Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

And an update.

Monday, June 27th, 2016

(Previously on WCD.)

Paul Tanaka was sentenced today.

Five years in federal prison.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#31 in a series)

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the Bill de Blasio scandal continues to grow.

A while back, I wrote about the suspension of three NYPD deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector, apparently because of their links to two of Di Blasio’s fundraisers.

The other shoe dropped today:

Three New York Police Department commanders, including a deputy chief, were arrested early Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges stemming from one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to court papers.

The NYPD officers are:

  • Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington
  • Deputy Inspector James M. Grant
  • and Sgt. David Villanueva

This is a little confusing for me: the NYT consistently refers to “three commanders”, but one of these guys appears to be a sergeant. Is that a commander rank in the NYPD?

Of these three, Harrington and Grant were among the officers suspended in April. Also arrested: Jeremiah Reichberg, one of the “businessmen” who has been a “generous supporter” of the mayor. Jona Rechnitz, also a “businessman”, “generous supporter”, and apparently Reichberg’s partner in the deal, has taken a plea on corruption charges and now appears to be rolling on the others involved.

The court papers in the case detail lavish gifts the two senior police officials are accused of receiving in exchange for taking official action, including expensive meals, free overseas and domestic trips, and the referral of business to a security company associated with one of the officials. The deputy inspector was also accused of receiving a trip on a private jet to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl weekend in 2013, and was said to be accompanied by a prostitute.

Hookers. Always with the hookers.

The official action taken by the senior officers included closing a traffic lane in the Lincoln Tunnel to provide a police escort for a businessman visiting the United States, dispatching police officers to the area near a jewelry business run by associates of Mr. Reichberg to disperse people handing out fliers for a rival business, and sending officers to disperse protesters in front of the business of an associate of Mr. Reichberg, according to the court papers. One of the officials also helped the men with their applications to get Police Department pistol licenses.

I’m not sure which “official” is being referenced here, but it makes a nice segue anyway: Sgt. Villanueva’s arrest appears to be related to the pistol license scheme.

Court papers unsealed on Monday also disclosed that a police officer who was involved in that scheme had previously pleaded guilty to bribery charges and was cooperating with federal authorities. In that scheme, bribes — as much as $18,000 per gun license — factored into between 100 and 150 gun licenses in recent years, according to the court papers.

$18K for a gun license. Come to Texas, guys: here there’s no license required just to own one, and it’s $140 (plus about another $140 for the required training course) for a license to carry either open or concealed. Of course, it is hot as hell here, but the upside to that is never having to shovel snow.

Obit watch: June 20, 2016.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Donald Shea passed away last Friday at the age of 90.

Mr. Shea served for 36 years with the NYPD. He was perhaps most famous as one of the two patrol officers who captured Willie Sutton.

On that day in February 1952, he was a 26-year-old officer on patrol with a partner, Joseph J. McClellan. A 24-year-old clothing salesman, Arnold Schuster, had alerted the two officers after recognizing Mr. Sutton on the subway and following him out onto the street.

Both Mr. Shea and Mr. McClellan were promoted three ranks on the spot, to first-grade detectives, by Police Commissioner George P. Monaghan, who called the arrest the culmination of “one of the greatest manhunts in the history of the department.”

Mr. Schuster was famously gunned down in the street about a month after the arrest, allegedly on the orders of Albert Anastasia.

Adult supervision needed. Inquire within.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

This one got past me earlier in the week: I was sort of avoiding media because Orlando and stupids, and the Oakland/SF papers aren’t part of my usual daily media diet anyway. And as it turns out, Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man beat me to this as well…

So, followup, for the historical record and folks who don’t read BRM: remember the Oakland PD fired their chief, Sean Whent? So of course they appointed an interim chief.

The interim chief lasted five days.

“I have just received information that has caused me to lose confidence in Ben Fairow’s ability to lead the Oakland Police Department at this particular moment in time,” the mayor said in a statement on Wednesday, announcing Mr. Fairow’s departure. She did not elaborate on specific reasons for her decision.

I’m not trying to seem like Judgy McJudgerson here, but this might potentially be relevant to the mayor’s “loss of confidence”: Fairow apparently had “an affair with a consenting adult while married more than a decade ago”, according to the BART chief (who, by the way, has also “welcomed back” Fairow to the BART PD).

The interim chief was previously a deputy chief for BART. So they brought in a new interim chief, who was currently an Oakland PD assistant chief.

He lasted two days.

Mr. Figueroa said in a statement on Friday that he was taking leave and would return to the department as a captain.

More from SFGate:

In a move in which the mayor indicated she had lost faith in police leaders to run the department, she disclosed that she would not appoint another interim or acting chief to the top post. Instead, the department will have no chief, and for the time being command staff will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth as Oakland conducts a national search for a new chief.

“a national search for a new chief”. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmm. Gee, is there anyone we can think of that’s from California originally, has experience running a police department that’s even larger than Oakland’s, in a city much larger than Oakland, has been going through some friction with local politicians, and might be interested in a change?

Nope. Can’t think of anyone.

(Sarcasm aside, would Art, dammit, Art even be willing to take over this dumpster fire of a department?)

Followups.

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Lawrence’s backlink for my DNA lab post reminded me that I intended to link to this Grits For Breakfast post on the same subject.

More on MP Jo Cox: NYT. The Guardian (current live blog, historical live blog). Express.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr. Mair sent about $620 to the National Alliance for items from its publishing imprint, National Vanguard Books, including works that instructed readers on the chemistry of powder and explosives. Also purchased was a copy of “Ich Kampfe,” a book published by the Nazi Party in the early 1940s.
Heidi Beirich, the director of the center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks and produces reports on extremist groups, said in an interview that it had found the invoices in a database of records it maintains.
When Mr. Mair’s name surfaced on Thursday, Ms. Beirich said, the Intelligence Project matched it with invoices in its possession. She said those records were authentic because they had been leaked by members of the National Alliance. Further, she said, she was confident the records were linked to Mr. Mair because the address on the invoices matched his home address.

You know, I dislike Nazis as much as the next guy or gal, but: does this bother anyone else? The SLPC apparently has a database of people’s book orders that was “leaked” to them? And they, in turn, are providing those records to the press?

Setting aside our individual lack of love for the Nazis, isn’t it possible that there are people on that list – students of modern day extremism, university libraries with collections of extremist literature for reference purposes, etc. – that would object to having their purchases revealed to unrelated third parties?

And where does this stop? Anyone remember the Tattered Cover case?

Random notes: June 13, 2016.

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I was busy all day yesterday, and I have nothing profound or interesting to say about Orlando. Go look at the smarter people on my blogroll if you’re looking for that: I’d suggest Tam and Lawrence as good starting points.

In other news: there’s now an official lawsuit pending to remove Williamson Count District Attorney Jana Duty from office. And I’m thinking I need a WCDA tag.

I missed this until Lawrence sent me a link to a Daily Mail story: Sean Whent, the police chief in Oakland, resigned on Thursday.

Chief Anthony Batts quit in 2011 after receiving a scathing report from Robert Warshaw, the court monitor assigned to ensure that the Police Department was implementing reforms ordered by a federal judge. Batts’ successor, Howard Jordan, left suddenly in 2013 amid a spike in violent crime and a wave of anger over how police were handling Occupy protests. Interim Chief Anthony Toribio, who came in after Jordan, lasted only two days.

The general belief seems to be that Whent was working to stabilize and clean up the department, but there were a whole host of recent scandals on his watch:

Officer Cullen Faeth was charged with misdemeanor battery, public intoxication and trespassing after he allegedly tried to break into a home in Oakland’s Redwood Heights neighborhood in December and attacked a woman who lived there. In February, Officer Matthew Santos was arrested for allegedly pulling his gun on a man painting Santos’ apartment in Emeryville. Santos was fired shortly thereafter.

But the biggest issue is a messy sex scandal. Five officers have been placed on administrative leave so far.

The woman at the center of the sex scandal is claiming she had sex with two dozen current and former officers in five cities, a newspaper investigation published Sunday found.

More from the Mercury News:

…she slept with three of the 24 officers — all from Oakland’s police department — before she turned 18 last August.

She also said that two Oakland officers provided her confidential police information, including tips on scheduled anti-prostitution stings…

Random notes: June 11, 2016.

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

This is shaping up to be a busy weekend, but I have a little bit of time this morning and wanted to make note of one major and one minor story.

Major story: the Austin Police Department has temporarily suspended DNA testing at their lab.

This is the same lab that RoadRich and I toured as part of our CPA class; they may have been blowing smoke, but one of the things that stood out to us was how seriously the APD lab took their certifications, and how much effort they put into getting things right.

So what’s going on? It looks like three things:

1) Unspecified concerns raised by the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Police officials, who were working Friday to determine how best to proceed, said the commission raised concerns about calculations and formulas the lab was using in conducting DNA analysis, but said they didn’t know specifics.

Officials had already scaled back lab operations in recent weeks — its staff were only screening evidence for DNA but were no longer doing analysis — and asked state forensic experts to evaluate the lab’s operation amid concerns about its operations.
Gay said Friday that he hasn’t received a formal notification from the state about the outcome of the experts’ inquiry, but that, based on phone conversations, “there are some challenges in front of us”.

2) There’s also a leadership gap. Apparently, the civilian lab supervisor (who goes unnamed in the Statesman) recently passed away, and had been out on leave for a while before that.

3) I’m a little confused by this part, and would love to find an “explain like I’m 5” piece on it: apparently, the Feds have issued new standards for doing DNA probability calculations, and a lot of labs – not just Austin – are struggling to implement them. This is something that was specifically mentioned as an issue on our tour:

FBI officials last year notified crime labs across the country that they were using outdated methods to examine samples containing genetic material from multiple people — methods that often led expert witnesses to greatly overstate the reliability of that evidence in court.
The use of outdated protocols to interpret test results means an expert witness might have told jurors that the chances are 1 in more than a billion that the genetic material in question belonged to someone other than the defendant, when those odds are more like 1 in 100.

So the lab has to go through and do a bunch of recalculation on a bunch of existing cases (around 1,300). And that apparently requires things like software updates (which I gather aren’t as simple as “download a .ZIPed EXE file and run it” when you’re dealing with forensic gear) and additional new training for the people doing the work.

All of this is going to take time: they’re speculating four to six months. In the meantime, DNA samples are going to be sent either to private labs or the Texas DPS lab for analysis.

…the lab’s backlog of cases awaiting DNA analysis has risen to about 1,300, the most in the past five years.

Minor story:

First reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, posted a “sources sought” solicitation for non-standard weapons on a federal contracting site early last month. In April, the command posted a similar notice for non-standard weapon ammunition. The term “non standard” is used for weapons not frequently employed by the United States or its NATO allies.

What kind of “non-standard” weapons and ammo? AK-47s. Yes, WP, yes, journalist’s guide to firearm identification, but it seems like this is for real AK-47s:

SOCOM’s solicitation includes weapons such as the iconic “AK-47″ rifle, a catchall designator for Kalashnikov-variant rifles designed to fire a certain type of ammunition and often identified by their distinctive curved magazines. Other weapons include the SVD, a unique looking sniper rifle that has likely killed thousands of U.S. troops since it was first introduced in the years leading up to the Vietnam War. Additionally, Russian medium and heavy machine guns as well as 14.5mm aircraft guns are included in the notice.

This makes sense, in a way. As the article explains, we’re arming foreign troops, but giving them distinctively US-made weapons (like the M4) puts a target on their back: “Although likely more accurate than their Soviet-style counterparts, U.S. weapons can make the fighters carrying them targets for other factions.” Plus: “U.S. weapons can also be difficult to maintain,” (Really?!) “prompting Special Operations Command and the CIA to procure and supply weapons that their allies are used to fighting with, such as Kalashnikovs.”

The thing that makes me wonder about this story: I’m sure we’ve all heard (I’ve even linked to) stories about secret CIA/SOCOM warehouses filled to the rafters with captured AK-47s intended to arm foreign troops while maintaining plausible deniability. So why does SOCOM need contracts to produce new ones? Are the warehouses running low? Are the ones in the warehouses poorly made or shot to heck, and SOCOM thinks they’re better off getting new ones that are assembled to tighter tolerances? (Sort of a Smith and Wesson vs. Taurus comparison, but for AK’s? Okay, that was a cheap shot.)

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#Z of a series)

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

I was hoping to have something else to put here. Maybe that will be #AA, or #AB.

But I digress. Remember a few weeks ago, when I commented, “…in my experience so far with the Citizen’s Police Academy, the rank-and-file seem to love the guy.”

Here’s the flip side of that:

A total of 883 police officers — representing more than half of the department’s officers — participated in the survey released Thursday. Four hundred and eighty respondents — or 54.5 percent — described morale at the department as “poor.”

I quibble slightly with the Statesman‘s headline, “Survey: More than half of Austin police officers say morale is poor”. If memory serves, the authorized strength of the APD is just over 1,800 officers, and they told our CPA class they were about 100 officers short. They did give an exact figure: it was in the 1,700 range, but I don’t remember exactly what, and it has certainly fluctuated some since then. Point being: 883 officers is just over half of the department, and that’s just the number that responded to the survey. The actual number that described morale as “poor” – 480 – is more like 28% of the department, not half.

Continuing:

…90 percent of officers surveyed said that staffing shortages are affecting the department’s “ability to do its job effectively.” To make up for a shortage of patrol officers, the Austin police command instituted a rotation that is pulling detectives and nonpatrol officers away from their typical duties to fill vacant patrol shifts.

With all due respect to the fine men and women of the APD, and with the understanding that police work is different from technical support, this doesn’t sound too much different from my job. I’d prefer to have time to work on my existing cases instead of taking new phone calls. But if we’re shorthanded and there’s not enough people in the phone queue, guess what? My preferences don’t matter. And the city has some major issues right now, including a serial sexual assaulter and rock throwers on the interstate. I don’t blame the chief for wanting butts in the field.

Lower-ranking officers feel shut out of the decision-making process, Austin police union President Ken Casaday said, adding that there have been some recent improvements since the survey was conducted May 11-13.

See. Above. And yes, there probably are times when higher-ranking officers make stupid hasty decisions: I can’t think of ones from the APD, but The Onion Field is a classic example.

The survey also indicated that more than half of the officers surveyed believe Police Chief Art Acevedo is often politically driven in high-profile disciplinary cases, isn’t honest and relies on fear and retaliation in managing the department.

Note that it was the APD police union that ran the survey.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#30 in a series)

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

I’ve written previously about the growing scandal involving New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and his fund raising.

Latest, and semi-breaking news: two more people have been arrested and charged with fraud.

One of them is a “hedge-fund financier”.

The other one? Norman Seabrook, also known as the head of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. The COBA is the union that represents New York City’s corrections officers (about 9,000 members).

But wait! It gets better! One of the people the feds have targeted is now a cooperating witness!

The charges, brought by prosecutors in the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, involve Mr. Seabrook’s investment of $20 million from his union and its annuity fund in Platinum Partners through Mr. Huberfeld [the hedge-fund guy – DB], and Mr. Huberfeld’s payment of a kickback to the union leader, according to the criminal complaint unsealed on Wednesday morning.

More:

Mr. Rechnitz [the cooperating witness – DB] delivered the payoff to the union leader in an $820 Ferragamo bag bought specifically for that purpose. He laid out the cash, according to the complaint, and was repaid by Platinum through a scheme that disguised the reimbursement as payment for Knicks tickets — two $3,750 seats at eight games.

It amuses me enormously that they had to buy a designer bag specifically for their payoffs. Also, the Knicks tickets must have been a major clue: who’s going to pay $7,500 to watch the hapless Knickerbockers play?

Obit watch and playing catch up: May 21, 2016.

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Alan Young.

Yesterday was kind of a busy day. There were multiple things that I intended to make note of, but I got stuck into something I can’t discuss right now, and…well….anyway:

Morley Safer, for the historical record.

San Francisco police chief “resigns” “at the request of Mayor Ed Lee”. I think we can call this one a “firing”.

The precipitating incident here seems to have been the SFPD shooting of a woman in a possibly stolen vehicle: she fled from the officers and crashed into the back of a truck.

The car crashed into a utility truck a short distance away. Although no weapon was found on the woman and the car was wedged under the truck, a police sergeant fired a single shot, killing her, police said.

It sounds at first like there was a bit of a rush to judgement on this: the shooting took place Thursday morning, and Suhr was canned Thursday afternoon. But as the linked SFGate article notes, this wasn’t the first problem under Suhr’s administration: there had been two previous controversial shootings, plus a scandal over “racist and homophobic text messages”.

Great and good friend of the blog and occasional guest poster RoadRich sent a series of thoughtful comments yesterday on the Suhr firing: I’m hoping he’ll let me post those as a guest post, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him yesterday because of [redacted] and he’s busy today.

In other California news, remember Maywood? How could you forget the nearly broke municipality of Maywood, “the second-smallest city in Los Angeles County”?

But that didn’t stop municipal leaders from granting themselves, the city treasurer and the city clerk $250 monthly mileage stipends.
If Maywood used the Internal Revenue Service’s suggested reimbursement rate for business travel of 54 cents a mile, city officials would need to drive 463 miles a month to reach the $250 mark.

More:

Councilman Ricardo Villarreal said he didn’t think twice about voting in favor of the monthly stipends because he thought the roughly $550 a month they get for serving as council members didn’t cover other costs like meals with other officials and mileage.

I wonder if the councilman and other officials are eating at Tacos Los Desvelados.

Turning our attention to Austin:

Albert “Matt” Arevalo was fired in September after being charged with DWI last May. Arevalo was stopped after driving 91 mph in a 55 mph zone, and his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit, police said.

Mr. Arevalo was an officer with the Austin Police Department. Given that knowledge, would you care to guess what happened next? Yes: he got his job back!

The arbitrator mandated that Arevalo should only serve a 180-day suspension and receive back pay for any days over that period, said Austin police union president Ken Casaday in a letter members of the Austin Police Association.

I know sometimes you wanna let go…

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Me and my people:

Somewhat related: APD homicide detective Kerry Scanlon is retiring today.

Detective Kerry Scanlon has spent 26 years at APD, 14 of those years as a homicide detective. He’s investigated more than 500 deaths, 50 of them determined to be homicides.

I think this is a pretty good story (and I’m not just saying that because Nadia Galindo was one of our CPA classmates).

“A homicide detective needs to be somebody that has curiosity,” he said. “[Someone] that gets the challenge and accepts the challenge.”

Detective Scanlon came down and spoke to our CPA class. He came across to me as a pretty good guy. (I’m a little biased: he gave me a spiffy APD Homicide coffee mug because I was able to articulate the difference between homicide and murder.) I hope he enjoys a long and happy retirement.

Been through the desert…

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
Blogger, with occasional horse.

Blogger, with occasional horse.