By Reuben Fischer-Baum
Protesters block streets in St. Louis, Missouri, after the announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
A St. Louis County grand jury decided Monday that police officer Darren Wilson will not face trial for shooting and killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Grand juries usually return indictments; the one exception is cases involving police shootings. But more than that, police shootings, and allegations of police misconduct in general, almost never make it in front of a grand jury. And officers rarely face legal consequences for allegations of misconduct.
As is the case with police shooting statistics, comprehensive numbers on accusations of police misconduct are hard to come by. There is no national reporting requirement for such accusations; in fact, many places have laws to purposefully keep the details of misconduct investigations out of the public eye.
Nevertheless, two nongovernmental sources stand out. A recent study out of Bowling Green State University — reported by The Wall Street Journal — identified 664 incidents from 2005 to 2011 in which police officers were arrested for having “pulled, pointed, held, or fired a gun and/or threatened someone with a gun.” These incidents resulted in 98 deaths. The most common “serious offenses” associated with these incidents are broken down below:
Of the 71 arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, just 31 came when officers were on duty. That’s about four a year during the study period. As a reminder, the best-available evidence from the Killed By Police Facebook page points to about 1,000 deaths each year caused by officers acting in the line of duty.
More general numbers on police misconduct come from National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (NPMRP), which collects data based on credible media reports (see its feed here). It was established by researcher David Packman in 2009, and operation of the database was transferred to the Cato Institute in spring 2012. Although the NPMRP continues to collect incidents, the most comprehensive and cataloged data comes from Packman’s original work. His key findings are largely laid out in a 2010 report.
In 2010, Packman identified 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct in the U.S. involving 6,613 officers. Almost 10 out of every 1,000 American officers were accused of some type of misconduct. For context, the 2010 violent crime rate was four crimes per 1,000 residents, and the larceny-theft rate was 20.1 per 1,000. Here’s a breakdown of the accusations by type:
Excessive force was by far the most common type of accusation, and 15 percent involved firearms. There were 127 excessive force incidents reported that resulted in fatalities, and the majority of these (71 percent) were shootings.
But, as was the case with Darren Wilson, most accusations of misconduct — combining all categories — did not result in criminal charges. Of the more than 8,300 misconduct accusations (involving almost 11,000 officers) in Packman’s database from April 2009 through the end of 2010, 3,238 resulted in legal action. The chart below outlines how often these charges resulted in convictions and incarcerations, compared with the rates for felony defendants in the general population (in the 75 largest U.S. counties) collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2006.
These numbers are now irrelevant to Wilson. Outside of the unlikely event that federal charges are pressed, his chance of being convicted and incarcerated for Brown’s death is almost zero.
San Francisco, CA — After reviewing the transcripts and evidence released Tuesday, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released the following statement today on the grand jury’s decision against indicting police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“As San Francisco Public Defender, I am deeply disappointed with the grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A series of questionable, and in my opinion, biased legal and ethical decisions in the investigation and prosecution of the case presented to the grand jury led to this unjust result, most notably allowing a local prosecutor with strong family connections to police supervise the investigation and presentation of the evidence. This ethical failure resulted in the exceedingly rare step of the prosecuting attorney refusing to recommend an indictment against the police officer he was prosecuting. The police investigation and inquiry itself were rife with problems:
Because it was a grand jury inquiry and not a trial, Wilson took the stand in secrecy and without benefit of a cross-examination. Prosecutors not only failed to probe his incredible testimony but frequently appeared to be bolstering his claim of self-defense. Transcripts reveal that witnesses whose accounts contradicted Wilson’s were rigorously questioned by prosecutors.
Dorian Johnson, the key witness who was standing next to Brown during the encounter, provided strong testimony that called into question Wilson’s claim that he was defending his life against a deranged aggressor. Johnson testified that Wilson, enraged that the young men did not obey his order to get on the sidewalk, threw his patrol car into reverse. While Wilson claimed Brown prevented him from opening his door, Johnson testified that the officer smacked them with the door after nearly hitting the pair. Johnson described the ensuing struggle as Wilson attempting to pull Brown through the car window by his neck and shirt, and Brown pulling away. Johnson never saw Brown reach for Wilson’s gun or punch the officer. Johnson testified that he watched a wounded Brown partially raise his hands and say, “I don’t have a gun” before being fatally shot.
Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” with superhuman strength and unremitting rage, and his description of the neighborhood as “hostile,” illustrate implicit racial bias that taints use-of-force decisions. These biases surely contribute to the fact that African Americans are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the U.S., but the statement’s racial implications remained unexamined.
Prosecutors never asked Wilson why he did not attempt to drive away while Brown was allegedly reaching through his vehicle window or to reconcile the contradiction between his claim that Brown punched the left side of his face and the documented injuries which appear on his right side.Wilson, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 210 pounds, is never asked to explain why he “felt like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan” during his struggle with Brown, who is Wilson’s height and 290 pounds.
The police investigation itself revealed strong biases toward the police officer and against Michael Brown, leading to an ongoing federal investigation into the police department’s history of discriminatory policing practices, use of excessive force and violations of detainees’ constitutional rights.
It is important that communities throughout this country re-evaluate and reform our processes by which justice is determined. We must work to ferret out biases that threaten the very foundation of society and taint decisions rendered by our justice system.
It is also critical that we acknowledge the impact of implicit bias in decisions regarding stopping, investigating, arresting and prosecuting citizens, and in gauging whether deadly force is necessary. We must also demand that law enforcement agencies begin using available technology, such as police body cameras, to improve transparency and accountability to the public they are sworn to serve. And we must pledge to honor the request of Michael Brown’s family to work together to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated as it has been in the past.”
Video of an NYPD officer beating a young man with a nightstick to his head for attempting to evade a subway fare was posted online Friday.
Police confirmed, according to Gothamist, that the footage shows an officer detaining 20-year-old Donovan Lawson after he attempted to jump a turnstile at the Myrtle Avenue-Broadway in Brooklyn. According to the police, the officer drew his nightstick and struck Lawson after the man had resisted being put in handcuffs. The video, apparently captured by a bystander with a cell phone, shows the officer strike Lawson below his waist, then over his head, lacerating the young man's face.
Lawson is then seen trying to get away from the officer, who aggressively grabs him, shoving him around the station entrance. Gothamist reported that Lawson, was taken to Woodhull Hospital and treated for cuts to his head, while the officer was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and treated for injuries to his hand and arm.
Lawson has been charged with fare beating, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration. Meanwhile, the NYPD Internal Affairs department is reportedly investigating the incident.
DALLAS — The Child Abuse Squad has arrested a Dallas police officer on a charge of harassment, according to a statement released by the Dallas Police Department.
Authorities announced the arrest of Officer Casarae Womble early Friday afternoon.
Police didn't reveal any details on the charge but said Womble was arrested by the Child Abuse Squad Friday.
A five-year veteran, Womble was placed on administrative leave from the Metro Task Force as they investigate the case.
ZACHARY MILLER PLEADS GUILTY TO ANIMAL CRUELTY
A Mills police officer faces an animal cruelty charge following the death of a police dog that he allegedly left in a hot patrol car for sever… Read more
A Mills police officer received six months' probation after pleading guilty to animal cruelty in connection with the July death of a police dog.
Zachary Miller admitted last Thursday to leaving K-9 Nyx in a hot patrol car for several hours, resulting in the animal's death, according to documents filed Monday in Natrona County Circuit Court.
A judge sentenced Miller to six months in jail but suspended the time behind bars in favor of six months of unsupervised probation.
Miller was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the town of Mills during his time on probation. He was also required to complete 100 hours of community service at Metro Animal Control.
The officer’s restitution will be reduced to $2,200 if he completes the volunteer time.
Miller had pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty. His case was set for trial Thursday.
The officer left the dog in his patrol car for more than six hours on July 9 while the vehicle was parked outside the police department, according to an investigator's affidavit. The car was running, but the air conditioning was turned off and the windows were up.
Miller was suspended with pay for a week starting the day of Nyx’s death, Mills police chief Bryon Preciado said. Miller returned to work following an internal department investigation.
The results of the investigation are not being released by the police department.
The officer is back on active duty and will remain with the department, Preciado said Wednesday.
The affidavit states that Miller arrived at the police department at 5:30 a.m. He left shortly after to respond to a call with the other officer working that day, Jake Bigelow. The two returned to the police department with Nyx in the vehicle about 6 a.m.
The officers went inside the department, leaving the dog in the car, and did not return until about 12:20 p.m. The outside temperature had risen from 53 to 86 degrees, according to the affidavit.
Police dogs are allowed inside the station, Preciado said.
Nyx was a 10-year-old black Lab who had been with the department since 2006. Miller had been her handler for the past two years, during which Nyx lived with his family and went on family vacations.
The department’s K-9 program is being suspended while policies are reviewed, Preciado said.
Local residents protested at the Mills Police Department on Aug. 23, claiming that Natrona County prosecutors should have charged Miller with a felony.
District Attorney Mike Blonigen said in August that prosecutors could not bring more serious charges against the officer because Miller showed no intent to kill the dog.
The Mills Police Department is paying Jensen Art Studio to construct a bronze statue of Nyx, which will be placed in front of the station.
The statue will be unveiled during a public memorial service. Preciado said that service has not yet been scheduled.
Miller was represented by Casper defense attorney Craig Silva. Natrona County Assistant District Attorney Trevor Schenk prosecuted the case.
By Elizabeth Vowell
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -
Two Baton Rouge Police officers and a former officer have been indicted on abuse of power charges related to a sex act.
Isaac Bolden, Travis Wheeler, and Emerson Jackson are accused of walking up to a woman and a man in a parked car at Old Hammond Park earlier this year and forcing the man to leave. Bolden then allegedly had the woman perform a sex act on him.
Police officials say Bolden resigned months ago and the other officers are on leave.
"They're always going to be bad apples in the group. My job as an administrator is to find those bad apples and serve them with the discipline and whatever law they may have broke," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie.
A grand jury handed up charges of abuse of power against all three Wednesday afternoon. District Attorney Hillar Moore explained that charges related to sexual battery did not apply in this case because of issues with consent.
“Based on our review of the law and compared to the facts, the abuse of office was the most proper charge," said Moore.
As for Officers Wheeler and Jackson, Chief Dabadie says they're off the streets for now.
"We are following all the guidelines set forth by law and by state civil service law. We've placed them on administrative leave at this point. They have no policing power at this point. We set forth the civil service procedure for termination," said Dabadie.
If convicted, the charges carry up to five years in jail, with a one year minimum.
"To indict one of your own, police officers, it's just not a good situation, but we have to do what's right for everybody regardless of who they are," said Moore.
Bolden's attorney, John DiGiulio, said his client will plead not-guilty. Wheeler's attorney, Harry Daniels, said his client will also plead not-guilty and that Wheeler was shocked by the indictment. It is unknown if Emerson has representation yet.
Charged with resisting arrest for being outside, unarmed, on own property
Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.
The arrest of a man who videoed police officers violently serving an arrest warrant across the street from his home indicates Americans no longer are masters of their own country, contends a leading constitutional lawyer.
“In fact, you’re not even the servant – you’re the slave,” said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
Rutherford is representing Gresham, Oregon, resident Fred Marlow, 27, who is facing charges and fines of up to $5,000 after his Sept. 2 arrest.
“Clearly, when police officers cease to look and act like civil servants or peace officers but instead look and act like soldiers occupying a hostile territory, it alters their perception of ‘we the people.’ However, those who founded this country believed that we were the masters and that those whose salaries we pay with our hard-earned tax dollars are our servants,” Whitehead said.
“If daring to question, challenge or even hesitate when a cop issues an order can get you charged with resisting arrest or disorderly conduct, you’re not the master in a master-servant relationship. If fact, you’re not even the servant,” he said.
Gresham officials did not return a WND call requesting comment.
Marlow’s video shows what happened:
In a description of the video on YouTube, he said it was about 4 a.m. when the incident began.
“I was laying in my apartment sleeping an[d] I heard multiple bombs blasting and glass breaking and my entire apartment shook repeatedly. I grabbed my iPad and ran outside as fast as I could to see what was going on. There were 5 or more tank/military trucks just cruising through my neighborhood.”
“Read “Police State USA” and find out what’s really going on across the nation.
He said he was “assaulted multiple times, and I feel like it was Gresham police abuse, and my rights were violated.”
Whitehead said his organization decided to help when he discovered Marlow had been arrested, jailed and charged with interfering and resisting arrest for videoing the SWAT team raid.
Marlow argued he was on his own property, was not carrying a weapon and was not interfering.
He was threatened then arrested when he told the officers the video of their actions was being uploaded to the Internet.
The video reveals the officers saying: “Go inside right now. You are interfering right now. You need to go inside right now. It’s a lawful order.”
Marlow pointed out there was no curfew, he was unarmed and he was on his own property.
The Rutherford Institute said its first priority was to arrange legal counsel for Marlow.
By Tracey Kaplan
SAN JOSE -- Ammir Umar was yanked out of his pre-calculus class at Evergreen Community College three years ago on suspicion of selling people empty boxes stuffed with wood he claimed contained TVs, and locked up for almost a month.
The 18-year-old faced more than six years in prison on grand theft and other charges. But prosecutors released Umar 29 days later and dropped the charges after he proved he'd been working at Wal-Mart at the time and that the sworn affidavit by the lead investigator contained misleading statements.
Now, the San Jose City Council is poised Tuesday to approve paying Umar and his lawyers $190,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed claiming those statements by Sgt. Craig Storlie led to his false arrest and imprisonment.
"I hope this is a wake-up call for SJPD," said Umar, 22, who now works at a car rental agency and hopes to open a body shop someday. "I was terrified. I told them I had nothing to do with it and they said, 'If you keep lying, you'll do more time.' "
Storlie is currently one of the two officers in charge of the Police Department's Internal Affairs unit, which investigates allegations of misconduct against cops. He also is one of two chief investigators in the rape-allegations case against officer Geoffrey Graves.
A settlement is not an admission of fault; in risky cases, the City Attorney's Office will advise settling to reduce the city's financial exposure. As a result, Storlie's connection to the Umar matter is not expected to have any effect on Graves' case.
"We don't believe Storlie was negligent and certainly not deceptive," City Attorney Rick Doyle said.
But the settlement comes after U.S. District Judge Howard R. Lloyd denied the city's request to reject the case for lack of merit rather than allowing it to proceed to trial. The judge ruled that "a genuine dispute exists as to whether Storlie engaged in judicial deception causing Umar to be arrested pursuant to an invalid warrant and without probable cause."
San Jose has paid about $27.8 million in the past 10 fiscal years ending in July to settle lawsuits. Claims against police account for about $18 million of that, or 65 percent, according to the City Attorney's Office.
In his six-page order, the judge laid out the series of events that led to the two misleading statements in the affidavit. During the robbery, one of the thieves gave victims a phone number he said they could use to reach him if they had any problems with the purported TV. Storlie tracked the number to a man named Umar Well, who turns out to be linked to paternity cases involving two children, including Ammir Umar.
But Ammir Umar has had virtually nothing to do with Well, who is his father, since Well left the family when Umar was 5 years old. When Umar was 10, he and his younger sister were put into foster care and eventually adopted because of his mother's mental problems, he said.
Although the phone number was linked to Umar Well, Storlie claimed in the sworn affidavit that it was "registered" to Ammir Umar. Well, who is considerably older than the robbers described by victims, is apparently known by several aliases, including Amir Umar, which he spells differently than his son.
Then a photo lineup using five DMV photos, including one of Ammir Umar -- but not of Umar Well -- was put together. Storlie claimed in the affidavit that a witness positively identified Ammir Umar by recognizing his smile.
However, the witness asserted in a sworn declaration submitted in the lawsuit that he only said Umar's smile resembled that of one of the suspects. The witness claimed he repeatedly told Storlie and another unidentified officer that Ammir Umar was not the guy who swindled him. He said the swindler's complexion was "much darker" than Umar's.
Had that information been included in the affidavit, the judge wrote, "A neutral magistrate may well have not found that probable cause existed, and the warrant would not have issued."
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — On August 27th at approximately 8:30 pm, four plain clothes Miami Dade Police officers pulled onto a dead end street in South Dade and arrested three young black men. The scene was captured on video camera.
According to the police report, the three men were arrested because officers claimed to see them passing what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette. When the officers approached, they said they found a marijuana cigarette on the ground near where the men were standing.
They arrested the men for possession of marijuana – a misdemeanor.
Two of the men were released on the spot after signing tickets promising to appear in court.
The third man, Tannie “T-Man” Burke wasn’t given that option. Instead police officers handcuffed him and led him to the back of an unmarked car where he appeared to have trouble finding the door.
“He’s blind dumb***,” the man videotaping the incident is heard saying. “If you don’t tell him he’s walking to the car how the (expletive) is he going to know?”
“T-Man what are they taking you for?” a woman shouts.
“I don’t know,” Burke replies.
Blind since birth, the 21-year-old Burke can’t see anything out of his right eye, and is only able to make out general shapes and lights with his left.
He’s able to navigate around his block in the daytime but is afraid to wander too far at night.
“I’ve got to be with somebody, or I’ve got to call somebody and have them meet me at this spot and I’ll walk with them,” Burke told CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
For 20 minutes Burke estimates the officers drove him around before finally releasing him in a dark and desolate section of South Dade nearly a mile from his home.
“They put me off somewhere in Goulds. There were no street lights and no houses,” he said. “It was just dark.”
CBS4′s Jim DeFede asked, “Did you tell the officers you were blind?”
“Yes I told them in the car I was blind and I couldn’t see,” Burke said.
DeFede then asked, “Did they seem to care?”
“Not that I know of,” he answered. “They put me out somewhere where they aren’t no street lights and no houses.”
Out on the edge of some vacant farm land, they made him sign an arrest form he couldn’t read.
Burke said he asked them to drop him off closer to his house, but they refused.
He had no cell phone. The police had taken it.
DeFede asked, “Were you mad or angry?”
“I was trying to get home. That’s all it was. I was just trying to find my way home,” he said.
Unsure of where to go, Burke started walking. He kept his right foot on the road and his left foot in the weeds to prevent him from wandering into the middle of the street where he might get hit by a car.
“I went down the street until I found some light and I stayed on the same street going back and forth until somebody came,” he said.
Eventually, he came upon a stranger who helped him get home.
“Forty-five minutes to an hour later he comes walking through the door all sweaty up,” said his stepfather, Marvin Armstrong.
“I was like, `How’d you get out?’ He said they released me way in the back,” Armstrong recalled.
Armstrong is Burke’s stepfather and the man behind the camera filming Burke’s arrest and heaping insults on officers.
Burke believes the police took him away as payback for Armstrong’s actions. He said the cops complained about him after they put him in the car.
“They said, `Your stepfather got a lot of mouth. You know we don’t like that,’” he said.
Burke, who has never been convicted of a crime, has been arrested twice and detained by police on more than a dozen other occasions. Being stopped and handcuffed in his neighborhood, he said, is nothing new.
“I feel they stop me because they see a black man walking down the street,” he said. “I don’t know what to say about it. I just feel bad about it. That’s it.”
Last month the misdemeanor marijuana charges were dismissed by prosecutors.
Burke’s family filed a complaint with the Miami Dade Police Department.
A Miami Dade Police spokesman declined to comment on the way its officers treated Tannie Burke, saying the case was now being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.
Medical expense donations for dog close to $5,000 goal
BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
WOODVILLE, Ohio — The owners of a dog shot by the Woodville police K-9 handler say the chocolate Labrador retriever appears happy to be home, but is struggling with pain and may require further hospital stays.
Lauren Bischoff said Friday that 5-year-old Moses has not been able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and whines in pain frequently despite strong medication.
“If it doesn't get better, we might have to take him back,” she said.
Moses had surgery Wednesday at West Suburban Animal Hospital in Sylvania Township to place rods and pins in his right front foreleg. He went home Thursday.
Woodville K-9 Officer Steve Gilkerson on Monday pulled a car over near the Bischoffs’ workplace at Lockport Transportation, 875 E. Main St., just outside the village. Moses is a fixture at the business, and he left the property and walked to the scene of the traffic stop.
Officer Gilkerson, who kept his K-9 partner in his cruiser, said Moses was targeted on him in an unfriendly way and did not respond to being yelled at. Fearing for his safety and that of the two people from the vehicle, who were also standing outside, he fired a single shot at Moses.
The case has become a hotly debated topic, as three witnesses claim Moses was not acting aggressively. The dog also was not properly licensed at the time, nor was he restrained or under an owner or handler’s reasonable control.
An online fund-raiser at GoFundMe.com — “Justice for Moses” — is close to meeting a $5,000 goal. As of this afternoon, nearly 140 people had donated more than $4,700.
“It’s amazing,” Mrs. Bischoff said. “The generosity of the community is incredible. ... I wish I could thank every one of these people individually.”
She said about 60 percent of the people who have donated are people they don’t know. The top donor, who chose to remain anonymous, sent in $345. Some have given just $10, others have stopped by Lockport Transportation to drop off donations, including money and homemade treats for Moses.
“Every little bit helps,” Mrs. Bischoff said. “As far as our bills go, they’re up there.”
Mrs. Bischoff said Moses’ treatment and aftercare, particularly if he would be hospitalized again, may exceed $5,000.
“I don’t see us having any extra right now, but if we do, we wouldn’t pocket it,” Mrs. Bischoff said. “It would go toward something, like a charity.”
Mrs. Bischoff and her husband, Thomas, are getting Moses licensed. Mrs. Bischoff said they plan to file a formal complaint with the police department next week, and she said the three witnesses intend to do so as well soon.
By Luke Broadwater, Mark Puente, The Baltimore Suncontact the reporters
George NilsonPublic OfficialsAnthony BattsStephanie Rawlings-BlakeBaltimore Police Department
Sun investigation prompts city to create police brutality database
Baltimore officials will begin this month posting the outcomes of all civil lawsuits alleging police brutality and will reconsider their policy of requiring plaintiffs to keep silent after settlements are reached — part of a series of changes made in response to a six-month Baltimore Sun investigation of police misconduct.
City Solicitor George Nilson, who enacted the new policy regarding police settlements and court judgments, said officials also would seek to provide increased training for officers who are most often cited in lawsuits. The moves would give the public more information about the lawsuits, he said Thursday, adding, "I want to end the thinking that we're hiding the ball, because we're not."
Nilson said the moves were made in response to The Sun investigation, which showed the city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct. The U.S. Justice Department has since begun a review of the Baltimore Police Department. The investigation revealed that police leaders, city attorneys and other top officials were not keeping track of officers who repeatedly faced such allegations. Meanwhile, judges or prosecutors cleared nearly all of those alleging misconduct of criminal charges in the incidents that led to the lawsuits with the highest payouts.
The Sun's investigation also showed that city policies helped shield the scope and impact of alleged police brutality from the public. For example, settlement agreements include a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statement — or talking to the news media — about the incidents.
After the investigation was published, some members of the City Council said they weren't aware the problem was so widespread.
Some prominent area defense attorneys said Thursday that the nondisclosure clause included in settlement agreements should be eliminated. Someone who violates that clause risks losing part of the monetary settlement. Last month, for example, the city withheld $31,500 from a woman who had posted online comments about an incident; that was about half of her settlement.
A. Dwight Pettit, who frequently represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against police officers, says it appears the city is trying to be more transparent, but he questioned the substance of the changes. The city needs to eliminate the nondisclosure clauses, he said.
"That's a suppression of First Amendment rights," he said. "I don't see any reason for that. That's continued intimidation."
Bryan A. Levitt, who also has represented plaintiffs in such lawsuits, agreed.
"That would be real transparency in government," he said. "There is no reason to keep it a secret. The only reason to do so is self-serving. It establishes a wall between the public and public servants."
Nilson said the online database, which will note the outcome of lawsuits as court decisions and settlements are reached, will allow the public to have a fuller understanding of how often the city wins or loses cases. The database will not include cases already settled, but their outcomes will be available upon request, he added.
In about 70 percent of such lawsuits, the city wins or settles for less than $10,000, he said.
"I'm proud of our record, frankly," Nilson said. "I intend to make sure our wins are robustly posted."
The database will contain summaries of excessive-force lawsuits, similar to the information presented to the Board of Estimates. Some have criticized those summaries because they often omit accusations of police brutality, but city officials argue that many allegations are unfounded.
The city spending panel, controlled by the mayor, must approve all expenditures greater than $25,000. The excessive-force database will include all cases, no matter the size of the settlement, Nilson said.
As part of the new policy, Nilson said, a representative of the Police Department will be invited to attend meetings at which city lawyers discuss whether to settle a case, and officers in need of further training will meet one-on-one with city lawyers.
One example of a "teachable moment," he said, might be the case of an officer who doesn't buckle in a suspect while being transported, then gets in an accident, injuring the suspect. Or an officer who tries to move an injured man without calling for medical help. City lawyers can offer advice on ways to avoid lawsuits, he said.
Nilson said city lawyers would also research nondisclosure clauses in other cities to see whether Baltimore's policies are "fair and consistent with best practices."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she has pushed to make Baltimore's government more transparent since taking office in 2010, including creating the Open Baltimore website, where city salaries, liquor licenses, crime data and other sets of information are routinely posted.
"I was really perplexed that so many elected officials said they had no idea the city has been making these settlements," Rawlings-Blake said. "I want to make sure the public and elected officials have this information. Now there's no excuse for not knowing."
The issue of police brutality has been a prominent topic in the city recently.
On Monday, the City Council overwhelmingly gave preliminary approval to a bill to require all of Baltimore's nearly 3,000 police officers to wear body cameras — despite arguments from the mayor's office that the bill is illegal.
City Councilman Warren Branch, the lead sponsor of the two-page bill, said residents of his district repeatedly asked him to have police wear the cameras to cut down on brutality. As reasons for the proposed law, he has cited questions surrounding the in-custody death last year of Tyrone West and a recent video showing an officer repeatedly punching a suspect, among other cases.
In October, Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts presented a plan to reduce police brutality, calling for increased staff in the Internal Affairs Division, which handles allegations of misconduct, and giving Batts wider authority to quickly punish rogue officers. The plan included the creation of a task force to study the implementation of body cameras.
The Justice Department is in the early stages of conducting its review of the department, an examination made at the request of the mayor and police commissioner.
By ERIC TUCKER Associated Press
Washington - Loretta Lynch was a federal prosecutor in New York City when she encountered an astonishing case of police brutality: the broomstick sodomy of a Haitian immigrant in a precinct bathroom.
The 1997 assault on Abner Louima set off street protests, frayed race relations and led to one of the most important federal civil rights cases of the past two decades - with Lynch a key part of the team that prosecuted officers accused in the beating or of covering it up.
President Barack Obama's nomination of Lynch to be attorney general comes as the department she would take over continues to investigate the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., and seems partly intended to convey the message that police misconduct and civil rights will remain a principal focus even after the departure of Eric Holder.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would be the first black woman in the job and would follow the first black attorney general.
Lynch has overseen corruption, terrorism and gang cases in her years as a federal prosecutor. But it's her involvement some 15 years ago in the Louima prosecution that gave her high-profile experience in step with a core priority of the department.
"It is certainly significant that she has a personal history of involvement in prosecuting police misconduct," said Samuel Bagenstos, the former No. 2 official in the department's civil rights division. "Obviously that will be helpful, and probably suggests that police misconduct cases will continue to be a priority of the Lynch Justice Department just as they were with the Holder Justice Department.
Lawyers say Obama likely selected Lynch, 55, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on the strength of a varied career and stature within the department.
"She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights," Obama said in introducing Lynch at the White House ceremony Saturday.
He said her prosecution of the officers in the Louima case was "one of her proudest achievements."
But there's also no doubt that selecting someone with civil rights experience could reaffirm the government's commitment to that cause. That figures to be an especially important signal to send as community members in Ferguson brace for the real prospect that state and federal investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown will close without criminal charges, outcomes that could disillusion civil rights activists and community members.
Holder has said he expects his federal investigation to conclude before he resigns, but Lynch still would inherit a civil rights probe into the practices of the entire Ferguson Police Department.
That investigation is one of roughly 20 that the Justice Department has initiated into troubled police departments in the past five years, more than twice the number undertaken in the five years before that. Those cases are part of a broader civil rights push - challenging strict state voter identification laws and promoting changes in how federal prosecutors negotiate sentences, among other efforts - likely to help shape Holder's legacy.
Holder's supporters will expect Lynch to continue that work, though her experience in two different stints as U.S. attorney goes well beyond that.
Her office, which encompasses Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island, won convictions in a thwarted plot to bomb the city's subway system, successfully prosecuted a New York state assemblyman caught accepting bribes in a sting operation and, more recently, filed tax evasion charges against Republican Rep. Michael Grimm. She's also worked closely with Justice Department leadership by heading a U.S. attorneys committee that advises Holder on policy.
But it was the case of Louima, tortured with a broken broomstick on a bathroom floor, that elevated her profile as a trial attorney. In a Senate questionnaire for the job of U.S. attorney, she placed the case second - behind only a sexual harassment matter involving a city councilman - in a list of the most significant cases she personally handled.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, a trial team member, recalled how Lynch generously gave him - a more junior prosecutor - the responsibility of delivering opening statements in the case while she worked to craft the strategy and narrative that would be presented to the jury.
During the first trial in 1999, which ended with mixed verdicts, Lynch and the prosecution team hammered the officers for hiding behind a "blue wall of silence."
"Don't let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up," she told jurors.
Alan Vinegrad, who succeeded Lynch as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District and worked alongside her on the Louima case, recalled her as diligent and thorough prosecutor who made a compelling final argument to the jury.
"She had to get up and respond to all the arguments of five different lawyers made over a day about why all their clients were not guilty of anything," Vinegrad said. "She had to pretty quickly decide, "OK, what are the important arguments. How do I respond to them persuasively?"'
Lynch was U.S. attorney from 1999 to 2001, as the Louima case slogged through the courts on appeals and new trials. She left for private practice before being nominated in 2010, this time by Obama, to run the office again.
Lynch, who grew up in Greensboro, N.C., "rode on her father's shoulders to his church, where students would meet to organize anti-segregation boycotts," Obama said. "She was inspired by stories about her grandfather, a sharecropper in the 1930s, who helped folks in his community who got in trouble with the law and had no recourse under the Jim Crow system."
The president said Lynch "has spent her life fighting for fair and equal justice that is the foundation of our democracy."
BUFFALO POLICE HAVE OPENED FIRE ON 92 DOGS SINCE 2011, KILLING THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEM. IS IT TIME TO START TRAINING?
Danny Spewak and Megan Blarr , WGRZ
Buffalo police have opened fire on 92 dogs since 2011, killing the vast majority of them.
On June 3, 2013, an unfortunate but familiar sequence of events unfolded.
The Buffalo Police Department executed a search warrant at an apartment on Breckenridge Street on the city's West Side, looking for drugs. Upon entry, officers encountered a dog, described in this particular incident report as "an aggressive pit bull type." One officer fired his shotgun three times. The dog died.
Cindy was two years old, not even fifty pounds heavy. Adam Arroyo, an Iraq War veteran, adopted her when she was only six months old.
"These animals," Arroyo said, "they become like part of your family."
That week, Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda launched an internal investigation into Cindy's death, following accusations that his officers had accidentally raided the wrong apartment and should never have confronted Cindy in the first place. The case received major local media attention— one of the few dog-shooting cases to make headlines in Western New York.
But these are not uncommon scenarios. According to use of force reports requested by WGRZ-TV under the Freedom of Information Law, Buffalo Police shot at 92 dogs from Jan. 1, 2011 through Sept. 2014. Seventy-three of those dogs died. Nineteen survived. In comparison, Buffalo's numbers more than triple the amount of dog shooting incidents involving police in Cincinnati, a municipality of similar size. The New York City Police Department, the nation's largest force, reported killing half as many dogs as the Buffalo Police Department in its two most recent annual discharge reports.
"The numbers are what the numbers are," Buffalo Police Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards said. "Certainly, no officer takes any satisfaction in having to dispatch a dog."
During the time period analyzed by WGRZ-TV, one individual officer shot 26 dogs, killing nearly all of them. In the years 2011 and 2012 alone, this officer killed as many dogs in the line of duty as the entire NYPD.
The Buffalo Police Department does not train specifically for canine encounters, according to Richards, even though dozens of other police departments across the United States have recently implemented new training procedures to deal with dogs. Unlike other departments, officers in Buffalo do not use Tasers, spray or other tools to contain animals in a non-lethal manner.
"It has not come to that point in Buffalo," Richards said, "that we've implemented any of those other techniques."
Under departmental protocol, Buffalo Police may legally use their firearms "if the officer or another person is in the process of being attacked by an animal and is in imminent danger." In the case of Cindy, police simply noted in their incident report that the dog was "aggressive," a word which appears dozens of times in the use of force records.
Many of the 92 shootings in Buffalo occurred during high-intensity raids and search warrant executions, which often involve split-second decisions and fast-paced pursuits of armed and dangerous subjects. In some cases, these criminals train their dogs – usually pit bulls -- to protect themselves and threaten law enforcement.
Sometimes, a police officer has no choice but to fire his weapon.
"It's a small percentage of the number of total search warrants executed or actions taken by police," Richards said, noting the department responds to about 1,000 calls per day and has already carried out 357 search warrants this year.
Not every call involved a search warrant. According to a November 2011 incident report, Buffalo Police responded with a dogcontrol officer to an intersection on the East Side, where two dogs had apparently killed another dog. When the police arrived, one of those dogs charged an officer, at which point he fired a fatal shot.
In January 2011, two officers opened fire on two large black dogs in the back lot of the police station after they began to "bark and charge." The officers fired one shot each— both missed. The dogs ran away. And in December 2012, an officer responded to a call at a residence near Delaware Park, which claimed a man was preparing to shoot a dog in the yard. When the officer arrived, the pit bull then "started charging at the officer," prompting the officer to fire a round and kill the dog.
Buffalo Police have shot an average of 24 dogs per year since 2011, a pace of one dog roughly every two weeks. Due to the lack of a national record-keeping system, however, it's difficult to compare Buffalo's numbers to other municipalities.
Cincinnati Police provided WGRZ-TV with a copy of its use of force records, which revealed officers had shot 27 dogs from Jan. 1, 2011 through Sept. 2014.
The New York City Police Department produces an annual discharge report, publishing its most recent version in 2012. According to those reports, the NYPD shot 72 dogs in 2011 and 2012, but fewer than 30 percent of those cases (21) resulted in fatalities. Buffalo Police – which has a fatality rate of 79 percent since 2011 in officer-involved dog shootings – killed twice as many dogs as the NYPD in that two-year span.
Of course, for every Cincinnati and New York City, there are also cities like Milwaukee, where a lawsuit cited by the Associated Press revealed the police department shot nearly 50 dogs per year from 2000 to 2008. In Southwest Florida, the News-Press discovered 111 instances of dog shootings among multiple agencies between 2009 and 2012, representing about 37 per year. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Police shot approximately 90 dogs per year between 2008 and 2013.
Dr. Randall Lockwood, a senior vice president for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has studied police dog shooting incidents in hundreds of municipalities, dating back more than a decade.
"Your information from Buffalo, unfortunately, isn't that unusual for some cities, particularly where there hasn't been training," Lockwood said.
Although it's impossible to create an official tally of nationwide dog shootings, it's apparent through social media that these cases occur quite often. Using Facebook, dog owners can often rally tens of thousands of supporters after police shoot their dogs, which has helped lead to widespread departmental change in some instances. In Colorado, for example, a string of officer-involved dog shootings collected major media attention and, eventually, led to a new state law requiring police officers to undergo canine training. Illinois passed a similar law last year, and legislation has surfaced in several other states addressing dog shootings by law enforcement.
Former police officer Jim Osorio now trains law enforcement
Former police officer Jim Osorio now trains law enforcement with live dogs to help prepare them for canine encounters in the line of duty.
In Cleburne, Texas, the public has rallied this fall for Justice for Maximus. A police body camera recorded an officer shooting and killing Maximus the Pit Bull, which spurred an investigation. In the midst of the public outcry, the department has enlisted the help of Jim Osorio, a former police officer and one of the nation's most renowned experts on police canine encounters.
Osorio, author of "Surviving the Canine Encounter" and an instructor for Canine Encounters Law Enforcement Training, will teach officers in Cleburne non-lethal methods for controlling dogs in the line of duty. Using a live dog, he'll show officers how to read dogs' facial expressions, how to approach dogs and how to use spray, Tasers, batons or other tools to safely fend off a threat.
Osorio has traveled the country to implement this same training. He said he's trained countless officers in places like Ithaca, N.Y., Atlanta, Ga., Texas, Washington, Idaho, Indiana and California.
"I felt the need that police officers need better interaction with dogs on the street," Osorio said, "other than just taking out a gun and shooting them."
Lockwood said it's time for every department to get on board.
"Unfortunately, it usually takes a high-profile incident, something that's gone viral, gone public, or a lawsuit, to really have this taken seriously," Lockwood said. "But that's changing. We're now seeing police departments who are looking at this kind of training. Proactively, and pre-emptively, they recognize that it's an important part of community-oriented policing."
Buffalo has not implemented this training, according to Chief Richards.
"I don't know if that would be a recommended course of action. Have you heard of that?" Richards said. "No, I don't believe I've ever heard of using live animals to illustrate how an officer should react."
“The message would be just do your investigation correctly, realize what you're doing, and maybe have animal control or some type of non-lethal method to extract these dogs.”
Adam Arroyo was at work when police raided his apartment last June. He claims he chained Cindy before he left that morning.
When he returned home that evening, he discovered bullet holes in his dry wall, not to mention the remnants of Cindy's chain and toys. But he didn't find Cindy's body. After police killed her, Animal Control immediately transported her to the animal shelter. From there, Arroyo cremated her.
According to Arroyo, his apartment complex has two units in the upper section. He believes police intended to raid his neighbor's apartment, but instead barged through his door and shot Cindy.
"We should not get the wrong apartment. I can't justify getting the wrong apartment," Commissioner Derenda told reporters that week in a press conference. "We are looking into what took place. If something took place that shouldn't have taken place, then people will be held accountable."
More than a year later, the Buffalo Police Department declined to provide WGRZ-TV with an update on the internal investigation. Arroyo has since moved out of his apartment.
"How would they feel if somebody ran into their house and did that to them?" Arroyo said. "The message would be, just do your investigation correctly, realize what you're doing, and maybe have animal control or some type of non-lethal method to extract these dogs."
On the early morning of July 29, 2014, Buffalo Police assisted on a raid in West Seneca. Same scenario: executing a search warrant, digging for drugs.
"I pretty much heard the two shots," said Ronnie Raiser III, who had just awoken in his bedroom when the officers entered his home. "After the first shot, I heard the dog squeal."
Two Buffalo police officers shot and killed 15-month-old
Two Buffalo police officers shot and killed 15-month-old Rocky during a raid in West Seneca last summer. Rocky's owner, Ron, has since filed a complaint against the department.
During the raid, police killed Raiser's one-year-old pit bull, Rocky. The department's incident report once again described the dog as "aggressive."
Raiser has filed a formal complaint with the Buffalo Police Department and the West Seneca Police Department, alleging excessive force and civil rights violations. In the complaint, Raiser claims the officers raided the home looking for Ecstasy. Insead, he said officers only found a small stash of his roommate's marijuana.
"Not only did they not find any of the items listed in the warrant," the complaint states, "they shot and killed my 15-month-old dog Rocky."
Raiser plans to eventually file a notice of claim.
"I bawled my eyes out," Raiser said. "It's hard. It really is."
According to the use of force reports obtained by 2 On Your Side, the same police officer involved in the raid of Raiser's home also shot Arroyo's dog, Cindy, back in 2013. This is also the same officer who, as previously mentioned, shot 26 dogs in a three-and-a-half year span, more than any other officer in the department.
Richards explained that some officers act as the lead for the entry team during raids, which could place certain individuals in position to encounter aggressive dogs more often than others.
"It's a very dangerous job," Richards said, "and per capita, the amount of work that we do, the amount of search warrants executed, the amount of calls answered by individual officers, I think the numbers are what the numbers are."
Twenty-five of the 26 dogs shot by this officer died. In fact, more than three-quarters of the dogs shot by Buffalo Police died from their wounds. In Cincinnati and New York City, fewer than half of the dog shootings resulted in death.
Richards said he couldn't explain the high percentage of fatalities. In Cincinnati, the police department's policy explicitly directs officers not to take head shots at dogs, if possible.
Chief Richards said the Buffalo Police Department would consider using non-lethal tools to contain dogs, noting that his department has researched other cities before for feedback.
"We're always willing to look at other tools available and other technology available and other ways of doing business," Richards said. "Tasers have come up in the past from time to time – the use of Tasers – but I think they're still a controversial topic."
In New York City, written procedures direct officers to "attempt to prevent an animal attack using non-lethal options, including batons and OC spray." The ASCPA considers the NYPD a shining example of a progressive police department as it perains to animal protocol.
"We have been involved in training NYPD officers for many years," Lockwood said. "On a per capita basis, New York is far lower in incidents than that of lot of other cities."
For Buffalo, the department will have to live with its own number: 92 dog shootings in three-and-a-half years. Seventy-three fatalities.
"It's nothing to be happy about when a dog has to be let go. But, again, we should stress that it's the owners of those dogs. It's the drug dealer that is putting that dog in harm's way," Richards said.
On June 3, 2013, the search warrant of the Breckenridge apartment on the West Side yielded no drugs, Arroyo said.
"Cindy was the first dog that was mine… she was actually my dog. First dog ever, and she was a great dog," Adam Arroyo said. "She was friendly. All the kids in the neighborhood used to come up and pet her. She wasn't a threat, you know?"
Photojournalists Franco Ardito, Scott May, Dave Harrington, Dooley O'Rourke, J.T. Messinger and Ben Read contributed to this report.