The national cop crime waves continues
Four Cops Arrest Black Man For Stepping Off Curb
by Michael Allen
An unidentified black man filmed the moment he was arrested by four San Diego, California, police officers (video below). His crime? Stepping off a curb.
The video was originally posted on the Don't Shoot Facebook page on April 7 with the caption: "The hateful eight of San Diego cops rushed a Black man for 'stepping off sidewalk' I just wonder, what are we paying for our tax dollars? Do they REALLY not have anything better to do than this?
"These cops are thirsty for violent conflict and thus are a menace to society. This video is more proof."
In the video, the man is walking around with an unidentified companion and pointing out the cops in the area. At one point, the man does appear to step off a curb to film a street.
"Now you see this s---?" the man tells his companion. "They’re trying to follow me. They’re trying to get me. But I’m in the wrong, if I do anything. You see this s---? This is dumb."
Two San Diego police cruisers pull up, the officers get out and approach the man.
PhotographyIsNotACrime.com notes the awkward conversation that followed.
"How’s it going partner?" the cops.
"Alright, did I do anything wrong?" the man replies.
"Absolutely, you can’t step off the curb like that," the officer informs him.
"Oh, I can’t step off the curb," the man answers. "I didn’t take a picture, I just lightly stepped off."
"No, no, no, no," the cop insists. "I saw you over there."
"I didn’t do nothing wrong," the man tells the police.
The officer then asks the man if he is carrying any weapons and tells him that they are going to pat him down. The police do not give a reason for searching him on the video.
"I didn’t do nothing wrong," the man says.
"You stepped off the curb," the officer replies
The man asks for his ticket, but the cop handcuffs him and says, "I'll do my business the way I do my business."
"If the person is a danger to themselves or others, it could rise to the level of a state misdemeanor arrest,” an officer from the San Diego Police Chief's office told PhotographyIsNotACrime.com.
"Generally we issue a civil citation for jaywalking," the officer added. "I don’t know under what circumstances our police would perform an arrest."
Federal grand jury indicts former Pittsburgh police sergeant who was fired after violent arrest
PITTSBURGH —A federal grand jury has indicted a fired Pittsburgh police sergeant accused of wrongly pushing and punching a drunken man at Heinz Field and then lying on reports to justify his use of force. (Mobile users: Scroll down to read the U.S. attorney's statement.)
Stephen Matakovich, accused of wrongly pushing and punching a man at Heinz Field and lying on reports to justify his use of force, is now facing a federal civil rights case.
Stephen Matakovich, 47, of Brookline, was charged with perjury, official oppression and simple assault after surveillance videoshowed him striking Gabriel Despres, then 19.
VIDEO: Watch Sheldon Ingram's report
"Every indication is what the sergeant did that day was wrong", says Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
He says the grand jury indictment sends a powerful message "to build that faith back with the community, We have to make sure we have discipline, but it has to be consistent and fair".
Charges against Matakovich were dismissed by a district judge at a preliminary hearing Feb. 1. District Attorney Stephen Zappala's office later refiled the charges.
The FBI reviewed the case, because Pittsburgh police said the security video did not appear to support Matakovich's claim that Despres was aggressive during his Nov. 28 arrest at the WPIAL football championships.
"Sgt. Matakovich recently testified at a preliminary hearing before District Judge Robert Ravenstahl. At the conclusion of that hearing, the charges were dismissed. The FOP believes strongly that when all the facts and circumstances are fully explained, Sgt. Matakovich's actions will be found reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances known to him at the time he used force in the course of an arrest," police union President Robert Swartzwelder said in a statement Wednesday.
Bryan Campbell, a police union attorney seeking to have the ex-officer reinstated, said that a state law requires officers charged with felonies to be suspended from "law enforcement duties" but that the language has been interpreted to mean officers in such cases can't work patrol duties.
He said Matakovich could work in the police warrant office or evidence room.
"Plus, he's a sergeant, so there's a lot of administrative jobs for sergeants where they're not out there answering calls and stuff," Campbell said.
Despres still faces a preliminary hearing in May on charges including defiant trespass and public drunkenness. He didn't return a telephone call seeking comment and doesn't have an attorney listed in court papers.
Md. lawmaker confident in police reform bill despite setback
By BRIAN WITTE
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker says he’s optimistic a police reform bill can still pass, despite an unexpected setback.
Sen. Robert Zirkin said Tuesday he doesn’t think the measure is in trouble after it was sent back to committee late Monday. The chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee says he’s confident the comprehensive bill will return to the Senate “sooner rather than later.”
The bill was sent back after Baltimore senators wanted to include two civilian members with voting powers on a city board that reviews complaints against police. The measure now leaves it up to local officials to determine that.
The bill is the work of a panel formed after Baltimore riots last year following Freddie Gray’s death after his neck was broken in the back of a police van.
Cops sued for ‘brutal beating’ during arrest of wrong man
GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WOOD) — A man is suing a Grand Rapids police officer and an FBI agent, claiming he was brutally beaten by them when they were undercover looking for a different man.
In the federal lawsuit filed Monday, 23-year-old James King argues excessive force was used and his constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when he was arrested in July 2014.
The arrest happened near the corner of Leonard Street NW and Tamarack Avenue in Grand Rapids. According to court documents, King says he was walking to work at The Geek Group when the officer and agent in plainclothes approached him, claiming they were police and asking for his identification because he matched a rough description of a home invasion suspect.
King complied at first, according to the lawsuit, but when the officers removed his wallet and said he was under arrest, he started running because he thought he was being robbed. The lawsuit alleges he made it only a few steps before he was tackled and then choked until he lost consciousness.
A witness captured video on a cellphone of a handcuffed King lying face-down in the grass after the struggle was over. In the video, witnesses can be heard recounting what happened:
“They were literally pounding him in the head, though,” one witness said. “They were pounding his head for no reason.”
King was arrested for assaulting the undercover officers and resisting arrest. He spent the weekend in jail before posting bond and being released, according to the lawsuit.
King after the arrest. (Courtesy photo)
Pictures taken after the incident show him with a dark bruise under his left eye and both eyes red because of burst blood vessels.
In the lawsuit, he claims he had to drop out of college because of the incident.
“James learned the hard lesson that unless you’re 6 years old, white and lost, the police aren’t necessarily your friends and he got beat down for it,” Chris Boden, the president of The Geek Group, said.
He said he’s furious about what happened.
“This is real and I watched a kid’s life get destroyed for it,” he said. “I’m pissed as hell.”
Other witnesses who have come forward painted a different picture. One witness said he helped police subdue King, who he said bit an officer’s arm.
“When they tackled him, they proceeded to yell, ‘Help us, help us.’ And they were yelling that they were detectives. So I sat and watched for two seconds, (then) I ran across the street helped hold him down, pretty much,” the witness, who didn’t want to be identified, told 24 Hour News 8.
Another anonymous witnesses also said the officers’ actions were justified:
“At not one point did I see him knocked unconscious and laying still. He was flailing at all times,” the witness said.
Both witnesses claim police were clearly wearing badges around their necks.
Police later realized King was not the home invasion suspect they were looking for. He was tried on the assault charges, but ultimately acquitted.
Several witnesses told 24 Hour News 8 that another officer who arrived on scene after the incident was asking people to delete any cellphone video to protect the officers’ identities.That third officer is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The City of Grand Rapids declined to comment Tuesday.
Should smoking a cigarette land you in jail?
By Mark Chiusano
One snowy day last winter, Darrell Morrison was walking into the subway at 125th Street. He was smoking a cigarette, and before entering the station, on the last step, he stamped it out.
That’s when he saw two police officers watching him. They asked to see his ID.
Morrison, 49, asked why, and one of the officers told him that he wasn’t allowed to smoke in the transit system. Morrison said he knew that, but had put out the cigarette before he got underground. The officer told him a new law made the staircase part of the transit system.
Morrison gave the officers his ID, figuring he’d get his ticket, pay his fine. But the officer came back after running the ID, and said they had to arrest him.
At the station, Morrison was informed that he was a "transit recidivist," language in a recently revised NYPD policy by which those who have committed certain crimes or committed a number of transit violations in recent years would be arrested for future violations, not simply given a summons. The NYPD says Morrison’s problem was an arrest for robbery two years before, which led to an assault charge (Morrison says the incident was an altercation in a store). Still, he'd served his time.
So, for putting out a cigarette in the wrong place, combined with the long memory of the law concerning an earlier transgression, he spent about 48 hours in jail, losing a day’s pay at work in the process.
“It really sucked, to tell you the truth,” he says, “going through the system for something I’d already paid for.”
Observing the system
Morrison’s is one of the stories collected in a new report by the Police Reform Organizing Project, a criminal justice advocacy group.
PROP conducted a number of “court monitoring” sessions of mostly misdemeanor and violation cases starting in 2014, according to director Bob Gangi. Observing 1,880 cases in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, PROP found that 91% of the defendants were “people of color.”
Gangi says the “vast majority” received adjournments in contemplation of dismissal — basically a warning — or received time served plus a fine or community service. Meaning, the court didn’t find it necessary to lock these people up further for public safety or the like.
PROP did not observe Morrison’s case, but Morrison approached them recently to add his experience to the list.
Morrison, who is a stagehand, grew up and lives near Lincoln Center. He said he’s “had some run-ins with the police.” His conviction records show about a dozen cases, for misdemeanors and a few low-level felonies — mostly from when he was a younger man. His life "changed a lot," he says, when he had children; he now has two daughters.
Often he felt that cops had it out for him when he was young, for being young and black — he remembers being accosted by police while trying to get on the subway once as a boy, accused of "preparing to steal a ladies purse." He said he had his coins in his hand to pay for the ride.
But history was against him on the day of that subway arrest. Any earlier transgressions were behind him, both in his own estimation and legally — sentences filled, paid fines, completed community service. “I paid my dues for all of them,” he says. Still, the past turned a cigarette toss into a ticket to jail.
The potential for change
Morrison’s experience is sadly typical: A small offense can pull an individual into the criminal justice system and impact his or her life.
Summons reforms in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island and criminal justice reform bills before the City Council, along with the NYPD’s court-mandated curtailing of stop-and-frisk, all aim to break the cycles that keep low-level offenders in the criminal justice system.
But much depends on the focus of the police department, which decides where to marshal its forces and angle its attention. That is abundantly clear from Morrison’s case: earlier this month, the NYPD began a new pilot program (confined to the MTA system) through which so-called transit recidivists are not automatically arrested for violations such as such as cigarette smoking on the subway or feet up on a seat. They’ll receive a summons. It’s too late for Morrison, but it makes one thing clear: police strategy is crucial to any reform efforts.
Morrison says he can understand police officers being vigilant in the subways — protecting against terrorists and slashers, for example. “They want to crack down on random violence,” he says, “but with that dragnet, they’re catching a lot of good people as well.”
Morrison says some common sense could be in order — searching people’s bags for weapons, feeling out the situation. Not just arresting people because it’s allowed.
The only thing Morrison has learned from the encounter? “I make it a point to put out my cigarette way before now.”
Off-duty Oakland cop charged in wrong-house case
OAKLAND COP CHARGED: An off-duty Oakland police officer has been charged with four misdemeanors for an alleged drunken assault after he showed up at the wrong house while looking for a party.
Cullen William Faeth was charged with two counts of battery and one count each of trespassing and public intoxication in connection with an incident on Dec. 7, Alameda County prosecutors said today.
It all started at Monaghan's Bar in the Oakland hills.
Sources say a group of off-duty Oakland police officers was drinking when they decided to go to one of the officer's homes about a mile away.
But Faeth apparently got left behind and got lost on the way there. He ended up on the wrong street and showed up at a home belonging to a woman who works as an Alameda County deputy probation officer.
Faeth, allegedly drunk, was charged with battering the woman and her husband while trespassing on their property.
According to an Oakland police statement of probable cause, Faeth battered the woman by "taking her to the ground by body force. Faeth refused to leave their property and was intoxicated in a public place."
Faeth and three other officers who had been together that night were placed on administrative leave.
The department has indicated that it no longer wants several officers on the force in connection with that incident.
In a statement today, the department said an internal affairs investigation had been completed.
"The Oakland Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct involving our employees seriously," the department said. "We hold all of our employees to a high level of ethical and professional accountability and will not tolerate criminal behavior."
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris has filed a claim against the city. The claim is a legal precursor to a formal lawsuit.
The alleged victim, who wished only to be identified as Mrs. Cortez, said she and her husband were home at the time with their two teenage daughters at the time of the incident.
The mother described being in the shower when she heard knocking on the door that became incessantly louder. She eventually and abruptly exited the shower to answer the door. At least one officer was described as being “very aggressive”, while another officer was said to have gone to the back yard.
Mrs. Cortez said she and her family were traumatized by the ordeal.
"I told my kids to go back inside," Cortez told reporters at a news conference with Burris. "And they were crying. And they were really afraid."