It was a stakeout gone bad, featuring jumpy police officers, human traffickers, a roughed-up federal agent, and a multimillion-dollar twist of an ending, reports the Los Angeles Times. Sergio Lopez, an undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was tracking smugglers in 2006 when police officers in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista pulled him over.
A Mexican gang had been kidnapping residents, sometimes by posing as law enforcement officers. "What  are you doing speeding through my city?" one officer asked Lopez. Lopez, showing his badge, tried to explain. The officers handcuffed Lopez and forced him to the ground. Lopez sued, and yesterday was awarded $2.2 million by a San Diego jury that decided some of the five officers had assaulted and battered him. "We believe our officers and supervisors acted appropriately,  under suspicious and dangerous circumstances," Chula Vista police spokesman Bernard Gonzales said after the verdict.
Since 1999, at least 55 active duty New York City cops have been charged with drunken driving while on the force. All pleaded down to nonfelony charges and nearly all remained on the job, reports the New York Daily News. That includes a sergeant who seriously injured passengers in another car, another charged with resisting arrest, and four cops who had drunken-driving convictions before joining the force. The phenomenon emerges after a spate of headlines about cops charged with driving drunk. Officer Andrew Kelly was indicted in the September death of a preacher's daughter. The next month, Detective Kevin Spellman was charged with killing a grandmother. Both refused to submit to sobriety tests.
Since then, three more cops have been charged with drunken driving: one who trashed a department car at the Midtown Tunnel, another who flipped his luxury sedan onto the sidewalk in front of Tiffany's, and a third who crashed into a parked car. The number of cops convicted in drunken-driving incidents is a tiny percentage of the 30,000-member force. But the incidents occur fairly regularly, year after year. Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said any cop convicted of a felony is automatically fired. A cop convicted of a drunken driving misdemeanor or violation likely keeps his or her job. In those cases, cops usually get a suspension ranging from four to 75 days, some lost vacation days, alcohol counseling and a year of probation.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has given lawyers from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent agency that investigates allegations of police abuse, authority to prosecute police officers in cases now handled exclusively by the department’s lawyers, reports the New York Times. The changes are similar to a plan from 2001, when the Giuliani administration and Kelly’s predecessor, Bernard Kerik, tried to reinforce the public’s confidence in the department at a turbulent time.
The plan died after a battle with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association led to an unfavorable split court decision in 2003. While the decision merely struck down where the trials could take place, it also lessened the resolve of public officials to give the review board the power to prosecute police officers at all. When the public spotlight moved on, the plan was forgotten. Patrick Lynch, the association’s leader, criticized the new plan, suggesting a new fight this time around. “This change is nothing more than a cynical public relations stunt, designed to placate the usual police critics,” he said in a statement.
Prison doors are opening throughout New Jersey, freeing convicts arrested by four Camden police officers under federal investigation for allegedly stealing drugs, pocketing money, and framing suspects, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The release of these inmates may be just the beginning, with new developments indicating the corruption case is reaching into every element of the criminal justice system.
It affects those awaiting sentencing at the Camden County jail: Bail for a man still in jail months after the suspended officers arrested him dropped from $75,000 to $0 without explanation, allowing him to walk free. It affects those on probation: One man who went to prison for violating his terms was released last month because his probation had stemmed from charges by one of these officers. From probation to parole, from the city's Police Department to the county's public defenders, the probe will force a review and cleanup of cases. On top of all that, the government agencies involved are being targeted by civil lawsuits. "It's going to be a headache for a lot of people for a long time," said Jon Shane, a former police captain in Newark now on the faculty of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Writing on the Huffington Post, Dan Collins says it is wrong to portray the saga of Bernie Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, as "the classic rise-and-fall story of a great man undone by big temptations. What's really amazing here is that this cheap crook and charlatan should have achieved such wealth and lofty position in the first place." Kerik who raked in more than $12 million over a six-year period that included his glory years of national acclaim as a hero of 9/11, was sentenced Thursday to four years in federal prison for offenses that ranged from tax fraud to lying to White House officials.
Collins writes, "There was an off-the-books nanny, bogus charitable deductions, the unreported free use of a car and, of course, the well-known apartment renovations paid for by a construction company with suspected mob ties. Kerik earned well over half a million dollars from his best-selling rags-to-riches memoir, but he only thought to conceal about $70,000 of his book income from the government. There's little doubt Bernie had bigger dreams. He set up a Delaware corporation to park income from his lucrative post-9/11 speaking engagements. He also created an offshore account for himself by forming a shell corporation in the Cayman Islands. But in the end, Kerik just couldn't get summon the will to make his schemes work...He preferred hanging out with like-minded cronies and screwing around with women."
The Jan. 12 beating by Pittsburgh police officers of a high school student has drawn public outrage and the attention of the FBI, reports the city's Post-Gazette. More than 50 students from the city's Creative and Performing Arts High School marched to the City-County Building on Tuesday in support of their classmate, Jordan Miles, 18, a violist and honor student bound for Penn State University. They students demanded an investigation of the officers involved.
Miles, who is charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, said three undercover officers beat him when they mistook the bottle of soda he was carrying for a concealed weapon. Photos show him with cuts to his forehead and a badly swollen face. Police Chief Nate Harper asked for the public's patience as the city's Office of Municipal Investigations investigates. Meanwhile, the city's police union praised the officers.
The U.S. Department of Justice has found significant flaws in the way Inglewood police oversee use-of-force incidents and investigate complaints against officers and has proposed a host of reforms to help ease fear and distrust among city residents, reports the Los Angeles Times. A federal review found that Inglewood's policies on the use of force are poorly written and legally inadequate despite recent reform efforts. The civil rights probe began after a series of officer-involved shootings in 2008 sparked outrage in the city and prompted calls for reform.
A Times investigation, published before the federal inquiry began, found that Inglewood officers repeatedly resorted to physical or deadly force against unarmed suspects. The Times also raised questions about how the department investigated its officers' use of force. In the 33-page letter to the city's mayor, the Justice Department acknowledged that the department had begun revising its policies but said some of those proposed reforms didn't go far enough. The Justice investigation is continuing.
An independent examination of how the Los Angeles Police Department investigates officers accused of profiling people based on race, gender or sexual orientation found serious problems with a third of the sampled investigations, reports the city's Times. In six of 20 LAPD investigations into allegations of "biased policing" -- the department's new name for what has traditionally been termed racial profiling -- police failed to interview witnesses, did not ask important questions or made similar mistakes, concluded Andre Birotte, the inspector general, in the 41-page report.
Birotte's staff also found problems with the resolution of several cases, saying supervisors' decisions not to discipline the officers were "not based on information gathered" or "appeared to be unsupported because the underlying investigation was incomplete." LAPD Cmdr. Rick Webb, who oversees internal affairs, agreed that some of the errors highlighted in the report had been made, but disputed the conclusion that they affected the investigations' outcomes. How the department handles claims of biased policing has become a high-profile issue in the last few years.
In an editorial, the New York Daily News declares Bernard Kerik "the first person to go on to a life of crime after serving as NYPD commissioner." Kerik, top cop under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and briefly a nominee for a key federal Homeland Security position, pleaded guilty in connection with financial crimes and faces at least two years in prison. The paper says, "In the end, big, bad Bernie Kerik, toughest cop in town, got through his guilty plea to federal crimes only with the bucking up of back rubs administered by his lawyer."
The paper continues, "All Kerik's swagger and all his bravado were gone as reality crashed over a guy who, in the apt words of his judge, possessed 'a toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance.' Going to prison has a way of undermining the ego when you have grown used to moving through life as a legend in your own mind, like an action figure astride a city, beloved of the glitterati, on a par with the president. And so you weep at the comedown of admitting to eight felony counts in the hope of shaving your sentence."
A police shooting in Austin has led to scrunity of how well the city's police department investigations allegations of wrongdoing by its own officers. After he was named chief two years ago, Chief Art Acevedo transferred the commander and nearly every investigator out of the 17-member internal affairs unit, which had a reputation for aggressive reviews of officer conduct. Those moves and a lack of formal training for new internal affairs detectives were likely among several factors that led to problems in an investigation this year into the shooting death of Nathaniel Sanders II, reports the city's American Statesman.
Results of an independent investigation that found bias among internal affairs detectives in favor of fellow officers are expected to become public this week after a disciplinary hearing for Officer Leonardo Quintana, who fatally shot Sanders on May 11. Acevedo said the bias was "not a matter of training. It is a matter of character and choice." The internal affairs unit consists mostly of detectives with no supervisory authority. Investigating their fellow officers, they work as an arm for the police chief, who uses their findings to mete out disciplinary actions. National experts said good internal affairs units generally use only the most seasoned investigators with supervisory ranks.