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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 01-13-09

The "Worst Police Misconduct Video of 2008" reader's poll is ending tomorrow... Sure, they are all bad, but the worst ones will get their own story when voting ends. So pick which one you think exemplifies the worst example of police misconduct that was captured on video in 2008.

In Local News

Police Officer Fired For His Beliefs Rehired After Winning Settlement
A Mountlake Terrace police officer, Jonathan Wender, who was fired for allegedly lying about a call he received about a small pot growing operation has won a suit against that department worth $812,500 of back pay and he got his job back too...

In this case, however, it seems he didn't deserve to be fired as the officer had a reputation for being exceptionally honest and was actually fired because he was an outspoken member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that argued that police spend too many resources in the war on drugs which could be spent in better ways to achieve better results and some of his fellow officers didn't like that and had him drummed out of the force.

The settlement presumably proved he didn't lie as he was accused of doing and that he was instead targeted for his stated beliefs, not his actions. Wender currently teaches criminal justice courses at a local university and says he would like to resume active duty as a police officer again soon.

King County Jail Deal With DOJ Made Official
The King County council has approved of a deal made between the US DOJ and the King County Executive Ron Sims to implement reforms at the infamous King County Jail that would improve conditions, improve medical care, and decrease incidents of detainee physical and sexual abuse by guards. The reforms are expected to cost $2,000,000 up front and will be monitored by a third party for compliance to the agreement under threat of a federal lawsuit filed by the DOJ.

Man Jailed For Crime That May Never Have Happened Wins Settlement
Grant County Washington has settled a lawsuit with a man they kept imprisoned for 7 months for a crime that never happened. The man, Felipe Vargas was accused of molesting his girlfriend's daughter in 2003, but the girl later recanted and said she made up the story because she resented him. The man still has another suit pending against his first public defender.

National News

The Long Fall From Hero Cop To Alleged Felon
The Ogden Utah police officer who was once called a hero for his off-duty actions to stop a shooter at a local mall has resigned over allegations of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and a police brutality claim as well. Some rumors are swirling around this case that suggest there were other cases, but that he used his status as a hero in the press to keep the department from doing anything about the complaints.

NYPD Bar Fight Cops Plead Down To Getting $75 Tickets
Two NYPD officers involved in a bar fight two years ago have made plead guilty to disorderly conduct, simple violations, in order to avoid trial for misdemeanor official misconduct charges.

The officers were accused of attempting to cover up the involvement of other officers in that fight which resulted in a Yonkers man being severely injured. Three other officers are still facing charges of third degree assault, a misdemeanor.

Another Victim Of Transit Cops On New Years
A Long Island New York man is claiming that transit police at Penn Station attacked and beat him to the point where he required hospitalization on New Years. He also claims that officers humiliated him by parading him around and cheering that he was the first arrest of the New Year.

The man claims the beating and arrest stem from him accidentally bumping into an MTA officer.

Laredo Texas Family Claims Police Brutality, Police Claim They Injured Themselves
A Laredo Texas family is accusing the Laredo police department of brutalizing them and then filing false charges against them as they claim that an overly aggressive cop came on a noise complaint when they were setting up for a daughter's birthday and then escalated things way beyond what they should have been.

Officers, however, claim that the people who were injured were hurt due to self inflicted injuries and that they maced and tasered others because they, the armed officers, were attacked by the family for no reason.

Hmm... let's see, which is more likely? An over-zealous cop losing his temper or a whole family, including kids, attacking armed officers for no reason?... uh huh.

South Elgin Police Officer Resigns To Avoid Answering Internal Affairs Investigation
A South Elgin Illinois police officer resigned before allowing himself to be interviewed over misconduct allegations. The department refuses to answer any questions over what the misconduct charges are, but if the officer resigned and lawyered up in order to avoid answering any questions about it, it's probably fairly serious.

I don't know if it frightens you that there might be a serious crime that happened which the department is keeping secret from the public like that to protect the privacy of an officer who already quit, but it worries me.

BART Shooting Updates
So, the BART police department completed it's internal probe of itself in the Oscar Grant shooting by one of it's own officers and forwarded it on to Alameda County DA Tom Orloff without recommending criminal charges, that DA is still unsure if he's even going to bother pressing charges in that case. The BART council appointed it's own members to a police oversight committee, of itself, to look at the issue and calls it civilian oversight. And the DOJ is sending mediators to help BART with it's community relations issues, but it's not looking at any possible civil rights violations performed by the department or officers in question...

So, in other words, nothing has actually happened and nothing is happening to actually address this needless killing. Same frustrating story as always I suppose. In response to the BART Police Department's internal probe not recommending criminal charges Oscar Grant's family lawyer, John Burris, has roundly condemned the internal investigation. Meanwhile, more demonstrations are planned, and rightfully so.

Our additional coverage of the Oscar Grant shooting is here, here, and here.

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