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San Jose Police Union Had 'Spy' In PD's Oversight Staff

In a breach that may have compromised investigations of alleged police misconduct, an employee of San Jose's Independent Police Auditor repeatedly leaked confidential information over several years to the San Jose police officers union, the union's former president told the Mercury News. Police Sgt. Bobby Lopez said that the person, whom he would not identify, gave him inside information about complaints made against police officers. He said he was once tipped to an upcoming Mercury News story about the violent arrest of a San Jose State student.

Told of Lopez's comments, newly-appointed police auditor LaDoris Cordell said she had recently notified the San Jose city attorney of an allegation against an employee. Cordell would give no details, but Skyler Porras, former head of the local office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she notified the IPA late last month of her belief that Lopez had a spy in the office. The five-person staff of the Independent Police Auditor provides the primary independent oversight of the city's police department, receiving citizen complaints against the police and monitoring the police department's investigations of its own officers.

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Atlanta Cop Firings Close Book On Shooting of Woman, 92

With the firing of two Atlanta police officers, Interim Police Chief George N. Turner said he hopes that the city has finally closed the chapter on the Kathryn Johnston killing, reports the city's Journal-Constitution. Officers Carey Bond and Holly Buchanan were fired after an internal investigation found the two officers violated department policy in their roles in the case. Six others officers were disciplined and a seventh resigned. Five officers pleaded guilty in federal court to a litany of charges surrounding the botched drug raid that led to the shooting death of the 92-year-old Johnston and the attempted cover-up. Four of those officers are doing federal prison time.

The APD report, conducted by the department’s Office of Professional Standards, comes days after a scalding report by the Citizens Review Board, which blasted the department’s role and response to the 2006 killing. The CRB report, released on May 24, said that APD drug investigators would break rules, including lying, to get search warrants. The board was created in 2007 in direct response to the Johnston killing. The CRB report also recommended that the two officers be fired. They were charged with falsifying incident reports and affidavits on search warrants. Bond is a 17-year veteran of APD and Buchanan has 14 years of service. Their firings become effective June 18.

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Phila. Bars Officers From Taking Personal Photos At Crime Scenes

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Detroit Has Paid $39 Million For Police Misconduct; More To Come

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Racial Bias Found In Police Officer Mistaken-Identity Strife

A New York governor’s task force studying mistaken-identity confrontations between police officers found that racial bias, unconscious or otherwise, played a clear role in scores of firearms encounters over the years, most significantly in cases involving off-duty officers who are killed by their colleagues, reports the New York Times. The task force, formed last June by Gov. David Paterson to examine confrontations between officers and the role that race might have played, conducted what it said it believed was the first “nationwide, systematic review of mistaken-identity, police-on-police shootings” by an independent panel outside of law enforcement.

“There may well be an issue of race in these shootings, but that is not the same as racism,” said Zachary Carter, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who served as task force vice chairman. “Research reveals that race may play a role in an officer’s instantaneous assessment of whether a particular person presents a danger or not.” The task force found that 26 police officers were killed in the U.S. over the past 30 years by colleagues who mistook them for criminals. It  found that it was increasingly “officers of color” who died in this manner, including 10 of the 14 killed since 1995.

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St. Louis Sustains More Complaints Against Police; Total Still Low

The low rate at which the St. Louis Police Department sustains physical-abuse complaints against officers — the subject of scathing comments by a federal judge in 2008 — has increased significantly in recent years, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At about 3 percent, it remains only half the rate reflected in a federal study of the nation's large departments. "Sustained" means an internal investigation showed that a complaint was supported by evidence.

In 2008, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber accused the Board of Police Commissioners of turning a "blind eye" to abuse complaints, after evidence in a civil suit showed that only one of 322 complaints had been sustained in a five-year period. In 2006-08, the department reported 123 complaints of physical abuse. Four of those, or 3 percent, were sustained, 82 percent were not sustained and three were withdrawn.  In a 2002 study of state and local law enforcement agencies with more than 1,000 officers, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 6 percent of their complaints were sustained and 42 percent not sustained. The report pointed out that the statistics' meaning was not always clear. Departments used different counting methods. Moreover, a low rate of complaints could mean that officers were performing well or that the process was inaccessible. St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom cautioned that the numbers in St. Louis and nationwide may not be comparable.

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Feds In New Orleans For Next Step Toward Oversight Of NOPD

A little more than a week after Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take the first steps that could lead to federal oversight of the New Orleans Police Department, federal and city officials announced they will discuss the request in two forums on Monday. A news conference was to be held noon. Among those expected to attend are Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, Landrieu, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and new NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, reports the city's Times-Picayune.

The same officials will hold a town hall-style meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Superdome, according to the mayor's office. Civil intervention in the NOPD was expected even before Landrieu announced two days after taking office that he wanted the Justice Department to take a deeper look at the department. While the agency has at least eight ongoing federal investigations of alleged criminal misconduct by NOPD officers, Landrieu is asking that the Justice Department conduct a civil investigation of the agency's "patterns and practices." That kind of probe can lead to a court-backed consent decree that mandates specific changes within the department, such as within internal affairs investigations or use-of-force policies. A federal monitor often checks to make sure these changes have actually happened.

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Unlikely Police Critic Prompts Watchdog Effort In Fairfax, Va.

Nicholas Beltrante, an 82-year-old military veteran, former D.C. police officer and longtime NRA member, is an unlikely police watchdog. But he has become a critic of the tight-lipped Fairfax Police Department, and his dogged efforts and growing disillusion have created a groundswell, with county residents launching an effort to create a citizens group to oversee the department, reports the Washington Post.

Fairfax police and politicians say they're open to the idea. Beltrante said he was moved to act after concluding Fairfax police "are sort of out of control. Not all of them. A small number." Citizen groups overseeing police departments are not a new idea. Philip K. Eure, executive director of the D.C. Office of Police Complaints and president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, said there are 150 citizen groups involved in police oversight around the country, including in most large cities. Fairfax's police force is "one of the largest law enforcement agencies without any form of public review," he said.

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UN Program Yields Anti-Corruption Results In Guatemala

Guatemala is becoming a regional model for crime fighting and efforts to root out corruption, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) began work as an independent investigative body two years ago under an agreement between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government. Wielding unprecedented power for a nongovernmental group, it has forced the removal of thousands of police officers, prompted the arrest of dozens of corrupt businessmen and officials, and solved some of the country’s most heinous crimes.

Now, other poor countries are looking to duplicate CICIG’s success, with Honduras and El Salvador joining Guatemala this month in asking the United States for help in creating a similar regionwide body. “There is clearly increased demand from states around the world that are looking for the UN to help strengthen institutions and combat crime,” says Andrew Hudson, senior associate at Human Rights First, an advocacy group in New York. “CICIG has become a model because it is equipped with a unique set of tools. The key is that it’s embedded into the local context and it’s doing field-based investigations while also strengthening the Guatemalan institutions.”

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S.F. Felony Convictions In Jeopardy Over Cops' Problem Histories

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TCR at a Glance

Study: Medical Identity Theft on the Rise

new & notable February 26, 2015

The number of patients victimized by medical fraud schemes jumped nearly 22 percent in 2014, according to an annual study by the Ponemon ...

How to Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform

new & notable February 25, 2015

Two new studies by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group, highlight successful campaigns for changes to state criminal justice policy

There Goes the Judge

February 24, 2015

Once-sleepy “retention elections” for judges have become vulnerable to big-spending partisan campaigns.

Chain of Command

February 20, 2015

Military brass undermine the ability to prosecute sex assaults, a New York City Bar Association panel is told

What was the BOP Doing in Afghanistan?

February 19, 2015

The federal agency overseeing prisons played a previously undisclosed role in the war on terror overseas. The ACLU wants to find out more.