BY TRACE WILLIAM COWEN
I'd be happy to waste more of your time here: @TraceCowen
FEB 25, 2016
As the election spotlight remains firmly focused on the troubling state of police brutality in the United States for many voters, the issue is inspiring refreshingly direct responses from some candidates. Bernie Sanders, a very public proponent of drastic police reform, told theGuardian earlier this week that he not only supported such reform but also the implementation of a mandatory national database for allpolice-related deaths.
"When individuals die under police apprehension or police custody, should [reporting that] be mandatory?" Sanders posited during a press conference on Wednesday. "Yes. I do believe that." Sanders added, after being questioned by the Guardian, that he would also support any legislation seeking to make this a reality:
Of course, the Vermont Senator's stance on combating the prevalence of American police brutality has been a crucial component of his campaign platform since he first announced his White House intentions. "At the federal level we need to establish a new model police training program that reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country," Sanders said in August when revealing his own plan for reform. "With input from a broad segment of the community including activists and leaders from organizations like Black Lives Matter, we will reinvent how we police America."
Though this proposed national database has continued to garner a baffling number of opponents, publications like the Guardian have already implemented their own tracking method for police-related deaths in America. At the time of publication, the Guardian's The Counted project reports that 158 people have been killed by police in 2016 alone.
by: Sean Yoes Senior AFRO Contributor
We’re roughly a third of the way through the 2016 legislative session in Annapolis and there is growing dissension among activists and legislators who seek law enforcement reform in the state.
On Feb. 23, divergent groups including family members of people killed by police officers, heads of police unions, police chiefs and children protesters (draped in crime scene tape) descended upon the state capital, as debate began over 27 bills aimed at some measure of law enforcement reform. Even William Porter, the first officer to stand trial connected to the death of Freddie Gray attended the hearings.
The focus of many is on House Bill 1016, which was crafted to amend Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), the first and many argue, the strongest set of protections for law enforcement officers in the nation. The bill is the product of a legislative task force known as the Public Safety and Policing Work Group.
“The problem is that they got most of that information…from folks who are affiliated with law enforcement. A lot of folks did a lot of good work, came up with some okay ideas, but also came up with some problematic ideas,” said Lawrence Grandpre, director of research for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), a Baltimore-based grassroots think tank. Grandpre made his comments during, “First Edition,” Tuesday evening.
“The biggest example of this is a provision which basically means that if you have a police officer accused of doing something wrong when they go through…the internal trial board…and there is only police officers who serve on that trial board,” Grandpre added. “So, it’s literally the police policing the police.” As of now, HB 1016 has the full support of Speaker of the House Mike Bush.
LBS supports legislation that will be introduced by Del. Jill Carter (D-41st), which LBS said will include a provision that would require at least one civilian member of the internal trial board that would determine discipline for officers accused of misconduct.
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is wearing a couple of different lobbying hats during this legislative session. He is against pending legislation that would increase the influence of police unions in the disciplinary process. But, Davis is supporting legislation brought forward by Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-40th), which would require anybody caught with a loaded handgun to be locked up for at least a year.
Davis laid out his argument for the handgun legislation on First Edition, Feb. 23.
“The choice a person makes to arm himself with a firearm before he leaves his house, whether it’s sticking that gun in your waistband or sticking that gun under the front seat of your car is problematic for our community because young people whether it’s in Baltimore or any other major city or major county in the country really don’t possess the conflict resolution skills that we need them to possess in the first place,” said Davis, who characterized himself as one of the more progressive police chiefs in the nation during the interview.
“And the immediate availability of a firearm I think really takes some occasions that should, maybe in days gone by, should be a fist fight at most, it takes it to a gun battle,” Davis added. “And we have so many acts of violence in the city that are just spontaneous eruptions of emotion that without that immediate accessibility to a firearm, I think that conflict is otherwise resolved.”
Also during the show, Natasha Pratt Harris, associate professor and Criminal Justice Program coordinator at Morgan State University, argued the handgun legislation may be necessary, but preventative measures are more vital.
“I consistently say that we need to see this as an absolute emergency…saying, `How do we make sure children who are going back and forth to school, how to we make sure elderly siblings — like just happened yesterday, who were going to the bus stop– aren’t injured and really looking at that piece to protect our communities,” she added.
“Not so much focusing on punishing and punishing and punishing, when we know that hasn’t worked.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.
- See more at: http://www.afro.com/battle-for-police-reform-handgun-penalties-begins/#sthash.I0FeGyTj.dpuf
Tom JackmanThe Washington Post
It started with a reporter's attempt to learn whether problem police officers were moving from department to department. It resulted in legislation that is again bringing national scrutiny to the Virginia General Assembly: a bill that could keep all Virginia police officers' names secret.
In a climate where the actions of police nationwide are being watched as never before, supporters say the bill is needed to keep officers safe from people who may harass or harm them. But the effort has drawn the attention of civil rights groups and others who say police should be moving toward more transparency - not less - to ensure that troubled officers are found and removed.
If it is made law, experts say the restriction would be unprecedented nationwide.
The Virginia Senate has already approved Senate Bill 552, which would classify the names of all police officers and fire marshals as "personnel records," exempting them from mandatory disclosure under the state's freedom of information law. The Republican-dominated Virginia House will consider the bill in hearings starting Thursday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has not taken a position on the bill yet, his spokesman said.
State Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr., R-Chesapeake, - citing that he knew many police officers and their families - said: "The culture is not one of respect for law enforcement anymore. It's really, 'How, how can we get these guys? What can we do?' . . . Police officers are much more in jeopardy. There's no nefarious intent behind the bill."
Pushback has been strong. "To say every officer's name ought to be confidential," said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, "is just a step too far in government secrecy. We are dangerously close to a police state in some respects." She said shootings and attacks on police are rarely committed by anyone using public records.
Although other states have made moves to shield the identities of some officers, none would go as far as the proposal in Virginia.
In Oregon, the state House passed a bill last week allowing the name of an officer involved in a police shooting to be withheld for 90 days if a judge finds there is a credible threat to the officer. This followed the killing of a protester from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, held by armed occupiers for more than a month this year. And the Pennsylvania House passed a bill in November mandating the withholding the name of an officer involved in a shooting while the investigation is pending - which would be a change from the Philadelphia Police Department's policy of releasing the name within three days.
Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police union, said he knew of one instance when a citizen had taken an officer's name and committed financial fraud, adding that the potential existed in other cases for danger to an officer's family. "This is not about trying to keep information from the public, to have secret police," Carroll said."But it is about wanting to keep our officers safe."
Carroll said: "With the current trend across the country, law enforcement officers have been attacked and even assassinated because of issues being driven in the media. . . . With technology now, if you have a name, you could find out where they live. It puts them at risk."
Completely withholding officers' names from the public is a new step nationally, according to Dan Bevarly, interim executive director of the National Freedom of Information Council. "Usually legislation is related to a specific incident, but not as a preventive measure," he said. "To do such a blanket exemption for a high-profile government employee, what are you trying to accomplish?"
John Worrall, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas specializing in policing in legal issues, said that in his review of state freedom of information laws, "none that I've found have gone to this extreme. In fact, the opposite is occurring" in many states, Worrall said, with more governments and police agencies posting information promptly about police-involved shootings.
Although police supporters fear the use of publicly available records against them, "that's largely based on a total lack of data," Worrall said. "There's no data on retaliatory actions against police officers. And even if the problem exists, I'm not convinced that hiding their names is the solution."
Worrall and others noted that keeping officers' names secret seems to conflict with the idea of community policing and building trust with citizens. "I don't know how you have community policing," Gastañaga said, "when nobody knows your name."
Should the Virginia bill become law, the practical implications still aren't clear. Some worry it would allow an officer who pulls over a driver, or stops someone in the street, to refuse to provide his or her name. Officers' names would still appear on traffic tickets or court documents.
Police would still have the discretion to release any officer's name if they wanted, and police officials said they would not withhold names without specific reasons. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said he and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors remains "committed to increasing our transparency." He said that officers would never be removing their names from their uniforms, as some have suggested the bill would allow, and that he would withhold a name only to protect a particular officer's safety or the sanctity of an ongoing investigation. Fairfax police waited 16 months to release the name of the officer who shot an unarmed Springfield man, John Geer, in 2013. The release came only after a judge ordered it.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said police in the commonwealth already have the option to withhold names, and Cosgrove's bill merely codifies that discretion. She and Carroll, the police union president, both noted that 1,500 Virginia state employees had fraudulent tax returns filed last year, which officials think originated with an online database of employee names and salaries.
"We do not expect this to be abused," said Schrad, who sent an email to state police chiefs saying: "We caution all of our agencies to use discretion in exercising this exemption. In order to build a trust relationship with communities, agencies should make sure that the communities know who their officers are. This exemption should only be exercised when trying to protect the identity of an undercover officer or when protecting the integrity" of an internal affiars investigation.
Schrad and Carroll helped launch the bill after the Virginian-Pilot newspaper and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services reached an agreement last summer for the state to release the names, agencies and dates of employment of every law enforcement officer in Virginia. Schrad opposed the release because she said the database was old and inaccurate, saying that providing the mass data was her chief reason for pursuing the bill.
Virginian-Pilot reporter Gary Harki said he wanted to check tips he had received that officers who were fired from one department were simply rejoining a police force elsewhere, similar to the reporting done by the Boston Globe on reassignment of pedophilic Catholic priests in Massachusetts. The newspaper negotiated an agreement with the state to obtain the names of only current officers, not to publish the entire database or share it with anyone, and to indemnify the state from any legal claims.
After the agreement was signed, Schrad and Carroll objected, and the state changed its mind. No deal. But the state failed to cite a legal exemption for its refusal in the required time under the state Freedom of Information Act, and a Norfolk judge ruled that the data had to be given to Harki. The judge also ruled that police names are personnel records that can be exempt under FOIA, but he said the state had already agreed to release them. The ruling at the circuit-court level does not have the weight of legal precedent and so Schrad and Carroll sought to put it into law.
"The public has a right to know who their police officers are," Harki said. "To me, it's just a fundamental principle of democracy [to know] who our public officials are." He said that the database he got was "just a piece of a larger puzzle to a problem that may or may not exist" and that he hasn't published anything about it since the Virginian-Pilot won the court ruling in November.
When Harki worked as a reporter in West Virginia, a similar investigation of troubled officers moving between departments resulted in legislation adding oversight to the movement of officers.
Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government noted that many public servants take actions that could anger citizens - prosecutors, social service workers, judges - but their names remain public. She also said that withholding names would result in a lack of accountability for a variety of unsavory acts, such as profligate spending or hiring friends and family, actions that often are caught only when names are linked to illegal deeds.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon before a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee, chaired by Del. James M. LeMunyon, R-Fairfax. He declined to offer his views on the bill, but he said if it passed, it would be heard again next Thursday before the entire committee, then possibly sent to the full House.
February 27, 2016 by Thomas Nephew
Maryland Police Reform press conference on February 23
This post is a modification of the original post by Thomas Nephew at Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
MCCRC’s Thomas Nephew and over a hundred other advocates of police reform descended on Annapolis on Tuesday to press their case for real police reform andagainst measures like “Recommendation 23”— packing brutality hearing boards with members favorable to the accused — that would set back that cause.
It was a full day of education and advocacy, including a press conference, a hearing on the police reform measures, and meetings with legislators and their aides.
The hashtag for the day was #NoRec23.Activists demanded that any reform package should:
• Reduce the unfair advantage given to officers accused of brutality:
• Don’t let bad cops choose who reviews their own brutality cases.
• Allow trained civilians to sit on trial boards, ESPECIALLY in brutality cases.
• Provide local civilian review boards with subpoena power to question officers accused of misconduct.
• Eliminate the 5 day window that bad cops use to manufacture their story.
• Outlaw collusion between officers so they don’t lie to protect each other.
• Treat victims of brutality as well as all other victims fairly:
• Open up who can file brutality complaints.
• Eliminate the time restriction on when complaints can be filed.
A press conference before the hearing featured advocates bedecked in yellow “Caution” ribbons indicating the strong reservations about that element and others of the House and Senate leadership omnibus police reform bill HB1016 (now crossfiled as Senate bill SB1026).
Larry Stafford (Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, MCJPA) led off comments with a remembrance of Marshawn Carroll, a smart, committed young African American Ohio man who had worked with Larry and MCJPA here briefly before returning to Columbus, where he committed suicide earlier this month. “What has not been reported widely was that before he took his life, he had actually lost a friend to police violence in Ohio. And so recognizing the pain and the trauma that is inflicted on communities across this country when their loved ones lives are lost through police violence, or their freedom is infringed upon because of police misconduct and abuse of their authority, it’s because of that that we’re here today.” Other speakers included:
• William Rau (Caucus of African American Leaders): “…our elected officials are policymakers who are acting on our behalf. These walls, this carpet, this podium, the pomp and circumstance, the parliamentary procedure, that is all put into place to do our will. We must remember that…we are challenging a process that has run amuk. […] We must let them know we’re paying attention to every single word and every single comment.”
• Marion Gray-Hopkins (Coalition of Concerned Mothers): “…most importantly, I am a survivor. My son Gary Hopkins was murdered by the police November 27th 1999. I’m here with Greta Willis whose son Kevin Cooper was murdered in Baltimore City. I’m here with Darlene Cain whose son Dale Graham was murdered in Baltimore City in 2008. And… there are other mothers who are not here who I am representing: Dorothy Elliot – son: Archie Elliot, murdered – over 20+ bullets while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, and it was alleged that there was a gun. I’m here for Gina Best whose daughter India Kator was murdered in Virginia. This is not just about Maryland.”
• Rev. Jamila Woods Jones (Jabez Christian Community Church):“This is not a new issue, we’ve been coming here for years, with the same issues, the same concerns. And while we’re happy that we’re moving forward, we want to acknowledge that there are some fatal flaws that *must* be addressed if we’re going to make this a truly transparent effort that is beneficial to everyone. … Now we’re calling on our legislators, we’re demanding that our legislators hear the cry of the people. That’s all I have to say.”
• Sophia Marjanovic: “…during my divorce I met a county sheriff whose conduct concerned me about his neglect of duty and misconduct. I made a complaint of misconduct with the county sheriff’s department. The department did not advise me about whether they’d be investigating the case, and never advised me about whether there was an outcome of an investigation. […] I was later ordered to work with the same sheriff against whom I filed the complaint. […] I’m concerned about retaliation because the officer shouted at me that he didn’t want me filing a complaint against him again. […] I ask that the agency be required to inform the complainant of the outcome of an investigation.”
• Kirkland Hall (Somerset County NAACP): “I’m here speaking for a young lady who had been voiceless after what happened to her in 2009. … The Maryland State Police called her home looking for a young man who had escaped from a work release team. She wasn’t there. But he left a message. He said ‘My name is Sergeant Milo, Maryland State Police. We need for you to call us.’ When he thought he had hung up the phone, he made this statement: ‘I’m getting sick and tired of calling these n*****s on the telephone with these long voice messages.’ […] We could hear other police officers laughing on the phone. Which tells me there’s a culture of the police department. Which tells me that they are very familiar with the words of Chief Justice Taney many years ago, that a black man has no rights which a white man should respect.”
• Lawrence Grandpre (Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle):“Some people think this issue of police reform is complicated. I don’t think so. You can look at the words of the people who represent the establishment to see what the problem is. A few days ago [Delegate] Curt Anderson was on the radio. And he said ‘This trial board thing, it doesn’t matter. That’s internal, that’s kind of like a court martial. So we don’t need non-police officers on that board. Think about that. An elected official in Maryland just said that we should have military style justice for civilian police forces. It’s a small step when you isolate a community and produce a military style accountability system; soon enough you’ll get military style application of policing on the streets.”
A teenage boy has allegedly been shot by police while holding a broomstick in Salt Lake City, sparking angry protests. Witnesses told local media the incident happened at around 8.15pm on Saturday evening (3.15am GMT) near a homeless shelter in the US city’s downtown area. Selam Mohammad said his friend was 16 and had been shot in the chest and stomach after he got into a fight with another person.
Mohammad told the Salt Lake Tribune that the teenager was holding part of a broomstick at his side when officers ran up.
“They told him to put it down, once, and started shooting him as soon as he turned around,” he added, saying his friend was hit in the chest and stomach.
Authorities did not immediately confirm the boy’s condition or the circumstances of the reported shooting.
Detective Greg Wilking told the Tribune that ”shots were fired“ but not how many or who by, and police later said up to two officers were involved.
As the incident was discussed on social media, Salt Lake City Police Department’s official Twitter account said: “Officers on unrelated call in area, alerted to assault in progress, tried to engage altercation. Investigation cont.”
Within minutes of the shooting, local people had gathered at the scene and started a protest, shouting “f*** the police” and sporadically throwing rocks and other missiles at lines of riot officers.
A a light rail stop in the neighbourhood was temporarily closed and a security cordon put in place, with several people being detained.
The Unified Police Department has launched an investigation into the shooting, which may include evidence from officers’ body cameras.
Breaking news! Fairfax County Cops investigate Fairfax County cops and find Fairfax County Cops Innocent!!!!!!
WELL, I GUESS THAT'S NOT REALLY NEWS ANYMORE IS IT?
Why does the Washington Post report the name of the victim and not the cops name?
That's why the cops keep doing these things, they can rely on the media not to tell the public who they are...
Charge of assault dropped against man Tasered by police
By Justin Jouvenal
Fairfax County prosecutors have dropped a charge of assault on a police officer against an Alexandria man who was seen being Tasered by police on a video circulated on social media last year.
Elton Cansler, 39, was seen on the video being stunned as he stood with his back to a Fairfax County police officer and his hands apparently resting on the officer's cruiser.
Fairfax County police cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in the case, saying the use of force was appropriate because Cansler had been resisting arrest.
The incident began on Sept. 24, 2015, when Cansler allegedly stole a pair of sunglasses from a bank in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County and police were called. Police said Cansler had a knife.
Cansler pleaded no contest to a petit larceny charge related to the case this week.
By ARIELLE DOLLINGER and MARC SANTORAFEB. 26, 2016
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — The former police chief of Suffolk County pleaded guilty on Friday to federal charges stemming from accusations that he beat a suspect in custody, threatened to kill him and then coerced his fellow officers into covering up the misconduct.
The former chief, James Burke, 51, who was known for his swaggering confidence as the leader of one of the region’s largest police departments, was subdued in Federal District Court here as the charges against him were read aloud.
“I plead guilty, Your Honor,” said Mr. Burke, wearing a drab khaki prison uniform.
Since the federal inquiry into Mr. Burke’s actions began some three years ago, investigators have expanded their inquiries and are now examining the workings of the Police Department and the district attorney’s office.
Robert L. Capers, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the investigation was continuing and would seek out those who might have been involved in wrongdoing.
“The defendant violated his oath and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer by exacting personal vengeance, assaulting a handcuffed suspect and abusing his authority as the highest ranking uniformed member of the Suffolk County Police Department,” Mr. Capers said in a statement. “Despite the efforts of the defendant and his co-conspirators to obstruct the federal investigation, he has been brought to justice.”
Joseph Conway, Mr. Burke’s lawyer, later told reporters that he planned to argue for a sentence of less than five years in prison for violating the suspect’s civil rights and conspiring to obstruct justice. The maximum possible sentence for the civil rights charge is 10 years in prison; for the obstruction charge, it is 20 years.
“He realized what he did here, and he wants to own up to it,” Mr. Conway said. “He’s very remorseful.”
The charges against Mr. Burke stemmed from an episode in December 2012 when Christopher Loeb, a heroin addict who financed his $100-a-day habit by breaking into cars, was arrested on suspicion of stealing a duffel bag stuffed with cigars, pornographic DVDs and sex toys from Mr. Burke’s police car.
He was brought to a precinct house and shackled to the floor.
In a 2013 court hearing, Mr. Loeb testified that when he asked for a lawyer, one detective told him, “This isn’t ‘Law & Order’; you’re not going to get an attorney.”
When Mr. Burke entered the interrogation room, Mr. Loeb “was handcuffed and chained to an eyebolt fastened to the floor,” according to prosecutors.
“Chief Burke grabbed me by my cheeks and hit me on the top of my head,” Mr. Loeb testified during his 2013 trial, during which he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.
Mr. Loeb responded to the thrashing by calling Mr. Burke “a pervert” and mocking him for the pornography he found in his car, according to federal prosecutors.
At that point, prosecutors said, Mr. Burke “went out of control, screaming and cursing at Loeb and assaulting him until a detective finally said, ‘Boss, that’s enough, that’s enough.’”
After the interrogation, Mr. Burke pressured the detectives who witnessed the assault to conceal it.
“Those efforts continued even after the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office opened an investigation of the assault in May 2013,” according to a statement released by prosecutors announcing Mr. Burke’s indictment in December.
After Mr. Burke was arrested, Judge Leonard Wexler took the unusual step of denying him bail, saying he posed a danger to the community.
“I find the corruption of an entire department by this defendant is shocking,” Judge Wexler said in December.
The federal inquiry has since expanded beyond Mr. Burke to look into a broader pattern of possible corruption in both the police department and the office of the Suffolk County district attorney, Thomas J. Spota.
Investigators are looking into the conduct of two of Mr. Spota’s protégés — Mr. Burke and the district attorney’s top anticorruption prosecutor — and any role they may have had in what federal prosecutors have described as a conspiracy to obstruct justice, three officials familiar with the investigation told The New York Times earlier this year.
The new Suffolk police commissioner, Tim Sini, is a former assistant United States attorney from the Southern District of New York, and he has hired a former federal corruption investigator, John Barry, to review the department’s internal affairs files.
At a court hearing after Mr. Burke’s arrest, a federal prosecutor, James Miskiewicz, described a pattern of abuse, including the use of a contractor for the district attorney’s office to install a GPS device on a deputy police commissioner’s car.
Mr. Burke was hoping to “to dig up blackmail dirt on her,” Mr. Miskiewicz testified, calling the episode “something out of the K.G.B.”
Mr. Spota and Mr. Burke have been close for decades, and the district attorney helped Mr. Burke secure his job as the top officer for much of Long Island, despite a sometimes checkered history.
Two decades ago, as a sergeant, Mr. Burke had a sexual relationship with a prostitute, according to an internal affairs investigation that accused Mr. Burke of accidentally leaving his handgun with the woman, Newsday reported.
Mr. Burke not only survived that incident but also thrived. He was named chief in 2012, the highest-ranking uniformed position in the department, which, like New York City’s, is led by a civilian commissioner.
With some 2,700 sworn officers and over 600 civilian members, the department is one of the largest in the region.
Compared with those in other departments, officers in the Suffolk agency are well paid, making $125,000 in base pay. That is about $50,000 more than their counterparts in New York City, and it does not include overtime pay, which can be substantial, or the extra money officers receive for each year on the job.
Detectives and sergeants have been known to earn more than $200,000 a year. The police unions on Long Island are so wealthy they have formed a “super PAC” to flood local elections with campaign donations.
Correction: February 26, 2016
An earlier version of his article misstated James Burke’s appearance when he was in court on Friday. He was wearing a prison uniform, but not ankle chains.
Correction: February 26, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated what Mr. Burke’s lawyer, Joseph Conway, said about his client’s prison sentence. He said he intended to argue for a sentence of less than five years in prison; it was not the case that he expected that to be the penalty.
Arielle Dollinger reported from Central Islip, and Marc Santora from New York. William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting from New York.
There is an epidemic of rapist cops, no one is doing anything about it, and in large part, they get away with it
2 L.A. cops charged with repeatedly raping, ‘preying on’ vulnerable women
By Michael E. Miller
The woman was walking her dog in Hollywood one day in 2009 when the Volkswagen Jetta pulled up alongside her. Two men inside the car allegedly ordered her to climb in.
She complied. She had to.
The men were police officers.
Despite the undercover car, the woman recognized them as veteran Los Angeles Police narcotics officers. They had arrested her before.
Officer Luis Valenzuela allegedly climbed into the back seat with the woman. Then he allegedly handed her dog to his partner, Officer James C. Nichols, who drove the Jetta to a secluded area.
“Why don’t you cut out that tough girl crap,” Valenzuela said as he “unzipped his pants and forced [her] head down toward his lap,” according to a warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The policeman then “physically held her head down” as he forced the woman to perform oral sex on him — all while his partner acted as a lookout, according to the warrant.
The woman didn’t immediately report the incident because she was scared, humiliated and felt nobody would believe her.
But on Wednesday, prosecutors charged Valenzuela and Nichols with raping the dog-walker and three other women over the span of several years. According to a felony complaint, the officers repeatedly threatened the women — all of whom had previous drug arrests — with a return to jail unless they agreed to oral or vaginal sex.
In at least one case, Valenzuela allegedly pointed a gun at one of the women to get her to go along with his demands.
“You don’t want to go to jail today, do you?” Nichols allegedly told another woman, removing her handcuffs and exposing himself.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed his disgust with the two officers Wednesday.
“These two officers have disgraced themselves, they’ve disgraced this badge, they’ve disgraced their oath of office,” he said during a news conference. “I am extremely troubled by what they’ve done.”
Worst of all was that the two officers “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims,” Beck said.
“It’s a violation of public trust,” he added. “That’s what makes it so horrific.”
The two officers now face a combined 32 charges. If convicted, they could each face life in prison.
An attorney representing two of the women, who have not been named, hailed the charges as a “wonderful development.”
“It’s a ray of light that these women will finally see some justice,” Dennis Chang told the Los Angeles Times.
But Chang also said the charges were “years overdue.” According to the complaint, the offenses date back to at least 2008. They were reported by multiple women, but the rapes allegedly continued unchecked as an internal investigation floundered for years. It wasn’t until one of the women filed a lawsuit against the officers in 2013 that their fellow LAPD officers moved in, seizing phones and computers belonging to Valenzuela and Nichols. The accused officers have spent the past two years on unpaid leave.
Robert Rico, an attorney representing Nichols in administrative charges of sexual misconduct filed by the LAPD, told CNN that if the criminal charges reflect those in the administrative case, “my client absolutely denies it.”
Bill Seki, a lawyer representing Valenzuela in his own administrative battle, said his client also denied the administrative charges. As for the criminal investigation, Seki said it had dragged on for years and was plagued by “issues of credibility” surrounding the victims, CNN reported.
The allegation that the two officers preyed on vulnerable, easily discreditable women is reminiscent of another high-profile police abuse case.
Last month, former Oklahoma City officer Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for similar crimes. Holtzclaw, was accused of pulling over and sexually assaulting African American women in low-income neighborhoods in the hope that they would be less likely to report his actions. He was undone, however, when a grandmother of 12 reported him.
In Los Angeles, it is unclear whether race played a factor in how Nichols and Valenzuela chose their victims. The ethnicity of the officers and their alleged victims has not been released.
What is clear, though, is that the two LAPD officers stand accused of sexually preying on women with drug or prostitution habits. Sometimes the officers took turns assaulting the women as the other stood guard, while at other times they acted alone, according to the complaint.
The first alleged rape occurred in 2008, when a woman working as a confidential informant for the police department’s narcotics unit was stopped by Valenzuela and Nichols, who she knew. The cops were dressed in plainclothes and driving a Jetta. Valenzuela threatened to take the woman to jail if she refused to get into the car, according to the warrant obtained by the Times. When she got in, he allegedly exposed himself and made her perform a sex act on him.
When the woman complained to a narcotics unit supervisor in January of 2010, the investigation stalled when a detective was unable to find the woman, according to the Times.
When the woman walking her dog was allegedly assaulted in a similar manner in 2009, she also hesitated to expose the officers. When she finally did come forward, “police noted that the woman displayed erratic behavior while recounting the events,” the Times reported. “Later, she made violent threats while in custody and was transported to the hospital.”
Despite the woman’s erratic behavior, LAPD reopened its investigation into the two officers. This time, an investigator tracked down the dog-walker as well as the woman who said she had been raped in 2008. Both gave statements.
But the investigation into the allegedly crooked cops once again stalled, this time for 18 months. According to the Times, the reason for the delay isn’t clear from the warrant.
During the delay, Valenzuela and Nichols allegedly continued their crimes.
According to the complaint, the two cops were involved in a series of other sexual assaults against two more women from 2009 until 2011. One of the women, identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe #3,” was allegedly assaulted twice in the span of three weeks. Another woman, “Jane Doe #4,” was allegedly raped six times over the span of a year and a half.
One of the women said she had worked as a confidential informant for Valenzuela and Nichols after she was arrested. Valenzuela initially told her that having sex with him would help her avoid jail, according to the warrant. Later, Nichols allegedly told her she could stop informing if she had sex with him. The woman told investigators she had sex with Valenzuela twice for fear or returning to jail if she refused: once when he was off duty at her apartment and a second time in the back seat of his undercover car while he was on duty.
During this time, both officers were reassigned to other divisions, according to the Times.
The internal affairs case against the cops only sprang back to life in July of 2012, when a man left LAPD a phone message saying that he was a member of a neighborhood watch and that a prostitute had told him that cops were picking up working girls and letting them go in exchange for sex, according to the warrant.
When officers belatedly looked into the man’s complaint, they “thought the circumstances and location were very similar” to the previous allegations against Valenzuela and Nichols, according to the warrant.
Even then, the department didn’t act until one of the women filed a lawsuit against the two officers in January of 2013. Fearing that Valenzuela and Nichols would destroy evidence, internal affairs investigators seized their phones and computers and the accused cops were put on unpaid leave, the Times reported.
The woman settled her suit with the city in January of 2014 for $575,000, the Times reported.
“Their power over her was abundantly clear from the get go,” Chang said at the time.
It took more than two additional years for prosecutors to charge the pair of cops. When they finally did Wednesday, Valenzuela and Nichols suffered the ignominy of being arrested by their own colleagues.
The pair are being held on more than $3.5 million bail and are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, according to prosecutors.
An Associated Press investigation published in November found that at least 1,000 U.S. law enforcement officers had lost their badges due to sexual misconduct — including rape, possession of child pornography, propositioning citizens and having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse — between 2009 and 2014.
Although the arrest of Valenzuela and Nichols brought relief to some of their alleged victims, it’s unlikely to satisfy all of them.
Despite the officers’ promises to help her in exchange for sex, one of the four women was sentenced to seven years in April of 2011 for possession of cocaine with the intent to sell, the Times reported.
If she does remain behind bars, then she could soon be joined there by the very men who allegedly abused her.
Veteran Reynoldsburg cop faces drug charges
BY SEAN ROWE THURSD
REYNOLDSBURG — Reynoldsburg Police Officer Tye L. Downard was arrested for possession with the intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances. He appeared in federal court Thursday morning.
According to an affidavit, while Downard worked as a detective at the Reynoldsburg Police Department, the Columbus office of the FBI got word that Downard was using his job to engage in drug trafficking.
The FBI says they've corroborated evidence through recorded conversations, recorded telephone calls, physical surveillance and seizure of narcotics provided to a source in their investigation.
According to the FBI, the informant knew 43-year-old Downard for more than two years and dealt drugs for him for several months. Downard reportedly met the person in 2013 while executing a search warrant at a residence. Downard allegedly coerced the source into working as an informant for him in order to work off additional charges that Downard said he could bring against the informant.
It is alleged that, on 21 occasions between October 2015 and February 2016, Downard delivered drugs to an individual to sell. The complaint further alleges that Downard seized blue-and-white Percocet pills during a search warrant and provided blue-and-white Percocet pills to the individual to sell two days later. Likewise, Downard was involved in the execution of a search warrant that yielded several green glass canning-style jars containing harvested marijuana buds. The next day, Downard allegedly provided the individual with four green glass canning-style jars containing harvested marijuana buds.
Possession with intent to distribute controlled substances is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison
We need a federal Cop czar to make these ruling uniform, otherwise 400 police departments will come up with 400 ruling on Klan Cops
Fired Cop Testifies Over Alleged Racist Texts
By Joan Murray
FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — A Fort Lauderdale cop fired over alleged racist text messages testified Friday in an effort to get his job back.
Former Police Officer James Wells spoke for the first time about it on Friday after he and two other officers were fired in March 2015. Investigators said the texts were laced with racial slurs.
He insists he is not racist and was trying to convince an arbitrator his dismissal wasn’t fair and he should be reinstated.
Wells said the “n” word he used in the texts was used a lot on the streets and means different things. He also said his African-American friends called him the “n” word.
Wells said when he used the “n” word he was talking about what he referred to as “the worst of the criminals, not a specific race or gender.. the worst of the worst.”
“Do you have a negative image of African Americans” his attorney asked.
“Absolutely not,” replied Wells.
He said the texts are not who he is.
“I enjoy helping people,” he said.
Wells said some of his texts were taken out of context and often he was quoting from the movie “Django Unchained” which deals with slavery.
“The word hurt means I would arrest them,” said Wells.
When pressed by the city attorney to admit what he said was wrong, Wells acknowledged police officers are held to a higher standard.
“I thought I was assured privacy in those conversations,” Wells said about the messages
The texts were turned over to the Fort Lauderdale police department by the ex-fiance of former officer Alex Alvarez who resigned in January 2015. Alvarez was accused of making a racially charged home video that depicted the Ku Klux Klan and African Americans being mistreated.
Just a day before, the man who fired him, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley, testified in the case. He called the racism scandal the worst thing he had ever seen.
“It was a black eye on the City of Fort Lauderdale,” Adderley said.
Adderley said the messages damaged the trust with the community and the words made it impossible to prosecute some suspects.
Broward prosecutor Tim Donnelly told the arbitrator that his office had to drop 18 cases where Wells was the arresting officer.
Wells maintains he isn’t a racist and the text messages were private conversations made in jest with friends on the force.
The arbitrator isn’t expected to issue a ruling until the spring.
SAN JOSE — A San Jose police officer who was fired last year for posting comments online that threaten those protesting the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York is back on the force.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that Phillip White re-joined the San Jose Police Department on Feb. 10 after convincing an independent arbitrator that termination was too harsh a punishment for his actions.
White posted several comments to his Twitter account in December 2014 saying he would kill any anti-police protesters who threatened his family. He appeared to challenge demonstrators to confront him.
The department initially suspended him, and community activists demanded his dismissal. He was fired in October.
SJPD Acting Chief Eddie Garcia says White won't be on patrol and has been assigned to administer the department's body-worn camera program.
By Radley Balko
Several years ago, local journalists noticed that three of the largest police agencies in Virginia — the Fairfax County Police Department, the Alexandria Police Department and the Arlington County Police Department — were summarily denying all open-records requests. Virginia actually has pretty decent open-records laws, but these agencies were simply choosing to ignore them. This came to light after a number of police shootings in which the agencies involved had refused to name the officers responsible. Journalist Michael Pope found that the agencies were even declining to release information about cases they were simultaneously touting in press releases.
This was essentially an open defiance of state law. Yet the Alexandria commonwealth’s attorney not only defended the lack of transparency, he blamed the media for wanting such information in the first place, and derisively referred to “the sacred ‘right of the public to know.’ ”
The Virginia Senate responded with some watered-down modifications to the state’s open-record laws. Even those modifications were vigorously opposed by law enforcement agencies across the state.
Fast-forward to this week. The Virginia Senate just passed a horrendous bill.
The Virginia Senate voted 25-15 on Monday to keep the names of all police officers and deputy sheriffs a secret.
SB552 by Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, applies to any local or state officer, including officers from agencies such as the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Virginia Marine Police.
Cosgrove said during an earlier subcommittee hearing that he filed the bill in response to a November court ruling allowing The Virginian-Pilot access to names, agencies and employment dates for current Virginia police officers. The newspaper is examining how often officers who got in trouble were able to find other jobs in law enforcement.
Cosgrove said Monday that his bill, which exempts law enforcement officers from Freedom of Information Act requirements, should be passed to protect officers and their families from being targeted for violence.
“Unfortunately, our culture has changed,” he said. “Many times, police officers are considered fair game.”
Where to begin? Let’s start with the fact that this bill was introduced in direct response to a newspaper investigation into why police officers who are fired for misconduct are permitted to simply go work for another agency. Does Sen. Cosgrove believe that cops who are fired for corruption, misuse of force, or illegal acts should be able to find work at another police agency? Why doesn’t he want the public to know when and how often this happens?
Another Virginia state senator actually cited “ISIS terrorism” as a reason to keep the identities of police officers secret. For the record, Cosgrove claims membership in his local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and has been named Legislator of the Year by the FOP and the Virginia State Police Association. He has received campaign contributions from the latter and the Virginia Sheriffs Association.
The notion that “our culture has changed” is also wrong. As we’ve documented over and over again here at The Watch, policing has been getting safer for decades. (Yes, the start of 2016 has seen an inordinate number of killings of police officers. There’s no evidence this is indicative of a trend or is the beginning of a reversal of the generation-long trend toward fewer such killings.) I’m not aware of a single incident in which the publication of a police officer’s name after an officer-involved shooting has led to violence against that police officer or his or her family. In a few very high-profile cases, there have been threats. But to require police agencies to keep all officers’ names secret would essentially remove the ability of the media and watchdog groups to find patterns of officer misconduct. It would mean the public would be completely reliant on law enforcement agencies to police themselves. That’s a massive overreaction to a perceived threat for which there’s little to zero evidence.
It’s worth stating one more time exactly what’s happening here: Virginia’ state Senate thinks the public should be forbidden from knowing the names of the public servants entrusted with the power to detain, arrest and kill.
Let’s hope the Virginia House of Delegates ends this madness and kills the bill.
Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
In NYC, they jail and fire cops who murder people. In Fairfax County the Council helps the cops cover murder up
NYPD fires partner of cop convicted of manslaughter in stairwell shooting after victim's family calls for his dismissal
Shaun Landau was fired after former partner, Peter Liang, was found guilty in the shooting death of unarmed Akai Gurley
Landau avoided criminal charges by testifying under immunity agreement
His termination came hours after the Gurley family called for his dismissal
Liang could face up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing in April
By VALERIE EDWARDS FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and REUTERS
The New York Police Department fired the former partner of ex-cop Peter Liang less than 24 hours after Liang was convicted of shooting an unarmed man in Brooklyn.
Shaun Landau, the terminated officer, testified for the prosecution during Liang's trial.
Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct on Thursday for firing his gun in a darkened public housing stairwell in November 2014 as the two officers began a so-called 'vertical patrol'.
The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Akai Gurley, 28, who had been walking one floor below with his girlfriend.
Neither officer offered medical assistance to Gurley once they realized he had been hit by the shot. Both testified that they felt unqualified to do so because of poor CPR training at the police academy.
Landau avoided criminal charges by agreeing to testify under an immunity agreement. The police department said he had been fired at the discretion of Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Since Landau was a probationary officer — with less than two years on the job — the NYPD does not have to state a reason for the firing beyond 'unsatisfactory probation,' a law-enforcement source said.
His termination came hours after the Gurley family released a statement calling for his dismissal. Liang was fired immediately after the jury's verdict on Thursday.
At trial, Liang said he was startled by an unidentified sound as he entered the stairwell with his gun drawn, causing his finger to slip onto the trigger and fire.
But 12 Brooklyn jurors agreed that Liang wasn't telling the truth about how the gun actually went off.
Retired candy-store owner and Juror No. 10, Carlton Screen, told the New York Post that when the jurors tested an unloaded gun it led them to conclude that the rookie had lied about not having his finger on the trigger when it fired.
'It was very hard to pull the trigger,' he said.
'They had another safety that's on the trigger itself, so you have to pull it hard enough to release that safety in order for it to fire.'
Liang had tearfully described his horror when he realized minutes later that Gurley had been hit.
But prosecutors accused him of deliberately firing toward the sound and ignoring the fact that only another person could have made such a noise.
They also said he acted recklessly in drawing his weapon in the first place.
Liang faces up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing in April.
Police-reform activists, who have come to expect disappointment any time an officer is accused in a killing, expressed surprise Friday over the conviction of a patrolman who shot an unarmed man in a housing project stairwell but said they don't necessarily see the case as a turning point in the national debate over police accountability.
'It's definitely movement in the right direction,' said Lumumba Bandele, a demonstrator who attended nearly every day of the patrolman's trial.
But, he added, 'It's not a victory in the larger scale of having made significant advances. We have a backlog of cases that have yet to be investigated, much less indicted.'
It was the first time in a decade a New York Police Department officer was held responsible for a line-of-duty killing.
The outcome stood in stark contrast to many other cases around the country in which police have been accused of killing unarmed black men and boys.