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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 01-31-09


Sometimes Public Defenders Are Guilty of Misconduct Too
Felipe Vargas was arrested in November of 2003 under allegations that he molested a child. Three days later that child recanted... but Vargas would still spend over seven months in jail for a crime that never happened... while prosecutors and his public defender knew it.

His lawyer, Thomas Earl, is now disbarred and the US District Court has ruled that he owes Vargas over $3,000,000 for refusing to hire an investigator or pay for a polygraph that Vargas had requested while working under a $500,000 flat-fee annual contract with the county as a public defender... a contract that is illegal for lawyers to enter into in the state of Washington.

Grant County settled a civil rights suit filed against them by Vargas for $250,000 for failing to provide him with effective counsel. While the county paid Vargas, Thomas Earl has filed for bankruptcy protection and canceled his malpractice insurance, which means he probably won't ever repay Vargas for the seven months of his life that he cost him.

Washington Senate Proposes Bill To Let Officers Seek Help Confidentially
Washington State Senate Bill 5131 seeks to allow police officers and other related public employees to seek psychological, drug rehabilitation, and other counseling services confidentially. Sponsors of the bill, including, say that officers often don't seek help when they struggle with stress which leads to problems such as drug dependency and domestic violence, of which police officers experience a higher rate of than the general public.

The sponsors say that officers may be more likely to seek help before a problem becomes serious if they can do so without risking the stigmas associated with seeking professional help, such as being seen as weak or risking advancement within the department by having that on one's record. Thus the need for officers to be able to seek help confidentially.

Detractors say that it risks public safety by keeping such problems secret and by failing to give departments information they need in order to adjust an officer's assignment appropriately when they are found to have problems with drug abuse or violent behaviors like domestic violence or frequent use of excessive force on suspects.

Personally, I do think that it's better to give officers the option to seek help before the problems they have with stress affect others through abuse of their authority or violent behavior...

So I don't personally oppose this, but I do think that there needs to be more done to help officers who have difficulty coping with stress, it's not a perfect solution to this well-known problem.


Police Chief Arrested For Soliciting Sex From Minors Online
Karl at Blue Must Be True has details about a Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief who was busted for soliciting minors for sex on the internet which has led to a pretty interesting exchange in his comments section. My own thoughts are that if a police chief is doing this sort of thing, lord only knows what the officers underneath him do.

Supreme Court's Herring Decision Wasn't The Only Bad News...
A lot of attention has been given to the recent US Supreme Court ruling that attacks 4th amendment's exclusionary rule. But Scott at Simple Justice tells us that there were other decisions made by the the Supremes that put the screws to the people even tighter than before... but aren't being covered in the news.

Detroit Woman Sues Police For Attacking Her Family In Her Own Home
A Detroit mother of seven is suing the Detroit Police Department over allegations that officers busted into her home without a warrant and demanded that she tell them where she hid drugs and guns while they brutally attacked her, her children, and some friends of the family who were visiting at the time. The allegations go on to suggest that another officer visited the next day and offered bribes of gift certificates, cash, and fur coats to keep the family quiet.

From the article in the Detroit Free Press:
"It was awful; it was a nightmare," she said. "Every time I think about it, I see him punching my kids."

The officers terrorized the 10 people in the house for close to two hours, court documents indicate.

Sandra Flowers, 13, who suffered bruises to her neck and chest, said officers used the N-word during the attack. "I saw them beating on them, stomping on them, kicking," she said."
The department will only say that the matter is being looked into.

Elgin Police Settle Excessive Force Lawsuit Against Off-Duty Officer
The city of Elgin Illinois has settled a police brutality lawsuit for $225,000 over allegations that officers had allowed an off-duty officer who was involved in a brawl to go into a police cruiser holding Kevin Schwartz and let him beat Schwartz while he was handcuffed in the back seat.

The officer accused of beating Schwartz has since resigned after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault charges over the incident which occurred while he was working, off-duty, as security for a local bar.

Iowa Officers Face Lawsuit Over Traffic Stop Beating
Council Bluffs police officers in Iowa are facing legal action after being accused of beating a handcuffed man so badly that the spent eight days in the hospital and underwent surgery to repair his cheekbones and to have a metal plate implanted to support his crushed eye socket.

The man, Matt Peterson, admits that he ran from police when he was stopped for driving with a suspended license, but that it wasn't necessary for officers to stomp on his head and then smash his face open with a blunt object after he was cuffed and laying on the ground. The department claims a dashcam video of the incident exists, but has not specified if the beating itself was recorded.

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