Protests in Chicago continue after officials release video of police shooting


People march, shout, pray and protest against the alleged shooting of Harith Augustus by a Chicago Police officer during a confrontation in Chicago on 15 July 2018. (Tannen Maury/Tannen Maury/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)

Tensions escalated in a Chicago neighborhood Monday, a day after the police department released a video showing officers skirmishing with a black man and then shooting him in the street on Saturday.

A rally late Monday on the spot where the shooting took place attracted about 200 people who chanted in unison. Some onlookers argued in the middle of the street about whether the police had a good reason to shoot. Two police helicopters hovered overhead. Suddenly, a middle-aged man darted up to police officers watching the scene.

“Human beings don’t behave like that!” he screamed at them. An elderly woman from the corner joined in. “You’re hurting people!” she yelled.

“It’s gotten worse since Saturday,” said Kay Thomas, 16, who was carrying groceries home from the corner Walgreen’s. “I never saw my neighborhood this upset.”

To many black and Latino residents on the city’s South and West sides, the Saturday afternoon shooting of Harith Augustus, a barber in the South Shore neighborhood, is unquestionably linked to the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald, an unarmed 17-year-old. The aftermath of that shooting resulted in an incriminating report by the U.S. Department of Justice into practices by the police department, the electoral ouster of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and fresh vulnerability for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is in the midst of a reelection bid for a third term in February 2019.

Turning up the heat this summer is the pending trial of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged with first-degree murder for shooting McDonald 16 times as he backed slowly away. A police dashboard-camera video in that case was released more than a year after Emanuel narrowly won a second term. Van Dyke’s attorney is trying to move the trial from Chicago because he argues that the officer cannot get a fair trial here.

Many here think the outcome of that trial will be a watershed moment.

“Nobody is taking [violence] seriously. The police aren’t. The alderman isn’t. The mayor don’t give a damn. The community is the only ones taking it seriously,” said Janet, 58, a neighborhood resident who did not want her last name used.

Unlike in the McDonald case, Chicago police released the Augustus tape to the public the next day. It shows two officers approaching Augustus as he stands on a sidewalk calmly talking with another officer. One of the officers grabs his wrist from behind, which causes him to spin around and run. A gun is seen as his shirt flies up, and he is shot as he runs off. There is no audio, and the circumstances related to the shooting are unknown. Police say the officer was placed on desk duty for 30 days; the shooting is under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

Activists in groups such as Black Lives Matter and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression say that is not enough. At the march late Monday, as protesters marched to the barbershop where Augustus worked, activists called for the officer’s name to be released and for the officer’s firing. They also want an all-elected civilian council to replace COPA and have oversight on all matters related to police misconduct. Most of the appointees on COPA, which was created after the McDonald shooting, were named by Emanuel.

Some on Monday said they recognize that the police have a difficult job. But they questioned the decision to shoot to kill and said they want more video with audio released to give a full picture. Bill, 50, who did not want his last name used, said he watched the video and was troubled that the confrontation escalated. “It should have been handled differently,” he said. “I just hope that what comes out of this is something good.”

Since the release of the McDonald video in November 2015, rallies and marches have almost become a way of life in Chicago. Protesters have performed die-ins at City Hall, shut down Christmas shopping along Michigan Avenue, and regularly march in the Loop. The weekend before the Augustus shooting, 3,000 people marched down the Dan Ryan Expressway to protest gun violence.

All of those protests have been nonviolent. But on Saturday night, a five-hour march ended in baton-wielding police officers chasing and striking protesters, some of whom threw rocks and glass bottles in their direction.

Emanuel has not made a public statement about Saturday’s shooting and the street violence that followed.

Emanuel has become a focus of critics who say that his priorities are wrong when it comes to investment in the city, favoring downtown and North Side development over neighborhoods that need jobs and infrastructure. His opponents have been particularly critical of a $95 million police and fire academy Emanuel pushed through for City Council approval in May.

Most of Emanuel’s leading challengers released statements Monday suggesting that they understand the public dismay with police accountability and the need for change. Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot, once an Emanuel appointee to lead the police board, said the police violence toward protesters Saturday night demands an investigation.

“The images I saw from a variety of sources raise serious questions about supervision, use of force and equipment, as well as tactics deployed,” she said.

Another challenger, Troy LaRaviere, a former Chicago Public Schools principal, questioned whether the shooting was justified and why the video lacked audio.

“Our system of policing has been found to unjustly target African American communities for everything from issuing parking tickets, to setting up DUI checkpoints, to the unconstitutional use of force,” he wrote on Facebook. “It is of great concern to know this same disparate system is being used to stop African American men who — like many white Chicagoans — arm themselves for protection.”

However, McCarthy, the former Chicago police superintendent fired by Emanuel after the release of the McDonald video, wrote on Twitter that the shooting “appears to be justified.” He also suggested that Augustus fled from officers because there remains a lingering lack of trust between the community and the police.

“Incidents like this underscore the need for a new mayor who can bring us together, promote understanding, and open dialogue,” he said.

Yet almost as a reminder that the violence problem is urgent, two women were shot by random bullets fired from a car one block north of the rally 45 minutes before it started. Both victims were taken to nearby hospitals.

Mark Guarino. July 16, 2018, Washington Post, “Protests in Chicago continue after officials release video of police shooting”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/hundreds-protest-in-chicago-over-police-shooting/2018/07/16/08276a88-8960-11e8-85ae-511bc1146b0b_story.html?utm_term=.aaf22d1aaabe

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Fatal police shootings of unarmed people have significantly declined, experts say

By John SullivanJulie Tate Jennifer Jenkins, May 7, 2018


Protesters march through the streets of Sacramento on April 4, after a rally in front of the district attorney’s office in response to the fatal police shooting of unarmed Stephon Clark on March 18. (Elijah Nouvelage/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The number of deadly police shootings of unarmed people has generally declined since 2015 even as the tally of fatal shootings by law enforcement is on pace to hit nearly 1,000 for the fourth year in a row, according to data gathered by The Washington Post.

Fatal shootings of unarmed black men — such as the high-profile case in March of Stephon Clark in Sacramento — are among the kinds of killings that have fallen. Criminologists said the downturn in the number of cases and their analysis of the data indicate that evidence of racial bias by police who shoot and kill unarmed blacks has also declined but not disappeared.

“These trends mark significant changes,” said Geoff Alpert, a professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina who has been reviewing and studying the data at The Post’s request. “What we don’t understand yet is what’s causing these numbers to move downward.”

In 2015, police shot and killed 94 unarmed individuals, a number that fell to 51 in 2016 before rising to 68 in 2017. This year, police have shot and killed 18 unarmed people, eight fewer than at the same time last year.

Academics warn against over-interpreting the data relating to a decline of evidence of bias. The numbers are so small, they said, that even a few cases recorded in error could produce a different result.

The Post researchers began tracking deadly police shootings in 2015 after the fatal shooting by police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Information about shootings is gleaned from news reports and other public sources and compiled in a publicly available database.

The 2014 death of Brown, an unarmed black man, sparked nationwide protests and scrutiny of the use of deadly force by police. In March, the shooting of Clark reignited the debate. Police shot him in the back yard of his grandmother’s home. Clark, a 22-year-old black man, was unarmed and holding a cellphone. The shooting was captured by police body cameras and in helicopter video.

The ongoing Post project has found that police have shot and killed 3,309 people since 2015, or more than twice as many fatal shootings per year as the average reported by the FBI. Of those killed, 231, or 7 percent, were not armed with guns, knives or other objects that could be used as weapons at the time of the shootings, according to the data.

A review of the shootings of unarmed people shows that officers were reported to be under physical attack in about 40 percent of the cases. The remaining 60 percent involved a variety of circumstances, including individuals’ making provocative movements or verbal threats (31 percent) or fleeing, or being shot unintentionally or in undetermined circumstances, according to a review of news reports and video of the incidents. The news accounts cited in the Post database are typically summaries based on information provided by police at the time of each event.

In recent years, the fatal shootings of black men have drawn the most scrutiny and generated the greatest outrage — especially when the men were unarmed or the incidents were captured on video. The videos have provided a visual record of events that otherwise might have been described only by the officers involved. At least 38 of the 231 shootings have been recorded to some extent on police body cameras.

Since The Post began tracking fatal police shootings, blacks have been shot and killed at rates significantly higher than their percentage of the overall U.S. population. Blacks make up about 13 percent of the population but 23 percent of those fatally shot by police since 2015. For shootings of unarmed people, blacks were 36 percent of those killed.

In 2016, Alpert, working with Justin Nix, a criminologist at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, used the Post database and demographic data to examine the racial disparities in unarmed shootings in 2015.

That year, police killed 38 unarmed blacks and 32 unarmed whites. Whites accounted for 49 percent of all 2015 fatal police shootings, while blacks constituted 26 percent. The academic researchers found that blacks who were fatally shot were twice as likely to be unarmed as whites.

Since that finding, the number of shootings of unarmed men and women has dropped. The number of unarmed whites killed has made up a greater percentage of the total since 2016, when police killed 22 unarmed whites and 19 unarmed blacks. The pattern held in 2017, with 30 whites killed compared with 20 blacks. This year, police have killed 18 unarmed people, with 10 whites and seven blacks among them. Police have also killed 42 unarmed Hispanics over the past three years, or about 18 percent of the 231 killed.

At The Post’s request, Alpert and Nix revisited their bias analysis. They said the data from the additional years of shootings had shown that their indicator of racial bias by police in unarmed shootings had declined — from blacks who were fatally shot in 2015 being twice as likely to be unarmed to only “slightly more likely” when the entire three years of data is considered.

Alpert and other experts called the trends encouraging but cautioned that it is hard to draw conclusions without additional years of data and more detailed and comprehensive information about each shooting and overall police use of force. The experts have long maintained that the FBI should collect better data.

“The national conversation about policing for the last few years has been about race,” Nix said. He said agencies have begun implementing bias awareness and de-escalation training. “We haven’t had a chance to determine their effectiveness, but it’s possible this has all had a cumulative effect on officers.”

For their analysis, Nix and Alpert used a proxy for bias: They studied cases where the officer had little provocation to shoot, or the unarmed person presented no clear threat, which they defined as a lack of threatening movements, and they controlled for unintentional shootings, mental illness and other variables.


A memorial in a sidewalk near where Michael Brown was shot and killed is shown Aug. 8, 2015, in Jennings, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Other academics also said that the decline in the shootings of unarmed people is important but that any racial analysis is fraught without more data over time.

“A clerical error in one department could literally flip the interpretation of it,” said Phillip Goff, a social psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity.

Goff and others say that the numbers of unarmed shootings are so small that any interpretations amount to guesswork.

“When you’re looking at racial disparities, you’re on super-shaky ground,” said Goff, who said he hoped the public would not interpret the data to mean bias is no longer present.

Andrew P. Wheeler, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who studies police shootings, agreed.

“When you only look at the worst outcomes, it’s hard to say if this marks a real change or is random chance,” he said.

Nix acknowledged the data’s shortcomings but said it still has value.

“We shouldn’t ignore the data because it’s not perfect,” Nix said.

The Post’s review of shooting data showed that officers were under physical attack in 88 of 231 shootings. In about half of those cases, The Post found video, eyewitnesses or evidence of injury to police that supported the officers’ claims of attack.

In October 2017, Ryan Wilson of the Crandon, Wis., police department shot and killed an unarmed man who was trying to gouge out his eyes. The exchange was captured in dash cam and body camera video. Dexter Baxter, a 30-year-old robbery suspect in a vehicle pulled over by Wilson, managed to overpower the officer, choking him and gouging the officer’s eyes until they were bleeding.

“Stop or I’ll shoot you,” Wilson said.

Seconds later, Wilson did, shooting Baxter three times. Prosecutors ruled the shooting justified.

A few months later in Broward County, Fla., Deputy Sean Youngward, 48, was attacked after arriving to investigate a report of a disturbance. Video of the attack shows the deputy using his Taser and deflecting blows from Jean Pedro Pierre, 42, who was unarmed but enraged. Pierre punched Youngward and knocked him to the ground, seizing hold of his foot, and Youngward tried to hit him with his baton.

“Let go of my leg, sir,” Youngward said, according to the video. “Tell me what’s wrong. What’s wrong with you?”

Pierre charged at another officer, who shot him dead.

The remaining cases out of the 231 occurred under a variety of circumstances.

In September 2016, in Winooski, Vt., police tried to arrest 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw, who was wanted on several felony warrants, next to a fenced-in basketball court. Beshaw placed a hand behind his back and advanced toward a deputy, yelling, “Do it,” before the officer shot and killed him, according to reports in the Burlington Free Press and body camera video of the incident.

In March 2016, in Lenoir City, Tenn., 30-year-old Joshua Grubb sped away in his pickup truck from a police officer who had been questioning him, according to news reports. The officer jumped into the bed of the truck and shot Grubb several times through the back window of the cab. Police ruled the shooting justified.

In July 2016, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were looking for a carjacking suspect who had fired at officers and disappeared into a neighborhood.

Officers encountered Donnell Thompson, 27, a mentally disabled man asleep in the front yard of a house, and assumed he was the suspect. A SWAT unit arrived in an armored vehicle. Thompson did not respond to commands, remaining motionless with one hand under his head and the other concealed near his waist. Deputies threw flash-bang grenades and shot him with foam bullets, The Post reported.

Thompson pushed himself to his feet and ran toward the SWAT vehicle, police said. An officer in the vehicle’s turret shot Thompson twice in the upper torso with an M4 rifle, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Thompson’s sister later told reporters that she thought her brother did not respond to commands because he was afraid and confused. Los Angeles County in September paid $1.49 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Thompson’s family.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department called the shooting a “terribly devastating event.”

By John SullivanJulie Tate Jennifer Jenkins, May 7, 2018, The Washington Post, “Fatal police shootings of unarmed people have significantly declined, experts say”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/fatal-police-shootings-of-unarmed-people-have-significantly-declined-experts-say/2018/05/03/d5eab374-4349-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html?utm_term=.51a177456334

Are civilian oversight agencies actually holding police accountable?

July 19, 2018, Olugbenga Ajilore

Within 24 hours after the shooting of Harith Augustus by Chicago police on July 14, the Chicago Police Department released body camera footage of the incident to the public. The video is less than a minute long and lacks sound, but the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a civilian oversight agency for the Chicago Police Department that coordinated the release, said it would release the full video within 60 days, as is required.

The quick release of the edited footage is a good step toward transparency and best practices regarding body cameras. Before the 60-day policy went into effect in 2016, the Chicago police took more than a year to release footage of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. The civilian oversight agency at the time, the Independent Police Review Authority, lacked the independence and influence to ensure the video’s timely release.

These incidents demonstrate the important role civilian oversight agencies can play in holding police accountable and incorporating community voices in policing.

What are civilian oversight agencies?

Civilian oversight agencies are typically established after an incident of police misconduct and when a community identifies a need for such an agency. After a series of police shootings in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, the US Department of Justice issued a consent decree to establish the city’s Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB) in 1997.

The National Association of Civilian Oversight in Law Enforcement (NACOLE) says there are around 150 oversight agencies across the country. Although there is no strict definition of what encompasses an oversight agency, NACOLE breaks them into three categories:

  1. Investigation focused. These agencies, like the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, conduct independent investigations of complaints against police officers.
  2. Review focused. These agencies review the operations of police departments and aim to provide community input to internal investigations and procedures.
  3. Auditor or monitor focused. These agencies are typically started out of decrees from the federal government, with a focus on large-scale and systemic reforms.

What makes a successful civilian oversight agency?

Experts say that investigation-focused agencies are typically more successful at holding police forces accountable for wrongdoing or misbehavior because they focus on individual complaints. For any oversight agency to succeed, however, three factors are necessary:

  1. Independence. A civilian oversight agency should be independent from the police department so that recommendations can be trusted.
  2. Resources. Investigating complaints and issuing reports can be time consuming and expensive. A successful civilian oversight agency needs adequate funding to function.
  3. Power. Civilian oversight agencies need some teeth so that law enforcement can’t simply ignore recommendations from reports or investigations.

Independence is particularly important because civilian oversight agencies aim to improve the operations of police departments and correct mistakes. Without independence, it’s impossible to form nonbiased recommendations and implement reforms.

For example, the Police Complaints Board in Washington, DC, seeks to establish independence by requiring four of the five members to have no existing connection to the Metropolitan Police Department. These individuals are often retired police officers, while the fifth member must be a current member of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Striking a balance between those with policing experience and those with no ties to the police department can be difficult. What mix of expertise and independence can best support a civilian oversight agency? To find the answer, we need more research.

We need to know more about civilian oversight agencies

Many questions surround civilian oversight agencies, the answers to which research could illuminate. Are agencies with stronger enforcement abilities more effective? The recent homicide charges brought against Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosenfeld, who shot Antwan Rose on June 19, provides an interesting case along these lines, especially considering that officers are rarely arrested after a shooting. Could the arrest be attributed to the work of the city’s CPRB?

On the other hand, Rosenfeld was hired despite previous incidents of excessive force at the University of Pittsburgh. Was the CPRB involved in his hiring decision? A study by the Washington Post found that 451 officers of 1,881 officers who were fired from 37 of the nation’s largest police departments were later rehired. What role might oversight agencies play in these decisions?

Civilian oversight agencies help communities have a say in how they are policed, but we need to know more about them and variations in their structure, reach, and effectiveness to enhance law enforcement accountability and reduce police misconduct.

Olugbenga Ajilore, July 19, 2018, , Urban.org, “Are civilian oversight agencies actually holding police accountable?”, https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/are-civilian-oversight-agencies-actually-holding-police-accountable

Police Killed 1,129 People in 2017; 12 Were Charged with a Crime

Claire Valentine,

https://assets.rbl.ms/17020146/1200x800.png

An extensive new report by Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative that collects comprehensive data on police killings nationwide and that includes DeRay McKesson and Brittany Packnett, showed that as of December 26, police have killed 1,129 people in 2017. In 12 of these incidents — or one percent of all killings — an officer was charged with a crime.

Three main sources provided the bulk of the data: Fatal Encounters, the U.S. Police Shootings Database and the website Killed By Police. The researchers also relied on obituaries, criminal records databases, social media and police reports to gather more information about the killings by police.

Researchers found that the majority of these encounters — 631 killings — began with officers responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported. 87 percent of people were killed after a traffic violation, and 147 people were completely unarmed when killed by the police.

Of the unarmed people killed, most were people of color, the data found. Overall, black people were the most likely to be killed by police, most likely to be unarmed, and less likely to be threatening someone when killed. 25% of the people killed were black, though black people make up only 13% of the population.

Related | Justice Department Declines to Charge Officers Responsible for Alton Sterling’s Death

The interactive data also shows locations of killings, breakdown by race, weapons involved, and information on laws and activist groups, like Campaign Zero, working to end police brutality. You can scroll through it all here.

In July 2016, Campaign Zero launched an interactive graphic tool that shows what US states have proposed or already enacted legislation related to ending police violence. It also includes a form that allows you to easily access the contact information for your representatives (and to see how they voted in the past). You can check it out here.

The below shows all of the killings this year by date and location:

https://samswey.carto.com/viz/17fc669b-3d79-40ea-8b5b-9b5287162747/embed_mapTo contact your representative and see how they voted on relevant legislation in the past, use the form below:

End Police Violence

Where does your rep stand?

Knowledge is power. Let your legislators know what you think.

Claire Valentine, , papermag.com, “Police Killed 1,129 People in 2017; 12 Were Charged with a Crime”, http://www.papermag.com/police-killed-1-129-people-in-2017-12-were-charged-with-a-crime-2520838132.html

Busted! Cop Caught On Video Sucker Punching Unarmed Black Man Lied On Police Report

A video showing an apparently unprovoked Florida cop sucker-punching an unarmed Black man earlier this month was more than just shocking; it also served as proof that the on-duty officer lied about the violent confrontation.

The fictional version told by Officer Adriel Dominguez began to unravel when a fellow officer breached the blue wall of silence by giving the Miami Herald footage of the encounter on Dec. 3. Dominguez was relieved of patrol duties while the police department was conducting an internal investigation and state prosecutors reviewed the case that left Lowell Poitier unconscious, the Herald reported on Wednesday.

See Also: Video Catches Louisville Police Beating Black Driver For No Apparent Reason

Meanwhile, the officer who came forward with the video, Frederick Dominguez, who’s not related to Adriel Dominguez, has demanded whistle-blower protection from his fellow officers.

On that fateful date, police officers responded to a call about a disruptive man at a South Beach restaurant. On a police report, Adriel Dominguez wrote that Poitier, 35, clenched his fist and took a fighting stance in the encounter. Fearing for his life, the officer said he punched Poitier.

However, the video didn’t show any of that. It instead appeared to show the officer grabbing Poitier and knocking him out. The Black man, who suffered a cut lip and other minor injuries, ended up being charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s outrageous behavior. It’s an assault in broad daylight. He clearly did not take a fighting stance or clench his fist to fight the officer like it says in the report,” stated Michael Pizzi, the attorney representing Frederick Dominguez.

The police report claimed that Poitier called the officers “crackers” and appeared defiant. He allegedly said, “what, what,” and made a fist, as he got ready to assault Dominguez. But the officer, obviously lying, said he struck first in self-defense.

After obtaining a copy of the video, Frederick Dominguez noticed the clear contradictions between what appeared in the footage and what Adriel Dominguez alleged in his report.

The investigation could reach high up the law enforcement ladder. Police commanders should have known about the incident but failed to act. Officers are required to submit their body cameras at the end of each shift, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said. Senior officers must review any footage that includes the use of force, yet they remained silent if they saw it. Oates claimed that he was made aware of the video on Wednesday morning, more than a week after Poitier was assaulted.

“This is obviously a very serious matter,” Oates said.

Still, the powerful police union has the back of Officer Adriel Dominguez and other any officer in the line of fire. It remained to be seen if any of them will ultimately get punished.

December 13, 2018, newsone.com, “Busted! Cop Caught On Video Sucker Punching Unarmed Black Man Lied On Police Report”, https://newsone.com/3840303/sucker-punch-video-miami-police/

Forced out over sex, drugs and other infractions, fired officers find work in other departments

By Kimbriell KellyWesley Lowery Steven Rich, December 28, 2017


The London Lodge Motel in New Orleans. A city police officer was accused of patronizing a prostitute there in 2010 while on duty. (Annie Flanagan/For The Washington Post)

By the time the New Orleans Police Department fired Carey Dykes, the officer had been sued for alleged brutality, accused of having sex with a prostitute while on duty and caught sleeping in his patrol car instead of responding to a shooting.

The 13-year veteran fought to get his job back but lost.

Even so, he returned to patrol months later — working for a nearby police department.

Dykes is one of dozens of officers forced out of the New Orleans department over the past decade for misconduct who were given badges and guns by other departments, according to a Washington Post analysis of state and city employment records, police personnel files and court documents. At a time of increased scrutiny of police nationwide, the ease with which fired or forced-out New Orleans officers found work at new departments underscores the broader challenge that law enforcement faces to rid itself of “bad apples.”

The New Orleans department has long been attempting to reform its ranks and shed a troubled past. In the past decade, the department has fired or otherwise pushed out at least 248 officers. Of those forced out, 53 have been hired by other police departments, according to information obtained through public records requests.

Many of those officers landed at smaller police departments in nearby parishes and colleges — some hired weeks or months after leaving New Orleans. While records show that some have had no complaints of misconduct since joining new departments, others have been fired again.

Records show that many of the 53 officers hired by other departments disclosed their troubled departures from New Orleans. About half of the 53 had been fired, and the rest resigned in lieu of being fired or quit while under investigation.

Some of the 248 officers were fired or forced out in New Orleans after abandoning their posts in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the city. Others were fired or pushed out in the aftermath of a 2011 Justice Department civil rights investigation. The federal review concluded that officers “routinely” used unnecessary force and conducted unlawful arrests and that neither the public nor officers had faith in the department’s disciplinary process. City leaders instituted changes demanded by the Justice Department, adding to an exodus of officers.

Former New Orleans police superintendent Ronal Serpas said that sheriffs and other chiefs often justify rehiring officers by dismissing their problems as “political.” As a result, troubled officers remain in policing, he said.

“By the time you reach the point of terminating someone, that’s usually something that speaks to [the officer’s] ethics or ability to perform their job,” said Serpas, who led the New Orleans department from 2010 to 2014.

Louisiana is one of 44 states that require that officers be certified, or licensed. In some states, police chiefs pursue the decertification of officers they fire — to prevent them from being hired at other police departments.

But Louisiana has not decertified a single officer for misconduct in the past decade, records show. State officials said that local departments have failed to request decertifications. Local police officials said, however, that the process of decertifying an officer they no longer employ can be laborious and may not be worth the time.

Serpas said steps should be taken to make sure that officers are stripped of their state law enforcement certifications and that a national database of these officers should be created to help prevent them from returning to law enforcement.

“If you get terminated for untruthfulness or bribery or brutality, you really should not be allowed to be a police officer anywhere in the country,” Serpas said.


Squad cars parked on top of the New Orleans Police Department building on Nov. 9, 2017. (Annie Flanagan/For The Washington Post)
Sleeping, buying sex on duty

Police officer Carey Dykes arrived near the French Quarter just before dawn as fists were flying and fires were burning in the street. Soon, bottles were flung in his direction.

It was Feb. 16, 1999, and Dykes was quickly joined by a dozen other officers as the Mardi Gras party descended into chaos.

By the time it was over, police had jailed nearly 60 people. In the aftermath, Dykes, other officers and the city faced two federal lawsuits from people who alleged that they had been falsely arrested and were beaten by police. In the suits, witnesses said they saw Dykes and another officer “brutally beat” a man with nightsticks.

The city settled the two cases for a combined $60,850. In 2001, Dykes and the city were sued again: A pregnant woman said she was assaulted by Dykes as he tried to arrest her and her then-husband outside a French Quarter strip club.

“That cop, Dykes, came up to me before I could get all the way up off the ground and slammed me back down on the ground with my face in the ground and kept saying, ‘Keep still. Don’t move. Don’t move,’ ” the woman, Chantal Jarrell, now 45, said in an interview.

Carey Dykes. (Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office)

The city and the officers generally denied the allegations but settled her suit for $400.

Records show that during the next decade, Dykes was suspended three times for violating department policies, including failing to follow instructions and filing incomplete reports.

Then, in July 2010, a woman told police officials that an officer was paying women for sex. She told internal affairs investigators that the officer — whom she identified as Dykes from a photo lineup — spent some of his nightly shifts cruising the streets “picking up working girls.” She complained that she had sex with him but was not paid.

The woman, who was not identified in the investigative reports, said Dykes picked her up in his squad car July 4 and took her to the London Lodge, a nearby motel.

She said that she took a shower and emerged to see Dykes naked. The two then had vaginal and oral sex without a condom, she said.

Motel records showed that Dykes rented a $45 room, checking in with his driver’s license at 2:50 a.m. — in the middle of his patrol shift.

Investigators set up a sting.

Over several days, police recorded the woman speaking with Dykes on the phone while he was on duty. In one recording, the woman said she had a bacterial infection when they had unprotected sex and told him that he might pass it on to his wife.

Dykes said he was not worried about a bacterial infection. “Only STD will affect me,” he told her.

On the sting’s fifth night, investigators watched Dykes park his squad car at the London Lodge at 3:35 a.m. Almost an hour later, a 911 call came in from nearby: Two men had wrecked a Chevrolet Tahoe and fled on foot armed with assault rifles.

A dispatcher radioed Dykes to respond to the call but got no answer from him.

Ten minutes after the initial 911 call, the neighborhood erupted in gunfire, prompting five additional calls to 911.

Dykes’s white marked patrol car did not move, records show. Concerned, one of the officers watching Dykes approached his police cruiser: Dykes was inside asleep. The surveillance officer snapped a photo.

At 5:15 a.m., Dykes drove off and later wrote in his activity report that he had responded to the shooting.

The internal affairs investigation found that Dykes had violated department rules 17 times, including not devoting his entire shift to his police duty, transporting a civilian in his work vehicle, dishonesty and failing to respond to a dispatcher.

Dykes initially denied many of the allegations and said he did not have intercourse with the woman. When confronted with the findings of the surveillance, he admitted to having oral sex with the woman at the motel and failing to respond to the shooting.

Three months later, in February 2011, Dykes was fired. He appealed, but an arbitrator upheld his dismissal.

When reached by phone, Dykes, 44, said of his firing: “It happened over seven years ago. I’m not worried about it.” He declined to answer questions or comment further.

Months after he was fired, Dykes applied for a police job at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, records show.


Superintendent of Police Michael Harrison in his office at the New Orleans Police Department on Nov. 9, 2017. (Annie Flanagan/For The Washington Post)

When Delgado officials made contact with New Orleans to verify Dykes’s prior employment, they were told to contact New Orleans’s public integrity division. It is unclear whether anyone from Delgado did.

On Aug. 5, 2011, the community college offered Dykes a job with its police force, hiring him for about $12,000 less than he said he had made in New Orleans.

Delgado spokesman Tony Cook said in an email that the college could not say why it hired Dykes despite his previous firing, whether the college had checked Dykes’s references or whether the officer has faced disciplinary action since his hiring.

In July 2016, while employed at Delgado, Dykes secured a second job at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy sheriff. Orleans Parish officials declined to be interviewed. He continues to work at both departments, records show.

New Orleans Superintendent of Police Michael Harrison said he ran into Dykes while visiting the Delgado campus. Harrison, who led the sting that ousted Dykes, said it was the first time he had seen the officer in a police uniform since he was fired.

The two shook hands and exchanged a cordial smile, he said.

“He knows that I know. . . . I would just say that I would hope that he has changed,” Harrison said.

‘I could have been killed that night’

Police officials and law enforcement experts say that smaller police agencies may have less capacity to vet potential hires and that the departments are more willing to take chances on officers with troubled backgrounds because of the national shortage of officers.

“Because of the market demand for experienced police officers, many organizations are willing to overlook blemishes in a police record in order to keep their numbers up,” said Peter Scharf, a criminologist and professor in the School of Public Health at Louisiana State University.

Hiring these officers can save a department money: Officers who were fired or left amid investigations may not have to be trained or certified and will often accept lower salaries, experts noted.

Some police advocates who represent officers defended the rehirings and said many officers deserve second chances because they may have been forced out of departments unfairly.

“There’s far too often where some police officers are terminated for reasons that are not just and not right,” said Eric Hessler, an attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans.

All but two of the 53 New Orleans officers who were rehired at other departments found work in Louisiana; the others resurfaced in jobs at police departments in nearby Alabama.

Some of the officers have gone on to be fired again.

Jake Schnapp Jr. was one of half a dozen officers who were patrolling the French Quarter in plainclothes late Dec. 30, 2006, when they saw Ronald Coleman walking briskly through the rain.

Coleman, a 25-year-old lawyer, had been visiting a friend who worked on Bourbon Street. He said he was heading to his car when he noticed men in Mardi Gras beads following him. Moments later, he said in an interview, the men threw him to the ground without identifying themselves as officers.

“I thought I might be getting jumped,” said Coleman, who said he was handcuffed and then punched and kicked while on the ground. “I was completely powerless.”


Ronald Coleman, who now lives in Sacramento, was accosted in December 2006 by a group of police officers as he walked to his car in New Orleans. Two would be fired, and one of the two became a deputy in Plaquemines Parish. (Nick Otto/For The Washington Post)

Coleman said that when he began screaming, “I’m a lawyer,” one of the men, later identified as Schnapp, took off the handcuffs and told him that the police had been looking for a pickpocket who had robbed an elderly man. Coleman said Schnapp then escorted him to a nearby police station, promised to file a report and gave him a number to call to follow up.

Coleman said that later that night, he realized the extent of his injuries — two black eyes, a bruised rib and what turned out to be a mild concussion — and went to another police station and filed a report.

That triggered an investigation by internal affairs.

Schnapp told investigators that his group of officers had been approached by a man who said he had been robbed of his wallet and who pointed down the street to Coleman as the suspect. “Grab that guy,” Schnapp said he instructed his fellow officers.

In his incident report, however, Schnapp wrote that the altercation began when Coleman slipped on the wet pavement, the officers fell on top of him and he began “kicking, screaming, and flailing his arms,” according to a local news story at the time.

Investigators concluded that Schnapp “knowingly and intentionally” failed to include in his report that the officers had punched Coleman.

In July 2007, the department fired Schnapp and a second officer. Schnapp soon secured a new job with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, just south of New Orleans.

Jake Schnapp. (St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office)

After six years, Plaquemines fired Schnapp in 2013, the department’s records show.

Department officials declined to explain the firing and said it was the result of an “internal issue” not related to his performance or public safety.

“He had his backers and detractors,” Terry Sercovich, a Plaquemines spokesman, said of Schnapp. He said officials involved in Schnapp’s hiring have left the department.

Former sheriff Jiff Hingle, who hired Schnapp, went on to spend nearly four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to public corruption charges. He did not respond to requests for comment. Former sheriff Lonnie Greco, during whose tenure Schnapp was fired, was voted out of office and did not respond to requests for comment.

Schnapp worked briefly as a private security contractor and in July 2013 applied to be a deputy with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office. In his application, Schnapp acknowledged both firings, but he was hired.

In a statement, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said the department investigated Schnapp’s employment history and called his listed references.

“Further investigation regarding his terminations revealed conflicting factual findings of alleged policy violations,” Champagne said. “We also received credible information that Mr. Schnapp’s terminations may have been partially motivated by political considerations and personality conflicts instead of hard facts.”

Records show that Schnapp was reprimanded by the St. Charles Parish department in November 2016 after his superiors concluded that he had made an inappropriate comment to a colleague. He was put on probation for 90 days and sent to cultural sensitivity training. Champagne said that has been the officer’s only misstep. “He has proven to be an excellent deputy,” Champagne said.

Schnapp, 52, and the attorney who represented him after his firing in New Orleans did not respond to requests for comment.

Coleman, who now works as a lobbyist in California, said that he moved out of Louisiana because of the beating by police. He sued the city, settling for $18,941. He said he was stunned to learn that Schnapp had been hired by another police department.

“I could have been killed that night,” Coleman said. “And to know that this officer . . . is able to go to another jurisdiction and potentially engage in that same behavior somewhere else is very problematic.”

Ten years, five departments

Noel Sanders was fired by New Orleans in 2007 when internal affairs investigators concluded that he had failed to seek medical attention after his 4-year-old son was burned by scalding bath­water.

According to accounts in court and city records, the officer was at work when, after 10 p.m. on May 1, 2001, his fiancee told the boy to draw his own bath. Moments later, she heard a splash. Nearly a minute passed before she scooped his pink body from the water.

Noel Sanders. (Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office)

The next day, Sanders noticed that his son’s skin was peeling, records show. Investigators would later note that the boy’s bedding appeared to be stained with blood. Sanders spoke to his mother and to the commander of the police department’s child abuse section about the injuries. Sanders’s mother advised him to seek medical treatment for the child, but he did not. She later called an ambulance, records show.

The boy was flown to a Texas hospital “at substantial risk of death” with second- and third-degree burns over half his body, records show. Sanders and his fiancee were arrested and each charged with cruelty to a juvenile, a felony.

His fiancee was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2007, prosecutors dropped the charges against Sanders because his son was not present to testify, records show. He successfully petitioned to have the case expunged from court records.

The New Orleans Police Department completed its internal investigation and fired Sanders because his actions had violated several policies and put his son’s life in jeopardy, records show. An appeals court that upheld his firing said Sanders’s failure to summon medical help “casts doubt on his ability to properly handle emergency situations.”

“I really don’t want to talk about that situation,” Sanders, 47, said when reached by The Post. “That’s old news for me, and I’ve gone on with my life now.”

In 2008, Sanders was hired as an officer at Delgado Community College, where he had once studied criminal justice. The college hired him, citing a “current shortage of police officers,” according to an internal memo.

But his time there lasted less than a year: Sanders was fired in January 2009 for “failing to meet established standards of performance,” according to a department memorandum.

By August, Sanders was hired by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office as a deputy assigned to the jail, employment records show. He was again fired after less than a year on the job, this time for “job abandonment” after he called in sick and failed to show up for any of his later shifts, records show. The sheriff’s office declined to comment.

Sanders’s next stop was as a police officer working for Louisiana State University, where he was hired in October 2011. He trained and supervised officers on the health sciences campus in New Orleans, employment records show. He remained there until April 2017, when he was hired at a fifth police department, the Orleans Levee District Police.

That hiring prompted a review by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a nonprofit that works with local police and federal authorities to identify and combat public corruption.

In a letter last month, the commission said that it had received complaints that the Orleans Levee District Police had hired officers with “questionable backgrounds,” including Sanders.

The commission accused Orleans Levee police of hiring Sanders despite “apparent red flags” and alleged that he lied on his job application. The commission said he claimed to have been fired once, although he had been fired from three departments. The commission requested that Orleans Levee police review Sanders’s hiring to see whether it violated any of that department’s policies.

In the meantime, Sanders remains with the department.

“At this time, based on what we know of Officer Sanders’s performance to date, since March 1, which has been very good, I do not anticipate doing anything different with Officer Sanders,” Derek Boese, an official with the Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the Orleans Levee department, told The Post.

Hirings called into question

Delgado Community College has hired more of the castoffs from New Orleans in the past decade than any other police department. In recent years, the small agency, charged with protecting the state’s largest community college, has primarily hired former New Orleans police officers — including seven who were fired or pushed out under investigation.

“There may be an occasion when someone who has been terminated from another department would be able to meet hiring qualifications for a position with Delgado Campus Police,” said Cook, the Delgado spokesman.

Most of the seven officers were hired by Ronald T. Doucette Sr. when he was Delgado’s police chief. Doucette is a former New Orleans police officer who in 27 years with the department worked his way up the ranks, even serving for a time as an assistant superintendent.

In 2003, he left New Orleans to become the chief at Delgado, where he had once been a student, to run the force of 24 armed officers who patrol the campus in marked cars and golf carts.

During his 11 years at Delgado, Doucette hired five officers who had been forced out of New Orleans, including Carey Dykes and Noel Sanders.

In an interview, Doucette, 67, said that he had hired former New Orleans officers in an effort to “improve the quality of the officers at the college.” He said those hires included officers who had been fired, because they deserved a second chance.

“You can’t keep punishing people for the same mistake,” Doucette said.

Of Sanders, Doucette said he was aware of the child abuse allegations against him. He said he fired Sanders because of an incident on campus, which Doucette declined to discuss. “I made mistakes,” Doucette said of Sanders’s hiring.

Doucette did not return a subsequent call seeking comment about Dykes.

Another officer Doucette hired was his nephew Eric P. Doucette Sr., who was fired by New Orleans police in 2005 for neglect of duty, records show. The chief said he followed ethics guidelines and did not directly supervise his nephew. Eric Doucette, 59, did not respond to requests for comment.

When Ronald Doucette resigned from Delgado in 2014, college officials replaced him with another former New Orleans police officer: Julie Lea, a former lieutenant in internal affairs.

Julie Lea at an event in New Orleans on Aug. 17, 2014. (Josh Brasted)

Lea had resigned from New Orleans while under investigation for “neglect of duty” for failing to “properly supervise subordinates,” according to police records.

In preparation of a federal audit that was part of the ongoing Justice Department investigation, Lea was told to complete pending internal affairs cases, records show. Investigators said Lea, however, allowed one of her employees to retire with 18 cases pending. The department later sustained the administrative violations against Lea.

Lea, 44, told The Post that she was “never notified of an investigation.” By the time New Orleans internal affairs upheld the charges against her, she had been sworn in as chief at Delgado. Delgado officials said they were unaware that she was under investigation when she was hired.

One of Lea’s hires at Delgado was fired New Orleans officer Mario Cole, who lost his job in 2013 after 11 years with the department when he tested positive for opiates during a random drug test. Through Delgado police, Cole, 38, declined to comment.

“I’m sure I looked into it and found out what it was,” Lea said when asked whether she knew of Cole’s prior misconduct when she hired him in 2016. “But I don’t remember.”

In January 2017, after a little more than a year as Delgado’s chief, Lea was fired.

An internal investigation by the college concluded that she had misused state funds and compromised student safety by ordering two of her officers to guard the homes of relatives of a deceased police chief during his funeral.

“Most chiefs would never get fired for something like that,” Lea said.

She said that after she was fired, she applied for another job as a police chief but was not hired. She now runs a nonprofit that she founded to organize Mardi Gras parades and events.

In August, Delgado replaced Lea with yet another former New Orleans officer: Eddie Compass III.

Compass spent 26 years with the New Orleans Police Department, ascending to superintendent. He resigned in 2005 amid widespread criticism of the department’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

In an interview, Compass, 59, said that all of Delgado’s hiring of New Orleans officers with troubled records predated his arrival. He said he has not had any problems with the officers but criticized the department’s prior hiring practices. He said Delgado will no longer hire officers who have been forced out of other departments.

“They never should have been hired,” he said. “But that’s something I can’t do anything about.”

Delgado’s police department has three openings.

Kimbriell KellyWesley Lowery Steven Rich, December 28, 2017, Wasington Post, “Forced out over sex, drugs and other infractions, fired officers find work in other departments”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/forced-out-over-sex-drugs-or-child-abuse-fired-officers-find-work-in-other-departments/2017/12/22/e0512774-d3a7-11e7-95bf-df7c19270879_story.html?utm_term=.74c7b26f4f62

The Right to Record Police Doesn’t Disappear When You Put Your Phone in Your Pocket

By Carol Rose, Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts, December 14, 2018 | 3:45 PM

The First Amendment right to record the police is a critical check and balance for people living in a free, open, and democratic society. It promotes the free discussion of governmental affairs as well as protects the democratic process. And for some communities, it’s a vital tool for uncovering, if not deterring, police misconduct.

But Boston-based civil rights activists Eric Martin and René Pérez were afraid to record the police. Under a state wiretap law passed in 1968, known as Section 99, it is a crime to secretly record private individuals and government workers, even those on duty like police officers. Since 2011, the Boston Police Department has applied for a criminal complaint against at least nine people for secretly recording police officers performing their duties in public, and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has opened numerous case files based on this felony charge as well.

Because of this fact, although Martin and Pérez often feared for their safety when openly recording police officers in public, they also knew recording secretly could subject them to arrest and prosecution. Caught between safety concerns and fear of punishment, they often chose not to record at all.

But that’s about to change.

Two years ago, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit, Martin v. Gross, on behalf of Martin and Pérez, arguing that they have every right under the First Amendment to secretly record police officers carrying out their duties in public. This week, a federal court agreed.

Taking photographs, video, and audio in public spaces is a constitutional right — and that includes law enforcement officials carrying out their duties. The defendants in this case argued that they could lawfully apply Section 99 to prevent individuals from secretly recording police officers performing their duties in public. In her recent ruling, Judge Patti B. Saris of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts called that application of the wiretap law unconstitutional.

The court explained that police officers have “diminished privacy interests” when performing their job in public, while the public has a constitutionally protected interest in newsgathering, information-dissemination, and monitoring the conduct of law enforcement officials. The parties must now submit proposed language for an order implementing the court’s decision by January 10.The ACLU of Massachusetts has long championed the right to record the police in the public performance of their duties. In another ACLU case, Simon Glik openly recorded Boston police officers when they treated a man too roughly on the Boston Common. Glik himself was then arrested for his constitutionally protected behavior. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously affirmed that he had a First Amendment right to record the police carrying out their duties on the Boston Common.

Although the fact pattern in Glik happened to involve an open recording, the First Circuit did not so limit its First Amendment ruling. Judge Saris’ ruling evokes Glik’s protection of both the open and secret recording of police officers performing their duties in public, reiterating that “the First Amendment’s protection for information-gathering has special force with respect to law enforcement officials who are granted so much discretion in depriving individuals of their liberties.”

In recent years, the exercise of this First Amendment right has changed the public’s understanding of encounters between police officers and the public. Time and time again, people’s recordings of police interactions have started national conversations about police reform and accountability, from Eric Garner to Philando Castile to Sandra Bland. As the Trump administration welcomes a new attorney general who opposes Obama-era police reform and civil rights work, all of us play an increasingly important role in keeping the local police in check.

This week’s decision will help ensure that we have the tools to do so.

Carol Rose, ACLU of Massachusetts, December 14, 2018, “The Right to Record Police Doesn’t Disappear When You Put Your Phone in Your Pocket”, https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/right-record-police-doesnt-disappear-when-you-put-your-phone-your-pocket

Mapping Police Violence collected data on over 1,100 killings by police in 2017.

Mapping Police Violence collected data on over 1,100 killings by police in 2017. Compiling information from media reports, obituaries, public records, and databases like Fatal Encounters and the WashingtonPost, this report represents the most comprehensive accounting of deadly police violence in 2017. Our analysis suggests the majority of killings by police in 2017 could have been prevented and that specific policies and practices might prevent police killings in the future.

Scroll to explore the findings.

https://policeviolencereport.org/

New York’s Top Court Shields Police Misconduct Records From Public View

It’s up to state lawmakers to defy the will of the unions to change the rules.

Eric Garner protestsBRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS/Newscom

New York’s top court on Tuesday blocked efforts to shine a light on the records of cops who misbehave on duty.

New York’s State Civil Rights Law has a section (50-a) that broadly seals the personnel records of police, corrections officers, and firefighters, even in cases of misconduct. As a result, whenever a police officer gets in trouble, citizens can’t know if he or she has been disciplined, and are unable to determine whether an officer has a history of bad behavior.

For the last six years, the New York Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for access to the records of officers brought before New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. Initially, the NYCLU won an order for the police to release the information in a redacted format. But it was overturned on an appeal that was upheld Tuesday.

The judge who wrote Tuesday’s decision, Michael Garcia, made very clear that the purpose of the law is to shield police from not just “harassment,” but embarrassment, and to make it harder to use an officer’s disciplinary record to undermine his or her testimony.

Garcia detailed several New York state precedents, one of which states the purpose of section 50-a is to protect police against those who would use their records “as a means for harassment and reprisals and for purposes of cross-examination by plaintiff’s counsel during litigation.” The law is designed not just to protect the police officer’s privacy, but also their reputation and to shield them from legal liability.

The law does have a mechanism by which this seal of privacy can be broken, but it requires a judge to review requests individually and to then determine that the records are “relevant” to a specific action.

We’ve seen the outcome of this practice in the case of Eric Garner, who died after a NYPD police officer saw Garner selling loose cigarettes and put him in a chokehold. The personnel records of the officer responsible, Daniel Pantaleo, were kept secret under this state law, but somebody leaked documents to the press that showed a history of problems, including four abuse complaints that were substantiated by the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Pantaleo will finally face an administrative trial next year. The Garner case, meanwhile, has become not just a symbol of police brutality, but a reminder of how little members of the public can know about the armed men and women who have the legal authority to kill them.

Law enforcement unions are, of course, over the moon about the decision. Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told The New York Times the decision was “exhilarating, especially in this climate.” This “climate” is not actually any more prone to violent retaliation against police than it has been in the past. Of the 140 deaths of law enforcement officers reported this year, 49 were due to gunfire, three to assault, and seven to vehicular assault. All of 10 police officers have died in service in New York State this year, several of them as a result of 9/11-related illnesses.

Perhaps Palladino is referring to the “climate” in California, where lawmakers this year finally stripped law enforcement officers of similarly overbroad “protections” that prevented the public from knowing about officers’ past misconduct. Lawmakers in New York are hoping to follow in California’s footsteps and open up these records next year.

Read the ruling here.

Scott Shackford|, Reason.com, “New York’s Top Court Shields Police Misconduct Records From Public View”, https://reason.com/blog/2018/12/13/new-yorks-top-court-shields-police-misco

The California law that keeps police misconduct secret

Figuring out which cops lie is the biggest challenge for a defense lawyer, says Charles Anderson, a former public defender who now lectures at UCLA.
Figuring out which cops lie is the biggest challenge for a defense lawyer, says Charles Anderson, a former public defender who now lectures at UCLA.

Photo by greg lilly via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometime next year, the California Supreme Court will decide whether Los Angeles Sheriff Jim McDonnell can hand over to the district attorney the names of about 300 deputies who engaged in misconduct that raises questions about their credibility.

That’s important for District Attorney Jackie Lacey to know. Sheriff’s deputies bring thousands of criminal cases to her office for prosecution every year. If any have lied in the past on police reports or used excessive force, she may want to probe the deputies role in the case.

Lacey is also obligated under a 1963 United States Supreme Court decision known as Brady to notify the opposing defense attorney of any evidence that might point to the defendant’s innocence. That includes identifying officers involved in the case who have lied in the past.

But California also has something called a “Pitchess process” that some say runs counter to what’s known as Brady obligations.

Pitchess is at the heart of the case before the state’s high court, where the Association of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies (ALADS) is fighting to stop the sheriff from taking the unprecedented move of simply giving the DA the list.

ALADS argues police agencies can almost never release personnel files or any portion of them. Together with police unions around the state, ALADS over the years has successfully lobbied for the most restrictive police records laws in the nation.

The origins of Pitchess

Some quick history: Peter Pitchess was an L.A. County Sheriff himself, starting in 1958 and serving for nearly a quarter century. But unlike McDonnell, he sought to quash a defendant’s effort to reveal misconduct by a group of deputies. The deputies had arrested the defendent on charges he assaulted them.

A judge ordered Pitchess to produce a portion of the deputies’ personnel records. The sheriff refused and appealed to the state supreme court. Pitchess lost and was forced to turn over the records.

Through that 1974 court case and rules set up later by the state legislature, the Pitchess process was born. It’s designed to balance the rights of defendants to find out if the officer who arrested them has engaged in misconduct in the past with the privacy rights of the officer with regard to their personnel file.

But many criminal defense attorneys say Pitchess has instead become another barrier to transparency, a law enforcement wall beyond which nobody is permitted.

“Finding out when police are lying is probably the most difficult thing about being a defense lawyer,” said Charles Anderson, who was a public defender for eight years before landing at UCLA teaching criminal trial advocacy.

Here’s how Pitchess works:

  • First, an attorney needs to get a tip from his client or a police officer or a city attorney or prosecutor that an officer may have a history of misconduct. The attorney must then file a notice that he intends to file a Pitchess motion 16 court days and five extra calendar days in advance of filing it. The attorney must show “good cause” for getting the information.
  • The judge reviews the officer’s file and determines if anything in it is relevant to the criminal case. For example, is the defendant charged with assaulting the officer and the officer has a history of excessive force?
  • But defense attorneys are not immediately entitled to any discipline or complaint associated with the officer. Instead, the judge will only give them the name, number and address of the person who filed the complaint against the officer. They often are hard to track down and reluctant to testify against the officer in a case they have nothing to do with.

“I can count on one hand – and I don’t need any fingers – the number of times I’ve gotten useful information that made a difference in the outcome,” said Andy Bouvier-Brown, a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles.  He blames the Pitchess process and wonders if some police departments don’t hide discipline records.

Pitchess produces other barriers. Misconduct more than five years old generally cannot be used against the officer and defense attorneys cannot share information about problem officers.

ALADS declined to comment for this story.

Retired Superior Court Judge Richard Neidorf, a former deputy district attorney and police officer, thinks cops need that kind of protection from frivolous claims of misconduct.

But he also acknowledges that defense attorneys in particular face huge hurdles to raise even legitimate questions about a cops credibility. But he’s unsure of how to rectify that without infringing on police officers’ privacy.

“That’s the way the system is,” Neidorf told KPCC. “The system is not always fair.”

He notes it doesn’t necessarily make sense for prosecutors to have to rely on police departments to identify their own officers who’ve committed misconduct.

Lacey walks fine line

While the DA’s prosecutors often fight any defense effort to impeach an officer, Lacey this year also broadened the type of conduct that can land a cop on her list of officers with credibility problems.

She won’t say how many are on the list, but says the number runs into the hundreds. The list was started by former DA Steve Cooley about ten years ago.

The DA’s list also now includes a section for police who have been accused of wrongdoing but investigators cleared the officer or decided there wasn’t enough evidence to determine guilt or innocence.

Lacey’s effort to strengthen how she handles “Brady” material in part was motivated by a 2015 law that bolsters a judge’s ability to remove a prosecutor who withholds evidence. The judge could also eject the DA’s office entirely from a case.

When the Los Angeles Times got ahold of an old list of deputies with credibility problems and published an article earlier this month, Lacey said her office didn’t even know about some of the 22 deputies named in it.

“It was good to have that information because we’re trying cases relying on sheriff’s deputies,” she told KPCC.

But she still lacks access to sheriff and police lists of problem cops they employ. In fact, she said she doesn’t know how many police departments even have such lists.

After the publication of the sheriff’s names, s0me defense attorneys immediately reviewed old cases to see if any of the deputies were involved in sending their clients to prison. But an appeal arguing the DA failed to disclose the deputy’s past misconduct would face an uphill battle, said defense attorney Robert Schwartz.

For one thing, most of the misconduct happened longer than five years ago – the cutoff to introduce it in court proceedings. Plus, judges are always reluctant to revisit cases in which there was a plea deal or trial and the one appeal the state guarantees you by providing a free lawyer.

“I believe there is going to be some institutional resistance to that,” said Schwartz.

Does Pitchess work?

Lacey would not answer the most obvious question: does the Pitchess process of identifying lying cops work in California?

“That’s an interesting question, that’s an interesting question,” Lacey said.

It’s worth noting Lacey’s office has to work with cops every day and her own 200 plus investigators are members of the deputy’s union. She’s balancing the demands of a lot of constituencies.

As for the sheriff’s case before the state supreme court – the one that will determine whether she get the secret list of deputies who may have credibility problems – Lacey walks a fine line again. She has refused to file an Amicus brief backing the sheriff but says she certainly supports the effort.

“If the court rules against the sheriff – which it may very well given the state’s laws favoring police officers – the DA should lobby the legislature for changes,” said attorney Peter Eliasberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“Police and a lot of prosecutors may think Pitchess is working fine, but it’s not,” he said.

, scpr.org, “The California law that keeps police misconduct secret”, https://www.scpr.org/news/2017/12/27/79302/california-s-pitchess-laws-keep-police-misconduct/