Unethical police cases

Unethical police cases DEFAULT

5 police misconduct cases had new developments last week. Here’s what happened

Five cases of police misconduct had new developments last week. Here’s a look at what happened and what’s next for the families of the victims and the officers involved.

WALTER SCOTT

Judy Scott looks over a photo of her son Walter Scott during a news conference after former police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill  NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES - RC17B6850B10

Judy Scott looks over a photo of her son Walter Scott during a news conference after former police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in Charleston. Photo by REUTERS/Randall Hill.

Original incident

In April 2015, North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pulled over Walter Scott for a broken tail light. What happened next is uncertain. Slager says the two fought for his taser. But in a bystander cell phone video, Scott is seen fleeing the scene, as Slager fatally shoots the 50-year-old multiple times. The video also shows Slager putting his taser on the ground next to Scott. In court, Slager said he was securing a weapon; the prosecution argued he was planting evidence to bolster his defense. A previous trial by the state resulted in a hung jury. In May, Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations and the state dropped the murder charges.

The Latest: On Wednesday, Slager was sentenced in a federal court to 20 years in prison for violating Scott’s civil rights. The judge found that the shooting went beyond manslaughter to second-degree murder, and said Slager used excessive force.

The case is unusual in that it is rare for police officers to be convicted for fatal shootings. Often, cases end in acquittals and mistrials, if an officer is indicted at all. After Slager’s sentencing, the Scott family said they were “pleased” with the result.

What’s next? Slager and his attorneys have 14 days to appeal the verdict, a possibility since the sentence is nearly twice what they’d hoped. Because the trial was in federal court, Slager will not be eligible for parole.

PHILANDO CASTILE

The car of Philando Castile is seen surrounded by police vehicles in an evidence photo taken after he was fatally shot by St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in July 2016. Picture released June 20, 2017. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension/Handout via Reuters

The car of Philando Castile is seen surrounded by police vehicles in an evidence photo taken after he was fatally shot by St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in July 2016. Picture released June 20, 2017. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension/Handout via Reuters

Original incident

In July 2016, Philando Castile was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, when he was pulled over by officer Jeronimo Yanez. Castile told the officer he had a gun, which he carried legally. Dashcam video released this past summer documented Yanez telling Castile not to reach for his gun; Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching for his ID. Castile can be heard telling the officer he wasn’t reaching for his gun, but Yanez repeated his command and immediately fired seven shots into the car. Castile died at the hospital.

Reynolds began livestreaming the aftermath on her cell phone, garnering worldwide attention. Additional footage released later showed Reynolds in handcuffs with her daughter in the back of a police cruiser.

In November 2016, Yanez was charged with manslaughter; he was acquitted of all charges in June. A month later, the St. Anthony police department removed Yanez from the force. The former officer was bought out for $48,500, plus up to 600 hours of unused personal leave pay.

The Latest: Last week, Reynolds reached settlements totaling $800,000 with the cities of St. Anthony and Roseville. Though the cities say the settlements, which are pending judicial approval, do not admit guilt, Reynolds released a short statement saying they represent “what happened to my daughter and I on July 6, 2016 was wrong.”

“While no amount of money can change what happened, bring Philando back, or erase the pain that my daughter and I continue to suffer, I do hope that closing this chapter will allow us to get our lives back and move forward,” she continued.

This latest payment follows a $3 million settlement earlier this summer between St. Anthony and Castile’s family.

What’s next? Now that the cities have settled with Reynolds and the Castile estate, the case is essentially closed.

ALTON STERLING

A boy sits next to a makeshift memorial outside the Triple S Food Mart where Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

A boy sits next to a makeshift memorial outside the Triple S Food Mart where Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.

Original incident

A little after midnight on July 5, 2016, Baton Rouge police officers responded to a call of a man with a gun outside a Triple S food mart. When they arrived, they found Alton Sterling, who often sold CDs outside the store, owner Abdullah Muflahi said.

Two subsequent bystander videos, one by Muflahi, show two officers wrestling Sterling, 37, to the ground. Someone can be heard shouting, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” before an officer shoots multiple times.

The officers were not charged in his death, prompting protests in Baton Rouge over the decision. More than 100 people were arrested as a result.

Many of those arrested in protests immediately after Sterling’s death participated in a class-action lawsuit, and in October, a judge awarded a $500-$1,000 settlement to each participant.

In June, the family of Alton Sterling sued the police officers and the city of Baton Rouge, alleging that the actions of the officers “were unreasonable, unnecessary, violated police officer protocol and procedure” and were “an excessive use of deadly force.”

Weeks later, another lawsuit claimed that police officers used excessive force when they arrested dozens protesting Sterling’s death.

The Latest: On Dec. 4, three people sued the city of Baton Rouge and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson, claiming unlawful removal from a city council meeting last May. At the meeting, which was a week after the officers were not charged, the speakers say their First Amendment rights were violated when police officers removed them.

The meeting was about sewer backups, and when the council called for public comment, multiple speakers came up to address Sterling’s death. In total, six people were removed from the meeting.

The speakers, Gary Chambers, Mike McClanahan and Eugene Collins, allege the mayor discriminated against them and their views because they are black. Wilson said at the time the speakers were deviating from the stated subject of the meeting.

The three plaintiffs are only asking to cover court costs and legal fees. Instead of a settlement, they hope that Wilson will be forced out if the court finds he acted illegally.

What’s next? The Louisiana Attorney General is still reviewing the case to determine if the state should bring charges against the officers.

FREDDIE GRAY

FILE PHOTO: Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E Miller (top L-R), Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White (bottom L-R), are pictured in these undated booking photos provided by the Baltimore Police Department. Baltimore's top prosecutor on July 27, 2016 dropped remaining charges against police officers tied to the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, after failing four times to secure convictions in a case that inflamed the U.S. debate on race and justice./File Photo Courtesy Baltimore Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC12F9528440

FILE PHOTO: Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E Miller (top L-R), Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White (bottom L-R), are pictured in these undated booking photos provided by the Baltimore Police Department. Baltimore’s top prosecutor on July 27, 2016 dropped remaining charges against police officers tied to the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, after failing four times to secure convictions in a case that inflamed the U.S. debate on race and justice. File Photo courtesy of Baltimore Police Department/Handout via REUTERS.

Original incident

Last year, state prosecutors decided to drop charges against three of the six officers involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal injury in the back of a Baltimore police van. This was announced after the three remaining Baltimore officers had been acquitted in the 25-year-old black man’s death.

In September, the Justice Department announced that none of the six officers would face federal civil rights charges, either.

The latest: After charges were cleared on the federal and state levels, Montgomery and Howard county police departments, whose officers responded to the initial incident, brought internal charges against five of the six officers, citing violations of department rules, The Baltimore Sun reported.

To date, two of the officers have accepted minor disciplinary actions. All charges against the driver of the van, officer Caesar Goodson Jr., were dropped in November. All charges against Lt. Brian Rice were also dropped the following week.

The administrative trial for Sgt. Alicia White, the last officer to face internal discipline in the case, was originally scheduled for Dec. 5. But, a police commissioner decided to not proceed with the hearing. White will not face further internal consequences.

What’s next: “After all the trials and police disciplinary proceedings, we still don’t know what happened in the back of that van,” The Sun wrote in an editorial after the last officer White’s administrative hearing was dropped.

The Baltimore police have made changes following Gray’s death: New police vans are equipped to better handle passenger safety and are fitted with cameras to monitor officers’ actions. The city also launched a program to have patrol officers wear body cameras.

But the newspaper argued that we need to “do more than talk” to prevent a similar death in the future. That means evaluating how well the city addresses the restrictions in its continued consent decree with the government, including changes to how an officer approaches a possible suspect.

ANTHONY LAMAR SMITH

Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Sept. 17. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Sept. 17. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

Original incident

Six years ago, a former St. Louis police officer shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith after an attempt to arrest the black motorist.

On Dec. 20, 2011, Jason Stockley and his partner approached Smith, who they thought was involved in a suspected drug deal. The encounter eventually led to a high-speed pursuit as Smith fled the scene in his vehicle. The chase ended when Stockley, captured by a dashcam, told his partner to crash into Smith’s vehicle. Getting out of the police SUV, Stockley then fired five shots at Smith, who was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

After years of the case lingering in court, a Missouri judge acquitted Stockley in September of first-degree murder in Smith’s death, a decision that sparked weeks of new protests in a city that was also rocked by the 2014 death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.

The latest: An independent investigation ordered by Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley found that a senior attorney who worked for the officer of former Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, knowingly withheld DNA evidence while the state was negotiating a wrongful death settlement with Smith’s family, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

During the trial, prosecution representing Smith’s family argued that Stockley’s DNA was the only genetic material identified on the revolver that was recovered from Smith’s vehicle after the shooting. While this evidence was used in the court case earlier this year, it was not available to Smith’s family when they were trying to reach a settlement with the city’s police department years ago.

Attorney Albert S. Watkins told the newspaper that the DNA evidence would have helped Smith’s family obtain a larger settlement than the $900,000 that was given to them in 2013.

What’s next:The civil case could be reopened, Watkins said, to allow the Smith’s family receive a higher settlement.

Sours: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/5-police-misconduct-cases-had-new-developments-last-week-heres-what-happened

Justice News

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Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that former East Haven Police Officer DENNIS SPAULDING, 30, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to 60 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for violating the civil rights of members of the East Haven community.

“Dennis Spaulding repeatedly violated the civil rights of Latino members of the East Haven community,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly.  “He arrested people for no good reason, used cruel and excessive force causing physical injuries and executed illegal searches.  His actions assaulted, intimidated, demeaned and humiliated decent and hardworking people who came to fear their own police department.  Today’s sentence properly reflects that this defendant abused vulnerable victims, undermined the legitimacy of the East Haven Police Department and damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement.  This is a difficult day, but we are reminded that every day the vast majority of officers in East Haven and throughout this country serve their communities bravely and honorably.  As this case nears the end, we remain hopeful that the East Haven community will continue to heal and their police department will continue to rebuild.”

“Spaulding’s efforts to harass, intimidate, and humiliate members of the East Haven community violated the rights afforded to them by our Constitution,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.  “Furthermore, his unethical behavior and illegal conduct threatened the character of a law enforcement community whose members take an oath to protect and serve with honor and integrity. Today’s sentencing is a step forward in restoring the public’s trust and a reminder that this type of dishonorable behavior will not go unpunished.”

This matter stems from a criminal investigation into members of the East Haven Police Department using excessive force during arrests, conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures, and filing false police reports.  As a result of the investigation, SPAULDING, Sergeant John Miller and Officers Jason Zullo and David Cari were charged with various civil rights offenses.

According to the evidence presented during the trial of SPAULDING and David Cari, from approximately 2007 through 2011, SPAULDING conspired to injure, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community in violation of their Constitutional rights.  SPAULDING and other members of the East Haven Police Department maintained and perpetuated an environment where the use of unreasonable force and unreasonable searches and seizures was tolerated and encouraged.  SPAULDING engaged in unlawful arrests and searches, including the baseless arrests of a Catholic priest and several Latinos who lived or worked in the community.  Additionally, SPAULDING used excessive force during an arrest when the victim was unarmed, neither resisting nor interfering with the police.  Certain victims were particularly vulnerable because they were undocumented aliens and thus unlikely to raise objection to the abuse.

The evidence at trial further revealed that SPAULDING intimidated, harassed and humiliated members of the Latino community and their advocates, and conducted unreasonable and illegal searches at Latino-owned businesses.  Trial testimony established that in November 2008, SPAULDING used excessive force against an individual in the parking lot of a Latino-owned restaurant and bar.  SPAULDING then arrested the individual under false pretenses to cover-up the assault and prepared a false report to justify the false arrest.  Later, in January 2009 in the same parking lot, SPAULDING and another officer arrested three individuals under false pretenses.  SPAULDING also prepared a false report to justify these arrests.

In February 2009, SPAULDING and David Cari illegally searched a vehicle parked outside of a Latino-owned grocery store.  Inside the store, David Cari then arrested a Catholic priest, who is also an advocate for Latinos, on false pretenses.  The officers then conducted an illegal search of the back room of the store in an effort to unlawfully seize the store’s video recording equipment.  In the days following the arrest, Cari drafted various false versions of an arrest report to cover up the false arrest of the religious leader.

On October 21, 2013, SPAULDING was found guilty of one count of conspiracy against rights, one count of use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer, two counts of deprivation of rights for making arrests without probable cause, and two counts of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing false reports to justify the false arrests.

SPAULDING, who has been released on a $300,000 bond since his arrest on January 24, 2012, was ordered to report to prison on March 4.

Cari was found guilty of one count of conspiracy against rights, one count of deprivation of rights for making an arrest without probable cause, and one count of obstruction of a federal investigation for preparing a false report.  On January 21, 2014, he was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment.

On October 23, 2012, Jason Zullo pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction stemming from his filing of a false police report in order to prevent a possible excessive force investigation.  On December 16, 2013, he was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment.

On September 21, 2012, John Miller pleaded guilty to one count of violating an individual’s civil rights by using unreasonable force during the course of an arrest.  He awaits sentencing. 

This matter has been investigated by the Civil Rights Squad of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna R. Patel and Senior Litigation Counsel Richard J. Schechter.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONTACT:

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Sours: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ct/pr/former-east-haven-police-officer-sentenced-five-years-prison-criminal-civil-rights
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Three Florida Police Officers Are Sent to Prison for False Arrests

Guillermo Ravelo, a former police officer in Biscayne Park, Fla., was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Three former Florida police officers were sentenced to prison this week for conspiring to falsely arrest people to improve the department’s crime statistics — at the instruction of their police chief.

On Thursday, Guillermo Ravelo, 37, who worked for the Police Department in Biscayne Park, a small village in Miami-Dade County, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for the conspiracy and for striking a handcuffed driver in the head during a traffic stop.

That sentencing came two days after former Officers Charlie Dayoub, 39, and Raul Fernandez were sentenced to 12 months in prison. Both pleaded guilty in August.

Prosecutors said the police chief, Raimundo Atesiano, 53, who has pleaded guilty in the case and awaits sentencing in November, was intent on clearing all outstanding cases, even if it meant wrongfully accusing men who hadn’t committed any crimes.

The chief has admitted that he had ordered the three officers to make false arrests.

According to court documents, in 2013 Chief Atesiano instructed Officers Dayoub and Fernandez to falsely arrest and charge a 16-year-old, identified in court documents as “T.D.,” for four unsolved burglaries — even though the officers knew that there was no evidence against the teenager. The officers fabricated four arrest affidavits that claimed an investigation revealed that T.D. had committed the burglaries, the documents said.

Chief Atesiano also told Officers Ravelo and Dayoub to falsely arrest a man identified in court documents as “C.D.” in 2013 for two burglaries, even though there was no evidence that C.D. was guilty. The following year, Chief Atesiano told Officer Ravelo to arrest and charge a man referred to as “E.B.” with five vehicle burglaries, despite having no legal reason for doing so.

A court document signed by Officer Fernandez’s lawyer said Officer Fernandez “was haunted by what was happening within the Biscayne Park Police Department.”

According to the document, Chief Atesiano “was so focused on having a 100 percent clearance rate that he was enlisting his officers to make ‘bad’ arrests and to harass people of color who were seen anywhere within the city.”

Troubled by the unethical behavior, Officer Fernandez sent a letter to the city manager about the bad arrests, then worked with state and federal investigators, his lawyer said. He later told them that Chief Atesiano “via his underlings, would use a specific code meant to alert officers that a person of color was seen in the city and that they needed to be stopped and confronted.”

Records obtained by The Miami Herald in July also suggested that the officers were pressured to target black people.

Since then, Biscayne Park said it had overhauled its police leadership and hired Luis Cabrera, a former Miami police officer, as chief.

“This all happened long ago,” the village’s manager, Krishan Manners, told The Herald in July. “And as far as the village is concerned, we have cleaned up the Police Department and continue to strive to make it better.”

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/us/florida-police-officer-false-arrests.html
5 Worst Cases of Police Brutality Caught on Tape

5 cases that fight the stigma of 'unethical' policing

In planning for the April 2014 Career Newsletter — which focuses on ethics — we asked our Police1 Facebook fans how they defined ethics and what instances they had seen within their department in which ethics was displayed. What we discovered is that the word ethics means so many things to so many people. 

Is ethics upholding the oath you took the day you put on the badge? Or is it doing what you think is right regardless of what the law may state? Do your ethics as a police officer conflict with your ethics as a person? 

Perhaps the most unsettling discovery when we posted the question was that many who commented — sworn and unsworn — believed that ethics had no place in law enforcement at all. 

Well, we beg to differ. In the past 12 months alone, we’ve reported on countless cases of police officers demonstrating superior ethics in both thought and deed — both on duty and off. The below stories illustrate how we at Police1 define ethics, and in how many forms ethical behavior can come. 

1.) In September 2013, Miami (Fla.) Officer Vicki Thomas caught a struggling single mother shoplifting food from a grocery store for her family. Thomas made the news for the way she solved the problem. Rather than arrest her, she purchased the food for the mother, and showed her the local food banks and churches where she could get back on her feet. 

“I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn't going to solve the problem with her children being hungry.”

2.) In May of last year, Phoenix (N.M.) Sergeant Natalie Simonick discovered a teen in her area walked 9 miles to and from work each night, so she picked him up and gave him a lift home. She then purchased a bike for him, and arranged for members of the department to teach him how to ride it. 

“If everybody could help just one person in the world like this, I think it would definitely be a better place to live.” 

3.) As an apology for leaving a wheelchair-bound robbery victim to find his own way home, New York police continuously visited the home of the victim, Fredrick Brennan, to bring him hot dinners and help him with chores he was unable to do himself, like building an entertainment center. The department realized their faults (not providing and did everything they could to make it right, including starting a fund so that Brennan could purchase the ‘Cadillac’ of wheelchairs. 

4.) Former Auburn (Ala.) Police Officer Justin Hanners risked his job in order to stand up for his beliefs when he spoke out against the police chief, who allegedly forced his officers to comply with ticket and arrest quotas. He was fired from the department, and continued to speak out against the injustice.

“I got into law enforcement because I want serve and protect, not be a bully. The role of police in society — I believe — are to interfere with the lives of the people as little as possible, but protect them from the one percent element that wants to victimize them. Protect the people and the property.”

5.) Nicoma (Okla.) Police Officer James Hall was heartbroken when he learned that an autistic boy in his neighborhood had his bike stolen at knife point. He collected money from his department and his second job to buy the boy a new bike and hand-deliver it to him at his home. 

“It just hit me in the gut that somebody would attack, you know, a child that already deals with so much in his life. We can’t control what happens in life, but there are people out there like us that are willing to step up and help out. There’s more good guys than bad guys.”

This short list of remarkable people took a matter of moments to gather, and we have, without a doubt, forgotten countless others who deserve to be celebrated for what they do every day. Their displays of ethics vary greatly, but they all have one thing in common: None of them did it expecting the media attention or a pat on the back. They did what they thought was right.

Officers who have been on the job long-term are often jaded by what they’ve seen. Yes, there are dishonest cops, and yes, there are corrupt superiors. But don’t let those who have lost their grounding ruin the good names of your brothers and sisters. 

Sound off in the comments section below with instances of ethics you’ve witnessed in your department. Badgering your profession only makes it easier for uninformed non-LEOs to do the same. 

Sours: https://www.police1.com/police-jobs-and-careers/articles/5-cases-that-fight-the-stigma-of-unethical-policing-iQFrx8cyluok95A5/

Police cases unethical

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At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, an investigation by USA TODAY Network found.

Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses.

Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds.

The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed.

Reporters from USA TODAY, its affiliated newsrooms across the country and the nonprofit Invisible Institute in Chicago spent more than a year creating the biggest collection of police misconduct records.

Obtained from thousands of state agencies, prosecutors, police departments and sheriffs, the records detail at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, much of it previously unreported. The records obtained include more than 110,000 internal affairs investigations by hundreds of individual departments and more than 30,000 officers who were decertified by 44 state oversight agencies.

Search for police discipline records

USA TODAY Network has gathered discipline and accountability records on more than 85,000 law enforcement officers and has started releasing them to the public. The first collection published is a list of more than 30,000 officers who have been decertified, essentially banned from the profession, in 44 states. Search our exclusive database by officer, department or state.

Among the findings:

  • Most misconduct involves routine infractions, but the records reveal tens of thousands of cases of serious misconduct and abuse. They include 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers.
  • Dishonesty is a frequent problem. The records document at least 2,227 instances of perjury, tampering with evidence or witnesses or falsifying reports. There were 418 reports of officers obstructing investigations, most often when they or someone they knew were targets.
  • Less than 10% of officers in most police forces get investigated for misconduct. Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.

The level of oversight varies widely from state to state. Georgia and Florida decertified thousands of police officers for everything from crimes to questions about their fitness to serve; other states banned almost none.

Search the database: Exclusive USA TODAY list of decertified officers and their records

Tarnished Brass: Fired for a felony, again for perjury. Meet the new police chief.

That includes Maryland, home to the Baltimore Police Department, which regularly has been in the news for criminal behavior by police. Over nearly a decade, Maryland revoked the certifications of just four officers. In Minneapolis, where officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd until he died, at least seven police officers have been decertified since 2009, according to state records. 

Floyd's death sparked mass protests across the U.S. and around the world with millions of people calling for accountability for violent officers and the departments that allow them to retain their badge. It "was not just a tragedy, it was a crime," said The Rev. Al Sharpton, delivering the eulogy at Floyd's funeral on June 9.

"Until the law is upheld and people know they will go to jail," Sharpton said, "they're going to keep doing it, because they're protected by wickedness in high places."

Tamika Staton leaves a message at a memorial in the middle of the road where teenager Michael Brown died after being shot by a police officer in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., an incident that sparked investigations, protests and a nationwide discussion about policing.
We’re making those records public

The records USA TODAY and its partners gathered include tens of thousands of internal investigations, lawsuit settlements and secret separation deals dating back to the 1960s.

They include names of at least 5,000 police officers whose credibility as witnesses has been called into question. These officers have been placed on Brady lists, created to track officers whose actions must be disclosed to defendants if their testimony is relied upon to prosecute someone.

In 2019, USA TODAY published many of those records to give the public an opportunity to examine their police department and the broader issue of police misconduct, as well as to help identify decertified officers who continue to work in law enforcement.

Seth Stoughton, who worked as a police officer for five years and teaches law at the University of South Carolina, said expanding public access to those kinds of records is critical to keep good cops employed and bad cops unemployed.

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“No one is in a position to assess whether an officer candidate can do the job well and the way that we expect the job to be done better than the officer’s former employer,” Stoughton said.

“Officers are public servants. They police in our name," he said. There is a "strong public interest in identifying how officers are using their public authority.”

Dan Hils, president of the Cincinnati Police Department’s branch of the Fraternal Order of Policemen union, said people should consider there are more than 750,000 law enforcement officers in the country when looking at individual misconduct data.

“The scrutiny is way tighter on police officers than most folks, and that’s why sometimes you see high numbers of misconduct cases,” Hils said. “But I believe that policemen tend to be more honest and more trustworthy than the average citizen.”

Hils said he has no issue with USA TODAY publishing public records of conduct, saying it is the news media’s “right and responsibility to investigate police and the authority of government. You’re supposed to be a watchdog.”

The bulk of the records USA TODAY has published are logs of about 30,000 people banned from the profession by state regulators.

For years, a private police organization has assembled such a list from more than 40 states and encourages police agencies to screen new hires. The list is kept secret from anyone outside law enforcement. 

On June 5, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) announced legislation that would institute a number of reforms, including the creation of the first national, publicly searchable database of law enforcement officers who have engaged in inappropriate use of force or discrimination. 

USA TODAY obtained the names of banned officers from 44 states by filing requests under open records laws.

The information includes the officers’ names, the department they worked for when the state revoked their certification and – in most cases – the reasons why.

The list is incomplete because of the absence of records from states such as California, which has the largest number of law enforcement officers in the USA.

Bringing important facts to policing debate

USA TODAY's collection of police misconduct records began in 2016 amid a nationwide debate over law enforcement tactics, including concern that some officers or agencies unfairly were targetting minorities.

A series of killings of black people by police in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Chicago, Sacramento, California, and elsewhere had sparked protests and renewed anger about police targeting minorities and needlessly using force to subdue them. 

The Trump administration backed away from more than a decade of Justice Department investigations and court actions against police departments it determined were deeply biased or corrupt. In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would leave policing the police to local authorities, saying federal investigations hurt crime fighting.

Laurie Robinson, co-chair of the 2014 White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, said transparency about police conduct is critical to trust between police and residents.

“It’s about the people who you have hired to protect you,” she said. “Traditionally, we would say for sure that policing has not been a transparent entity in the U.S. Transparency is just a very key step along the way to repairing our relationships."

In the late 1980s, Gary Cunningham, then-deputy director of the Minneapolis civil rights department, helped create a civilian review panel that investigated police misconduct and had the authority to compel officer testimony and recommend discipline. But the police union, he said,  managed to lobby the state legislature to strip the panel of its subpoena power, which resulted in many officers refusing to testify and avoiding sanctions.

Today, the panel is a "paper tiger" organization, Cunningham said. A tiny fraction of cases result in discipline, and an even smaller fraction are available for public inspection.

Chauvin, for instance, racked up 17 misconduct complaints before Floyd. Only one resulted in discipline -- in the form of two letters of reprimand. The city's online database of misconduct complaints offers no details about the underlying allegations.

"If you make a joke out of the process, it doesn't work very well," said Cunningham, now president and CEO of Prosperity Now, a research and policy nonprofit in Washington, D.C. "The way we've been doing this has enabled and abetted the police brutality in our communities because once it's not transparent, it's hard to hold anybody accountable."

Help us investigate

The number of police agencies and officers in the USA is so large that the blind spots are vast. We need your help.

Though the records USA TODAY Network gathered are probably the most expansive ever collected, there is much more to be added. The collection includes several types of statewide data, but most misconduct is documented by individual departments.

Journalists obtained records from more than 700 law enforcement agencies, but the records are not complete for all of those agencies, and there are more than 18,000 police forces across the USA. The records requests were focused largely on the biggest 100 police agencies as well as clusters of smaller departments in surrounding areas, partly to examine movement of officers between departments in regions.

USA TODAY aims to identify other media organizations willing to partner in gathering new records and sharing documents they've already gathered. The Invisible Institute, a journalism nonprofit in Chicago focused on police accountability, has done so for more than a year and contributed records from dozens of police departments.

Reporters need help getting documents – and other kinds of tips – from the public, watchdog groups, researchers and even officers and prosecutors themselves.

If you have access to citizen complaints about police, internal affairs investigation records, secret settlement deals between agencies and departing officers or anything that sheds light on how agencies police their officers, we want to hear from you.

Contributing: Kenny Jacoby, James Pilcher and Eric Litke.


The team behind this investigation

REPORTING AND ANALYSIS: Mark Nichols, Eric Litke, James Pilcher, Aaron Hegarty, Andrew Ford, Brett Kelman, John Kelly, Matt Wynn, Steve Reilly, Megan Cassidy, Ryan Martin, Jonathan Anderson, Andrew Wolfson, Bethany Bruner, Benjamin Lanka, Gabriella Novello, Mark Hannan

FROM THE INVISIBLE INSTITUTE: Sam Stecklow, Andrew Fan, Bocar Ba

EDITING: Chris Davis, John Kelly, Brad Heath

GRAPHICS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: Jim Sergent, Karl Gelles

PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY: Phil Didion, Christopher Powers, David Hamlin, Robert Lindeman

DIGITAL PRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: Spencer Holladay, Annette Meade, Craig Johnson, Ryan Marx, Chris Amico, Josh Miller, Chirasath Saenvong

SOCIAL MEDIA, ENGAGEMENT AND PROMOTION: Anne Godlasky, Alia Dastagir, Felecia Wellington Radel, Elizabeth Shell



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Published Updated

Sours: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/04/24/usa-today-revealing-misconduct-records-police-cops/3223984002/
Two Colorado officers charged after brutal arrest caught on body cams

Chicago Police Department Routinely Violated People's Rights, Feds Say

Chicago cops routinely shot at fleeing suspects, used force to retaliate against people, failed to investigate most misconduct claims and skewed probes to favor officers, federal authorities said Friday in a report that documented years of systemic civil rights violations by the country's second largest police department.

The findings, the result of a year-long Justice Department investigation sparked by an officer's fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy, detail a litany of abuses over the last four years, many of them shouldered disproportionately by black and Latino people in the segregated and chronically poor neighborhoods in the city's south and west.

Faced with overwhelming evidence of a department gone astray, city officials have started negotiating with federal authorities on a series of reforms that will be overseen by a judge.

The corrections will take years and millions of dollars to implement. But the biggest obstacle will be winning over a skeptical public that has lived through years of police scandals — many involving beatings, shootings and forced confessions — and is suffering through a jump in violent crime that has turned Chicago into America's murder capital. There were 762 homicides in the city last year, nearly 300 more than 2015, largely concentrated in the same neighborhoods where the abusive policing usually occurred, investigators said.

"We make these findings acutely aware that this is a time of significant challenge for Chicago residents and police officers," said Vanita Gupta, who heads the Justice Department's Division of Civil Rights, which conducted the probe. "Gun violence has spiked. Relations between police officers and residents are strained. And officer morale is suffering. But this context only heightens the importance and urgency of our findings."

The report cites myriad examples of officers firing guns and using Tasers unnecessarily, engaging in reckless shootouts and chases, beating up juveniles in petty confrontations, and being exposed in videos as lying about their misconduct. The behavior rarely ended with discipline, in large part due to a "code of silence" to protect fellow officers.

They included:

  • Officers fired 45 rounds at a man who ran from them, killing him. They claimed the man fired at them, but investigators found no evidence. The shooting was ruled justified.
  • An officer shot a man in the buttocks, claiming she'd opened fire after he turned toward her and raised his hand at her. No weapon was found, and the shooting was deemed justified despite the contradictory location of the bullet wounds.
  • Officers hit a 16-year-old girl with a baton and then Tasered her after she was asked to leave the school for having a cell phone in violation of school rules.
  • A plainclothes officer searching for two "Hispanic" suspects handcuffed a 12-year-old Latino boy riding his bike with his father, holding him in his patrol car before releasing him.
  • Officers forced a woman from her car, threw her to the ground, hit and Tased her, then claimed the force was necessary because she refused to show her hands. A video later showed her putting her hands on her car before they took her down, but the use of force was still deemed reasonable.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the incidents in the report "sobering" and pledged to revamp the department even if the Justice Department's approach to police reform softens under Donald Trump, who takes office Jan. 20.

Emanuel has been the target of ribbing by Trump, who has made Chicago — Obama's home town — an example of the need for a nationwide crackdown on crime. The mayor said he'd work with Trump's Justice Department to make sure the reforms stick.

"I give my word to every officer and every Chicagoan that we won't quit until we get it right," Emanuel said.

It is unclear, however, how closely a Trump Justice Department will keep tabs on Chicago or any of the 15 cities with police forces already under federal consent decrees for unconstitutional policing, part of Obama's unusually aggressive approach to police reform. The list includes Baltimore, where the Justice Department reached a settlement Thursday.

The announcements in Baltimore and Chicago signal that Obama is trying to tie up loose ends before ceding power to Trump, who has said he disagrees with the federal government meddling with local forces. Trump's choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has expressed skepticism about reform efforts and the use of consent decrees.

Related: What Would Jeff Sessions Mean for the Future of Police Reform as Attorney General?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois called the federal report overdue. Director Karen Sheley noted that her organization has been pointing out bad policing policies "for decades, only to see calls for reform neglected."

A consent decree, overseen by an independent monitor, is the only solution, she said.

Federal and city officials said they were working on just that.

"Our problems are longstanding, sometimes decades old, and prior efforts at reform…have not gotten the job done," said Zachary Fardon, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The head of the local police union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President Dean Angelo, accused federal authorities of rushing the investigation in order to finish before Trump took office. "Everyone who reads this document should be as concerned about the timeliness of this report as the FOP is," he said in a statement.

Arguably, none of this would be happening were it not for the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. The city resisted releasing video of the shooting for a year, and when it finally came to light, it sparked allegations of a cover up. The video showed Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, and contradicted official versions of the encounter given by officers who were there and by department brass.

Related: Police Accounts Appear to Differ With Laquan McDonald Shooting Video

The shooting was originally deemed justified. After the video's release, Van Dyke was charged with murder.

Unlike prior calls for reform, the outrage over the McDonald video pushed Chicago over the brink. Emanuel, hoping to get ahead of the issue, announced his own investigation, which accused the department of racist policing. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in December 2015 that the Division of Civil Rights would conduct its own probe.

On Friday, Lynch described a pattern of misconduct by officers, but also how those officers have been failed by their commanders, sending them into the streets without enough training or incentives to avoid violent confrontations.

"The systems and policies that fail ordinary citizens also fail the vast majority of Chicago police officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the city," Lynch said.

Jon Schuppe writes about crime, justice and related matters for NBC News. 

Sours: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/chicago-police-department-routinely-violated-people-s-rights-feds-say-n706586

Now discussing:

Police Misconduct

How Misconduct Leads to Wrongful Convictions

Police misconduct encompasses illegal or unethical actions or the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights by police officers in the conduct of their duties. Examples of police misconduct include police brutality, dishonesty, fraud, coercion, torture to force confessions, abuse of authority, and sexual assault, including the demand for sexual favors in exchange for leniency. Any of these actions can increase the likelihood of a wrongful conviction.

Police misconduct statistics gathered by the Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (MPMRP) confirm that around one percent of all police officers commit misconduct in a given year and that the consequences of such misconduct are grim. Keith Findley from the Wisconsin Innocence Project conducted a study and found that police misconduct was a factor in as many as 50 percent of wrongful convictions involving DNA evidence.

The Victims of Police Misconduct

At times, police misconduct is systematic. In one such case, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was arrested on federal obstruction of justice and perjury charges for allegedly lying about whether he and other officers under his command participated in the torture and physical abuse of suspects in police custody dating back to the 1980s. On more than one occasion, Burge participated in the torture and physical abuse of persons in police custody in order to obtain confessions. Burge was also aware that detectives he supervised engaged in torture and physical abuse of people in police custody. On one occasion, in order to coerce a confession, the police officers placed a plastic bag over the suspect’s head until he lost consciousness. He was fired from the police department in 1993 and was later convicted in federal court for perjury connected to a civil lawsuit filed against the city.

Four of Burge’s victims of torture, who were on death row because of their coerced confessions, were granted innocence pardons by the Illinois governor after Burge’s police misconduct was brought to light. In all, there were 14 documented cases where death sentences were based on confessions involving allegations of torture.

In most cases, the misconduct is more subtle than torture. Often times, police simply push the envelope in order to obtain a witness statement. In the case of Timothy (“Tim”) Atkins, Tim was convicted after a witness, Denise Powell, testified that he had confessed to the crime. After Tim was incarcerated for more than two decades, the California Innocence Project presented evidence that Denise was pressured by police to testify. When reversing Tim’s conviction, the judge held that the officers who interviewed Denise threatened her with jail if she did not provide information about the case.

Law Enforcement Zeal and Tunnel Vision

Like prosecutors, police officers are tasked with making our society safe. Sometimes their zeal leads them to use their power to make a case that otherwise would not be triable. An officer’s eagerness to see justice done can potentially lead to great injustice. Exacerbating the issue is that other officers are often reluctant to report misconduct because of their loyalty to fellow officers. But, the proliferation of cell phone cameras have allowed citizens to record and report police misconduct, helping raise public awareness of the issue.

Issues with Reporting Misconduct

Even now, however, actually reporting police misconduct can be a challenge for the average citizen. When reporting police misconduct, a person has to make the report to the agency being complained about. In many cities, a citizen’s review board will review complaints against police officers. Reforms and close monitoring are required to ensure that police misconduct is discovered quickly and that innocent persons are not falsely accused.

Sours: https://californiainnocenceproject.org/issues-we-face/police-misconduct/


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