Should Police Officers Control Body Camera Release?

Some critics argue that police departments shouldn’t be the judge of whether video shot by officers are released. “If it’s really a tool for accountability, perhaps the footage should be under the control under the control of an independent entity,” Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College tells NPR.

Body cameras are spreading fast through U.S. policing, and they’re generating an ocean of video. Axon, which provides secure cloud storage for police departments, says it’s received more than 4 million hours’ worth of video uploads from its clients. Those videos are usually controlled by the law enforcement agencies that created them. Some are now challenging that practice and proposing alternatives, NPR reports. Alex Vitale, of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, notes that departments usually adopt the cameras as a tool for police accountability. “If it’s really a tool for accountability, perhaps the footage should be under the control under the control of an independent entity,” he says. There is a growing perception that body camera video is really meant to serve the needs of police, not the public.

While police departments often withhold videos of alleged police misconduct, they’re quick to release positive videos; for instance, footage of an officer saving a drowning child. Do departments hide the bad videos and release the good? “That’s not universally the rule,” says Barry Friedman, director of the New York University Law School Policing Project. He’s helped departments write body camera access regulations, and he says the real problem is lack of consistency. “It seems very ad hoc, and yes, it makes people distrustful,” he says. Vitale believes it’s time to “hit the reset button” on the system that gives police custody of the videos they shoot.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Excited Delirium Syndrome: The Taser-Proof Man

     In the McGuinness Book of World Records there seems to be a record for just about everything. But there is no mention of the man police used their Taser guns on 71 times within a span of thirty minutes. This had to be a world r…

     In the McGuinness Book of World Records there seems to be a record for just about everything. But there is no mention of the man police used their Taser guns on 71 times within a span of thirty minutes. This had to be a world record in the category of repeatedly shocking someone who didn't die from it. The man who holds this unofficial record will simply be referred to as Bob.

     Bob, a 25-year-old veteran of the Afghanistan War who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, after being allegedly disowned by his family in Phoenix, moved in with a relative in Flagstaff, Arizona. One evening in July 2010, after taking PCP and bath salts, Bob entered a Cheveron gas station and store on Highway 89 in Doney Park just north of Flagstaff. Barefoot, Bob wandered about the place leaving muddy footprints, then approached the cashier and asked to be reported to the police.

     When Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Officer Brian Barnes arrived at the Cheveron station, he encountered Bob in the parking lot in front of the store. As the officer approached the suspect, Bob ran toward the entrance of the station with the officer in close pursuit. When Bob slammed into the closed door, he bounced back into the officer, and they both fell to the ground. Bob jumped up, this time opened the door, and ran inside. After shooting Bob with his Taser gun, Officer Barnes and a bystander managed to handcuff the out-of-control man. His hands, however, were not restrained behind his back.

     Bob settled down a bit, but the moment Coronino County Deputy Sheriff Don Bartlett arrived, Bob started acting up. To hold him down, the 260 pound deputy sat on his legs, but when that didn't stop the violent thrashing and kicking, Deputy Barnes gave Bob a taste of his Taser. When that didn't help, he zapped him two more times.

     As the DPS Officer and the deputy struggled with the drug-crazed man in the Cheveron station, EMT and firefighters arrived at the scene, followed by Sheriff's Office Sergeant Gerrit Boeck. During the next thirty minutes, Deputy Bartlett used his Taser twenty more times on Bob with Officer Barnes helping out electronically. While shocking the hell out of the suspect, he kept resisting, and this shocked the hell out of the officers.

     Finally, the three police officers, with the help of several firefighters, strapped the handcuffed madman onto a gurney, but as they slid him into the ambulance, Bob managed to grab Deputy Bartlett's belt. Sergeant Boeck, thinking that Bob was trying to get ahold of the deputy's gun, started punching him in the arm. It took several officers to pry Bob's fingers from the Deputy's belt.

     Once they got Bob into the ambulance, a paramedic injected him with a tranquilizer used to control animals. The drugs kicked in and Bob settled down.

     At the Flagstaff Medical Center, a doctor diagnosed Bob as being in a state of excited delirium that gave him superhuman strength and rendered him impervious to pain. After a few days hospital personnel discharged Bob. The authorities decided not to charge him with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, or disorderly conduct. (The county prosecutor was probably concerned with the Taser overuse, and decided to let a sleeping dog lie.)

     Regarding the issue of excessive force, the DPS referred the case to the county attorney's office for investigation. That Bob survived all that electricity, especially when in a state of excited delirium, is miraculous. Had he died, the medical examiner would probably have listed the cause of his death, excited delirium syndrome.

     These officers were presented with an extremely difficult situation and when their Taser guns didn't work ran out of good options. Sometimes the police encounter situations they are not equipped to handle. When it became obvious that their Tasters weren't working, the officers should have stopped using them.

     The officers were cleared by the district attorney's office of any wrongdoing in the case.

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Ex-Sheriff Arpaio Criminal Contempt Trial Due Soon

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County attributes his ouster from office to President Barack Obama, as well as the federal judge who charged him with criminal contempt of court three weeks before the general election, and the voters who turned their backs on him.

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County has lots of time on his hands as he waits to go on trial next month on charges he defied a federal judge’s order to stop singling out Latinos for traffic stops, reports the New York Times. There was a time when it almost did not matter what other elected officials said or did about immigration. His was the only voice that counted. Now the positions he embraces — more agents on the border, more power to local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law — are emanating from the Oval Office.

Arpaio attributes his ouster from office to President Barack Obama, as well as the federal judge who charged him with criminal contempt of court three weeks before the general election, and the voters who turned their backs on him. At his former office, Arpaio’s successor, Paul Penzone, is working to redefine the role of the agency, which for so long revolved around the personality of the man in charge. “There was an expectation by the media that this office was really a story generator,” said Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant. There were also, he said, “a lot of men and women in this organization who came to work believing it was their job to identify methods to promote the former sheriff.” The case against Arpaio was started by Obama’s Justice Department, but will end with Donald Trump’s. If convicted of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor, Arpaio could spend six months in jail.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Three Baltimore Officers Could Be Fired in Gray Death

They were not convicted of criminal charges, but three Baltimore police officers involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in a police van may be fired. Two other officers face five days suspension without pay. The officers may contest the charges before a trial board of fellow officers.

Five Baltimore police officers involved in the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray have been charged with violating department rules, with three of them facing termination, the Baltimore Sun reports. The three who face firing are officer Caesar Goodson, who was driving the van where an autopsy determined Gray suffered fatal injuries; and supervisors Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White. Two other officers who made the initial arrest of Gray face five days suspension without pay. Officer William Porter, who was criminally charged with manslaughter, is not facing internal discipline.

The internal charges come after investigators from two other county police departments finished their review of the case. The Baltimore Police Department asked them to handle the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest. The officers could contest the charges before a “trial board,” an internal disciplinary panel comprised of police officers. The board has the power to acquit the officers or uphold the charges. If the charges are upheld, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has the final say on punishment. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who brought criminal charges against the officers but failed to win a conviction, said, “This case has always been about providing justice for an innocent 25-year-old man who was unreasonably taken into police custody, severely injured while in police custody, and died due to a lack of care … I am relieved to know that a majority of those involved will be held administratively accountable for their actions.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

No Race Differences in Dallas Police Use of Force, Study Finds

White Dallas police officers do not disproportionately use force against minorities, contrary to common public perceptions that they target people based on race, a study finds. “We now know that the differences that a lot of people think exist because of these horrific events that we see on TV, video footage, that’s not the norm,” said criminologist Alex Piquero of the University of Texas-Dallas.

A new study has found that White Dallas police officers do not disproportionately use force against minorities, contrary to common public perceptions that they target people based on race, reports the Dallas Morning News. When circumstances such as drug or alcohol use and the officer’s tenure are taken into account, differences in use of force between races fade away, according to peer-reviewed findings published in the American Journal of Public Health this week. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of South Florida analyzed 5,630 use-of-force reports filed by Dallas officers in 2014 and 2015 to see whether the data supports a common view that white officers target minorities.

“We now know that the differences that a lot of people think exist because of these horrific events that we see on TV, video footage, that’s not the norm,” said Alex Piquero, a University of Texas-Dallas criminology professor who was on the research team. Dallas police responded to about 1.2 million calls in 2014 and 2015. The majority of those calls didn’t result in use of force. Last year, the Dallas department was about 50 percent white, 26 percent black and 21 percent Hispanic. In 2014 and 2015, white officers reported using force more often than their peers. About 48 percent of the reports were about white officers using force against someone who wasn’t white. In comparison, only 3 percent of black officers used force against someone who is white. Piquero said the data shows there weren’t many racial or ethnic differences for officers’ use of force on civilians once the context of the cases was taken into account. Nearly half of the people whom officers used force against were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NY Man Wins $8.3 Million in Police Stun Gun Verdict

A federal jury in Brooklyn awarded $8.32 million to Shuay’b Greenaway, a man with bipolar disorder who said police officers zapped him four times after he declined to go to a hospital.

A Brooklyn federal jury yesterday awarded $8.32 million to a man who said police officers on Long Island repeatedly and wrongfully zapped him with a stun gun, the New York Daily News reports. Shuay’b Greenaway sued Nassau County and the Village of Hempstead, along with six officers, in the 2010 incident. Greenaway was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002. In 2010, his family called 911 asking for help to convince him to go to the hospital. Greenaway, then 32, hadn’t been taking his medication. The 911 calls never said Greenaway was violent or threatening.

When two officers showed up, Greenaway peacefully said he didn’t want to go to the hospital because he was busy painting his bathroom. He charged that without warning, two Nassau County officers zapped him four times. He said all the officers beat him, pinned him down and dragged him out of the bathroom by his feet and legs. The verdict comes as New York City wrestles with several stun gun-related incidents involving police. Last year, a man died after a New York police sergeant shot him twice with a stun gun in his Bronx home. NYPD has expanded its use of Tasers from 160 in 2006 to more than 1,700. Initially, Tasers were issued only to Emergency Service Unit sergeants, but the expansion now includes precinct and plainclothes sergeants and some officers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Seattle Law Insures Public Right to Record Police

A law adopted yesterday officers should assume members of the public are observing and possibly recording their work at all times. The ordinance says the value of video and audio recordings by the public “is keenly evident” from police shooting cases last year.

Walking down a Seattle street, you encounter a confrontation between a police officer and a civilian, and you see something that worries you. So you pull out your smartphone, and open the video app. Are you allowed to record? The answer is “yes,” and now there’s a law that says so, the Seattle Times reports. The City Council voted yesterday to enshrine in the municipal code the rights of the public to observe, record and criticize police activity without fear of retaliation. The only exceptions are when an observer hinders, delays or compromises legitimate police activity, threatens someone’s safety or attempts to incite other people to violence.

The First Amendment can offer protections to members of the public when they watch and record police. A 2008 police department policy says bystanders may remain nearby and record incidents as long as they don’t interfere. “People don’t know what’s in the police-policy manual,” said Council member Lisa Herbold, who sponsored the orddinance. “And the manual governs the actions of officers. It doesn’t tell people what their rights are.” The measure says officers should assume members of the public are observing and possibly recording their work at all times. “The value of video and audio recordings by the public is keenly evident from the recordings in 2016 of the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge … and law-enforcement officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge,” the ordinance says. Across the U.S., smartphones are helping people hold their police departments accountable. But people watching, recording and criticizing officers have sometimes been arrested.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Do Federal Consent Decrees Reduce Police Misconduct?

A study by three researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas offers cautious support to arguments that federal consent decrees prod police departments into reducing racial basis.

A study by three researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas offers cautious support to arguments that federal consent decrees prod police departments into reducing racial basis.

The study, published in the latest issue of Criminology & Public Policy, found a reduction in the number of civil rights suits launched against a selected group of law enforcement agencies placed under Department of Justice oversight under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

“Reductions in such (civil rights) filings may signal increased satisfaction with police agencies and a move toward reduced systemic police conduct,” concluded the researchers, who examined consent decrees in 23 jurisdictions.

Their findings come as Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of the practice last month, arguing that such decrees “reduce morale” of police officers.

The study makes clear that its findings are not definitive, and that more research is necessary—pointing out the limited number of jurisdictions under study and the wide variations in the “socio-legal” environment across the country.

“Law firms may be more aggressive in one jurisdiction, or citizen legal activity could be more significant in one area compared with another,” the study said.

The authors also conceded that even if misconduct is reduced, there is no assurance that the change will be long-lasting or institutionalized.

Nevertheless the authors say DOJ oversight appears to be a valuable tool in raising public confidence.

“Once problematic agencies are identified, it could be reassuring to know that the U.S. Justice Department, through the consent decree process, possesses a tool for competently reducing the incidence of misconduct within America’s law enforcement agencies,” the study said.

The study was conducted by Zachary A. Powell, Michele Bisaccia Meitl and John L. Worrall. It’s available for a fee here. Journalists can get a copy by contacting Victoria Mckenzie at victoria@thecrimereport.org

from https://thecrimereport.org

Police Shortage Hampers New Orleans Anti-Crime Fight

“The critical shortage of [police] officers has not improved over the past four years,” says the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “The department lacks the manpower to timely respond to calls for service and adequately address the high rate of crime.”

Despite working more collaboratively and efficiently, New Orleans’ police and prosecutors are making little headway against a rising tide of felony violence because of city government decisions that have hobbled their performance and endangered the community, the Metropolitan Crime Commission said today, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Police and prosecutors are applying their resources more efficiently and effectively, but community safety has not improved,” the non-profit watchdog organization said. “The critical shortage of [police] officers has not improved over the past four years. … The department lacks the manpower to timely respond to calls for service and adequately address the high rate of crime.”

The report traces the city’s crime predicament to the desk of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, first elected in 2010. Landrieu’s two-year police hiring freeze, along with timid recruitment efforts in the two years that followed, allowed the department’s manpower to wither by 25 percent, from 1,546 officers in 2009 to 1,165 last year. “The misguided decision in 2010 to freeze police hiring for years created the critical … manpower shortage that continues to adversely impact public safety,” the report said. One of the most startling statistics in the crime commission report is that the number of arrests plummeted 44 percent between 2013 and 2016, as the effects of the department’s manpower shortage and the federal consent decree became more pronounced. In the same period, the percentage of arrests made for serious felony allegations climbed from 19 percent in 2013 to 28 percent last year.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago Police Head Says Secret Watch List Works

Superintendent Eddie Johnson said some of the 400,000 people in the police database have accepted offers of social services after being approached by police and outreach workers.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson defended the department’s use of a secret watch list to track people deemed likely to get caught up in violence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Johnson said the list is working because some people on it have accepted offers of social services after being approached by police and outreach workers. Johnson backed away from previous department statements that the list is used for “enforcement.” He added, “It’s not a list of target people.. It’s just a list that lets us know who would be more prone to gun violence — either by being a victim or a perpetrator. The individuals identified with the algorithm — we simply use it to go provide them and offer other pathways to get out of that lifestyle.” Johnson said the list is working because some people on it have accepted offers of social services after being approached by police and outreach workers.

Johnson has said that the list contained 1,400 people who were driving the violence in the city and that the department was “targeting” them. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the list doesn’t give officers a reason to arrest anyone. “There needs to be a violation of the law,” he said. Instead, the list is used as a tool to figure out where cops should be deployed in certain neighborhoods, he said. The Sun-Times has reported that the database includes nearly 400,000 people, a far more extensive list than what the police previously described.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org