By Larry Celona and Jamie Schram
October 25, 2016
Washington-based federal prosecutors plan to aggressively pursue charges against NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, a law enforcement source told The Post on Tuesday.
“It’s going to happen sooner than later,” the source said of an indictment. “Washington wants to indict him.”
Federal investigators in Brooklyn were replaced by DC counterparts because of their reluctance to bring charges, the source said.
The New York feds are privately seething. They accused their Beltway colleagues of trying to “make an example out of Pantaleo” at any cost, said one source familiar with the case.
“We already … came to a conclusion which they didn’t like. It’s truly disgraceful what they’re doing,” the source said.
Bridging the gap in American policing
When it comes to police training in the US, there is little consistency across the country’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies. Romina Spina reports from Fairfax County on the challenges reformers face.
After the local community protested an officer-involved shooting that killed a man in Fairfax County, Virginia, the newly appointed chief of police, Edwin Roessler, decided to put his department on a different course. What was most needed from its 1,300 sworn officers, he realized, was a change of mindset. WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED BUT SELLS WELL WHEN YOU SELL IT TO THE PRESS.
That killing happened in 2013, only months before the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, repeated reports of officer-involved killings of African American males across the country exposed deep rifts between the police and the communities, leading to renewed calls for reform. Back then, in an unusually proactive approach within the law enforcement world, Fairfax County Police Department had already started considering alternatives to the excessive use of force that had jeopardized community relations. A turning point was an overhaul of its training practices, so that officers could learn how to restore trust and better serve the county's residents. DROP THE PUNK ATTITUDE THAT CAUSED THE COMMUNITY ALL OF THESE PROBLEM….THAT WOULD HELP.
Officer training is perhaps the most challenging aspect for police reformers in the United States. That's mainly because control over America's police forces is decentralized. Nationwide, there are about 18,000 different law enforcement agencies, and no unified training standards for them exist.
According to Seth Stoughton, a former veteran officer and now a professor at the University of South Carolina, there is limited research on the types of police training and their delivery. "We typically don't know how effective training is, and whether certain training is better than other," he told DW. In other words, nobody really knows what the best way is to train an officer.
Because there is so little consistency, officers working at two nearby departments might be trained in completely different ways. "Training quality can also vary tremendously," Stoughton added. For example, a common method of instructions consists in recounting war anecdotes. Some recruits learn through hands-on scenarios and role plays, others try to absorb the same information in lectures. Not every agency can provide training because of budget constraints. In those cases, they rely on free training sessions so that officers can keep their certifications.
De-escalation whenever possible
Recommendations for better training were included in the final report by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, appointed in the aftermath of Ferguson. Other measures addressed the need for transparency and data sharing. But the response from police departments to President Obama's initiative has been underwhelming. Out of 18,000 agencies, only a few hundred showed an interest in the proposed changes.
Fairfax County was one them. Here, Maj. Richard Perez leads reform efforts. The emphasis is on transparency, which includes access to information and the release of footage related to officer-involved shootings. The other focus is on de-escalation, whenever possible. The goal is to use different techniques to defuse tense situations, preventing or limiting the use of force.
TRANSPARENCY? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? A TOTAL LACK OF TRANSPARENCY HAS LED TO FORCED OVERSIGHT OF THE FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE.
Perez looked at new training methods that would prepare its officers to do that. "Training is the gap in American policing," he told DW at the department's headquarters. He also believes that better training leads to cultural change.
Much of what his officers learn now stems from a program called T3 ("Tact, Tactics and Trust"), which is centered on the psychology of social interactions. It's the brainchild of Jonathan Wender, a sociologist and former police officer in Washington State.
Tact, tactics and trust
One of the first things Wender teaches is the need to understand and to never humiliate the person in front of them. "With policing, people on the street don't mind so much the force, they understand that that's part of it. But they resent the humiliation," he told DW. With officers, he talks about the experience of humiliationand the physical rage that comes from it.
De-escalation is just one of many tools that can be used in a difficult situation. The more trainers drew on science to build skills, the more effective the training would be, said Wender. That required not only abstract information, but also opportunities for officers to practise tactics. It's a big difference from the training he remembers receiving more than two decades ago, or from what is often taught in academies nowadays.
Wender believes that there is also an urgent need to teach officers to function well under stress. Many of them walked around in fear, he added. "Vigilance is important, but hyper-vigilance is dysfunctional, it leads people to do stupid things." Part of it has to do with the misconception about the risks of being shot dead in the line of duty, says Wender. More American cops were actually killed in traffic accidents.
Traditional training is focused on officer safety. This helps to explain why, on average, recruits spend nearly 60 training hours learning how to shoot firearms, and 10 hours or less learning about social interaction, psychology and communication skills. "But controlling the body is the least effective form of control," said Wender.
With personal safety being so paramount, many police unions are critical of the new emphasis on de-escalation. Stephen Bigelow, an officer and union leader in Washington, D.C., teaches de-escalation at the city's academy and is aware of its limits. In practice, these tactics were not always a viable option, he told DW. Like Wender, he believes that officers needed to learn how to make decisions under stress. Referring to recent police shootings, he said that "some of these instances were just two nervous people and misunderstandings, so we need to talk to each other."
Lack of money and will
Back in Fairfax County, when asked if their training model could be replicated elsewhere, Perez and his team said that core skills involved - social interaction, community outreach and trust-building - should be transferable. At the same time, they were aware that compared with many other places, their county had a low crime rate.
That difference matters. While most observers and officials recognize the need to reform, a lack of political will and insufficient funding prevent progress. "There is a huge dissonance between the cry for reform and the dollars put behind it. [Many] police departments won't spend the money to train people," Wender said.
In cities like Baltimore or Chicago, where problems were often concentrated in marginalized communities, it would be harder to implement new programs, as law enforcement agencies lacked the funding for quality training.
"The best police departments are in those communities who are affluent, who have resources to hire and train the best people. The people who need it most, tend to get it least," Wender said.
• Officer Arthur Thompson, of the Metropolitan Police Department, was arrested because of a citizen's complaint early Sunday morning
• The citizen discovered Thompson impaired and contacted cops, who sent a police supervisor to check on him
• Cops say Thompson smelled of booze and failed a sobriety test
• Thompson's police powers have been revoked while he's investigated
By DAILYMAIL.COM REPORTER
A police officer in Washington, DC, was arrested Sunday morning for allegedly driving drunk while on duty.
Officer Arthur Thompson, of the Metropolitan Police Department, was arrested about 2:20am Sunday because of a citizen's complaint, the Washington Post reported.
The citizen discovered Thompson, a four-year-veteran on the force, impaired and contacted cops.
His colleagues sent a police supervisor to check on him, FOX 5 reported.
'During the investigation, the supervisor detected the odor of alcohol,' police said in a statement.
'Field sobriety tests were conducted which confirmed the officer was under the influence.'
He was arrested on the 1400 block of 18th Street and charged with DUI, the Post reported.
Thompson had had been with the Metropolitan PD for four years.
He lost his police powers while the incident remains under investigation by internal affairs.
by Chris Richard/California Health Report
CHRIS RICHARD/CALIFORNIA HEALTH REPORT
The quiz was really easy.
Who was the first president of the United States? What’s 39 plus 16? What does UFO stand for?
But test-taking conditions were less than ideal.
A group of sheriff’s deputies would have to read the 10 questions through 3D glasses as a loudspeaker blared disjointed music, speech and static. Right-handed people would be required to write their answers legibly with their left, and vice versa.
At the end of the 60 seconds allotted for the quiz, most people hadn’t finished. Some said they felt frustrated because they knew the answers and couldn’t write them down.
That was just a hint of what it’s like to be autistic, said Kate Movius of Autism Interaction Solutions, who included the quiz in a recent training session at a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s substation.
"Imagine you felt like that all the time. Imagine if somebody asked you, 'Where do you live?' and you know exactly where you live, and you can’t get the words out," she told the deputies.
"It’s very easy with those with autism to misunderstand them and think they’re either being stubborn, belligerent, rude or noncompliant," said Movius. "These are the four adjectives that often get applied."
Amid increased public scrutiny of law enforcement tactics, some Southern California agencies - including the LAPD, the Orange Police Department, the Los Angeles School Police Department and others - have started specialized training to help officers read the signs of autism and respond appropriately.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s City of Industry substation began offering such training in January at the request of City Councilwoman Cory Moss, whose eight-year-old son has autism.
"The deputies have been telling us they’re really learning," Moss said. "A lot of times, they’ll say, ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know."
Knowing what to look for can be especially challenging because autism is a spectrum disorder. Autistic people share some degree of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication. But while some people with autism have intellectual disability, others excel in visual skills, music, math and art, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
Movius said law enforcement authorities can expect the number of interactions with the autistic to increase. Citing statistics from Autism Speaks, she said the autism rate is increasing, and noted that people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to have dealings with law enforcement than those without disabilities.
Some of those interactions have generated controversy. In July, for instance, a Burbank police officer used pepper spray and a Taser to subdue a 16-year-old autistic boy who allegedly was assaulting him after the officer stopped his mother’s car because the teen was not wearing a seatbelt, according to a police spokesperson.
In her training presentation, Movius described a series of scenarios where people might look like they were up to no good when in fact they were simply autistic.
For example, police might get a call about somebody walking down the street looking into car windows. While it might be a car burglar looking for things to steal, it might be an autistic person fascinated by something he’d glimpsed through a window, Movius said.
Autistic people often are literal minded, so they might answer affirmatively to a deputy’s question, "Are you on drugs?" because they’d taken aspirin recently, she said.
And sometimes, what looks like recalcitrance is simply an inability to speak. Movius suggested alternatives like handing a seemingly uncommunicative person a smart phone or tablet to type out answers.
An especially disconcerting event can be a "meltdown," a little-understood event in which an autistic person seems to fly into a tantrum for no reason, sometimes striking or biting himself. Movius said about two years ago in Glendale, police got a call about a kidnapping attempt – people had seen two men struggling to wrap a third man in a blanket. It turned out the two men were the third man’s caregivers, she said, noting that it’s sometimes necessary to gently try to restrain someone having a meltdown.
In such cases, the best thing a law enforcement officer can do is "empower the parent or the caregiver," said Bobbie Hendrickson, who attended the training session with her two autistic children.
"The parent or the caregiver knows what the person needs," she said. "For me, it would be just keeping people away from us and telling them, 'Everybody go about your business and let them through. It’s OK.'"
Deputy Christopher Abeyta said one of the principles he learned was the importance of giving himself time to interpret what he observes. It might take time to consider the possibility that somebody could be autistic.
"I think I would just slow things down," he said.
That’s the kind of lesson Sheriff’s Lt. John Gannon, who oversees the training program, wants to convey.
"People who come through this have that extra layer of knowledge in their minds," he said. In a challenging situation, "Now maybe they’ll think, 'It could be ...' and they try something different."
Deputies have already used that new perspective to ease communication with several autistic people, Gannon said.
Interactions between people with autism and the police can result in miscommunication that leads to quick escalation.
Last September, police in Kodiak, Alaska responding to a report of a man breaking into a car restrained a 28-year-old autistic man who had been checking his family’s mailbox nearby. The man didn’t turn face down on the ground to be handcuffed as ordered. Officers pepper-sprayed him as he screamed, "I’m sorry! I want to go home!" A police investigation found that the use of force was appropriate, but the man’s family has sued.
In July, police in North Miami, Florida shot and wounded the caregiver of a severely autistic man who had wandered away from a group home and was playing with a silver toy truck. Someone reported the truck as a gun.
The shooting of caretaker Charles Kinsey provoked widespread outrage after the online release of a bystander’s video emerged showing him with his arms raised as officers confronted the unidentified autistic man, who was shouting loudly. The president of North Miami’s police union was quoted as saying the officer thought Kinsey was in danger and was aiming for the autistic man and hit the caretaker by mistake.
During the July stop in the Burbank incident, the teen began to argue with his mother and the officer, at one point saying he wanted to fight the officer "hand-to-hand," said Burbank Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco. He said the officer, a four-year veteran, tried to reduce tensions by issuing a warning instead of a traffic citation, but the youth remained agitated and aggressive.
Losacco said the boy kicked his car door open into the officer’s knees, peeled off his sweatshirt and approached the officer in a fighting stance, telling the officer to pepper spray him. The officer did, but without apparent effect, Losacco said. He said the teen punched the officer several times, knocking off his glasses, whereupon the officer shocked him with his Taser and handcuffed him. The boy has been arrested on suspicion of issuing a challenge to fight in a public place, resisting an officer by force and battery on a peace officer, Losacco said.
"That is the narrative that the police department is presenting, but the family disputes those facts and is prepared to challenge them," said Areva Martin, an attorney representing the boy’s family. She said she’s requested a copy of the officer’s body-camera video of the confrontation, and the family is weighing a lawsuit.
"What we see in so many of these cases is a resistance to patience, a resistance to how individuals with mental health issues respond," Martin said.
"Police are trained to give you an order, and their expectation is that you will follow that order immediately," she said. "And if you do not, they then ratchet it up. And they oftentimes go from zero to 100 very quickly."
"The reality is, said Martin, "if you give an order to a person with autism, they don’t have the cognitive ability to process that order and to respond to it in the way that police are trained someone should respond."
Losacco said that accusation doesn’t fit his department. He noted that Burbank officers undertook training on dealing with people with autism last year, and were featured on the trainer’s website.
Emily Iland, who led two days of training for Burbank in June 2015, said it was her understanding it included all of the police department’s sworn officers.
"But even when you’re trained and trained well," says Iland, "sometimes a situation takes a course of its own."
HERNDON, Va. (AP) — A civilian employee with the Herndon Police Department has been arrested and charged with illegally videotaping women in a police department bathroom.
Herndon Police said Tuesday that 30-year-old Michael Richard Carr was arrested Oct. 1 at a hotel in Orlando, Florida, and faces five counts of videotaping a person without consent in a location where there is an expectation of privacy.
Police say Carr abruptly resigned from his post as a communications technician with the department late last month and that he cut off contact with his family.
Police began a missing-persons investigation and discovered information that Carr had illegally recorded two women in a bathroom at the police communications center.
Carr is being held at the Orange County jail in Florida pending extradition.
Think about this; is anyone actually so stupid they would do this? Do you know what the chances are these idiots will arrest you?
Reston Residents: Fairfax County Police Want You to Bring Them Your Drugs
Authorities are pushing county residents to get rid of their unused and expired prescription drugs.
By Dan Taylor
RESTON, VA — The Fairfax County Police Department wants you to hand your drugs over to them. Don't worry, it's OK.
Fairfax County Police are providing locals with an opportunity to dispose of their potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for the 12th National Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, Oct. 22. You can drop them off at the Reston District Station located at 12000 Bowman Towne Drive between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
"DON'T flush unused medicines," Fairfax County says on its website. "Why? Because they can end up in our rivers and streams. To help protect our environment, throw unused, unwanted or expired over-the-counter and prescription medicines in the trash. Don’t flush medicines — except when specifically instructed by the label."
By Antonio Olivo October 26
Virginia’s largest jurisdiction has moved closer to creating a civilian review panel for cases of alleged police abuse, part of an ongoing series of police reforms in Fairfax County being launched at a time when such cases have stirred concerns nationwide.
During a committee meeting Tuesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors hashed out details for what would be an independent body that would scrutinize cases involving police abuse or misconduct, joining the District and a handful of major cities across the country that have added civilian oversight of police.
The effort in Fairfax is part of about $35 million in proposed changes that officials are considering in response to a community backlash over how the county handled the investigation into the 2013 fatal shooting of John B. Geer, who was unarmed when he was gunned down by a county police officer outside his home.
[Panel recommends broad changes to police practices in Fairfax County]
Last month, the board also moved to hire an independent police auditor who will review investigations into cases where force is used by a police officer to apprehend a suspect.
Board chair Sharon Bulova (D) said both reforms will help restore trust in the county’s department of about 1,700 sworn officers.
“An independent panel will be extremely helpful in providing people with an independent portal through which they’re able to bring their grievances and issues,” said Bulova, who appointed a police advisory commission last year that recommended 202 total reforms. “I think that would be good for Fairfax County.”
A civilian review panel would consist of nine members, who would examine police department investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct — including harassment, sexual abuse, discrimination and recklessly endangering a person in custody.
The panel would be able to hold public meetings during its review and compel county police officials and members of the Internal Affairs Bureau to explain their findings during those sessions.
Amid a rash of police shootings that have generated protests across the country, Fairfax has tried to walk a fine line in implementing its own forms of police accountability.
That was apparent Tuesday, when county supervisors wrestled with how to implement a new form of oversight that rank-and-file police officers have largely opposed, arguing that a civilian review panel would be biased against them.
Board members debated whether the new panel should have investigative authority, such as taking in testimony from the person who alleged police abuse or misconduct.
Supervisor John C. Cook (R-Braddock), who chairs the board’s public safety committee, argued against it, saying that it would be unfair to the accused police officer — who is protected under state law from having to testify outside the Internal Affairs Bureau process in cases involving allegations of misconduct.
“You can’t have a hearing or a meeting where one side gets to give additional evidence and the other side doesn’t,” said Cook, who along with several other supervisors pushed for the panel to be restricted to reviewing investigative case files.
Given that the panel would have access to those files, the board also deliberated over whether panel members should undergo criminal background checks before they are appointed to two-year terms.
That question remained unresolved after several supervisors argued against excluding people with past felony convictions from participating in a process that is designed to give a voice to everyone in the community.
“The statement that we want is that this body will be independent and fair,” said Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence). “That’s the underlying basis of it.”
County police officers at the meeting were visibly frustrated by the likely creation of the panel, which they consider unnecessary oversight on top of internal controls designed to root out misconduct.
“Most police officers do feel that this is being rammed down their throats,” Officer Rich Barron, lodge secretary of the county’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the board. “There are a host of citizens who aren’t going to satisfied by any investigation that’s conducted until they are able to see an entire case file, including information that shouldn’t be public.”
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said the panel is necessary to move Fairfax past the frustrations brought by the Geer controversy.
“I don't think we have an alternative,” she said. “Because we don’t want to go through another upsetting experience like we had in the past.”
#Fairfax County — By its Dec. 6 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should have the opportunity to vote on creating a Civilian Review Panel for police oversight, a first in Fairfax.
#That’s the goal of supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), who chairs the board’s public safety committee. The committee met Tuesday, Oct. 25 to consider a draft of the action item that would establish the review panel.
#The independent panel was one of the more controversial of the 142 recommendations from the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission created by board chairman Sharon Bulova in 2015.
#The commission, with representatives from law enforcement, the media and the community at large, was set up in response to a lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the 2013 shooting death of unarmed Springfield man John Geer by Fairfax County Police officer Adam Torres.
#Fairfax County Police and the supervisors didn’t release information about the case for more than a year after Geer’s death, even to his family. It took a wrongful death civil suit filed by the family and a court order to finally get investigation files and Torres’ name released.
#Torres was fired in July 2015 and indicted by a grand jury for murder in August 2015, a first charge of that kind for any officer in the history of Fairfax County Police.
#The former police officer pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was released in June, after receiving credit for time served for a 12-month sentence.
#On Sept. 20, the supervisors unanimously approved another recommendation from the commission: creating an office of the independent police auditor.
#The auditor will review all use of force incidents that result in serious injury or death, as well as other citizen complaints about police use of force not resulting in serious injury or death.
#In addition, the auditor could engage in policy and practice analysis, as suggested by the Board of Supervisors, County Executive or Chief of Police.
#BY CONTRAST, the civilian review panel would “review completed police internal administrative investigations of civilian complaints concerning allegations of abuse of authority and serious misconduct,” according to the draft action item.
#At the Oct. 25 meeting, Cook specified the civilian review panel would not conduct investigations. Rather, the panel would review investigation files and decide whether the police’s own review was “well done, not well done or needs more work,” Cook said.
#If they determine more work is required, the panel would be able to send the issue back to the police.
#Citizens could initiate that process in two ways, Cook explained: If they file a complaint with the police department but are unsatisfied with the results of an investigation, they can bring the matter to the civilian review panel. Or they could submit a complaint to the panel directly, which could request an investigation be conducted by police, that could then be reviewed by the panel.
#Review of the investigations would happen at public meetings held by the panel. Fairfax County Chief of Police Edwin Roessler and an officer from the Internal Affairs Bureau would attend these hearings to offer additional explanation, but involved officers can’t be required to come before the panel or answer questions, under the Code of Virginia.
#Adrian Steel, a member of the Ad Hoc Commission, said the goal of the meeting was to provide the public with a “full and fair presentation” of an investigation review.
#The meeting before the panel would provide a place for the complainant to appear “and have his or her day,” Steel said. But Cook raised questions about whether the complainant should speak at the meeting, and if so, what limits might be in place.
#Cook and Deputy County Executive Dave Rohrer said the complainant could state the reasons he or she asked for a review. Rohrer said that since police investigators will appear before the panel to answer questions, it would be fair to allow the complainant to speak as well.
#The board will also need to finalize criteria for who would be eligible to serve on the nine-person panel. All panel members would be appointed by the supervisors, but they would encourage communities and organizations to nominate candidates. Other potential criteria would exclude current and former Fairfax County employees, as well as current law enforcement officers and anyone holding public office.
#Panel access to sensitive documents that would be part of the investigation files created another area of controversy.
#Police Officer 1st Class Richard Barron said members of the department are “very concerned” with the fact that volunteer civilians would have that type of access.
#Det. Sean Corcoran, President of the Fairfax Coalition of Police Local 5000 and a member of the Ad Hoc Commission, said it’s about “who has access to what, and when, and why.”
#Corcoran echoed a suggestion made by supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) and separately by Kathy Smith (D-Sully) that the board could wait to establish the civilian review panel until after the independent auditor office is up and running.
#Barron challenged the need for a Civilian Review Panel and said the reviews the police conduct on themselves are adequate. “I don’t see a legitimate need for it,” he said.
#“I don’t think there’s any purpose” for another level of review, Barron said, adding that officers feel this panel is being “rammed down their throats.”
#Unlike Barron and Corcoran, Chief of Police for Fairfax County Edwin Roessler voiced support for the panel. He acknowledged “we have a great department,” but said he believes in moving forward with engaging in the community in this way, while protecting the rights of officers.
#BOARD CHAIRMAN Sharon Bulova asked Corcoran, who voted in favor of the Ad Hoc commission’s final list of recommendations, if he’d changed his mind since then. Corcoran responded he had lobbied against the panel prior to the final vote, but was outnumbered.
#Herrity said he supports independent oversight, but is concerned that the fiscal impact of the panel is unknown.
#“In the face of a $200 million shortfall,” he said, referring to budget projections, “we’re creating a huge workload for the police department with no gain.”
#The draft item states, the civilian review panel would be created “for the purpose of building and maintaining public trust and police legitimacy.”
#John Foust (D-Dranesville) asked that staff begin to develop a significant education and training program for panel members on topics including FOIA, handling of sensitive information and other topics.
#Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) spoke of the importance of forming the panel. “This is the best for you,” she told the police organization representatives, noting that the community must be able to see the process. “I don’t think we have an alternative.”
#The Board of Supervisors expects to vote on the proposal for Civilian Review Panel at its Dec. 6 regular meeting, with documents posted the week before. The next public safety committee meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. More information is available
The Fairfax county police understand that the Democrats keep their money flowing and make sure they are left alone, so none of this is surprising
By World Tribune on October 26, 2016
Stealing Trump campaign signs from a supporter’s lawn is not a crime as it is “the season for these things to happen,” a police officer in Fairfax, Virginia told a citizen who had reported the theft of a sign.
The citizen who reported the incident subsequently learned that there have been a rash of such incidents. He submitted the following account of the Oct. 22 incident to the Fairfax Free Citizen:
“I witnessed a teenage boy in the car behind me hop out and run over to where a Trump campaign sign was staked in someone’s yard. He went up, yanked out the sign, and ran back to the car driven by a woman possibly in her early 20s.
“Realizing that I just witnessed a theft of yet another Trump supporter’s campaign sign, I got out of my car and went up to the car behind me. I pointed at the campaign sign that was now on top of the dashboard and steering wheel making any kind of driving hazardous. I pointed at the boy and then motioned with my hand for him to return the sign to the person’s yard. They refused, and the woman started demonstrating vulgar hand gestures at me. I again pointed at the campaign sign and the boy. The woman ignored me but starting honking her horn and locked her car doors. I politely knocked on her window, and the only response I got was more vulgar hand gestures.
“I went to the front of her car and took two pictures, one of the thieves and the other of their license plate number. It was at this time that the woman started gunning her engine with tires screeching, threatening to run me over and crush me against my car which was in between her car and me. Fearing for my safety, I jumped back in my car and the female driver raced away driving with the stolen campaign still on top of her steering wheel.”
The citizen then reported the incident to Fairfax County Police.
Several hours after the citizen’s call, a police officer was dispatched to her home.
“Next time this happens, you shouldn’t confront the person, you should just call us,” the officer said.
The citizen continued: “I asked what was going to happen to the perpetrators, and his response was in effect nothing. ‘No crime has been committed. This is the season for these things to happen.’
“I replied: ‘Stealing property out of someone’s yard is not a crime?’ No, he replied, only if the homeowner witnessed it and filed a complaint.
“The officer had no interest in seeing my pictures of the perpetrators; he got back in his car and drove away.
“Since I first reported this incident to the Republican Party, I’ve been flooded with comments from folks in Virginia and other states who’ve had their Trump campaign signs stolen from their yards. It is a violation of our right to free speech.”
As police shootings have become central to a national debate over race and law enforcement, lawyers who bill themselves as civil rights fighters are emerging.
After Walter Scott was fatally shot last year by a South Carolina police officer, Justin Bamberg stood with Scott’s family to demand justice. He did as much after an officer in Louisiana shot and killed Alton Sterling this summer.
And last month in Charlotte, N.C., Bamberg was alongside the family of Keith Lamont Scott, another African American man who died at the hands of a police officer.
As high-profile police shootings have become central to a national debate over race and law enforcement, Bamberg has emerged as a rising star in a quasi-fraternity of lawyers who bill themselves as both civil rights fighters and tort attorneys who can win millions of dollars in wrongful-death payouts.
These attorneys employ sophisticated media strategies as they battle on the national stage with police while becoming coaches and confidants for families behind closed doors. They bond over drinks at legal conferences, recommend clients to one another and borrow tactics from each other’s playbooks.
"You have to be a counselor on one hand and an investigator on another. You have to work media relations, and then you have to talk to people on the ground," Bamberg said. “It’s all about getting down to what happened."
He spoke from his office, where an enlarged print of still images from video of the Walter Scott shooting — key evidence in the case — leaned against a wall. It was next to a framed print of faces of black luminaries: President Obama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, among others.
Bamberg, like many of his cohorts, works for a law firm with a caseload far more mundane than what lands him on TV. Between days-long stints in Charlotte last month, he was back by his office in Orangeburg, S.C., handling depositions over a car accident injury case.
David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh whose research focuses on police, said that kind of workload reflects a growing pattern — personal injury attorneys gravitating toward police shootings.
“You can learn civil rights law to help you, but you have to be a skilled trial lawyer to be the person who can represent these cases and bring them to trial,” he said.
Though there’s nothing new about lawyers taking on police cases, Harris said, the style, breadth and sophistication of their public battles has grown bigger, aided in part by social media.
"What you are attempting to do is influence the climate of public opinion for any eventual case. That's what these guys are there for. Families may get them for ancillary things, too, like acting as spokespeople, but they are really there to set things up," he said. "Families have always done this, but not so quickly. The whole environment is moving faster than before, and people are rising to the top."
Lawsuits alleging police misconduct are notoriously hard to settle or win, though there have been notable exceptions in recent years.
In Baltimore, the city approved a $6.4-million settlement for Freddie Gray's family while the criminal cases against officers charged in Gray’s death fell apart. New York settled with Eric Garner’s family for $5.9 million, though the officer who put Garner in the chokehold that killed him faced no charges. In Ferguson, Mo., where the U.S. Justice Departmentcleared an officer of wrongdoing in Michael Brown's shooting death, a civil trial is pending.
“Until a few years ago, it wasn’t a very appealing area for many lawyers,” said Chris Stewart, an Atlanta attorney who recruited Bamberg to work on the Walter Scott and Sterling cases. “These cases are built to favor police and cities because there are so many immunity issues and caps on damages.”
Perhaps the best known attorney in the field is Benjamin Crump, who rose to fame representing the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was shot dead in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Last month, Crump was on national TV again as he spoke alongside the family of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a white officer after Crutcher’s car broke down on a road in Tulsa, Okla.
The growing prominence of lawyers specializing in police shootings also has raised questions, with some activists and police quietly suggesting that money is their sole pursuit.
Brittany Packnett, a St. Louis activist who helped organized protests in Ferguson and is on the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, said she doesn’t buy that theory.
“I don’t think this is a space for ambulance chasers. I think it’s a phenomenon of black lawyers who understand, and who will step out on cases like this given that a lot of big law firms will not touch them. They’re playing a critical role in the movement,” said Packnett.
Bamberg, who is black, said the cases “just aren’t ones that you really do if you are in it for the money.”
Some of the cases, however, result in big payouts. Bamberg was on a team that won a $6.5-million civil settlement from the city of North Charleston, S.C., for the family of Walter Scott, a black man who was shot by a white officer as he fled a traffic stop.
At 29, Bamberg also serves in the South Carolina House of Representatives and was among the lawmakers who successfully pushed to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds. The son of police officers and a gun owner who grew up in the countryside with only aunts and uncles as his neighbors, Bamberg lives with his Belgian Malinois dogs, a breed often used in police K-9 units.
In the Keith Scott case, when Charlotte police refused to release dashboard and body camera video of the shooting, Bamberg's team sent out video shot by Scott's wife to force the police chief’s hand.
It worked. The chief released dash and body camera videos that totaled just over 3 minutes. Lawyers called for more footage. The back-and-forth has meant a war of leaks to the media — from police about Scott's criminal background and from lawyers about police policies.
The feud between the police and family lawyers over the shooting has been ongoing, with new moves weekly or even daily.
Police say they found Scott rolling a marijuana blunt and holding a gun while parked at his apartment complex on Sept. 20, leading to a confrontation during which he got out of his car, refused orders to drop his gun and was shot by an officer who felt threatened. They also say police recovered a loaded gun with Scott’s fingerprints along with an ankle holster.
Family lawyers say Scott had a traumatic brain injury, was not holding a gun and posed no threat as he slowly backed away from police after exiting his truck. Police and family videos don't clearly prove either story.
In a news conference in early October after the release of more than an hour of additional police videos, Bamberg invoked other men killed by police.
“I’ve dealt with it with Walter Scott, I’ve dealt with it with Alton Sterling,” he said. “Does the death he suffered match up with the action that he took?"
"I am not going to try the case in public opinion," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney replied in a TV interview later that night.
A lawsuit has not been filed yet over Keith Scott’s death, but a trial in the court of public opinion is well underway — with Bamberg at its head.
s long as we keep hiring the bottom of the barrel to police the nation, this sort of thing will continue
Milwaukee police officer who fatally shot black man is FIRED over unrelated sexual assault charges stemming from rape of male bar patron
Now-former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was arrested last week in Milwaukee
Accused of sexually assaulting unidentified man while off-duty August 15
Sex complaint was made two days after Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith, 23
Police say Smith was holding a gun but his death sparked mass protests
Rape victim told investigators Heaggan-Brown bragged he was the boss while drinking at a bar and watching TV coverage of the protests
He said he drank too much, passed out and woke up feeling drugged to find Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulting him
Heaggan-Brown later texted a mentor that he had messed up 'big time' and claimed the sex was consensual
Using phone data, investigators determined that Heaggan-Brown offered two other people money for sex several times last year
He also allegedly sexually assaulted and photographed an unconscious, naked person
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
PUBLISHED: 12:12 EST, 1 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:40 EST, 1 November 2016
A Milwaukee police officer who sparked violent protests over the summer after fatally shooting a black man was fired Monday, after he had been charged with sexually assaulting a bar patron and another person.
Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was terminated as a result of the department's internal investigation into the sexual assault charges, according to a statement from Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.
Heaggan-Brown was ordered last week to stand trial on five charges, including two counts of second-degree sexual assault, in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
Heaggan-Brown fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith in August on Milwaukee's north side, which sparked a weekend of violence in the Sherman Park neighborhood not far from where Smith was killed.
The 24-year-old officer was later accused of sexually assaulting two men and soliciting sex from two suspected male prostitutes.
One of the men told police he watched news coverage of the August violence while at a bar with Heaggan-Brown a day after the officer fatally shot Smith. The man also alleged Heaggan-Brown bragged about being able to do whatever he wanted without repercussions.
Flynn said Heaggan-Brown was fired because he was found to be in violation of the department's code of conduct, which in part said ‘whether on or off duty, department members shall not behave in such a way that a reasonable person would expect that discredit could be brought upon the department, or that it would create the appearance of impropriety or corruptive behavior.’
Heaggan-Brown remained jailed on $100,000 bond and was expected to be arraigned in court Friday.
The alleged victim, unidentified in a criminal complaint, told police on August 15 that Heaggan-Brown had sexually assaulted him while off duty.
Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith on August 13. Police said Smith was brandishing a gun when he was shot after a brief chase.
According to the criminal complaint, Heaggan-Brown took the victim to a bar late on the night of August 14 where they drank heavily and watched TV as coverage of the protests aired.
The victim told investigators that Heaggan-Brown bragged that he was the boss and that there were 'no limitations' on how he lived and that he could do whatever he wanted 'without repercussions.'
The victim told police the day after the alleged assault that he had trouble remembering everything that happened after they left the bar, but that he felt drugged.
He said he woke up to Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulting him.
The complaint said Heaggan-Brown took the man to St. Joseph's Hospital early on August 15. The officer told a security guard who helped him wheel the man inside that the man had had too much to drink and was 'completely out, zonked out of his gourd.'
But when nurses began providing aid, the man 'flipped out,' grabbed a security guard's arm and exclaimed: 'He raped me, he raped me,' indicating Heaggan-Brown.
Later that morning, Heaggan-Brown texted his mentor, Sgt. Joseph Hall, saying he had messed up 'big time.'
'Need your help big time. ... But need to handle this the most secret and right way possible,' the text read in part. The sergeant told investigators that Heaggan-Brown claimed the sex was consensual.
Flynn said Thursday that Hall reported his contact with Heaggan-Brown to command staff but the sergeant is under internal investigation as well. Hall remains on duty.
'We're going to get to the bottom of what that exchange was about,' Flynn said.
Using photographs and other data from the officer's cellphone, the complaint said, investigators determined that Heaggan-Brown offered two other people money for sex several times — in December 2015 and in July and August of this year — and that he sexually assaulted another unconscious person in July, and photographed that victim naked without that person's consent.
The charges include two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault, two misdemeanor prostitution counts and one felony count of capturing an intimate representation of a person without consent.
The head of Milwaukee's police union said in a statement that the facts of the case will dictate the outcome.
'The MPA condemns all criminal behavior by any member of society, whether part of this organization or not,' the union's president, Mike Crivello, said in the statement.
Heaggan-Brown joined the police department in July 2010 as an aide.
Smith's death set off several nights of protests in Milwaukee. Above, police move in on a crowd throwing rocks in Milwaukee on August 14, while Haeggan-Brown was watching tv coverage with the alleged victim
Like Smith, the man who was fatally shot, Heaggan-Brown is black. He was assigned to patrol the city's heavily minority north side.
Flynn has said that Smith was fleeing from a traffic stop when he was shot. Heaggan-Brown's body camera showed that Smith was shot after he turned toward an officer with a gun in his hand, according to investigators.
Smith's death sparked two nights of violence in the Sherman Park neighborhood, with several businesses burned. It also ramped up long-festering racial tension in Milwaukee.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice investigated Smith's death and has turned the case over to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for a charging decision. It's not clear when a decision in that case will be made.
Flynn said Thursday that none of the alleged sexual assault victims are connected to Smith's family.
By Tom Jackman November 4
Information is power, they say. So the makers of a new phone app, “Vigilante,” believe that letting people know when any nearby crime in progress is being reported to the police, thereby enabling users to either avoid or approach the area, is empowering. Safety enhancing. Revolutionary. #CrimeNoMore
The cops in New York City, where Vigilante was unveiled last week, don’t see it that way. And neither did Apple, which removed the Vigilante app from its store shortly after its launch last week. But entrepreneur Andrew Frame, who created Vigilante, sees the app as a way to use transparency both to fight crime and improve police-community relations. He is working to restore the app on Apple phones, to release it soon on Android phones, and to expand it beyond New York, where it debuted after a closed test with 1,000 users in Brooklyn.
The app not only maps where new crime is being reported, but allows users to live stream an event if they so choose or report an incident. Vigilante cautions people not to get involved, to stay safe and allow the police to handle the situation. But even in the small test in Brooklyn, Frame wrote on Facebook last week, “people have been saved by this app under somewhat extraordinary circumstances.” In a public manifesto released on Medium, Frame wrote, “Transparency is the single most powerful tool in the fight against crime and injustice, and we believe it will rebuild cooperation towards a shared vision.” In addition to crime, users presumably could record police actions at a scene, as civilians did with the South Carolina police shooting of Walter Scott and the fatal New York police arrest of Eric Garner.
“Crimes in progress should be handled by the NYPD and not a vigilante with a cell phone,” the New York police said in a terse e-mail. The police would not answer any questions about whether they were involved in getting the app removed by Apple, whether they would seek to keep it from being revived, and how exactly Vigilante is getting their information about 911 calls in the first place.
It would appear that Vigilante is mainly listening to police scanner traffic, then creating short summaries of the event as dispatched and pinpointing the location on a map. Frame told the New York Post that “we are not hearing the victims’ 911 calls. There are police scanners involved and we have a network of antennas across the boroughs.” New York police and fire dispatch frequencies are not encrypted and can be heard by anyone with a scanner, though every reporter who’s ever spent much time listening to a scanner knows that erroneous information often leaks into the chatter between dispatchers and officers or firefighters, and it’s not intended for public consumption. But the initial dispatch usually has the location and nature of the call mostly right.
Vigilante’s video explaining how it works, below, indicates that concerned citizens can respond and scare off the bad guy, maybe getting some video as well. It’s the kind of aggressive involvement that police departments tend to discourage, but watch for yourself:
“Police can’t be everywhere at once,” Frame’s manifesto noted, particularly in a city of eight million, “and by the time an officer arrives on the scene, the situation is often over. With Vigilante, vital information is unlocked and everyone can do their part.”
That “part” has long been defined as witness or bystander. “If people intervene and police officers arrive at the scene,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, “then they can mistake well-meaning vigilantes for perpetrators, and a horrible tragedy can ensue. If vigilantes and posses were answers to the law enforcement problem in the U.S., we wouldn’t have discarded them in the 19th century.”
Frame founded a New York-based startup, Sp0n, to create Vigilante, both the software and the staff to digest the information and post it or send push notifications. He said in a press release he was backed by technology venture investors and celebrities such as Deepak Chopra and Russell Simmons have issued endorsements. The app comes with ample liability waivers should one of its users become injured while responding to a Vigilante-reported incident. Some have noted that allowing people to track police movement on an app might enable criminals to commit crime in unprotected areas, and the ability to report an incident could be abused for sinister purposes.
“We believe the 911 system information should be open,” Frame told Gizmodo. “If a person needs help and hundreds of people are nearby, why shouldn’t they know?” On Facebook, he wrote, “we are exploring the relationship between transparency and justice. Can we use transparency to reduce crime?…What behavioral changes might this create? Are they good for the world? Can we use transparency to repair the relationships between community and police? We are hoping a long-term behavioral change will deter criminal behavior.”
Frame declined an interview with The Post. One question I had was, why the name? “Vigilante” seems to imply more than transparency, more like a call to action. Sudden, untrained citizen action, with the chaos and tangential damage that can ensue.
Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said, “That branding is really counterproductive. It suggests citizen intervention, and you’re thinking about Trayvon Martin. It’s pretty disturbing.”
But “the functionality of the app,” La Vigne said, “encouraging the public they could and should think about having a role in transparency, could be beneficial.” She noted that when people decide to turn on their cameras, and where they are located when they film, all play into the consideration of a citizen video’s credibility in the context of an entire incident, such as a police shooting. But for episodes such as the North Charleston, S.C., police killing of Scott, “would we have even heard of it?” without citizen video, La Vigne asked.
John DeCarlo, a former police chief in Connecticut and now a professor at the University of New Haven, said having large numbers of citizens rush to a crime scene is “problematic. I think the intent of the people is to record police officers potentially hitting someone, when they’re actually heading into what could be a dangerous situation.”
But DeCarlo endorsed the idea of greater transparency as a way to reduce crime, saying that both surveillance and body-worn cameras have increased the civility of those being filmed on either side of a police encounter. In addition, making crime information available more rapidly to citizens, which DeCarlo did in Branford, Conn., a suburb of New Haven, “brought crime way down. People knew what was going on, where it was going on. We actually started getting more calls, when people were more aware. It’s very important that you don’t leave people in fear. Knowing what’s happening is a mechanism to alleviate that fear. Being in a communicative partnership with the police department is a valid tool.”
Frame said on Facebook that Sp0n was being asked to bring Vigilante to Chicago and other cities by community leaders who had heard of its results in Brooklyn. We’ll see if it catches on.Share via Email
Tom Jackman has been covering criminal justice for The Post since 1998, and now anchors the new "True Crime" blog.