8 Shotgun Wielding Cops Dispatched to Confront College Student Cleaning his Front Yard.

BRLDF: Recently released video shows an intense confrontation initiated by Boulder, Colorado police with an individual cleaning his front yard. Despite the entirely pedestrian nature of this activity, the primary officer believed this to be suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. When the resident naturally became agitated, this officer requested backup, identifying the trash picker pole held by the man as a “blunt object”.  Despite the approximately 20 foot distance between them, this officer wielded a drawn handgun, and rather than retreat (as would seem appropriate if someone believed they were in real physical danger),  repeatedly closed the distance and approached the resident ordering him to “sit down”.

Over the course of the confrontation, which was initiated, provoked and escalated by the Boulder Police, additional Officers arrived, some bearing shotguns, and surrounded the resident. This is an example of “Command and Control” policing, wherein an adversarial dynamic is established between law enforcement & the public. Describing a flimsy maintenance tool as a “blunt object”, repeatedly approaching an agitated individual doing nothing wrong with gun drawn, and ordering him to “sit down”, this cop was establishing legal use of force justification in the event this exchange resulted in violence, or death (to the “suspect”).

This is an example of a police officer abusing his power, more concerned that this totally unjustified investigation did not receive immediate and complete submission. Plainly, this cop felt that his Authority was disrespected, and was determined to show this citizen that he was the boss.

An outrageous violation of the Fourth Amendment, something no American should tolerate, and the exact reason BRLDF was founded.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The city of Boulder should be embarrassed, and unless they’re looking to repeat the Philip Brailsford / Daniel Shaver incident in Mesa, Arizona, this police officer should be removed from active duty as he clearly lacks the maturity to interact with the general public in a sensible manner.

Police in Boulder, Colo., are investigating a March 1 confrontation between officers and a black man picking up trash.

March 7

The Boulder, Colo., police department is conducting an internal investigation after video surfaced of an officer questioning a student who was picking up garbage in front of his residence. The officer has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

On March 1, an officer approached the man as he was sitting in an area behind a private property sign and asked him if he had permission to be there, according to a department release. The Daily Camera reported that the man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence. Police have not publicly named the man or the officer.

The man gave the officer his school identification card and said he both worked and lived in the building. However, the officer continued to investigate and called for backup, “indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

In the 16-minute video, which appears to have been taken by a friend and fellow building resident after the encounter began, the man can be seen holding a bucket and a trash picker.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash?” the man with the trash picker says.

The man being questioned repeatedly says of the officer, “He’s got a gun!”

“Just relax, man,” the officer responds as sirens are heard and more officers arrive and surround him.

Though a police spokeswoman would not release the number of officers involved, citing the ongoing investigation, at one point the man can be heard saying there are eight officers “with guns drawn.” The video appears to show at least one officer, on the far left, holding a gun before putting it away.

Police chief Greg Testa rebutted these particular claims made in the video at a city council meeting on Tuesday, saying “Body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out and it was pointed in the ground.”

The man who was stopped by police and the person taking the video repeatedly assert to the officers that the man lived there and was only picking up garbage.

An officer can be heard assuring the man, who is agitated by the encounter, that “my plan is not to shoot you.” The encounter continues for several minutes until an officer says “we’ve decided we’re going to end things at this point.”

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the Boulder police department release states. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”

“We began looking into the incident on Friday, shortly after it occurred, and quickly made the decision that we needed to launch an internal affairs investigation,” Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said in an emailed statement.

“Our internal affairs investigation will include a review of all body worn camera video, interviews of everyone involved which includes both officers and community members, reports and all other related information,” she said.

Testa said in a prepared statement before the city council that “this is an extremely concerning issue and one that we are taking very seriously.” Members of the public who attended the hearing carried signs and trash pickers, the Daily Camera reported.

“While it appears that the officers responding to the requests for backup followed standard procedures given the information they heard over the radio, all aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated,” he said.

“I am not aware of any information that the man did anything unlawful or wrong,” Testa said.

Charles Lief, president of Naropa University, also spoke at the hearing. “I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma that was experienced by our student, who was the victim in this situation,” he said. He noted that he spoke to the man’s mother and “she has made clear that her son is not interested in becoming a symbol for any issue that we have to deal with in this city.”

“The incident that impacted him is going to be one that’s going to take him a long time to deal with,” Lief said. “The city can’t wait that long for us to talk about the broader issues that we have to address.”

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Federal trial underway in Boston on Springfield police brutality lawsuit

Springfield Police K-9 Officer Daniel McKay is shown here with his K-9 partner Chase in a 2015 promotional photo. McKay is among the defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging excessive force. (Submitted photo)
Springfield Police K-9 Officer Daniel McKay is shown here with his K-9 partner Chase in a 2015 promotional photo. McKay is among the defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging excessive force. (Submitted photo)
By Buffy Spencer

BOSTON — Opening statements were held Tuesday in U.S. District Court here in a lawsuit alleging police brutality filed against three Springfield police officers and the city of Springfield.

Lee Hutchins of Springfield sued officers Daniel J. McKay, Felix Romero and Thomas Hervieux, alleging the three used excessive force against him on Jan. 20, 2013.

Hutchins claimed police pepper-sprayed his eyes and beat him with batons while he was trying to defuse a domestic melee.

The disturbance involved Hutchins’ two adult sons, Lee Jr. and Keith Hutchins, who were living at his home, according to the complaint. Just after midnight, the mother of Lee Hutchins Jr.’s 2-year-old arrived at the house, demanding to take the child back, the court record states.

“During the ensuing altercation, Hutchins attempted to assist the police in taking his two sons in custody in the hopes this would de-escalate the situation,” the complaint said.

McKay pepper-sprayed Hutchins in the face, according to the complaint. The use of pepper spray on Hutchins was “unjustified” and caused him pain and temporary blindness, said his lawyer, Luke Ryan.

The complaint added that Hervieux unnecessarily thumped Hutchins with a police baton.

“Despite the fact that plaintiff was suffering the effects of the pepper spray and posed no threat to any of the officers, defendant Hervieux struck plaintiff twice with his baton, knocking plaintiff to the ground,” it states.

Hutchins alleges McKay drafted a police report which resulted in charges against him for disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. The suit says McKay falsified the allegations.

According to the suit, Hutchins was acquitted of all charges after a Springfield District Court trial.

Other allegations in the suit are: unlawful entry, false arrest, failure to discipline and train officers, assault and battery (against McKay and Hervieux), false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process.

Hutchins is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest and costs of the suit, attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court deems “just and proper.”

Springfield man brings $500K excessive force lawsuit against police for alleged pepper spraying, baton beating

Springfield man brings $500K excessive force lawsuit against police for alleged pepper spraying, baton beating

Lee Hutchins Sr. of Daytona Street in Springfield has said police pepper-sprayed and hit him with a baton while he was trying to break up a fight between officers and his sons that arose from a domestic dispute in 2013. Hutchins has filed a lawsuit in federal court.

In an answer to the complaint filed in court records on behalf of the three officers, lawyer Kevin B. Coyle said the defendants denied the excessive force and other allegations. Coyle said the court lacks jurisdiction, the officers are entitled to immunity to the claims, and the complaint was filed late.

, 2019, masslive.com, “Federal trial underway in Boston on Springfield police brutality lawsuit”, https://www.masslive.com/springfield/2019/01/federal-trial-underway-in-boston-on-springfield-police-brutality-lawsuit.html

Trial for Rochester police officer charged in brutality case to be held in March

Howard Thompson, Posted: Jan 15, 2019 01:42 PM ES

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The case against a Rochester police officer facing an assault charge in a reported case of police brutality will head to trial, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

A judge denied a motion Tuesday to dismiss charges against Officer Michael Sippel, who is accused of assault in the third degree in the attack of Christopher Pate.

The trial for Sippel is now set to start on March 25.

Pate says he was beat up by Officer Sippel and another Rochester officer after being mistaken for a wanted man during a traffic stop on Fulton Avenue last May. The police department said last year that, even after Pate provided documents to prove his identity, Sippel and the other officer persisted with the arrest, during which Pate was beaten and tased.

As a result of the incident, Pate suffered fractures to his jaw and skull.

Pate was initially charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. However, charges were later dropped by the district attorney’s office.

After the body camera footage of the incident was reviewed, the police department suspended both officers without pay. However, a grand jury only brought charges against Officer Sippel.

The brutality case became an impetus behind the push for a new police accountability board, which is now being considered by city leaders.

Howard Thompson, Jan 15, 2019, Rochesterfirst.com, “Trial for Rochester police officer charged in brutality case to be held in March”, https://www.rochesterfirst.com/news/local-news/trial-for-rochester-police-officer-charged-in-brutality-case-to-be-held-in-march/1703250995

Pomona agrees to $700,000 settlement to resolve lawsuit over police beating

It will be the third settlement the city has paid in recent years to resolve police misconduct cases

 

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The city of Pomona has reached a settlement agreement to pay three brothers $700,000 to resolve a federal civil rights lawsuit that claimed Pomona police officers violently and unlawfully arrested them in 2015.

When it receives final approval, it will be the third settlement the city has paid in the past several years in cases in which Pomona police officers were accused of misconduct, the most memorable, a $500,000 settlement paid to Christian Aguilar, a teenager who was beaten and arrested at the Los Angeles County Fair in 2015.

In the lawsuit at the center of the agreement reached Wednesday, Jan. 9, Jesus, Victor and Jose Pelayo detailed an assault at the hands of four police officers that left Jose Pelayo hospitalized with head injuries.

The brothers recalled watching as an officer struck Jose on the head with a flashlight. While Jose lay unconscious on the ground, other officers continued to beat him, the lawsuit said.

“The settlement reached before trial was a successful resolution for my clients, victims of police brutality, who were attacked and arrested in front of their homes while getting ready to go to work, and then were false accused of crimes they never committed,” said Narine Mkrtchyan, a Pasadena civil rights attorney who represented the brothers.

City officials declined to discuss why they agreed to the settlement.

“While an agreement in principle has been reached, it has not been formally signed nor executed,” Deputy City Manager Mark Gluba said in a statement. “As such, the City views this matter as ongoing litigation and will not comment further at this time.”

Mkrtchyan said Wednesday’s settlement was, in part, the city’s attempt to limit further exposure.

“If we proved our case to the jury, which I am confident we would, the city could have faced a lot more in judgment and attorneys’ fees,” she said.

Members of the defense team, which included attorneys from three different Southern California area firms, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls seeking comment.

The four officers have denied any wrongdoing or civil rights violations.

In court documents, they said there was “probable cause and/or reasonable suspicion” to detain the brothers. To address allegations of assault and injury, the officers said they used force “in self-defense and/or in defense of others,” and were responding to the brothers, who had refused to obey orders and were resisting arrest.

Before the settlement was reached, the judge who oversaw the case said there was not enough evidence to place responsibility on the city or then-Police Chief Paul Capraro, who retired in Dec. 2017.

If the case had moved forward to a jury trial, only the four police officers would have been tried, court records said. The city would have not been tried as an entity. Though if the officers were found guilty, the city would still have had to pay.

When the settlement is final, all claims of wrongdoing will be dismissed.

In a summary judgment, Federal District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez outlined the facts of the 2015 arrest based on testimony and evidence from both the brothers and officers.

At about 3 a.m. Oct. 6, 2015,  Jesus and Victor Pelayo were sitting inside their car outside their Pomona apartment, waiting for Jose Pelayo, who was using the bathroom and looking for his work boots. They had a 4 a.m. shift at a Mira Loma furniture warehouse.

Officers Frank Sacca and Austin Dossey, who were on a foot patrol, had been watching the brothers. After two minutes, the officers approached the car with guns drawn. Without identifying themselves as police officers, Dossey shined his flashlight into the car, in the faces of Jesus and Victor, according to the judgment.

Dossey noticed Jesus Pelayo’s Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, which Dossey said was commonly worn by gang members in the area.

This detail was a key part of Dossey’s defense. He also told the court that the area was a “high crime/gang area.”

Several residents from the area testified that they had never been victims of any crimes, one of them telling the court that the area was “always quiet.”

Jesus Pelayo testified that he was not aware of any connection between his baseball cap and gangs in the area.

“Whether a reasonable officer would believe that Jesus’s Pittsburgh Pirates hat signified gang membership is also a disputed factual question that must be determined at trial,” Gutierrez wrote in the summary judgment.

Confused and agitated by the bright light from Dossey’s flashlight, Jesus Pelayo walked out of the car, yelling “Get that [expletive] light out of my face!” The officers ordered both men to the ground, dragging Victor Pelayo out of the car.

Jose Pelayo, who was leaving his apartment, noticed the unfolding incident. He walked toward the officers asking, “What’s going on?” with his arms extended to his sides.

“Get down to the ground!” one of the officers yelled. Jose Pelayo claimed he did not know the man was a police officer and kept walking forward.

Dossey ran over to Jose Pelayo, hitting him twice in the head with a flashlight, the brothers recalled. Officers Prince Hutchinson and Timothy Dorn, who also were on foot patrol, ran over to Jose and continued to “use force” against Jose as he lay unconscious on the ground, according to court records.

The three brothers were arrested with no explanation.

In their police report, the officers wrote that Jose Pelayo had punched Dossey in the stomach. The brothers claimed this was false. Based on the police report, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor charges for resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.

The brothers did not have a prior criminal record, Mkrtchyan said.

In July 2017, the DA asked the court to dismiss the case after learning that Dossey had been fired and was the subject of an FBI investigation, the lawsuit said.

Why Dossey was fired was not known, but court records show he had been a defendant in five other lawsuits accusing him of misconduct and civil rights violations during arrests. One of the cases stemmed from his time as a Rialto police officer.

In September 2018, another lawsuit was filed against Dossey and Pomona and remains ongoing. An additional lawsuit against Dossey was settled by the city in November 2018 for an undisclosed amount.

Dossey, along with Dorn and Hutchinson, were also tied to the highly publicized arrest of 16-year-old Christian Aguilar at the fair. That took place one month before the arrest of the Pelayo brothers.

A bystander captured the county fair incident on a video that showed several Pomona police officers strike and tackle Aguilar.

I 2016, Aguilar and his father, Ignacio Aguilar — who was arrested under suspicion of public intoxication — filed a civil rights lawsuit against Pomona, its police department, and several officers, including Dossey, Dorn and Hutchinson.

The lawsuit accused Dossey and Dorn of unlawfully arresting Ignacio Aguilar and trying to cover it up with false police reports.

Hutchinson was accused of violating the Christian Aguilar’s civil rights for arresting the teen and later trying to cover it up by also writing a false police report and giving false testimony in court. In 2017, the city agreed to pay Christian and Ignacio Aguilar $500,000 in a settlement.

A few months later, federal prosecutors indicted three Pomona police officers in a new criminal case related to the 2015 county fair arrest. Hutchinson was among the three. He currently faces falsified records and obstruction of justice charges and is set to be retried Monday, Jan. 15, after a mistrial last fall.

On Oct. 4, 2017, Mkrtchyan filed the civil rights lawsuit against the city, the police chief, and the four officers, on behalf of the Pelayo brothers.

Hutchinson has been on paid leave since he was indicted in 2017.  Dorn and Sacca are still active employees of the police department.

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

Philly Police identify cops named in hundreds of civilian complaints

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters – image from Docomomo.us

 

Seven years ago, Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall was pursuing Carnell Williams-Carney on foot through the streets of the city’s Frankford neighborhood. The suspect, who had a lengthy rap sheet, had been carrying an illegal firearm when he saw Pownall and his partner closing in. He tossed his weapon and ran.

During the chase, police opened fire. A single bullet struck Williams-Carney in the back, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down.

Investigators would find 10 shell casings from several different guns littering the ground, but Pownall later testified that he had fired the round that hit Williams-Carney. In an ensuing lawsuit, the officer said he didn’t see the suspect drop the weapon and thought the man would turn and open fire. A jury ruled the shooting justified.

Regardless of that outcome, the Philadelphia Police Department’s own policies state that the near-fatal shooting should have been a red flag: an “early warning” sign indicating Pownall’s use-of-force needed closer supervision.

Instead, new records obtained by City & State PA and Philadelphia Weekly show that PPD brass effectively ignored that incident, along with 30 other allegations of misconduct filed by 15 different civilian complainants against Pownall. Pownall’s identity was recently made public by the department, along with a cadre of other problematic officers named in hundreds of complaints between 2013 and 2017, after reporters filed a series of information requests.

These records show Pownall drew more complaints than nearly any of the other 6,300 sworn officers employed by the department – a rate five to six times higher than the average Philly cop.

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall

Former Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall

Although investigators from PPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau ruled that three of these complaints were credible, the worst punishment he received was unspecified retraining. And, thanks to the secretive nature of Philadelphia’s civilian complaint system, the public remained unaware of the growing stain on Pownall’s record.

This relative anonymity would come to an end in 2017 after Pownall opened fire on a second man – David Jones – this time fatally. The officer claimed the man had reached for a gun during another chase, but surveillance footage later contradicted that story. The incident sparked protests across the city and led Commissioner Richard Ross to take Pownall’s badge away.

But in the years leading up to that fatal shooting, Pownall was named in dozens of complaints, accused of everything from unjustified car stops to using racial epithets to excessive use of force. In one incident alone, which was not sustained, Pownall and other officers allegedly dragged a man out of a vehicle, struck him in the groin with a flashlight and stole cash from his wallet.

“It’s outrageous that any police officer with as many complaints as Pownall was still on the force,” said Paul Hetznecker, a veteran civil rights attorney. “I don’t care if they take the position that the complaints are unsustained. They should raise serious concerns within the department.”

Indeed, records show that it’s unusual for most Philly cops to garner more than one complaint a year – regardless of whether they are ever ruled credible. This roughly mirrors data from other big cities: A Boston Globe investigation from 2015 found that the worst officers in that city received roughly one civilian complaint a year.

An analysis of complaint records showed that at least 30 PPD officers appeared to have drawn 10 complaints or more over the past five years. These records also show some, like Pownall and Officer David Dohan, received far more. Dohan is listed in 19 separate complaints since 2013, averaging nearly four a year.

Internal Affairs provided the names of 14 police officers who had together accounted for 158 complaints and 257 alleged offenses over the past five years. While only about 12 percent of the 4,000 complaints filed by civilians since 2013 allege physical abuse, a full third of those made against these 14 officers allege violent misconduct.

All of these officers are male, most are white, and several were even partners or assigned to the same elite units in a few select police districts. A number, like Pownall, were notably linked to excessive-force lawsuits or other questionable shooting incidents that have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and litigation expenses. Pownall had notably landed on the district attorney’s “do not call” list – cops kept off the stand in criminal cases due to past misconduct.

And all earned at least three complaints or more in a single year, theoretically triggering the department’s own threshold for “early warning” intervention – in Pownall’s case, he averaged three complaints a year, every year, for five years. But records show few of the most-complained-about officers ever faced serious internal disciplinary action, suspension or reassignment.

To date, only Pownall has been fired. But even in the rare instance where the commissioner has sought to fire troubled officers, union arbitrators for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 have proven successful getting even the most tainted officers reinstated to the force.

Pownall is likely to be next.

“I remember an FOP person looking me right in the eye and saying, ‘The reality is [Ryan Pownall] will be back,’” said Hans Menos, director of the city’s civilian Police Advisory Commission. “He said it matter-of-factly…They’re very confident.”
Early warnings

When Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ordered the public release of civilian complaint data last year, he said it would increase transparency and trust in the police department. But, citing safety concerns, his administration also quietly redacted the identities of officers and complainants to their first and last initial – and, in certain cases, no identifying markers whatsoever – rendering the database largely useless. Worse, the department took this release as a cue to begin denying requests for specific officers complaint histories.

Beginning in January 2018, City & State PA and Philadelphia Weekly attempted to match officer names with personal characteristics contained in complaint records – initials, rank, district assignment, race, sex – in an effort to identify individual officers with a high frequency of complaints. In April, under pressure from the Mayor’s Office, Internal Affairs agreed to confirm complaint ID numbers associated with a list of officer names compiled by reporters and submitted, at the department’s request, by fax.

However, because the identities of some officers could not be winnowed down from complaint data alone, this process amounts, at best, to a guessing game. The resulting names are only a partial list of police who topped the department for civilian complaints. Over a dozen other still-anonymous officers appear to have recorded as many or more complaints as the police named in this story, but could not be identified by reporters for verification.

This continued lack of transparency means the media and the general public are still in the dark about problem officers, even those ultimately found guilty of misconduct. But the identities of officers released by Internal Affairs do show that brass knew that at least some, like Pownall, were being hit with complaint after complaint, year after year.

The department’s own policies say these complaints are supposed to alert supervisors once an officer has hit the threshold for various incident types. A PPD policy memo reviewed by reporters outlines a so-called “early intervention” policy, designed to flag errant behavior. That threshold varies from offense to offense, but its baseline policy states that if an officer accrues three civilian complaints in a year, supervisors should review the officer’s conduct for possible disciplinary action.

But a damning 2015 report on the PPD’s use-of-force policies by the US Department of Justice noted that such chain-of-command intervention systems are “largely untested and unverified.”

Additionally, attorneys, police watchdogs and even a former police captain interviewed for this story said this alert system often amounts to little more than a stern sit-down with supervisors.

“The warning system provides no mechanism for that officer to be disciplined,” Hetznecker said.

PPD spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew insisted the department has “several internal mechanisms” in place to identify problem officers, but declined to elaborate. He acknowledged that 10 to 20 complaints in a few years’ time “could be” a significant number for one officer to accrue, but stressed officer assignments and the nature of the individual complaints should be taken into consideration.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia Police Public Affairs declined to facilitate interviews with the officers listed in this story. But Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna, who oversaw some of the officers named in this report as captain of the 19th District, said complaints often reflect time spent in certain high-crime districts. In other words, a high number of civilian complaints could simply be a sign of proactive police work.

“A lot has to do with their assignment – how many contacts they are having with people, the number of interactions they have,” he said.

While he feels sheer volume of complaints alone isn’t necessarily indicative of a rogue officer, Menos said his commission’s audits of Internal Affairs have raised deeper concerns about an investigatory process that failed to sustain 82 percent of all complaints and 98 percent of civilian complaints over physical abuse.

In past investigations, Menos said, Internal Affairs often discounted witnesses who are relatives or friends of the alleged victim.

“Say your brother was a witness,” Menos said. “Your brother,” in the eyes of Internal Affairs, “will most likely be deemed not independent and therefore not credible, which basically means you have to find a stranger to witness and then come forward about your complaint against police – or have it on camera.”

Conversely, Menos added, an officer’s account of his partner’s conduct is often taken as “a reliable statement” to investigators. Yet, as complaint data shows, sometimes partners are named in the same incidents.

Other discrepancies abound. In its 2015 report, the U.S. Department of Justice admonished Internal Affairs for recording officer interviews through typed notes, rather than audio or video recordings. The practice can lead to “incompleteness, inaccuracies, or unintentional bias,” federal investigators noted.

Other complaints are simply never resolved. Despite his firing, several years-old complaints associated with Pownall are still marked in police records as “pending investigation.”

Experts, like John Jay College criminology Professor Jon M. Shane, said the failure to react to repeated complaints about the same handful of police raised issues about the upper echelons of the department.

“It calls their supervision into question,” he added. “It calls into question what officers are working on and who they’re working under.”

The Five Squad

During his tenure as captain in West Philadelphia’s 19th District, Bologna supervised four of the officers identified by Internal Affairs. Three were assigned together to elite tactical units in the district, which outsiders say earned a track record for unwarranted stops and seizures under Bologna.

A 29-year veteran of the department, Bologna is perhaps best known to the public for his role in the decade-old “Tainted Justice” corruption scandal, which saw members of a narcotics unit accused of stealing cash from corner stores. Infamous video footage shows Bologna instructing his subordinates to disable a security camera during a raid at one bodega, although no officers were ever charged with a crime.

Bologna, however, was later suspended by officials for failing to properly supervise an officer accused of conducting warrantless searches. In the wake of the scandal, he moved to the 19th District.

A proponent of controversial “broken windows” policing, he ordered his new command to ramp up car and pedestrian stops over minor infractions in the hunt for more serious crime. Complaint data suggests no officers were pressed harder to carry out these dictates than members of the district’s tactical squads, plainclothes officers that patrolled neighborhood trouble spots in unmarked cars.

These units were known informally as “Tac-1” and “Tac-2” or, sometimes just the “Five Squad” – a sometimes-troubled nickname for specialized vice or narcotics units operating under the close supervision of district captains. Tac unit Officers Reuben Ondarza Jr., Thomas D’Alesio and Ian Nance – who served on a related narcotics strike team – would together rack up a combined 25 civilian complaints yielding 37 departmental offenses in just an 18-month window between 2014 and 2015.

D’Alesio alone drew five physical abuse complaints during that time. In court proceedings, he acknowledged the unit’s near-total purview over the West Philly neighborhood.

“We have pretty much free rein over the entire district,” D’Alesio later said in court proceedings when asked to describe the unit.

Although then-captain Bologna said he was constantly on the lookout for “patterns” of misbehavior by his officers, today he recalls officers as some of his best. He says they did “a nice job handling complaints from the community” while assigned tough street work.

“On tactical, I would suspect they see more (complaints),” he said. “They worked wherever there were issues and complaints about gang members. The 19th had a number of historic gangs.”

Officer Thomas D'Alesio, right, with Capt. Joseph Bologna

Officer Thomas D’Alesio, right, with Capt. Joseph Bologna

While the 19th District does rank fourth out of 25 police districts for reported crime, its officers generated far more civilian complaints than even higher-crime districts. While Bologna noted that civilian complaints had declined over his tenure – from 73 in 2013 to 54 in 2016 – his district also saw more complaints overall during this time than all but two other police districts. Only Pownall’s old 15th district in lower Northeast Philadelphia, the largest geographically in the city, saw more civilian complaints.Further, nearly half of the complaints filed in this short span of time detail abuse allegations against the trio often feature similar details: thinly premised car, pedestrian and house searches that escalated into beatings, vandalism, threats or thefts. Some echo the warrantless searches that led to Bologna’s suspension, several more contain another specific pattern: Tac squad officers breaking into locked glove boxes during car stops.

Some complainants had trouble distinguishing the undercover unit from common criminals. In one instance, a man said he fled from officers because he “thought he was about to be robbed” – only to be beaten by Nance and others, fracturing his jaw.

Another woman said men “dressed in black with weapons drawn” entering her home without identifying themselves “while she was doing her taxes.” Believing “a home invasion was taking place,” she attempted to shield her daughter from the mysterious invaders, a team of police that included Nance. One officer grabbed her by the hair, threw her down and ordered her into her basement.

Both of those complaints were ruled unsustained by Internal Affairs. But a prior complaint involving Nance bears yielded still more similarities. A complainant said officers ordered him off the porch of his own home and, when he refused, they allegedly struck him in the chin and dragged him down the steps in handcuffs. The officers entered his residence without a warrant or his permission and, finding no contraband, released him.

Bologna insists the department did “a really nice job in reference to red-flagging” problem officers, but, when briefed on the number of complaints lodged against these officers in the 19th, he said it was the first he’d heard of any issues.

The former captain said he was hesitant to “put a number” on how many complaints an officer would need to garner in order to draw his attention.

“I mean, it could be one complaint,” he said. “Instead, you want to look to see any parallels. You look for civilians saying the officer is saying the same thing over and over again.”

Priors and payouts

Notably, all three officers have also been successfully sued in court either just prior to or during their time in the 19th District, often over similar instances of alleged misconduct.

Nance was sued by a woman named Angelique Gerald-Porter in 2011 over an incident in which she said he punched her for filming a police stop and, once again, grabbed her hair and dragged her down her front steps and over her 2-year-old child, pinning the toddler in the process. That case was settled out of court for a $25,500.

Officer Ian Nance

Officer Ian Nance

D’Alesio was taken to court in a wrongful death suit for fatally shooting a man named Efrem Carr after he allegedly fled a car stop in 2012. A subsequent police investigation was inconclusive, but Carr’s mother said her son had been unarmed. The city eventually paid $95,000 to settle the suit in 2013.Ondarza would eventually be taken to court over a stop in which officers pulled over motorist Angel Seagraves “because her handicap placard was obstructing her view.” Seagraves alleged officers beat her, fractured her ankle, and forcibly searched her vehicle and family members. Police then charged her with a variety of offenses, all of which were thrown out of court for lack of evidence.

Seagraves later sued the officers over the incident, including Ondarza. The city settled the suit last year for $1,000 dollars.

Bologna said that as a commander, seeing the “same officer getting sued all the time, that’s also a pattern.” But he also said he was unfamiliar with the suits mentioned in this story.

He asserting that district captains, and even sometimes the officers themselves, were often left in the dark about pending litigation.

“The city solicitor handles that. Unless they need something from me, I wouldn’t know about it,” Bologna said. “If they’re going to fight it, they might want the officer to testify. But sometimes the officers don’t even know they’re being sued.” (The city’s Law Department later disputed this, asserting that officers are informed at the start and end of lawsuits.)

Yet by 2015, the pattern of apparent misconduct by these officers had been pieced together even by those well outside the department, like public defender Michael Mellon, who was assigned to handle criminal defense cases in the 19th District during the years the trio of officers and several others were part of the district’s tactical units.

“We used to see these guys work together all the time. We saw that something was going on with these guys, but we couldn’t figure out exactly what it was because [the PPD] never gave us any additional information,” Mellon said. “Then, they stopped. We never figured out why.”

That year, the tactical unit officers were suddenly reassigned. Coincidentally, an Internal Affairs investigation that year found Ondarza and six other officers had falsified information and ignored departmental guidelines in yet another car stop that had ended with officers allegedly jimmying open a locked glove box. Reached for comment, Ondarza said the complaint against him was sustained because he “turned in paperwork late.”

While some other members of the tactical squads were promoted or rotated into other districts, Ondarza and Nance stayed in the district. D’Alesio also remained in the 19th, where he has continued to rack up civilian complaints – two so far in 2018, one of them for physical abuse.

But it’s unlikely that the reassignments were a reaction to years of alleged abuse. Bologna said that he had “no memory” of the falsification incident. But Bologna defended his overall track record in the 19th. He said he could not immediately recall any instances in which he had ever re-assigned an officer in connection with a pattern of civilian complaints or other alleged misconduct.

Bologna would himself receive a merit promotion to a staff inspector position in 2017, where he still serves today. He maintains that he emphasized discipline during his time in West Philadelphia.

“If I would see any type of pattern that could possibly cause detriment to the officer or command, I took immediate action,” he said. “The discipline could be sitting them down with their supervisor – to me, that’s still discipline. You talk to them and say, ‘This is going to get you fired.’ You say, ‘We don’t treat people like that.’ It’s like ‘Scared Straight.’”

In June 2017, shortly after Bologna left the 19th for greener pastures, Internal Affairs investigators sustained yet another complaint against D’Alesio. He is alleged to have participated in the beating of a man who had been restrained and pushed up onto the trunk of his car by a group of officers, following another stop.

A witness had apparently photographed the officers and, faced with irrefutable evidence, investigators found the complaint to be credible. But D’Alesio has yet to face disciplinary action for the beating, according to city records.

He remains on patrol duty in the 19th District.

A pattern of abuse

This pattern of behavior was also mirrored by another handful of officers across the city in the 14th Police District, situated in Northwest Philadelphia.

Officers Charles Klink Jr., David Dohan, Lucas Lesko and Brad Momme, who served together under Capt. John Hearn, were similarly charged with conducting high-volume car and pedestrian stops. Together, the four officers would garner 49 civilian complaints in five years under Hearn, whom sources described as another “old-school” police captain. Internal Affairs recorded 80 offenses stemming from those complaints.

As in the 19th District, many of the complaints described searches or other minor encounters that escalated into police beatdowns, sometimes with multiple officers named in the same complaints.

Klink and Dohan were both named in another incident, profiled in an earlier joint investigation, in which one officer was accused of pistol-whipping a man pulled over during a car stop, while screaming, “Fuck your pretty teeth!”

Klink and Lesko were separately named in a pending investigation into an incident in which officers gave chase to a suspect who fled after being caught urinating in a back alley. The pair, along with two other officers, allegedly caught and beat the young man before dumping him at a hospital, the complaint said.

Momme and partner David O’Connor are listed in another complaint in which they accused a suspect of attempting to conceal narcotics by swallowing a baggie of drugs. When the man denied the accusations, one of the officers allegedly choked him out.

And, as in the 19th District, these officers would similarly face few repercussions, even as allegations of misconduct wound up in lawsuits or frustrated other criminal prosecutions.

Momme and O’Connor have also been subject to repeated questioning over their credibility as witnesses due to a pattern of unlawful stops and searches.

They were sued by a former Philadelphia police officer, Herbert Spellman, who said he had been racially profiled and roughed up by the pair in 2013. Although Spellman lost that case on retrial, a separate pro sé litigant won a new trial on charges stemming from an arrest made by Momme and O’Connor, citing Spellman’s claims and yet another, earlier wrongful arrest case. Separately, the city recently shelled out $25,000 to settle a fourth lawsuit involving Momme and O’Connor in which a disabled man alleged the pair dragged him out of his car during a stop and kicked him in the legs.

Klink, meanwhile, was profiled in an Inquirer story about unlawfully searching suspects’ underwear, dooming at least one drug prosecution. Another man alleged he was stopped, searched and beaten by Klink for no reason; the city settled the case out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Officer Charles Klink

Officer Charles Klink

 

The cheesesteak incident

Numerous other complaints paint more consistent portraits of isolated patrolmen abusing their power in ways big and small.

Other officers topping the department’s complaint list include:

  • Officer Joe Ferrero Jr., a patrolman in eastern Center City’s 6th District, has received at least 12 complaints totaling 17 misconduct allegations since 2013. The officer’s record shows an uncanny volume of harassment allegations, three of which were made over the course of a year by the same complainant, a 35-year-old black male identified in records only as “RC.” That complainant charged Ferrero routinely threatened to plant narcotics on him and issued threats after he refused to be the officer’s confidential informant. A separate harassment complaint, filed by a 29-year-old black male in 2014, alleges Ferrero “constantly harasses him every time he sees him and is the source of all his arrests.” Not a single charge has been sustained.
  • In North Philly’s 35th District, Officers Eric Ruch, Jr., and David Tamamato accrued 4 complaints together for allegedly unjustified car searches and roughing up suspects during arrests. Of the 14 offenses tied to those complaints, Internal Affairs sustained five of the least serious charges against the duo.
  • Ruch Jr. and Tamamato also racked up complaints on their own. According to one complaint, translated from Spanish, Ruch and other officers responded to a call from a 34-year-old Hispanic male who, along with a family member, had gotten into a scuffle at a local bar. “The police laughed at them and threatened to call Immigration (ICE) if they didn’t leave the bar; they said they were going to shoot and kill them one by one,” the complainant wrote. Investigators ruled the claims unfounded.
  • In Southwest Philadelphia’s 12th District, Officer Marc Marchetti has garnered at least 16 complaints (21 alleged offenses) since 2013, which run the gamut from snide remarks to violent arrests. One of his complainants appeared to be a Facebook user, who claimed last year that “she noticed several officers posting inappropriate messages in reference to the District Attorney-elect [Larry Krasner], referring to him as a weasel and scumbag, etc…the officers also posted that they crank-called a law firm associated with the DA to ‘congratulate’ them on the win.” That investigation remains ongoing.

 

Officer Kevin Lewis, who also served in Bologna’s 19th Police District, had 11 complaints describing 23 alleged offenses filed against him in just over two years. Bologna said Lewis had done “a nice job” in the district, but said he was eventually taken off patrol duty due to an injury.

The majority of these complaints, none of which were sustained, detail allegations of physical abuse. But one complaint is striking less for its alleged brutality than its bizarre specificity.

A complainant claimed Lewis slapped a cheesesteak out of his hand during a 2009 altercation and, years later, recognized him on the street. The officer stopped his police vehicle and jokingly asked, “Aren’t you the n**ga I slapped a cheesesteak out of your hand? We still talk about it until this day.”

Lewis then reportedly taunted the complainant and blocked his path with his patrol vehicle in an attempt to provoke an altercation, the complaint stated. The complainant said he ignored the remarks and began walking away.

But, according to the description, Lewis then slowly followed the man down the street, making taunting remarks.

“I should get out of my car and punch you in the face,” Lewis said, according to the complaint. “I should slap the shit out of you … I wish you would try something.”

Road to reform

Shane, from John Jay College, said it’s important to keep in mind that policing a city the size of Philadelphia – which records tens of thousands of violent criminal complaints every year – is not easy.

“You’re working in an environment that is fraught with uncertainty, ambiguity, discretion and a constitutional provision that allows anyone to complain about anything you do,” he said.

These facts are also why so many police unions have fought to keep investigations into misconduct in-house. Complaints filed by police and staff within the department and complementary records of investigations into these complaints have never been made public.

But Shane added that a completely closed disciplinary system inevitably creates conflicting interests when it comes to actually punishing bad cops.

“I think it’s largely rooted in the culture of ‘I’ve walked in your shoes,’” he explained. “Internal Affairs wants to have a heart for officers who have a difficult job.”

Yet the issue of even naming officers associated with misconduct remains controversial, even amongst some nominal reformers.

Menos, the Police Advisory Commission director, cautioned against unrestricted access to officer’s identities, recalling protesters who showed up at Pownall’s family home last year in Northeast Philadelphia after the killing of David Jones. He worried that outing officers over complaints without any contextual information would result in similar outbursts.

Menos instead advocated in favor of encouraging department brass and FOP members to commit themselves to more serious disciplinary reforms, but also acknowledged that identifying officers associated with repeated misconduct could encourage these reforms.

“What I’d prefer is for confidence to be built in the current system, which says that they hold people accountable through due process and thorough investigations. But if that can’t happen … other methods might be more effective,” he said. “Maybe this will have a good, chilling effect.”

Ryan Briggs and Max Marin Aug 9, 2018, cityandstatepa, “Philly Police identify cops named in hundreds of civilian complaints”, https://www.cityandstatepa.com/content/philly-police-identify-cops-named-hundreds-civilian-complaints

Prince George’s raid prompts call for probe

Doug Donovan, The Baltimore Sun, August 8, 2008

BERWYN HEIGHTS – When the shooting stopped, two dogs lay dead. A mayor sat in his boxers, hands bound behind his back. His handcuffed mother-in-law was sprawled on the kitchen floor, lying beside the body of one of the family pets that police had killed before her eyes.

After the raid, Prince George’s County police officials who burst into the home of Berwyn Heights’ mayor last week seized the same unopened package of marijuana that an undercover officer had delivered an hour earlier.

What police left behind was a house stained with blood and a trail of questions about their conduct. No other evidence of illegal activity was found, and no one was arrested at Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home in this small bedroom community near College Park.

This week Prince George’s police arrested two men for orchestrating a plot to deliver marijuana to the addresses of unsuspecting recipients – among them, Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic.

Yet neither county Police Chief Melvin C. High nor Sheriff Michael A. Jackson have apologized to him, his wife or her mother, Georgia Porter, for the raid that traumatized the family and killed their black Labrador retrievers, Payton and Chase.

Yesterday, Calvo called on the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate the raid and other similar actions by Prince George’s law enforcement. He said officers burst into his house without knocking or announcing themselves, in violation of the warrant they had.

“Trinity was an innocent and random victim of identity theft. Apparently, so were four or five other county residents whose names and addresses were stolen and used as addresses on drug packages,” Calvo said at a news conference outside his house, near a garden of tomatoes and strawberries.

“However, Trinity and our family have not been treated as victims of a crime. Instead, our home was invaded. Our two beloved Labrador retrievers are dead. My mother-in-law and I were tied up for nearly two hours,” he said. “We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us.”

Berwyn Heights police Chief Patrick A. Murphy appeared with the mayor yesterday and said his agency was never informed of the investigation, despite an existing memorandum of understanding to work together on such operations.

He said not knowing about the raid could have led his officers to fire upon the sheriff’s SWAT team because its members were wearing street clothes, masks and carrying weapons as they approached the mayor’s house.

“What about the safety of my officers?” Murphy said. If consulted, he added, “We could have gotten the mayor to put the dogs away and consent to a search.”

Police officials in Arizona first intercepted the package when a drug-sniffing dog alerted them to the presence of marijuana. It was addressed to Tomsic. An undercover officer in Prince George’s delivered the package near 6 p.m. and was told by Calvo’s mother-in-law to leave it on the porch, according to Calvo’s attorney, Timothy Maloney.

Prince George’s County police arrested two men involved in a scheme to transport marijuana. Once packages were dropped off by a deliveryman, a suspect would pick them up – with the addressee oblivious to the plot. Police seized a half-dozen packages that contained about 417 pounds of marijuana, including the 32 pounds delivered to Tomsic, the Associated Press reported.

Last Tuesday, the mayor arrived home from his full-time job as an executive with SEED Foundation, which establishes urban public charter schools. He took the unopened package inside and placed it on a table near the door. He changed clothes and walked the dogs, waving to the men and women sitting in cars near his home. He did not know they were police.

He returned and went upstairs to get dressed for an event. As he changed clothes, SWAT team members darted across the fenced-in lot. Porter, 50, was cooking artichokes in the kitchen and screamed when she saw the approaching masked men with guns.

The door was kicked in and gunshots rang out, Calvo said. Police killed one dog, Payton – named for football running back Walter Payton – even though Porter was standing next to him.

Police have said the dogs “engaged” officers. Calvo confirmed that Payton probably moved toward the door but would have ultimately done nothing more than lick them.

“He was an aggressive licker,” said Calvo.

Cheryl Compton, a neighbor, said her two sons, 5-year-old Cody and 7-year-old Ty, played with the mayor’s dogs all the time, and that everyone but the Prince George’s County police knew where Calvo lived.

“I would have let them stay in a yard by themselves with those dogs,” Compton said. “It really upsets me to think that I don’t feel safe in my home. If they were to shoot our dog, Amber, I would be outraged.”

Chase was shot while running away from sheriff’s deputies, Calvo said.

“He was hunted down and shot in the back while he fled,” he said. “They didn’t deserve to die. They don’t deserve to be blamed for their deaths.”

Calvo, 37, who has been mayor since 2004, was told to walk backward down the stairs with his hands in the air. He was wearing only boxers and socks. Police handcuffed him and placed him in the living room. His mother-in-law was also cuffed and made to lie on the kitchen floor next to Payton’s body.

Police said they were allowed to enter the house without announcing their presence because Porter screamed and because they had a “no-knock” warrant. Calvo and his attorney, Maloney, say that is not true.

When Tomsic arrived home, she said, she thought the house had been robbed and that police had responded with an impressive show of force. But when she saw the blood and learned what had happened to her dogs, she was in shock.

“They were my kids,” said Tomsic, 33, an employee with Maryland’s Department of Human Resources. “All I could see was the blood and the tissue of the dogs.”

Cleaning the blood, which police tracked throughout the house, was the top priority after the police left four hours after the raid, Calvo said.

“The blood was horrendous,” Calvo said. “They had tracked it everywhere.”

The couple bought the corner lot home nearly three years ago and asked Porter to move from Utah to live with them about 13 months ago. On the front fence, supporters have draped an American flag banner that reads, “Cheye & Trinity We Support You.” Dozens of people have written personal messages to the family on the banner.

Robert Kovalchik, a neighbor and Calvo’s high school history teacher at Parkdale High School, said he was shocked that county officials had not apologized.

“This smacks of something from Nazi Germany,” Kovalchik said.

Calvo said he wants federal officials to examine policies that he said have led Prince George’s police officials to serve warrants on wrong addresses and kill family pets before.

In once such case, Prince George’s sheriff’s deputies executed a warrant on the home of Frank and Pamela Myers of Accokeek in November. The Myerses told sheriffs that they had the wrong address as their dog began barking from the yard. The couple asked if they could retrieve their dog, but deputies refused. Minutes later, two shots were fired and the dog was killed, according to a notice of a tort claims filed by attorney Michael J. Winkelman. The Myerses were never charged and nothing was seized from their house.

“This has happened before, and without oversight, it will happen again,” Calvo said.

Doug Donovan, The Baltimore Sun, August 8, 2008, “Prince George’s raid prompts call for probe”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2008-08-08-0808070248-story.html

Nine years later, police brutality case goes to trial

Even now, nine years later, the accounts differ on what happened to Donald J. Silmon while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a Buffalo police car.

Did Detective Raymond Krug shoot the teenager with a BB gun?

And did Officer Joseph Wendel egg Krug on?

Now in his 20s, Silmon will be the key witness in a civil rights trial that centers around allegations that Krug and Wendel used excessive force against him and three other teenagers on Treehaven Road that May night in 2009.

The trial, scheduled to begin Wednesday, will also cast a light on Gregory Kwiatkowski, a retired Buffalo police lieutenant who admitted putting his hands around Silmon’s neck that night. He will testify against Krug and Wendel as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The defense is expected to challenge Kwiatkowski’s credibility as a government witness and point to a “long list of disciplinary issues.” Kwiatkowski retired in 2011 with three separate cases alleging improper conduct pending against him.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the coming trial but, in pre-trial briefs, outlined what they think happened to Silmon, identified in court papers as D.S. They claim it started with Krug firing the BB gun at Silmon.

“A BB lodged in D.S.’s lower leg in the first shot, and not only did Wendel fail to stop Krug from shooting D.S. with a BB gun the first time, he encouraged Krug to shoot D.S. a second time,” the government said in court papers.

Prosecutors said “after Wendel’s urging, Krug fired the BB gun a second time and hit D.S. near his genitals in the upper area of his upper thigh.”

Krug and Wendel  are currently suspended with pay. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison.

With the case heading to trial this week, lawyers on both sides declined to comment.

While the allegations against Krug and Wendel date back nine years, the trial before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny begins at a time when police shootings and police relations with African-Americans are in the spotlight.

Silmon and the three other teens arrested that night, all now in their 20s, are black. Krug and Wendel are white.

Even before they faced criminal charges, Krug and Wendel were defendants in a civil case that Silmon and Jeffrey E.Campbell II, one of the other teens, filed against the city.

Court records indicate Silmon received a $65,000 settlement while Campbell received $10,000. In the civil suit, Silmon said it was Krug who fired the BB gun and that Wendel was there, watching and laughing.

It’s not clear if the civil suit will be come up at the criminal trial and Skretny has voiced concerns that, if it does, it could result in “a trial within a trial.”

Led by defense lawyers Terrance M. Connors and Rodney O. Personius, Krug and Wendel are expected to counter with evidence of the teens’ actions that night in 2009.

Arrested in what police called a drive-by BB gun shooting, the teens were accused of firing into a crowd at Main and Custer streets and striking at least two people.

“At the time, Detective Krug and Officer Wendel were aware that numerous BB gun shootings had been occurring in the area over the course of a number of weeks, causing both property damage and personal injury,” Connors said in court papers.

The incident resulted in the four teens being charged with felony assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon but pleading guilty to a lesser charge of harassment. They were each sentenced to a conditional discharge and community service.

As part of their defense, Krug and Wendel may call the two shooting victims to the witness stand in order to offer evidence of their state of mind.

The defense is also expected to counter with questions about why the government waited until three days before the end of the statute of limitations to file criminal charges against the two officers.

Investigated by the FBI and indicted by a grand jury in 2014, five years after the incident, Krug and Wendel were initially charged along with Kwiatkowski.

The charges also came four years after Silmon and Campbell filed their civil suit.

It is possible the defense might also argue that Silmon and Campbell pointed the finger at Krug and Wendel in an effort to increase the number of defendants in their civil suit and the potential for a large monetary award.

In court papers, Personius said the criminal case, which came later, forced the two men to stick with their stories or face perjury or false statement charges.

The trial, delayed twice, almost went to a different judge earlier this year but, at the defense’s urging, Skretny kept the case.

Connors said “recruiting a new judge would be at the expense of all parties, especially Detective Krug and Officer Wendel.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron J. Mango and John D. Fabian are leading the prosecution.

, Buffalo News, “Nine years later, police brutality case goes to trial”, https://buffalonews.com/2018/08/06/nine-years-later-police-brutality-case-goes-to-trial/

Angry Louisiana cops strangle man to death after he asks to see his arrest warrant

Rob Beschizza / 5:15 am Fri Aug 3, 2018

Armando Frank, 44, refused to get off his tractor when stopped by police. He demanded to see an arrest warrant. But the cops arresting him didn’t have time for that sort of legal stuff. So they attacked him, then killed him when he resisted.

A video recording of the arrest, obtained by The Advocate, shows officers growing frustrated with Frank, 44, after he refuses to step down from a tractor near a Walmart store along La. 1. A use-of-force expert who reviewed the 10-minute recording at the newspaper’s request says the law officers escalated the exchange by placing Frank in a choke hold and attempting to yank him off the tractor. … A forensic pathologist hired by the parish had said in a report that manual strangulation was the primary cause of Frank’s death. The video shows Spillman mount the tractor behind Frank and apply a choke hold while another officer tries to pull him down. For a time, Frank is doubled-over while resisting. Officers had to carry Frank to a patrol car after his body went limp.

 

The officers names are Brandon Spillman and Alexander Daniel, deputies in Avoyelles parish, and Marksville, La., police officer Kenneth Parnell.

It is completely reasonable to receive a calm, detailed answer when you are asked why you are being arrested, rather than being executed in the street by enraged, screaming, out-of-control cops: “There’s no exigent circumstance here. He’s not attempting to flee, he’s not assaulting anybody, he’s sitting on a tractor and he’s asking reasonable questions they are refusing to answer,” said a use-of-force expert interviewed by The Advocate.

The arrest warrant was for simple trespassing, in connection with a dispute Frank was reportedly engaged in with his neighbors.

/ Rob Beschizza / 5:15 am Fri Aug 3, 2018 “Angry Louisiana cops strangle man to death after he asks to see his arrest warrant”, https://boingboing.net/2018/08/03/angry-louisiana-cops-strangle.html

Walton Police Brutality Trial Begins

Judge Cautions Jurors to Provide Both Sides With Fair Trial
By Lillian Browne, July 7, 2018

DELHI – Two and a half hours after 57 potential jurors were summoned to the second-floor courtroom ofThe Walton Police Station located on Mead Street. The Walton Police Station located on Mead Street. the Delaware County Courthouse, five men and three women were sworn in as jurors to hear police brutality allegations against the Walton Police Department and three of its officers – two now employed elsewhere – resulting from a Feb. 1, 2013 arrest in front of Danny’s Restaurant on Gardiner Place in the village.

Pre-trial negotiations have so far been unsuccessful following William J. Picinich’s lawsuit alleging excessive and unnecessary use of police force by Walton police officers Chris Erwin, John Cornwell (who left the department to take a position with the  Tioga County Sheriff’s Office) and Dan St. Jacques, in an arrest which Picinich says he suffered severe permanent physical injuries. For those injuries, Picinich is seeking both punitive and compensatory damages, asserting unnecessary and malicious conduct by the officers.

Background

According to court documents and previous coverage of court proceedings, Picinich was placed under arrest by former Walton Police Officer John Cornwell, now employed by another police agency, on Feb. 1, 2013, and charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, following Picinich’s wife Tina’s traffic stop for a “loud muffler” outside of the Walton eatery. She was driving there, she said in court documents, to pick up her husband.

As she parked her vehicle outside the restaurant, court documents and attorney statements to the prospective jury revealed, that not one, but three police cruisers with emergency lights  flashing – on the light bar and in the grill – surrounded Tina Picinich as she parked her vehicle outside the eatery.

The flashing lights, Picinich’s attorney Terry Hoffman said, drew the attention of many people. Some of those people will be called to testify as witnesses.

Those witnesses alerted William Picinich – Bill to those who know him – that his wife was being detained by police outside the restaurant. Court documents reveal that Picinich exited the eatery and approached the three law enforcement officers, demanding to know what was going on.

A supporting deposition, sworn to by former Walton Police Officer John Cornwell, states that Picinich was told to remove himself from the scene by former Walton Police Officer Chris Erwin, who is currently employed by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.

This is where police testimony and Picinich’s testimony diverge. Cornwell swears in his supporting depositing that Picinich became belligerent, swearing at them. Picinich makes no mention of swearing in his version of the events from justice court proceedings, and instead stated that he turned around and started walking back into the eatery when he was forcibly “taken to the ground” and placed under arrest. The way in which he was aggressively handled, Picinich said, resulted in a re-tear of a previous right shoulder, or rotator cuff, injury.

That is the issue to be tried by a six-person Delaware County Supreme Court jury – whether excessive force was used in the arrest.

Criminal Charges Dismissed

Picinich was found not-guilty of the criminal charges lodged against him stemming from his wife’s traffic stop, following a trial in Walton Justice Court on October 29 and 30, 2014. In Supreme Court, following the village of Walton’s request to have the excessive use of force case thrown out, Judge John F. Lambert found that the village of Walton “may be held liable for injuries where a police officer uses excessive force in an arrest; and a police officer may be held liable for assault and battery even when performing an official duty if excessive force was used and the force used was not reasonable.”

In order to recover damages, Picinich must convince the jury that there was physical contact and that the contact was ‘offensive.’”

In a ruling prior to trial, the court determined that “The plaintiff’s injury is severe, while the charged crimes are relatively minor.”

He Said, He Said, He Said

In choosing a jury, Lambert began by telling assembled jurors that there was an “allegation of excessive use of force by police officers” that resulted in “alleged injuries to the plaintiff.”

Picinich’s lawyer quizzed the first panel of 14 jurors by asking them questions: Are you familiar with Danny’s Restaurant? Have you ever worked for an insurance company or a municipality – a taxpayer funded entity?; Are you intimidated by the Defendants – two of which are in uniform and carrying guns, though they have the right to wear uniforms and carry guns?; Should police officers be believed simply because they are police officers?; Have you ever suffered an injury that has been disabling?; Would you weigh the testimony of a police officer like anyone else?; Do you agree that police officers are tasked with de-escalating a situation and can sometimes exaggerate the truth or invent facts?

Respondents’ counsel, Michael Cook, of Ulster County, in turn told jurors that there is a different standard of proof in civil cases than in criminal cases. In civil cases, Cook said, like this one, jurors merely need to find “a preponderance of evidence,” which, he said, means “it’s more likely than not.”

He told the jurors who had not yet heard about the criminal charges, that they could not consider the dismissal of the criminal charges during the trial.

“Mr. Picinich is going to allege that he has a shoulder injury,” Cook told the jurors. “My clients dispute everything he says.”

Cook then questioned the panel whether they had ever experienced any negative interaction with authority figures, police officers or agencies.

One woman who stated she felt the media “villainizes” police was dismissed as a potential juror, as was a former Suffolk County Corrections Officer who stated that sometimes situations escalate quickly and immediate action needs to be taken by officers.

Judge Cautions Jurors

Upon their selection, Lambert cautioned jurors not to discuss the trial with anyone, until directed to do so by the court. He further directed that jurors should not read or listen to any newspaper or media accounts of the trial, stating that any reports were merely the view of one person who has their own interpretation of events.

Opening statements and witness testimony are scheduled to begin in the case of William J. Picinich against the Village of Walton, the Village of Walton Police Department, Village of Walton Police Officers Chris Erwin, John Cornwell and Dan St. Jacques, as police officers and individually, on Tuesday, July 10 at 9 a.m.

Court is open to the public.

Lillian Browne, July 7, 2018, the-reporter.net, “Walton Police Brutality Trial Begins”, http://www.the-reporter.net/news/2018-07-04/Front_Page/Walton_Police_Brutality_Trial_Begins.html