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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 01-22-09

Seattle Police Department's "Command Vehicle", complete with telescoping boom mounted surveillance cameras, stationed outside of an Inauguration Day rally at Seattle's Westlake Center.

Local Blogger Wonders If Seattle Is Becoming A Police State
Apesma's Lament, a local Seattle blog by activist Tim Harris, wonders if Seattle may be turning into a police state given the overwhelming presence of Seattle Police at a local rally during Inauguration Day in which different independent reporters claimed it appeared as though there were more police than attendants at the rally organized by Seattle Community College students in Seattle's Westlake Center.

Family Sues Pierce County Jail For Failing To Prevent Suicide
The family of Ralph Close is suing the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma Washington for failing to prevent Close's suicide when he was arrested on suspicion of robbery. Close was found dead in his cell after he hanged himself with his bedsheet despite officers warning guards on intake forms that Close had a history of mental problems and suicide attempts.

Economic Woes Good News For Drug Law Reformists?
The Seattle Weekly says that the flailing economy is a good thing for drug law reformers. While most politicians who were previously against reforms have grown silent about opposition to the relaxation of jail time for drug offenses  in the face of the savings that could be had by not jailing low-level drug offenders there are a few, like Seattle city attorney Tom Carr, that still insist that it's better to punish rather than rehabilitate.

National News

A Victim's Perspective Of Overzealous Police Officers
From the Western Massachusetts CopWatch site, a link to a blog post that is tongue-in-cheek about one person's experience with an officer that also illustrates just how powerless any of us feel when we are wrongfully accused by an officer who is sure they can do no wrong.

Updates On The Ryan Frederick Trial
Radley Balko at The Agitator brings everyone up to date on the trial of Ryan Frederick in Virginia who is facing murder charges for killing a police officer during a grow operation drug raid where the only thing growing were Japanese Maples and the warrant depended on testimony from informants who burglarized his home, but didn't give police any evidence of the supposed grow operation. Frederick has claimed all along that he thought the burglars had returned and didn't realize that the people busting down his door that night were police when he opened fire.

BART Cop Gets High-Priced Lawyer For Free
Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer in Oakland California who is facing murder charges for shooting Oscar Grant to death while Grant was laying face-down on a mass-transit platform, is replacing his current lawyer with a lawyer with a reputation for representing the worst of the worst and getting them off scott-free... a lawyer Mehserle would never have gotten if it weren't for the state-wide police fund that pays for such lawyers. Yet another example of how cops aren't treated like the rest of us, they never have to pay for their own defense.

Harvard Paper Calls For Police Reforms After Oscar Grant Shooting
Meanwhile, Harvard University's The Harvard Crimson asks that the murder of Oscar Grant be used as an argument for a more restrained police force in the US. Seems that they also came to the same conclusion that I did in that it was the over-aggressive behavior of BART officers towards the people they detained that ultimately led to the shooting death of Oscar Grant by Johannes Mehserle on New Years Day.

Peoria Police Contemplate New Use-Of-Force Policies After Lawsuit
The Peoria police department is looking into a policy change that will automatically initiate the review of dahscam footage whenever a use of force report is filed in response to a lawsuit filed by Bryce Scott who claims officers peppersprayed, tasered, kicked, and beat him when he surrendered to them after he fled police and then stopped on his own to surrender, but never filed a formal complaint with the department.

As you may know, we recommend against filing complaints since police departments just cannot be trusted to investigate themselves. This is even true in cities like Seattle who have civilian review boards since those boards have been neutered and aren't even allowed to review investigations, let alone discuss them or their findings in a transparent manner. In the end, all internal investigations are meant to do is prepare a defense against civil litigation, not find the truth and discipline officers who participate in misconduct.

NYPD Officers Arrested For Framing Drug-Buy Suspects
Two NYPD officers have been indicted on numerous charges over an undercover drug-buy operation where the officers purchased three bags of cocaine from a dealer, only reported purchasing one bag, then used the other two unreported bags to frame another man and his brother. One of the officers later went back to the bar where the bust occurred in order to copy security camera footage that showed the two officers never interacted with the people they framed.

A Convoluted Tale Of A Cop Retiring With Benefits While Standing Accused
My head hurts today, so if you can make sense of this story about stained police union carpets, search warrants, and a demoted Connecticut cop who stands accused of sexual misconduct being allowed to retire with full benefits... let me know.

Officer Wins Lawsuit Against Another Officer Who's Police Report Led To Murder Charges
An ex Detroit Michigan police officer once accused of murder has won $500,000 in a civil lawsuit against the Michigan State Trooper who filed the police report that caused the officer's arrest and trial. The officer was later acquitted of second degree murder involving the shooting death of a homeless man named Eric Williams.

The trooper blamed an inaccurate police report filed by the Detroit officer was responsible for him being charged with murder in that death.

International News

Inquiry Underway In Robert Dziekanski Taser Death
The inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski in a Vancouver British Columbia, Canada airport has begun. A video of officers repeatedly tasering Dziekanski after he appeared to be non-threatening at the time sparked recriminations when no criminal charges were brought against the officers involved.

While the inquiry won't result in any criminal charges if it determines the officers were in the wrong, it can result in officers being found guilty of misconduct.

British Columbia Cops Arrested For Robbery And Assault
Meanwhile, in a nearby Vancouver suburb, three off-duty Canadian police officers were arrested for allegations of robbery and assault. The three officers, all from different area departments, are accused of beating and then robbing a newspaper delivery person after he stopped and asked for directions outside of a Hyatt hotel. No charges have been filed yet as police claim they are still interviewing witnesses and the officers who were involved in the incident.

Is Turkey Getting Better On Human Rights Than The US?
60 people, including police officers, prison guards, and soldiers are facing trial in Turkey over the brutal beating death of 29 year old Engin Ceber who was protesting against police brutality last year.

Human rights groups say Ceber was beaten by officers when he was taken into custody and then beaten again by guards in jail before he died in October of a brain hemorrhage. In regards to the case, the Turkish justice minister issued an appology to the man's family and admitted that Ceber suffered mistreatment.

One thing is for certain, US prosecutors never file charges against that many officers  when similar abuses occur here and no government official would ever admit it happened and apologize for such abuse.

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