I am a former chief of police of Savannah, Georgia, and I hold a Ph.D.

To the Editor: I am a former chief of police of Savannah, Georgia, and I hold a Ph.D. in social…

To the Editor:

I am a former chief of police of Savannah, Georgia, and I hold a Ph.D. in social science from Michigan State. No big deal in themselves, but I believe they indicate I may know a little something about crime, criminals, and police behavior. William Tucker’s article [“Is Police Brutality the Problem?,” January] contains many anecdotal verities, but its tone and implied solution to the problem of violent crime negate any overall seriousness it may aspire to. Yes, police brutality, police discourtesy, police misbehavior are problems, but they are not epidemic problems, while false accusations against the police are precisely that in many urban areas. Because of this fact police are often and, I believe, increasingly reluctant to take action lest they be saddled with career-threatening accusations.

Where Mr. Tucker is wrong is in his premise that police inaction acts as a catalyst for violent crime in the black ghetto. Come on! Violent crime in the inner cities is generated to a very large extent by the social disintegration of large segments of the black community. It is scarcely hindered by a criminal-justice system which can put away only a minor percentage of even the most violent criminals and cannot keep that percentage off the streets for any significant length of time. The most fearless police force in the world cannot remove those obstacles to public safety.

Further, the crisis in both public confidence in the police and police confidence in the backing they are likely to get from the public can be solved only by competent and courageous police leadership. Such police chiefs, and there are many out there, can instill discipline in the force and punish police malefactors while backing their officers against unjust accusations.

Courageous chiefs also talk back to political and racist demagogues, and competent chiefs frequently win the verbal battle. They do so without giving either the police or the public (both black and white) even the slightest hint that the only thing needed to hold back the very real forces of violence in the city is an unleashed police. The best top cops are used to the hysterical and political smoke-blowing of false accusations and are able and willing to confront them. They are also used to the demands that the police be allowed to club and shoot the violent back into a mode of civilized behavior, and they ignore them.

Competent and responsible police executives do not want or need the support of people like Mr. Tucker whose rhetoric does more than border on the demagogic. As a simple Southern chief of police, I clearly smell the odor of racism in this article. I’ve been there before.

David G. Epstein
Alexandria, Virginia




Who is Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel?



The national profile of Broward Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Scott Israel may have risen sharply in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, but the triumphs and missteps of the longtime South Florida cop have been well-documented over the past 10 years.

So have Israel’s strong connections to Parkland. The sheriff now lives in Davie but previously resided in Parkland with his wife, Susan. He is the father of triplets, Brett, Blake and Blair, who all attended Stoneman Douglas. Brett was once the starting quarterback for the school’s football team, even playing under slain assistant football coach Aaron Feis, as did his brothers. Blake, who now attends Palm Beach Atlantic University, was a midfielder in lacrosse at Stoneman. Israel, 61, also coached football at Stoneman Douglas and North Broward Preparatory Academy, and has been the head coach of the Coral Springs Chargers Tackle Football Team. In 2008, he won a Brian Piccolo Coach of the Year award.

Born in New York, Israel is the son of a New York homicide detective. He began his career as a patrol officer for the Fort Lauderdale police department in 1979, later working narcotics in the 1980s and 1990s, when crime was rampant. Israel has been the subject of 10 internal affairs complaints, mainly for excessive force, although he was cleared in all of them. He served a stint as a SWAT commander and was North Bay Village chief of police from 2004 to 2008, but left to run for sheriff in 2008 and 2012. Israel eventually won in 2012, and easily won re-election in 2016.

Israel has historically been vocal concerning gun violence, opposing open-carry legislation and one law that would allow concealed weapons on campuses. He began implementing body cameras for his deputies in 2016. This week, Israel announced that deputies guarding Broward County Schools will now carry rifle, including AR-15s.

On Thursday, the Sun-Sentinel reported that a police officer assigned to Stoneman Douglas resigned after failing to enter the Parkland school as a gunman opened fire and killed 17 students and faculty. Israel said Deputy Scot Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” The sheriff placed two other deputies under investigation for their handling of possible warnings about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

This isn’t the first time Israel’s agency has encountered trouble over its response to a mass shooting. Months after the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shooting, a 2017 Sun-Sentinel investigation revealed that Israel’s Broward Sheriff’s Office failed to “seize control and set up an effective command system” at the airport. BSO “erred from the very beginning in controlling the shooting scene in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, where five people died and six others were wounded.” The reason, cited in a 99-page draft report by the agency itself, mentioned the sheriff’s office’s aging radio system, which garbled communications among officers, forcing police to improvise with “hand signals, runners and cellphones.”

Israel has also been scrutinized for his relationship with political operative Roger Stone. A Fort Lauderdale resident who built his career on smearing political enemies, Stone had a hand in the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, John McCain and Donald Trump. While backing then sheriff Al Lamberti in 2011, Stone told the Sun-Sentinel that “Scott Israel is an unqualified punk, a racist and a thief.”

One year later, Stone switched sides, helping Israel defeat Lamberti in the 2012 sheriff’s race. Since then, Israel “added to BSO’s payroll Stone’s book-writing partner, Stone’s book publicist and Stone’s long-time executive assistant,” and even had “Stone’s stepson transferred to detective.”

Citing mud slinging between Israel and Lamberti during the 2012 race, the Sun-Sentinel’s Editorial Board endorsed no one in that year’s primary for Broward County Sheriff. The Editorial Board backed Israel for his 2016 re-election as sheriff, writing that burglaries and violent crimes in BSO-patrolled areas were “way down” in the sheriff’s first term.

As Israel significantly trailed Lamberti in the 2012 race, the Sun-Sentinel reported that a late infusion of attack-ad cash from former Aerosmith guitarist Richie Supa, of Plantation, and Massachusetts construction magnate Robert Pereira helped tip the election in Israel’s favor. According to the same story, Pereira alone gave $245,000 to groups supporting Israel.

Israel also came under scrutiny in 2015 after a Broward grand jury indicted Deputy Peter Peraza in the 2013 slaying of Jermaine McBean, who was shot dead by the office in his apartment complex for toting an air rifle in public. Peraza became the first cop charged in an on-duty shooting in Broward since 1980, and public trust waned in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, prompting Israel to tell the Sun-Sentinel, “It’s a tough time to be a cop.”

After much speculation over the sheriff’s religious affiliations, Israel told the Sun-Sentinel in 2016 that he is Jewish and “attends the Parkland Chabad from time to time.” Israel leaned heavily on his faith during the 2016 campaign, saying this in one campaign ad flier: “My late father Sonny Israel fought in the Korean War and became a police officer because he believed in the call from the Talmud.” This came after multiple public speeches from Israel laced with Scriptural references, comments about “church pews” and his reluctance to discuss his spiritual beliefs.

Phillip Valys, February 24, 2018, South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Who is Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel?”, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-florida-school-shooting-who-is-broward-sheriff-scott-israel-20180223-story.html

Broward Co. Sheriff Israel: ‘Not My Responsibility’ That His Employee Failed to Confront Parkland Shooter

“I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility.”


Apart from Nikolas Cruz, charged with killed 17 people, the second villain of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is shaping up as Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

At CNN’s “town hall” last week, Israel attacked defenders of the Second Amendment and said he and law enforcement “need more power.” Since then, it’s come to light that his department’s armed “school resource officer,” who was on the scene, failed to engage the shooter. So did three other sheriff’s deputies. When charged with corruption during a 2016 re-election campaign, Israel compared himself to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula—and declared, “Lions don’t care about the opinions of sheep.”

Now there’s this stunning denial of responsibility, in which Israel explains to a local news reporter why he is refusing to resign: “I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility.”

Confidence in police is below its 2004 peak, even if it’s rebounded from a post-Ferguson low in 2014. There are many reasons for that, including a seemingly endless stream of cases in which police shoot unarmed suspects and face few if any legal consequences. Add to that now a high-profile cop categorically declaring that his ass is covered merely by giving the requisite training to his staff, rather than overseeing a properly functioning department.

The Parkland shooting is quickly moving from a story about the need for more restrictions on weapons and owners to one about how officials failed to execute their duties. Israel’s craven responses will only feed that narrative, which might at least have the salutary effect of raising public consciousness and holding police accountable.

Watch the clip here:

Settlement reached in alleged 2012 police brutality, cover-up case

(Image: Hawaii News Now/file) (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The city is preparing to settle a lawsuit over the controversial arrest of a man from more than five years ago.

That’s after two judges suspected the Honolulu Police Department wasn’t forthcoming in what it knew about the case.

Cellphone video obtained by Hawaii News Now captured the arrest of Jonah Kaahu on the North Shore in 2012.

Kaahu was reportedly trying to defend his coworker in Haleiwa who had reportedly been challenged to a fight. But when police arrived, Kaahu ran.

“Someone yelled out, ‘Jonah why are you running? You’re a hero!’ He stopped and got tackled to the ground…and they proceeded to arrest him in a rather brutal way,” said Kaahu’s former attorney Myles Breiner.

Breiner withdrew from Kaahu’s case because of a conflict of interest after representing former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha in a criminal corruption case.

Kaahu was charged with terroristic threatening, assault against a police officer and criminal property damage. But Circuit Court Judge Ed Kubo threw the case out in 2013 because of police misconduct.

“One officer appears to take his handcuffs and uses them as brass knuckles and was beating Mr. Kaahu in the back of his head as he was pounding his head also to the pavement. Another officer was kneeing him in the groin and into his chest, and a third officer took out his pepper spray and emptied it to his face,” Breiner said.

The Hauula man sued the Honolulu Police Department over the use of excessive force and claims the department withheld key evidence that would have kept him out of jail.

Rather than face a potentially expensive trial, both sides reached a settlement Tuesday morning.

Breiner said the case was most likely settled because of a judge’s ruling from last month.

“I’m very happy for the Kaahus. Their attorney did an excellent job. I applaud the effort that he made and more importantly, Judge Gillmor did a superb job in reaching a conclusion that allowed the city and the plaintiffs to reach a reasonable settlement,” said Breiner.

In the ruling, Gillmor said there is evidence the city had knowledge that two of the officers involved in Kaahu’s arrest had a history of inappropriate behavior while on duty.

Judge Kubo was also quoted in Gillmor’s ruling stating: “There’s a smell here, I can’t quite say it stinks, but there’s a smell…I repeatedly asked for information and now I’m surprised that the most important information that should have been given to me I didn’t have the opportunity to see and that includes the videotapes…something stinks.”

Attorney Victor Bakke, who has successfully sued HPD, said settlements aren’t always the best outcome.

“The people don’t get their day in court so to speak…we never get to say those cops were wrong and don’t do it again,” Bakke said. “Unless there’s a trial, it kind of gets swept under the rug.”

City council’s approval on the settlement is scheduled for March 28th. The terms of the settlement are confidential until after that.

Chelsea Davis, Hawaii news now, , “Settlement reached in alleged 2012 police brutality, cover-up case”, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/37500328/settlement-reached-in-alleged-hpd-police-brutality-and-cover-up-case

National Disgrace “Officer” Scot Peterson Hid like a Little Bitch while Psycho Nikolas Cruz Dropped Bodies

“Officer” Scot Peterson, the armed School Resource Officer who had 1 simple job to do at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The only armed sheriff’s deputy at a Florida high school where 17 people were killed took cover outside rather than charging into the building when the massacre began, the Broward County sheriff said on Thursday. The sheriff also acknowledged that his office received 23 calls related to the suspect going back a decade, including one last year that said he was collecting knives and guns, but may not have adequately followed up.

The deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned on Thursday after being suspended without pay after Sheriff Scott Israel reviewed surveillance video.

“He never went in,” Sheriff Israel said in a news conference. He said the video showed Deputy Peterson doing “nothing.”

“There are no words,” said Sheriff Israel, who described himself as “devastated, sick to my stomach.”

Two other deputies were placed on restricted duty on Thursday because they may have mishandled tips called in to the sheriff’s office over the past two years warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, appeared intent on becoming a school shooter, Sheriff Israel said.

The revelations added to a growing list of failures and missed signs by the authorities that might have helped prevent one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

The F.B.I. received a tip last month from someone close to Mr. Cruz that he owned a gun and had talked of committing a school shooting, the bureau revealed last week, acknowledging that it had failed to investigate. The tip about Mr. Cruz appeared to be the second in four months, after another person told the bureau about an online comment apparently posted by Mr. Cruz that he wanted to become “a professional school shooter.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families, the state social services agency, looked into Mr. Cruz’s well-being in 2016 after he posted on social media that he was cutting himself, but investigators determined he was not at risk of harming himself or others. The Broward County Public Schools had disciplinary complaints on Mr. Cruz dating back to when he was in middle school, including a long history of fighting.

Sheriff Israel said he informed Deputy Peterson on Thursday that he was being suspended without pay and placed under internal investigation. At 12:37 p.m. on Thursday, sheriff’s office records show, Deputy Peterson, signed his retirement papers, which amounted to a resignation. He had been with the office for more than 32 years.

“The investigation will continue,” Sheriff Israel said.

The surveillance video, which was not released, showed Deputy Peterson remained outside the west side of the building for at least four minutes while the gunman was inside, according to Sheriff Israel. The shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lasted less than six minutes. The video was corroborated by witness statements, Sheriff Israel said.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that an officer from the Coral Springs Police Department who responded to the shooting had seen Deputy Peterson in a Stoneman Douglas High parking lot. The deputy “was seeking cover behind a concrete column leading to a stairwell,” Officer Tim Burton said.

In the chaos immediately after the shooting, there were other missteps. A 20-minute delay in school surveillance video confused Coral Springs police officers trying to find the gunman, said Chief Tony Pustizzi. By then, the suspect had already left the building.

Chief Pustizzi called it a communications failure. The video system allows for real-time playback

“At first the guys are hearing, ‘Oh, he’s on the second floor.’ Well, it’s not true, ‘cause we have people on the second floor and the people are saying, ‘Well, he’s not on the second floor,’” Chief Pustizzi said, adding that, if anything, the officers were “more expeditious” as they moved through the school under the belief the gunman was still there.

Coral Springs police have said they were the first to respond to the shooting. Sheriff Israel, who defended his office’s response on Wednesday and said his own deputies had not hung back outside the building, said on Thursday that the Coral Springs officers acted “heroically.”

Samantha Fuentes, an 18-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas High who was shot in both legs, said she never saw Deputy Peterson during the “30 minutes” that passed before SWAT officers arrived at the first-floor classroom in which she and other students had been taking a class.

“He is not someone who has much of a presence” in the school, she said.

Sheriff Israel, flanked by two of his top aides, appeared emotional Thursday during the news conference in which he described Deputy Peterson’s conduct. His eyes appeared to glisten, and his speech was sometimes halting.

The two other deputies placed on restricted duty pending an internal investigation were identified by the sheriff’s office as Edward Eason and Guntis Treijs.

In November 2017, a caller told the authorities that Mr. Cruz had been stockpiling guns and knives. In a summary of the call, the sheriff’s office said the caller, located in Massachusetts, worried that Mr. Cruz “will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making.” A deputy contacted the person who called, but no report was filed. The caller was referred to the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach County, where the caller said Mr. Cruz lived.

In February 2016, the sheriff’s office received what it described as “thirdhand information” that Mr. Cruz “planned to shoot up the school” and had posted a picture on Instagram of a “juvenile with guns.” A deputy determined that Mr. Cruz had knives and a BB gun and forwarded the information to the school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas High. That was Deputy Peterson.

Some of the other calls reveal further details about Mr. Cruz’s troubled childhood. In November 2014, someone reported that a person fitting Mr. Cruz’s description shot a chicken with a possible BB gun. Mr. Cruz was found to own an airsoft rifle, which he admitted to using, but denied he shot chickens.

And in September 2016, a peer counselor at Stoneman Douglas High alerted the school resource officer — likely Deputy Peterson — that Mr. Cruz “possibly ingested gasoline” the week prior “in an attempt to commit suicide and is cutting himself.”

“Mental health counselor advised Cruz did not meet criteria for Baker Act,” the summary said, referring to the Florida law that allows the police to commit the mentally ill against their will.

Stoneman Douglas High initiated a “threat assessment” on Mr. Cruz after the counselor’s report. The Florida Department of Children of Families looked into whether Mr. Cruz was at risk of harming himself or others and concluded he was not because he was living with his mother, attending school and seeing a counselor.


Chicago’s pattern of withholding evidence in police misconduct cases keeps getting worse


It looks like the ongoing scandal involving the city law department’s repeated failure to turn over evidence in police misconduct cases is just getting worse and worse.

Attorneys suing the city are now seeking judicial sanctions in two cases.  In one, which I wrote about here a year ago, the city has already been sanctioned once.

In the other, a 2014 lawsuit by Aretha Simmons and her family alleges that police entered their home illegally and held a 3-year-old girl and her grandmother at gunpoint. The city has admitted it should have turned over “unit files” that included the officers’ disciplinary histories when the court ordered it to produce personnel files.

The case recalls the “street files” story from over 30 years ago, when investigative files with exculpatory evidence were kept secret during the murder trial of a South Side honors student. In the Simmons case, files with relevant discipline records have been hidden.

When U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly ordered the city to turn over personnel files, the law department only produced “benign documents such as paperwork associated with officers’ job applications,” according to Simmons’ attorneys.

The city produced the real personnel files with disciplinary records only after Simmons’ attorneys filed a motion on Feb. 9 seeking sanctions for withholding evidence.  That motion was filed after the city turned over a huge civilian complaint file in a very similar case involving a number of the same officers.

The last-minute disclosures – given long after Simmons’ attorneys had questioned the 11 officers involved in the Simmons case in depositions – showed that seven of the 11 were involved in a 2013 arrest in which they claimed that they got a key for an apartment from someone outside the building and found illegal guns and drugs in the apartment. The officers made the same claim in the Simmons case.

In the 2013 arrest, however, a neighbor’s surveillance camera showed the officers were lying.  Two of the seven were stripped of their police powers, and the Bureau of Internal Affairs recommended they be fired for giving false statements.

According to Simmons’ attorneys, the new information also showed that the two officers lied about their assignments in their depositions, failing to disclose that they’d been stripped of police powers and assigned to the 311 call center.

All of this goes to the crucial issue of the officers’ credibility, to say the least.  The information was disclosed long after the city claimed it had produced all relevant discovery materials.  Simmons’ attorneys are asking Kennelly to enter a default judgment against the city.

“It appears that for many years, when plaintiffs requested personnel files and courts ordered the production of personnel files,” the city has instead been turning over “a sham personnel file,” they wrote in their motion for sanctions.

The implications of this development could be huge for Chicagoans who sue the police for abuse. And it certainly represents a heavy blow to the law department, which has been repeatedly sanctioned by judges – sometimes with very harsh words – for withholding evidence in lawsuits.

Judicial sanction is an extraordinary remedy, and it’s been ordered in nearly a dozen cases since Mayor Rahm Emanuel was elected in 2011.  And it’s now been two years since Emanuel said it’s “not possible” that the law department was part of the police department’s “code of silence,” and promised yet another independent review of the city’s problems in producing evidence.

Yet the judicial sanctions keep coming. Last month, the supervisor of the law department’s civil rights litigation division resigned after a federal judge made it clear the city will be sanctioned for failing to turn over civilian complaints against a sergeant being sued for excessive force in the shooting of 16-year-old Jaquise Evans in 2015. The city settled that lawsuit for an undisclosed sum days before trial.

The month before that, the city agreed to pay $20 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a deadly drunk-driving crash involving former detective Joseph Frugloi. Frugloi’s previously undisclosed suspension for an alcohol-related infraction surfaced at the last minute.

And the month before that settlement, the city was assessed a $62,500 sanction for giving the “runaround” to an attorney for LaShawnda Young, whose 20-year-old son Divonte was shot and killed by police in 2012.  Attorney H. Candace Gorman had uncovered evidence the city had denied existed, including video of a police interview in which Divonte’s girlfriend was browbeaten and threatened and a follow-up interview with an eyewitness that cast doubt on the police version of events.

Now Gorman is seeking sanctions again, saying city lawyers have disclosed—after initially denying—the existence of an evidence officer’s file.  In its response to Gorman’s motion for sanctions, the city argued that Gorman confused the “evidence technician” with the “evidence coordinator.” But that issue seems entirely irrelevant, since she had requested – and the court ordered to be produced – all investigative and forensic files.

Gorman said she does not believe the city has produced the entire file yet.

It’s certainly crucial information.  Gorman has already received a sketch by the evidence officer of the crime scene, which she said places Divonte’s body in a different location from the one identified in the initial report by the Independent Police Review Authority (now the Civilian Office of Police Accountability). That location, in turn, is different from the location of the body given in the police department’s version of the incident.

The police claim Divonte pointed a gun at them, but no gun was ever recovered from the scene.

Gorman has asked U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall to allow her to depose the law department personnel responsible for responding to discovery requests.  She argues this would provide the critical and objective review that the city has so far been unable to carry out.

The law department declined to comment. But in the past, it has said it takes these issues “very seriously” and promised to improve discovery policies and practices and adjust training “to ensure that any mistakes are not repeated.”

Those promises have been repeated and repeated – and the mistakes have been repeated and repeated.  Something isn’t working here.  And ultimately it’s the mayor who should be held accountable for failing to keep his promise to fix the problem.

Police Complaint Board to Investigate Charges of Sexual Misconduct

Since its inception a quarter century ago, the independent city agency that investigates allegations of police abuse in New York City has done nothing more with complaints about sexual misconduct than send them to the Police Department. In the 18 months ending last June, 117 such allegations were funneled to the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, where findings remain hidden and any discipline of officers is cloaked in administrative secrecy.

Now, however, as allegations about a wide spectrum of sexual misconduct — from inappropriate comments to workplace coercion to sexual abuse and rape — are roiling the country, the agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has added a layer of oversight to allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in policing.

In a board meeting on Wednesday it adopted a resolution from its staff to immediately investigate certain allegations of sexual misconduct by officers against civilians, such as lewd comments or gestures, snapping unwanted photographs or sexually humiliating or ticketing civilians if they rebuff flirtations like a blown kiss. The vote was unanimous, with three board members appointed by the police commissioner joining seven others appointed by the mayor or City Council.

Later, it hopes to broaden that mandate and select a group of specially trained, senior investigators to handle the most serious allegations, including rape, though not before it builds up a budget and some expertise in helping survivors of traumatic sexual violence by officers.

That next phase must be done carefully, to ensure that, “the procedures we put in place do not negatively impact the complainants and also don’t impact potential criminal investigations,” Jonathan Darche, the executive director of the board, told board members at the meeting.

In a memo outlining its rationale, the staff of the agency said there is little in the arena of abuse by sworn, armed law enforcement officers that “undermines society’s confidence in the police more than an officer who wields the badge as a tool of sexual intimidation and coercion.”

“Unfortunately,” it went on, “the question is not whether such misconduct occurs. Rather, C.C.R.B. must investigate how often it occurs and what can be done to stop it.”

Outside watchdogs of the New York City police immediately embraced the idea as necessary and long overdue. The C.C.R.B. was formed in 1993 with a mandate by the City Charter to investigate four types of misconduct allegations: force; abuse of authority; discourtesy; and offensive language. It said in its memo that allegations of sexual misconduct by officers fall clearly under its power to look into cases of officers abusing their authority, though some cases might also involve discourtesy, offensive language or force.

“If there’s any surprise here, it’s that the C.C.R.B. is only now getting to the point where it recognizes that sexual harassment by N.Y.P.D. officers is something the board has to be dealing with,” Christopher T. Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the board before its vote, in Lower Manhattan. “But I am glad you are confronting it now.”

For allegations of criminal sexual conduct, the board’s memo called for a new policy allowing the board to notify the appropriate district attorney’s office — a step beyond its current practice of only notifying the Internal Affairs Bureau — though it said the high burden of proof in such cases means prosecutors often cannot or will not pursue them.

Andrew Case, a lawyer who was a spokesman for the review board, said he worries “that if these cases, particularly forcible assaults, fall to C.C.R.B., then that would be a sign that D.A.s are not doing all they can to investigate truly criminal acts.”

New York state law does not explicitly forbid sexual contact between police officers and people in their custody, though it forbids such conduct by correction and parole officers. The New York State Assembly last week passed legislation to prevent police officers from escaping legal consequences of an alleged sexual assault by saying arrestees consented, and the State Senate is now considering the same measure. The New York City Council is also considering legislation that would make it a misdemeanor crime for police officers to have sexual contact with people in custody.

The 117 allegations of sexual misconduct the board referred to the Internal Affairs Bureau between January 2016 and June “included a variety of allegations, from catcalls and sexual propositions to unwanted touching and rape,” the memo said. It summarized three of them to provide a range of cases the board receives.

In one, a woman questioned by a Bronx detective in 2014, at a shooting scene, went on to repeatedly encounter the same man around the neighborhood “and recalled that he would regularly lick his lips and make lewd expressions toward her,” the board’s memo said. In 2016, as she was held in a station house jail cell on a driving charge, the same detective entered her cell and made a profane gesture and a reference to oral sex.

In another, a man alleged that an officer twice squeezed his genitals during a frisk last year that followed a street stop for jaywalking.

The Police Department declined to answer questions about any discipline handed down to officers in the 117 complaints referred to its Internal Affairs Bureau, how the cases were decided or what the complaints alleged. It said it would work with the review board to implement the new procedure.

For all review board referrals to the Internal Affairs Bureau, “a huge issue” is that the police “don’t tell us what happens with any of them,” Mr. Case said. “One of the things this speaks to, a broader issue, is reporting from I.A.B. to C.C.R.B. about all referrals.”

 , “Police Complaint Board to Investigate Charges of Sexual Misconduct”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/nyregion/ccrb-sexual-misconduct-police.html

What It Takes to Actually Convict Police of Misconduct

Officers involved in fatal incidents keep getting acquitted, but a team of Baltimore cops who stole from suspects and taxpayers alike during a years-long criminal spree are facing serious jail time.

A Baltimore Police car passes a mural of Freddie Gray.
A Baltimore Police car passes a mural of Freddie Gray. Steve Ruark / AP
 David A. Graham,

Something amazing happened over the course of a recent trial in Baltimore: Witnesses laid out the way that the city’s Gun Trace Task Force acted as a de facto criminal gang, but with the advantages of a police badge and the power of the state. Officers assigned to the unit robbed hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug dealers, pocketing the money. They targeted cars for searches based on makes and models, and stopped adult black men just for carrying backpacks. They drove at groups of men and detained anyone who ran. They bilked taxpayers by charging for fraudulent overtime.

On Monday, something even more amazing happened. Two officers were convicted of racketeering and robbery charges in federal court. They joined six others who had already pleaded guilty. Stories of police misconduct have become bracingly common in recent years, but convictions have remained rare. The failure to convict any Baltimore officer in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray is the obvious contrast, but similar cases all over the country, from Tamir Rice to Eric Garner to Daniel Shaver, have also ended without convictions.

What lessons do the convictions in Baltimore teach about policing the police? The glaring answer is that the American justice system sometimes puts property ahead of humanity. Steal a black life and you can get off in court; steal a couple hundred grand and the long arm of the law will come for you. It’s hard to argue with this explanation, but there are more complex takeaways as well.

One difference is that in the case of the Gun Trace Task Force, there was no plausible way for the defendants to argue that what they were doing was part of police work. When people are killed in incidents with officers, officers are rarely charged. When they are charged, they are rarely convicted. Juries and judges tend to grant police wide leeway in their actions, wary of second-guessing split-second decisions made while (ostensibly) guaranteeing public safety. If an officer says that he believed his life was in danger when he shot a suspect, prosecutors and courts have often been loath to conclude otherwise—even when many other people see a clear injustice. Police who are hauled up in court are also often able to claim they were following departmental mores. In the Gray case, for example, officers acknowledged not strapping Gray into a police van, but successfully convinced the court that this was standard operating procedure.

By contrast, it’s tough to construe taking fat stacks of cash out of safes and divvying them up (or in the case of one officer who pleaded guilty and testified against his colleagues, dumping it in the woods out of a guilty conscience) as somehow doing one’s job.

The prosecutor’s work was made easier by the six officers who pleaded guilty, but those pleas are also a sign of the strength of the case against them. Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, who were convicted Monday, will face up to 60 years in prison. The other six face maximum sentences ranging from 20 to 40 years.

Even though the Gun Trace Task Force convictions represent a victory for police accountability where the Gray convictions ended in failure, there is a connection between the two cases. Gray’s death, and the massive, stunning Department of Justice report that followed it, illuminated a pattern of egregious civil-rights violations by the Baltimore Police Department. The Gun Trace Task Force case does the same, showing how the group targeted black men in particular and violated constitutional processes for detention and arrest. The history of rough rides in Baltimore and the task-force racket both stem from the same lack of accountability, lawlessness, and systemic racism, and they both result in the same broken relationship between police and people that plagues Baltimore, as well as many other cities.

Monday’s convictions don’t produce justice for Gray, but they do strike at some of the same root problems. Notably, the convictions came out of a federal prosecution, in contrast to the Gray case, which was handled by the city prosecutor. “Beyond the guilty verdict and prior guilty pleas in this case, it’s time to talk about what comes next for the city of Baltimore,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “This corruption went on unabated for nearly 10 years and was only brought to light as a result of a federal investigation.”

From the Justice Department report to the Gun Trace Task Force convictions, the federal government has proved an important force in police reform. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has switched its focus, pulling back from accountability efforts and offering local law enforcement a more sympathetic hand. That probably isn’t a good omen for future cases. If the police in the United States are to be reformed, the question of what crimes produce convictions is important, but so is the question of who is prosecuting the cases.


David A. Graham, “What It Takes to Actually Convict Police of Misconduct”, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/what-it-takes-to-actually-convict-police-of-misconduct/553163/

Cops accused of forcing man to put mouth on urinal

HONOLULU — The FBI is investigating four Honolulu police officers who are accused of forcing a man to place his mouth on a urinal inside a public restroom, according to the police department’s top official.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said another officer reported the suspected misconduct after the officers responded to a complaint Sunday afternoon of a person trespassing in the restroom.

“If true, these allegations violate the core values the HPD stands for,” Ballard said. “Our officers are sworn to uphold the right of all persons, and I expect every officer to treat every member of the public fairly and with respect. Personally, I am appalled at the behavior, if it is true, and appropriate action will be taken.”

The department conducted an initial internal investigation and then contacted the FBI on Wednesday. Because the case involves potential abuse of police power, Ballard said the case was referred to the federal agency.

All four officers, who were not identified, have been placed on restricted duty.

The officers have between three and 16 years of law enforcement experience, according to the department. They were all assigned to patrol a district that covers downtown Honolulu.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell commended Ballard’s decision to hand the case to the FBI for review.

“Although these officers are presumed innocent, we need an independent agency to investigate exactly what occurred and whether these officers engaged in civil rights abuses,” Caldwell said in a statement. “Chief Ballard has promised to transform the Honolulu Police Department from a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality, and this is an approach to community policing that I wholeheartedly support.”

Three years after Ferguson, the same old concerns rise in St. Louis protests

Protesters gather outside the St. Louis City Justice Center for a protest days after the acquittal of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)

It was six days into this city’s latest round of protests over racial injustice, six days since another white police officer was acquitted in the shooting of another black man, and a typically dull meeting of the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment had just turned — like so many other things here — into a display of anger and passion.

“Lyda Krewson, vote yes!” a few dozen people shouted across the packed room at the city’s new mayor, who just months into her job is facing an intense pressure that has been here for years.

In the streets, throngs of protesters during the past week have called on her and her government to get serious about overhauling a local police force that they say is racist, abusive and unjust.

The powerful police union and its supporters want her to do just the opposite: come out strongly in support of the police and condemn the protesters, who have smashed windows and disrupted commerce.

And on this day, in this meeting, a fellow lawmaker and a room full of people who supported the protests were urging her to approve a hastily drafted body camera trial program for police officers — something that she supports but that she thinks needs careful consideration and budgeting.

“I’ll vote today in favor of body cameras, but is there any way we can actually go about this in a proper way?” she finally said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) speaks during a news conference at City Hall. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)

It has been three years since a white police officer in the nearby suburb of Ferguson, Mo., killed an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown, setting off a wave of protests and a police response that captured worldwide attention. The protests spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, threw a spotlight on the way police departments across America treat black citizens and highlighted the growing militarization of the country’s police forces.

Three years, new leadership, same old concerns.

As Krewson said this week: “We here in St. Louis are once again ground zero for the frustration and anger.”

In Missouri, the backlash to Brown’s 2014 killing gave rise to a stack of reports and hundreds of recommendations for how police can do a better job of meting out justice fairly and safely, aiming to replace rage in the streets with respect and cooperation.

But although the state passed a law that makes it more difficult for local municipalities to treat their poor, often black, citizens as sources of revenue through aggressive ticketing and jailing — a major source of anger ahead of the Ferguson protests — there has been little action by local police departments toward resolving or even acknowledging the existence of racial discrimination.

“There are all these policy recommendations and proposals that have all, for the most part, been ignored by city officials and leadership in the police department,” said Kayla Reed, a local college student and activist with the St. Louis Action Council who emerged as a prominent voice during the Ferguson protests. “I think what we are seeing is a real reluctance to listen to the community, to step into leadership about ushering in a new era of progress. And that, plus continued repression and brutality at the hands of the police, have ignited once again those feelings like, ‘We have to take to the streets, we have to shut things down, we have to show we’re not going anywhere.’ ”

Protesters gather outside the St. Louis City Justice Center. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)
‘Is it okay if I frisk you?’

The latest bout of anger kicked off Sept. 15, when a circuit court judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder in the 2011 shooting death of a 24-year-old black man named Anthony Lamar Smith.

Stockley had engaged Smith in a high-speed police chase after Smith crashed into Stockley’s police car. Stockley, who declared during the chase that he was “going to kill this motherf—er, don’t you know it,” ultimately shot Smith at close range through a car window. Prosecutors alleged that Stockley also planted a gun on Smith because only Stockley’s DNA was found on the weapon. But the judge, Timothy Wilson, wrote in a detailed decision at the conclusion of a bench trial that he wasn’t convinced that Stockley was guilty: The former officer would walk free.

To many St. Louis residents, particularly in the city’s predominantly black northern neighborhoods, it was Michael Brown all over again.

“No justice, no peace!” they chanted during day and night protests, a small group of them clashing with police, hurling rocks and paint, and smashing windows of businesses and the mayor’s house.

It was the same anger as three years ago, in large part because little has changed about the conditions of life in and around St. Louis. It is still a racially divided city, activists say. And it is still one of the most violent cities in America, a place where police say they come into contact with people carrying weapons on a daily basis.

“We’ve led the nation in homicides per capita for the past two years, and we’re on track to lead the country again,” said Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 68, which represents 1,100 St. Louis city officers on a force in which the starting salary is $42,000 and where “stress” is a word that officials often use to describe officers’ state of mind.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, city police have shot and killed more people this year — eight — than in any other year in the past decade.

In the Ville, the neighborhood where Smith was living before he was killed, the racial disparities run deep. The black community is underserved in access to education, jobs and a wide range of public services, activists and city officials say.

The brick houses are dilapidated and abandoned. Many have broken or boarded-up windows. And no one is out in the street during the day because there is nowhere to go: nowhere to work, nowhere to shop, residents say. If you have a job, you drive to it someplace else.

Poverty and crime are just as rampant, if not more so, than they were in the past, residents say. And all of it contributes to the toxic cycle of mistrust and resentment between a predominantly white police force and a predominantly black community in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

A black person sitting outside on the porch is all that’s necessary to attract police attention, residents say. Officers will pull up, ask for identification and then frisk, said Ronnie Bartee and Kerry Tate, who were standing outside Tate’s carwash on a recent afternoon. “You ain’t gotta be doing nothing,” said Bartee, 43.

“Their favorite words are: ‘Is it okay if I frisk you?’ ” said Tate, 48.

A spokeswoman for the police department did not respond to those allegations. “We hold our officers to the highest standards of professionalism, and any officer not meeting those standards will be held accountable,” Leah K. Freeman said. “Anyone who would like to make a complaint of officer misconduct is encouraged to contact our Internal Affairs Division.”

Ronnie Bartee and Kerry Tate speak during an interview at Tate’s business, Clean Tracks Car Wash, in St. Louis on Sept. 19. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)
Allegations of misconduct

One of the foremost obstacles to police restructuring, activists across the country have said, is the justice system’s failure to hold police accountable for violations.

“We have a pattern of not holding our officers accountable,” said Sgt. Heather Taylor, the president of the Ethical Society of Police, an association of mostly black police officers that has repeatedly challenged bias within the St. Louis police force. Everyone in the department’s internal unit tasked with investigating police-involved shootings is white, she added.

The police department confirmed that the five-person unit is all white.

“There are three different types of anger,” said April Floyd, a local writer and a regular attendee at protests. There is the righteous justice crowd that has responded to these realities with cries of “no justice, no peace,” thinking that enough noise can yield results. There are those who believe in shutting down the “process” — obstructing local business, for example, as a way to call attention to the cause, Floyd said. And there are those “who believe, ‘You hit me, and I’m going to hit you back,’ ” she added.

Of all the grievances cited by protesters since the Sept. 15 verdict, after days of sometimes-violent clashes with tossed bricks, clouds of pepper spray and sweeping arrests, the story that is perhaps most provocative of protester rage was the chanting Sept. 17.

“Whose streets? Our streets,” police chanted, after corralling a group of protesters and lining them up against a wall.

“Officers were high-fiving each other,” said John Ziegler, an activist and videographer who had been live-streaming the protest under the Twitter handle “@Rebelutionary_Z.” They were pointing at their arrestees and snapping pictures, saying things like, “They’re communists and socialists,” and “They’re here to destroy America,” Ziegler said.

The next day, interim police chief Lawrence O’Toole declared “we owned tonight.” And the day after that, a St. Louis police officer posted a picture on social media of a Black Lives Matter protest with the words “THE KLAN WITH A TAN” and “DOMESTIC TERRORISTS.”

The mayor said the allegations of misconduct, including the police chants and the officer’s social-media post, are under investigation.

A police spokesman defended the department’s actions during the recent protests but declined to answer specific questions about police conduct.

“The department has facilitated peaceful and lawful demonstrations to ensure those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights can safely do so. We deploy tactics when criminal activity arises and escalation depends on the level of aggression,” police spokeswoman Schron Y. Jackson wrote in an email. “The police department strives to employ best practices; however, we are always open to new ideas.”

Krewson promised that the allegations of misconduct would be investigated internally by the police department, as well as by the Department of Public Safety. She called the police chief’s comment “inflammatory.” She condemned the “institutional racism” ­plaguing American society and vowed to make St. Louis a leader in resolving its long-standing inequality. She praised police for their “restraint” and dismissed the allegation that police misconduct and racism were widespread.

Then she canceled the week’s town hall meetings — the only formal opportunity in the wake of the Stockley verdict for residents to vent their questions and complaints in a public forum.

And no one really seemed satisfied.

Monica Butler and April Floyd arrived at a mayoral town hall meeting at Vashon High School in St. Louis only to find out it was canceled. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)

“I really feel for her. She’s afraid,” Floyd said. “But she has to listen to people. She has to know how to comfort people.”

Krewson knows that such meetings are important. She knows the protesters think she’s being too weak. She knows the police think so, too. Asked whether the rank and file were upset with her, she acknowledged on a recent afternoon that they “probably” were.

A friend who she has known for three decades had just sent her a couple of angry text messages — she, too, was disappointed.

“She’s very mad at me,” Krewson said. “She thinks I don’t support police. She thinks that you can’t support protesters’ First Amendment rights and still support police.”

Krewson looked tired. “But that isn’t hard for me to see at all.”

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson speaks during a news conference. (Whitney Curtis/for The Washington Post)
September 24, 2017, The Washington Post, “Three years after Ferguson, the same old concerns rise in St. Louis protests”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/three-years-after-ferguson-the-same-old-concerns-rise-in-st-louis-protests/2017/09/24/c54f1d4c-9eea-11e7-9c8d-cf053ff30921_story.html?utm_term=.07ee92e7ebbc