Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

World’s Most Corrupt Police Departments.

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Coming up on the Justice Network.

(Well, they need to do something, now that those jerks have dropped the midnight Sunday “Most Shocking”.)

(Seriously, Justice Network: was anyone asking for a three hour block of “Rescue 911”? And why are you also airing another three hour block of “psychic” frauds?)

(But I digress.)

I’ve written before about the criminal Philadelphia police department. Latest development:

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office last year secretly compiled a list of Philadelphia police officers with a history of lying, racial bias, or brutality, in a move to block them from testifying in court.

Of course the list is secret.

The list was intended only for internal use, as a guide to determine when a potentially tainted officer’s testimony should be used. Under the office’s policy, front-line prosecutors were instructed to get top-level permission before calling such an officer. Prosecutors, according to sources, did not want to release the list out of concern for the officers’ privacy rights and the broad impact it might have on past convictions involving the officers.

As the article notes, this isn’t unheard of: Seattle is cited as an example, and I seem to recall hearing that the LA district attorney’s office had a similar list. (Edited to add: link to recent coverage of the LADA list. Additional. Denton County has a list, too.) It seems to me, though (and if there are any legal experts out there, please correct me if I’m wrong) that the places that have these lists of problem officers also have a lot of other police related issues, too.

And as a by the way, you know who created the list? Seth Williams.

(Hattip.)

I’ve been sort of negligent in covering the ongoing Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force cases. To be honest, I’ve been a little busy, things have me down, and the most recent trial got pretty widespread national coverage. (Spoiler: two detectives were convicted on Monday.)

As you would expect, now that there’s convictions, there’s also weeping and wailing from the politicians. Which usually isn’t interesting, but:

State Del. Bilal Ali of Baltimore called for disbanding the police department entirely, citing Camden, N.J., as an example where the police force was rebuilt. He said the corruption and wrongdoing highlighted in the trial is an “ongoing experience” for many residents, and have not been sufficiently addressed by the consent decree or other efforts at reforms.

(Previously on Camden.)

My first thought: if you disband the Baltimore PD, where is David Simon going to get material for season six of “The Wire”?

My second thought: if you were going to disband a police department for being corrupt and out of control, B’more would not be my first choice. In order, I think I’d take Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia before Charm City.

Quick update.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

I touched on the case of Hugh Barry and Deborah Danner a while back. Very briefly: Barry was a sergeant with the NYPD, he responded to a call about a mentally disturbed woman (Ms. Danner), she came at him with a baseball bat, he shot and killed her, and was charged with murder.

Yesterday, he was acquitted of all charges against him.

Random notes: February 1, 2018.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

There’s a really good profile in The Guardian of Mary Beard, Cambridge professor of classics and noted historian.

The timing on this amuses me, as I just finished SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome earlier this week. (And Amazon now has the paperback for a shockingly low price.)

The early history of Rome, the era of its fabled seven kings, is notoriously difficult to untangle. There are few, if any, contemporary sources. The whole story slides frustratingly away into legend, with the later Romans just as confused as we are about how an unremarkable town on a malarial swamp came to rule a vast empire. One way of handling this material might have been simply to have started later, when the historian’s footing among the sources becomes more secure. Instead Beard asked not how much truth could be excavated from the Romans’ stories about their deep past, but what it might mean that they told them. If the Romans believed their city had started with Romulus and Remus, with the rape of the Sabine women – in a welter, in other words, of fratricide and sexual violence – what can we learn about the tellers’ concerns, their preoccupations, their beliefs? According to Greg Woolf, “One of the things Mary has taught is to look at the window, not through it, because there isn’t really anything behind it.”

I’d love to meet Dr. Beard and spend some time talking to her. I suspect we’d disagree on a lot of contemporary issues, but I think she’d be a fun person to talk history with. One of the things I loved about SPQR was how much time she spent on things other authors don’t talk about: the daily lives of the poor, middle class, and other people who didn’t write long letters to their friends, to take one example. For another example, her discussion of the ancient bar in Ostia, with pictures of the “Seven Sages” and their profound advice. Or the discussion of early Roman dice games.

And some of Dr. Beard’s views on contemporary subjects are a bit surprising, at least to me:

She doesn’t feel damaged by scenarios that would plainly be unacceptable today, she said, though “on the other hand you’d have to be blind as a bat to see it didn’t work like that for everybody”. One of the great problems of today, she said, was deciding how far current rules of behaviour could be projected back on the past. This question also informs her academic work: she is more likely to point out how different we are from the Romans than how similar. “As soon as you say things were different 40 years ago, people start to say you’re a harassment denier. But actually, they were. I do not think that the lives of women of my generation as a class were blighted by the way the power differentials between men and women operated. We wanted to change those power differentials; we also had a good time.”

===

Llano is a town northwest of Austin, about 90 minutes away. It’s a small town (a little over 3,000 people in 2010). It is perhaps most famous as being the home of Cooper’s barbecue, one of the top 50 joints in Texas.

As a small town, Llano has a small police force. Which can be…a problem.

Chief Kevin Ratliff and officers Aimee Shannon, Grant Harden and Jared Latta — who make up almost half of the police department in Llano, a town about 60 miles northwest of Austin — were indicted on a charge of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor. Harden also was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record to defraud or harm the person he arrested, court records say.

The four officers are currently on leave. Another former officer was also indicted “on a charge of tampering with evidence and accused of destroying a digital recording of a drug crime scene on March 26”.

So what the hell happened?

The indictment regarding the chief and the three officers accuses them of unlawfully arresting Cory Nutt on May 2. Harden failed to state in his police report that “Nutt was inside his residence when he was arrested” or “that Cory Nutt was forced out of his residence and arrested,” the indictment says.

Officer Shannon allegedly threatened to tase Nutt as well. Nutt was charged with public intoxication, but the charges were dropped.

It sounds like the dispute boils down to: Nutt was drunk and probably making a scene, the officers responded, he stepped outside of his camper briefly and then went back inside, and the officers stepped up into his camper and arrested him for PI. At least, that’s the spin that two of the defense lawyers are putting on it.

However:

Harden was already on leave after a grand jury indicted him in December and accused him of tampering with dashboard camera footage during a DWI investigation in June 2017, according to a report from The Picayune newspaper in Marble Falls.

Obit watch: January 14, 2018.

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Some more from the past couple of days:

Keith Jackson, legendary announcer.

Edgar Ray Killen is burning in Hell.

David Toschi passed away a week ago Saturday. FotB RoadRich mentioned this to me in the middle of the week – he saw it on a low-rent cable channel – but I had a lot of trouble finding a good obit. I couldn’t find the actual obit on SFGate: I was only able to get at an arthive.org version.

Anyway, “David who”? He was a famous San Francisco PD detective. He was one of the lead investigators on the Zodiac killings.

He was removed from the case after revelations that in 1976 he had sent several letters praising his own work to a San Francisco newspaper writer under fake names.
“It was a foolish thing to do,” he acknowledged at the time.

I don’t remember where I picked up this detail (maybe in the archive.org version), but that “newspaper writer” the NYT doesn’t name? Armistead Maupin, who was working as a reporter for the SF Chron at the time.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was semi-famous, at least among us common sewers connoisseurs:

Mr. Toschi was a personality in the police department even before his involvement with the Zodiac case, so much so that Steve McQueen had borrowed from him for the fictional police officer he played in the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
“They literally were filming in my dad’s office,” Ms. Toschi-Chambers said. “My dad took off his jacket, and Steve McQueen said, ‘What is that?’ And my dad said, ‘That’s my holster.’ And Steve McQueen told the director, ‘I want one of those.’ ”

(I wonder what that holster was: and if it’s out of production, how much do vintage ones go for? There’s a discussion on defensivecarry.com, but I can’t judge how accurate it is.)

Clint Eastwood also drew on Mr. Toschi for his portrayal of the title character in “Dirty Harry,” Don Siegel’s influential 1971 movie about a San Francisco police inspector, Harry Callahan, who hunts a psychopathic killer. Mr. Toschi, though, was bothered by Callahan’s penchant for administering his own brand of justice. He is said to have walked out of a screening of the movie, which was released when the Zodiac investigation was in full swing.

(Damn shame. He missed out. And I still haven’t seen “Zodiac”.)

Edited to add: this might lead to a longer post later, but: there are certainly worse hobbies in the world than engaging in Steve McQueen cosplay. Though I will concede that could get expensive quick, especially if you go full “Bullitt” and start looking for a Mustang.

Quickies from the legal beat.

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Some serious, some less so.

Stop! Hammer time!

Former Michigan state trooper charged with second degree murder in the death of a 15-year-old boy. He was a passenger in another trooper’s vehicle: they chased after the kid, who was driving an ATV, and the trooper fired a Taser out the window.

Struck and disabled by the Taser while traveling at up to 40 mph, Grimes lost control, struck a pickup and died.

(Hattip: Morlock Publishing on the Twitter. The Powers of the Earth is available in a Kindle edition, and would probably make a swell gift for the SF fan in your life. I already own a copy, but haven’t read it yet.)

Grandma got stopped by a state trooper,
Driving to Vermont for Christmas Eve.
People say “It’s just weed,”
But the state says “60 lbs is a felony.”

(Those lyrics probably need some work.)

Because he got high.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Because he got high, Ryan Boehle threatened to shoot cops.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration: “he planned to celebrate his 50th birthday by shooting police because he was upset about a drunken driving arrest in which his blood test came back negative for alcohol”.

Mr. Boehle was arrested. The police seized a total of 13 guns, “1,110 bullets” (sorry, I’m quoting the Statesman here) and 6.3 grams of marijuana.

Mr. Boehle was never actually charged for the threats. The judge in the case is quoted as calling his writings “marijuana-induced gibberish.” It sounds like this is one of those true threat/not a true threat sort of legal distinctions that Ken White keeps trying to explain to myself and other people, and I keep not understanding, but that’s getting off topic.

(Also, “Marijuana-Induced Gibberish” would be a great name for a band.)

But we have to throw him in jail for something, right?

(“Why?” Hey, that’s not the kind of question you should be asking.)

I know! We’ll get him for “making a false statement in connection with the attempted acquisition of a firearm”! Mr. Boehle has a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from 1993 in Connecticut: he allegedly “slapped, choked and bit his girlfriend”. As a result of this, he apparently failed the background check at three Austin area gun shops (again, per the Statesman).

However, during pretrial litigation the charge was determined to be insufficient to prohibit gun possession.

Oh, dear. Now what is the state going to do?

Wait: there’s that devil’s lettuce they found!

With their case weakening, prosecutors held tight to the gun-and-weed charge, using it to successfully to argue that Boehle should be denied bond and kept in jail pending the resolution of the case. Characterizing Boehle as a habitual marijuana user took little effort from the government, which not only had the pot found in his home but also test results from the DWI arrest that showed the presence of the drug.

Cutting closer to the end of the story, Mr. Boehle pled out to a charge of “owning a gun as a prohibited person”. You see, pot is still federally illegal, and the law says it is illegal for a pot smoker to own guns.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals established the definition of an unlawful drug user who is unable to own guns in 1999, when it affirmed the conviction of a Midland man who had been arrested several times with marijuana. He argued on appeal that the law fails to establish a time frame for when a person must use a controlled substance in connection with the possession of a firearm. The court ruled that an ordinary person could determine the man was a drug user. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

This doesn’t happen a lot. The Statesman quotes one California attorney who specializes in pot law as saying he’s never seen this in 50 years of practice. On the other hand, though, the Honolulu PD famously recently sent out letters to people with medical marijuana cards: “Give up your guns, or else.” (They apparently haven’t followed through on the “or else” part yet.)

Mr. Boehle was sentenced to five years of probation, and will be drug tested as part of that. The twist at the end is: he has a form of epilepsy, and wants to use a low THC marijuana extract to treat it. But he’s going to have to get his probation terms modified to allow this treatment. Texas has only recently legalized the use of the extract to treat epilepsy (“…only after a patient has tried at least two other treatments”) so Mr. Boehle will be venturing into uncharted territory.

So, so close…

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Hutto is a fairly small city near Austin (about 15,000 people).

Two Hutto residents are facing charges after law enforcement found found meth and cocaine, nearly two dozen firearms, explosive devices and other paraphernalia inside a house.

Inside the home, the release says Hutto investigators recovered 21 rifles and handguns. One of the recovered firearms had been reported stolen 18 years ago, officials said.

Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and several other weapons were arranged in a “defensive posture” throughout the residence, the release says.
Hutto police also found an illegal alcohol distillery at the property. Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission agents joined the other agencies in the house search to dismantle the distillery.

So we’ve got:

  • Alcohol
  • Firearms
  • and Explosives

Man, if they had just had untaxed cigarettes or something else equally ludicrous, we would have had the BATFE quadfecta.

Obit watch: December 5, 2017.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Officer Kenneth Copeland of the San Marcos Police Department was killed yesterday.

Officer Copeland was assisting other officers in serving a warrant, and was shot by the suspect. He was 58 and had four kids.

Officer Copeland is the first San Marcos PD officer to die in the line of duty.

Also among the dead: John Anderson, former Congessman from Illinois, perhaps most famous for his presidential campaign as an independant against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Short notes from the legal beat.

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Dabrett Black is the man who shot Trooper Damon Allen to death on Thanksgiving Day.

Police camera footage obtained by WFAA-TV from the 2015 incident in Smith County, about 95 miles east of Dallas, shows Dabrett Black beating a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy, identified as Wesley Dean in court documents, no longer works at the department. The court documents say he suffered black eyes, a broken nose and lacerations above his eyes that required stitches to close. The footage also shows him talking to the in-car camera saying to imagine if he had had a weapon and talking about his belief that law enforcement officers target minorities.

Mr. Black was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor charge instead of two felony charges. The plea was not approved by the local DA or his assistant, which is apparently a violation of policy. However, the current DA has said he’s not going to fire the ADA who took the plea. That current ADA is running for the DA position, and doesn’t have any opposition.

When the shooting occurred, Black was free on $15,500 bail in another Smith County incident where he was charged with assault on an officer and evading arrest after a police chase this summer ended with Black allegedly ramming a patrol car.
Probation officers had told staff to be careful of Black in internal emails after the 2015 attack, according to the material obtained by WFAA. In a July 2015 email, a probation officer told staff he believed Black was trying to provoke them into responding and encouraged them to be vigilant both inside and outside the office because he believed Black was the kind of guy who would ambush someone.

Back in September, a man named Brandon Berrott was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats against his girlfriend. After his arrest, the threats continued: he was jailed “at least” three time, had to post bail, and lost his job.

The girlfriend, Lisa Marie Garcia, ultimately called the mayor of Baytown and complained that the state district judge who was presiding over the cases against Berrott was taking bribes to let Berrott out on bail.

And you won’t believe what happened next, as BuzzFeed would say:

Lisa Marie Garcia was charged with retaliation and online impersonation in a case prosecutors called “a nightmare.” She is accused of using fake social media accounts and cell phone apps to manufacture false threats and claims that appeared to be from her boyfriend. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

Yes, it’s another classic “b—-h set me up!” case that turns out to be true.

After her boyfriend made bail, Garcia set up Instagram accounts pretending to be him and sent messages to herself and the other woman threatening to kill each of them for calling the cops on him. She then took the messages to the Baytown Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, leading to seven charges being filed between Oct. 21 and Oct. 31.
Each time he got out on bail, Garcia would fake more messages and call the police, landing Berrott back in jail or court. He was accused of violating his bond conditions and no-contact orders.

Mr. Berrott was lucky enough to have an attorney who actually believed in his innocence, and who was able to convince the authorities to do more investigation.

[Britni] Cooper [the prosecutor – DB] said the onslaught of charges in October did not immediately raise red flags because the complaints were filed with different agencies. Once the DA’s office, the sheriff’s office and Baytown police department put the pieces together, the pattern and the holes, were easy to see.
As the investigation continued, she said prosecutors were instructed to stop accepting charges from Garcia, who continued calling the police and filing false reports even while Berrott was working with authorities to clear his name.

What kind of holes?

…one threatening message was sent at the same time as Berrott was on video handcuffed in the back of a police car.

The defense attorney was Carl Moore. Folks in Baytown, remember that name, and please throw some business his way if you can: it sounds like he’s one of the good guys. The scary thing is: how many other people are in jail for similar reasons, and don’t have that kind of support network?

This news broke late last night, while I was at the CPA class, so I wasn’t able to blog it at the time, and it has been covered a lot elsewhere. But I did want to say a few things about the acquittal of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on charges of killing Kate Steinle, since I’ve touched on it before.

1. I’ve written before about my belief that “the verdict of a jury deserves a certain amount of deference“. I still believe that: the jury was there, I wasn’t, the jury saw and heard all the evidence, I didn’t, the jury deliberated, I didn’t. But sometimes, it’s real hard to hold on to your principles. Then again, if it was easy to have principles, would they be principles?

2. In that vein, “Law is the manifest will of the people, the conscious rule of the community.” But a lot of the comments I was reading last night at Instapundit are…disturbing. Have we really reached the point where people are ready to form lynch mobs?

(“Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”)

3. There’s a lot of smart stuff from other people out there on this case. In particular:

(Follow the thread from there.)

4. Also smart: Sarah Rumpf’s “Have We Been Lied to About the Kate Steinle Case?” There’s a lot in there that I didn’t know: I wasn’t following the case that closely, but other people have said the same thing. For example, the bullet that hit Steinle was actually a ricochet off the concrete pier.

There’s also some things that I have problems with, which are not Ms. Rumpf’s fault. In particular, the whole thing about the SIG being unusually prone to “accidental discharge”. I don’t own any SIGs: Mike the Musicologist is the SIG (and FN) guy. I also don’t own one of those cool trigger pull measuring gadgets, so I can’t tell you what the trigger pull on any of my auto pistols is. It looks like standard trigger pull on a Glock is somewhere between 5.3 and 6 pounds according to GlockTalk.

Is 4.4 pounds too light? That seems questionable. And a lot of those cited incidents seem to involve holstering the gun: could the problem not be with the SIG, but with people not keeping their booger hook off the bang switch?

In a four-year period (2012-2015), the New York City Police Department reported 54 accidental firearm discharges, 10 involving SIG Sauers.

But:

New NYPD officers are allowed to choose from one of three 9mm service pistols: the SIG Sauer P226 DAO, Glock 17 Gen4, and Glock 19 Gen4. All duty handguns are modified to a 12-pound (53 N) NY-2 trigger pull.

It’s also not clear to me which model of SIG was involved in the shooting. I think this whole “bad gun!” thing needs some more investigation, and my short notes are already long enough as it is.

5. Also smart: Patterico on California homicide law. (Has anyone ever seen Patterico and Ken White in the same room together? Just asking.)

Random Black Friday notes: November 24, 2017.

Friday, November 24th, 2017

Officer Damon Allen of the Texas Department of Public Safety was killed yesterday.

Texas DPS said via Twitter that the trooper stopped a Chevrolet Malibu on Interstate 45 in Freestone County, east of Waco, around 3:45 p.m. After Allen talked to the driver, the driver fired at him with a rifle, and the trooper died at the scene.

The suspect is in custody. What makes this even more awful is that this is the second DPS line of duty death this month: officer Thomas Nipper was killed on November 4th, after a vehicle crashed into the back of his car during a traffic stop.

Headline of the day:

There’s a dog head possibly infected with rabies lost in TX mail

#EndNurseAbuse

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Alex Wubbels, aka “the nurse who got arrested by a rogue cop for refusing to allow him to draw blood from a patient without a warrant”, settled out of court.

Attorney Karra Porter said at a news conference that the agreement with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah covers all parties and takes the possibility of legal action off the table. “There will be no lawsuit,” she said.

The settlement was for $500,000. What’s she going to do with that money?

Wubbels will use a portion of the money to help people get body camera footage, at no cost, of incidents involving themselves, she said at the news conference. In addition, Porter’s law firm, Christensen & Jensen, will provide for free any legal services necessary to obtain the video.

Good for her, and for Christensen and Jensen.

Wubbels said she also will make a donation to the Utah Nurses Association and will help spearhead the #EndNurseAbuse campaign by the American Nurses Association.

Double good for her.

Porter said she hopes the discussion about the need for police body cameras continues and noted that the footage also protects law enforcement officers.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but: this is what we hear from officers in the CPA classes, too. Good officers love body cams because they know, if they act right and it comes down to their word against someone else’s, the body cams will back them up.

(Oh, by the way: Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne are apparently appealing their discipline.)

Quick followup.

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Those two NYPD cops who claimed they had “consensual sex” with a woman who they arrested?

They’ve been indicted.

Typically, when officers are charged with crimes, their colleagues come to court in a sea of blue uniforms to support them. But on Monday, not one officer appeared in court with Detectives Martins and Hall.