Miami-Dade police abused trust funds meant to repel environmental crime by flouting purchasing rules, misrepresenting the need for the public dollars and lavishing millions on the agency instead of fighting polluters, a draft audit by the county Inspector General found. The fund was marred by "overall chaotic administration,'' and replete with "excessive, unreasonable, or unnecessary'' purchases, concludes the 38-page report obtained by The Miami Herald.
Until recently, the fund was led by Division Chief Frank Vecin, a longtime ally of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The police department is investigating. The report examines the nearly $6 million spent from 2000-09 from two funds aimed at combating environmental crime. Vecin controlled both: the South Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund and Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund. A Herald investigation in March detailed how hundreds of thousands of dollars were earmarked for items with little to do with fighting environmental crimes. The spending include $1 million for cell phone and data charges, the purchase of 30 rifles, and $1.1 million for car rentals, gas and 23 sport utility vehicles and trucks that were driven by officials -- including police brass and, for a time, the mayor -- who were not directly tasked with fighting polluters.
Tulsa's former police chief tells the city's World that he accepts some of the responsibility for the "culture" that gave birth to a growing narcotics scandal in the police department. Police there are reviewing guidelines for undercover operations in the wake of a grand jury probe over the handling of seized drug money and other issues. A former officer has pleaded guilty to stealing money as part of an FBI sting. Federal indictments also claim that undercover police officers falsified search warrants and used nonexistent informants to frame drug suspects.
In his first comments about the scandal, former Chief Ron Palmer said he was shocked by the allegations. Palmer resigned as chief Jan. 22. His resignation was not related to the grand jury investigation. Palmer says he accepts some of the criticism for a police culture that allowed certain officers to commit illegal acts. "I don't feel responsible for the actions of the officers who have admittedly broken the law, but I do feel responsible, in part, for the culture that developed and allowed this to occur," he said.
The City Journal in New York questions the conclusions of the New York State Task Force on Police-on-Police Shootings, which said in its recent report that black police officers who wield a gun out of uniform face an elevated chance of getting fatally shot by their fellow officers because of those officers’ racial bias. The report "will undoubtedly become a standard piece of anti-cop ideology and further fuel the hostility that makes police work in black neighborhoods so difficult," the paper said.
The City Journal said the report's conclusions were based upon scant evidence. It said, "The task force rejects the growing racial diversity of police forces nationwide as a possible explanation for the increasing proportion of minority officers among those killed in friendly-fire incidents, though without explaining its reasoning. The report never reveals what being shot while off duty (as opposed to being shot while working in plainclothes) has to do with police bias, though it places great emphasis on the off-duty status of the slain minority officers. It notes the possibility that minority officers are more likely to witness criminal activity in their home communities—and thus more likely to take police action when off duty—than white officers, but declares that the sample of off-duty officers killed since 1981 is too low to hazard any hypotheses on that score."
The U.S. Justice Department, invited to town by a desperate mayor, is beginning an unprecedented effort to remake the scandal-plagued New Orleans Police Department, whose already bad reputation was left as battered as the city it was charged to protect after Hurricane Katrina, reports the Washington Post. "I have inherited a police force that has been described by many as one of the worst police departments in the country," Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
Since the federal agency's arrival here, 13 police officers have been indicted in connection with the killing of civilians, and more are likely to follow. But rooting out corrupt officers is only part of the goal, because "doing that alone will not be enough to bring about the systemic reforms that are necessary to transform the department," said Thomas E. Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division. "The president and the attorney general are personally invested in the success of the New Orleans Police Department," Perez added. "I've seldom seen a situation where we're being invited in . . . and that in and of itself gives me optimism that we can succeed."
The Louisville Courier-Journel profiles Charles Randall Moore, who in 13 years as a police officer in that city has been suspended seven times and reprimanded on another eight occasions. He has been the subject of four criminal investigations, although he was never charged. Moore, 40, has accepted extra pay for court appearances he didn't make, according to department records. He has maintained material of a sexual nature on his computer and repeatedly lied to his superiors, including once about a sexually explicit conversation with an informant.
Three times, Chief Robert White has promised that further violations “of this nature” would warrant termination. Yet Moore remains on the Louisville Metro Police force, drawing an annual salary of $48,776. His lengthy disciplinary history is about to become an issue in a court case in which Moore made an arrest more than two years ago. Asked about Moore's record, Chief White accused reporters of “singling out” and “picking on” Moore, and asked, “What is your point?”
Outside consultants shared with the Portland City Council the gaps and unasked questions in the police investigation of James P. Chasse Jr.'s death in custody after the council approved a settlement of $1.6 million, the city's largest, in a federal suit, The Oregonian reports. Police Chief Mike Reese apologized for Chasse's death and said officers must do their jobs in a "more thoughtful and collaborative manner" with outside agencies. He called the three-year delay in the police internal review "completely unacceptable."
The chief said he agreed with the majority of the 27 recommendations offered by the California-based OIR Group and hoped they would help mend the rift between the bureau and the community. The report recommended a range of reforms, among them requiring police to conduct face-to-face interviews with civilian witnesses and sending internal affairs investigators out to a scene immediately. The attorney who brought the wrongful-death lawsuit against the city for Chasse's family said the consultants' report got facts wrong and overlooked the bureau's systemic failure to hold its officers and supervisors accountable. On Sept. 17, 2006, police thought Chasse, 42, who had schizophrenia, might have urinated in the street and tried to stop him. They chased him and knocked him to the ground, then wrestled with him to arrest him. The county jail refused to book him because of his medical condition. He died in police custody en route to a hospital.
New York City has agreed to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the family and two friends of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man who was fatally shot by the police in 2006 on what would have been his wedding day, reports the New York Times. The children whom Bell had with his fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, will receive $3.25 million, and two friends who were injured in the episode will get payments, Joseph Guzman getting $3 million, and Trent Benefield $900,000.
The case, whose settlement is among the largest involving the city’s police, set off a debate over the use of deadly force and prompted the city to change some of its policing procedures. Those include alcohol testing for officers in any shooting in which someone is injured, as well as improved firearms training. On Nov. 25, 2006, five police officers fired 50 shots into the auto Bell was driving outside a strip club. The car struck a detective in the leg and hit a police van just before the officers began firing. None of the three men in the car had guns, although the officers apparently believed at least one did. Three of the officers were acquitted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in 2008.
Former Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul was put on house arrest for a year yesterday for stealing from and cheating taxpayers, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A judge spared McFaul a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for two felony theft in office offenses and a misdemeanor ethics violation, and ordered McFaul, 76, to be fitted with an ankle bracelet.
A Plain Dealer investigation last year led to a criminal probe of McFaul's tenure as sheriff. Judge Fred Inderlied fined McFaul $21,000. The fine is in addition to $131,000 McFaul has agreed to pay in restitution. McFaul pleaded guilty last month to stealing cash from his campaign fund, forcing his employees to sell tickets to his political fundraisers, and breaking ethics laws by appointing his son as a special deputy.
Six current or former New Orleans police officers were charged in a sweeping federal grand jury indictment that accuses four of them of shooting unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge several days after Hurricane Katrina and all six of plotting to cover up what they knew was an unjustified attack, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
The charges are the culmination of a two-year probe by the federal government, the third investigation into the controversial events on the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005. Said defense attorney Eric Hessler: "The government has ignored the circumstances and conditions under which these officers were operating. For them to say that these officers intentionally went out and shot and killed unarmed civilians, knowing that they were unarmed and posed no threat, is certainly the wrong conclusion."
To the Philadelphia drug courier, it must have seemed like extraordinarily bad luck: A police cruiser appeared with its lights flashing moments after the 300 grams of heroin allegedly was exchanged on a street, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The suspect was handcuffed and driven away.
Neither luck nor good police work had anything to do with what happened. According to a new federal indictment, the arrest was staged by police officers who were working with a drug dealer in a scheme to steal heroin and sell it. Instead of booking the suspect, Officers Mark Williams and James Venziale allegedly let him go. A federal drug agent, posing as a dealer, was allowed to drive away with the heroin. John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the department's largest union, said the officers' alleged actions are "a disgrace." "We have a bunch of good officers out there on the streets every day, risking their lives," McNesby said. "This casts a dark cloud over all of them."