Paranoid men driving high with 20lb of marijuana call police on themselves
A 911 call was released of two self-proclaimed ‘dumbasses’ who were arrested in Idaho for drug trafficking last year after believing they were being followed
Leland Ayala-Doliente, 22, and Holland Sward, 23, were arrested after calling police to arrest them for trying to smuggle 20 pounds of marijuana across several states while high. Photograph: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Sam Levin in San Francisco
Two self-proclaimed “dumbasses” driving high in Idaho with 20 pounds of marijuana called the police on themselves after they got “spooked” about cops following them.
East Idaho News released audio of a 911 call from last year that led to the drug trafficking arrests of Leland Ayala-Doliente, 22, and Holland Sward, 23, who were apparently so high and paranoid they were certain undercover cops were tailing them.
East Idaho News released audio of a 911 call of Leland Ayala-Doliente, who said he was convinced police were following him.
The two young men were traveling from Las Vegas to Montana on 23 January when they became increasingly concerned that they were going to be arrested after crossing the Idaho border, according to police in Rexburg, a city in eastern Idaho.
Eventually, the men decided to speed up the process of their arrest and called cops – politely requesting that they “just end it”.
While pulled over near a gas station and an Applebee’s restaurant, Ayala-Doliente told a confused Madison County dispatcher: “Hi, uh, we’re the two dumbasses that got caught trying to bring some stuff through your border and all your cops are just driving around us like a bunch of jack wagons, and I’d just really would like for you guys to end it. If you could help me out with that, we would like to just get on with it.”
“You got caught doing what?” the dispatcher replied.
“Ahh, God, OK,” Ayala-Doliente continued. “We kind of got spooked here trying to bring some stuff across your Idaho border. … A bunch of your cops are driving around in a bunch of civilian cars not wanting to pick us up. I don’t know what’s the deal.”
He added: “It’s getting cold out here, man. I just want to get warm.”
When police showed up, the men had their hands behind their heads, and Sward told an officer: “We’re surrendering,” according to court records obtained by East Idaho News.
The two were each charged with a felony count of marijuana trafficking.
A Rexburg police captain told the news website that no police officers were following them at the time.
EDITORIAL: Policing In Seattle A Numbers Game
By: Capitol Hill Times Staff
The Obama administration may think the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is a model of police reform, but those much closer to home have a different perspective of its police force. Not only are a few “bad apples” still being investigated for using excessive force, residents are saying they’re not getting the protection they’ve paid for as taxpayers. And they’re willing to pay extra for their own private patrol.
Several North Seattle neighborhoods have subscribed to private patrols since 2009. They respond to mostly property crimes, such as car prowls and burglaries, which organizers say are “low priority” for SPD, and offer a visual deterrent to criminals who might target the neighborhoods. Magnolia is the latest to buy into private security, and Queen Anne is considering it.
It’s no secret that Seattle has a shortage of police officers. Even current union president Ron Smith went as far as to publicly cite the low number of officers able to respond to incidents. He said on KIRO Radio that nine officers covered the entire West Precinct — which includes downtown, Pioneer Square, International District, South Lake Union, Queen Anne and Magnolia — during the midnight shift on Black Friday; Queen Anne and Magnolia had one officer each that shift.
SPD officers are spread too thin because of their sheer numbers, not being able to respond to “lower-priority” incidents or to check on the RVs that have taken over much of the city. They’re also called in larger numbers, on occasion, to clear out homeless encampments under and along freeways and in vacant buildings.
Yet, they also work overtime providing security details for the increasing number of parades, protests and foreign dignitaries visiting our city and now for private neighborhood patrols. And officers are also placed on administrative leave after police shootings and other cases under more intense investigation.
Mayor Ed Murray aimed to hire 100 more police officers by the end of his first term in December 2017; only seven had been hired for 2015, as of Oct. 1, according to a Crosscut story published last November.
This year’s budget includes enough funding for five officers above attrition. SPD will test its current group of new entry-level recruits on Jan. 30, followed by nine months of training. But this won’t keep up with the increasing workload of a growing city, nor with the number of officers who retire or are fired in the interim.
But who would want to become an officer with SPD? It has a reputation for excessive use of force and is still working under the Department of Justice’s scrutiny. Officers also encounter more people with mental illness and violent histories than ever before, as well as people who have a distrust of police.
Regardless of what SPD officers face on the streets, will there even be enough eligible recruits, especially with our ever-expanding collective waistbands, to pass the rigorous training?
While residents elsewhere say their more recent complaints about slower response times are still going unanswered, problems such as homelessness, drug dealing and car prowls have been rampant in the International District for decades.
Seattle doesn’t need yet another citizen task force to find long-term solutions over a span of months, as it’s doing with the International District. Nor does it need numerous smaller security forces to do the work of publicly paid employees. To be the world-class city it wants to be, Seattle needs to put its best feet forward — that of police officers deserving of such, and lots more of them on the street.
The long road to police reform in Baltimore
City police chiefs have been promising a shakeup since the 1970s.
The year was 1975. Verda and Henry Welcome invited a small group to their home near Druid Hill Park to discuss crime in Baltimore. She had been mugged near her church. Fortunately, her injuries were minor. Although crime in West Baltimore had become common, this victim was not. In 1974 Senator Welcome had become the first black woman to be elected to the Maryland State Senate, and by 1974 her legislative accomplishments were renowned. City Police Commissioner Donald Pomerlau sent two officers to attend the meeting.
The commissioner recommended hiring more officers to patrol the community. Senator Welcome was not certain. She had information that almost 90 percent of police work involved in traffic duty and observed that, in her community, most of that activity involved ticketing for minor offenses that had the appearance of quota work, especially since police were paid overtime for traffic court. Could the police be more effective by focusing on violent crime?
Henry Welcome asked about the effectiveness of foot patrols. He had an impression that every time The Sun reported a spike in crime, the police introduced a new plan for foot patrols or police in cars. They even talked about more police on horseback. Did the police ever evaluate their methods? He explained that, as a physician, he could use a new method only if it had been rigorously evaluated.
At the next meeting, the commissioner's representatives reported that Mr. Pomerlau thought the senator's ideas fully aligned with work from an internal police committee he had already formed to study better utilization of police resources, and he had committees to evaluate every aspect of his department and its programs. Meanwhile, until the studies were completed, he would assign more patrols to her neighborhood area.
Senator and Dr. Welcome were pleased with the outcome of their meetings and the responsiveness of Commissioner Pomerlau. Yet they both predicted that it would take 20 years to see the full benefit of the commissioner's changes. About 10 years later I asked Frank Battaglia, who replaced Mr. Pomerlau in 1981, about the status to those changes. Commissioner Battaglia smiled and told me that Mr. Pomerlau had committees studying everything just to make sure nothing changed.
The Welcomes probably were not the first to recognize that accountability and transparency were needed for effective police work in Baltimore. Yet had their counsel regarding slow but effective changes been adopted in 1975, we may not be having the Freddie Gray trials 40 years later.
NEW YORK: The trial began Wednesday of a rookie New York police officer accused of manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black man whose shooting fueled nationwide protests against US police tactics.
Peter Liang, 28, faces up to 15 years if convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct.
US opens federal probe into Chicago police after black teen shot dead
Liang fatally shot Akai Gurley, 28, the father of a young daughter, in a dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project on November 20, 2014.
His death closely followed those of Eric Garner, a father of six in New York, and 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri, also at the hands of police.
Brown’s death sparked the first of angry and at times violent protests across America.
Liang appeared in Kings County Supreme Court dressed in a suit, white shirt and gray tie. He made no remarks and sat silently next to his lawyers as jury selection for his trial began.
It is rare for US police officers to face trial for actions carried out in the line of duty. The Asian-American officer was on the job just 18 months before the shooting.
The trial is likely to last three to four weeks, Judge Danny Chun said. Jury selection is expected to continue Thursday and opening statements are scheduled next Monday.
Five shot in US at rally over death of black man: police, media
Liang and his partner were on a routine patrol of the Louis H Pink Houses complex, the scene of two murders in one year, the night that Gurley was killed.
Liang left the roof and walked down the stairs to the eighth floor. The lights were not working and at that moment Gurley and his girlfriend stepped into the stairwell, a floor below, when the elevator failed to appear.
Liang opened fire and the bullet struck Gurley in the chest.
New York police immediately declared his death a “tragedy” and Commissioner Bill Bratton described Gurley as a “total innocent.”
Within hours Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson opened an investigation into Gurley’s death, interviewing dozens of witnesses and inspecting the staircase multiple times.
A grand jury’s subsequent decision to indict Liang came in stark contrast to decisions by other grand juries in similar cases, particularly the death of Brown in Missouri and Garner in New York.
Chicago fires top cop after black teen’s fatal shooting
Dozens of potential jurors spent Wednesday trying to be excused, citing reasons such as lack of fluency in English, a bad experience with the police or claiming to have read a lot about the case.
Others said they had grown up surrounded by police officers and would be biased or unable to exercise fair judgment.
“There was a lot of police misconduct recently, I don’t think I can be fair,” said one potential juror, who was excused.
After Liang fired the bullet, he and partner Shaun Landau did not respond to radio contact for more nearly seven minutes, the New YorkDaily News reported.
Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley’s daughter, filed a wrongful death suit last May against the city, the two officers and the housing authority which runs the apartment building.
A series of high-profile police killings in the US, usually of black men or youths, triggered a nationwide debate about police reform and penalties for officers who kill unarmed suspects.
The US Bureau of Justice Statistics says that blacks accounted for 32 per cent of all reported arrest-related deaths from 2003 to 2009, despite making up 13 per cent of the population.
2 Reasons Why This Was a Big Day for Reforming Cops and Courts
Both say they want "common-sense" solutions.
—By AJ Vicens
The national push to reform the criminal justice system saw two significant moves Wednesday, one from the law enforcement community and another from the activists who helped launch the conversation in Ferguson, Missouri, when Michael Brown was gunned down in August 2014.
On Wednesday, an organization known as Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration—which includes more than 160 police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys, federal prosecutors and attorneys general—sent a letter signed by more than 70 of its members to House and Senate leadership in support of legislation that would address sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would reduce federal mandatory minimum sentences for some gun and drug crimes, and would make it possible for federal prisoners to earn credits for completing rehabilitative programs while incarcerated and reduce their time behind bars. A similar measuresponsored in the House by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) also addresses some of these problems.
"Common sense might suggest that more punishment keeps down crime," the group wrote. "But research has shown that arbitrarily increasing time served in prison does not necessarily translate into increased public safety gains…In fact, excessive incarceration can actually increase crime in some cases."
The group noted that half of all federal prisoners are drug offenders (compared with just 7 percent who are convicted of violent crimes), so current sentencing approaches and prosecution efforts waste money and resources. The federal inmate population has grown more than 400 percent over the past 30 years, they wrote, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons is 39 percent over capacity and consumes a quarter of the Justice Department's budget, in part because of tough-on-crime, mandatory minimum sentencing programs.
"These taxpayer dollars should instead target the country's most dangerous and serious offenders, those who pose the most risk to public safety," they wrote. (See the full letter below.)
While that effort focused on law enforcement reforms at the federal level, DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, Brittany Packnett, and Sam Sinyangwe—a group of activists who have been among the most prominent voices in calling for police reform in America—launched the Police Use of Force Project. This project ofCampaign Zero, an effort to end police violence in America, published data outlining how policies governing police use of force often lead to police violence.
The data reveals use of force policies in several key areas for 17 major cities. (The data is downloadable, as well.)
Policies "often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force," the group noted. For example, in many police departments, life preservation is not the primary objective, and many do not require officers to deescalate situations where possible. Policies often permit officers to "choke or strangle civilians," and many do not require officers to intervene and stop the use of excessive force. Many of the police departments reviewed by the group lacked transparency in their use of force policies, did not provide public data on police shootings, did not keep tabs on incidents where force was used, and, in some cases, provided access to the names of those shot by the police.
In the statement announcing the use-of-force project, the group said police policies often don't match their publicly stated values.
"Our analysis…shows that while many police departments have adopted value statements claiming to prioritize the preservation of life, their actual use of force policies do not reflect this commitment," the group wrote.
The survey is an ongoing process, and Campaign Zero asked community members to get to know police policies in order to become more engaged in police reform efforts.
"In the coming weeks, we will be forming a collective of legal scholars, academics, and activists to continue analyzing police use of force policies in the nation's largest 100 cities, as we work to develop a model use of force policy that is fair and in the interest of the public good," it wrote.
SAPD Chief focuses on police reform efforts
BY EMILY BAUCUM/FOX SAN ANTONIO WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20TH 2016
SAN ANTONIO - The top brass at the San Antonio Police Department are working with leaders in Washington, D.C., on a mission they're calling police reform.
Chief William McManus says the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson showed that the public is demanding more transparency and accountability from police departments, and he says he's listening.
When a man was killed in a rolling shootout out on the city's east side last week, police contacted leaders at Eastwood Community Baptist Church. The church is located a few blocks away from the crime scene.
"This chief and the sheriff have probably visited this community more than anybody ever has," Tommy Gregory says.
He's vice president of the Ministers and Citizens Alliance.
"It's an organization that was started because of the crime that was going on in our community," Gregory says.
He says there's no one solution to fighting crime, but a priority is working with police.
"In the mind of the community, the first thing they think of when the policeman comes: they're coming to arrest me, harass me," Gregory says.
Chief McManus says developing trust is key to the police reform mission.
"Treat people right," he says. "And when you treat people right, they grant you the legitimacy that you need to do your job. And that's not what happened in Ferguson. That's not what happened in Baltimore. That's not what happens anywhere you see this mass unrest."
In a presentation to city council, he explained SAPD has spent the past eight years reviewing its procedures and comparing itself to police forces in other big cities.
Since then, the Chief says the department's updated its use of force tactics, changed its car chase policy and added a mental health unit.
"There's very specific crisis intervention training that officers receive," Chief McManus says.
He recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to work on national police reform efforts. He has weekly calls with White House staff to discuss what's working in San Antonio, like block walks through high-crime neighborhoods.
"The bottom line in all of that is we are well down the road on police reform," Chief McManus says.
But as the peaceful protest by the group Black Lives Matter at this week's Martin Luther King, Jr., March reminded many neighbors, there's more work to be done.
"They have to be able to develop the trust in the police officers," Gregory says. "And of course, we have to be able to trust them that you're not going to do something that we don't feel is right."
The next step for the department begins soon when officers start hitting the streets with body cameras. The Chief says SAPD's policies will follow Department of Justice recommendations.
Oklahoma City cop convicted of rape sentenced to 263 years in prison
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, Sara Sidner and Michael Martinez, CNN
Ex-cop sentenced to 263 years for rapes 01:06
Daniel Holtzclaw gets 263 years, as recommended by the jury
Woman recalls how she was raped while handcuffed to a hospital bed
Woman recounted being raped on mother's front porch; she was 17 at the time
(CNN)Daniel Holtzclaw, the ex-Oklahoma City officer convicted of rape and other charges after he preyed on African-American women over six months, was sentenced Thursday to 263 years in prison, as recommended by the jury, according to his attorney.
The sentence comes just over a month after a sobbing Holtzclaw was convicted on 18 of 36 counts, including four counts of first-degree rape and four counts of forced oral sodomy.
Prosecutors said Holtzclaw selected victims in one of Oklahoma City's poorest neighborhoods based on their criminal histories, assuming their drug or prostitution records would undermine any claims they might make against him.
Then, he would subject them to assaults that escalated from groping to oral sodomy and rape, according to the testimony of 13 victims. Holtzclaw, whose father is a police lieutenant on another force, waived his right to testify.
Two of those women shared their stories with CNN on Wednesday, recounting horrific memories of being forced to perform sexual acts by a serial rapist with a badge who was supposed to protect and serve.
Jury wants 263 years
Because the victims are black, race has been regularly invoked in the case. His trial began in November and was criticized by activists after an all-white jury was chosen. Protesters repeatedly gathered outside.
Holtzclaw, whose father is white and mother is Japanese, is identified as "Asian or Pacific Islander" by court records.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, has criticized the media, asking, "Where is the national outcry for their justice?"
Crump praised the sentence Thursday saying it was "a landmark victory."
"All the women were victims, from the 17-year old teenager to the 57-year old grandmother. This is a statement for 400 years of racism, oppression and sexual assault of black women; a statement of victory not only for the 'OKC 13,' but for so many unknown women," Crump said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Holtzclaw's lawyers asked for a new trial, alleging prosecutors did not disclose newly discovered evidence -- including DNA evidence and the accounts of accusers who falsely claimed to be victims -- to the defense, according to CNN affiliate KFOR. Court documents posted on the station's website say a detective referenced the evidence in a Facebook post.
The judge denied the motion for a new trial.
The defense team filed for an appeal in court on Thursday, and it was denied, Crump said. They plan to appeal again, he said, but he was not sure what arguments they will use.
Holtzclaw's attorneys aren't the only ones declaring his innocence, despite the verdict. His sister also runs a blog dedicated to telling her brother's "untold story."
One of Holtzclaw's victims, Jannie Ligons, grandmother of 12, was among those who spoke at the sentencing on Thursday.
In an interview with CNN this week, she recalled driving down Lincoln Street when Holtzclaw pulled her over and told her she was swerving, "which was untrue," she said. He told her to get out of the car.
"He put a flashlight on my chest. He told me to pull my pants down to my knees. I did that but real quick and pulled them back up again. He pulled out his flashlight and shined it on my privates. I said. 'Sir, you not supposed to do this.' He said, 'Get back into my vehicle.' I did what he said. I began to get very, very scared," Ligons said.
She remembers him telling her, "Damn, you got a big ass."
"I thought he was going to kill me because I had seen his face and could tell on him and he was an officer and had to know he wasn't supposed to do this," she said.
That's when Holtzclaw ordered her to perform oral sex, she said. Her mind racing and tears gushing from her then-57-year-old eyes, she was both disgusted and terrified.
"I tried to perform oral sex," she said. "And trying to talk, I kept saying, 'Sir, please don't make me do this.' I said, 'Are you gonna shoot me?' He said, 'I promise I am not. ' I didn't believe him. I kept seeing his gun while he was making me do this right there on the street. I was sitting in the passenger side of the car and he was standing there. It was so horrifying. It was unreal. I cried and cried," Ligons said.
Finally, he let her go, and "I decided right then If he didn't kill me I was going to tell on him," she said.
Rape in a hospital bed
She picked up her daughter and went to the police station. Investigators interviewed her and sent her to the hospital. She soon learned she was the last in a string of sexual assaults and rapes committed by Holtzclaw.
"The detective I talked to in the hospital came in and she believed me. While she was writing the report she said, 'I got a good idea who it was,' " Ligons said. "I was relieved at first, but then I wondered why he was still on the street if they knew who it was."
Ligons told reporters after the verdict was announced last month that she had to enter therapy and later "had a stroke behind this."
Another victim, 24-year-old Shandegreon "Sade" Hill, told CNN she was intoxicated the night Holtzclaw arrested her.
He promised to get her prior charges dropped, but while she was handcuffed to the hospital bed trying to detox, he raped her, she said.
"He started to touch me. He touched my breast. From there, I just didn't know what to think. I am in his custody because whatever he tells me in my mind I just did it. As far as I know I could wind up dead in the hospital saying I was overdosed," Hill said.
"He violated me. And made me give him oral. He stuck his hands into my privates. He done everything against my will, " she told CNN, her voice shaking and angry.
Holtzclaw continued to pursue her, even following her to her home and stalking her on social media, she said.
These are just two of the stories from the 13 victims, one of whom was 17 at the time and testified she was raped on her mother's front porch.
Grandmother brought him down
Ligons' report would be the one that finally yielded Holtzclaw's arrest. After she went to police and media outlets, investigators found another dozen victims. She now has a civil lawsuit pending against the former officer and the city, filed on behalf of several victims. Hill has filed a state civil lawsuit against Holtzclaw and Oklahoma City.
Crump has called Ligons "a true hero -- not just for black women but all women."
"The statistics on rape victims reporting the crimes against them are low to being with. This grandmother had the strength to come forward not just against her assailant but against a police officer. That is a frightening thing to do," he said.
Holtzclaw was a former linebacker on the Eastern Michigan University football teamand graduated with a degree in criminal justice.
Prosecutors say his ruthless scheme began during a June 2014 traffic stop. He was fired from the force in January 2015 after an internal investigation.
"Your offenses committed against women in our community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency," Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty wrote in the termination letter, according to CNN affiliate KFOR.
CNN's Keith Allen, Jethro Mullen and Gigi Mann contributed to this report.
Lawmakers Discuss Reform of Police Use of Force Policies
By Laura Waxmann
In a special hearing today, San Francisco lawmakers on the Rules Committee discussed the police department’s policies on the use of force. The discussion was a response to mounting pressure from the community following multiple fatal shootings by SFPD officers in recent years, including three in the Mission last year.
Since 2007, San Francisco police officers have shot 37 people, and local agencies deemed each of these shootings justifiable, said Cohen, calling these statistics “difficult to accept without questioning.”
Twice during the hearing, District 9 Supervisor David Campos pointed out Police Chief Greg Suhr’s absence from the meeting, which he called “disturbing.”
“I am very bothered by the fact that in every single case involving use of force by police, the chief has made statements that what happened in these incidents was within policy, even though those statements are made before there is a complete investigation,” he said.
“In Alex Nieto’s case, the chief went to a community meeting where he said what the police did was just fine,” Campos said, adding that this pattern was continued in the shooting of Amilcar Perez-Lopez and Mario Woods – in all three cases, the police department deemed the use of force by officers involved as justified.
Spurred in part by Mayor Ed Lee’s call for a reform of lethal force and officer training policies following the police shooting of Mario Woods on December 2, the hearing spanned some three hours.
“We are here… also to open up the conversation to a transparent discussion about cultural changes [in the police force] that need to happen across the country,” said District 10 supervisor Malia Cohen. She also called San Francisco’s general order governing the use of force, which has not been revised since 1995, “outdated.”
“These incidents have created a huge gap between what the police department sees as acceptable conduct and what the community sees as acceptable conduct,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos.
Current use of the force policies under which San Francisco police officers operate lack verbiage in implementing racial bias and de-escalation training, said Aaron Zissar, a trial attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
“One of the first things I saw was that there is no discussion of crisis intervention in these current policies – putting these practices into policy,” said Zissar. He recommended that updated policies should include de-escalation training and legislate a crisis intervention team “that goes out there for prevention,” engaging in active community outreach to prevent police encounters in the first place.
This emphasis on enforcing de-escalation training policies was echoed by the committee, and London Breed, its president, called for the reconstitution of the African American Police-Community Relations Board, which operated some time ago to facilitate policy changes and improve relationships between officers and the community.
“Fixing and repairing the trust between community and police is going to require a lot of work,” said Breed. “It’s not just about changing policies but changing the (police) culture.”
This cultural change is achieved by shifting from a “warrior to guardian” mentality, said Julie Traun, Director of Court Programs at the Bar Association of San Francisco. Traun pointed to the Oakland Police Department as an example of creating a culture of “self-examination” from which San Francisco’s police force could learn.
“You have to partner with professionals,” said Traun, referring to Oakland’s successful implementation of body cameras and technology that facilitates the department’s data collection process in an effort to address biased policing policies.
Joyce Hicks, executive director of the Office of Citizen Complaints, recommended requiring a sergeant or officer of higher rank to respond to incidents involving an armed suspect.
“The shootings are reduced by 80 percent when a supervisor is there during a critical incident,” said Hicks.
In Suhr’s absence, Police Captain Gregory Yee said that officers will be trained to initiate a confrontation with an armed suspect with questions rather than commands, and to intervene in high stress situations involving other officers.
“That is a change in culture, to have an officer tap another on the shoulder and say ‘step back,’” said Yee, adding that officers will be held accountable for not intervening in situation that require de-escalation.
“There needs to be a conversation about what an officer’s role is … and who is holding them accountable,” said Eticia Brown, and organizer for the Justice for Mario Woods coalition, during public comment. “They are there to protect and serve the community. They are not the jury, they are not the judge.”
Show me real eyewitness ID reform
By Tricia Bushnell and Amol Sinha
Here is a sobering fact: Every wrongful conviction in Missouri that was reversed by DNA evidence involved eyewitness misidentification. In all nine of these cases, eyewitnesses mistakenly identified — and courts convicted — innocent people. Some of these innocent men spent years and even decades in jail while the real perpetrators remained free.
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading contributor to wrongful convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence, factoring in over 71 percent of the 336 such cases nationally. At 100 percent, Missouri exceeds the national average. Additionally, cross-racial misidentification contributed to nearly half of the nation’s misidentification cases resulting in DNA exonerations; it also played a role in five of Missouri’s nine such cases.
On several occasions, Missouri has failed to reform the way police conduct eyewitness identification and how that evidence is presented in court. Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court failed to adopt a jury instruction that would have given jurors guidance on factors that have been scientifically proven to contribute to misidentification, such as cross-racial identification. Unfortunately, the high court adopted a much-less effective set of instructions that do not adequately warn jurors about factors that could contribute to a wrongful conviction.
The instructions also largely ignore the vast body of scientific research that has been developed over the past 30 years and which establishes how law enforcement and the courts can enhance the reliability and consideration of eyewitness evidence.
However, since the court failed to act, it is vital that the Legislature take up the issue during the current legislative session and pass Senate Bill 842, which would require the statewide adoption of the following eyewitness identification best practices. These practices include:
• Blind administration: Lineup administrators should not be aware of the identity of the suspect, preventing the administrator from providing inadvertent or intentional verbal or nonverbal cues to the eyewitness.
• Thorough instructions: The eyewitness should be given a set of instructions that deter him or her from feeling compelled to make an identification. The instructions should include the directive that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup.
• Fair lineup composition: Suspect photographs should not bring unreasonable attention to the suspect. Fillers (non-suspect photographs or live lineup members) should be selected based on their resemblance to the description provided by the eyewitness.
• Confidence statements: Immediately following the lineup or photo array procedure where an identification has been made, the eyewitness should provide a statement, in his or her own words, that articulates his or her level of confidence in the identification. This statement should be recorded verbatim.
These best practices are supported by lawyers, police and prosecutors across the nation, among them the American Bar Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Additionally, in 2014, the National Academy of Sciences, citing decades of research, released the most comprehensive report to date on eyewitness identification and recommended these best practices, leading to strong consensus that the science is settled. Twenty-five states and many localities across the country either advise or require police agencies to implement these best practices; Missouri should do the same.
Missouri has an opportunity to embrace science and national trends, and help prevent future wrongful convictions. It should use this legislative session to pass a statewide policy governing eyewitness identification police practices. Then, perhaps, the Show-Me state can finally show its residents it cares about preventing injustice.
Tricia Bushnell is legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project. Amol Sinha is a state policy advocate at the Innocence Project.
Hundreds turn out to talk federal review of Milwaukee police
BY GREG MOORE, ASSOCIATED PRESS THURSDAY, JANUARY 21ST 2016
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hundreds of people packed a Milwaukee auditorium Thursday evening to discuss a federal review of the Milwaukee Police Department initiated after months of protests over the death of a mentally ill black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer.
The listening session marks the first of several such meetings the U.S. Justice Department plans to host as part of a collaborative reform investigation seeking to overhaul the department.
Dontre Hamilton's 2014 death touched off a series of demonstrations around the city. Many speakers - including Hamilton's mother and brother - questioned whether a review involving a department they see as fundamentally flawed could be fair or effective.
Hamilton family members and their supporters have called for the DOJ to sue Milwaukee police and initiate a full-scale pattern or practice review, which can lead to massive, court-ordered overhauls. The Chicago Police Department is under such a review. Speaker after speaker echoed that call Thursday.
Federal officials, however, say the voluntary review is no less thorough than a legally mandated probe and say their goal is to make Milwaukee's department a model for the rest of the nation. They also say the voluntary review doesn't preclude a future pattern or practice investigation.
Troy V. Williams, of the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, moderated the session and said federal officials are committed to making sure the reform efforts work.
Dozens of speakers lined up to share their experiences, many expressing mistrust and alleging racism.
Nate Hamilton, whose brother was killed after a confrontation that began with a complaint of a man sleeping in a downtown park, passed out list of demands from his organization, the Coalition for Justice. "There will be consequences," he said. "We demand justice - or else."
He called for residents to vote out public officials, including aldermen and the mayor, whom he blamed for the various reports of mistreatment.
The initial phase of the Milwaukee review will last up to 10 months and focus on police use of force, racial disparities, community engagement and mass demonstrations. Federal officials have said their assessment team would involve police officers, community members and civil rights groups.
Dontre Hamilton's family has said he was schizophrenic, but not violent. He was shot 14 times by former Officer Christopher Manney, who was subsequently fired for improperly deciding to frisk Hamilton. Manney's attorney maintained that his client suspected Hamilton was armed. Manney has said he lost his police baton to Hamilton in a struggle and opened fire in self-defense. Manney was not charged in the death.
Begley has a history of using technology to highlight hard truths. He's also responsible for the website Officer Involved, which is a grid of hundreds of aerial images that show exactly where someone was killed by police—one need only click on an image to see the victim's name and the city and state in which they were killed. Begley also operates@Dronestream, a Twitter feed that publicizes United States drone strikes abroad. He launched an app that sent users push notifications with each new drone strike, but Apple removed the app for "excessively crude or objectionable content." Archives + Absences is available for free in the app store for as long as Apple allows its existence.
New App Sends a Notification Every Time Someone Is Killed by Police
BY CLAIRE LANDSBAUM
Police killed 984 people with firearms last year, which is more than double the average number reported annually by the FBI. Adjusted for population, a disproportionate number of those people were young black men, and in many cases the policemen who killed them were never charged, or were charged and acquitted. Although many cities are calling for police reform, for software developer andIntercept editor Josh Begley, change wasn't coming fast enough.
On Wednesday Begley announced the release of his new app, Archives + Absences, which sends users a notification every time someone is killed by police. According to the Daily Dot, the app sends push notifications with the name of the person killed. If users click on the notification, they'll see a map with a pin where the incident took place; all data comes from The Guardian.
Rookie Delaware Police Officer Fired for Threatening to Kill Victim for Helping Citizen File Complaint Against Police
Alexandra J. Gratereaux January 22,
Less than a year into the job, a Delaware cop was arrested for making terrorist threats against a citizen, who was only trying to help another citizen file a complaint against police.
“I’m going to call my boys and have them come and lock you up,” Wilmington police officer Julian Michel told the victim, threatening to arrest him for disorderly conduct.
“I’m going to kill that motherfucker,” Michel threatened, pointing at the victim. “I’m going to shoot you.”
Michel was off-duty, but identified himself as a Wilmington police officer, which made the victim fear for his life, knowing he was armed, according to The News Journal.
The incident was captured on video by another witness, which led to Michel’s arrest on a charge of terrorist threatening, which is only a misdemeanor unless the victim is at least 62 years old.
Wilmington police fired Michel but have not released the video. However, we have already made a public records request for the video, so we’ll see how long it takes for them to comply.
We are also trying to find out what the original complaint was about, which led to Michel making these terrorist threats.
Another witness came forth supporting the victim’s story and even provided video recording of the incident, where Michel is seen driving up to the victim and confronting the unidentified man.
Michel, 26, was hired by the Wilmington Police Department in December 2014 and graduated from the Police Academy on May 2015.
Apparently, Michel did not have any other complaints or past reports of wrongdoing in his file since first working with the Wilmington Police Department. He also never got around to winning any departmental awards.
But he has a whole lifetime ahead of him to find another job at another department.
The News Journal reports that Michel’s next court hearing is set for Feb. 19.
Ex-cop sent to prison for false police reports, striking victim
Robert Sciarrino | NJ Advance Media
By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
NEWARK — Former Bloomfield Police Officer Orlando Trinidad said he had wanted to be a husband and a father, own a home and "live the American dream."
But standing before his fiancÃ©e and other supporters on Friday in a Newark courtroom, Trinidad was sentenced to five years in state prison as a result of his conviction last fall on official misconduct and related charges for submitting false police reports about a 2012 arrest.
"I am truly sorry for everything that has transpired," Trinidad said through tears, while wearing a prison uniform and with his hands cuffed in front of him. "I am a different man today as I stand here before you. I am a humbled man."
Trinidad, 34, of Bloomfield, must serve the entire sentence without an opportunity to be released on parole, and he will receive credit for 78 days of time served.
In New Jersey, an official misconduct charge carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence with a five-year period of parole ineligibility.
Trinidad and his co-defendant, former Bloomfield Police Officer Sean Courter, were convicted by a jury on Nov. 5 of making false statements in police reports about the June 7, 2012 arrest of Bloomfield resident Marcus Jeter on the Garden State Parkway.
After reviewing police dashboard videos — including footage of Jeter with his hands raised inside his vehicle — the jury determined the officers' reports falsely claimed Jeter tried to grab Courter's gun while Courter was removing Jeter from the vehicle, and that Jeter struck Trinidad.
Trinidad also was convicted of simple assault for striking Jeter during the incident.
Courter, 35, of Englishtown, is expected to be sentenced at a later date.
During Friday's hearing, Jeter said he continues to struggle with "nightmares" and wakes up in "cold sweats" as a result of the incident. Jeter said he still becomes nervous when he sees a police car.
"I feared for my life that night," Jeter said. "It's a situation that I would never want anybody to be in, and I believe that I didn't do anything to provoke the officers that night."
Jeter noted how he was arrested and faced a possible prison sentence himself before his charges were ultimately dismissed. The stress of that experience caused him to lose some of his hair, Jeter said.
As police officers, Courter and Trinidad "had a responsibility to do what's right and I don't think that they did what's right that night," Jeter said.
Jeter also is pursuing a lawsuit against Bloomfield, Courter, Trinidad and other defendants in regard to the incident.
Citing the "needless physical and psychological injury" caused to Jeter, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Berta Rodriguez called on Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin to impose a seven-year prison sentence with a five-year period of parole ineligiblity.
By striking Jeter during the false arrest and then falsifying the police reports, Trinidad's actions "show a complete lack of respect for Marcus Jeter and the citizens of Bloomfield and Essex County, and a lack of respect for his position as a law enforcement officer," said Rodriguez, who tried the case with Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Frantzou Simon.
But Trinidad's attorney, Frank Arleo, asked the judge to impose a more lenient sentence and waive the requirement for the mandatory five-year prison sentence without parole on the official misconduct charge.
Noting how Jeter refused to get out of his vehicle and other factors, Arleo argued Jeter was not an innocent victim and that Trinidad was acting under strong provocation.
"He was a good cop and now he's lost all that," Arleo said.
Ravin rejected the state's request for a longer prison sentence, but he declined to waive the requirement for the mandatory sentence on the official misconduct charge. The judge found the circumstances of the case did not warrant such a waiver.
The arrest occurred after Courter and Bloomfield Police Officer Albert Sutterlin had responded to a domestic-related call at Jeter's Bloomfield home. His girlfriend's sister called 911 after Jeter threw the girlfriend's cell phone down a staircase during a verbal dispute.
Soon after the officers arrived, Jeter left the residence. Courter has said Jeter was drunk and fled after he had ordered him to stop, but Jeter has said he was not drunk and that Courter indicated he could leave the residence.
Courter later stopped Jeter on the Parkway, followed by Sutterlin, and the officers approached Jeter's vehicle with their guns drawn and ordered him to get out. Trinidad arrived at the scene and struck the front of Jeter's car with his patrol vehicle.
After Courter received approval from a supervisor, he broke the driver's side window and removed Jeter from the vehicle. Courter and Trinidad later claimed in their police reports that Jeter tried to disarm Courter and that he struck Trinidad.
Jeter was charged with eluding, attempting to disarm a police officer, resisting arrest and aggravated assault.
While Jeter's case was still pending, prosecutors only had the dashboard video from Courter's patrol vehicle. Jeter's attorney later obtained the dashboard video from Trinidad's patrol vehicle through an open public records request made with the Bloomfield Police Department.
After reviewing that second dashboard video, prosecutors determined the video was inconsistent with the officers' police reports. The charges against Jeter were then dropped in April 2013 and Courter and Trinidad were indicted in January 2014.
Courter and Trinidad, who had been suspended without pay, ultimately lost their jobs as a result of their convictions.
Sutterlin, who retired in May 2013, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to falsifying or tampering with records. After testifying at the officers' trial, Sutterlin was later sentenced to two years of probation.
On the witness stand at the trial, Sutterlin said he included information in his police reports that Jeter tried to grab Courter's gun and that he struck Trinidad, even though Sutterlin had not witnessed those events. He said he received those details from Courter and Trinidad when he consulted with them about the sequence of events.
Sutterlin said no one had told him to lie about the incident, and that he believed his reports were accurate when he wrote them.
Bill Wichert may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@BillWichertNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.