From The Washington Post/ Tom Jackman
Lawyers for the family of John Geer said they had heard of no progress in the federal investigation into his slaying. The family filed suit against the Fairfax County police last month, shortly after the one-year anniversary of the Aug. 29, 2013 shooting in Springfield, but have not advanced to the stage where they can seek discovery from the police.
The first pivotal moment in that case will likely come when Fairfax County’s lawyers ask a judge to put the case on hold until the criminal investigation is completed. Geer’s lawyers said they only filed the case because they had gotten no answers from police or prosecutors on why the shooting occurred, and will argue that the civil suit is now the logical avenue for information.
By Tom Jackman
It was October 2013 when a personnel shift in the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office uncovered a troubling situation: A detective involved with asset forfeiture had allegedly embezzled more than $200,000, two sources close to the situation said.
Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman called in the Virginia State Police to investigate. The deputy was placed on administrative leave. In June, the state police asked the FBI to join them in working the case.
But a year after the discovery, no charges have been filed. Officials with the state police, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria all declined to comment Thursday. The state police confirmed that they were working jointly with the FBI, but had no other information about the case’s progress.
Chapman said he was frustrated by the delay, did not know why the case had taken a year to investigate and did not want the cloud of a federal probe continuing to hang over his office. “I would’ve liked this thing to be over a long time ago,” the sheriff, a former federal investigator with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said.
The case is the second local investigation of a law enforcement member to encounter a long delay upon entering the federal system. A Fairfax County police officer’s fatal shooting of John Geer in Springfield in August 2013, shifted to federal authorities in February, also has not been charged or cleared after 14 months.
Chapman said he had undertaken a routine shakeup of the ranks last fall, to allow deputies to work in new roles, when newly assigned investigators uncovered the missing money last October. One source familiar with the investigation said the embezzlement had begun in 2009 under Chapman’s predecessor, former Sheriff Steve Simpson, and involved small amounts withdrawn over time.
Chapman said he asked the state police to investigate because “I wanted to make sure we had an independent investigation, so it wouldn’t just be our eyes on it.” That was begun in mid-October. The Bull Elephant political blog first revealed the investigation in November, and Chapman and state police then confirmed it.
The deputy was initially placed on leave, but Chapman said he resigned in April after an internal investigation. His name has not been released pending a decision on charges. Chapman did not know if the deputy would be eligible to collect retirement benefits from the county.
By IAN LOVETT
The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the City of Albuquerque over excessive use of force by the Police Department.
Under an agreement announced Friday, an independent monitor will be installed to oversee reforms at the department for at least two years, and the department will adopt new policies aiming to ease conflict with citizens.
The Justice Department in April found a pattern of excessive force in the Albuquerque Police Department, after a string of shootings in which 23 people were killed and 14 others wounded over four years, an usually high number for a city of about 550,000 people.
Under the agreement, the Police Department will undertake a host of sweeping changes, many of them designed to reduce the use of force. Officers will be trained to handle people who are mentally unstable; the way that the department investigates shootings involving officers will be changed; and officers will be required to wear body cameras to record many interactions with the public.
“We are here to announce a new chapter for policing in Albuquerque,” Damon P. Martinez, the United States attorney for the district of New Mexico, said at a news conference Friday. He added that the agreement, known as a consent decree, was aimed at delivering “high quality and constitutional police services for Albuquerque.” He added, “It is also a road map for rebuilding trust between the community and the police.”
The agreement follows a tumultuous spring in Albuquerque. After James Boyd, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, was shot by heavily armed officers, street protests erupted, accompanied by demands for major changes at the Police Department.
Albuquerque’s leaders worked with federal officials to craft a set of reforms, including new controls over specialized investigation units, some of which had become unofficial SWAT units with specialized weapons, Mr. Martinez said. One of those special units, the Repeat Offender Project, which was known for its overly aggressive tactics, will be disbanded entirely.
Mayor Richard J. Berry said he hoped that the agreement and the reforms that follow it would begin restoring trust between the police and the public. He said it was the first settlement to require on-body cameras, which Albuquerque had already adopted, becoming one of the first large cities in the country to do so.
“I believe strongly that we are setting a new national standard for policing and police reforms,” Mr. Berry said. The reforms, he added, “will enhance safety, both for our community and our police officers.”
The Albuquerque City Council is set to vote next week on the settlement, which must then be approved by a federal judge. The independent monitor will oversee the implementation of the changes and report to the court.
Mr. Berry estimated that the reforms would cost $4 million to $6 million in the first year. Much of that expense would be for retraining officers and paying overtime to officers who are on the streets while their colleagues are in training. But Mr. Berry said he did not believe the city would be forced to make big cutbacks in other areas to cover the cost.
The police departments in eight other cities, including New Orleans, Detroit and Seattle, are currently entered into consent decrees with the Department of Justice.