Category Archives: Police Misconduct

Afternoon Links

  • A 350 pound asthmatic man died at the hands of Forth Worth “zero tolerance officers” who were conducting a drug search of his home on May 16th.  The man resisted being forced to lie on his stomach because it restricted his breathing.  He was tasered at least twice before he stopped breathing and died.  As usual, the cops aren’t talking about it because, you know, they are “investigating”.
  • NYPD housing cop is convicted of 10 felony counts related to falsifying paperwork to conceal his involvement with an illegal search and arrest of a Manhattan man during a 2012 drug bust.  If not for the irrefutable surveillance video, the innocent man would still be in prison and the cop would still be on the job.
  • The FBI is investigating the LAPD SWAT team for buying “large numbers” of custom-made handguns and reselling them for a huge profit.  An initial internal “investigation” found no wrong-doing on the part of cops.  I’m guessing that would have been the end of it if someone on the inside hadn’t leaked to the media about it.

Why doesn’t the FBI doesn’t record interrogations?

Harvey Silverglate has an interesting OpEd in the Boston Globe about how the FBI goes about conducting interrogations.  Basically, it has a policy against electronically recording teh questioning of suspects.  Instead, it relies on one FBI agent to taking notes while another asks the questions.

Of course, if the FBI were an unscrupulous law enforcement agency, this could be seen as a convenient arrangement by which the FBI can fabricate select details if not an entire interview.  Then, to top it off, if the recorded version of the interrogation is contradicted by the facts, the subject of the interrogation can be charged with making false statements punishable by up to eight years in prison.

In 2006 the FBI defended its no-electronic-recording policy in an internal memorandum, which The New York Times later made public. The memo in part attempts to defend the policy as logistically necessary, but given that virtually every cellphone today has sound recording capabilities, any “inconvenience” or “non-availability” excuse for not recording seems laughably weak. The more honest — and more terrifying — justification for non-recording given in the memo reads as follows: “. . . perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit.” Translated from bureaucratese: When viewed in the light of day, recorded witness statements could appear to a reasonable jury of laypersons to have been coercively or misleadingly obtained.

In short, a jury might not come to the government-preferred conclusions if they are presented with an actual recording of the interrogation instead of the government interpretation.  As in all cases of police conduct, a recording vastly curtails their ability to take liberties in describing what happened or what was said at trial time.  This is just one more means by which the government stacks the cards in its favor when it comes to criminal prosecution.

Recording has now become so easy and cheap, that law enforcement should be required to record, not just interrogations, but every encounter with any citizen during the course of an investigation.  If they can gather trillions of electronic communications (not to mention surveillance video), then surely it is within their technical reach to record exchanges with people they are investigating when such exchanges could be used to destroy someone’s life.

50 New York muder cases to be reopened

Retired NYPD detective Louis Scarcella, now 61, is accused of fabricating false confessions, coaching witnesses, and rewarding witnesses for testimony in cases going back at least 20 years.   One witness, drug addict Teresa Gomez, was used as a witness in several different murder trials.  She was the only witness in when Alvena Jennette, 49, was convicted.

“How is it possible a detective could use a witness in that many murder trials without any red flags being raised?” Jennette asked.

Derrick Hamilton, who was paroled in 2011 after the Daily News reported Scarcella’s only witness had recanted her claim that Hamilton killed her boyfriend.

When Scarcella arrested him, the detective made a shocking admission, according to Hamilton.

“He told me, ‘I know you didn’t commit this murder, but I don’t care,’ ” he said.

Of course, this kind of thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Cops and prosecutors are rarely unaware of the corrupt behavior of their associates, but they are rarely held accountable.  Law enforcement has a culture of secrecy that permeates the profession.  Finding the truth and ensuring that justice is done takes a back seat to cranking out arrests, getting convictions, and supplying the prison industrial complex with fresh warm bodies.  Even judges are part of the problem.

Lawyer Ron Kuby is representing another man Scarcella helped put away, Shakaba Shakur, 48, who is 26 years into a 40-years-to-life murder sentence.

Scarcella somehow managed to get admissions — which were not witnessed, recorded or written.

“You’d think after two or three or five of these magical confessions, some judge somewhere would say, ‘Hmm . . . ’ ” Kuby said.



Cops demand video of them beating a man to death. You know, so they can safeguard the evidence. *wink wink*

A Bakersfield woman and her boyfriend were just leaving the Kern Medical Center last Tuesday night when they claim to have witnessed eight cops attacking a man and beating him with nightsticks until he was dead.

According to the Bakersfield Californian, both the woman, Sulina Quair, 34, and her boyfriend recorded the beating on their cell phones and told the 911 operator she was “sending it to the news”.  Nothing stirs cops into action quite like a threat of having their behavior recorded for the whole world to see.  Video  makes it extremely difficult for them to fabricate a story.  By early the next morning, they were at the woman’s house demanding that video.

“We had stopped by Taco Bell to get something to eat, and we were eating and at about 3 a.m. two detectives showed up, barged in without my permission and demanded to see my boyfriend for his phone,” Melissa said.

In that video, Melissa said Friday, it is very clear that the deputies were beating Silva. At one point, she recalled,  the deputies had Silva hogtied and they lifted him and dropped him twice and asked if he was still with them.

She said she and her boyfriend were essentially kept captive inside their own home until they released their phones.

Quair and her boyfriend apparently already guessed the implications of turning the video over to the very people (or their associates) likely to be incriminated by the video.  Kern County is no stranger to police corruption and misconduct.  The attorney for the family of the beating victim, David Sal Silva, is doing his best to keep public attention focused directly on the Kern County sheriff’s department.  Without that attention that video would probably mysteriously disappear.  Even with the attention, there are no guaranties that it will ever see the light of day.  And when cops lose evidence that incriminates them, they very rarely face any repercussions, so they have very little incentive to safeguard that video and every reason to make it magically disappear.

To witness a crime committed by a gang of cops and then being forced to turn over the only evidence of that crime to the cops themselves has to be frustrating.

“I have been crying a lot and his voice just plays over and over in my head,” Quair said Friday. “I sit there and I can still hear him choking in his own blood, trying to gasp for air.”

Eventually people are going to realize that they need to post the video on Youtube before they tell the cops they have video of police misconduct.  The safest way is to record the video and immediately send it to someone else so the video can’t be destroyed when the cops confiscate the phone.  In fact, cell phone apps are becoming available to help bystanders record cops and automatically send the recording to a third party.  The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) offers one such app.

Another review of “The Central Park Five”

Scott McConnell at The American Conservative reviews the Ken Burns documentary of the 1989 rape and assault of a Central Park jogger.  I wrote about the PBS documentary here.

The “Central Park Five” leaves one important question unanswered, says McConnell:

If Burns’s film has a failing, it is its failure to explore the real thoughts of the detectives, or subsequently, the two prosecutors, Elizabeth Lederer and Linda Fairstein, who put their game faces on and successfully prosecuted young people most in the city thought deserved to rot in jail. We now want to know whether the two suspected at the time their case was bogus. They must have, it seems to me. They had authority, and expertise, and they misused it. On the other hand, they had  ambitions, and a city which needed arrests and convictions. Some unseen voice—expressing the general will of crime-fearing New York—must have overridden their professional judgment.

Did these two prosecutors knowingly prosecute five innocent kids for purposes of expediency and career-building kudos?  I think the answer is very probably yes, but maybe not.  I have a saying:

There are no bad people, just people who have a great capacity to rationalize.

They could have convinced themselves that they were really doing the right thing.  In an interview in Think Progress, Ken and Sarah Burns speculate that Elizabeth Leder had “grave doubts” about the case, but has never openly discussed it.  Should Lederer and Fairstein have realized they were perverting justice?  Of course.   But I also think they, especially Fairstein, refuse to face that fact.  To believe they carried out their responsibilities in good faith requires a delusional perspective.  But, for them there is nothing to be gained by admitting that they, at worst, knowingly crucified innocent people or, at best, didn’t care.  They suffered no significant repercussions for their role in the perversion of justice during the Central Park Jogging case.  Their strategy is what the Central Park Five should have done from the beginning: deny, deny, deny.  Or, at least keep their mouths shut.

Search and Destroy

The guy who was initially suspected of sending ricin laced letters through the mail says his house is uninhabitable and wants the government to fix it.  A letter from his lawyer to U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams explains:

“To be specific, Mr. Curtis’ home is uninhabitable. I have seen a lot of post search residences but this one is quite disturbing. The agents removed art from the walls, broke the frames and tore the artwork. Mr. Curtis offered his keys but agents chose to break the lock. Mr. Curtis’ garbage was scheduled to be picked up Thursday, the day after he was snatched from his life. A week later, the garbage remains in his home, along with millions of insects it attracted,” the letter says.

Good luck with that Mr. Curtis.

Assault with intent to destroy: The Central Park 5


I just finished watching a 2012 PBS/Ken Burns documentary called “The Central Park Five“.  The Central Park Five are five black teens who were arrested, convicted, and served prison time for the rape and beating of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park on April 19th, 1989.  The single most striking aspect of the case, aside from the fact that the teens didn’t do it, is that they confessed to having done it and the confessions served as the sole basis for the convictions.

One thing the establishment media seems to steer away from is naming the people who are actually responsible for justice system failures.  After all, they were just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability, right?  Below is a brief list of some of the characters in this story.  If you ask the cops and prosecutors, I’m sure not a one will take any responsibility for this miscarriage of justice.

Trisha Ellen Meili.  The victim.  Not only was she white, but she was a 28 year old Solomon Brothers investment banker and daughter of a Westinghouse executive.  She was one of 3254 rapes reported in New York City that year and one of 28 first degree rapes that week.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam.  The accused, aged 14-16.  They were also victims.  Victims of over-zealous investigators and prosecutors.

Matias Reyes.  The guy who really raped and beat the Central Park Jogger.  He was arrested for rape and murder less than 4 months later in August 1989.  The cops were already so focused on The Central Park Five, they never checked Reyes DNA to see if he did it even after being told that the DNA excluded the five kids they had locked up.

Ed Koch.  Mayor of New York City and vocal supporter of the prosecution of the Central Park Five.

Robert M. Morgenthau.  New York County District Attorney.

Linda Fairstein. head of the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  Fairstein managed the prosecution of the Central Park Five.

Elizabeth Lederer.  Prosecutor in The Central Park Five case.

Benjamin Ward.  NYC Police Commissioner (until Oct 1989)

John Hartigan.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Michael Sheehan.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Robert Nugent.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

August Jonza.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Carlos Gonzalez.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Harry Hildebrandt.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Tom McKenna.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Police and prosecutors controlled the story from the beginning and the establishment press, with the ritualistic predictability they are known for, repeated everything they said as if it had been delivered directly from the lips of God.   While they protected the name of the victim, the mainstream media readily broadcast the names of the five juveniles accused of the crime.  The media fueled fervor became so intense that the public outcry became a referendum on the death penalty.

There was absolutely no physical evidence attaching The Five to the crime scene.  DNA evidence excluded them from the rape.  There were serious time line conflicts that placed the kids in a different area of the park at the time of the rape.  The only case against them was their confessions and the people who elicited those confessions sending those kids to prison, never got so much as a slap on the wrist.

Two days before this event, there was another assault in the park.  The woman escaped and reported to police that the perpetrator had a scar on his chin that had stitches.  A resourceful police officer went to all the local hospitals and came up with the name Matias Reyes as a possible suspect.  Had the NYPD followed up on that lead, if they had compared his DNA to the DNA collected from the Central Park Jogger, they would have found the real rapist, instead of pinning the crime on whomever was handy.  Reyes escaped justice long enough to rape and murder another woman, this one 24 years old and pregnant.

The bottom line is that investigators and prosecutors decided to pin this crime on five kids who knew nothing about the rape and, through intimidation, deceit, and coaching actually got them to confess to it in enough detail to sound convincing.  Only the most naive of idiots could believe that was an innocent mistake and only the most naive of idiots could possibly think that case was an anomaly rather than a result of ingrained police and prosecutorial culture that values convictions over justice.

Even after Reyes confessed and his DNA proved he was the rapist, Linda Fairstein opposed the recommendation to vacate the convictions of the Central Park Five.  New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, instituted an internal investigation back in 2003 clearing NYPD officers of any misconduct in the case (what a surprise!) and stands by the convictions saying that the Central Park Five assaulted Meili before Reyes  or simultaneously.  He is still NYC Police Commissioner today, helping to perpetuate that same level of ineptitude and delusion.  After all, if nothing is broken, there’s nothing to fix.

The PBS Central Park Five documentary is based on a book by Sarah Burns, daughter of Ken Burns.  Nepotism reigns supreme in the media business.  New York City officials have condemned the documentary as advocacy rather than journalism.  I won’t argue against that claim because it may be true.  Anyone who looks to a single source of information expecting to find truth is deluding themselves.  Truth usually comes only by examining many sources and adding a heavy dose of skepticism and commons sense.  I don’t think Burns is above bias.  He would be a real rarity if he were.  Objectivity doesn’t usually breed that kind of success.  Nevertheless, any confession by an adolescent elicited during the course of 14-30 hours of intense interrogation by people who routinely use deceit, threats, and intimidation, all without benefit of a lawyer or parent, can’t be considered reliable.  And, since this is all the prosecutors had on these kids, the convictions can only be seen as a travesty.

The movie is about two hours long and is available to buy, rent, or watch for fee on line.

Man tased for acting suspiciously around is own car

From the Santa Barbara Independent:

Santa Barbara police arrested — and attempted to tase — a 54-year-old man whom they thought was acting suspiciously near what turned out to be his own car.  The incident took place on upper De la Vina Street Monday morning as an officer on a coffee break spied Jerry Cox peering into the windows of a car across the street as if casing it for a burglary. When confronted by officers, Cox reportedly refused to stop and to sit down — as instructed — and attempted to walk by. Efforts to tase Cox failed, said public information officer Sgt. Harwood, so he was wrestled to the ground by numerous officers. At no time prior to the use of force, Harwood said, did Cox notify officers that the car in question was his. Cox was charged with resisting arrest.

Of course, unless there is video, we will never know for sure what happened, but given law enforcement’s record of self-serving embellishment, there certainly is reason to doubt the accuracy of the story given by Sgt. Harwood.  In order for Cox to be resisting arrest, the cops must have been trying to arrest him, which raises the question of why they were arresting him if he wasn’t committing a crime. I also wonder why they told him to sit down instead of just asking him if that was his car.  In fact, nothing in the story suggests cops ever asked him if the car was his.  Stories about confrontations with police often seem to have elements that defy rationality and yet the media rarely question anything cops say.


Afternoon links

The U.S. considers sanctions against Pakistan over a $7B “peace pipeline” deal with Iran.  Such a deal threatens U.S. efforts to bring Iran to its knees for failing to prove that it is not manufacturing nuclear WMDs in a repeat of the same strategy used to start a war with Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state.  Wait a sec.  Aren’t they already a nuclear state?  Surely the recent U.S. strategy of flying strategic war planes around over the peninsula will calm things down.

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a man who stabbed his best friend ten years ago, paralyzing him, to be paralyzed himself if he can’t come up with $266,000 in compensation for his victim.

What happens to persecutors who abuse their trust and destroy people’s lives?  Nothing.

From  A Texas state trooper charged with sexually assaulting two women during a traffic stop was providing them with “customer service,” says Dale Roberts, the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA) and a professor at the University of Missouri. (The CPOA is a part of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the country’s largest police unions.)

Omaha cops caught on camera behaving like cops


Police say Octavious Johnson became combative after his car screeched to a halt in front of officers who were investigating cars with expired license plates that were parked on the street.

Except, if you watch the video (below), it’s pretty clear that the only people who became combative were the cops.  And watch how the cops go after the guy on the sidewalk, Juaquez Johnson, who was video recording them.  Count the number of cops who chased him into the house.

Sharon Johnson, the men’s aunt, told The World-Herald that police told Juaquez Johnson to stop videotaping the incident. He ran inside the house to get away from them, and police followed to get the video, she said.

Cops hate video because it interferes with their standard strategy of fabricating a story about how someone they arrested just happens to be covered with bruises, or worse.

Another report says the cops took the guy’s phone and apparently hasn’t returned it.  You would probably be safe in betting that the video recorded by Juaquez Johnson will never see the light of day.

Then there’s the standard funny stuff that cops and their city government apologists always say after they beat the crap out of someone and attempt to cover it up by destroying evidence,

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer promised during a press conference Saturday to oversee a thorough investigation of the allegations of brutality and intimidation.

Next to the story are a bunch of lofty quotes by the mayor and city council about how much faith they have in the police department to investigate itself which, of course, wouldn’t be necessary of there hadn’t been a second recording of the event that the cops didn’t intercept.

After a suitable period of time to let the public lose interest, cops are usually cleared of wrong-doing with some statement of how they were merely following departmental policy.  Occasionally a cop is forced to quit and go work for some other law enforcement agency.  Then there’s the extremely rare case where justice is done…

As usual, the names of the arrestees are splattered all over the media while the cops involved remain comfortably anonymous.

And, speaking of anonymous