Context is necessary for that ‘excessive force’ police video

We can’t say for sure whether the police officers in that Washington Heights video used excessive force. But it’s dead certain that the video doesn’t remotely tell the whole story — because videos never do.

The six minutes look bad — particularly when one officer opens his baton and swings it at a civilian’s head. As a police source told The Post, that’s a direct violation of NYPD guidelines: “The head is a red zone.”

Yet Michael Gonzalez, the passerby who caught the action on his cellphone, has said from the start that it leaves out what went on before: The two alleged victims going after the cops — harassing officers who were responding to complaints about men smoking and blocking a stairway at the 168th Street station. And another video confirms it.

The men, ID’d as Aaron Grissom and Sydney Williams, were the aggressors, and the cops were “just defending themselves,” says Gonzalez.

Grisson and Williams also have records — 30 prior arrests between them, according to law enforcement sources, including eight involving fights with police. They were arrested together last month for a similar altercation with cops at the same station.

And Williams has bragged on Facebook about how his brawling with police is about “getting paid” and that he has four lawsuits pending against the city. Cops “can’t touch me because they get hurt and I get paid. I got three lawsuits and working on No. 4,” he says in the 2017 video.

If Grissom and Williams turn out to be provocateurs who were looking for a payday, the real outrage here is what’s not on the videotape.

Advertisements

Burlingame cop fired for seeking sex from suspects

Police officer’s misconduct shared under a new state law designed to enhance transparency

A Burlingame police office was fired after an investigation found he offered to help a woman navigate her driving under the influence charge in return for sex, according to a report released under a new state law designed to enhance transparency.

Without authorization, former officer David Granucci took the phone number of a woman arrested in early March and scheduled an appointment at her house where he sexually propositioned her, according to the report released Monday, Jan. 7.

The woman refused his advance and reported Granucci, leading to discovery of a series of similar transgressions according to the summary released in accordance with a new law requiring police to adhere to more public records requests.

Burlingame Police Chief Mike Matteucci declined to comment on specific terms of the Granucci investigation, but said his department remains committed to examining misconduct concerns raised by residents.

“The department has long been committed to conducting thorough investigations of citizen complaints, and we take our obligations to the public seriously including the newly enhanced transparency requirements under state law,” he said in an email.

The new state law to which he refers is Senate Bill 1421, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D- Berkeley, who crafted legislation designed to enhance the authority of those seeking more information about police misconduct.

The law amends the state Public Records Act, and allows those requesting information about claims against police officers a clearer path toward tracking down complaint reports or summaries.

The information shared about Granucci is only a summary, as Matteucci said more time would be required to redact sensitive information before a comprehensive report is available.

From the limited material available though, Granucci apparently committed dozens of department policy violations in advance of his eventual termination in June. Reports of his misconduct were sent to the District Attorney’s Office, but charges were not filed. But District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said with the additional reports of misconduct, his office could reopen a new criminal investigation.

Following his firing, two other women who encountered Granucci on the job claimed he acted inappropriately, according to the report. In 2017, he initiated a sexual relationship lasting several months with a woman who he met while trying to serve an arrest warrant for her son.

Two years earlier, Granucci also solicited a sexual relationship from a woman he met while she was being arrested for a warrant. He lied and said he was helping her with her case and attempted to use that as leverage, but was refused, according to the report.

Investigators reviewing the 2018 misconduct complaint found he lied to administrators about both of the earlier reports.

Granucci was placed on administrative leave after the March complaint was received and he was fired Friday, June 29. He was also informed he would be fired again if he got his job back through an appeal, according to the report.

In 2003, Granucci was involved in a fatal shooting of a suspect, but charges were not filed. In 2011, he was honored by the Burlingame City Council for helping to save a man choking at a restaurant.

For his part, Matteucci said his department will continue to comply with the enhanced transparency obligations, but would not speak to specific allegations.

“We will respond to all appropriate requests but will not have further comment on the merits of these cases,” he said.

Atlantic Beach officer charged with misconduct, solicitation of a minor

 

Police officer from Andrews charged with misconduct, solicitation of a minor (J. Reuben Long / WPDE background)

An Atlantic Beach police officer, who used to work for Pickens Police Department, was arrested by US Marshals on Jan. 2.

Akiel Jamar McKnight, 28, of Andrews, was charged with misconduct in office, solicitation of a minor, 3 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, 2 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to police, the incidents occurred while he was employed with the Pickens Police Department.

Warrants state that on or between the dates of Oct. 1, 2017 and May 15, 2018, “McKnight was employed with the Pickens Police Department and failed to properly discharge his duties by committing the offenses of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor.”

Another warrant states that McKnight tried to contact a minor to “engage in sexual activity” and asked the minor to “send the defendant sexually explicit photographs and/or videos.”

The Pickens Police Department asked SLED to investigate.

McKnight was recently employed with the Atlantic Beach Police Department, according to Chief Quentin Robinson.

He said McKnight was hired on Dec. 13 and was still on his probationary period. Robinson said he was not aware of the SLED investigation when they hired McKnight.

McKnight was fired Thursday, Robinson said.

Robinson released this statement:

After receiving and reviewing a thorough report from SLED, the Town of Atlantic Beach is justified in terminating Akiel McKnight from his probationary period with our Police Department. McKnight’s termination is effectively immediately this 3rd day of January, 2019 at approximately 2 p.m.

ABC 15 requested McKnight’s file from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA).

He has worked in four departments including Atlantic Beach Police; the city of Georgetown’s police department; the Andrews Police Department and in Pickens.

He worked in Pickens from Jan 2016 to May 2018. In Andrews from June 2018 to October 2018. He worked in Georgetown for one day in October 2018 and then was hired in Atlantic Beach in December, according to his record.

An affidavit in his SCCJA file shows that in December Robinson did a background investigation on McKnight and that he was of “good character” and didn’t have any criminal offenses.

A report in the file from SCCJA regarding his employment with Georgetown states he was terminated due to “supplemental information obtained after a background investigation.”

A public record search shows that McKnight filed a federal lawsuit against the Pickens Police Department, the city of Pickens and two other people.

The lawsuit states that while McKnight was employed as an officer, he was romantically pursued by another male, who send him nude photos that McKnight claims he didn’t solicit.

In April 2018, McKnight was suspended for two weeks without pay for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to the lawsuit.

McKnight claims in the lawsuit that he didn’t violate any rules or laws and made an employment grievance with the city administrator.

During the grievance meeting, the police chief changed his ruling from conduct unbecoming of a police officer to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which McKnight denied.

A month later, another meeting was held and the police chief changed his position again and stated that McKnight violated an order of the department.

In May 2018, McKnight was suspended and then fired.

In September 2018, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter to McKnight.

He’s asking for damages for libel, slander and defamation.

The City of Pickens responded to the federal lawsuit and denied all allegations.

Chuck Thompson, the city’s attorney, said they will defend the lawsuit to the best of their abilities.

McKnight was transferred from J. Reuben Long Detention Center to the Pickens County Detention Center.

Heather Gale, Thursday, January 3rd 2019, wpde.com, “Atlantic Beach officer charged with misconduct, solicitation of a minor”, https://wpde.com/news/local/pickens-police-officer-charged-with-misconduct-solicitation-of-a-minor

Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute 42 U.S.C. § 14141

Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies

§ 14141. Cause of action (re-codified at 34 U.S.C. 12601)

(a) Unlawful conduct

It shall be unlawful for any governmental authority, or any agent thereof, or any person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

(b) Civil action by Attorney General

Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a violation of paragraph (1) has occurred, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may in a civil action obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the pattern or practice.

https://www.justice.gov/crt/law-enforcement-misconduct-statute-42-usc-14141

Dallas Citizen’s Police Review Board Wants More Power: ‘There Is Little We Can Do’

by Erin Jones | CBS 11

https://w3.cdn.anvato.net/player/prod/v3/anvload.html?key=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%2BKAmSDigJMgQ0JTIERhbGxhcyAvIEZvcnQgV29ydGgiLCJwSW5zdGFuY2UiOiJwMCIsInByb2ZpbGUiOiJjYnMiLCJjdXN0b21UcmFja2luZ1NlcnZlclNlY3VyZSI6ImNic2RpZ2l0YWxtZWRpYS5kMS5zYy5vbXRyZGMubmV0In19LCJodG1sNSI6dHJ1ZSwidG9rZW4iOiJkZWZhdWx0In0%3D

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – About 200 people attended a town hall meeting, hosted by the Citizen Police Review Board, where Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall was a speaker.

“There is no secret that I do support restructuring of this board,” Hall said.

The board was created almost 40 years ago to give residents a place to voice their concerns about police misconduct.

Members say in order to do their job effectively, change needs to happen.

“There is little that we can do,” Chairman of the City of Dallas’ Citizen’s Police Review Board Dr. Brian H. Williams said.

Williams said right now, all the board can do is review police complaints and make recommendations.

“The hope is moving forward that we can empower the board and make it more efficient and effective to serve the needs of the public,” he said.

Thursday he presented what the board itself wants to see.

“We need a staff – period.” Williams said. “We have no staff now. We have no budget. We have limited subpoena authorities.”

Williams said the board is made up entirely of volunteers. He said the board can subpoena witnesses, but not police and that needs to change.

“In order to get to all the facts, the board must have some avenue to get all the information,” Williams said.

The community weighed in.

“How do you make sure that people who make the complaints feel safe enough to trust you?” one woman said at the town hall meeting.

“My concern is that you’re being appointed by someone voted into office,” another woman said.

“We do need a review board that has subpoena power. Too many people have died and lost their lives,” another man said.

“This is a step in the right direction to ensure that you have the kind of trust in us that makes us the best police department in the country,” Hall said.

There are several more town hall meetings planned during the next couple of weeks across Dallas.

The goal is to give all communities the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Erin Jones | CBS 11, , “Dallas Citizen’s Police Review Board Wants More Power: ‘There Is Little We Can Do’”, https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2019/01/03/dallas-citizens-police-review-board-power/

California high court cans cop union’s attempt to block new law requiring police misconduct records disclosure

 

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to clarify whether a new state law requiring California law enforcement agencies to make police misconduct records public applies to misconduct that took place before the new law went into effect on Jan. 1 — whether the law is retroactive.

Since the high court will not weigh the retroactivity issue, it also declined to issue an injunction against the enforcement of the law, as was also requested.

The upshot: California law enforcement agencies will have to begin fulfilling requests made by the public, the media or anyone else who asks for them. If police departments want to challenge the way retroactivity applies to the law, that will have to be decided in lower courts, on an individual basis — a lawsuit over the matter was filed in Los Angeles County on Dec. 31. If lower court decisions on the matter are appealed, the California Supreme Court could eventually be forced to rule on the matter.

More: San Bernardino County sheriff’s union sues to block new state transparency law requiring release of misconduct records

The lawsuit was filed by a union representing San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies, and was intended to leapfrog lower courts and get a statewide ruling directly from the state’s highest court.

The recently-enacted law, SB 1421, requires police departments to make public internal investigation records regarding officers’ use of force, sexual assault and lying on reports.

However, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association, which represents deputies from the county’s sheriff’s department, asked the court on Dec. 18 to determine whether Senate Bill 1421 should be applied by the departments retroactively.

Mike Rains, the union’s attorney, said in a statement that the court issued a summary denial without explanation.

“The Court’s action was simply a decision to decline to exercise its original jurisdiction in this matter,” Rains said in the statement. “The Court did not adjudicate the merits of the case, nor did it issue any legal precedent regarding the issues raised.”

The court also denied the union’s motion to delay the implementation of the transparency bill until the retroactivity issue is adjudicated.

The union’s president, Grant Ward, said in a statement that the union is fighting the new law’s retroactivity in order to look out for police officers’ best interests.

“SEBA is very concerned about any plans to retroactively apply Senate Bill 1421,” Ward said in the statement. “We believe retroactive application violates our members’ rights and we hope the California Supreme Court will consider the serious issues raised by our legal challenge.”

State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who drafted the legislation said California’s previous restrictions against releasing information about investigations into police officer misconduct did not serve the best interest of the public.

“When incidents such as a police shooting occurs, the public has a right to know that there was a thorough investigation,” Senator Skinner said in a statement released while the bill was making its way through the legislature in 2018. “Without access to such records, communities can’t hold our public safety agencies accountable.”

More: Police misconduct records have been kept secret for years. California just approved a new law bringing them to light

More: California lawmakers move to make police misconduct records more public

Now in effect, SB 1421 allows the public to use the California Public Records Act to unseal internal investigation records related to when officers use weapons on people, commit sexual assault or lie in police reports. The records may include evidence, recordings of interviews, autopsy reports, reports to the district attorney to determine whether to file charges and copies of disciplinary records.

While the bill keeps unfounded complaints from reaching the public, records that are disclosable will be unsealed 18 months after the incident.

The union’s case was filed as law enforcement agencies across California prepared for a wave of requests to release officer misconduct investigations.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore wrote in a letter included in the filing, that his department has established an SB 1421 Task Force to prepare for the “massive influx in historical records requests it anticipates.”

Moore wrote in the letter that the influx of requests could be “beyond any reasonable expectation given the sheer volume of personnel complaints and uses of force (UOF) maintained in antiquated or archaic formats”.

With the new law in effect, Rains, the union’s attorney, said he expects lower court could rule in contradictory ways on the retroactivity issue, meaning different interpretations in different jurisdictions, which could mean the lawsuit ends up back before the state supreme court.

“The possibility of multiple lawsuits being filed and litigated in numerous counties throughout the state, and the potential for conflicting decisions at the Superior Court level was the impetus for the action we filed,” Rains said.

Rains filed a similar case attempting to bar retroactive enforcement of SB 1421 in the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The superior court granted the union’s request to delay retroactive enforcement of the law on Dec. 31, but the case remains open.

More: 2006 California law prevented police misconduct records from reaching the public. State lawmakers might reverse course in next few days

Nikki Moore, an attorney for the California News Publishers Association, said every police department in California will have to determine how to comply with SB 1421.

But Michelle Blakemore, an attorney who works for San Bernardino County, wrote in a letter included as an exhibit in the lawsuit that the county has reviewed SB 1421 and plans to enforce it retroactively.

“In anticipation of SB 1421 taking effect, the Sheriff’s Department has been diligently reviewing the changes to the law and carefully considering how to implement these changes,” Blakemore wrote. “Based on this review, and on the advice of counsel, the Department intends to apply these changes retroactively.”

The union argued in the filing that the county’s plan is based on an incorrect interpretation of the law because SB 1421 does not explicitly order agencies to retroactively enforce the law.

“Respondent incorrectly contends that, notwithstanding the absence of any express retroactivity provision, SB 1421 must be applied and enforced as to personnel records and information reflecting specified peace officer conduct occurring prior to January 1, 2019,” the union wrote in the court filing.

Christopher Damien, Jan. 2, 2019, Palm Springs Desert Sun, “California high court cans cop union’s attempt to block new law requiring police misconduct records disclosure”, https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/crime_courts/2019/01/02/california-supreme-court-declines-lawsuit-delay-sb-1421-release-police-misconduct-records/2469806002/

Aggressive cops are ‘out of control’ in this N.J. city, insiders say, costing taxpayers millions

Between 2007 and 2014, the Atlantic City department faced 570 excessive force complaints. Only two — or about 0.35 percent — were sustained by department investigators.
Between 2007 and 2014, the Atlantic City department faced 570 excessive force complaints. Only two — or about 0.35 percent — were sustained by department investigators.

The Force Report is a continuing investigation of police use of force in New Jersey. Read more from the series or search your local police department and officers in the full the database.

In the early hours of Feb. 28, 2012, Julius Adams left the Trump Plaza Casino and started down the Boardwalk Hall tunnel in Atlantic City. After a night of gambling and drinking, it was time to go home.

A few blocks away from the casino, he found himself surrounded by a group of Atlantic City police officers.

Adams claims in a federal lawsuit he was detained, beaten and held at gunpoint by the officers. While he was handcuffed, he alleges, officers sicced two police dogs on him.

As Adams bled profusely and begged for medical treatment, one officer allegedly said, “Let that n—– bleed out.”

Adams claims the attack, which left him “incapacitated” for a month and with permanent injuries, was payback for an internal affairs complaint he filed a year earlier against an officer. He filed another complaint after the 2012 incident, but the department said his claim of excessive force was unfounded. Adams eventually pleaded guilty to inflicting harm on a law enforcement animal.

The incident, which will be at the center of a civil trial set for January, came as Atlantic City’s use-of-force rate was soaring above every department in the state.

Atlantic City police officers used painful holds, punches, kicks and other types of force to subdue suspects 2,854 times from 2012 through 2016, according to The Force Report, a 16-month investigation by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. The investigation found New Jersey’s system for tracking police force is broken, with no statewide collection or analysis of data, little oversight by state officials and no standard practices among local departments.

The news organization collected 72,677 use-of-force reports covering every municipal police department and the State Police. The results, available at NJ.com/force, revealed police across the state used force in about 3 percent of all arrests. Officers in Atlantic City, where 40 percent of residents live in poverty amid the 30 million visitors to its casinos and beaches every year, used force in 11 percent of arrests.

The department’s total number of uses of force dropped significantly in 2014 to 529, when a report from the state Attorney General’s Office found a small number of officers accounted for an unusually high number of incidents. The report was initiated by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office after several high-profile incidents of force, including a K-9 attack on a young man.

An NJ Advance Media review of lawsuits, court documents and depositions of police officials, as well as interviews with a half-dozen current and former officers, points to a department that often seemed indifferent to officers with violent tendencies, leaving them on the street without repercussions. Many were promoted or appointed to prestigious roles.

“The message (police officers) weren’t getting is whether anyone cared,” said Jennifer Bonjean, an attorney who has represented clients in four excessive force lawsuits against Atlantic City. “They certainly knew they were beating the f— out of people.”

When the trove of public records is reviewed alongside data in The Force Report, a series of numbers reveals how much more inclined officers in Atlantic City are to use force. Among the findings:

  • About 11 percent of officers used force 21 or more times, more than five times the statewide average. Only 252 officers in the entire state used that much force. So Atlantic City, with about 1.4 percent of all New Jersey officers on its force, accounted for 14 percent of the officers statewide using force the most.
  • One Atlantic City officer, Scott Sendrick, reported using force 62 times in five years, the most in the state during that period among 17,369 officers who appear in The Force Report.
  • Between 2007 and 2014, the department faced 570 excessive force complaints. Only two — or about 0.35 percent — were sustained by department investigators. The average number of cases found to have merit for departments the size of Atlantic City is 12 percent, according to U.S. Justice Department data.
  • Atlantic City officers have been named in at least 24 excessive force lawsuits over the past decade, costing taxpayers nearly $6.5 million. And one officer named in excessive force lawsuits that resulted in $4.5 million in settlements never had an excessive force complaint against him sustained and never was disciplined until he was arrested by federal authorities in October.

How did these numbers climb so high? Why did no one do anything to bring officers back in line? Who was keeping track?

The only insight into what top authorities were thinking is found in depositions filed when the department was sued.

The police chief declined to comment for this story. So did police union president Matt Rogers. The city’s mayor did not return messages seeking comment. Neither did city council president Marty Small. No one in a position of authority within the department or city would comment on these findings.

A city like no other

Atlantic City is a town of dreams and of destitution. Walk a block or two from the gleaming, sky-high casinos lining the shoreline and you find a city wracked with poverty.

In a state where about 10.7 percent of residents live below the poverty line, 40.6 percent of Atlantic City residents do the same, according to the Census Bureau.

The poverty level, which has climbed in recent years, coincides with an economic collapse in the city. In 2006, gross gaming revenues in the city’s casino declined “significantly,” according to a 2018 report conducted by special counsel Jim Johnson on behalf of Gov. Phil Murphy.

The city’s taxable base, propped up mostly by casinos, plummeted from $20.6 billion in 2010 to $7.3 billion in 2015. The city narrowly avoided going bankrupt in 2015 by relying on a significant increase in state aid and deferring payment to the state’s pension and health benefit plans, according to the Johnson report.

By 2016, then-Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to place crumbling cities under state supervision until they are stabilized.

Today, Atlantic City finds itself in an increasingly complex situation. How does the city help residents while also revving up the casino industry, its economic engine?

While politicians see promise with two recent casino openings and Stockton University’s new campus, a walk down Atlantic City’s ravaged business district and through its hidden neighborhoods shows much of the city still waiting for a rebirth.

Add in millions of tourists a year who can make or lose a fortune at any minute of the day and you’ve got a combination of factors that makes Atlantic City like no other town in New Jersey, and few in the United States.

“Policing in Atlantic City is unlike any other city,” said a confidential report prepared by the attorney general’s Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards. “In addition to the concerns of most urban police departments – poverty, drugs, prostitution, property crime, and violence – the Atlantic City Police Department is also required to service the needs of a tourist population that eclipses the city’s total population.”

While that 2014 report on the department’s force rate explained the challenges facing officers in Atlantic City, it didn’t say whether the patterns it studied were inappropriate. That was up to the department to decide.

Change in tactics

The “watershed moment” for the Atlantic City police department came after a 2013 K-9 attack and the ensuing excessive force lawsuit the city settled for $3 million, said former Sgt. Steve Cupani, who retired in 2014.

The settlement pressured officers to scale back aggressive tactics, Cupani said. It also played a role in the attorney general’s office analyzing the department’s use of force.

The year of that attack, Atlantic City officers were on track to use force more than any other in the five years for which NJ Advance Media collected data. The number of incidents where police reported using force on suspects peaked at 825, declining steadily to 318 in 2016.

But during that time, the number of arrests the department reported to the FBI also dropped 55 percent. While the overall number of uses of force plummeted, the rate at which officers used it didn’t change much. In 2013, officers reported using force 825 times and used it in about 13.6 percent of all arrests. In 2016, overall uses of force fell to 316, but because of the drop in arrests, officers still used force in 11.1 percent of all arrests.

Even at its lowest, Atlantic City officers were still using force at a rate three times the state average. The department used force at the second-highest rate of any municipal police department in the state, behind only Maplewood.

The department’s use-of-force rate doesn’t tell the full story, but it’s a starting point, said Matthew J. Hickman, an associate professor and chair of Seattle University’s Criminal Justice Department. He described the resort town’s numbers as striking.

“These figures are useful and meaningful,” he said. “The shining light at the end of the tunnel is that it will push police agencies and the state to start collecting better data.”

Police officials credited the decline in force incidents to a “revamped” internal affairs unit and the use of body cameras, two changes that occurred when Henry White became the department’s chief in 2013, according to a deposition. White had been deputy chief for eight years.

“The things that I have put together for the entire department has protected our citizens of Atlantic City from rogue (officers) and misconduct from the Atlantic City police department,” White said in the 2016 deposition.

One change was a functioning electronic early warning system. Though New Jersey doesn’t require police departments to have a system to track use-of-force trends, a national accreditation process does.

The department in 2010 and 2012 revised its internal affairs policy during the accreditation process to say it used an electronic early warning system, but it didn’t implement it until 2015. The now-up-and-running system has a “process in place that involves the officer, his chain of command, our internal affairs, professional standards, to address and to look at trends,” White said in his deposition.

Though the department failed to swiftly implement the electronic system, White said in his deposition, it previously used a manual early warning system, filling out index cards and placing them in a file. Yet multiple officers said under oath they weren’t notified when they triggered a system meant to alert bosses to potential problems. Not until years later did they learn they were flagged — repeatedly.

Officer Michael Oldroyd used force 50 times from 2012 to 2016. But he wasn’t told about his high rate until February 2014, he said in a deposition. His command staff told him they did not give credence to internal affairs complaints against him and to continue policing how he was. Oldroyd tallied 91 internal affairs complaints — 46 of which were for excessive force — in a 14-year stretch on the job.

White said in the 2016 deposition he didn’t “focus in on individual officers,” instead focusing on the department as a whole in an effort to “get the trust back from the community.”

That approach is “completely incorrect as management practice,” said Jon Shane, a retired Newark police captain who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and was previously hired by a plaintiff in an excessive force lawsuit to analyze Atlantic City’s internal affairs unit.

Deeply embedded troubles

Atlantic City’s problems aren’t new.

An NJ Advance Media review of court files and other public records found officers over the past two decades have been criminally accused of assault, stealing from suspects and in one case dognapping a puppy.

Because of a protect-the-shield mentality, the department gets “away with abuse of power, misconduct, domestic violence, failure on drug test and everything else,” a police officer wrote to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal earlier this year. NJ Advance Media obtained a copy of the letter from a community activist.

“It’s out of control,” the officer wrote.

Richard Rivera, a former West New York officer and police expert who was hired by the plaintiff in an excessive force lawsuit to review Atlantic City’s police practices, said a good internal affairs unit serves as the “eyes and ears” of a department, identifying officers with performance troubles before they bubble over into excessive force complaints and lawsuits.

For years, Rivera said, Atlantic City’s internal investigators purposefully ignored problems, finding merit in less than 0.5 percent of excessive force complaints.

In one lawsuit, Rivera examined 83 internal affairs files of Sgt. Frank Timek and officer Sterling Wheaten, and determined investigators had “crafted their investigation and findings” to be more favorable to officers.

Timek, a nearly 20-year veteran, accumulated 63 internal affairs complaints — 43 of them for excessive force — between May 2001 and August 2014, as well as being named in 11 excessive force lawsuits, according to court documents. During this time period, he became a K-9 handler and then was promoted to sergeant, just three months after he allegedly sicced his dog on Julius Adams.

Wheaten, who accumulated 33 internal affairs complaints — 23 of which were for excessive force or assault — in the first seven years of his career, never had a complaint sustained by internal affairs investigators. Excessive force lawsuits naming him have cost taxpayers $4.5 million, yet he was never disciplined by the police department until federal authorities arrested him in October for his role in the 2013 K-9 attack that left a Linwood man with 200 stitches. (Atlantic City and the officers involved in those lawsuits never admitted wrongdoing.)

“If somebody goes to prison, whether state prison or federal prison, they are going to have Internal Affairs to thank for that for not correcting these things earlier,” Shane said.

After being indicted for his role in the attack, Wheaten is now suspended without pay.

“The culture created by Atlantic City’s insufficient policies, procedures, and customs actively endangered the community,” Rivera wrote in his analysis of an excessive force lawsuit that ended in a $225,000 settlement. “Officers Timek and Wheaten believed they could assault citizens with impunity as a result.”

Rivera found internal affairs investigators frequently failed to follow attorney general guidelines. In 21 cases of excessive force complaints naming Wheaten, he was never interviewed by internal investigators.

“Internal affairs only answers to the police chief,” Rivera said recently. “So at the end of that process, whatever the investigation is, how flawed those investigations are, how defective they are and how those investigators are not doing their job, they are directly answerable to the police chief. It is a lack of leadership.”

During a 2016 deposition, White said that the internal affairs numbers “didn’t look good.” Still, he said, he had not investigated why so few cases were substantiated and acknowledged the low sustain rate may have led the public to believe the police department was not taking internal affairs complaints seriously.

Multiple police experts and attorneys said one reason for Atlantic City’s dramatic drop in excessive force complaints could be attributed to the 0.35 percent sustain rate from 2007 to 2014. Residents don’t want to file complaints if they don’t think they’ll be taken seriously, they said.

In a lawsuit filed in October against White and the police department, former deputy chief William Mazur alleges he was not put in charge of the internal affairs unit because White wanted to be able to “continue to influence the decision-making of the internal affairs division to protect his friends, and political allies on the police force.”

“It is not an internal affairs that is searching for truth,” said one officer, who requested anonymity because the department policy forbids officers from speaking publicly. “It is an internal affairs that is trying protect a class of dirty officers within the system.”

Joe Atmonavage, , 2018, nj.com, “Aggressive cops are ‘out of control’ in this N.J. city, insiders say, costing taxpayers millions“, https://www.nj.com/news/2018/12/this-police-force-is-one-of-the-most-aggressive-in-nj-its-out-of-control-cop-says.html

Misconduct lawsuit against Douglas County sheriff advances

December 31, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge in Nebraska cited 15 sexual misconduct cases involving deputies or other employees in refusing to dismiss a woman’s lawsuit against the Douglas County sheriff and his office over how they handled her misconduct complaint.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon said the cases date back 20 years and raise concerns that Sheriff Tim Dunning and his office failed “to train or supervise its employees on sexual misconduct, The Omaha World Herald reported .

“The court agrees with the plaintiff that there is sufficient evidence as a matter of law that would enable a jury to find deliberate indifference on the part of Sheriff Dunning,” Bataillon said.

Douglas County attorneys have appealed Bataillon’s decision.

The woman alleged Dunning was indifferent to sexual misconduct in his office after Deputy Cory Cooper in February 2013 made her perform a sex act on him when she was 19.

The woman reported the incident to police a few days later but the sheriff’s office didn’t immediately begin its investigation, which allowed Cooper to continue acting inappropriately, said Debra Loevy, the woman’s attorney. Cooper wasn’t fired until May 2013 following another report of his behavior, Loevy said.

Dunning told the newspaper he wasn’t indifferent toward misconduct, noting that suspensions or terminations occurred when a case was corroborated. He said all county employees are trained on sexual harassment.

Dunning added that Cooper wasn’t involved in any previous cases, so there was no indication that he could be an issue.

“Cooper did what he did because he’s a sex offender and a criminal,” Dunning said. “Before we hired him, he had a psychological screen. He was polygraphed. As far as we could tell, he was going to be a sterling employee.”

Cooper was sentenced to misdemeanor assault in 2015 and served six months in jail. As part of a plea bargain, Cooper didn’t have to register as a sex offender and isn’t a convicted felon.

December 31, 2018, Associated Press, “Misconduct lawsuit against Douglas County sheriff advances”, https://www.apnews.com/fb43adce5838486ca72ec33e1539f286

Lawsuit: Rochester police officer attacked teen who called him a name

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 03:29 PM EST

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The Rochester Police Department is facing another lawsuit alleging police brutality after a 16-year-old claims he was attacked by an officer after he called the officer a name.

The lawsuit is being brought by the family of 16-year-old Yahmiek Maddox, who is being represented legally by Rochester school board president Van White, against the city, the Rochester Police Department and Officer Phillip Perelli.

According to the lawsuit, on May 25, Maddox was approached by officers who believed he was drinking alcohol. But, the lawsuit states, Maddox was only drinking a bottle of juice he bought from a store on his way home from school.

During the incident, Maddox says he was handcuffed, but later released. As he walked away, the lawsuit says he called on of the officers, Perelli, a name. The lawsuit doesn’t specify what exactly was said.

But, according to Maddox, the utterance led to Perelli slapping then grabbing Maddox around the neck.

At that point, the lawsuit alleges:

After violently attacking Mr. Maddox, several officers wrestled Mr. Maddox down to the ground. After these officers wrestled Mr. Maddox to the ground, Defendant Perelli began to punch Mr. Maddox repeatedly – who at that point was completely defenseless.

After putting handcuffs on Mr. Maddox for a second time, officers placed Mr. Maddox in the back of a police vehicle.  Once Mr. Maddox was secure in the vehicle, Defendant Perelli sprayed mace on Mr. Maddox as he sat a defenseless and handcuffed in the back of the police vehicle. With the vehicle windows and doors closed, Mr. Maddox could barely breath.

Maddox was charged with resisting arrest, harassment and a violation of the alcohol beverage and container law. The lawsuit says after the arrest, Maddox was taken to Monroe County Jail, but the charges against him were ultimately dropped by the district attorney’s office.

The lawsuit is now seeking damages for the attack and arrest.

During a news conference on Friday, White played a clip showing surveillance video of the altercation.

In a statement, the City of Rochester said, “Because this is now pending litigation and, in such matters, we are obligated to protect the interest of city taxpayers, we cannot offer additional details or comment at this time.”

Baltimore police expunged officer’s internal affairs files; public defender’s office calls for investigation

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2018

The Baltimore Police Department had a widespread practice of wrongly expunging internal affairs files of officers accused of misconduct, the public defender’s office alleges, and it’s calling for an investigation into the department’s practices.

The issue came to light as defense attorneys have sought information on police officers while representing clients in criminal cases. Officers’ internal affairs files are largely withheld from the public, and attorneys must make the case to a judge that such information is relevant to introduce the evidence at trial. But in some cases, attorneys say, they found files were expunged even though they had not been eligible for expungement.

The Public Defender’s Office is asking for the issue to be taken up as part of the federal consent decree reforms. The decree was reached last year between the city and the U.S. Justice Department after a federal investigation that found widespread discriminatory and unconstitutional policing in Baltimore.

“This widespread practice of expunging [Internal Affairs Division] files that are ripe for impeachment makes us question the extent to which the BPD is willing to promote transparency, as required by the Consent Decree,” wrote Kristen Getty Downs, the district public defender for Baltimore, and Deborah Katz Levi, the head of the office’s special litigation unit, in a letter to the consent decree’s monitoring team in October. The Baltimore Sun obtained the letter as part of a Maryland Public Information Act request.

Downs and Levi also complained that the Police Department lacked protocols to provide defense attorneys with sufficient access to internal affairs records.

“We continue to aggressively litigate access to withheld lAD files every day in Baltimore City Circuit Court,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, however, what we now know is that the BPD lacks a system to adequately identify and disclose discoverable material.”

The Police Department’s practices “are in direct contravention to state law and undercut the integrity of the entire system and the transparency and accountability tenets of the Consent Decree,” they wrote.

Many community leaders have stressed the need for greater transparency from the Police Department and the city about officer misconduct following the federal racketeering convictions of members of the Gun Trace Task Force and new mandates under the consent decree, which include more civilian oversight into officer misconduct.

City Solicitor Andre Davis, who oversees the department’s legal section, agreed that it needs improvements in how it handles misconduct investigations.

“Anybody who’s been paying attention in the consent decree knows these are the kinds of problems the department has every day,” such as management and supervision, he said.

Lawyers from the Police Department have been working to rewrite policies for internal affairs investigations as part of the consent decree. This summer, the monitoring team overseeing the reform process said the office “suffers from organizational deficiencies that impede its work,” before requesting deadline extensions.

“We are working on it. It’s very frustrating,” Davis said of the improvements.

The public defender’s office wrote the letter after Levi represented Clayton D. Colkley, a 42-year-old Baltimore man, at his fourth trial in October. He is charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in what prosecutors have described as a contract killing of James “Buck” Bowens on May 28, 2003. A second man was also injured in the shooting.

As part of Colkley’s defense, his attorneys have sought to impeach the credibility of the detectives who investigated the case, Kerry Snead and Darryl Massey, by questioning them before jurors about internal misconduct charges accusing them of overtime theft. Internal affairs investigators followed the detectives, finding them at home or running errands at a time when they would later say they were working overtime.

Levi has argued in court that she should be able to question detectives given the credibility issues raised in the internal affairs case. The detectives were called to testify in the prior Colkley trials about the shooting investigation.

In a 2013 victory for the defense, the state Court of Appeals found the officers’ internal affairs files had been improperly withheld from the defense and they weren’t able to question the officers about the case. Colkley’s earlier conviction was vacated and his case was sent back to Circuit Court for trial.

But before Colkley’s latest trial in October, his attorneys found that Snead’s misconduct cases had been expunged.

“Our client never got a fair trial because he couldn’t ask the officers about this theft ring that they engaged in and were found to have committed together. For the Police Department to then expunge those when the case comes back for reversal isn’t just fundamentally unfair, it’s not legal,” Levi said.

”Mr. Colkley has been siting in jail for 15 years without a fair trial, and he’s most recently been denied a bail review hearing,” Levi said.

More concerning, Levi said, is that the practice of wrongly expunging officers’ records appears to have occurred in dozens of other cases, and possibly more, following a hearing questioning BPD personnel about the practice.

“We asked the Police Department and the state’s attorney’s office to come forward and explain how this expungement could happen and what they brought were documents showing at least 27 cases where they changed a finding to administratively closed, which gave them the inappropriate pathway to expungement,” Levi said.

When an officer is accused of wrongdoing, he or she is investigated by officers from internal affairs, who might find a complaint sustained or not sustained. When cases are sustained, the internal affairs investigators will recommend discipline. Officers can accept the finding and any discipline or elect to go before a trial board, which is made up of three police officers. The trial board can recommend discipline, including dismissal, but the police commissioner ultimately has the final say.

Officers can seek to have cases expunged when cases are not sustained by internal affairs investigators, or when they are acquitted by a trial board. They cannot get a sustained case expunged, Levi said.

At pre-trial hearings in the Colkley case, Levi, prosecutors and attorneys for the Police Department sparred over whether Snead’s case should have been expunged. Prosecutors and attorneys for the police department have said Snead’s sustained complaints, which were not heard by a trial board, were later “administratively closed.”

Levi said state law does not recognize the “administratively closed” designation.

Lawyers for the department conceded that expungement polices have not always been clear, and expungements have not been extensively documented.

Daniel C. Beck, the chief of the Police Department’s legal affairs section, attempted to explain the practice at a hearing before Colkley’s trial in front of Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea Handy.

“The department clearly, in its historic practices, treated ‘administratively closed’ as an ‘unsustained’ finding, and therefore believed that that is subject to expungement,” Beck said, according to a recording of the hearing.

During an earlier hearing in the case, Patrick Seidel, who is prosecuting Colkley, argued that the designation of “administratively closed” meant the end of action. But Handy said, “then that should be in the statute.”

Colkley’s trial in October ended in a mistrial. Later that month, Levi and Downs submitted the letter to the consent decree monitoring team, asking them to evaluate the disclosure and expungement issues.

Ken Thompson, the head of the court-appointed consent decree monitoring team, would not comment on the Colkley case, but he said, “We are revisiting a number of internal affairs cases in connection with the overall assessments of the consent decree.”

Next year, the U.S. Justice Department, the Police Department and the city are expected to take up what’s known as the “Brady/Giglio protocol,” which refers to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require prosecutors to disclose information that could benefit the defense — including any evidence that might exonerate the defendant or information that might impeach the credibility of the state’s witness, such as a police officer.

The consent decree requires the BPD to “eliminate policies that authorize the expungement of records where an employee accepts discipline,” and prohibits the use of “administratively closed” findings.

Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office, declined to comment on Colkley’s case, citing the ongoing case, and said that the office is not involved in the expungement process.

“The policy for expunging BPD internal affairs files is an administrative process developed by BPD and the Baltimore City Solicitor. Our agency has no involvement in this internal procedure, which does not impact discovery in criminal cases.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Levi and Downs this month also addressed the state commission created to evaluate the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, asking the panel to recommend measures that would improve transparency surrounding officer misconduct. They noted other jurisdictions around the country that have made internal affairs files more accessible to defense attorneys. Levi spoke of the Colkley case, and the “illegal expungement process.”

Colkley has another trial date scheduled for January.

Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2018, “Baltimore police expunged officer’s internal affairs files; public defender’s office calls for investigation”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-internal-affairs-files-expunged-20181015-story.html