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."
Former Bay Area transit officer Johannes Mehserle, in a public letter, says he is sorry for the shooting that took Oscar Grant's life, wishes he could speak to Grant's family members, and describes the moments after the shooting on a station platform on Jan.1, 2009, reports the Contra Costa Times. Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last week, says that Grant "should not have been shot."
The Oakland Tribune reports that the jury also concluded that the 28-year-old Mehserle is guilty of a gun enhancement, raising questions among legal scholars about whether that enhancement contradicted the jury's primary verdict. How Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry chooses to answer those questions when he sentences Mehserle this summer will determine if Mehserle receives a lenient punishment of felony probation, a serious sentence of 14 years in state prison or something in between.
At least 50 people were arrested last night in Oakland for looting, refusing to disperse, and other offenses after a former transit police officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for killing a man on a train platform, the Oakland Tribune reports. Police Chief Anthony Batts said he was disappointed in people's actions, saying, "This city is not the wild, wild west."
Ex-officer Johannes Mehserle was found guilty for killing Oscar Grant III Jan. 1, 2009. The 28-year-old was handcuffed and sent to jail. The jury also found him guilty of a gun enhancement charge that could make him ineligible for probation, give him a strike under the state's Three Strikes Law, and add additional years to his sentence, which will be decided next month by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry. Under an involuntary manslaughter charge, Mehserle will face at least two years in prison and a maximum of six years.
Former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge, the subject of accusations of torture against suspects for decades, was convicted on all counts of an indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice. The Chicago Tribune says a federal jury found Burge guilty of lying in a 2003 civil lawsuit about his use or knowledge of torture of criminal suspects.
William Gamboney, one of his attorneys, said Burge was very disappointed and surprised by the verdict. "We intend to pursue every (legal) avenue we have." Gamboney said he will seek probation for Burge, who is 62 and is said to be ailing from cancer. "I think he has a lot of mitigation on his side, " he said. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the verdict represented a measure of justice for Burge's victims. "These sorts of things that happened in 1982, 1985, being punished 25, 28 years later, that's not a full measure of justice," Fitzgerald said.
A jury is deliberating on the case of former Chicago police commander Jon Burge on torture charges, reports the Chicago Tribune. Burge defense attorney Richard Beuke charged in final arguments yesterday that the accusers met in Cook County Jail and concocted the abuse claims years ago to save their own skins and make money off lawsuits. Federal prosecutors David Weisman and April Perry contended the men weren't incarcerated at the same time and shared nothing in common except for their claims of torture.
"How is it that of all the police officers involved, on all these cases, they all managed to pick that man as the one who abused them," said Perry, pointing to Burge as he sat at the defense table. "He may be well known now, but back then, he was just an ordinary police officer." Prosecutors contended Burge has a financial motive to lie about torture — a lawsuit sought damages from him personally — and called on jurors to end the police code of silence that shielded Burge from justice.
The American Civil Liberties Union and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say thousands of Baltimoreans were rounded up because of zero-tolerance policies that put a big emphasis on arrests but little on justifying them, the Baltimore Sun reports. An $870,000 settlement approved yesterday by the Board of Estimates will require the city to retrain officers, mandate that supervisors review "quality of life" arrests and allow an independent auditor to evaluate data and submit semiannual reports.
In a joint statement with the plaintiffs, the Police Department said it "had agreed to reject the zero-tolerance policies" and establish new ways to handle low-level infractions. Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said the reforms were "certainly in line with my overall mission for this Police Department." Said the ACLU's David Rocah: "Each of these [reforms] is aimed at addressing what we thought were the structural reasons why improper arrests had bloomed in Baltimore. This was a case of toxic neglect. It just didn't matter enough to [officials] that this was happening." The lawsuit, filed in 2006, chiefly covered arrests and policies the plaintiffs contended were enacted and encouraged by then-Mayor Martin O'Malley. O'Malley, now governor, maintained yesterday that there was "never, ever a policy that asked police officers to go beyond the Constitution or to engage in illegal arrests."