Houston narcotics officers shot Dennis Tuttle at least eight times during the January 28 drug raid that killed him and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, at their home on Harding Street. The no-knock raid, based on allegations that Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin, found no heroin and no evidence of drug dealing. The officer who obtained the warrant, Gerald Goines, reported a “controlled buy” at the house that apparently never happened.
According to an autopsy report dated March 19, Tuttle suffered gunshot wounds in his head and neck, chest, left shoulder, left buttock (which was struck twice), left thigh, left forearm, left hand, right wrist, and right forearm (two graze wounds). The report says the chest injury “may represent a re-entrance wound of a fragmented bullet associated with one of the gunshot wounds of the upper extremities.” The officers reported that they shot Tuttle after he fired at them with a .357 Magnum revolver in response to their armed invasion of his home, during which they killed a dog with a shotgun immediately after crashing through the door.
Another autopsy report, also dated March 19, says Nicholas was shot in the torso and right thigh. Police said they shot her after she moved toward the officer with the shotgun, who had collapsed on a couch after being shot by Tuttle. They said they believed she was trying to take away the shotgun. There is no video of the raid to corroborate that account. Both Tuttle, who was 59, and Nicholas, who was 58, were pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m., shortly after police broke into their home.
The only drugs that police found in the house were 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. Those are also the only drugs detected by the toxicology tests described in the autopsy reports: THC and a THC metabolite in Tuttle’s blood and benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, in Nicholas’ blood. Notably, the tests found no traces of heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids.
Although Police Chief Art Acevedo has said the affidavit for the search warrant was falsified, he continues to defend the investigation that led to the raid, citing a January 8 call from an unnamed woman who reported that her daughter was using drugs at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas as armed and dangerous drug dealers. Acevedo also said neighbors had thanked police for raiding the couple’s home, which he said was locally notorious as a “drug house” and a “problem location.”
Those claims are inconsistent with the accounts of neighbors interviewed by Houston news outlets. They said that Tuttle and Nicholas, who had lived in the house for two decades, were perfectly nice people and that they had never noticed any suspicious activity at the house.
KTRK, the ABC station in Houston, reported in February that the woman who called police on January 8 was Nicholas’ mother, who was concerned about her own daughter’s drug use. But that report is inconsistent with Acevedo’s account and with what Nicholas’ mother, Jo Ann Nicholas, has told reporters. “I want her name cleared,” the grieving 84-year-old woman said in a March 25 interview with KTRK.
Four officers, including Goines, were injured by gunfire during the raid, but it is not clear where those rounds came from. It seems implausible that Tuttle, even if he fired all six rounds from the revolver, was able to hit his targets four times in the chaotic circumstances of the raid. Acevedo initially responded indignantly to the suggestion that officers were hit by “friendly fire,” but that question is part of the Houston Police Department’s ongoing investigation. This morning I asked the HPD whether the issue has been resolved but have not heard back yet.
After I requested copies of the autopsy reports on April 1, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan claimed the documents were not subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. Citing the law’s exception for information that “would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime,” Ryan sought an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who I gather disagreed.
Update, May 7: HPD spokesman Kese Smith said the department is not releasing any information on the “friendly fire” issue until it completes its internal affairs and criminal investigations of the operation. He said those investigations should be completed by mid-May, at which point the department will report its findings to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which is conducting its own investigation. The FBI is also looking into potential civil rights violations.
A new USA Today Network investigation uncovered disturbing patterns of police officers rising through the ranks despite being convicted of crimes and accused of misconduct. The investigation found 32 people who became “police chiefs or sheriffs, despite a finding of serious misconduct, usually at another department.”
A lot of police departments don’t have the money or resources to do thorough background checks on candidates, and police misconduct is often secretive and hard to uncover, reports CBS News’ Jeff Pegues. He spoke to an Ohio police chief who said an officer fired twice from his department went on to become the police chief of a nearby town.
Michael Goodwin, the police chief of New Philadelphia, Ohio, said there is one word that comes to mind when he hears the name of his department’s former officer, David Cimperman: chaos.
“He was here for 15 years before he resigned. The city fired him twice. An arbitrator gave him his job back twice,” Goodwin said. “He was being wrote up or disciplined by his supervisors on a regular basis.”
Cimperman was hired in the early 1990s. Internal police reports and county records obtained by USA Today Network show years of misconduct followed. Among the allegations: Cimperman tampered with police radios so he could “make untraceable calls,” which blocked 911 calls from coming through. He was also accused of engaging in a high-speed chase with a motorcyclist who didn’t pull his visor down. Cimperman crashed, flipped his patrol car and had to shoot a window to get out.
Even after Cimperman was fired and rehired twice, Chief Goodwin says allegations continued to pile up, and in 2012, the department gave Cimperman an ultimatum – resign or face more possible disciplinary action. He chose to resign on his own accord, which allowed him to get another job.
Three years later, Cimperman was back on the force, this time,as chief in nearby Amsterdam, Ohio. Nobody from Amsterdam called to check on his past – something that doesn’t surprise Goodwin.
“What we are finding out is, across the state, police departments are not doing a thorough background check,” Goodwin said. “I think they are in a hurry to get a body or boots on the ground.”
Gary Pepperling is the mayor of Amsterdam. He hired Cimperman, whose misconduct allegedly continued.
“We needed a police officer bad, and he fit the bill for what we thought he would do,” Pepperling said. “I think he’s a criminal and that’s disgusting, you know? And I feel bad I let the people down and didn’t get rid of him sooner.”
According to interviews and hiring forms obtained by USA Today Network, Cimperman allegedly added officers to Amsterdam’s roster even though many of them never did any work. Instead, they allegedly logged hours for a private security company he ran on the side. A now published internal report also accuses Cimperman of misplacing evidence. The mayor said Cimperman was forced to resign.
Chris Davis, the vice president of investigations for USA Today Network, and his team analyzed troves of records and data from around the country, publishing many online. They found 85,000 police officers who have been disciplined or in trouble. Dozens of them are still working in departments, including some previously found guilty of a crime.
“It’s not easy to find information often about officers who have been in trouble,” Davis said. “You need a resource that is better than what exists to keep track of officers who have had problems and there is no national complete data set that’s available.”
Chief Goodwin agrees. He wants to see departments doing background checks and thoroughly investigating officers before they are hired, something he says his department already does.
“Things are getting kind of set aside that’s not fair to the people who pay our salaries, which are the citizens of our cities,” Goodwin said.
USA Today Network published a list of more than 30,000 officers in 44 states who have been decertified, or essentially banned, from being an officer in their state. They hope this searchable database will help the public and future employers identify dangerous officers.
Cimperman told us “the article is not accurate, and places me in a false light.” USA Today Network says he is still commissioned and working in Ohio as a paid part-timer.
Video still from footage of a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy assaulting a black teenager, April 2019. Photo: Screenshot via Broward County Sheriff’s Office
The sheriff’s office in Broward County, Florida, has promised to investigate two of its deputies for assaulting a black 15 year old on Thursday. An 18-second video shows the officials — Christopher Krickovich and Sergeant Greg LaCerra — pepper-spraying the teen in the face, banging his forehead against concrete, and punching him on the side of his head. (The teen’s name has not been disclosed in news reports, but he has been identified on social media as “Lucca.”) Footage of the incident has circulated nationally, prompting outraged responses from celebrities and lawmakers alike. Sheriff Gregory Tony tried to assuage the concerns of local black civic leaders by vowing a “tactful” investigation. “That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle,” Tony, the county’s first black sheriff, said on Saturday, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Any time a white deputy is involved in contact with using force on a black youth, this thing blows up.”
That such a thing might “blow up” is appropriate. Years of activism and reporting have demonstrated the racism with which law enforcement is applied across the United States. In Broward County, its impact on black youth has been a point of special focus. A 2013 initiative led by Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, sought to eliminate disparities in the rates at which black students were suspended and arrested for in-school misconduct compared to their white peers. (During the 2011-2012 school year, black students were roughly two-thirds of those suspended, mostly for minor incidents — like using profanity or disrupting class — despite being 40 percent of the student body, according to the American Prospect.) Runcie partnered with local advocates and law enforcement to implement alternatives to suspension and prohibit arrests — 71 percent of which were for misdemeanors — in some cases where they had been allowed before. (Officers were, however, allowed to override some of these prohibitions: “I wanted to make sure deputies always had discretion,” then-Sheriff Scott Israel told the Prospect.)
The effect was almost immediate. By the end of 2013, suspensions had dropped 40 percent and arrests of students had fallen 66 percent. A more humane tint began to color how local law enforcement treated black children for whom youthful mistakes often meant years of condemnation as criminals. But Thursday’s incident proves that progress on one front does not constitute a sea change any more than it precludes regression. After 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, criticism of how Broward County Sheriff’s deputies handled the shooting — including their failure to immediately enter the school when gunshots were reported — prompted an emphasis on meeting perceived threats with swift violence, according to the Washington Post. Deputies have since been re-trained on how to subdue subjects in what one sheriff’s union official described to the Post as a “Fight Club atmosphere.” Some participants have suffered injuries in the process, ranging from fractured bones to a detached retina to brain bleeding.
So when dispatchers on Thursday received calls that a group of teenagers had gathered in a McDonald’s parking lot in Tamarac — a popular hangout for local high schoolers — and that some of them were fighting, they applied the kind of immediate and decisive force that many wished they had wielded against Cruz. Among the differences was that such force is used traditionally against black youth with no such justification — as examples ranging from the 2015 police assault on a black girl in Richland County, South Carolina, to the February police beating of a black girl in Chicago illustrate. For these victims, the misapplication of brutal police training was their lot well before Parkland. That the 15 year old on Thursday committed no clear infraction, let alone a crime, highlights the absurdity of continuing to apply it after. In effect, the training changes in Broward County seek to level against men like Cruz a degree of violence that, for many unarmed black children, was already a danger. Such are the wages of a culture that looks to atrocities like Parkland to shape law enforcement policy, but seems unable or unwilling to ensure that officers do not greet innocent people with the same violence.
Accordingly, Krickovich, who wrote the police report about Thursday’s incident, seemed to inflate Thursday’s threat to justify his response. In his telling, he was arresting another teen for trespassing when Lucca bent down to pick up the boy’s cell phone. “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me,” Krickovich wrote, according to the Sun Sentinel. “I observed a teen [Lucca] wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone.” In the video, another deputy — identified by the Sun Sentinel as LaCerra — is seen shoving Lucca, after which Lucca appears to object verbally. In the report, Krickovich wrote that Lucca “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.” (The video shows no such clear aggression.) LaCerra then pepper-sprayed Lucca in the face and threw him to the ground. Claiming that he feared for his safety, Krickovich “jumped on [Lucca],” grabbed the prone teen by both sides of his head, slammed his forehead against the concrete, and punched him before another deputy helped him apply handcuffs.
Whether the deputies were actually afraid is less knowable — and arguably less telling — than their confidence that claiming they were would exonerate them of wrongdoing. Racism shapes this expectation. Outlandish scenarios arise from police accounts of the dangers that young black men allegedly pose. Officer Darren Wilson equated Michael Brown to a “demon” during his testimony about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked protests and riots. “[He] had the most intense, aggressive face,” Wilson told a grand jury. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” If one accepts that Brown was “like a demon,” claims that he barreled toward a police officer through a hail of bullets become palatable. (No criminal charges were filed against Wilson.) If one concedes that Lucca was similarly endowed, assertions that the unarmed teen posed a threat to gun-toting sheriff’s deputies — despite video evidence to the contrary — is plausible enough for Krickovich to gamble on investigators siding with him.
In a sense, Thursday was a predictable outcome of asking an institution whose job is violence to escalate. Lucca and Cruz — or Lucca and anyone who seeks to harm police officers, really — exist on polar ends of most realistic threat spectra, but separating them is of secondary concern to those convinced that safety means reflexively treating more people like the latter. Krickovich banked on this ambiguity. Racism likely helped rationalize his response, despite it transpiring in a community whose administrators, in the past, sought to reduce disparities. Indeed, it is hard to believe that he and LaCerra would have treated a white child the same way they did Lucca. But when an assault like Thursday’s is permissible as long as officers claim they are afraid — and can convince investigators that their response was consistent with what others would have done in their place — then the bigger issue is more fundamental than whether they were white and the victim black. The problem, one of many, is the public and institutional instinct to let the worst set the standard rather than remain outliers. Humane rules of engagement evaporate where every suspect is a demon. And whatever the outcome of the department’s investigation, it is worth asking if that is a reasonable price to pay for feeling safe.
Cellphones have been an instrumental tool in capturing alleged incidents of police brutality. This weekend, there were multiple videos taken of a Broward County, Florida police officer slamming a young black teenager’s head into the ground.
As the videos spread around social media, there were numerous calls for the officer involved to be fired. Deputy Christopher Krickovich has now been ordered to surrender his gun and badge as he is being suspended while the incident is investigated.
The arrest of 15 year-old Luca drew attention from Broward County’s Mayor, Mark Bogen. Bogen tweeted, “The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable. The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him. He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.”
Mayor Mark Bogen@mark_bogen
The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward Sheriff’s Office investigates after video shows deputies pepper-spraying and punching teens https://trib.al/7OTBElf
Bishop Talbert Swann also weighed in, writing, “Demand that Broward Sheriff, Gregory Tony drop all the charges against Delucca, fire and arrest the racist, rogue officers that used excessive force and brutalized an innocent 15 year old boy.”
Here’s another angle that shows @browardsheriff’s deputy pepper spraying unarmed Black boy, Lucca, who posed no threat. He then slammed his head into the concrete, arrested him & charged him with ASSAULTING the cops.
Broward’s Sheriff, Gregory Tony is doing his best to manage the situation. Talbert Swann writes, “Gregory Tony held a meeting with Black Elected Officials & emphasizes a commitment to transparency & accountability.” The 15 year old boy involved in the incident is still facing charges.
Over a span of six years, the New York City Police Department received 16 complaints alleging that Police Officer Michael Dowd had been robbing drug dealers and dealing cocaine as part of a gang of corrupt officers in the 75th Precinct in the crime-ridden East New York section of Brooklyn.
That wasn’t all. The officer drove to work in a bright red Corvette and sometimes had a limousine pick him up at the station house for gambling trips to Atlantic City.
Yet in a clear example of what went wrong with the department’s handling of corruption cases, an investigative panel, the Mollen Commission, has concluded that senior officers repeatedly ignored allegations against Officer Dowd or blocked efforts to check them out in a deliberate policy to shield the department from scandal. Officer Dowd was eventually arrested by another department and is now facing sentencing on drug charges.
The senior officers’ behavior, the panel concluded, was influenced by the tone set at the top. The panel’s report, which will be released formally today, found that Benjamin Ward, who was the Police Commissioner when the first allegations were made against Officer Dowd in 1986, had been deeply shaken by a corruption scandal in another Brooklyn precinct at about the same time.
And it quoted Charles J. Hynes, who was then the state’s special prosecutor for police corruption, as saying that Mr. Ward was convinced that further revelations of police misconduct would cripple the department.
But whatever the motivation, the commission said, Mr. Ward and Daniel F. Sullivan, the chief of the Inspectional Services Bureau from 1986 to 1992, “by their action — or inaction — created an unmistakable policy to avoid corruption scandals.”
Mr. Ward said he could not comment on the report because he had not seen it. Chief Sullivan told the commission that his subordinates never informed him about Officer Dowd until 1992.
Because of the perceived policy, Mr. Dowd and his “crew” of crooked officers flaunted the illegal wheeling and dealing that brought some of them as much as $8,000 a week for not interfering with drug sales along with whatever cocaine they could steal as they broke down doors at drug dens and ripped off dealers.
And even though complaints about Officer Dowd had been submitted as early as 1986, his 1987 performance evaluation described him as an officer with “excellent street knowledge” who is “empathetic to the community.”
It concludes, “Good career potential.”
Officer Dowd, who is 32, was finally arrested in 1992, not by New York City Police investigators, but by officers from Suffolk County. They had intercepted telephone conversations between the officer and a small-time drug dealer. He is now in the Manhattan Correctional Center awaiting sentencing on drug charges. The revelations that grew out of Officer Dowd’s arrest led Mayor David N. Dinkins to announce the creation of the Mollen Commission on June 25, 1992.
The panel’s report concluded that for nearly a decade the Police Department had abandoned its responsibility to insure the honesty of its members.
Fearing that reports of corruption in their commands would damage their careers, senior officers looked the other way, the commission said. Information in internal investigations was deliberately fragmented, rather than woven together to form a pattern, and cases were closed well before all leads had been exhausted.
In the fall of 1992, a report issued by Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown blamed the department’s failure to intervene in the crimes of Mr. Dowd and his fellow rogue cops on a breakdown in procedures.
But the Mollen Commission said it concluded that the problem was “a willful effort” by commanders of the Internal Affairs Division, the principal anti-corruption unit, to impede the investigation. Internal Affairs, it said, treated allegations against Mr. Dowd as separate incidents and withheld critical information from another investigator.
“By doing so,” the commission said, “Internal Affairs commanders doomed any hope of a successful investigation of Dowd and other corrupt officers of the 75th Precinct.” Holdup Provides Example
One example of how police investigators failed to make the most of leads was the holdup on July 1, 1988, by three officers in the 75th Precinct of a grocery store that was serving as a front for drug dealing. Officer Walter Yurkiw and two others were charged with the crime after robbery investigators found the car they had used, with money and drugs visible inside, parked near the station house.
Three weeks after the robbery, the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Harkins, told Captain Thomas Callahan of the Internal Affairs Division that he had heard rumors that Mr. Dowd was also involved in the robbery, the commission said. A few days later, a precinct lieutenant told Internal Affairs that Mr. Dowd had reportedly been seen at a bar with Officer Yurkiw and the others shortly before the robbery.
About two weeks later, two drug dealers told an Internal Affairs officer that their drug organization was paying Mr. Dowd $3,000 to $4,000 a week, plus an ounce of cocaine, for protection.
All this came to nothing. Instead, the robbery investigation remained focused on the three officers.
A few months later, Officer Yurkiw’s girlfriend, who told the police she used cocaine, got in touch with Internal Affairs, saying that Officer Yurkiw had threatened to kill her unless she provided an alibi for him in the grocery store robbery. She also told Internal Affairs about Mr. Dowd and others at the precinct.
An Internal Affairs officer reported that the woman’s “credibility and allegiances were suspect.” Yet, the Commission said, her testimony was nevertheless used.
Despite “incontrovertible indications of serious corruption,” the commission said, Internal Affairs never initiated a single investigation of Officer Dowd and, until the Long Island police intervened, the allegations against him “inevitably died a natural death.”
Officer denies allegations by multiple women of sexual misconduct, claiming he was the victim of a “witch hunt”
By THOMAS PEELE | SUKEY LEWIS, and ALEX EMSLIE, KQED NEWS | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
On the streets people called him officer, but out at the local golf links the female workers called him “Creepy Joe.”
Again and again, women who worked at the Paradise Valley Golf Course told investigators that Fairfield Police Officer Joe Griego harassed them, public records show. He grabbed one woman by the breast and asked her if her “boobs” were real. Another worker, who was nine months pregnant, said she overheard Griego saying falsely that he was her baby’s father. He also told his golfing partners, who included current and former officers and Fairfield City Councilman Chuck Timm, that “he wanted to get a piece of her,” according to detailed documents released by the Fairfield Police department Wednesday under Senate Bill 1421, the state’s new police accountability law.
Timm did not return a phone call Thursday.
Women also said Griego made lewd comments, slapped them on the behind and squeezed one of them on the shoulder so hard it hurt while telling he wanted to give her the “biggest tip of her life,” according to the documents.
The women told investigators that they dubbed Griego “creepy Joe.”
In addition to two separate investigations of Griego, the department also released records of two other findings of sexual misconduct by two other officers.
Facing termination in 2015 after an investigation of the women’s allegations, Griego left the department before he was disciplined. He’d already been suspended for a month without pay earlier that year after another woman who was taking a parenting class he was teaching for the department complained that he told her that even though she was divorced she could “still have lust.” The woman told investigators he tried to hug and kiss her, advances she resisted.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Griego called the investigations into his actions “witch hunts” motivated by complaints he made years earlier against the department for allegedly violating his privacy rights. Yet he also said, “I played some sort of role in this,” but denied touching the women and making lewd comments.
“I was buried under these allegations,” he said. “I was a target.”
Fairfield Police Chief Randy Fenn did not immediately respond to a message Thursday afternoon.
Female employees said they learned how to “deal with” Griego, and at least one changed her work schedule to avoid contact with him, records show. Another woman refused to cooperate with investigators.
An expert in police sexual misconduct said many women are afraid to report officers’ behavior.
“Most of the instances of police sexual misconduct and police sexual violence that occur on duty are never complained about by the victims,” Bowling Green University Criminology Professor Phil Stinson said. “You know the police subculture, as I call it, is a closed-door society,” he said. “It’s an us vs. them mentality. It’s a boys club.”
In two others cases, through, women came forward with complaints against Fairfield officers.
In one, Detective Zachary Sandoval was suspended without pay for a day in 2015 for an unwelcome sexual advance he made on a Starbucks barista. The woman complained about an inappropriate encounter in August 2014 with the plainclothes officer, who was a regular at the coffee shop.The two had exchanged cell phone numbers, and Sandoval offered via text message to let her charge her phone in his car. Then Sandoval “asked her if he could give her a kiss,” the documents say.
“I was like, ‘I’m married.’ And he said, ‘I’m married, too.’ So I just gave him this really disgusted face and I just left the car,” the woman said, according to a transcript of her interview with investigators. But Sandoval told investigators he couldn’t remember if he asked the woman to kiss him.
“That is a rather large thing not to remember,” an investigator said.
Fairfield also released hundreds of pages on Darryl L. Webb, a former patrol cop who was fired after posting ‘revenge porn’ images and video on the internet of him and his ex-girlfriend.
Police searched his phone and found videos of him exposing himself in a patrol car, according to the records. Webb pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor in 2016, and was given community service, avoiding a possible sentence of one year in jail.
A still of the surveillance footage showing three police officers on top of Christopher Parham (Brooklyn Defender Services)
In September of last year, 19-year-old delivery worker Christopher Parham was inside a Williamsburg grocery store picking up ingredients for his boss when he was approached by a plainclothes police officer. The officer, Lieutenant Henry Daverin, claimed he’d seen the teenager driving recklessly and without a helmet on an illegal scooter. During the confrontation, Daverin and Officer Tyler Howe would later state, Parham pushed an officer’s hand, “violently resisted” arrest, and sparked a public disturbance that “caused a crowd to gather.” He was taken to the police precinct, where he allegedly lied about his identity.
On Monday, the Brooklyn Defender Services released surveillance footage of the incident that appears to contradict several aspects of the NYPD’s narrative. While the arrest report states that cops did not use force against Parham, the video shows three officers tackling the delivery worker to the ground. And contrary to their statement that a “a crowd of about 30 persons gathered” around the suspect — thereby triggering a disorderly conduct charge again Parham — the footage shows just a handful of people on the corner at the time of the arrest.
Still, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez plans to prosecute the case next month, bringing eight separate charges against the now 20-year-old Parham. The slate of allegations includes four misdemeanors, and carries the possibility of one year in prison. He also faces three charges related to his employer’s delivery scooter: unauthorized use of a vehicle, motorcycle helmet violation, and reckless driving.
According to Maryanne Kaishian, a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services, the video proves that the NYPD’s description of events cannot be trusted.
“The police lied about everything that happened,” she told Gothamist. “From the very beginning, when they said he was driving recklessly, to the very end, when they alleged that they never used force.”
She says her client, who has no arrest record, was essentially jumped by the officers, tased without warning and beaten so badly that he was dazed for hours afterwards. According to the criminal complaint against Parham, when he was asked his name and date of birth at the precinct, he identified himself as “Christopher Perez,” and said he couldn’t remember his birthday — a consequence of the severe concussion he was later diagnosed with, according to his attorneys. As a result of the identification, he was charged with a misdemeanor “false personation.”
The surveillance footage also contradicts the NYPD’s justification for the police stop. In the arrest report, officers claimed they were at the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Humboldt Street when they “observed persons in a crosswalk move out of way to avoid being struck” by Parham. But video shows the delivery worker entering the crosswalk and parking his scooter without any pedestrian reaction.
Discovery materials obtained by Parham’s attorneys, meanwhile, suggest that the cops initially believed the scooter had been stolen, and were only persuaded otherwise after speaking with the owner of La Nortena 2, the nearby Mexican restaurant where Parham was employed (he’s currently a student).
Client was 19 y/o now 20. Working at La Nortena Restaurant as a delivery driver using the restaurant’s motorized scooter. His boss sent him to the grocery store to pick up shrimp, onions & avocados. Here he is parking the scooter & walking inside. Minutes before assault.
Seconds after he walks into grocery store, he’s followed in by a plain clothed officer. Wearing a “Don’t tread on me” shirt. Outside, a group of officers gather. pic.twitter.com/X3jsyCWEFI
Meanwhile, the moped-like vehicle used by Parham and many other delivery workers presents its own grey area: some certified models of “limited use motorcycles” can be registered with the DMV, but many others cannot, and it’s often unknown to workers whether their employers have received the proper registration. The technical differences in certification, along with the apparent confusion over the administrative code and de Blasio’s directives, has allowed cops to take a kitchen sink approach to applying the scooter law against delivery workers, according to some observers.
“They get ticketed for things such as riding an unregistered vehicle, not having vehicle insurance, or not having a driver’s license,” said Do Lee, a member of the #DeliverJusticeCoalition who wrote his PhD thesis in environmental psychology on delivery cyclists at the CUNY Graduate Center. “Many immigrant delivery workers have told us stories where the police charged or ticketed them for things that never happened.”
It is also relevant, says Kaishian, that Lieutenant Daverin, who appears to be wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt in the video, has a history of alleged brutality. According to a new police misconduct tracker released by the Legal Aid Society, he has been named in at least ten previous lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer-funded settlements of at least $77,500. In one federal case — which the city settled for $30,000 — Daverin allegedly oversaw the discriminatory arrest of a motorist, who was later falsely charged with resisting arrest.
“This kind of abuse happens all the time, we just happen to have footage in this case,” said Kaishian. “The word of a police officer is given more credence in our justice system, and so they don’t bother [telling the truth]. These officers were fully confident that they would never be held accountable.”
Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the NYPD, told Gothamist that “the matter was immediately investigated, and it was determined no misconduct was committed” on the part of the officers. She did not respond to follow up questions about inconsistencies in the police report.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office said they were “looking into this incident.”
An NYPD sergeant with a for-hire vehicle side business and a history of alleged misconduct has been fined by the city for attempting to use his badge to curry favor with the city’s taxi regulator.
According to the Conflicts of Interest Board, Sergeant Howard Roth abused his city position and city resources while attempting to renew his for-hire vehicle license from a Taxi & Limousine Commission supervisor in 2017. In a settlement announced this week, Roth admitted to telling the supervisor, “I’m NYPD. I should not have to follow protocols,” after he was informed that he’d have to renew his license online.
When that didn’t work, Roth apparently informed the employee they “both work for the city and you should take care of this,” before fuming that he gets “no respect” from the TLC.
Roth had previously received the police department’s permission to operate the for-hire service on the condition he not use his police authority to “obtain any advantage for himself or his company, that he must not identify himself as a City employee, except in response to a direct inquiry, and that he must not use City resources, including his badge, in connection with his work for his company.”
As a result of violating that agreement, Roth was hit with a $6,000 fine by the Conflicts of Interest Board.
Asked whether the sergeant would face any additional consequences from the NYPD, a police spokesperson told Gothamist, “Internal Affairs investigated the incident and found that there was no cause for discipline.”
MICHAEL RYAN FOUGHT FOR YEARS TO CLEAR HIS NAME. HE DIDN’T KNOW THE COP WHO ACCUSED HIM OF A CRIME WAS DEEMED DISHONEST. TWO PROSECUTOR’S OFFICES ALSO DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THAT COP’S DISHONESTY.
Andrew Ford, Asbury Park Press
Published 5:00 a.m. ET March 21, 2019 | Updated 11:21 a.m. ET March 23, 2019
Michael Ryan spent 29 years as a public school educator, chaperoning band trips and senior proms. But his final day at work wasn’t a retirement celebration.
Instead, a Hammonton Public Schools official escorted Ryan out of the building, he said. The district suspended and later fired him following a lewdness charge he denies.
Eastampton Patrolman Michael Musser, an off-duty cop from another county, accused Ryan of committing an indecent sexual act in the parking lot of South Jersey Laundry and Dry Cleaning, less than three miles from Ryan’s school. Ryan said he never visited that laundromat.
Musser didn’t charge Ryan that day in 2015. He didn’t write anything down at the time about the episode. No license plate number. No physical description.
Weeks after the episode, Musser spotted Ryan at a ShopRite, determined “that’s the guy” and contacted local police to officially charge Ryan with a crime, according to Musser’s court testimony more than one year after the charge.
One man’s life was upended by a charge he denies. He later learned the cop who accused him was deemed dishonest.Andrew Ford, @AndrewFordNews
Unknown to Ryan, as he later fought to clear his name in court, Eastampton secretly determined Musser lied in a separate matter.
Township officials fired him for lying to internal affairs investigators over a sick leave issue, a document shows. The township decided it could no longer trust the officer’s word, concluding “the stain cannot be removed.”
The secrecy surrounding Musser’s firing highlights a major weakness in New Jersey’s oversight of police, one that can affect anyone’s life. Because a cop’s past is so well-hidden, neither Ryan’s attorney nor two prosecutor’s offices knew Musser had been fired for lying, a USA Today Network – New Jersey investigation found.
Ryan, 53, spent an estimated $40,000 in legal fees in appeals. Acting on a tip from a friend of the Ryans, their attorney uncovered documents that showed Musser’s dishonesty. A judge overturned Ryan’s conviction in 2018 after Musser’s lie to his department superiors came to light.
“What about the person who doesn’t have equity in their home, retirement savings, savings that they can draw from to file appeals or to hire an attorney?” Ryan asked. “What happens to them?”
Two of them went to jail.
Musser charged at least 56 other people after the dates of his lies, records show. Most were traffic offenses, but Musser charged two people with crimes. Both were represented by public defenders, both faced additional charges and both took plea deals, court records show. One was sentenced to 180 days in jail. The other was sentenced to five years in state prison, where he remains today. A spokesperson for the public defender’s office declined to comment on these cases.
In an apparent breakdown of state policy, a spokesman for the county prosecutor’s office that sent those two men to jail said the office didn’t know about Musser’s dishonesty until this month, after a Network reporter inquired.
While departments have sustained tens of thousands of cases of police misconduct in recent years, records show, New Jersey prosecutor’s offices can show few records for problem police officers who triggered notifications in court:
Thousands of sustained internal affairs investigations. More than 22,000 internal affairs complaints were sustained against police officers between 2011 and 2017, records show. More than 90 officers were convicted of crimes in Superior Court. Other sustained internal affairs findings include: 59 improper arrests, 37 improper entries, 103 improper searches, 1,639 issues with the officer’s demeanor and more than 19,000 “other rule” violations. Details about police misconduct are hidden by state law and available statistics don’t track officer credibility issues.
Few troubled officers outed in court. From 2010 to 2017, six prosecutor’s offices produced records showing they told defendants about credibility issues for a total of 20 police officers.
Lacking policy for notifications. Seventeen of New Jersey’s 21 county prosecutor’s offices have no policy addressing their responsibility to reveal in court a police officer’s credibility issues in keeping with decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. There’s no statewide policy.
State considers certification for cops. In addition to leaving the state’s 21 county prosecutors in the dark about troubled cops, the absence of state oversight of police officers leaves New Jersey unable to contribute to a national list of bad cops. New Jersey remains one of just four states without a way to ban bad cops, though New Jersey passed laws this year to license “pool and spa service contractors” and “drama therapists.” The state attorney general said recently he’s considering the kind of certification system that many states use to keep track of cops and root out rogue officers. He also pointed to changes including an internal affairs reform and mandatory random drug testing of police officers, which he implemented last year following recommendations in the Asbury Park Press series ‘Protecting the Shield’.
Carl Kallner, Plainfield patrol officer, “untruthfulness”(Photo: Courtesy of Plainfield)
Interested in supporting local journalism like this that makes a difference in people’s lives? Consider becoming a digital subscriber with this special offer today.
“That’s the guy”
Ryan, his wife and two kids live on a quiet Hammonton street, a South Jersey town of about 14,000 people that boasts it is the “blueberry capital of the world.”
Ryan had no prior criminal record in New Jersey, records show. He said he was never disciplined in his work with Hammonton Public Schools where he was hired as a chemistry teacher and rose to serve as guidance supervisor for the district.
Eastampton patrolman Michael Musser testified in court he saw someone committing a lewd act in September 2015 in a car parked at the Hammonton laundromat while he was off-duty, doing laundry. He said he looked the suspect in the eye and “remembered” part of the car’s license plate number.
Musser testified he didn’t immediately report the incident that “shocked” him to the local police. When he was pressed in court he testified he “wasn’t a hundred percent sure on the exact date.”
Flaws in New Jersey policing practices mean you could be accused by a dishonest police officer and never know about that cop’s history.Andrew Ford, @AndrewFordNews
But he testified he saw Ryan in the grocery store parking lot weeks later, snapped a photo of Ryan’s license plate and contacted local police to accuse Ryan of a crime.
“I don’t forget cars, I don’t forget faces,” Musser told the Network in a telephone interview.
About one year after Ryan was charged, a municipal court judge convicted Ryan of lewdness, finding that Musser’s identification of Ryan “is accurate and one which was to be believed,” a court transcript shows. The judge sentenced Ryan to one year of probation and charged him $664 in fines and court costs.
After the conviction, Ryan’s school district fired him, cutting off his $112,000 salary. He struggled to find new employment while plagued by a record of sexual misconduct and toxic online search results, including news stories mentioning his conviction.
“It was like hitting a brick wall,” Ryan said. “Under no circumstances could I support my family.”
Ryan had no way to know at the time, but as his character was being publicly demolished, Musser was secretly being investigated by his police department.
Musser was accused by his department of misusing sick time, then lying about it, misconduct that would lead to his firing. New Jersey law broadly hides government records of police misbehavior and the department’s conclusion that Musser was dishonest was kept secret. A township hearing officer’s finding Musser should be fired was also kept secret.
“No amount of retraining will cure the ill,” the hearing officer concluded. “There is only one appropriate penalty to protect the taxpayers. Termination.”
Musser denied the department’s claims of misconduct in an interview with the Network.
“It was just a whole bunch of bulls—,” he said.
Musser’s problems weren’t revealed through official channels to Ryan, he said. Three legal experts told the Network that Musser’s dishonesty is the kind of material that should be disclosed to defendants.
Ryan’s attorney uncovered records of Musser’s dishonesty attached to Musser’s lawsuit publicly challenging his firing in Superior Court.
Ryan’s attorney was able to convince a judge to overturn Ryan’s conviction based on newly discovered evidence in March 2018. With little explanation, the state dropped Ryan’s charge in November.
In a statement, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said his office “reviewed the newly discovered evidence and dismissed the charges.”
Unknowingly facing a dishonest cop
Musser’s case shows a failure to follow existing state policy and a gap in state protocol.
One year passed between the dates of Musser’s dishonesty and the day the town fired him. Meanwhile, he was out on patrol and filing charges, records show.
Police departments are required to turn over to prosecutor’s offices information about issues with an officer’s credibility, including false reports.
But that didn’t happen for Musser until after the Network came asking, according to Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Bewley said in an email the office was notified of the township’s actions against Musser “earlier this month,” which is after the Network filed a records request related to Musser. It’s also at least five months after a Burlington County judge upheld Musser’s firing for dishonesty in a public court action that was covered by local news media and picked up by the Associated Press.
The prosecutor’s office is reviewing the two cases involving people jailed after charges by Musser to “determine whether disclosure obligations exist,” Bewley wrote in an email. The office also plans to reinforce state policies on the reporting of these types of issues with police departments in their county.
Eastampton Police Chief Joseph Iacovitti said Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office was made aware of the department’s investigation of Musser.
“They were definitely brought in for it,” he told the Network.
He declined to answer follow-up questions about when the department notified the prosecutor’s office.
Ryan’s case fell through a loophole.
Musser charged Ryan while he was off-duty in another county. State policy doesn’t call for departments to reach outside their county. Musser’s department didn’t bring the information about Musser to Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the agency pursuing Ryan, the prosecutor’s office argued in court. Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t ask about Musser. And neither the department nor the prosecutor’s office told Ryan, his wife said.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal recently told the Network his office is working on a statewide policy to address issues with a prosecutor’s obligation to turn over information that would be helpful to a defendant. That can include material about a police officer’s credibility, in keeping with court precedent established over about 50 years, starting with the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland.
Grewal has the support of the state’s largest police union, the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association.
“…we asked the AG’s office for a statewide policy because of the inequity in how the different prosecutors office’s treat Brady,” NJSPBA President Pat Colligan said in an email. “We are waiting for a statewide policy. I know a working group is in place and they are working on it.”
‘They’re trying to tarnish my reputation’
Musser, 48, served Eastampton for 13 years. He said he uses sick time “appropriately” and “no” he wasn’t dishonest about sick time or during an internal affairs investigation.
He described an occasion in which he stopped a man attempting to hang himself, providing an image of a lifesaving award Musser won.
He’s now fighting Eastampton before the appellate division.
“They’re trying to tarnish my reputation and make it like I’m this bad cop,” Musser said. “But like I said to you, I’ll give you the shirt off my back. I’ve helped so many people.”
Among the high-profile police misconduct lawsuits settled last year, the city of Chicago paid $16 million to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo (above) in December 2015. | Max Herman / Sun-Times
By Jonah Newman | The Chicago Reporter
The city of Chicago paid more than $85 million last year to settle police misconduct lawsuits and another $28 million to private attorneys to defend City Hall in those cases, records show.
The $113 million-plus total is more than in any year since at least 2011, according to an analysis by The Chicago Reporter of data from the city’s law department.
The payout last year is more than what the city paid in the previous two years combined and brings Chicago taxpayers’ tab for police misconduct to well over half a billion dollars in the past eight years.
There were several high-profile cases settled last year, including $16 million paid to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo in December 2015.
Among the other payouts last year: $15 million to the families of two men killed by off-duty detective Joseph Frugoli in a 2009 drunk-driving accident; $9.5 million to the family of Jose Lopez, gravely injured when Chicago police officers used a Taser on him in 2011; and $3.5 million to the mother of Niko Price, fatally shot by former Officer Marco Proano in 2011.
There were also multimillion-dollar payments last year in several wrongful-conviction lawsuits, including $9.3 million to James Kluppelberg, who was released after nearly 25 years in prison for an arson he says he confessed to after being tortured by police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s notorious “Midnight Crew,” $4 million to two men wrongfully convicted of a 1992 double murder and $3.5 million in the case of Patrick Hampton, who was released after 20 years in prison for sexual assault after his conviction was thrown out as a result of claims that detectives fabricated and withheld evidence.
The number of police cases for which the city paid settlements was down slightly from the previous years.
Still, the number of lawsuit payouts by City Hall for police misconduct came to nearly one every two days, on average. Most of them were in the tens of thousands of dollars, with a median payout of $50,000 and the smallest for $500.
The $113 million doesn’t include cases of property damage, minor car accidents, vehicle pursuits or employment-discrimination lawsuits.
The cost is more than five times what the city budgeted for police lawsuits last year.
The sum also does not include the cost of private attorneys City Hall hired to represent the city in negotiations over a federal consent decree that will govern police reform efforts for years. In 2017 and 2018, the city paid more than $4.2 million to outside lawyers involved in the consent decree and related lawsuits.
Last month, a federal judge formally approved the consent decree and appointed a monitor to oversee its implementation. The monitor is expected to cost the city $2.85 million a year.