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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 04-01-09

There's a lot of interesting stories going on, so I thought I'd post an assortment of items today with no real theme.

Attorney Paul Richmond's Take on "Drug Czar" Kerlikowske
Attorney Paul Richmond is a civil rights attorney working in the Olympic Peninsula area who, among other things, has done a lot of work in the area of protester rights cases as well as teaching courses on how to film the police during protests. So, his perspective on how Kerlikowske has treated the issue of free speech and how he has dealt with criticism comes from experience, and he tells what he knows in an in-depth review of soon-to-be drug czar Kerlikowske's apparent contempt of free speech rights. (a link to Paul Richmond's blog is here since some are having trouble navigating to the linked entry)

While I did a story covering Kerlikowske's disinterest in detainee rights and issues of police abuses, Richmond's review of his frightening record towards first amendment rights is quite possibly much more frightening given the drug czar's supposed role in governance. It's a very interesting read and I highly suggest you go check it out.

The Problem and Solution of The Blue Wall of Silence
The always interesting Karl Mansoor brings his perspective as an ex-police officer and current law enforcement instructor to bear on the issue of the police code of silence in a post that references a comment made in one of my articles on the spate of police chiefs who have been facing allegations of misconduct and corruption.

The comment, specifically, deals with an officer who came forward to report the misconduct of one of the chiefs I mention and suffered for it, which the commentor says is the reason officers don't have any incentive to report abuses. While I do think that's an important point in that it addresses how distorted the civil service laws have become when they allow departments to punish cops who cross the blue wall of silence but makes it impossible for them to fire cops for acts of misconduct and brutality. But Karl has his own take on the issue, and it's pretty good reading.

There's a Crime Wave in Davie Florida!
Carlos Miller over at Photography Is Not A Crime talks about a crime wave in Davie Florida... but it appears to be the police who are committing the crimes, not the criminals. Several officers there have apparently run astray of the law with some accused of rape and one accused of threatening to murder his pregnant wife.

Carlos mentions these stories in response to another local area blogger who asks people to consider how stressful police work is when they read about these criminal offenses committed by police officers... one wonders if that blogger feels the same way about criminal offenses committed by normal citizens feeling stressed out too?

(by the way, police unions in Florida are trying to push through a new law that will make it more difficult for cities to discipline officers there. They say internal affairs is too overzealous when investigating complaints... seems to be the opposite in Davie Florida at least.)

Ft. Wayne Officials Afraid To Release Police Shooting Video
This was a recent story out of Fort Wayne Indiana where an officer has been accused of needlessly shooting a man 18 times. While internal investigations cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, like they always do, and he still has his badge and gun, but officials are refusing requests for the video out of fears that it would go national and disturb a lot of people...

From the article which quotes a lawyer who has seen the video:
As the officer tries to open Lemus-Rodriguez’s door, the car begins to go in reverse, Lee said. Arnold, in front of the car just off the passenger side, immediately fires three shots into the windshield. The officer who tried to open the door recoils with his hands in the air, as if startled by the shots, Lee said.

“It was shocking that even one shot was seen as necessary or warranted under the circumstances,” Lee said.

There’s a pause in the shooting. Arnold then fires more rounds into the windshield, Lee said. Arnold walks methodically toward the car as he fires, Lee said. At some point, the car makes a sharp turn.

There are no officers in the car’s path visible on the videos, Lee said.

“The other thing is there were two police officers behind the car that were in far greater danger of the crossfire from the shots, the 15 total shots by the police officer doing the shooting, than they were by the possibility of being hit by a car in reverse,” Lee said.

So... if the officer was cleared of wrongdoing, I wonder why city officials are so afraid of the national attention releasing the video would cause?

New York State Seeks To Force Cities To Cede Disciplinary Rights
Legislators in New York state are seeking to create a law that would force municipalities to negotiate issues of disciplinary action with their local police unions, effectively giving police officers a say in how, and if, they can be disciplined for acts of misconduct.

They should look to the city of Seattle to see the implications of such a law since Seattle has been forced to do this for years and had to recently bribe the guild with unheard of pay raises to implement a portion of recommended disciplinary reforms... the portions that ended up not being enforceable without the other recommended reforms.

Now, of course, officers who blow the whistle on misconduct need protections from retribution and officers need a barrier to protect them from politically motivated disciplinary actions... but those protections don't work and only protect problematic officers from being fired or disciplined. The solution to fix that isn't by giving the police unions, the groups that defend problematic officers, a say in how they can or can't be disciplined.

That's how they do it now in Seattle, and we all know how horribly it's turned out since officers here have five different levels of appeals that they can try after they've had a sustained misconduct finding, thanks to the union's ability to force the city to cave by threatening to protest in front of city hall each time it's come to negotiating a new contract.

Reader Submitted: Charges Dropped Against Man Who Shot At Cop
This one was sent to me by a reader who thought it was extraordinary that a citizen who shot at a police officer in self defense will not be charged. It is pretty damn rare, I agreed... however, I don't agree with describing the man as "getting off scott free" as they do in most of the news articles...

After all, the man lost his leg in the shooting, spent 13 months in jail waiting for trial, drained his savings hiring investigators, and will now be stuck with legal and medical bills even though he was cleared of any wrongdoing... hardly what I would call "scott free", but at least he has his freedom, huh? By the way, the officer who didn't announce himself got a medal of valor out of the exchange.


Karl Mansoor said...

I tried going to the Paul Richmond article without success. The link goes to his site but will not continue to an article.


Packratt said...

Hmm, interesting. I just checked it and it seems to work, but the link is a bit odd because of the kind of blog host he's using... I'll put an extra link to his home page since that's his latest entry anyway.

Thanks for the heads-up Karl, I appreciate it!

Karl Mansoor said...

Tried it with Mozilla Firefox instead of IE and it worked. Thanks.KM

Packratt said...

No problem, I should have figured there could have been some sort of browser compatibility issue. I generally use Firefox for browsing so I don't think about it.

Thanks again for letting me know!

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