By Tom Jackman
A 13th month has now come and gone in the remarkable saga of the Fairfax County police killing of unarmed citizen John Geer. Still no information has been released about how or why a Fairfax police officer gunned down Geer as he stood in the doorway of his Springfield home in August 2013, or why authorities didn’t render aid to him for an hour. Federal authorities who were handed the case eight months ago, apparently have not been shown any movement in their investigation.
Last month, after Geer’s longtime partner spoke publicly for the first time and filed a lawsuit against the police, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors got together and fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney Dana Boente. It is published for the first time below. In it, the board politely asks the federal prosecutor to please resolve this thing, one way or the other.
The U.S. attorney did not favor the supervisors with a reply, county officials said, and a spokesman for Boente said Tuesday his office still could not comment on the case. Witnesses to the shooting, to include Geer’s father and Geer’s best friend, were interviewed months ago by federal agents and prosecutors, but have not been contacted to testify before a grand jury. There do not appear to be any answers coming any time soon.
“The Board certainly understands your obligation to conduct a thorough review and investigation,” board Chairman Sharon Bulova wrote to Boente, “and by no means does the Board wish for your decision to be hasty or made without consideration of all of the relevant facts and information.” The supervisors, however, “would like to express to you the importance of a resolution of this matter,” Bulova wrote, “as that will go a long way towards allowing our citizens to have faith in the process by which police shooting incidents are investigated.”
Speaking of which, Geer’s father has also written a letter. Don Geer, who watched the officer shoot his son and has now waited in vain to find out who did it and why, has added his voice to those calling for an independent agency to review Fairfax police shootings. His letter is in the second document reader below. The Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability has been lobbying for this since 2010, several months after the killing of unarmed motorist David Masters on Route 1 by Fairfax Officer David Scott Ziants. The families of Masters and Salvatore Culosi, the unarmed optometrist shot and killed by Officer Deval Bullock in 2006, also support an independent review authority, and their letters follow Don Geer’s letter. The Fairfax supervisors have shown no interest in establishing any independent review provcess.
“We have now spent thirteen frustrating months,” Geer wrote, “trying to acquire information as to who, why, etc. John was killed. So far there appears to be no justice for John. It is obvious that the present methods used by Fairfax County in cases involving a police shooting do not meet the needs of the family or the public.”
By Michael Roberts Thu., Oct. 9 2014 at 6:33 AM
In the wake of well-publicized troubles involving multiple Denver police officers, the city's Department of Safety has been making a very public display of disciplining cops for behavior deemed over-the-line. Latest example: Ricardo Damian, an officer who's served more than two decades with the DPD, has been suspended for using homophobic and otherwise offensive language against female colleagues, including one he allegedly referred to as a "dyke bitch." Photos and details below.
The story was first reported by CBS4, which notes that Damian has been on the Denver force since 1991 and has what's termed "no significant disciplinary history."
However, an order penned by Deputy Director of Safety Jess Vigil and obtained by the station suggests that Damian's view of homosexuals doesn't tilt toward quietly accepting their lifestyle.
The report notes that an internal police investigation was launched after a pair of crime scene investigators complained about Damian's allegedly frequent anti-gay remarks. For instance, he's said to have referred to one female colleague as a "dyke bitch" and another as a "bitch" or a "fucking bitch" every time he heard their voices on the police radio.
A third staffer confirmed hearing Damian refer to a co-worker as "that dyke," as well as what CBS4 delicately describes as "crude phrases referring to sexual orientation."
Likewise, other witnesses quoted Damian as ridiculing same-sex marriage, ripping another employee's sexual orientation and wondering aloud "who the man in the relationship was and about whether or not (she) and her partner used 'toys' during sex."
When quizzed by investigators, Damian didn't exactly deny voicing such comments. An excerpt from the report reads: "Officer Damian admitted that he called (another employee) a 'dyke bitch' on a few occasions...and claimed that (she) had referred to herself as a 'dyke' in the past. He admitted saying some things that he 'isn't proud of' but claimed that he was never told by anyone that they were offended."
Indeed, he referred to his takes as "friendly banter" -- a characterization contradicted by at least one of the officers who complained about his behavior. That person said the comments didn't seem to have been stated "in jest or in a joking manner."
Vigil ultimately sided with Damian's accusers. In the order, he writes: "Officer Damian repeatedly, and over the course of several months, made repugnant, offensive and derogatory remarks in the workplace. He breached the trust that was placed upon him by the department and he abused the authority he was given when he made the inappropriate, derogatory, biased and discriminatory remarks about...gender and sexual orientation" -- comments he dubbed "inexcusable."
As such, Damian has been slapped with two ninety-day suspensions to run concurrently, meaning he'll be off the job for three months total. That should give him time to come to terms with the reality that same-sex marriage became the law in Colorado this week.
By Olivia Demarinis
Animal advocates are raising awareness about the high rates of law enforcement officers who shoot pet dogs while answering calls on duty.
Several pet owners are suing police departments and state legislatures for their mistreatment of their animals.
While there is no official data on how often these killings occur in the U.S., media reports suggest that at least a few dozen pets are killed each year, but many activists suspect more go unreported. Outcry against these senseless killings say that it is an abuse of power by the police and officials should be better trained to deal with pets in the line of duty.
An argument citing a violation of the Fourth Amendment was upheld when a San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels sued the police department and city in 2005 for killing members' dogs during a gang raid in 1998. In federal appeals, a judge found that "the Fourth Amendment forbids the killing of a person's dog ... when that destruction is unnecessary." The Hells Angels won $1.8 million in damages.
Animal-rights activists are concurrently lobbying for increased pet training for police officers. Illinois and Colorado have already implemented some measures to reduce dog shootings, other states are currently considering such legislation.
In 2011, the Department of Justice published a report on police incidents involving dogs along with advice on how to avoid killing the animals.
"It's much more likely that a cop is going to encounter a dog than a terrorist, yet there's no training," Ledy Van Kavage, an attorney for the advocacy group Best Friends Animal Society, said. "If you have a fear or hatred of dogs, then you shouldn't be a police officer, just like if you have a hatred of different social groups."
Police say a Pueblo sergeant is recovering after he accidentally shot himself in the leg following a foot chase.
DENVER (AP) - Police say a Pueblo sergeant is recovering after he accidentally shot himself in the leg following a foot chase.
The Denver Post reports officers stopped a driver for speeding Wednesday afternoon and the passenger - a suspect in several pending cases - fled.
Police say the sergeant was holstering his gun after the chase when he accidentally shot himself. He was treated at a nearby hospital and released.
The suspect, 37-year-old Victor Gomez, was arrested on charges of criminal impersonation, resisting arrest, eluding and trespass.
Bradley District Attorney to handle rape case in Chattanooga tied to police officer
Steve Crump will drive into town from Cleveland, Tenn., to prosecute the Chattanooga rape case that has one local police officer's job in jeopardy.
Crump, the district attorney in Tennessee's 10th Judicial District, was asked to handle the case of James Leon Works Jr. after prosecutors here recused themselves. Crump usually prosecutes cases in Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.
But Works' case required a district attorney from outside Chattanooga because prosecutors here have a longstanding working relationship with Karl Fields, the lead investigator on the Works case. Fields is accused of pursuing a sexual relationship with the victim. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Fields broke any laws while investigating Works' case.
On Sept. 4, the alleged victim in the case gave Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston a collection of text messages from a man identifying himself as Karl Fields. In the messages sent from June through August, the man asks the victim to send him naked pictures and have sex with him.
The woman met Fields after she said Works brutally beat her. For two days in May, she said, Works locked her in a Chattanooga motel, punched her, kicked her, stomped her, dragged her by the hair, forced her to take methamphetamine, raped her and urinated on her.
Chattanooga police arrested Works in June on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and rape. His attorney, public defender Blake Murchison, did not return several calls seeking comment.
But during Works' court appearance Thursday morning, Murchison told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman that Crump would be prosecuting the case from that point.
Crump was not at the hearing Thursday, but he confirmed that he will be taking the case. He said the District Attorneys General Conference -- the administrative office for all of Tennessee's local prosecutors -- assigned him to the case late last week.
Crump said he will need some time to catch up on the ins and outs of the investigation.
"I don't know anything about the case yet," he said, "other than I've been asked [to prosecute it]."
Works is next due in court for a status hearing on Nov. 3.
Former Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Indicted for Sexual Assault While on Duty
U.S. Department of Justice September 24, 2014 • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888
WASHINGTON—Former Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Willie Greer, 33, was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty on Jan. 5, 2014, the Justice Department announced.
Greer was charged with a civil rights violation for sexually assaulting the victim, which violated her constitutional due process rights to bodily integrity, kidnapping, carrying a firearm during and in relation to the sexual assault and possessing a firearm in further of the crime.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Brooks of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Saeed Mody.
This content has been reproduced from its original source.
By Kaitlyn Naples
ENFIELD, CT (WFSB) -
Last week an Enfield police officer was fired in a department brutality case and now two more have been suspended.
An Enfield police officer who was accused of using excessive force during an arrest in April has been fired.More >
An Enfield police officer who was accused of using excessive force during an arrest in April has been fired.More >
This all stems back to an incident in April where a video showed a man being repeatedly punched by a police officer.
In a 35-page report the investigation concluded that the man was beaten up and did nothing to provoke it.
After the investigation determined there was an act of police brutality, one Enfield officer was fired and two others were suspended.
Mark Maher has a scar above his eye after being beaten up by a police officer. Maher and three others were in a car parked at the town's boat launch when they were approached by police.
A dash cam inside of the police cruiser captured pictures of Maher being punched several times by officer Matthew Worden, even though Maher was being restrained by two other officers.
Maher was arrested for assaulting an officer, but the charges were dropped.
“All of them that were there - they did nothing to stop it - they stood there and let it happen. They are there to protect and serve and they didn't,” Maher said.
Enfield's police chief said the officers were justified in questioning Maher and the others in the vehicle, but not in their use of force.
Officer Jaime Yott has been suspended for 60 days for neglect and inattention to duty. The investigation found that her police report lacked details and that she failed to write her use of force in the report based on her own observations.
Officer Michael Emons has been suspended for 90 days for violating ethics codes, conduct unbecoming of an officer, using unnecessary force on another person in the car and for turning in a report containing inaccuracies.
"I know there are good cops out there - it's just that when something like this happens it really makes people concentrate on all of the bad,” Maher added.
Enfield's police chief said that out of 150 calls for service over the past three years, the department has only investigated 16 internal affairs complaints.
Maher is suing the department.
By Dylan Stableford
A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses Indiana police of excessive force after officers smashed a woman's car window with children inside, tased an unarmed passenger and dragged him out of the vehicle during a routine traffic stop last month.
Police say they feared the passenger might have a weapon, after he refused to step out of the vehicle and reached toward the rear seats.
The incident was captured on video both by police and by the alleged victims. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 24, Hammond police pulled over Lisa Mahone as she drove with a friend, Jamal Jones, and her two children, ages 7 and 14, to visit her mother in the hospital.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Indiana, an officer told Mahone she was being pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt and asked to see both her driver's license and Jones's identification. Mahone produced her license, but Jones told the officer he did not have his license because he had been ticketed for not paying his insurance, and offered to show them the ticket. The officer refused, according to Jones, and ordered him to step out of the car. According to the suit, Jones refused, fearing "the officers would harm him."
But Hammond police say Jones "refused to lower the window more than a small amount" and refused to provide his name. The officer then called for backup, requesting a video-equipped squad car.
It was around this time, police say, that Mahone shifted the car into drive. When officers warned her they had placed in front of the vehicle a "stop strip" that would puncture her tires, she pleaded with them to let her go.
By Rudabeh Shahbazi
Oxnard police say they're making some changes following a deadly officer-involved shooting that they call a case of mistaken identity.
Family members of Alfonso Limon Jr. previously reached a $6.7 million settlement with the city. That settlement included establishing a day of commemoration for Limon, who was mistakenly shot to death by police in 2012.
At a press conference on Tuesday, police and city officials announced steps they're taking to try to bridge the relationship with the community.
At the event, Oxnard Police Department Chief Jeri Williams announced that Oct. 13 will now be known as "Community Safety and Anti-Violence Day" in honor of the 21-year-old.
"We are committed to healing process through the open and effective dialogue and lastly it is my hope, it is our hope, that by all of us working together, in Alfonso Limon Jr.'s memory that we will achieve that goal," Williams said.
City officials also invited community involvement and discussion and said they're working to implement body cameras on police officers.
Also, a memorial plaque will be going up in Limon's honor. But Limon's family says nothing will ever be enough.
"I don't think there's ever going to be anything that's going to make a difference for us. There hasn't been any real accountability," said Rebecca Limon, Limon's sister. "You heard that the district attorney didn't go with charging these officers, and it's tough to hear because we lost our loved one."
Community activists held their own press conference afterward, saying the officers on the street are poorly trained and not held accountable. Citing other officer-involved shootings in Oxnard, they're calling for a citizen's oversight committee.
"We've always been advocates of entering and engaging in discussions with our community to make the city safe. That being said, I don't believe we need civilian oversight in the Oxnard Police Department. The community and the City Council are our true oversight," Williams said.
Limon's sister said cameras are a good first step, but she said much more is needed to solve the problem.
"You've seen in other cases, where they do have body-worn cameras in other police departments, and the evidence magically disappears or the video stopped recording," she said. "So we do need something to monitor those body cameras as well."
The officers involved in Limon's shooting were placed on paid administrative leave. All but one officer, who is retired, is back at work at the Oxnard Police Department.
By Ryan Boetel / Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry plans to let a bill that would create a new external oversight system for the Albuquerque Police Department become law, according to his spokeswoman.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill is a major step in the right direction. But the Albuquerque Police Officers Association said it “threatens the rights of police officers” and “poses significant liability issues for the city.”
The mayor plans to take no action on the bill, mayoral spokeswoman Breanna Anderson said, meaning it will be enacted by Monday unless he changes his mind and vetoes it over the weekend.
The measure would create a Civilian Police Oversight Agency, which would be funded from one-half of 1 percent of APD’s budget, and be separate from City Hall and the City Council.
The agency would answer to a board that would replace the Police Oversight Commission. The board would comprise nine members approved by the council.
The agency and the board would investigate civilian complaints against officers, internal affairs complaints and use-of-force incidents, which include officer-involved shootings.
The board would then make recommendations to the chief of police on officer discipline after reviewing those cases. If the chief does not follow the recommended discipline, he would have to give his reasons in writing within 30 days.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU in New Mexico, said he does have concerns that the new bill would cause the board to focus on citizen complaints instead of examining bigger policy or systemic issues facing the department. Because the agency and the board are tasked with reviewing all civilian complaints against officers, he questioned whether they would have time to analyze bigger issues.
“In my opinion, it’s a major step in the right direction,” Simonson said. “My hope is that the community will keep engaged, and monitor how it’s doing and advocate for improvements.”
Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Stephanie Lopez said some aspects of the bill conflict with policies in the contract between the APOA and the city.
“The APOA urges the Mayor and his people to take an extra careful look at this proposal,” Lopez said in a statement. “We believe it not only threatens the rights of police officers, but poses significant liability issues for the city.”
She said in an interview that the union’s biggest concern is that the board would have access to statements officers make under what is known as “Garrity” protection. That means the statements can be used only during an administrative review and not in a criminal trial.
The bill, which was sponsored by Councilors Rey Garduño, a Democrat, and Brad Winter, a Republican, states that the Department of Justice found that APD’s “external oversight system contributed to overall systemic problems with APD’s use-of-force encounters with citizens.”
Following the events that occurred in Ferguson, Mo.—wherein a police officer shot and killed an unarmed teen, 18-year-old Michael Brown—there's been much nationwide conversation about reforming police procedures and policies. But in D.C., this has been an issue in communities long before the tragic deaths of Brown and Trayvon Martin.
For years, statistics have revealed a great racial disparity in arrest rates in D.C. In 2011, 91 percent of all drug-related arrests were of black people, despite roughly equal reported usage rates among races. And the statistics don't stop there. Recent studies conducted by the Washington Lawyers' Committee further cement a disturbing truth: black communities in D.C. are being disproportionately targeted by the Metropolitan Police Department.
While the city has taken measures to help alleviate these statistics—decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and, most recently, introducing a pilot program that requires some D.C. cops to wear body cameras—many residents agree that a lot more needs to be done. Last night, at a Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety public oversight hearing at Howard University's School of Business, nearly 30 people testified in front of Councilmembers Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) about the state of police policies and procedures in the District of Columbia. Their message was uniform: things need to change.
Specifically, last night's hearing focused on a few MPD practices that are the source of trouble for communities in D.C.: stop-and-frisk; jump-outs; and the egregious use of SWAT-like teams. For those unfamiliar with these practices, a stop-and-frisk is when an officer stops a pedestrian and frisks them on suspicion that they may be in possession of drugs or weapons. Jump-outs refers to uniformed arrest teams that speed into an area and make mass arrests of that area as quickly as possible. While SWAT and SWAT-like teams are generally reserved for high-violent situations, such as a shooter barricading himself in a house, many say that SWAT-like MPD teams are being used egregiously, for simple tasks like serving warrants.
In a press conference before yesterday's hearing, Wells, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, praised the new body camera pilot program, calling it a "great first step" towards reform, but agreed that more needs to be done. "There is no question that there is a deep racism here,” Wells later said during the hearing. And his fellow Councilmembers agreed. McDuffie, a D.C. native, said he's been unfairly stopped and frisked by police so many times in his life that he's lost count.
“We are told we have rights, but we know, as black men, we don’t actually have those rights," said Jamal Muhammad, a public witness and member of We Act Radio. "I can’t say [to police] 'what are you pulling me over for?' There’s going to be different consequences...because we know that might be the last question we get to ask. That needs to change.”
While there was no doubt that a change needs to take place, the big question lingering over the hearing was "how?
“There is no one implementation to cure the problems, it will take time," Seema Sadanandan of the ACLU said during her testimony. Both the ACLU and the NAACP are working with the Council to develop legislative proposals to help reform police practices.
Among those proposals includes educating officers on proper police procedures, eliminating unlawful stop-and-frisk, jump-outs, and use of SWAT-like teams, and implementing ways to hold officers accountable for their actions. “We don’t need a little change, we need a lot of change on a lot of different fronts," said Patrice Sulton, Esq. of the NAACP's D.C. branch. "The NAACP won’t settle for anything less.”
But for many witnesses who testified at the hearing, the idea holding officers accountable for their actions is most important. "We need to see some type of service punishment, for once," said one witness, outraged that officers who accidentally shoot unarmed suspects aren't rightly punished. "Fear is not an excuse to take another person’s life," he added. "If you think so, you need another job."
A second hearing is scheduled to take place in the Wilson Building on October 27, where MPD officers will testify.
By Brad Devereaux
SAGINAW, MI — A bill that would give a Michigan agency the power to make rules for reserve police officers has cleared the Michigan Senate by a unanimous vote.
The bill to grant oversight of reserve officers is a "step in the right direction" that has been needed for a long time, the president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Michigan says.
Sen. Tonya SchuitmakerMLive/Kalamazoo Gazette file photo
Senate Bill 411, introduced by Tonya Schuitmaker in June 2013, updates responsibilities of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement (MCOLES) and allows the agency to create rules regarding "minimum standards and procedures for reserve officers."
It passed through the committee on judiciary in June 2013 and was referred to the committee of the whole. With every member of the Senate voting on Sept. 23, it passed on a 38-0 roll call vote and was sent to the House and read a first time that same day, then sent to the House Committee on Judiciary.
Schuitmaker, R-Antwerp Township, said the part of the bill that gives the the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards was included at the request of MCOLES and the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Michigan and is intended to keep reserve officers in check from going above and beyond the scope of their allowed duties.
Dave LaMontaine, a Monroe County sheriff's deputy and the president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Michigan, said a change regarding reserve officers has been needed for a long time.
Senate Bill 411 is "a step in the right direction," he said.
"There's widespread abuse," he said of reserve officers in Michigan. "That bill is not going to fix the problem, but it's a good start."
One of the primary issues is licensing, he said, noting hairdressers, doctors, lawyers and others have to be licensed, but reserve officers do not. LaMontaine said he wants the state to require licensing of reserve officers, though the bill does not specifically call for that.
An important part of the bill is that it gives the deputy sheriff's association a seat on the MCOLES board, "and we'll continue the discussion on licensing," he said. "We're going to talk about it every time we can."
The association has been in talks with Gov. Rick Snyder and his staff, LaMontaine said, and working closely with him on the issues including oversight of reserve officers.
Currently, police chiefs and governments of municipalities where reserve officers operate have full control of how their reserve forces are run.
LaMontaine views the proper way to run a reserve unit as the way Monroe County does. A collective bargaining agreement there states a reserve officer must be directly supervised by a sworn officer.
"They're meant to augment, they're not meant to replace licensed police officers," he said, noting there is potential for other types of abuse without more oversight.
Explaining to citizens that he is a licensed police officer is not something he wants to have to deal with while out doing his job.
"I don't want a person I'm having contact with question whether I'm a police officer or not. It's not a conversation we need to be having with people," he said. "We don't want people to question whether we're a real police officer, or somebody's uncle."
MCOLES having oversight of reserve officers would guarantee a vetting process that will allow the agency to know what reserve officers' training processes are and what they can and cannot do, he said.
"It will legitimize who these people are," LaMontaine said, which is different from the current model. "Who are they? I don't know."
"The problem we have right now is there is no oversight. We don't know where these people came from, we don't know what training they got."
He said some reserve officers are out at sporting events and they often look the same as licensed police officers.
"At a Detroit Tigers game or a Lions game, you think you're seeing a Wayne County sheriff's deputy," he said, but some are reserve officers. "It's frightening to me as a licensed and certified police officer.
"We're not there, but we're moving in the right direction," he said. "And it's for the first time ever. I've been in law enforcement for 26 years. It's been an issue for
us for a long time."
Michigan police reserve units face scrutiny
LaMontaine called the situation in Oakley, where there is a police department that includes about 100 reserve officers for a village of nearly 300 people in southwest Saginaw County, "probably an example of pretty significant abuse," but did not give specifics. "There are others, too."
In Saginaw County in July, MCOLES and the Michigan Attorney General's Office began an investigation of the village of Oakley, several months after a Saginaw News series revealed the village was being dropped from its insurance coverage through the Michigan Municipal League.
Oakley Chief of Police Robert Reznick operates a police force with about a dozen certified officers.
The league cited rthe Oakley Police Department's lack of cooperation in the league's risk management efforts as one reason to drop the insurance.
The Saginaw News broke the news about the controversy in an ongoing series published starting in March called, "Small Town, Big Problem."