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Friday, February 27, 2009

Video Released Of King County Sheriff Beating 15 Year Old Female Detainee

Updated video that shows what happened before, during, and after the girl was assaulted in the holding cell.

As we reported earlier this month, King County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Schene plead not guilty to fourth degree assault over what took place in the video shown above. If convicted he only faces a maximum of one year in jail.

The video was taken on November 29th in a SeaTac, Washington holding cell, south of Seattle, Washington. The video shows deputy Schene, another deputy, and a 15-year-old girl, (now identified as Malika Calhoun), he arrested on suspicion of auto theft for driving her parents' car.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer, who obtained the video after the judge allowed it to be released, also quotes from the deputy's report:

Schene wrote that the shoe hit him in the right shin, "causing injury and pain." He wrote that he "placed" her into handcuffs and that she needed medical attention for a "panic attack."

He wrote that he required treatment at Auburn General Hospital for a "blood filled pocket" on his shin, according to his report. The video, however, appears to show his shin strike a metal toilet in the cell as he pushes the girl against the wall.
Schene's attorney, Anne Bremner, who represents most officers in Seattle in criminal and civil cases, argued desperately with the judge in this case to keep this video from being released, suggesting that there is more to this story than we're seeing...

You tell me, what more could there be?

When Testilying Cops Make No Cents

On February 11, 2005, Tallahasse Florida Police Officers responded to a burglary alarm at Nezha's Subs and Wings and the Magnolia Barbershop. They arrived to see the front door smashed and that both business' cash registers were missing.

Meanwhile, a witness called police to report seeing a man in the median of a nearby street with a cash register so officers investigated and claimed that they spotted a "trail" of pennies leading to a nearby apartment. The cash register matched the type from the Magnolia Barbershop.

Officers discovered the apartment belonged to a Jay W. Smith who was a Florida A&M University student. Four days after the burglary officers visited Smith and asked for permission to search his apartment. When Smith declined they took his drivers license and refused to let him leave while officers attempted to get a warrant.

However, while attempting to get the warrant, officers received a call that the other register was found and they let Smith go and returned his license after making a copy of it for a photo lineup.

Officers contacted the witnesses who claimed they saw a black man, in his late teens to early twenties, with a cash register that night and had them look at the photo lineup. One picked out Smith and the other couldn't pick anyone out of the lineup.

On March 3rd of 2005 Smith was arrested and held in Leon County Jail in lieu of a $2,500 bond which would never be returned to Smith.

He was charged based on a sworn affidavit by an officer named Rodney Fountain, who claimed that Smith stole one cash register with at least $100 in change in it, that there was a trail of pennies leading to his door, and that at least one witness observed him with the cash register and picked him out of a photo lineup.

Seems like an open and shut case based on solid investigative police work, right?

Yeah, probably isn't if you're reading about it here.

Apparently, a few problems with the case became apparent after Smith's attorney did some investigating and found that:

The "trail" of pennies actually wasn't a trail, it consisted of only five pennies that were near Smith's door and in the nearby parking lot. Both of which weren't really near the location where the cash register was actually found, there was no trail.

Oh, and about that cash register... the owner of that cash register told police that night that she cleaned it out before leaving. There was no money, let alone any change, in that cash register that night. Quite the opposite of the $100 in change the officer claimed was in it.

About that witness identification? It appears as though the officers involved neglected to mention that those witnesses both claimed that they couldn't get a look at the person with the cash register because he was wearing a hoodie.

In fact, to make it worse, it appears as though the one witness who did pick Smith's photo had expressly explained to the officer that he didn't see the man's face and could not pick anyone out. But that officer, the same Rodney Fountain, wouldn't accept no for an answer and told the witness to "just pick one", so the witness felt pressured and did what he was told and picked Smith's photo randomly out of the six that were presented to him.

Now, according to a complaint filed on February 9th (pdf) in the US District Court of Florida by the Law Office of James Cook, the City of Tallahassee and several of its police officers are being sued for deprivation of rights, malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, false imprisonment, and a slew of other charges over Smith's arrest.

What might have seemed like good detective work was actually a case of evidence fabrication and testilying, a term used to describe when officers lie in court testimony and sworn statements.

Do you think a case like this is rare?

No, Smith was lucky enough to have a defense attorney, Matt Willard, that took the time to look over the evidence and who spotted the anomalies that made him look deeper. If he had an overworked attorney who urged him to take a plea, we wouldn't have ever heard about this case... just like all the others you never hear about.

So now there will be another robbery, the citizens of Tallahassee will be robbed by the officers who lied in order to arrest someone who was innocent. They won't pay if they lose that lawsuit, the city's taxpayers will... so, what incentive did they have NOT to lie?

None, and ultimately, that's why they did.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-25-09

Just a brief note first, I apologize for the infrequent updates lately, I've been exceptionally busy and just haven't had any time to post new articles. There are several new stories in the works, hopefully I'll get a chance to post them soon! Trust me, I would rather be doing something that helps people like this than some of the other things I've had to deal with lately.
Thanks for reading!

Portland Oregon Paying $100,000 To Settle Police Sexual Harassment Cases
Nearby in the city of Portland Oregon, city officials appear ready to settle a misconduct case against their police department over a 2006 traffic stop where a (now fired) Portland officer, John Alexander, had ordered two women to lift their skirts to show him their underwear or risk getting a ticket.

The officer later plead guilty to two charges of official misconduct and agreed to be fired and have his certification revoked in 2006. The city will pay one woman $53,000 and other other $52,000 to settle a suit by the women that claims this wasn't the first time Alexander had done this and that the city should have known he was at risk for doing this again.

Atlanta Cops Who Killed 92 year-old Kathryn Johnston During Illegal Drug Raid Sentenced
US District Court Judge Julie Carnes has sentenced three of the Atlanta Police officers who shot 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during a drug raid based on an illegally obtained warrant, let her slowly bleed to death, and then attempted to plant drugs in her house when they didn't find any, and then tried to lie about all of it.

Officer Jason Smith faces 10 years with additional sentencing for state charges coming next month.

Officer Gregg Junnier faces six years in prison but also faces sentencing next month for voluntary manslaughter charges.

And Officer Arthur Tesler faces five years.

While the Atlanta Police department claims it is trying to restore trust in the community after the case, this seems counter to their efforts to weaken a newly-created civilian oversight board that was enacted after the case went public. Reporters claimed that the trio cried with regret over the killing... though I'm more inclined to think they they cried over getting caught.

(Simple Justice has a very interesting discussion going on about this case.)

Woman on Trial for Releasing Police Misconduct Files
Butte County CA grand juror charged with leaking confidential documents that detailed excessive force complaints against two officers to a defense attorney involved in another case where allegations of excessive force had been made has agreed to a deferred plea deal that will allow her attorneys to review several pages of investigative documents related to the case.

When asked why she released the documents, the juror said that it seemed like it was the right thing to do...

Our question, of course, is why police misconduct files are kept so secret that cities are willing to prosecute anyone who releases them?

Chicago's Police Chief Ignores Judge So He Can Protect Cops With A History of Misconduct
Chicago's police chief has refused to cooperate with a judge's order to reveal a list of Chicago police officers who have had at least five misconduct complaints since 2000 and a stunning list of 662 officers who have at least 10 misconduct complaints between 2001 and 2006.

The judge's order comes in a case against the department filed by the mother of an 11 year old son and 13 year old daughter who were arrested and beaten by a Chicago police officer over an alleged playground dispute involving that officer's son. The mother's attorney wants the lists to demonstrate the pattern of hiding and tolerating police misconduct that exists in the Chicago PD.

Chicago Man Claims Police Officers Are Targeting Him, But He Doesn't Know Why
Mark Geinosky has a problem. Apparently some Chicago police officers have targeted him for retaliation even though Geinosky isn't sure why. What kind of retaliation?

Over the 16 months he's received 24 parking tickets for various offenses, 13 of which were written by one officer at 10:00pm exactly for a couple different dates and issued in sequential order, meaning that the officer just wrote tickets to Geinosky and nobody else and did so one right after the other. Many of the tickets were for violations at desolate roads where Geinosky has never been and many were written after he sold his car and put his old plates in his garage.

The department claims they are investigating but Geinosky says that, as of yet, no investigators have contacted him.

Navy Veteran On Trial For Resisting Arrest Alleges Police Racism And Brutality
US Navy veteran and bronze star awarded Kuldip Nag's trial on charges of obstruction and aggravated battery of a Joliet Illinois police officer resumed again last week.

Nag claims that the Joliet Police Officer, Ben Grant, peppersprayed him in the face and repeatedly hit him in the head with his baton while calling him an arab after he asked to call the officer's supervisor. The case has sparked outrage all the way out to India as Nag is a Sikh immigrant.

The officer claims he was attacked by an agitated Nag and his wife, but questions have been made by the judge who has asked why the officer was on Nag's property writing a ticket for expired tags when the vehicle being ticketed wasn't even on the street, let alone being driven.

There has still been no word on any progress in the case as the judge awaits word on the ordinance the officer claims to have been enforcing that day.

Ex-Chief With History of Misconduct Gets New Job As Chief In Another City
Remember the article I wrote about all those cases of police chief misconduct lately... Guess we'll be seeing more soon thanks to stories like this:

Fountain City Colorado has picked former Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino as chief of their police department. Last year Corsentino was suspended for leaving his gun in a restaurant bathroom and in 2004 he was investigated over sexual misconduct allegations from four separate women including allegations from one woman that she was blackmailed into withdrawing her complaint that he tried to get her to have sex with him while her husband was jailed by someone who claimed to have nude photos of her.

The city manager says of their pick "We're very excited about the desire he has to reconnect the department with the community." I'm not sure if the community will want to be connected in that way though.

Detroit Settles Wrongful Death Suit for $2,000,000 After Police Denied Dying Man Medical Treatment
The city of Detroit Michigan has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for a reported $2,000,000 against their police department over the death of 67 year old James Stone. Stone was arrested in August of 2005 and was being held at the department's second precinct while complaining of chest pains for hours.

Officers refused to provide him with medical attention or transport him to the hospital and he died of a heart attack in his holding cell. The judge in the case had berated the city for misconduct in the case when the city's attorney repeatedly refused to give Stone's estate's attorney information related to the case.

Trust me, given the shear volume of messages people have been sending me, it looks like the denial of medical care is the big trend in police abuse. It's much harder to prosecute or result in an official misconduct finding, hence that form of abuse's growing popularity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Patronage vs Misconduct - A Tale Of Two Cities Part 1

The Vice of Injustice and Virtue of Justice
frescoes at the Arena Chapel in Padua by Giotto

On January 30th, The Dallas Morning News broke a story about how two of four Dallas Police officers fired on 1/29/09 had actually been fired at least one other time previously but were reinstated upon appeal... and that one of those two, officer Fernando Perez, had actually been fired and reinstated twice before this latest disciplinary action.

Officer Perez had a history of misconduct that stretched back to 1991 when his field trainer recommended that he be fired while he was still a probationary officer because of poor performances when he interrogated and interviewed people. Other allegations included using racial epithets, failing to help a fellow officer as he was being beaten outside a bar, conducting illegal searches, excessive force, inappropriately conducting a 114 mph chase for a non-violent suspect, and misuse of police equipment.

But, repeatedly, a civil service review board would reduce the disciplinary findings and force the department to rehire him...

The other officer who was fired and rehired before being fired again, Sr. Cpl. Anthony Williams, was featured again in an article devoted entirely to him on February 22 which detailed a long and tortuous history of allegation after allegation of sexual misconduct that would only be met with minor disciplinary actions, if any at all.

But when Williams was finally fired the first time in 1996 for having sex while on duty, he was reinstated to continue with his 20 year career of abuse. This year he was finally fired... not for sexually abusing someone, but because he failed to respond to an emergency call while he was arguing with a woman who he had been having an affair with amidst allegations that he was doing so while on duty.

Why? Because Williams had the whole sexual misconduct game down pat by always targeting women that investigators would have a hard time taking seriously and women who would be afraid to complain about it. So, he was fired for failing to respond to a call instead of for the allegations that he was, again, having sex while on duty.

So, why has it been so hard for the Dallas police to fire problematic officers? Because of protections put into place to stop the systems of patronage, where politicians would fire public servants and staff offices with friends and supporters, and enforce a public service system based on merit.

However, in many localities, as police unions grew in power with their sought-after endorsements they were able to alter the civil review board memberships and change the rules that govern them in their own favor. This problem is exacerbated when we also add in the legislation police unions have been able to pressure lawmakers into passing in most states that keep misconduct and disciplinary records secret. This combination makes it nearly impossible to know who is ultimately to blame when repeat offender officers remain employed despite a clear history of abusive behavior.

Even so, it's still clear that some sort of system which prevents the political manipulation of civil servants, especially the police, is still necessary even when that system appears to be so easily corrupted into a safe haven for abusive officers. An example of the need for a system that protects officers from political abuses becomes clear when we look at what has been happening in the second city in this series.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-19-09

Manufacturing Guilt: Disturbing Video Evidence Shows Medical Examiner Misconduct In Mississippi
Over at ReasonOnline, Radley Balko closes what we hope is the final chapter on corrupt Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne and his supposed bite mark expert Michael West. Radley has doggedly followed their paths of destruction as they have allegedly put person after person behind bars by using faulty bite mark "evidence" and other findings that was later proven untrustworthy.

Some of the people put behind bars by these two have already been proven innocent, but countless people still remain in prison or on death row, put their with the duo's questionable work. In this story Balko slams the lid on these two medical "experts" with stunning video evidence from one of their autopsies that landed Jimmie Duncan on death row.

The video, (be warned, it is graphic), shows how the body of 23 month-old Haley Oliveaux was mutilated by West as he attempted to mark her body with a dental mold taken from Jimmie Duncan's teeth when no such marks were on her body before the examination... showing that this was a case of criminal evidence tampering that sent a potentially innocent man to death row... meaning that the pair essentially conspired to murder Jimmie Duncan.

Even though graphic and disturbing, this story is a must-read for anyone who doubts that innocent people can easily be intentionally convicted of crimes they didn't commit. If you're squeemish about seeing the videos, read a summary of the story at Radley's blog, The Agitator.

Multi-State Chase Ends With Brutal Beating
A cross-border police chase in Kansas City Missouri and Kansas ended when police began repeatedly punching and kicking a suspect after he put his hands behind his head and laid face-down on the ground.

Video of the incident was recorded by a news helicopter following the chase and several witnesses who watched the beating said they had to turn away because the beating was so violent. Both Kansas and Missouri authorities say they are investigating the incident which one ex-FBI agent called a case of "Code 3 Syndrome" where officers stop thinking clearly because of the adrenaline rush they get caused by the chase.

50 Year-Old Man May Be Permanently Blinded After Losing Eye During Police Encounter
Hartwell Georgia police officer Robert Mitchell has been accused of using excessive force during the arrest of 50 year-old Jimmy Lee Blackwell by Blackwell's family members who say that, while Blackwell should have been arrested, the level of force used was inappropriate.

Authorities say that Mitchell used pepperspray before resorting to a baton when Blackwell began to violently resist arrest. They claim that Mitchell was briefly hospitalized with a concussion while Blackwell's left eye had to be removed because facial fractures caused it to dislodge from it's socket and his right eye may also be damaged beyond repair.

Body-Slam Cop Says Video That Indicted Him Was Altered
Yonkers New York police officer Wayne Simoes, who was videotaped slamming Irma Marquez face-first onto the floor of a local bar has filed a motion in US District Court asking that the charges against him in that case be dismissed because he claims the video showing the body slam was sped up to make it look more dramatic.

Even if true, which I can't see as possible upon review of that video, it still doesn't argue against the dramatic injuries suffered by Marquez from the incident which left her with a fractured jaw, two black eyes, and a concussion.

San Fransisco Prepares To Pay Out $350,000 To Doctor Beaten By Police
The city of San Fransisco may have decided to settled a case of brutality brought against them by a Harvard resident physician Mehrdad Alemozaffar for $350,000.

The suit alleges that officers repeatedly smashed Alemozaffar's head against the pavement, injured his shoulder, and shocked him with a taser multiple times on his legs, back, side and wrist after restraining him with nylon ties... all for asking an officer who told him to "stop acting like a little girl" for his badge number.

Criminal Trial Against Connecticut Officer Delayed Almost 20 Times
A trial against Middletown Connecticut police officer Brian Lawlor for assault with a weapon and evidence tampering may finally be close to getting underway after being delayed at least 19 times.

The officer was fired over the incident where dashcam video showed him pistol-whipping a suspect, Alexis Hernandez, who was captured after a police chase. The officer was fired and charged after internal investigators reviewed the tape.

So much for "swift justice"

Top Paid Cop Earns His Pay The... Old Fashioned Way?
Speaking of justice, Scott at Simple Justice talks about the case of the highest paid employee in Schenectady New York who may have been pulling in thousands of dollars worth of overtime while... um... on his back?

You have to read this one to believe it...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flowing From The Top - A Disturbing Trend Or More Of The Same

Original Post 02/15/09 - 21:47
Updated 02/18/09 - 10:05

While part of what I do here involves scanning various news outlets for stories of police misconduct and detainee abuse. As such, sometimes I notice certain trends. While it's true that the number of stories of police abuses by officers in general appears to be constantly rising, overwhelmingly so in fact, I noticed another more disturbing trend possibly developing.

Perhaps you noticed it too, if you did then you might know why it is so disturbing. But if you haven't noticed it, here's a list of a few of the stories that make up this potential trend:

Sheriff Mike Carona

Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona was convicted in January of one count of witness tampering out of several other counts that were brought against him in a case where frustrated jurors claimed that, while they though he was not innocent, the feds failed to prosecute their case sufficiently over claims that he participated in a six year scheme to cheat his way into office just to enrich himself and his friends.
Police Chief Dexter Yarbrough
In January, ex-Chicago police officer and now suspended chief of the Colorado State University Police Department, Dexter Yarbrough, was under investigation into an undisclosed number of undisclosed complaints, rumored to deal with allegations of harassment, fraud, and threats, when a story in the university's newspaper brought some of the allegations against him to light.

Not only was Yarbrough the chief of police, but he also taught law enforcement classes there where a student recorded some of his lectures that appeared to advise aspiring law enforcement officers that it's ok to bribe informants with drugs, that brutality is normal, and that "they (women) want the dick".

Police Chief Manuel Cachopa
Stoughton Mass Police Chief Manuel Cachopa, who was fired recently after being convicted of being an accessory after the fact in an extortion case where he attempted to coerce a victim of police misconduct into not filing a complaint against one of his officers. He's facing up to seven years of prison for that.

Early in February an ex-officer won a $165,000 civil suit against the town for his being fired by the chief in retaliation for his part in the investigation against the chief.
Police Chief Sam Granato
Yakima Washington police chief Sam Granato is now facing allegations of sexual misconduct from a female police officer on top of existing allegations of retaliation against employees and a ruling against him over charges that he discriminated against a female officer by moving her out of the detectives division.

These allegations apparently aren't the first as others now appear to be coming from his previous post in Texas that he threatened a lieutenant there.
Police Chief Willie Fuller
In January of this year, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief Willie Fuller was arrested for allegedly using his computer to solicit what he believed to be a 14 year-old girl for sex in an online sexual predator sting operation.
Acting Police Chief Travis Glass
The former acting chief of Ferndale Washington Police Department has filed a lawsuit against the city in response to the city's lawsuit against him and those cases have passed back and forth between the federal and superior court a number of times now as lawyers continue to battle over what the proper venue might be.

The former acting-chief, Lt Travis Glass, allegedly agreed to resign as a result of an unspecified investigation into misconduct allegations against him in February of 2008 that were rumored to deal with accusations of sexual misconduct, but he never signed any agreement to that effect and sued the city for wrongful termination after he resigned. The city sued him for failing to abide by the agreement he orally agreed to when he resigned but never signed.
Police Chief Kecia Powell
The city of Culver Oregon was forced to disband their police department in January in the hopes of saving money by contracting out their police services while their police chief, Kecia Powell, was facing misconduct charges for abusing city-issued credit cards to pay her own bills.
Police Chief Jeffery Shaw
As of February 8, Northfield Police Chief Jeffery Shaw is facing decertification of his law enforcement certification, which would make him ineligible to continue on as chief of police in the small Vermont college town.

The revoking of his certification is the result of an ongoing investigation over possible criminal charges stemming from his signing off on training that allegedly never occurred for himself and his officers when they took over emergency medical services for the city, without completing the training required to be EMTs. He apparently also has enough gaps in his training that make him ineligible to be certified as a police officer.
Police Chief Wayne Tucker
In late January 2009, Oakland California Police Chief Wayne Tucker resigned after an FBI investigation into allegations against the director of his Internal Affairs department was announced. That officer, Captain Edward Poulson, is accused of ordering subordinates to cover up his involvement in beating a suspect so badly that he died a month later of his injuries... the chief picked him to head the IA department even after his own advisers warned him about the problems with his choice, which means most of the department and the chief were aware of the problem.
Police Chief Ricci Prein
Police Chief Ricci Prein of Roberts Wisconsin was fired in July 2008 on five counts of misconduct that included poor conduct towards village officials, making harassing phone calls to off-duty officers, ordering officer not to enforce closing laws agains a bar he frequented, and using his departmental computer to browse porn online.
Police Chief Greg Kroeplin
Canby Oregon Police Chief Greg Kroeplin is facing an independet investigation into FBI allegations that he intentionally concealed allegation of steroid abuse by one of his officers. That officer, Jason Deason, was arrested in February of this year on allegations that he illegally bought steroids while on duty and tipping off his dealer to pending busts as a result of that FBI investigation.
Police Chief Dave Willoughby
In January, The Police Chief of New Richmond Ohio, Dave Willoughby, is suing the state's bureau of criminal investigations for their treatment of him when they raided his house in search of evidence as part of their investigation of him on charges of menacing, harassment, and voyerism. The embattled chief says being the subject of a police raid was dehumanizing, though has not commented on how many similar raids he may have ordered during his time as chief.
Sheriff Greg Bartlett
Morgan County Alabama Sheriff Greg Bartlett was ruled in contempt of court last month when he refused to abide by a court order to feed his prisoners meals that met national standards for nutrition under a state program that let sheriffs take home any extra money that they saved by skimping on prisoner meals.
Sheriff Mike Burgess
Custer County Oklahoma Sheriff Mike Burgess was charged with coercing his female prisoners into participating in a sex-slavery operation that was run out of his jail.

In January he was found guilty of 13 felony counts and the jury recommended that he serve 94 years in prison for his crimes, but now Oklahoma officials don't know where to detain him safely while he awaits his long appeals process.

Yes, if you didn't figure it out, the apparent trend is that there's been an astonishing jump in the number of convictions, cases filed, and investigations into alleged misconduct by top leadership in police departments and sheriff's offices across the United States.

This jump is stunning simply because it forces us to question whether the old assumption that cases of misconduct are caused by "just a few bad apples". After all, when the top leadership of an organization appears to be corrupt, we must question whether or not the entire organization is corrupt, or at least accommodating towards corruption, as well.

The true and most disturbing part of this apparent trend becomes clearer when we examine just how such people rose through the ranks of police leadership and became heads of their respective departments. After all, if police misconduct was just a matter of a few bad apples, how did so many bad apples rise to the top?

One possibility, and the strongest I think, is seen in the way many police chiefs deal with misconduct within their own departments when it becomes difficult to fire officers in municipalities with strong police unions or when government officials put pressure on departments to cover up abuses out of litigation fears.

Instead of wasting energy trying to enforce disciplinary actions against problematic officers when that discipline will only be overturned when the union appeals to a public employment board, chiefs often resort to the tactic of promoting those officers to desk jobs, which get them off the streets and minimizes the potential for those officers to interact in ways with the public that exposes the department to litigation.

That might seem like an ideal solution, until we look at what happens next. Once problematic officers fill out more of the police leadership ranks than officers who advanced through their merits, rank and file learn that the best way to advance is to misbehave, they learn that misconduct is not only tolerated, but rewarded.

Further destroying such departments is that corrupt officers gravitate towards corrupt leaders, and corrupt leaders tend to favor officers who think like they do and they also tend to push away honest officers, which means all those higher ranking officers tend to reward the more aggressive and belligerent officers while punishing the honest cops who would tend to report abuse instead of being quiet about it or even participating in it.

We see examples of this often in cases where entire elite policing units get wrapped up in scandals, many of those caught mention a culture of permissive behavior that encouraged and rewarded abuses.

Worst of all, and what has led to this seemingly expansive list of police chiefs caught in the act of misconduct is that these high ranking officers, who were promoted due to misconduct, do eventually become eligible to be police chiefs due to their supervisory experience that would never have been gained if misconduct had resulted in discipline instead of advancement.

So, what does this mean? That it can't be just one bad apple when a police chief is caught participating in acts of misconduct. It means there is likely a culture of misconduct which raised that person to their position and that this person likely nourished their own culture of misconduct along the way as well.

It means, frighteningly enough, that for every one bad leader, there are likely multiple departments with cultures of misconduct that include the department that the chief or sheriff ended up leading as well... It means that the problem underlying that single leader's corruption is far more expansive than most realize at first glance.

That should give anyone pause whenever they hear of a single case of corrupt police leadership... let alone the striking number of cases that have come to light recently.

What do you think? Leave a comment below to let me know.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Annual State-Of-The-Site Survey

This site has been operational for over a year now and I've been wondering lately whether it's been close to achieving some of what I had hoped it would achieve.

This site is supposed to exist in order to help inform people about police misconduct and detainee abuse in order to:

  • Convince people that these problems are real, can happen to anyone, and are serious enough to prompt reforms to the way police and jails operate in the US.
  • Advocate on behalf of victims of such abuses who normally don't have a voice in order to convince people that more needs to be done to help prevent misconduct and to help victims of misconduct and abuse achieve normal lives after such life-altering events.

This site also exists as a resource for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse in order to:
  • Help victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse find resources to help them address their immediate needs after becoming a victim of abuse.
  • Allow victims to tell their stories from their own perspective in order to help counter the media biases police departments, prosecutors, and government officials utilize against victims of misconduct.

Honestly, I don't know if this site is working as intended... So I've made some polls and I hope that our readers will take the time to let me know if this site is at least beginning to come close to doing what it was meant to do...

So, please take some time to fill out the poll questions below and or send us a comment or email to let me know how I'm doing with my stated goals or if there might be something I can do better.

Thank you.

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-17-09

Local News

Seattle Officer In Charge Of Inauguration Delegation Arrested for DUI Before Trip to DC
The Seattle Police officer in charge of the contingent of officers sent to Barack Obama's inauguration was allowed to represent Seattle even after he was arrested for driving while drunk. Now, rank and file officers in the SPD are saying it's an example of preferential treatment given to high ranking officers by Chief Kerlikowske as he prepares to be Obama's drug czar.

Per the Seattle PI which quotes the WSP report and court documents:
"A trooper heading south on I-5 spotted a black 2003 Land Rover drifting out of its lane just before 2 a.m. on Nov. 23. The vehicle crossed traffic into the adjacent lane at least three times without signaling, straddling two lanes for more than 10 seconds at a time.

When (Lt. Donnie) Lowe rolled down his window, his eyes were bloodshot and his breath smelled of alcohol. His pants were unbuckled and unbuttoned, exposing his underwear. A passenger, who isn't identified was also in the vehicle.

"The defendant stated he was coming from a club and he had gone to the bathroom before he left," the trooper wrote in her report.

The trooper also noticed a glass of dark-colored liquid in the middle console. Lowe told the trooper the glass contained "just pop," police reports say. The trooper sniffed the glass and smelled what she observed to be hard alcohol.

After field sobriety tests in which Lowe swayed heavily, the trooper asked him to turn around so she could handcuff him. Her report says, "He stated that was not a good thing. I asked the defendant why, and he stated he worked for the Seattle Police Department," court documents say."
This isn't the lieutenant's first problem in the SPD though. One incident resulted in his being reassigned to the department's Homeland Security Bureau when he was investigated for allegedly using his status as an officer to gain entry to a holding cell where his own son was being kept and then striking him. He was also the subject of an unflattering Seattle PI article on how officers use obstruction charges as leverage a year ago.

Spokane City Officers Arrest Spokane County Officer
Spokane Police Officers in Spokane Washington arrested a Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy after receiving a call about a suspicious man lurking around a woman's back yard...

The officers say they didn't know he was a deputy as the man refused to identify himself and became violent when he refused officer's demands to submit to a search for any weapons he might have been carrying. They later discovered he was a deputy when he was taken to jail on charges of obstruction and resisting arrest.

Federal Way Judge Accused Of Retaliation
A Federal Way Washington judge, Michael Morgan, is in the center of controversy after a municipal court supervisor filed a civil suit asserting that she had been fired in January for reporting concerns about Judge Michael Morgan's mental state after she alleged that he threatened to hurt himself or others when he was feeling pressure due to a reprimanded by the Commission on Judicial Conduct for making threatening comments to court employees, making sexual comments to his staff, and swearing at a police chief in December.

National News

"But Look At His Face, We Fucked Him Up!"
Sergio Robles spent two years waiting for the truth to come out, that he had never assaulted the police officers who had pepper-sprayed and beaten him so badly that they were afraid to leave him in a holding cell because they thought he was going to die.

But, in dashcam video taken from one cruiser, the truth was there but was withheld from his defense lawyers for over a year. After it was released, a jury found him innocent of all charges and now the Santa Fe police department is the subject of a civil suit over the beating and subsequent jailing of Sergio Robles.

From the KHOU Channel 11 report:
"In the video, one officer grabs Robles' arm and slams him into the hood of a patrol car.

Robles is then taken to the ground where the officers begin throwing punches. One officer hit him in the face. The other punched him in the stomach and ribs.

He was then maced and handcuffed.

There was more video and audio as Robles was being booked in jail and the officers were bragging about what they'd done.

"It was on man. He's back there right now. He's in the booking area," said one officer. "We can't even put him in a cell. We're afraid he'll die."

"But look at his face," said another officer on the tape. "We [expletive] him up."

Robles says he felt certain he was going to die that night...

Readers, I want you to imagine laying there in agony on a cold concrete police station floor, hardly able to breathe, unable to get up, bleeding everywhere with your arms painfully handcuffed behind your back while officers walking by do nothing for you but laugh at you and make sadistic twisted jokes about you.

Can you imagine how terrifying that is? To think you're about to die and that the last sounds you will ever hear are the sadistic laughs of those who you were supposed to believe were there to protect you?

Trust me... whatever fear you were able to imagine, it's worse than that to live it. I know, I've lived it... and the fear of police an experience like that creates never goes away.

I hope Robles wins his case, what happened to him should not happen to anyone anywhere, let alone here in the US.

New Orleans Officers Who Shot Adolph Grimes Had History Of Complaints
As mentioned previously, Oscar Grant wasn't the only person shot by police under questionable circumstances as we rung in the new year. Several of the New Orleans police officers who shot Adolph Grimes 14 times, 9 of those shots in the back, early on New Years Day are also facing several other allegations of misconduct, including allegations over one other incident that occurred just before they opened fire on Grimes while he was parked outside of his grandmother's house.

The officers, apparently part of an elite police unit consisting of narcotics officers and others, were patrolling in plain clothes and dressed as tourists when they shot Grimes, who has no criminal record. The attorney for the officer's union declared that the high number of complaints against the officers involved in the shooting is a testament to how good a job they've been doing and how professional they are.

Second Trial Against Dymond Milburn Results In Mistrial, Prosecutors Give Up
Apparently there is an update in the case of Dymond Milburn, the 12 year old African American girl who was roughed up by undercover Galveston police officers who claim they mistook her for a white prostitute reportedly in the area and then prosecuted for allegedly assaulting the officers who grabbed her in her own yard and then covered her mouth when she began to scream.

A second jury trial has resulted in a mistrial after the jury in that trial was deadlocked when 5 of the 6 jurors refused to hand down a guilty verdict for allegations that the honors student assaulted officers when they jumped her and arrested in her yard.

Prosecutors say they will not attempt to put her on trial for a third time saying that they doubt they will get a different result. During the trial the prosecutors attempted to suggest that Dymond's injuries, that included bruise marks on her neck, similar to choking marks, and head trauma was caused by a tree she attempted to grab while the unidentified officers tried to drag her away from her yard.

The defense claimed that her injuries were the result of officers bludgeoning her and choking her when they jumped her in her own yard. Oddly, she wasn't arrested for allegedly assaulting officers that night, but weeks later while she was in class at school... supposedly after it became clear a civil suit was in the works. That civil suit is still pending.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-13-09 - Local Edition

A lot of news going on in Seattle so instead of a regular News Watch I'm turning the focus local for this issue... even though I have a lot of catching up to do for some national stories I'm looking into.

Arrested For Standing While Black
Tim Harris at the always intriguing Apesmas Lament tells the tale of a Real Change newspaper vendor named Donald Morehead who was selling copies of the local advocacy weekly paper when a Seattle Police officer allegedly knocked one of his teeth out, slammed his head against a cruiser, and then arrested him...

Morehead's crime?

Apparently nothing more than standing while black one of the city's "drug enforcement zones". The officer arrested Morehead on unspecified charges, though Morehead had no drugs and only a few copies of the paper and $20.00 from the copies that he had already sold.

The money was confiscated as alleged "drug money" and Morehead spent 16 days in the King County Jail until people at the paper raised enough for the $160 bail.

Tim first mentioned the case in a post on the fifth when he first discovered Morehead was in jail from a public defender who was representing him and started collecting money for his release shortly afterward.

This type of racially-based enforcement activity has been becoming more common in Seattle with the NAACP noting the issue towards the end of last year which also sparked allegations of retaliation when officers later charged a witness of a racial profiling incident named Yvonne Gaston who testified for the NAACP's news conference, of assaulting an officer a day after that conference... strangely enough, weeks after the alleged incident occurred.

Harris has recently joined with other community activists in an effort, Initiative 100, to force the city to allow voters to decide whether or not the city should build a new jail to house more prisoners or work on alternative ways to reduce the need for more jail space... like not arresting so many people on questionable charges.

Though now out on bail, Morehead is still facing charges, though no word yet about whether a legal defense fund has been established for him.

King County Deputy Charged For Beating A 15 Year Old Girl
Update: The video has been released
King County sheriff deputy Paul Schene has been charged with 4th degree assault for allegedly kicking, punching, and pulling a 15 year old girl while booking her into jail.

The incident was recorded by security cameras at the jail where the officer and his partner were booking two teenage girls into juvenile jail under suspicion of auto theft in November of last year.

He alleged in charging papers that she had assaulted him when she was removing her shoes and, according to the girl, one slipped off her foot and hit the officer in the shin.

An investigator reviewing the tapes to prepare the case of assaulting an officer against the girl saw the deputy kick the girl, shove her against a wall, take her down to the floor in a hair-hold, and then punch her twice.

Ex-Civilian Review Board Member Running For City Council
Perhaps just as interesting on a local level as was the nomination of SPD Chief Gil Kerlikowske as drug czar was the announcement from ex-OPARB member Pete Holmes that he is running for an unspecified city council seat in the next election, according to The Seattle Weekly "Daily Weekly" blog.

Holmes was one of the then three member civilian review board that sharply criticized Kerlikowske for allegedly working behind the scenes to influence an internal investigation of two officers who were accused of planting drugs and lying on arrest reports. The board then had it's last report to city council censored because of it's criticism of the department's internal investigation process before it was disbanded and all of it's members replaced.

Holmes graduated from Yale University, earned his law degree from the University of Virginia, and currently works at a local law firm specialized in commercial bankruptcy law.

Victim Of Police Excessive Force Forced To File Lawsuit On His Own
Jonah at The Stranger Blog (SLOG) has an update on the case of Mark Hays who was subjected to a barrage of punches to the head and knees to the torso when he was arrested in November of 2007 by undercover SPD "Anti-Crime Team" officers after he and a friend had jaywalked in front of their unmarked SUV. The tail end of the beating he received that night was caught on a dashcam video of a responding SPD officer's cruiser.

An internal investigation into that arrest found that the officer who beat Hays had used excessive force and that he was misleading when interviewed by investigators looking into complaints about that violent arrest, even though Hays himself was found guilty of assaulting an officer for allegedly jumping on one of the officer's backs during the incident.

It appears, according to Jonah, that Hays has now filed a civil suit against the city seeking $750,000 in damages for the beating, for improperly withholding public records, and for conspiring to deny a proper investigation into allegations of misconduct... all without a lawyer to represent him.

I certainly wish him all the best, but worry about why he's going it alone at this point.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske May Be New Drug Czar

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is reportedly being considered for a cabinet-level position within the Obama administration, at least according to some unnamed sources. Those sources also hint that it appears as though Kerlikowske will be the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or “drug czar”. (ABC News now says it has confirmed this. -02/11/09 11:49)

Admittedly, Kerlikowske has had quite a bit of bad press in Seattle, especially over his handling of police misconduct issues. Most criticisms cite a tendency for being lenient towards officers who have had sustained findings of misconduct as determined by internal investigations performed by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (SPD OPA).

Those criticisms came to a head in 2007 after an officer who was accused of severely beating an African American man outside of a local venue received a promotion instead of discipline. That result came about because the internal investigation into the complaint, which originally sustained a finding of excessive force, had run over a 180 day limit that results in an automatic finding of exoneration when expired. The city later settled a civil case over that beating.

Another well-publicized case in May of 2007, involving officers accused of lying and planting drugs, implicated Kerlikowske with accusations that the chief interfered in the subsequent investigation of the officers when he overturned recommended disciplinary recommendations for those officers. This case in particular pushed the mayor and city council to form panels to review the police oversight and disciplinary process. That resulted in a series of recommendations that were only partially implemented a year later… one of the dropped recommendations was that the 180 day cap on investigations be lifted.

There have been many upon many other cases where the chief has been accused of showing an obvious bias towards officers accused of abuses and misconduct though, as illustrated in part of the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s “Strong Arm of the Law” series of reports on undisciplined misconduct and findings of dishonesty that were reduced by the chief within the Seattle Police Department that ran in early 2008.

Kerlikowske has also been unabashed at times about defending officers who have been accused of excessive force, even when damning video footage accompanied such complaints. One such example was during an interview he did with KING 5 reporters over allegations of excessive force that he overturned. While viewing a tape of one of his officers hitting a man who was shackled to a chair in a hospital with his nightstick the chief remarked the the officer “clearly (used force) on a person who had already been fighting, to keep him in line from kicking the person who was walking by. I just think that's very obvious." ...after he had been handcuffed to a chair.

As for his stance on drug law enforcement, he has taken a stance against a referendum that made simple possession of marijuana the lowest priority for the law enforcement, which still passed by popular vote. Yet he has also indicated that he supports the notion that offering non-violent drug addicts treatment is a better alternative to incarceration, though not clearly nor forcefully so.

However, as a possible indicator of the direction he would take as drug czar, there was also the disturbing case of a raid performed on a medical marijuana clinic in Seattle that also resulted in police confiscating patient files and computers containing medical information... even though medical use is permitted in Washington state. The confiscation of personal medical records and disregard for the privacy of citizens that this case showed is certainly a dangerous precedent if such tactics were employed on a federal scale.

While community and drug law activists all say that, even though Kerlikowske is not amenable to drug law reforms, he is still likely to be an improvement over previous drug czars who have been aggressive about ramping up America’s war on drugs, there are signs that he could take that war in new directions that aren't so pleasant either.

But, should Kerlikowske’s abysmal reputation for lax discipline within his department and lack of respect for privacy laws be a detractor for his nomination to a cabinet-level post within the Obama administration?

Well, first of all, King County Executive Ron Simms’ abysmal record of tolerating human rights abuses within his own jail and the sharp criticisms over the mistreatment of animals in the county shelters didn’t stop Obama from nominating him to a high-level post within his administration, so why should a police chief who has been accused of turning a blind eye to police misconduct be a concern?

Snarking aside, Much of Kerlikowske’s reputation for overturning findings of misconduct and choosing to go against disciplinary recommendations made by internal affairs investigators may be due to issues well beyond the chief’s control.

An honest appraisal would find that his hands have been tied, in at least some cases, by a very aggressive and strong police union and a very biased civil service review board that consistently overturns disciplinary actions taken against police officers when they appeal disciplinary actions with the help of the aggressive police union in Seattle.

The result has been a number of penalties against the city that cost a great deal of money and an increasing number of precedents that favor the police union’s efforts to overturn findings of misconduct. This ultimately forced the chief to choose between imposing disciplinary findings he knows will be overturned and cost the city money in the process... or imposing very relaxed standards within the department to avoid tension with the strong police union that had previously imposed a vote of no confidence against him early in his term as chief.

It’s possible he had little choice but to let his officers run rampant over the civil rights of Seattle’s citizens, but he didn’t have to be such a staunch defender of those actions if he took them out of necessity. Nor did he have to be so ambivalent about disturbing charges of racial profiling against his department that still persist to this day.

But, ultimately, Obama will do what he wants. I know a small voice like mine wouldn’t make a difference in his choices for filling his cabinet with people who have questionable civil rights records or who have tolerated so much misconduct by those in their charge… so, I think I have no choice but to join the chorus in saying that while Obama could have done better than this choice… he also could have done a lot worse.

...But, I still wonder why I feel disturbed about this choice when I recall that similar things had been said about our previous president's choices and actions when he first got into office as well... that, well, at least he could have done worse as well.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Site News for 02-09-09

First of all, sorry for the slowdown in posting. With the economic downturn seeming to be in full swing, employers are in the position to demand more from the people they keep... so it goes for me as well and I've been bogged down in project work. Hopefully I'll have time soon to post something worth posting.

This leads me to remind readers that this site is a solo operation... it's just me. I'm not a lawyer, just someone who wants to give victims of police misconduct a voice and convince the general public that police misconduct is a real issue that they should care about. At the same time, I do try to give victims of misconduct and abuse access to the resources that were difficult for me to find as a victim myself.

But, being one person, there might be things I missed out there, so if there are resources you're aware of that I missed, please let me know!

Also, again, I'm not a lawyer. So, when you do write with stories of being abused by the police that plead for help, there are limits to what I can do to help. It frustrates me that I can't do more as well, trust me, each story I read truly disturbs me and some go beyond that even... but I can't give legal advice nor tell you how to file a civil rights suit... I'm not a lawyer.

  • I can refer you to civil rights lawyers or criminal defense attorneys if needed.
  • I can help you find the best way to present your case to attorneys.
  • I can publish your story but will only do that if you specifically ask me to publish it. (and yes, there are stories I keep quiet about that really need to be told because I wasn't asked to print them)
  • Or I can just listen and tell you I believe you, which would have meant a lot to me when I went through the same thing...

But there isn't really much else I can do... I wish there was more. If there is something else you think I can do to help victims of misconduct and detainee abuse, let me know as well... but remember I'm just one man and I'm not a lawyer.

Thanks for reading, and thanks ahead of time for any suggestions.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-05-09

As misconduct reports climb, more people than ever still trust cops.

Before I get into today's news headlines, I just want to say that it's getting harder and harder to keep up with all the reports of police misconduct that are popping up all over the US and abroad. Given that President Obama has pledged to give billions more to police departments without any accountability reform strings attached, the problem is undoubtedly going to get worse... After all, boys with new toys will always try to find some excuse to play with them.

One of the goals of this site is to make people aware that police misconduct does happen, that it happens to everyday innocent people like them, and that it can happen to them too... But it's an uphill climb to convince people of that given that over 75% of the US population believes police officers are inherently trustworthy according to a 2006 Harris Interactive Poll of Trusted Occupations which placed police as ranked 4th behind doctors, teachers, and scientists in a list of most trusted occupations.

It gets frustrating sometimes... but I do the best I can. So, if I miss a story, please let me know at or in the comments and I'll try to put it up.

Thank you...

Pierce County Jail Guard Threatens Family In Road Rage Incident
A Pierce County corrections officer has been charged with assault in the second degree for pointing a gun at another car in an apparent road rage incident. In order to try and cover for the act of threatening a family with a 12 year old girl in the car he called 911 and told the operator that the family was ramming his car and might have seen a gun on his dashboard...

The problem was that the family had also called 911 when the Kent Washington Regional Justice Center corrections officer forced their car to stop and pointed a gun at them while holding his corrections officer ID against their window. When police arrived they noticed the guard's car had no marks that would indicate that it had been rammed by the family in the other car.

The guard, Yury Nijnik, has been placed on leave while facing charges and could be fired since he is still in his first year probationary period... otherwise, it would be as difficult to fire him as it is to fire police officers as it would involve rounds of internal investigations, loudermill hearings, appeals to public employement boards, and then court challenges.

Canby Oregon Cop Faces Charges For Buying Steroids While On Duty
Canby Oregon police officer Jason Deason is now facing charges that he illegally purchased steroids and human growth hormones, allegedly 100 pills at a time every month, while on duty. The FBI claims that one of Deason's suppliers admited that he sold to Deason and even gave investigators an order for pills that Deason filled out on Canby police department stationary.

Canby Police Chief Greg Kroeplin has been on paid vacation since November while the city continues to look into allegations that he refused to investigate previous allegations that Deason was on steroids and that he would tip off his suppliers about any planned drug raids.

Federal Chicago Torture Squad Probe Goes Deeper
Federal investigators have widened their probe into Jon Burge's torture squad to include a few of the officers who were under his command when suspects were tortured into making confessions back in the 1980's. Burge is currently facing charges for providing false testimony to federal authorities during a civil suit over the abuses, but will not face charges for the abuses themselves since the statute of limitations ran out.

Baltimore's Defunct Elite Police Unit Sued Over Public Strip Search
A $210 million civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the city of Baltimore over the actions of the Baltimore police department's now defunct elite "Special Enforcement Team" when they pulled over a Navy veteran, strip-searched him, and then did a body cavity search in the middle of the street in front of a gathering crowd... and then sped away without explaination.

The elite "proactive policing taskforce" was disbanded later in 2006 after a susequent investigation discovered a pattern of abusive behavior which overturned about 100 criminal convictions. We did a special report about the pattern of problems with and tendency towards corruption within proactive policing taskforces that are used all over the US and Canada last year.

Speaking of problematic elite policing units...

Los Angeles Police Department Costing City A Fortune
The city of Los Angeles has agreed to pay out $12.85 million dollars to victims of the May Day attack on immigration demonstrators, reporters, and innocent bystanders by the LAPD's elite Metro Division that used batons and rubber bullets indescriminately on the largely peaceful crowd, attacking protesters and journalists alike.

The city has grown concerned with the level of liability the LAPD has brought on the city when they noted that this was one of many large settlements recently paid out with more on the horizon. One council member noted after voting to approve the settlement that ammount paid out for the May Day assault could have been used to hire 130 new police officers instead, if it weren't for the lack of accountability within the LAPD that allowed the misconduct to occur.

Legal Immigrant Alleges Police Brutality Over Traffic Stop
Manassas Virginia police officers are accused of beating immigrant from El Salvador during a routine traffic stop for a broken headlight when the woman, who barely understands english, refused to sign the ticket. Her brother witnessed the assault and a store manager saw the aftermath while he was leaving his store where officers were carying the barely concious woman to an ambulance after bouncing her head off of a cruiser and the pavement.

Louisiana Residents Protest Persistent Police Mistreatment
Eunice Lousiana residents attended a packed town hall meeting in a local church with Saint Landry sheriff and a representative from the US DOJ to talk about the numerous complaints they've filed against two Eunice officers, all without any response from the Eunice chief of police.

Residents say they're afraid to leave their homes for being harassed by Lieutenant Varden Guillery and officer AJ Frank who they say target local African American residents mercilessly. Ultimately they hope the current chief of police either suspends the two, resigns himself, or that the DOJ will investigate their complaints since the local police refuse to.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-03-09

Screenshot of fake site created by SPD officers to gather information on police misconduct victims.


Seattle Police Department's Spy Website Still Active
The fake "Injustice In Seattle" website (click at your own risk), created by some Seattle Police officers in an apparent attempt to trick victims of police misconduct into giving up their personal information, is still operational over a year since it first popped up in response to this site being created.

I was hoping the domain registration they made at the GoDaddy-hosted site would have been allowed to elapse after a year but their host has now given them the domain for free. Sadly, the officers are apparently having some degree of success in gathering information from victims of misconduct for possible retaliation or who knows what reason.

I say it's probably being effective at tricking people into believing it's part of this site because it's recently risen in Google search rankings to just two spots below this site and is actually listed ahead of this site in MSN Search rankings... which means people are being tricked into going there, where they are immediately prompted for their personal contact information, more often.

Not much I can do about it though since it's not like I can call the police to complain about what the police are doing.

The SPOG Guardian Available To Public Again
Also in SPD news, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild has recently made their monthly newsletter, The Guardian, accessible to the public again after they had taken access away while the one of the Guild board members, and editor of The Guardian, was facing charges in relation to a Sturgis bike rally shooting, of which were dropped a few months ago.

The latest, December, edition contains the usual angry rantings against the Office of Professional Accountability (SPD's Internal Affairs department) and insists to members that the latest contract does not affect the existing loopholes in the accountability system that allows officers to get off scott free if they can delay an internal investigation past a 180 day limit and that the new language to fire officers found to have lied in investigations will be impossible for the OPA to actually enforce.


Stoughton Police Officer Wins Suit Against Stoughton Police Department
The city of Stoughton lost a $165,000 civil suit that was filed by a Stoughton Police detectives supervisor who was demoted in retaliation for investigating the recently convicted police chief Manuel Cachopa.

Acting police chief Christopher Ciampa demoted Robert Welch in 2005 after he was assigned to assist a special prosecutor with the investigation and when he refused to support a petition to remove council members who were responsible for removing Cachopa as chief of police.

Both Cachopa and the officer he attempted to cover for, David Cohen, were recently convicted on a variety of charges including witness intimidation, attempted extortion, filing false reports, and accessory to attempted extortion over their efforts to discourage someone from filing a misconduct complaint against Cohen.

Michigan Officer Claims She Was Fired For Complaining About Misconduct
A Raisin township police officer in Michigan has filed a lawsuit against her own police department alleging that she was fired for complaining about misconduct within the department in an effort to keep that misconduct, including sexual harassment, under wraps. The department denies the allegations and, predictably, asserts that she was fired for misconduct herself.

In talking with other officers who have won similar suits against their police departments, the former officer's accounting of how she was fired and why strikes a familiar chord with them... as it did with me too.

The Million Dollar High-Five
The city of Hawthorne California has paid out a $1,000,000 settlement in a civil rights suit alleging that Hawthorne police officers brutally beat a man before and after he was handcuffed and then high-fived each other when one officer kicked the handcuffed man in the face so hard that his jaw was broken. All this over a noise complaint.

The suit also alleged that officers denied the man medical care and then arrested his wife only because she witnessed the attack. Criminal charges against the two failed to gain convictions and the couple sued. After their lawyers, Jonas & Driscoll LLP, revealed they had video evidence of the officers congratulating each other for the beating and a picture of one officer kicking the handcuffed victim in the head while he was laying face down on the ground, the city apparently decided to settle. No word on whether the officers were ever disciplined, but I'd bet they weren't.


Indian Police Beat Up Six Year-Old Girl
In a market near Lohamandi in India, two officers have been suspended after two officers assaulted a 6 year old Dalit girl while six other officer looked on silently. Images of the assault have sparked rebukes from human rights organizations and charges may be filed against all officers involved. Charges have also been filed against the girl under allegations that she stole a walled from a woman at the market.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Video Analysis - Was Pirone Justified When He Punched Oscar Grant

BART Police Officers Tony Pirone (left) and Johannes Mehserle (right)

Tony Pirone, the BART police officer who has been accused of punching Oscar Grant in the head before he was shot in the back by Johannes Mehserle, has retained a lawyer and his lawyer has made a public statement suggesting that his client was justified when he struck Grant.

His lawyer, Bill Rapoport, claims that he had a video expert analyze the video which shows Pirone striking Grant and claims that it shows Grant attempting to hit Pirone with his knee at least twice.

So, I decided to take another look myself, using the same video I analyzed when I discovered that Pirone struck Grant the first time to see if his lawyer's claim holds any water.

When watching this video yourself, focus on Grant's legs, specifically, watch his hips and thighs. In order to use a knee strike, one has to bend their legs at the hip and pull the leg up from the hip to at least a 45 degree angle or greater, ideally while swiveling at the hip at the same time. To be an effective knee strike to the groin or torso, the knee needs to come up to 90 degrees, perpendicular to the hip.

00:00 - At the begining of the video, Pirone is holding down a man that he had already handcuffed several feet away from where Oscar Grant and two others are standing against a wall talking with another officer. If Grant was being combative at this time, why didn't the other officer restrain Grant?

00:05 - Pirone stands up and begins walking over to Oscar Grant and the two others standing against the station wall. He doesn't rush which indicates he doesn't sense a threat from the three, nor does it appear as though he feels the three are threatening his fellow officer.

00:06 - Pirone has just about reached Grant and begins to raise his arms towards Grant, signalling an intent to go hands-on as soon as he reaches Grant. Grant cannot knee Pirone at this point and is still turned towards the other officer.

00:07 - Pirone reaches Grant and immediately grabs him by the front of his shirt, there is no hessitation and Grant's legs are clearly visible at this point, with no evidence that Grant attempted to knee Pirone, as Pirone's lawyer claimed.

00:08 - As Pirone begins shaking Grant back and forth, Grant is forced to take a step forward with his right foot in order to keep himself steady, the step forward is clearly an effort to keep his balance and there is still no evidence of an attempted knee strike.

Grant then takes a stutter-step in an effort to keep his balance while still being moved around by Pirone, but his legs remain straight, they don't bend sufficiently enough to be termed a knee-strike.

00:09 - The camera is jostled up which obscures Grant's lower legs, but his thighs are still visible enough to show that he never moves his legs up from his hip, which would be necessary for a knee-strike.

00:10 - At this point Pirone punches Grant in the face so hard that his head snaps back and his legs buckle underneath him and the witnesses from the train audibly gasp. Grant begins to slide down the side of the platform wall while Pirone attempts to hold him up.

00:11-00:13 - The camare jostles too much to get a clear view of what happens for these 2 seconds.

00:14 - Pirone has let go of Grant and appears to order Grant to sit against the platform wall.

00:14-00:17 - Grant complies and slides to a seated position. As Pirone steps forward again he appears to be holding a taser, and Grant puts his hands up, palms out, in supplication.

00:21 - Pirone points what may be a taser at a subject to Grant's right and that person begins to go to the seated position.

00:24 - Pirone takes a few steps back.

00:27 - Another officer approaches from Pirone's left. At this time Prione could have told this officer to restrain Grant, which he should have done if Grant had attempted to strike him, after all, attempting to hit an officer is an arrestable offense and Prione would have put his fellow officers at risk if he didn't have Grant handcuffed at that time.

00:29 - Pirone turns and walks towards the other person who is laying, already handcuffed, a few feet away from Grant.

00:30-00:49 - The camera holder apparently tries to hide his camera or moves to find a better vantage point.

00:49 - Grant is still not handcuffed and officers appear to be focused on a man seated to Grant's left when the camera regains it's vantage point.

00:53 - While Pirone is bent over talking to Grant on Grant's front-right side, an officer who appears to be Mehserle begins struggling with the man on Grant's left and then hits the man on the top of the head with a downward strike of the type that would indicate that he was using a blunt object.

Grant remains seated, witness accounts stated that Grant was attempting to calm the others down at this point. It's difficult to determine whether this strike on the other man by the officer who appears to be Mehserle was warranted or not.

00:53-1:22 Grant and Prione continue to have some sort of discussion that includes some back and forth finger-pointing, but nobody attempts to actually place Grant under arrest and handcuff him.

01:23 - Pirone appears to order Grant's arrest and Mehserle pulls Grants arms behind him while Grant is in a kneeling position. A full minute and 13 seconds has elapsed since Pirone punched Grant in the head. Again, if Pirone's lawyer's claims were true, why take so long before ordering the arrest of Grant?

01:27 - Grant appears to be pushed face first down to the platform floor and Pirone drops down to plant his knee on Grant's neck.

01:27 - 01:30 - What's interesting at this point is that while Mehserle attempts to get Grant's left arm and lets go of Grant's right arm, Grant keeps his right arm behind his back on his own.

If Grant was truly struggling against officers, he would pull his right arm back in or put it under him so he could push up off the officers, but he doesn't, which indicates instead that he is struggling to comply with demands to give officers his other arm, which he might not be able to do since officer Prione has him immobilized with his knee in Grant's neck.

...from this point on, sadly, we know the rest.

From this video, it's fairly clear that Grant did not attempt to knee Pirone and it's clear that Pirone was the aggressor as he grabbed Grant and began to shake him as soon as he reached Grant... and that he did this without provocation, at least without legally justifiable provocation... unless Grant has an invisible leg with an equally invisible knee that can extend outwards to several feet away.

It's also clear that the actions subsequent to Pirone punching Grant do not mesh with Prione's lawyer's account of events since, if Grant had attempted to assault Pirone, he should have been taken into custody and been physically restrained at that point. Instead, Pirone turns his back on Grant and leaves him unrestrained for over a minute before ordering his arrest.

So, why am I bothering posting about the Oscar Grant case again, even when I said I wouldn't and I'm sure that my readers are tired of hearing about it?

Well, honestly, I do think it's very possible for what happened to Oscar Grant to happen to me some day. After all, police officers aren't very happy about what this site is about and sometimes they have problems controlling their tempers.

So, if what happened to Oscar Grant happened to me, I would want someone out there to stick up for me and take the time to make sure that others didn't try to cover up what really happened and that I was defended when the people who harmed me also tried to harm my reputation after my death.

...wouldn't you too?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Posts Today

No posts today... My wife and I are celebrating our 15th year anniversary so I won't be posting anything today.

Yes, I know, some big stories today, like Tony Pirone's lawyer claiming Pirone struck Grant so hard that his head snapped back and knees buckled because Grant allegedly tried to knee Pirone... even though the video shows Pirone march angrily up to Grant and then he immediately put his hands on Grant and shook him before punching him... which seems to make Pirone the aggressor here.

To heck with that... on this day I'll leave you with this story instead, a story of a couple that I thought was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

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