver - 4
(Seattle had 2 cases)
I'll have more statistics after the end of the month and that will be followed up each month with up-to-date tallies. I'm hoping to do more with it, but it's been a lot of work so far so I'll need to find some better ways to compile the information I collect before I do anything like detail officer names or anything like that.
So, stay tuned, and let me know what you think!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Last night we were honored by a visit from one of King County's finest who spent over a half hour of taxpayer's time posting a comment critical of how I cover police misconduct but don't bend over backwards to praise officers for doing what they are paid, handsomely, to do. (Experienced officers in Seattle get over $100k a year before overtime, KCSO officers appear to get an average of $80k based on 2006 records)
I'm not replying to that directly, but I am offering a bit of information to all the cops who have felt the need to try and post comments here lately...
First, officers, let me ask you this, do you find articles critical of your fellow officers who have been found to have committed acts of misconduct in your police union newsletters?
Probably not, huh?
Well, do you guys see articles critical of officers who were convicted of breaking the law at the websites run by your fellow cops?
Do you expect that any of the thousands of organizations and associations out there dedicated to support police officers to also support the victims of police abuses?
Do you see those officer memorial sites also contributing money to make memorials to innocent people murdered by cops?
Then let me ask you this...
Why do you expect to see one of the handful (I could probably count the legitimate ones that haven't been scared off by threats from officers on my hands) of sites dedicated to helping and advocating for the victims of police misconduct to praise you guys and ignore all the stories of police misconduct and of officers who get away with it?
Why is it that, with all of the billions of dollars at the disposal of all these groups that support police officers, that you feel the need to attack the unfunded efforts of a few to help the people who are victimized by the worst of your profession?
Why is it that you are all so thin skinned and fragile of ego that you feel affronted when articles about acts of brutality performed by one of your fellow officers is posted anywhere in print or on electronic media that you feel the need to threaten those who simply report the truth?
Yeah, that wouldn't make sense, would it?
So, I'll make it clear for you officers, like the one who spent taxpayer time to criticize this site and the one who goes by "Bad Boy In Blue" from Tempe AZ who thinks it's a good idea to try and defend bad cops by slandering their victims...
This site isn't here to sing your praises, you have multitudes of others who do that for you all the time.
It is here to support victims of police misconduct and work towards making it harder for the worst of your profession to keep giving all of you a bad name through their unpunished misdeeds.
So, if you come here to trash someone just because they claim to be a victim of police misconduct, I'll delete your comment.
If you come here to criticize me for criticizing the police officers who do bad things and those who defend those bad acts, I will ignore you.
If you come here expecting someone with rose-colored glasses to fall for your sob stories about how we should ignore police misconduct because cops have it so hard, even when you have so many resources at your disposal and your victims have none... you will be sorely disappointed.
If you want someone to defend you no matter what horrible things you do, go talk to your union rep or your mom... don't come here.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Before I get to the news...
Last month I made a plea asking people to post and talk about the raid Phoenix PD performed on a blogger who posted information about police misconduct down in Phoenix AZ in order to shut him down. I was really worried that if nobody spoke up about it that other departments elsewhere would be encouraged to try this tactic on other bloggers too.
I have to say that I'm really encouraged that this story took off after Carlos Miller posted a great piece about it over at his site Photography Is Not A Crime. After that it went all over, including Simple Justice, The Agitator, Fresno Criminal Defense, and then it went national just today via AP.
I was really worried that the story was going to just die off but it's got legs now... so hopefully police departments elsewhere will think twice about trying this tactic out on the other sites that talk about police misconduct... like this one.
(for a really great post with tons of information on that story along with some awesome timelines, visit this site here!)
Now for some local police misconduct news...
Can I Get An Employee Discount Too?
Now, if some strange man was wandering around your teenage daughter's window while wearing a hoodie at night, you'd be a bit nervous, right?
Well, in Spokane WA that happened to one family. The police came out to investigate and met with a rather uncooperative individual who began to fight with officers when asked why he was prowling around a teenage girl's window at night.
He was arrested, but then the charges were dropped... because he's a cop.
The Spokane city prosecutor, Jim Bledsoe, decided to not press charges despite ample evidence against now Ex-Spokane County Sheriff's Sergeant Patrick "Pete" Bunch simply because he was a cop, no other reason.
Of his decision, he was quoted by the Sheriff as saying:
"...although what Sgt. Bunch did was a technical violation of the law and at times obviously unprofessional, he felt their job was to go after criminals and not law enforcement officers demonstrating a temporary lapse in judgment,”Officer Bunch's distinguished career included a 2003 incident that almost cost him his job when he was caught lying about 99 hours of vacation time on his timesheets and a 2004 incident where he tried to influence his way out of a ticket by flashing his badge to an unimpressed officer. And an unspecified confrontation that he had with the son of a former prosecutor for the county.
“He also told me that they considered Sgt. Bunch’s career in public service as one of the factors in their decision"
I wonder if I would get a get out of jail free card from that prosecutor for my years of dedicated service as a systems engineer?
Et Tu, Quid Pro Quo?
A Medina WA police officer was accused of raping a woman he arrested a day after he stopped her and found she was driving on a suspended license and had some pot in her car.
The officer apparently told her "Don't worry, the charges will go away" while she was cuffed in the back of his cruiser after he commented on how cute she was. So, they exchanged numbers and the next day he brought her back to his place where the woman claims that he raped her after she said no to his advances.
...however, she apparently waited to report the crime until after the officer had urged the prosecutor get the charges dropped on her behalf.
They Let The Dogs Out... Woof?
Lawyers representing the city of Kennewick WA have lost a civil rights violation case on appeal that was filed against the city for an incident in 2003.
It appears as though Kennewick police were searching for the the vile criminal who was suspected of the insidious crime of riding a moped without a headlight or helmet when they happened on poor innocent Ken Rogers (not the country star).
Officers, worried deeply about public safety with a criminal like this on the loose, unleashed their attack dog on Rogers who caused severe nerve damage to his left hand... then officers, unsatisfied with that, beat him until he suffered hearing loss from the attack...
The problem was that Rogers wasn't the criminal they were looking for... seems their highly trained attack dog "DEKE" picked up his scent by mistake when officers were trying to find their suspect.
Kennewick has been ordered to pay Rogers the sum of $1.8 Million Dollars.
This story came to my attention last night via Twitter @juliechang206 concerning the case of Wyking Allah who was essentially arrested for trespassing in the NW African American Heritage Museum that he helped found and worked with.
His arrest appeared to be, from what I recall reading at the time, more of an effort to keep him from saying what he wanted to say about some disconcerting "anti-gang" legislation in the works at the time during the opening ceremonies for the museum and cultural center than a question of his trespassing on property that he worked to create.
Several different organizations have been working on helping with his defense against those charges, this was from one of those groups, the UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E Center here in Seattle that Wyking also co-founded:
Subject: Support Wyking Allah in court tomorrow
From: Leith Jasinowski-Kahl
To: people who are down
Subject: Support Wyking in court tomorrow
Wyking Allah was unfairly arrested in March of 2007 for speaking the truth at an event organized on behalf of Seattle's ruling class. Billed as the "grand opening of NAAM", the event was in fact a celebration of the privatization and theft of the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center from the Black working class community. This theft was engineered by white developers with the assistance of the Urban League. (See link below for more background on this arrest and the issues surrounding it.)
Wyking Allah is innocent of all charges. He is an officer of the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, which is both the rightful and legal owner of the land he was standing on at the time of his arrest. He therefore cannot be guilty of trespass on the land of his own people.
The next court hearing in the state's prosecution of this man of the people, Wyking Allah, will take place tomorrow:
Friday April 10th 10 AM Seattle Municipal Courthouse, 5th and James, Room 1102
The defense has assembled an extensive list of witnesses to prove that Wyking was standing on his own institution's land. What is at stake tomorrow is whether the court will agree to hear the testimony of these witnesses, or whether it will again prove itself to be a kangaroo court of white supremacy by rejecting their testimony before it his heard.
All honest men and all honest women are called upon to be there tomorrow, in body if possible, and otherwise in spirit. Stay alert for more news as this struggle continues.
So, if you know Wyking or are familiar with this case, make plans to head down to the hearing and show your support.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Seattle Police Department Office of Professional Accountability (SPD OPA, which is Seattle's version of an internal affairs department) released their annual report recently. Most of it is the same old - same old... but there were some interesting tidbits hidden within it's convoluted depths.
First, as you might recall, the OPA is still limited to a 180 day deadline in which any sustained findings of misconduct against an officer are nullified if an investigation takes longer than 180 days... a sort of free pass for bad cops, as it were.
(this site broke the story that, despite the city's insistence that they removed that rule in contract negotiations with the union, that the union actually forced the city to back down and leave it in place. Something the police union has bragged about in their newsletter lately too.)
The worrisome news in the report is that the average time it takes, from the moment a complaint is received to the time a determination is made, is 173 days. That means there is only a 7 day window on average between an officer getting a free pass and getting disciplined for misconduct.
In that regard, the OPA admitted that there were 2 cases in 2008 where the 180 day window had elapsed which resulted in sustained findings being overturned.
There were 98 complaints of excessive force in 2008, (out of over 1300 overall complaints), but only two were sustained. One of which was recently overturned by one of the five separate levels of appeal available to officers. So only one excessive force complaint in 2008 resulted in the termination of an officer.
The overturned finding was the case of Don "Diamond Don" George which we covered a few days ago. He was accused of bashing a handcuffed suspect's head against the backseat partition in a cruiser and then lying about it to OPA investigators.
Despite his long history of complaints and that the department's appeal committee felt he probably did do what he was accused of, they overturned the chief's decision to fire him and gave him a brief suspension instead, forcing the city to hire him back.
So, only one sustained finding of excessive force and dishonesty were actually sustained and disciplined, and that case involved the officer in this video:
Where Mark Hays was beaten by one of SPD's notorious "Anti-Crime Team" officers. In that case, Hays and his friend, Michael Lujan, were stopped when they jaywalked in front of an undercover SPD ACT SUV and the officers escalated the confrontation into the beatdown seen in a dashcam recording of a responding cruiser.
Mark Hays has filed a pro-se lawsuit against the SPD and officers involved in that case. So far it appears as though that officer still remains off the force, but it's unclear whether it will remain that way given all the different appeal options available to officers...
While it's clear the SPD still does a very poor job investigating complaints of excessive force, the new "assumption of termination" for findings of dishonesty provision is also under fire as the Seattle Police Officer's Union has assured officers that this rule is unenforceable since the burden of proof is so high... so far, based on the appeal record, it appears they have a point.
Which is a fact that the OPA is apparently aware of as this disclaimer was slipped into the report:
"However, it is clear from reviewing OPA Sustained cases appealed in 2008 that the Department cannot always predict whether its findings or the disciplined imposed will be upheld."
Based on this report, and others, this site still highly recommends that any victims of police misconduct consult an attorney prior to filing a complaint with the SPD OPA as the complaint process is still highly biased and fatally flawed.
The complaints are often used to gather information for attorneys representing the city in preparation for defense against civil suits instead of to honestly investigate officer wrongdoing.
Please keep this in mind if you become a victim of police misconduct in Seattle.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
On December 23, 2008, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Bonnar was acquitted of federal deprivation of civil rights charges that were filed against him on allegations that he had used excessive and unnecessary force when he arrested 41 year old Irene Damon. After reading the verdict, the judge in this case offered a stinging rebuke for Bonnar by suggesting that despite the jury’s decision that there was ample evidence that Bonnar’s conduct was not appropriate.
On March 13, 2009, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Griffee was acquitted of fourth degree assault charges that were filed against him on allegations that he had punched 21 year old Johnny Bradford while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a cruiser. Despite the verdict, jurors said they felt that Bradford’s testimony was believable, but that Griffee had offered a case of plausible deniability that prevented them from finding him guilty beyond all doubt.
On February 26, 2009, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Schene plead not guilty to fourth degree assault charges that were filed against him on the basis of a video recording of him kicking, punching, and manhandling 15 year old Malika Calhoun in a holding cell. The video was released to the media a day later and it sparked outrage all over the world which prompted the US Department of Justice to consider pressing federal civil rights violation charges against Schene.
These cases are not uncommon in that there were allegations of abuse leveled against police officers.
These cases are not noteworthy just because they all came from the same precinct and police department.
Nor are they uncommon because of the results in which evidence and testimony that would convict a normal person were insufficient to convict a cop. After all, when 73% of white Americans do not believe police officers ever use excessive force, it’s nearly impossible to find an unbiased jury pool out there.
No, these cases are incredibly unique in the world of police misconduct in that, in each of these cases, it was a police officer who brought these allegations to the attention of their department, that the department listened to the officers who complained and investigated the accusations, that the department recommended charges in response to them, and did not silence the allegations and punish the officers that reported them.
Yes, these cases are incredible in that the officers who reported them didn’t face retribution for doing so… at least not that we can tell yet. But, will that culture within that department last after the sheriff is gone? Or will the union work to shift things back to an environment where officers are afraid to tell the truth in fear of retaliation from fellow officers and supervisors?
Indeed, a good portion of the reason why police officers do not report incidents of misconduct isn’t just because of the cultural pressures not to snitch that their fellow officers put upon them. It’s that the “no snitching” culture is actually enforced by practice within police departments across the US and that it’s expected that officers who report misconduct will be punished by their departments and eventually forced out or fired on allegations that normally wouldn’t result in termination.
That fact was recently reinforced when a reader commented to a story we published in February detailing the surprising number of police department heads who have been embroiled in allegations of misconduct in recent months. That reader posted this in response to that story:
"I can explain why most good officers do not step forward. I was an officer that stepped forward to report about one of the Chiefs on this very list and now I will never be a police officer again.
No agency would take me and it has caused many sleepless nights for me but I have come to terms with the fact that I did what was right. Seeing the justice that was done here makes me feel like I did right but that isn’t good for a person who has only police work to fall back on.
Reporting abuse over another cop, let alone a chief, is career suicide."
At first the reader who posted this wished to remain anonymous and not have the details of what he was referring to made public, and for good reason. But now he’s given us permission to tell the rest of his story of how police officers in America are usually treated when they try to bring misconduct allegation to light.
Here’s what he told us about what happened to him in a follow-up email:
"I was employed in Roberts, Wisconsin for a few years as a patrol officer. All was well until the day that the board decided that the part time police chief job needed to be full time.
The village board decided to hire Ricci Prein and all seemed well at first. At least until one evening when I found Chief Prein drinking while working on a squad car in the municipal garage. I found this to be a compromising position so I reported it to the board.
From that day on I was written up for any crazy thing such as the squad car being on the low end of full gauge or the oil dipstick, or not getting trash to the curb by 3 am when it got picked up at 3 pm that day.
I was also written up on several occasions for my military reserve service and when he was told he was wrong for doing so he still refused to retract anything. The harassment finally got so bad that one day I decided it was enough and I resigned from the department.
After my resignation I was unable to find a job for many years because of the things he would tell prospective employers about me. I tried to take it to court but the fact that I had no money and no lawyer in the area would handle it because of conflict of interests, I gave up. I was still lucky enough, if you call it that, to be called to active duty in the current war 2 times, which helped pay bills."
This, sadly, is what usually happens when officers report incidents of misconduct, whether it’s against another police officer or a supervisor. There are few real protections against retaliation for reporting misconduct and there is little impetus to change that since city governments benefit from this culture of retribution since it prevents officers from testifying in civil rights violation cases that could cause embarrassment to local governments and loses in court.
Most of the time, the story ends there. The police officer never finds work again and the culture of corruption continues on unabated and even more secure after examples have been made of officers who dared to cross the blue wall of silence.
But not in this officer’s case:
"After my deployments I returned home and wondered how to address this. I finally decided to run for the village president position (mayor). I won the election and there by became Prein's boss.
Now, I didn’t do anything to him personally, all I did was bring current concerns to the village board as should have been done in the first place when I reported the issues I had seen. I even abstained from any votes pertaining to those allegations. All this being said and done, the board finally made the decision that he was wrong all the time in the past and that he needed to be fired."
Ricci Prein was eventually fired in July of 2008 on five counts of misconduct in office, seven months after the village board laid out their case against him, and years after this officer first made his concerns known to the village board. However, he proved he wasn’t done getting back at that officer yet.
The officer’s name is Eric Fisher and he had recently run for re-election as village president. He might have won if it weren’t for constant public attacks made by ex-chief Prein made via letters to the editor in the local paper that not only attacked Fisher, but also his wife. That election ended yesterday with Fisher losing to his rival by 44 votes.
So, yes, Fisher is right in that, in most cases, reporting police misconduct can be a matter of career suicide. When we ask ourselves why officers won't report the misconduct they see and we say that it's because they are bad officers, we should remind ourselves of what happens to the good ones and how little support they receive from their community. For us to have better expectations from them, we must expect to support and reward them ourselves.
But, fortunately in this case, Fisher found another calling and this story still has a positive ending where most might not. Fisher now works at a high school with special education children. While it doesn’t pay what a police officer gets, it’s something that Fisher can put his determination towards good use once again.
He ended his story by saying this:
“I can never be a cop again, but hey, I love what I am doing now and hopefully when we recover completely from all this I will finish my degree in teaching and become a full time teacher."
While police unions would use cases like this as an argument that they need even more layers of appeals and protections to fight allegations of misconduct made against officers, this isn’t true. The answer to the problem of retaliation against officers who report misconduct isn’t to make it harder to discipline officers found to have committed acts of misconduct.
The answer is simple actually. As Karl Mansoor, an ex-police officer and law enforcement ethics instructor who fought his own battle against retribution for reporting misconduct, tells his readers… the answer is to make the complaint, investigation, and disciplinary processes transparent to the public in order to remove the incentives that keep misconduct and the retribution suffered for reporting it a secret.
The best solution to the problem of police misconduct and the culture of silence prevalent in police departments across the nation is to shine a little light on them.
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