Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

Obit watch: April 30, 2016.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

I found out yesterday that Tom Deeb passed away about a month ago. I had not seen this previously reported: apparently, I should be reading more blogs.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Deeb, he was the founder of Hi-Point and designer of their firearms.

I actually discovered this in a moderately amusing way. Yesterday, RoadRich and I had the chance to tour the Austin Police Department’s Forensics Lab as part of our CPA course.

One of the stops on our tour was the firearms and toolmarks lab, and we got to spend a few minutes talking with one of the examiners. I want to go out drinking with this guy, but I digress. I asked him how much truth there was to the old movie/TV show cliche, “The bullet has six lands and grooves and a right hand twist, so it’s got to be a Smith and Wesson or a Taurus…”

He commented that yes, generally, they can at least narrow things down to two or three makes of weapons, and sometimes they can do even better than that. Paraphrasing as closely as I remember: “If we see one with nine, we KNOW that it’s a Hi-Point, because TOM DEEB ALWAYS HAS TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN EVERYONE ELSE!

After the tour, RoadRich and I went to lunch, and got to talking about this. So I did some searching on my phone and found this recent profile of Hi-Point and Mr. Deeb from the American Rifleman. Turns out there’s more to it than Mr. Deeb just wanting to be different:

Deeb became fascinated with the science of forensic firearm examination, which is how, as an examiner, I met him. “I included design elements in my guns to be of specific use to the forensic community, beginning in 1994,” said Deeb. “We now start with a particular number for each model of pistol. Rifles start with letters that are easily identifiable.” Beyond this, Deeb uses uncommon rifling patterns and makes breech faces that leave readily identifiable markings on fired cartridge cases. He began doing workshops for firearm examiners at the Ass’n of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) annual training seminar and became a Technical Advisor to AFTE in 2002. Currently, he conducts about 20 tours of his plant a year for firearm examiners.

(And I know it is trendy to sneer at Hi-Point, but: the guys at Tex-Guns used to tell people when they asked about Hi-Points, “We’ve sold hundreds of them, and we’ve only had one, maybe two, come back to us for repair.” Another take.)

(And if you find someone on Gunbroker selling a Model 19 for $125, please let me know. I already have two (edited to add 5/1: three, actually: I forgot about the Ranger gun, but I don’t shoot that one), but at that price, I’d buy one and give it to a friend.)

Cop watch.

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Two quick notes:

Remember the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy who thought his gun was a taser and ended up killing a guy last April?

Guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Followup to the latest Art Watch: I usually don’t link to Statesman editorials, but I’m making an exception in this case. This one contains Chief Acevedo’s response to the reprimand, and the “he did not find any violation of APD or city policy” memo from the city manager.

In other news, it seems at least some members of the city council are not pleased…with the city manager.

Council Member Don Zimmerman said it was that lack of transparency that has led to his growing desire for Ott to be fired.
“When the city manager notified us, he didn’t even bother to attach the same documents that were sent to the media,” Zimmerman said. “I call that secrecy.”

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

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Remember my asking a while back, “Will we get to “Z” in the series?”

That question has suddenly become a lot more pertinent.

The Austin city manager has:

  • accused the chief of insubordination
  • fined him five days of pay
  • reprimanded him
  • and warned him that “he could be fired for future misconduct” (No!
    Really?)

What happened? You know that naked unarmed 17-year-old that got shot back in February? The city manager’s complaint basically amounts to: “I told you to shut up and stop talking to people about this, and you didn’t.” I apologize for the length of this quote, but I feel it is necessary to show the timeline of events that caused the city manager to lose his you-know-what:

Acevedo responded with a news conference Feb. 11 with representatives from several community groups, including Black Lives Matter — a decision that angered many officers and their union who thought the gathering showed Acevedo had already decided that Freeman erred.
Documents show that, several weeks later, Acevedo visited the department’s police training academy, where he again discussed the shooting.
That meeting prompted a formal complaint to Ott by the union, and Ott hired an outside investigator, Larry Watts, to look into whether Acevedo’s comments were inappropriate or showed a bias against Freeman.
Watts found Acevedo hadn’t violated any policies, but wrote that “while I do not find a policy violation, I do believe that the department and city of Austin would have been better served if he had refrained from discussing the Freeman case at that time.”
Soon after Acevedo’s visit to the academy, Ott met with Acevedo and, the city manager wrote, “I directed you to let the administrative investigation process proceed in its normal course; to cease meeting with groups, including APD officers and cadets, and talking about matters connected with the pending officer involved shooting investigation.” He also was told not to discuss the case with union President Ken Casaday, Ott wrote.
According to the memo, Acevedo proceeded to discuss the case with Casaday on March 3, and returned to the police academy March 4 to hold a mandatory meeting with cadets and training staff.

The Statesman goes on to say that, according to the city manager’s memo, he met with Chief Acevedo on April 12th, and “Acevedo agreed that his actions had been insubordinate.” However, the Statesman also quotes the chief:

“I respectfully differ with the city manager and Austin Police Association about my public remarks and response to the officer-involved shooting on February 8, 2016. I acted in the best interests of the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, and community after a tragic incident that cost a young life and ended a police officer’s career.
“While I disagree with the manager’s reprimand, I recognize his right to exercise that authority,” Acevedo said. “The manager and I have worked together for nearly nine years. Disagreements are inevitable. I look forward to putting this behind us and continuing a productive partnership.”

Some thoughts:

  • In case you were wondering, when the chief pulled out of the running for the San Antonio job, he got a five percent pay raise, plus an agreement to pay out “up to six months” of severance if he gets canned. The Stateman puts Chief Acevedo’s current pay at “about $206,086″ (about?), and claims five days of pay “would mean a loss of about $4,000″. I’m not sure where that number comes from: the paper doesn’t specify that $206,000 is yearly, but I feel it is safe to assume so. Divided by 365.25 (to account for that pesky leap year) I get $564.23 a day, or $2,821.16 for five days. Anybody want to double-check my math on that?
  • The Statesman also spells out some additional background: briefly, Acevedo was hired by a former city manager (Toby Futrell) and the claim is that there’s been a simmering ongoing conflict between the chief and the current city manager (Marc Ott).
  • The documents show publicly for the first time dissatisfaction among some in city management for an official who has been arguably the most visible in local government since arriving in Austin in 2007.” On the one hand, in my experience so far with the Citizen’s Police Academy, the rank-and-file seem to love the guy. Yes, they could be blowing smoke up my you-know-what. And I suppose they wouldn’t pick people to come down and present if they knew somebody was going to publicly say, “Chief’s an a–hole.” But the feelings I’ve heard expressed seem heartfelt and genuine: the chief has made the department more professional, more accountable to the city, better equipped, and more transparent. Many people in high law enforcement positions (from what we’ve been told) look to APD as a national model, and are actually calling the chief daily looking for advice.
  • On the other hand, I’m sure there are at least some officers who are disgruntled by the disciplinary action taken as a result of the shooting. I’d like to express an opinion on that myself, but I’m still turning over some issues related to the use of force in my own mind. The question I’m wondering about is: if Acevedo is fired, how does the rank-and-file react? Also, what does this mean for recruiting in an already understaffed department?
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure how the city government works in the case. Does the city manager have the absolute authority to fire the chief? Or does the council have to agree? And if the city council has to agree; give the current composition of the council, would they? How would the votes break down?
  • Finally, if the chief does go, I’m worried about me, Al Franken the future of the Citizen’s Police Academy, and of quite a few of the folks I’ve met through it. I’m hoping things don’t come to that. At least, not before May 19th, when we graduate.

Worthy of note II.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Five former New Orleans police officers were pleading guilty Wednesday (April 20) in federal court to their role in the post-Katrina shooting of civilians on the Danziger Bridge and subsequent cover-up, a move that would wrap one the most notorious prosecutions of police brutality in the storm’s aftermath.

Here’s the sentence each officer would face under the proposed plea deals presented Wednesday, followed by their previous sentence:
Kenneth Bowen, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Robert Faulcon Jr., 12 years, previously 65 years.
Robert Gisevius, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Anthony Villavaso, 7 years, previously 38 years.
Arthur Kaufman, who was involved in the cover-up but not the shooting, 3 years in prison, previously 6 years.

(Previously. Those convictions were later thrown out due to misconduct by the prosecution.)

(See also.)

They’re Masons, Donny.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Remember the Masonic Fraternal Police Department? Wasn’t that a couple of days wonder?

Latest developments: charges against one of the defendants, Brandon Kiel, have been completely dropped.

And a second defendant, David Inkk Henry, who was apparently the “chief”, died suddenly.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#28 in a series)

Monday, April 11th, 2016

I probably should have covered this last week, but it got past me. Work’s been kind of rough. Anyway:

The NYPD reassigned three deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector:

Two of the four officers were placed on modified duty, stripped of their guns and badges and limited to administrative duties, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. The other two were transferred from their current assignments to less prestigious positions.

Meanwhile, a prominent NYC restaurateur was arrested and charged with running a Ponzi scheme:

The restaurateur, Hamlet Peralta, who owned the now-closed Hudson River Café in Harlem, misappropriated more than $12 million from investors for use in what he said was a wholesale liquor business, according to the complaint, which was unsealed on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The business was, in fact, fictitious, prosecutors said.

What do these two things have in common? Glad you asked. They both seem to be tied to a federal investigation involving two of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fund-raisers:

A federal grand jury in Manhattan has begun hearing evidence in the case, according to several people briefed on the matter. The inquiry has come to focus on the two fund-raisers: Jona Rechnitz, who raised money for Mr. de Blasio’s campaign and was also a donor to both the campaign and to a nonprofit group that supported the mayor’s agenda; and Jeremy Reichberg, who held a fund-raiser for that nonprofit.

More:

Two of the people briefed on the matter suggested that investigators were trying to determine whether Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg benefited from some type of favorable municipal action, or the promise of some action, in exchange for their donations, their fund-raising or some other gesture. But the precise allegations under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are unclear. The two people, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the case publicly.

In recent months, agents and prosecutors investigating Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg learned that they were both also in close contact with roughly a score of high-ranking police officials, and may have lavished gifts upon them, some of the people said. This tangential discovery led the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, to reassign four senior police officials to desk duty last week. Two were stripped of their guns and badges and two others were transferred to less prestigious posts, a rare public rebuke.

Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg were also investors in the Peralta Ponzi scheme.

Like I said, I’ve been kind of behind the 8-ball, so here’s another one I should have blogged before now: Paul Tanaka was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice last week.

Mr. Tanaka was the undersheriff of Los Angeles County: basically, he was Lee Baca‘s second-in-command.

The criminal charges centered on allegations that in 2011 Tanaka orchestrated a scheme to derail the FBI’s jail investigation by intimidating the lead agent in the case, pressuring deputies not to cooperate and concealing the whereabouts of an inmate who was working as a federal informant.

Dumber than a bag of hair.

The LAT claims that Mr. Tanaka could get “as long as 15 years in prison”: as we all know, such claims should be taken with soy sauce and wasabi.

Interesting times (part 2).

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Great and good friend of the blog RoadRich is taking the CPA class with me. Actually, the whole thing was his idea, so now you know who to blame for the blog posts.

And as far as blaming people for blog posts, he also sent a thoughtful reply to the use of force post. I liked it enough that I asked him for permission to use it here, which he granted. What follows after the jump are his comments, with a few personal asides edited out.

(more…)

Interesting times (part 1).

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Austin Police Department, use of force policies, and the officer who was fired for shooting a naked unarmed 17-year old male.

I have two followups to that.

Austin has an organization called the Office of the Police Monitor. This is an organization independent of the APD; the basic idea is that they serve as a civilian oversight organization for the police. They’re the ones who issued that report on stops and searches I touched on a while back.

Part of what they do is monitor Internal Affairs investigations, and make recommendations as they see fit. You might correctly guess that they were involved in the shooting investigation.

The Stateman published a story late yesterday afternoon about one of the OPM’s recommendations as a result of this incident: they want a trainer at the police academy reassigned.

Yes, a trainer. Why? I’m going to put a break here because this is running long…

(more…)

Random notes: March 23, 2016.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Let’s play a little game: fill in the blank in this headline. (No fair peeking.)

New York Police Increase Patrols Around 20 Clubs to Combat [Blank] Violence

Did you say “gun”? Bzzzzzt! Sorry. Understandable, but wrong. We were looking for “knife”. “Knife”.

Police officials said on Tuesday that they would increase enforcement around 20 bars and clubs in New York City with a disproportionate share of the stabbings and slashings that have resulted in a surge in knife violence this year.

I just like pointing out the use of “knife violence” here.

And speaking of things I just want to point out:

The plan called for establishing a site where people could legally shoot heroin — something that does not exist anywhere in the United States.

“There’s never been a paper bag for drugs…until now.”

Sourdough starter!

Some people name their starters: William Butler Yeast, Herman, Sarah, Sky Pilot, Ms. Tippity, Eleanor, Roxanne.

I have to admit, “William Butler Yeast” is clever.

The latest additions to the National Recording Registry came out today.

A few random notes:

  • You can find the W.H. Stepp version of “Bonaparte’s Retreat” on YouTube if you want to compare and contrast to Copland.
  • I rather like the note on Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, putting it into the context of 1938.
  • I want to hear those two “Destination Freedom” episodes. I haven’t had a chance to go looking for them yet.
  • Dixie McCall for the win!
  • Yeah, I can accept both versions of “Mack the Knife”. You know who did a really good version of that song? Sting, believe it or not, with Dominc Muldowney on the Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill album, which does not appear to be available digitally.
  • As everyone knows, I am not a basketball fan, but I do acknowledge the significance of Wilt Chamberlain.
  • Damn, “Mama Tried” is a great song.
  • I have to agree Carlin belongs on this list, if for no other reason than the legal significance of the “Seven Dirty Words” routine.
  • “I Will Survive” is a good song, but I prefer the Cake version. (I also prefer girls with a short skirt and a long jacket.)
  • One of my coworkers and I have been joking back and forth about how metal I am. This is how metal I am: I’ve never heard “Master of Puppets”. Perhaps I need to fix that.

Use of force, Luke.

Monday, March 21st, 2016

How much force can police use?

The first answer to that question probably ought to be another question, “Under what circumstances?”

For example, if someone’s passively resisting – just goes limp, doesn’t fight back – should a police officer whip out his issue sidearm and kill them? Perhaps if the officer is a member of the Chicago Police Department (where apparently officers can get away with anything) but in a normal police department, such behavior will get you fired and criminally charged.

Is this okay?

Is it okay to shoot an unarmed, naked, 17-year-old male? Is it okay to pepper-spray someone in the back of a police van? These last two questions are ones the city of Austin has been dealing with recently.

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Short random notes: March 18, 2016.

Friday, March 18th, 2016

I absolutely hate the BuzzFeed inspired headline on this story. But the story itself is worth reading:

Twenty-seven years ago, on a drug raid conducted by an elite special operations team with the same county police department, Sommers had shot and killed his best friend, a fellow squad member named Mark Murphy. In the days afterward, one of the few people who could reach Sommers, locked away in private torment, was another officer who had also accidentally killed another cop.
And now Sommers was being asked by his friend to do the same thing for the officer who had killed Colson — just as he has done for cops across the country who have suddenly found themselves at the center of unfathomable circumstances.

Obit watch: James Sheldon has passed away at the age of 95. The name didn’t ring a bell with me, but wow, what a career:

Mr. Sheldon directed episodes of some 100 series in virtually every genre, including classic episodes of “The Twilight Zone” (among them “I Sing the Body Electric” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”), 44 episodes of the hit series “The Millionaire” and a full season of “The Bing Crosby Show,” a short-lived family sitcom.

Larry Drake. You know, I remember being fond of “L.A. Law” when it was first running; I wonder how it holds up today.

Police now give you no break…

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

During stops that resulted in a citation or an arrest, African-Americans had a 1 in 6 chance of being searched in the same type of stops, which was the same rate since 2012. Hispanics had a 1 in 9 chance of being searched, which also was the same rate from the previous two years, the report found. Whites had a 1 in 22 chance of being searched.

I wanted to take note of this story, and the complete report from the Office of the Police Monitor.

Chief of Staff Manley, who is quoted extensively in the Statesman report, addressed our Citizen’s Police Academy class last week and spent about 30 minutes going over the report. I feel comfortable saying that pretty much everything he told us, as far as APD’s response to the report, made it into the Statesman‘s article. But I’m glad to get the OPM’s side, too.

(A representative from the OPM did address our CPA class, and I think the CPA deserves some credit for having him there. However, his presentation came the week before the OPM report was released.)

There are some things that Chief Manley said in his presentation that bother me a bit, but I’m having trouble articulating exactly why; this may be the subject of a longer post later, along with one I’m trying to write about “response to resistance”.

(As we all know, resistance is a) futile, and II) voltage/current.)