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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 01-24-09

Local News

Initiative 100 Puts Seattle Jail Issue To A Vote

Tim at Apesma's Lament reports that a group called "Citizens for Efficiency and Fairness in Public Safety" have filed an initiative to force the city of Seattle to allow the citizens of Seattle to vote on whether or not to build a new jail and to force the city to study the use of alternatives to incarceration in order to save money and reduce recidivism.

Previous criticisms of Seattle's attempt to build their own jail are here and at Blogging Georgetown. The group, and others, are holding a public forum on the issue at Seattle University's Pigott Auditorium on January 28th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

National News

Leading By Example?
Stoughton Massachusetts police chief Manuel Cachopa has been found guilty in a felony corruption trial as an accessory after the fact in relation to an extortion attempt he made on a complainant in order to protect one of his officers from a misconduct complaint.

He is currently free pending sentencing while Stoughton's board decides whether or not to fire him while he also stands to lose his $139,000 per year pension. He's also been ordered to stay away from jurors and witnesses in the case as his wife was caught rifling through jury questionnaires that had juror addresses on them (she may face charges too) and his supporters, (police officers), have been accused of threatening jurors and witnesses.

Who Polices The Police's Police?
In Oakland California, the FBI is currently investigating allegations that the Oakland Police Department's head of Internal Affairs had beaten a suspect who died a month later from the injuries he received and being denied medical care while in jail and then ordered subordinate officers to lie about the beating.

As a result the Oakland PD has suspended the head of it's IA department, with pay, for the duration of the investigation leading many to wonder how much misconduct went unpunished if this is who they put in charge of policing the police... and who thought it was a good idea to have the Oakland PD investigate the BART shooting of Oscar Grant.

This investigation is just one part of a wide-ranging FBI probe covering several high-profile incidents of misconduct, all of this is occurring as the department is still under scrutiny by a US District Court judge as part of a settlement agreement stemming from the infamous Oakland PD "Riders" scandal from 2001.

Another Review Of BART Shooting Videos Raise New Questions
Speaking of Oakland and the Oscar Grant shooting... Seems as though others have been reviewing the videos of Johannes Mehserle shooting an unarmed Oscar Grant in the back and are agreeing with my analysis of the video a few weeks ago, that the officer who punched Grant in the head prior to the shooting and who took a knee on Grant's neck is complicit in that shooting death, or at the very least he's guilty of violating Grant's civil rights by his use of excessive force.

While Mehserle is facing murder charges in that death, there have been no additional arrests even though the video clearly shows a second officer used excessive force on Grant and that escalation of force by that officer directly led to Mehserle's use of deadly force... and the prosecutor refuses to say whether there will be any additional arrests in that case, which means there likely won't be given that the corrupt Oakland PD (see above) is investigating it.

California Attorney Named To Head US DOJ Civil Rights Division
...and yet again, from Oakland... President Obama has appointed Oakland attorney Tony West as head of the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of police corruption and misconduct as well as jails accused of violating the rights of detainees among other things.

West seems a bit unqualified given that most of his experience with issues of civil rights violations appears to come from his stint as a California Special Assistant AG who was assigned to review the 1999 shooting death of Tyisha Miller by four Riverside Police officers. However, he seems at least worthy of giving a chance before determining how well he'll do look into cases of misconduct and abuse given this opinion piece (pdf) he wrote for the Mercury News in 2007 in response to California's decision to keep police misconduct records hidden from the public.

Chicago Officer Pleads Guilty To Beating Man Shackled To Wheelchair In Hospital
Chicago Illinois police officer William Cozzi plead guilty to federal criminal civil rights charges over the videotaped beating of Randle Miles. Miles' arms and legs were shackled to a wheelchair by Cozzi in a Chicago hospital when he became belligerent while seeking treatment for a stab wound when officer Cozzi began hitting him in the head with a "sap". A security camera captured the beating and Cozzi was indicted in 2007 for the beating that occurred in 2005.

...And Yet More Violent Cops In Chicago
Also in Chicago, in what the Sun times is calling a rare move, the Chicago Police Board has fired two police officers for misconduct. The first officer was found to have had a relationship with a felon while he was being investigated.

The other officer, Larry Guy, was fired for beating a teenage suspect in the head while his hands were cuffed behind his back. Guy would have likely gotten away with it if it weren't for the Target store's surveillance cameras which caught the beating...

So, of course, he was found guilty of trying to erase those tapes of the beating and was criminally charged with obstruction, battery, and official misconduct. Of course, as usual, he plead down to a misdemeanor battery charge and got 18 months of probation... and people wonder why I took it seriously when Chicago cops threatened to shoot me for what I write here?

NJ State Trooper Sentenced For Drug Dealing
New Jersey State Trooper Brian Holmes has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for official misconduct, drug possession, and drug distribution in relation to charges that he and his fellow trooper Moises Hernandez had skimmed 56 kilos of cocaine from a drug bust, laundered money, and alerted Columbian dealers when they were being investigated.

Fight Club At NY Jail Was Run By Corrections Officers
Scott at Simple Justice talks about "The Program" at the Rikers Island detention center in New York where three corrections officers have been charged with establishing a fight club by that name where they controlled a group of detainees who beat prisoners and ran an extortion racket.

Scott suggests that prosecutors should be required to spend time in the jails they help send people to in order to fully understand exactly what they subject the accused to when they impose impossible-to-pay bail amounts. Being the victim of detainee abuse myself, I fully agree with that idea.

Ever Wonder Who Stole Your Bike?
Maybe it was the cops... Three people have been indicted in connection with an alleged chop-shop operation after pieces of a stolen motorcycle were discovered in an Andrews, South Carolina garage. Interestingly, one of those charged with possession of a stolen vehicle happens to be an Andrews Police officer and another is a corrections officer in the Georgetown County Jail.


akahn said...

The story about the Oakland IA captain is interesting. You say the FBI is investigating high profile police misconduct cases, do you have more articles about that? It's funny because historically the FBI has collaborated with local police departments (well, I guess it's the other way around really) to repress political agitators and to cover up assassinations. The biggest examples of this are during COINTELPRO against the Black Panthers and other Black Nationalist groups in the Bay Area and other parts of LA in the 70s.

Packratt said...

Well, that is a valid point as many federal agencies like the FBI have some questionable histories with local law enforcement agencies... another example would be federal authorities working with St.Paul police during the RNC where several reporters were assaulted and detained.

However, there is a "color of law abuses" section in the FBI including the FBI's Public Integrity Task Force that did attempt to uncover corruption in the SPD in the early to mid 2000s. They failed in that after an SPD officer discovered he was being watched by running the plates of one of the FBI vehicles and the FBI turned over it's investigation to the SPD, which didn't do much with it. (as shown in the first two "Misconduct News" items on the sidebar.

However, sometimes they do ok, such as the recent bust in Chicago where several officers were indicted for trying to help undercover agents smuggle drugs, they shut down a whole department widely known for corruption so bad that even neighboring departments refused to work with them.

It's a mixed record, as even the US DOJ Civil Rights Division has a mixed record with investigating and prosecuting cases of misconduct.

Like I always say, it's a long uphill battle for us who try to convince people that we need true accountability and transparency reforms... and while at times it feels like there's no progress, without people like you who try to change things, there never would be a chance for progress.

Thank you for the comment, and thanks for all the work you do, it's appreciated!

Five Before Midnight said...

I think the Oakland Police Department chief just quit today.

Not difficult to get feds to investigate. Difficult to keep them investigating a case.

Tony West? Yeeesh.

He worked for the state AG then Morrison& Forrester. I read one of his bios and he claimed that he "worked with citizens and community organizations" to arrive at the state consent decree. Huh?

No one from the state AG's office even talked to anyone outside City Hall or the police department until then AG Bill Lockyer showed up at a city council meeting where the city council was going to vote to settle the consent decree. The U.S. Attorneys and federal DOJ Civil Rights Division did interview citizens for its own investigation which tanked when Bush became president.

I met West but during the time period the consent decree was coming to a vote and the team that worked on it from Sacramento and Los Angeles came to Riverside.

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