Last month, when two Philadelphia police officers were arrested for allegedly ripping off drug dealers, Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, "It could get worse before it gets better," says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ramsey knew the FBI was investigating a police inspector who had ambitions of one day replacing him as commissioner. On Friday, FBI agents arrested the inspector, Daniel Castro, a 25-year veteran and one of the highest-ranking officers on the force.
Indicted in an extortion scheme that portrays him more like a gangster, Castro became the 15th member of the police department to be arrested since March 2009. Six of the officers were taken down in three drug investigations, four were charged with sex crimes, and two faced murder charges after off-duty shootings. The sheer number of arrests has left the department's leaders embarrassed, and focused their attention on the city's police culture, particularly a code of silence whereby many honest officers - the great majority of the force - feel unable to turn in those who betray the badge. On Friday, Ramsey held a citywide conference call with his commanders to discuss Castro's arrest. He sent out a four-page message that afternoon to be read at roll calls for the next four days. His message to the troops: This has to stop.
An Indianapolis police officer was exonerated of brutality charges this morning after a marathon hearing before civilian disciplinary panel, reports the Indianapolis Star. The Police Merit Board deliberated for just under two hours before casting a 6-1 vote to clear Jerry Piland of wrongdoing. The vote at 3:55 a.m. after more than 24 hours of testimony generated hugs and backslaps among rank-and-file officers who considered the outcome a referendum on acceptable uses of force.
It also sparked a promise of recriminations for the pollice department from black clergy members, who had held up the bloodied, battered image of 15-year-old Brandon Johnson's face as a symbol of callous police conduct and needed change. "The community is not going to be happy about this," said the Rev. Richard Willoughby, pastor of Promised Land Christian Community Church, who attended most of the hearing that stretched just over two days. The verdict was a defeat for the police leadership's plan to crack down on what they perceive as rogue cops. Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Police Chief Paul Ciesielski said Piland's treatment of Johnson was the type of police aggression they want to weed out.
More than 2,400 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have bought 45,000 video camera attachments to Tasers, reports USA Today. The $400 cameras, available since 2006, offer evidence and accountability when the stunning devices are used. The Taser Cam is activated when the officer unholsters the Taser and turns off the safety. There is no way to deactivate the camera without disabling the gun. "Video is going to help the officer," said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International.
Tasers are used by law enforcement as an alternative to deadly force. The gun releases two darts with wires that attach to the subject's body and deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity. The use of stun guns has been controversial for years, especially in cases where the subject died after being shocked, says Curt Goering, chief operating officer for Amnesty International. Goering says there are 440 people he knows of who have died after being shocked with such devices since the human rights organization started accumulating those statistics in 2001. The organization has asked for a moratorium on stun gun use until medical effects can be studied further. Taser disputes those numbers.
A federal judge approved a $16.5 million settlement between the city of Chicago and tens of thousands of people who say they were mistreated by police while being held as suspects in crimes, reports the Chicago Tribune. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the class-action suit said that so far, about 58,000 people have submitted claims in hopes of collecting a share.
Based on how long they spent in jail and the conditions they faced, plaintiffs are eligible for awards of as much as $3,000 to as little as $90. Some people spent days in interrogation rooms without food, water, or sleep; others weren't provided bedding or food during overnight stays in police jails, attorney Michael Kanovitz said.
It started two weeks ago with an informant's tip: Two Philadelphia cops had become too cozy with a drug dealer, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Inverstigators found that officers Sean Alivera and Christopher Luciano appeared to be stealing drugs from couriers and giving them to a dealer to sell. In a crime captured on video surveillance, Monday evening investigators watched as Alivera and Luciano - on duty and in full uniform - stopped the undercover officer, arrested him, and robbed him of 20 pounds of marijuana and $3,000 in cash.
"Police corruption will not be tolerated," District Attorney Seth Williams said announcing their arrests. "We are committed to rooting out bad cops, and we will prosecute them for the disgraceful thugs and scum that they are."
Their scheme is nearly identical to another disclosed in July, when three officers were accused of stealing heroin and selling the drugs to a dealer for $6,000. Alivera and Luciano became the 12th and 13th officers arrested since March 2009, including two charged with murder after off-duty shootings. "This is another embarrassment for our department, another in a long list unfortunately," said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. "But it's all part of our commitment to clean our house."
The Pinal County, Ariz., Sheriff's Office has declined to conduct forensic tests on evidence from a shooting incident involving Deputy Louie Puroll despite statements from forensic experts that the lawman's bullet wound could not have occurred as he described, reports the Arizona Republic. Puroll reported on April 30 that he had been ambushed while tracking drug smugglers in the desert, suffering a grazing flesh wound to the side during an exchange of gunfire that was partially recorded in 911 calls. By the time rescuers arrived, a half-dozen purported suspects had fled. But experts who studied photographs of the wound said it appeared to them to be the result of a "close contact" gunshot. They argued that it could not have been fired by a distant suspect, as Puroll told sheriff's investigators.
"It's not consistent with 25 yards away," said Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City, who analyzed photographs of the wound for an Arizona tabloid. "This is extremely typical of a shot fired within inches." "This was fired at contact range . . . with the muzzle of the gun lying against the skin," asserted Dr. Werner Spitz, a former chief medical examiner in Michigan and co-author of a forensic pathology book, who also viewed the pictures. Puroll has declined all interview requests. Both experts said their conclusions could be further verified by lab examinations of the shirt Puroll wore on the day of the shooting. Tim Gaffney, a sheriff's spokesman, said the garment was not submitted for testing, and he has not heard of any plan to reconsider that decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a federal investigation of the Newark Police Department, saying it routinely violates residents' civil rights through excessive force and false arrests, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Citing dozens of lawsuits and years of internal affairs statistics, the ACLU says the department is incapable of policing itself. It says records show that out of 261 complaints in 2008 and 2009 involving excessive force, differential treatment or improper arrest, entry or search, only one was sustained. One officer has faced 62 internal affairs investigations in an almost 14-year career; none have been sustained.
Deborah Jacobs, executive director the ACLU in New Jersey, said the petition is the first step in a process she hopes will end with the same kind of consent decree and federal oversight imposed on the State Police a decade ago in response to the racial profiling scandal. Top Newark officials said the ACLU petition was undermining progress in the city. "The city of Newark was extremely disappointed when it reviewed the ACLU’s petition," said Julian Neals, the city’s top lawyer. "The city feels that the ACLU petition is frivolous and submitted in bad faith." Mayor Cory Booker was angered by the ACLU petition. "It’s casting unnecessary aspersions on the police department through the distortion of facts," he said. He said the city had tried to cooperate with the agency on numerous issues but now feels the ACLU has unfairly shut down that relationship. Booker said the ACLU is promoting "negative stereotypes" of Newark and not giving the city credit for its progress.
Citizen complaints against the Detroit Police Department continue to rush in at more than 1,700 a year, showing that more needs to be done to clean up alleged misconduct, says the Detroit Free Press, quoting a report by the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. The board said the complaints range from sexual harassment to excessive force. Twenty cases from 2009 were considered major offenses, resulting in the suspension of officers without pay.
The number of complaints has hovered around 1,700 annually since 2007, a 36 percent increase over 2002. The report faults the department for complying with only 39 percent of a 7-year-old federal consent decree aimed at rehabilitating an abusive department. Among the failures was a slow response to citizen complaints. The police board is urging the department to do a better job of recruiting police officers who "meet the moral and ethical requirements to be a Detroit Police officer." The recommendations include conducting more in-depth background investigations of applicants, holding recruitment fairs to hire Detroit residents, and clearly showing the standards and expectations of a police officer.
In a light of a fatal accident involving an officer, Indianapolis police likely will change a policy that had not required officers involved in crashes to take breath tests to determine whether they were under the influence of alcohol, reports the city's Star. Fellow officers did not ask David Bisard to take field-sobriety or breath tests at the scene after the Aug. 6 crash. The only evidence of his intoxication was a blood draw that prosecutors later said was inadmissible in court because officers failed to follow proper procedures in obtaining the sample.
Bisard still faces charges of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness, but prosecutors dismissed all DUI charges last week. Attorneys representing the estate and family of Eric Wells, the motorcyclist who died in the crash, sent a letter to police officials requesting answers to 21 questions related to how IMPD handled the investigation. They also ask that police secure certain potential evidence.
Zelaido Rivera Garcia went to the Minneapolis impound lot in 2008 to pick up his car. His encounter with Metro Gang Strike Force officers left him shaken, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Garcia said police humiliated and taunted him and others. "We had not done anything," he said. "We were just trying to retrieve our car that had been picked up by the tow truck." Officers took Garcia's wallet. When they returned it, he said, $100 was missing. That $100, and the ordeals of others whose money was seized by strike force officers, mushroomed to a $3 million settlement of a federal lawsuit announced yesterday.
Up to 200 people could be eligible for awards, said Randy Hopper, an attorney for the plaintiffs. After claims are paid, a "significant portion of the settlement will fund additional statewide" training for officers "about cultural and racial sensitivity, property handling procedures and basic constitutional rights." One year and five days before the settlement was announced, an independent review of the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force was issued.