Friday, May 22, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
This just in via an e-mail from a reader... Press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. Posting it here since the new site is still in transition and I have something to link to for the news feed...
LAPD Officer pleads to assault while off-duty
LOS ANGELES – A 39-year-old LAPD officer pleaded guilty today to assault with a semiautomatic firearm stemming from a 2008 off-duty encounter with restaurant patrons at the Redondo Beach pier, the District Attorney’s office announced.
David Woon Chong was ordered to undergo a 90-day evaluation by the Department of Corrections by Judge Stephen Marcus. Deputy District Attorney Amy Pellman Pentz with the Justice System Integrity Division said Chong faces up to six years in state prison when he returns on Aug. 14 for sentencing.
On March 15, 2008, Chong pulled out a knife and threatened a restaurant patron after getting into a verbal altercation with two men. A witness interceded and the off-duty officer then walked away. But he returned a short time later, kicked some food out of the victim’s hand and pulled a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun and pointed at the man’s head. The same witness again interceded and walked Chong out of the restaurant.
Redondo Beach Police, responding to a disturbance call, stopped Chong in his car and arrested him. He allegedly had a .11 blood alcohol level at the time of his arrest.
In exchange for his guilty plea and admitting the gun allegation, two felony counts of making criminal threats and three misdemeanors will be dismissed.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Updated 04/19/09 11:21 - fixed link to NAACP retaliation story.
Updated 05/17/09 22:20 - added new information concerning deputy Schrimpsher's background.
NOTE: Story Update 01/14/10 - Prosecutors file to dismiss conviction against Simmons after motion to vacate is filed.
Early in 2005, James E Simmons III flew into Seattle to work as a consultant. With several years-worth of experience in information technology security and regulatory compliance, his skills were highly valued, sometimes bringing in over $90 an hour on each contract gig.
James says that he first ran into trouble one night in 2005 when he was returning home from a jazz club and asked a Seattle police officer where he could catch a cab. The officers didn’t answer him, but instead questioned him about a cigarette he was holding and jumped out of the cruiser after James replied that it was nothing and dropped it.
The officers claimed that the cigarette was a joint and that it contained crumbs of crack when they arrested and held him for four days, which cost him his contract gig. However, when the case went to trial a year and a half later, the charges were dismissed when the two officers who arrested him didn’t bother to show up at court and because of a lack of actual evidence other than the word of the arresting officers.
Fortunately, that time, even though he was arrested, he was able to continue working in the IT field since the case was dismissed. But, unfortunately, he returned to Seattle again for another contract job… and something even worse happened.
According to James, he was waiting at a bus stop when King County Sheriff’s Deputy James Schrimpsher accused him of selling crack. In Schrimpsher’s report, Schrimpsher claims he had seen Simmons sell from two different bus stops while he was working the Metro Transit patrol and when he attempted to detain Simmons at the second bus stop that he had bitten his arm during arrest so Simmons was charged with assaulting an officer and possession with intent to distribute.
However, Simmons claims that Schrimpsher fabricated his account of seeing Simmons deal at two locations because the first location Schrimpsher cited in his report didn’t even have a bus stop, at least according to an investigator hired for his defense who went to photograph the locations mentioned in Schrimpsher's report.
Simmons also claims that he never bit Schrimpsher and that this was a cover story for when Simmons was stomped on until his collar bone broke and then tasered until he defecated, and then tasered again in, what Simmons claims, was an apparent attempt to humiliate him by forcing him to defecate himself again. Simmons also says that the evidence used against him was never found on his person, but happened to be in the cruiser already when he was thrown in by Schrimpsher.
When the case went to trial, Simmons was found not guilty of assaulting an officer but was still convicted to 12 months on charges of possession with intent based on deputy Schrimpsher’s testimony, despite the contradictions raised by defense investigators.
Of course, Simmons' allegations may seem questionable until we consider Simmons’ background as a gainfully employed IT professional who made good money… why would he be dealing crack cocaine without the need to do so and with the risks being so huge?
Simmons further claims that the only reason officers singled him out is because he is black and was well-dressed. While his claims that he was framed because of his race might cause some to be skeptical, consider that the number of complaints of racial profiling have been rising in Seattle and that police haven't been above retaliating against people who have reported racial profiling incidents either.
If that's not enough to give a bit of credibility to James Simmons' story, consider this as well…
Late in 2007, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr took disciplinary action against two officers for dishonesty in relation to a drug bust the two performed in December of 2006, while working on a Metro Transit detail. One of the deputies resigned and the other deputy, James Schrimpsher, was fired in December 2007.
When officers are disciplined on grounds of dishonesty, especially when it relates to arrests or prosecution efforts, that officer is placed on a Brady list which is distributed to defense and prosecuting attorneys to inform them that the officer’s testimony should not be considered reliable.
This is why, in general, when officers get in trouble on allegations of dishonesty or perjury, the cases which depended on their testimony are supposed to be reviewed to determine if any relied entirely on their word and if there were any reasonable claims of impropriety.
When King County deputy Schrimpsher was terminated, prosecutors claimed that they performed just such a review, but it only turned up one ongoing case that they subsequently dismissed. But was that really the only case that should have been dismissed or overturned?
If that wasn't enough, also consider that Schrimpsher, during his time with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department in Missouri as a Detective he apparently cost the county a case against a suspected drug dealer due to his mishandling of evidence, at least according to this court document filed in October of 2004.
So it seems that Schrimpsher not only has a questionable history handling drug evidence, but also has skipped between at least two departments with his last jump from Phelps County to King County resulting in a rather steep drop in rank.
Simmons says that he is now unemployed and homeless because of the conviction, which makes it impossible for him to find work in the IT field in which he was once a hot commodity. He’s since turned to alcoholism because of the trauma being beaten and convicted have caused. Even still, now he wants to try and do something about what happened to him, but has been unable to find an attorney who would take his case on a pro-bono basis, since he’s now homeless and unemployable.
It would seem to me, independent of whether Simmons’ claims are factual or not, that the firing of Schrimpsher on grounds of dishonesty would merit his case being seriously reviewed in order to determine whether this was another case of dishonesty on Schrimpsher’s part or not.
The fact that Simmons did have so much to lose adds to the credibility of his claims, as well as the fact that, before the arrests, he had a security clearance as well.
With all of these factors in his favor there would seem to be enough probable cause to, at the very least, ask some very serious questions about the case against Simmons... a case which he claims was based on nothing more than the word of a cop that racially profiled him, lied about his reasons for beating him, and who was later fired for allegations of dishonesty in another drug bust case.
If you would like to contact James Simmons or have information that could help him, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll pass the information along to him. He's still desperately looking for an attorney to help him clear his name so he can take back the life he once had.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Based on the feedback I've received about the site, and based on the lack of support locally here in Seattle for nearly two years, I'm planning on ditching the "Injustice In Seattle" site and transferring to a new site. The support I've been getting nationally for the news feed project has really shown me that this is the direction I should be going instead of wasting time trying to fix things here in Seattle.
The new site will be focused on national issues of police misconduct, gathering statistics on police misconduct, and research into the underlying causes of police misconduct as well as possible solutions for the problem on a wider scale.
UPDATE: The new site is now live, thanks for reading!
PS: Nothing personal to the 4 or 5 people in Seattle that actually liked what I was doing for this city. Seriously, thanks for the support, but take a look around the site... anytime I do a local story there's no comments, no interest, no traffic, no discussion on other sites... but the national stories I've done at least get some response and interest. I'm not here to talk to walls, I'm here to make a difference.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (the collective name for the department's internal investigations unit and the civilian police oversight system in Seattle) has actually been busy for once... Though not productively, as you'll see in a minute.
The SPD OPA issued several reports last month, the first, interestingly enough, is a report on the progress towards implementing recommendations(pdf) made by two separate "blue ribbon" panels to improve the accountability system. Of course, the city says all of them are in place or progressing forward...
Of course, that's not the case in reality as borne out by all the publicized, and some not so publicized, problems the department has had lately with their attempts to discipline officers being overturned on appeal by the union.
One of those recommendations was that any officer caught lying would be terminated. But, so far, that's proven to be far from the case thanks to language added by the union that made this unenforceable. That's proving to be the case lately... of the three officers who have been disciplined on that new rule, two officers have successfully overturned disciplinary actions taken against them and a third is currently in the process of appealing his, with all expectations being that he'll win as well.
The next problematic recommendation that the city says is working like a charm concerns a 180 day limit the department has for investigating complaints of misconduct. Once those 180 days is up, any findings of misconduct are automatically exonerated unless the union agrees to extend the deadline... which would be like asking a student in detention if he would agree to stay if he had the option to leave early.
As you can guess, the union never agrees to extend the deadline... and the last we heard from the OPA the average time for an investigation to complete is 173 days. Which, as you could imagine, means there are a few investigations that go over that 180 day limit.
In fact, based on recent OPA reports and the latest Seattle Police Officer's Guild newsletter(pdf), there have been 5 investigations that would have resulted in sustained findings but went past the 180 day limit. Two of those have already been overturned on appeal and 3 others are pending appeal... again, with all expectations being that those disciplinary actions will be overturned as well.
So... I guess those recommendation implementations aren't going as well as the OPA and the city are trying to lead us to believe in their reports.
Speaking of, a few of those changes utterly neutered the civilian review board, turning them into a public relations board for the police department, and apparently they've been doing a great job of it lately...
I say that because another report recently released was the OPA auditor's report on SPD relations with diverse communities(pdf) which, according to her, look really positive and shows that the community trusts the police more than ever before...
Guess they haven't been reading.
Oh well, so long as nobody comes crying to me asking why they weren't warned the next time a big police misconduct scandal breaks and the officers involved can't be disciplined like last time. After all, last year I predicted that these exact problems would start happening before that contract was even approved by the council.
...meh, maybe next time.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
That, and with the economy as it is, things are extremely tight, as they probably are for most of you out there.
So, there's a donate button now... but it won't change anything, nothing is being restricted, it doesn't buy you any special access... but it would help me keep things going here. So if anyone out there feels the police misconduct news feed and this site are worthwhile and have a bit to spare, it would be appreciated.
Sorry... and thanks in advance.
Those cases of police misconduct allegations involved 531 officers and 49 police chiefs. Of those, 156 were convicted, sentenced, fired, disciplined, or successfully sued as a result.
So far in the first 8 days of this month there have been 143 reported cases of police misconduct that involve 146 officers and 9 police chiefs or sheriffs and cost the lives of at least 16 people. If the trend holds, there would be 554 reported cases of police misconduct this month.
As was the last time I contemplated posting some of the worst stories recorded so far, I would be left with too many to fit in a reasonably sized post... so instead I'll show you some of the weirdest ones recorded so far this month:
Just Being Neighborly?
An Arlington Texas police officer is being investigated for allegations that he posted a fake Craigslist ad that offered up his neighbor's tether-ball set for free, telling readers of the site to just stop by and pick it up... all without the neighbor's knowledge or consent.
The problem now, even though they're pretty sure he did it, is that prosecutors have no idea what to charge him with, if anything at all.
Just What Is It With Cops And Sodomy?
Two Baltimore MD drug task force cops are accused of kidnapping an inner-city teenager, repeatedly threatening to sodomize him with a billy club over a 3 hour period in the back of a van in an attempt to get information about one of his alleged friends, and then dropping him off in the middle of a wooded area in the countryside in the rain after forcing him to take off his socks and shoes.
The boy made it to a gas station and called 911. Thankfully county deputies responded instead of Baltimore cops and he was driven home after he gave a statement. The department, in some weird attempt at defending the undercover officers' actions, claims that the task force has been ramping up anti-drug activities in that area.
...After a Story Like That, Maybe This Cop Has A Point.
A different Baltimore MD cop who is facing trial for shooting an unarmed suspect in the back and killing him when he ran away after being searched twice is now trying to get the trial moved out of the city, but not for the usual reason...
This particular case hasn't had any extraordinary coverage, especially with all the other reported cases of police misconduct there... So, instead of claiming that the jury pool is tainted because of press coverage of this case, his lawyers are claiming that Baltimore cops have such a bad reputation that there would be no way for their client to get a fair trial within the city.
Last month Baltimore ranked 6th in the top 10 worst cities for police misconduct with 6 reported cases, so far this month that city has been in the news 4 times for allegations of misconduct.
What Would He Do For A Klondike Bar?
A Chicago IL police officer is accused of stiffing a cab driver of an $8.00 fare. According to a complaint filed by the driver, when the officer got out of the cab without paying the driver asked for his money. In response the cop turned around, told the driver that he didn't owe him anything, then pointed his gun at the driver and challenged him to get out and see what would happen next.
What happened next was that the cabbie decided the fare wasn't worth it and watched quietly as the officer walked away and then passed out face-down in the middle of the street. The cabbie says that when he went to file a complaint, the officers at the station treated him like he was the criminal.
Now, to be fair, I should say that at least this cop didn't drive drunk and kill two people like another Chicago cop did recently. But I'd really hate to see what he would do when he doesn't get his free donut and coffee in the morning.
Drugs Are Bad, Mmkay?
A Twin Falls ID police officer and DARE instructor who visited local schools to tell children about the dangers of drugs is now facing five felony counts of obtaining fraudulent prescriptions of hydrocodone and oxycodone from a nurse while he was still an officer.
Do as I say, kiddies, not as I do.
Wanted: Experience Forcing Men To Wear Pink Panties...
One of Maricopa County AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio's own officers was rounded up in a prostitution sting and arrested on several felony and misdemeanor charges...
No word yet on whether he's going to deport her or put her in the tent city and force her to march down the street in pink panties...
Friday, May 8, 2009
(I wonder if they've seen Blue Must Be True? He keeps asking where I get all my hate-mail from.)
Well, last time some cops showed us some love like this it was from a fine group of officers in Chicago whose site is now, sadly, defunct. (I didn't do it, honest). Those law enforcement professionals sure did send me some wonderful correspondence, so I can't wait to see if the NYPD represent themselves with as much professionalism as the good ole boys from the CPD showed me.
Oh, and speaking about how police officers love to hear criticism, for some unknown reason the police watchdog website RateMyCop.com is currently offline. You might recall how, last year, their hosting site shut them down and forced them to get a new host after cops started complaining about it... Maybe it happened again? Nobody's saying anything yet, so stay tuned...
UPDATE: RateMyCop is back online after apparently being the victim of a hacker.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Since there have been a few questions and concerns going back and forth about what stories should and should not go into the National Police Misconduct News Feed I decided that it might be a good time to go over the criteria I've developed for picking stories that qualify and then open it up to comments, questions, and suggestions.
First, any allegations, investigations into, criminal charges for, disciplinary actions on, lawsuits for, or judgments regarding misconduct by an active law enforcement officer while on-duty qualify for the feed.
Second, any story about an officer listed as a former officer but who was an active officer at the time of an alleged incident of misconduct but resigned or was fired afterward will be included in the feed.
Third, any story about off-duty criminal offenses alleged, charged, or convicted or any story about off-duty activities that would be construed as misconduct due to misuse of one's position as a law enforcement officer will also be included. These include incidents of theft, DUI, domestic violence, and assault.
Fourth, other stories may be included in the feed that relate to legal issues that affect police misconduct, such as department policy issues that obscure misconduct, legislative efforts that hinder efforts to prevent misconduct or handicap efforts to document or reduce misconduct, but will not be included in the statistics as a case of misconduct.
Fifth, when compiling statistics from the feed, duplicate stories about the same instance of misconduct and updates regarding a single incident of misconduct are removed from the offline database. So if you see multiple stories about a single incident, those will be addressed on the back-end of the statistic gathering process.
Finally, a note for those who wish to correspond with me via the Twitter feed, since it's used on other sites as a sort of news scroller I really try to limit personal communications and keep it reserved for stories of misconduct as much as possible... so please don't be offended if I don't reply publicly or if I choose to reply via a direct message instead of publicly.
With this in mind, I now open the floor for any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions... and, of course, I always welcome submissions for articles that you think I might have missed!
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
While the National Police Misconduct NewsFeed project has just begun to give us a glimpse at the possible breadth of America's police misconduct problem, it sometimes fails to show just how deep it runs perhaps.
Sure, when most people think of police departments where corruption and misconduct run deep, we think of big cities like Chicago, Oakland, New York, or Philadelphia. So, does that mean smaller cities and towns are exempt from the problem of deep-seated police corruption and a culture of misconduct?
Furthermore, when we see more than one story of misconduct being reported from a specific location, is this just coincidence, or is this indicative of a deeper, more disconcerting problem?
Still sound confusing? Then consider some of these cases, buried deep within the police misconduct news feed:
Spring Lake Police Department in North Carolina was told it's officers may no longer make felony arrests in 2007. But recently things have gone from bad to worse as two of it's officers have been arrested on multiple felony charges and the state's district attorney is promising even more arrests while also admitting that he has to dismiss a majority of the misdemeanor charges filed against suspects by the department as well.
To sum it up, the department is so corrupt, so inept, that it cannot be trusted to even make a simple misdemeanor arrest, effectively shutting it down and forcing an already thinly stretched county sheriff to pick up the extra slack.
Think of it... an entire department of bad or inept cops. Would that make you feel a bit less secure if you lived there? No? How about this...
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul left the Sheriff's Department in tatters as he resigned under civil and criminal allegations of nepotism, political favoritism, and a publicized search of his office and home by FBI and IRS agents.
After his departure the county requested an audit of the department and has recently found out that nearly half of their officers were never given civil service exams but instead were hired at the recommendation of friends and family within the department... in fact, many were members of the sheriff's own family or recommended by them without any other real qualifications. But since they've been employed for so long, the county can't fire them.
Still not wondering how entire departments could be problematic like this? Here's some more...
Since the beginning of this year, 1/3 of Smith Township's police department, near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, have been arrested on criminal charges that include burglary, assault, perjury, and drug possession. One officer alone was accused of assaulting a 59 year old man and later accused of attacking a 19 year old fast food worker while on duty, just because he thought the kid was talking about him.
Then last week they found themselves in the crosshairs of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force was used when officers arrested a couple after a concert. Smith Township's residents have taken to describing their police officers as incapable of controlling themselves and scary...
Would you be scared living there too? No? Well how about here...
Greece New York's Police Department is missing most of it's command staff, including it's chief, as they are suspended pending criminal and civil charges... in fact, many of the department's police officers are too. Things have gotten so bad in Greece that state officials have come down to do a complete audit of the department that has been in the news, in a bad way. So often, in fact, that the city recently canceled a ceremony that was supposed to honor the department because, well, I guess there wasn't anything left to really celebrate about it.
Does a police department with nothing left to honor make you think twice about how your own police department might operate behind closed doors? No?
Then I have one more place to tell you about... the place where cops like those who end up listed on the news feed go...
Because, if you've ever wondered where all the cops fired for misconduct go when they try to find a new job in law enforcement, wonder no longer... they went to the Maywood Police Department in California where they nicknamed themselves "The Police Department of Second Chances"...
Well, looks like they'll be hoping for third chances now that the effort to cut costs by lowering standards and recruiting officers from disciplinary hearings instead of job fairs and academies has resulted in a blistering audit by the California State Attorney General who found an environment of gross misconduct and widespread abuses against the citizenry.
So, would you want to move your family to Maywood and trust their safety in the hands of a department full of "second chances"?
As I said, the news feed does give us a glimpse into how widespread the problem of police misconduct is... but, just how deep does it run in each police department? Maybe that will become more clear in time as well.
In the meantime, maybe we should all start asking ourselves this question about our own local police force... before your department ends up in my feed too.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In 2007, several incidents of police misconduct, including allegations that officers who lied were never punished, brought public outrage to a head in Seattle and prompted city officials to create 2 review boards to look into the Seattle Police Department's policies and methods of dealing with allegations of misconduct and disciplinary actions against officers.
The results of those efforts were touted and the city proudly declared that they implemented all of the recommended reforms suggested by those reviews in 2008... though, in truth, they really didn't.
The problem was that Washington State requires Seattle to negotiate all disciplinary policies with the police officer's union, which is about the same thing as if they were to require each school to negotiate rules and discipline with their students or requiring jails to negotiate terms of discipline with their inmates.
So, 11 of the recommended reforms had to be approved during contract negotiations between the city and the union. After initially suggesting that they would not negotiate any changes to disciplinary policy, the union changed tact and said that they would sell some of the reform items, after modifications, in exchange for more pay. So, the city and union picked and chose which reforms the city could afford to pay off the union to accept.
One of those reforms that was altered and then bought involved a proposed policy that would force the chief to fire any officer who was dishonest during the internal investigation process... The union said that was unacceptable unless the city added that the finding of dishonesty could only be used if the city established an INTENT to mislead with clear and convincing PROOF. The city relented and bought that modified reform, as worded below:
In the case of an officer receiving a sustained complaint involving dishonesty in the course of the officer's official duties or relating to the administration of justice, a presumption of termination shall apply. For purposes of this presumption of termination the Department must prove dishonesty by clear and convincing evidence. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally providing false information, which the officer knows to be false, or intentionally providing incomplete responses to specific questions, regarding facts that are material to the investigation. Specific questions do not include general or 'catch-all' questions. For purposes of this Section dishonesty means more than mere inaccuracy or faulty memory.
Fast forward to the present day and we find that the city bought and paid for a reform item that it can never enforce because, as the union bragged shortly after the contract was agreed upon, there is no real way to prove intent and that, so long as an officer is smart about it, all they have to do is say that any inconsistency found in testimony was a lapse of memory and all would be well.
Only now has the city realized their blunder as the union has overturned two rulings of dishonesty upon appeal which resulted in the rehiring of one officer who was fired on a finding of dishonesty involving a case of alleged brutality.
And now with a third case where the city attorney forced the police chief to change his planned disciplinary actions against another officer who was found to have been dishonest during his investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
It's interesting that it's only just now that the city and the media are realizing that they didn't get all the reforms that they thought they paid for, even though I immediately noticed this problem shortly after the proposed contract was released in June of 2008, (here and here).
So, will the city keep telling citizens that they enacted all the reforms that were supposed to improve police accountability now? Will the press keep parroting the city's releases without doing research of their own to verify those mistaken claims?
Or will this new development cause people to reexamine the problems with police accountability in Seattle and Washington State as a whole and finally discover that the root of the problem cannot be solved at the local level because the problem is that the state is forcing cities to let their police officers dictate if, how, and why they can and can't be held accountable for their actions?
Keep watching to find out.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Hmm, two months of effort getting the news feed process right, hours upon hours scanning and entering reports of misconduct each day into Twitter and a database, a full 24 hours of effort analyzing the data and preparing the results to see how extensive police misconduct might be...
...and I had less traffic yesterday and today than I've had for weeks and absolutely zero feedback.
So, there (was) a new poll on the right, is the Twitter news feed worth it?
Is gathering all this information and generating stats worth my limited time?
Heck, is this site even worthwhile?
Let me know... Because I don't like wasting my time or yours.
UPDATE: I've decided to try and keep at it for one more month and see how it goes... For those who wrote, commented, or voted. Thank you for the support and suggestions.
at 9:05 AM
Friday, May 1, 2009
PLEASE NOTE: The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project and all associated police misconduct statistical reports have been moved to http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com
- Aaron Larson Case (2)
- ACLU of Washington (11)
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