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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.


Karl Mansoor said...

The large volume of high level law enforcement officials caught in various acts of misconduct now coming to light is not because the misconduct is an aberration or because somehow some localities are cleaning house. It is because the misconduct in police culture is so pervasive along with the code of silence that misconduct is bursting at the seams.

There will be some who still claim it is only a few bad apples - that these high level officials are only a small fraction of all police officials.

The evidence tells me otherwise. The police code of silence is strong and it prevents much misconduct from seeing the light of day but the actual amount of misconduct which occurs just can't be completely contained by the code of silence.

It is like pouring ten gallons of water into a five gallon bucket. The bucket is the code of silence and the misconduct we see and hear about is the spill over.

And to all who say "what about all the 'good' officers in law enforcement?" Ok, what about them? Why aren’t more speaking up?

Because of the code of silence.

Packratt said...

You know, I sat here for hours trying to think about what to say to the obvious answer to my question, that you pretty much pegged I think...

Still haven't come up with anything other than to say that sometimes thinking about this stuff gets me pretty damned depressed.

Thanks for your insightful comment, it's appreciated as always!

fisher27aps said...

I can explain why most good officers do not step forward. I was an officer that stepped forward to report about one of the Chiefs on this very list and now I will never be a police officer again. No agency would take me and it has caused many sleepless nights for me but I have come to terms with the fact that I did what was right. Seeing the justice that was done here makes me feel like I did right but that isnt good for a person who has only police work to fall back on. Reporting abuse over another cop let alone a cheif is career suicide.

Packratt said...


Thank you for sharing that deeply disturbing information. I'm terribly sorry and incredibly angered that this is how you were rewarded for trying to do what was right and doing what you thought was best for your department and the community you serve.

I plan on publishing a story about just this very problem and would welcome your input on it. There must be something we can do to help protect the good officers that risk so much to do what's right!

I, for one, thank you for your commitment to being true to what police are supposed to be, honest and duty-bound. Let me know how we can help!

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