Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

#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.

Quickies: October 26, 2017.

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

NYT coverage of the Suffolk County prosecutor indictments, mentioned yesterday.

This is a bit weirder than I expected at first glance. A heroin addict was breaking into cars. One of the cars he broke into was the police chief’s.

From the vehicle, Mr. Loeb stole a duffel bag that contained cigars, pornographic DVDs and sex toys.

Now, perhaps this is victim blaming, but I really can’t see why you’d leave your porno DVDs and sex toys in the car unattended. But I digress. The chief found the heroin addict and beat the crap out of him.

Four years later, after an investigation by federal agents, Mr. Burke [the chief – DB] pleaded guilty to having beaten Mr. Loeb after he was arrested and shackled to the floor of a police station. Last year Mr. Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for assaulting Mr. Loeb and for trying to orchestrate a cover-up of what had happened.

The charges against the DA, Thomas J. Spota, and his “top anti-corruption prosecutor”, Christopher McPartland, stem from this cover-up:

Federal prosecutors accused them of holding a series of meetings and phone conversations with Mr. Burke and other police officers in which they agreed to conceal Mr. Burke’s role in the assault and to impede the federal investigation.

Everyone knows I’m not a baseball fan. Related to that: I don’t understand baseball. Maybe Borepatch or someone else who’s smart can explain this to me: Joe Girardi out as Yankees manager.

They were in the playoffs, for crying out loud. They almost went to the World Series. What more did they want out of Girardi, and why are people saying it was time for him to go? (See also: Boston.)

Remember the mayor of Lakeway, Joe “John Smart” Bain? (Previously on WCD.)
He was fined $500 by the Texas Ethics Commission and had to pick up the garbage.

The commission, which met Sept. 27 to consider the complaint, considered four posts written by “John Smart” and concluded there was credible evidence that Bain intended to “injure a candidate or influence the result of an election” while misrepresenting the source of the communications, a violation of the election code.
The mayor also did not mark the post containing explicit advocacy as political advertising, another code violation, the commission said. And finally, it said, evidence indicates Bain violated ethics code when he misrepresented his own identity in campaign communications or political advertising.

Random notes from the legal beat.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Andrew M. Cuomo, the corrupt governor of the state of New York, has vetoed knife law reform. Again.

“In so doing, the Legislature has gone far beyond the innocent laborers carrying these knives for legitimate purposes and has grossly disregarded the concerns of law enforcement,” he wrote.

“the concerns of law enforcement”. Would this, by any chance, be the same law enforcement that says it is okay to have sex with an 18-year-old woman who is under arrest and in custody because “it was consensual”?

Speaking of having sex with teenage girls, a judge in Oakland dismissed conspiracy and bribery charges against a former Oakland PD officer.

Walterhouse faced two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice after he was accused of tipping off a prostitute to an undercover FBI sting operation on International Boulevard on Oct. 13-14, 2016. The stings included finding suspects and victims of child sex-trafficking.

But Judge Murphy said the information Walterhouse offered was unsolicited advice and said it seemed like a “puppy love situation.” Walterhouse was infatuated with her, the judge said, and perhaps offered the information because he wanted to have sex with her.

Brad Heath, a reporter for USA Today, is tweeting that the DA for Suffolk County, NY, has been indicted for obstructing a federal civil rights investigation.

On the importance of having a good backup strategy.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

I’m shocked that Borepatch and ASM826 aren’t on this like flies on a severed cow’s head at a Damien Hirst exhibition. But apparently it falls to me, as the ex-backup guy.

A non-profit organization in NYC called Bronx Defenders wants to study the NYPD’s asset forfeiture records. They filed a request for this information (under New York’s Freedom of Information law) in 2014, and litigation is ongoing.

The latest revelation? Not only is the NYPD saying they don’t have the technical capability to pull the data Bronx Defenders wants…

New York City is one power surge away from losing all of the data police have on millions of dollars in unclaimed forfeitures, a city attorney admitted to a flabbergasted judge on Tuesday.

More from Ars Technica:

…an attorney for the city told a Manhattan judge on October 17 that part of the reason the NYPD can’t comply with such requests is that the department’s evidence database has no backup. If the database servers that power NYPD’s Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS)—designed and installed by Capgemini under a $25.5 million contract between 2009 and 2012—were to fail, all data on stored evidence would simply cease to exist.

When it was activated in 2012, Capgemini vaunted PETS—which was built using SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform as well as IBM DB2 databases—as a flagship public sector project. The company went as far as submitting PETS as a nominee for the 2012 Computerworld Honors awards. But the system was apparently designed without any scheme for backing up the database or any sort of data warehouse to perform analytics on the data.

Adding to this, the NYPD now actually disputes that the PETS database runs on DB2:

Neil tells me our whole argument is that the NYPD’s database is not an IBM database so he definitely didn’t say that NYPD personnel said “the database is in IBM.” He says he was referring the Petitioner’s expert, not any NYPD personnel. The “He” would be Robert Pesner, the Petitioner’s expert, not NYPD personnel.

Okay. So it doesn’t run on DB2. What the frack does it run on, and why are there still no backups?

(It looks to me like both Backup Exec and Commvault have DB2 agents. But I’ve been out of the business for a while, and can’t tell if those have been deprecated.)

Edited to add: Now the NYPD is saying that PETS is backed up:

Contrary to some published reports suggesting that NYPD does not electronically back up the data in its Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS), all such data is backed up continuously in multiple data centers.

Which, I guess, is good for the NYPD. But as Ars points out, it isn’t consistent with the statement in court that there are no backups of the forfeiture database, unless that database isn’t stored in PETS after all. That seems like the more likely explanation, but it raises the questions: where is it stored, why isn’t it backed up, and why is the NYPD so secretive about those first two questions?

Firings watch.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Tom Jurich, athletic director at Louisville, was officially fired yesterday.

He joins Rick Pitino, who was officially fired “for cause” on Monday.

Mr. Pitino, of course, denies that he knew anything about payments to athletes. Even better: he’s suing Adidas. The discovery process in that lawsuit should be interesting.

In other news, another APD officer has been fired. Interestingly, his firing was for “insubordination”: specifically, he didn’t show up for interviews with Internal Affairs.

And why was he being interviewed by IA? He’s been charged with making false statements about his wife and her eligibility to receive SSI. (Previouly.)

According to the Statesman, he and his lawyer said they wouldn’t do interviews with IA until the criminal case was resolved. The rules say: you can’t do that. You have to come in and answer IA questions, or you get canned. Whatever information IA gets can’t be used against you in a criminal case; it can only be used for internal discipline. (This is why officers are required to submit to IA questioning. This is also why some things, like officer-involved shootings, are investigated both by IA and the Special Investigations Unit: SIU handles any possible criminal aspect of the case, can seek charges if warranted, and the subject has the standard legal protections. IA investigates internally: the union contract says officers have to answer IA questions, but any information gathered can’t be used to build a criminal case.)

Anyway, IA said “this won’t be used in the criminal case”, the lawyer apparently said, “okay”, and they still didn’t show up. Twice. Which makes it “you’re fired, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200” territory.

From the legal beat.

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Two quick notes:

1) Remember our old friends Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy? The guys who arrested a nurse for refusing to let them draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant?

Detective Payne has been fired. Lt. Tracy has been demoted to “police officer III”.

“In examining your conduct,” Brown wrote to Payne, “I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue.”
Brown was similarly critical of Tracy, saying his lack of judgment and leadership was “unacceptable,” and, “as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the Department.”

Both men have five days to appeal the decision. The criminal investigation into their actions is ongoing.

(Hattip: Reason‘s “Hit and Run”, and Patrick Nonwhite on the Twitters.)

2) The Travis County DA has dropped one of the 13 felony charges against Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, one of the analysts with the Texas DPS crime lab “examined the wrong date” when looking at Ms. Dukes’s travel activity, leading to “a felony count that erroneously stated Dukes turned in a falsified voucher for Dec. 22, 2013.”

It is unclear how prosecutors, DPS investigators and Texas Rangers failed to notice these holes in the case during an investigation that spanned more than 18 months.

Obit watch: September 29, 2017.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Sergeant Gary Christenberry of the Austin Police Department passed away earlier today.

Sergeant Christenberry was severely burned in an off-duty accident at his home two weeks ago: his death was a result of those injuries. He’d been on the force for 24 years.

Lady Lucan, long suffering wife of the late Lord Lucan.

This may ring a bell for some of you, as I’ve touched on the Lucan case before. Briefly: one night in November of 1974, Lord Lucan allegedly beat his children’s nanny to death, having mistaken the nanny for Lady Lucan. When Lady Lucan came downstairs to see what was going on, Lord Lucan tried to beat her to death as well. She disarmed him, he asked for a glass of water, they spoke briefly, he drove off, she ran to a nearby pub for help…

…and Lord Lucan hasn’t been seen since. Everyone seems to assume he’s dead. He’d be 82 if he was still alive, so there’s a possibility…

Obit watch and random notes: September 14, 2017.

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Obit watch: Pete Domenici, former Senator from New Mexico.

Long, but kind of fascinating, NYT article about the hunt for test models of the Avro Arrow.

For those of you who are not Canadian, the Avro Arrow was a legendary Canadian jet fighter project of the 1950s. It was pretty cutting edge for the time, but the project was cancelled in 1959.

In the decades since the program was abruptly dropped, the Arrow’s story has become one of Canada’s greatest bits of folklore, and not just among the military or aviation buffs sometimes known as Arrowheads.

The Smithsonian’s Air and Space magazine ran a good article about the Arrow some time ago, but I can’t find it on their website or in Google. Sigh.

Full internal affairs reports on Payne and Tracy, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request, found both officers violated five policies: conduct unbecoming of an officer; courtesy in public contacts; a policy that states misdemeanor citations should be used instead of arrest ”whenever possible”; violation of the department’s law enforcement code of ethics; and a city-mandated standards of conduct policy.

Remember, folks: that’s Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Detective Jeff Payne also failed to file a “use of force” report, which is another policy violation.

Investigators wrote Payne’s conduct was ”inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful, and has brought significant disrepute on both you as a Police Officer and on the Department as a whole.
“You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the Department in a manner that inspires the requisite trust, respect, and confidence,” the report adds.

And as for Lt. James Tracy:

Investigators took a similarly critical view of Tracy’s actions. They noted Wubbels had told them in an interview that she felt Tracy was “ultimately responsible for this incident.”
“[Y]our conduct, including both giving Det. Payne the order to arrest Ms. Wubbels and your subsequent telephone discussions with Hospital administrators, was discourteous and damages the positive working relationships the Department has worked hard to establish with the Hospital and other health care providers,” the report states.

And more:

The report says neither Tracy nor Payne fully understood current blood draw laws or hospital policies, and — unlike the nurse, Wubbels — they did not seek legal clarification from the department’s attorneys or other sources.
It also outlines how Payne visibly “lost control of his emotions” and his “self-control” over the course of the incident — yet no other law enforcement officers at the scene, including those from Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, thought to intervene.

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Random jumbled notes: August 6, 2017.

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

I had no idea Tillman Fertitta could command that kind of money. (Also: the Rockets are worth more than the Clippers? And $85 million to $2.2 billion over 24 years? That’s an APR of about 14.5%, if I ran the numbers right. Anyone want to check me? ETA: Actually, I think I left a “0” off when I was doing the calculation the first time: it looks more like a 26% APR. ETA again: No, I was right the first time. I haven’t had enough coffee this morning.)

Speaking of return on investment, here’s a stock tip from WCD: sell this one short.

Over the past decade, the DNA laboratory in the office of […] chief medical examiner emerged as a pioneer in analyzing the most complicated evidence from crime scenes. It developed two techniques, which went beyond standard practice at the F.B.I. and other public labs, for making identifications from DNA samples that were tiny or that contained a mix of more than one person’s genetic material.

Now these DNA analysis methods are under the microscope, with scientists questioning their validity. In court testimony, a former lab official said she was fired for criticizing one method, and a former member of the […] Commission on Forensic Science said he had been wrong when he approved their use. The first expert witness allowed by a judge to examine the software source code behind one technique recently concluded that its accuracy “should be seriously questioned.”

A coalition of defense lawyers is asking the […] inspector general’s office — the designated watchdog for the state’s crime labs — to launch an inquiry into the use of the disputed analysis methods in thousands of criminal cases. While the inspector general has no jurisdiction over the court system, any finding of flaws with the DNA analysis could prompt an avalanche of litigation. Previous convictions could be revisited if the flawed evidence can be shown to have made a difference in the outcome.

“Oh, man, you’re not writing about the APD crime lab again, are you?” Actually, I’m not: this time, it’s the New York City DNA lab.

I still really would like to read an “explain like I’m five” piece from someone who really knows DNA and DNA testing. On the one hand, nobody (myself included) wants innocent people to go to jail. On the other hand, it increasingly seems to me like a lot of these issues resolve around subtle and sometimes disputed interpretations of statistics and statistical data.

This also points up something that I keep thinking about, and deserves a longer essay: how do we, and how should we, validate scientific investigative techniques used in criminal prosecution? It isn’t just DNA: how did comparative bullet-lead analysis ever become accepted? Or bite-mark analysis?

And what do we currently think we know, that ain’t necessarily so? Is there statistical evidence that supports the use of drug dogs, or is it possible that this is a “Clever Hans” phenomena? Has anybody ever done a controlled study?

The great Cardinals scandal of 2015 was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to high-tech sports cheating. (I know there’s a lot of biology and chemistry involved, but for some reason I don’t think of doping as “high-tech”.)

I’ve got a vague idea for a book series about a white hat computer security expert who specializes in investigating technological sports cheating: hacking other teams databases, abusing smart watches, maybe drone surveillance of practices, tapping into sideline radio communications…sort of a Myron Bolitar meets hacker riff. If anybody wants to take this idea, feel free.

Quick random notes: September 2, 2017.

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Obit watch: Shelley Berman, noted stand-up comic.

Performing in upscale nightclubs and on concert stages, including Carnegie Hall at the height of his fame, he found humor in places where his borscht belt predecessors had never thought to look: ‘‘If you’ve never met a student from the University of Chicago, I’ll describe him to you. If you give him a glass of water, he says: ‘This is a glass of water. But is it a glass of water? And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?’ And eventually he dies of thirst.”
“Sometimes,” Mr. Berman told The New York Times in 1970, “I’m so oblique, even I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

(I’m going to have to start using “Were you very fond of that cat?” in conversation.)

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Before you answer that: the dinner is actually a testimonial being put on by an association of retired NYPD detectives. There will be two honorees:
John Russo, “who investigated the murder of Karina Vetrano, who was killed while jogging in Howard Beach, Queens, last year.”

And the other one? Retired detective Louis Scarcella.

Mr. Hynes eventually helped to overturn the guilty verdict of David Ranta, partly blaming Mr. Scarcella for botching the murder case. When Mr. Thompson became the district attorney in 2014, he began a broad investigation — still ongoing — of what was ultimately more than 70 of Mr. Scarcella’s old cases. So far, prosecutors have reversed the convictions in eight of those cases, and judges have overturned another few, but the district attorney’s office has repeatedly maintained that Mr. Scarcella has not committed any punishable conduct or broken the law.

The event’s sponsor is aware that Mr. Scarcella is a polarizing figure. John Wilde, the retired detective who organized the evening, claimed he chose to honor the detective not in spite of the controversy, but because of it.
Mr. Scarcella did not prosecute the defendants who ended up in prison; he investigated and arrested them, Mr. Wilde said. Many people had a hand in the convictions that went wrong, but at least so far, Mr. Wilde added, only Mr. Scarcella has gotten any blame for the cases, and the ordeal has taken a toll.

Just as a reminder:

Detective Scarcella and his partner, Stephen Chmil, according to investigators and legal documents, broke rule after rule. They kept few written records, coached a witness and took Mr. Ranta’s confession under what a judge described as highly dubious circumstances. They allowed two dangerous criminals, an investigator said, to leave jail, smoke crack cocaine and visit with prostitutes in exchange for incriminating Mr. Ranta.

This is intended to enrage you. (#8 in a series)

Friday, September 1st, 2017

I don’t post every “bad cop, no doughnut” incident here because I just don’t have time. There’s only 24 hours in the day, and I have to work to pay bills and sleep so I can go to work to pay bills and then there’s all that time I spend in the opium den. (Heroin is déclassé. The true gentleman smokes opium.)

But this one set my teeth on edge.

Utah cop wants to draw blood from a hospital patient who was badly injured in an accident. Patient is not under arrest, is not a suspect (his truck was hit head-on by a fleeing suspect who died in the crash), police officer has no warrant, and patient is unconscious so he can’t provide consent.

Nurse says, “I’m sorry, but you can’t do that. It’s against hospital policy, and it’s against the law.”

Cop arrests nurse.

“So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” the officer wearing the body camera says to Payne.
“They don’t have PC,” Payne responds, using the abbreviation for probable cause, which police must have to get a warrant for search and seizure. He adds that he plans to arrest the nurse if she doesn’t allow him to draw blood. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.

After the arrest:

Another officer arrives and tells her she should have allowed Payne to collect the samples he asked for. He says she obstructed justice and prevented Payne from doing his job.
“I’m also obligated to my patients,” she tells the officer. “It’s not up to me.”

This is one of those things I hear a lot in my CPA classes and on the Internet: “Even if you think the officer is wrong, go ahead and comply. You’re not going to win the argument in the field.” And I can kind of agree with that. Sometimes.

But there are cases like this one where you have to take a stand. Even if it means being handcuffed. Even if it means going to jail. Even if it means a beating. Maybe this is part of your oath as a health care professional. Or just simply a matter of taking a stand when somebody else can’t.

And it wasn’t just a matter of hospital policy conflicting with the law:

In Thursday’s news conference, Wubbels’s attorney Karra Porter said that Payne believed he was authorized to collect the blood under “implied consent,” according to the Tribune. But Porter said “implied consent” law changed in Utah a decade ago. And in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that warrantless blood tests were illegal. Porter called Wubbels’s arrest unlawful.
“The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” she said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”

The officer in question is Detective Jeff Payne. Remember that name: Detective Jeff Payne.

Salt Lake police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Shearer told local media that Payne had been suspended from the department’s blood draw unit but remained on active duty. Shearer said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown had seen the video and called it “very alarming,” according to the Deseret News.

According to Reason:

Payne also said it was his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy, who told him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to draw blood.

Remember that name, too. Lt. James Tracy. (And Payne doesn’t get a pass because his watch commander said to do this: “I was just following orders” hasn’t flown since Nuremberg.)

Alex Wubbels, the nurse, is actually taking a more moderate position than I would.

For now, Wubbels is not taking any legal action against police. But she’s not ruling it out.
“I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” she said Thursday, according to the Deseret News. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there.”

I hope she does sue. I hope she sues the department and Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne in their individual capacities. I hope Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne are stripped of their qualified immunity. I hope they are bankrupted and fired from the Salt Lake City police force. I would like to see them criminally prosecuted and stripped of their law enforcement licenses, though I’m not sure what charges could be brought against them. (Federal civil rights violations?)