Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wrongfully Convicted Man Wins Freedom

Wrongfully Convicted Man Wins Freedom
Nov. 21, 2009

NEW YORK (Nov. 21) - A prison system official says a New York City man is free after spending nearly two decades behind bars for murder before a judge declared him innocent.
Fernando Bermudez was released from the Sing Sing prison in Ossining at about 2:10 p.m. Friday. A Manhattan judge overturned Bermudez's 1992 conviction last week, saying it stemmed from unreliable witness testimony.

Fernando Bermudez walks with his wife Crystal, left, near a New York courthouse Friday, after a Manhattan judge tossed out his 1992 murder conviction.
But Bermudez remained behind bars because he hadn't served a 27-month sentence in a federal drug case.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that Bermudez be released at least until June 30 while his lawyers ask federal officials to credit his drug sentence as served.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Official: The ATF and FBI Don't Get Along

It's Official: The ATF and FBI Don't Get Along
By Theo Emery
Oct. 24, 2009

In April 2005, sheriff's deputies reached a suburban Seattle home in time to prevent a firebomb from detonating. But there was nothing the sheriff's department could do to defuse another volatile situation at the site: a feud between the explosives teams that showed up including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The attempted arson was the apparent handiwork of the Earth Liberation Front, a designated domestic terrorist group. But trouble at the scene emerged when FBI and ATF explosives experts seemed to believe their own agencies should head the investigation, recalls Sergeant John Urquhart, a spokesman for the King County sheriff's office. "It was clear that there was something going on. There was tension between the groups of ATF agents and FBI agents," Urquhart tells TIME. (See pictures of crime in middle America.)

That fight for jurisdiction was a "low point" for federal agents in Seattle, part of a long-simmering national rivalry that has festered since Congress moved the ATF from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice (DOJ) after Sept. 11, according to an audit of explosives investigations that was released on Friday by the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General. Acrimony between the agencies has been common knowledge for years, but the report represents the most comprehensive public accounting to date.

The audit found that the conflict has led to confusion at crime sites, arguments in front of state and local investigators, tit-for-tat recrimination and even a threat from the FBI to arrest an ATF agent. Each agency trains separately and has its own explosives database and lab. Agents race to explosions to claim the lead in investigations, and some managers are unclear about jurisdiction. According to the audit, two ambiguous memos in 2004 and 2008 failed to clarify the relationship. "These disputes can delay investigations, undermine federal and local relationships, and may project to local agency responders a disjointed federal response to explosives incidents," the report said. (See pictures of the Branch Davidian siege at Waco and other cults that went wacko.)

The impact of the bickering is more than unseemly public flare-ups, mixed signals and muddled investigations; the conflict could hamper the government's ability to effectively protect against terrorism, the report said...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

D.C. Area Officers Subject of FBI Probe

Did Police Take Money to Protect Gambling Ring?
By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Federal authorities are investigating whether a group of Washington area police officers took money to protect a high-stakes gambling ring frequented by some of the region's most powerful drug dealers over the past two years, according to internal police documents and law enforcement sources.

The officers include five veterans in Prince George's County, a District police official and a former D.C. Housing Authority officer. Two under investigation have been spotted on police surveillance outside gambling sites, including one providing security in tactical gear. Witnesses have alleged that others wore police uniforms and drove marked cruisers to gatherings. One was arrested in a police raid outside a game with a handgun.

Phone records, surveillance and other evidence tie most of the officers directly to the game's operators, which include known drug dealers, documents show. Authorities have not moved against most of the officers or known operators of the game, in part because they continue to investigate whether any of the officers are linked to several slayings connected to the ring, according to documents and sources. It is unclear how much money the officers might have taken to provide the protection and whether the investigation will lead to charges.

Like other major police departments, Prince George's routinely investigates its officers, sometimes in coordination with federal authorities. But the breadth and depth of this investigation are rare. It involves more officers than any in recent years and a potentially flagrant abuse of police power. The corruption probe has also gone on longer than any that has come to light since a sting operation nearly two decades ago related to the case of notorious drug dealer Rayful Edmond III culminated in the indictment of 12 District police officers...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cambridge cops insist they were right to arrest black scholar Henry Gates for entering his own home

Photo: Henry Gates, Jr.

The situation was ludicrous from the get go: police responded to a call that two men might be breaking into a house through the front door, in broad daylight. The caller even cautioned them that the men might live in the house and might be dealing with a recalcitrant door. The police arrived to find a middle-aged man who walked with a cane, and arrested him after he provided proof that he was the owner of the house.

Then the police falsely blamed the caller for bringing race into the situation. In fact, the caller never said either man was black.

I think it's possible that the arresting officer couldn't stand being yelled at by a black man.

Certainly the police officer overreacted when an innocent man became angry and called him a racist. Crowley let his pride decide whether the targeted man would be punished for expressing anger at being questioned for entering his own home.

The police tried to shift some of the blame for their actions to the woman who made the call, saying that she brought up the issue of the men being black. In fact, a tape of her call reveals that she did not even say the men were black when she was asked if they were black. I apologize to Lucia Whalen for being one of the bloggers who blamed her in some way for the fiasco. She is blameless; she was merely assisting another woman who brought the situation to her attention.

Crowley's weakness was being too hot-headed to walk away when an innocent man became furious at having the cops question him for being in his own home.

Would Mr. Gates have been reported to police if he had been white? A black man trying to get a door open in an upscale suburb may have looked like a criminal to the elderly woman who asked Lucia Whalen to call 911.

Swim Club Under Fire For Banning Black Kids
San Diego sheriff's deputies arrest Francine Busby supporters at home fundraiser

Henry Louis Gates case: Should yelling at a cop be a crime?
Disorderly conduct charge gives police a lot of power
Chicago Tribune
By David G. Savage
Washington Bureau
July 25, 2009

WASHINGTON -- For some defense lawyers, the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was less about racial profiling than about how people can be arrested simply for speaking angry words to a police officer.

The laws against "disorderly conduct" give the police wide power to arrest people who are said to be disturbing the peace or disrupting a neighborhood. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, the courts have said the "disorderly acts or language" must take place in public where others can be disturbed.

It is probably not a crime of disorderly conduct for a homeowner, standing in his kitchen, to speak abusively to a police officer.

According to his police report, Sgt. James Crowley said the professor was "yelling very loud" and "accusing me of being a racist."

Complaining that the "acoustics of the kitchen" made it difficult to communicate, the officer said he "told Gates that I would speak with him outside."

On the porch, the officer arrested Gates for being loud and abusive in the presence of several neighbors on the sidewalk. The charges were later dropped.

[Maura Larkins comment: What a sneaky, manipulative tactic.]

"You might think that in the United States, you have a right to state an opinion, even an offensive opinion. But prosecutors like to say you don't have a right to mouth off to the police," said Samuel Goldberg, a Boston criminal defense lawyer.

"Gates was saying, 'You are hassling me because I'm black.' I understand how that's offensive to a police officer," Goldberg said. "It's astounding to me to call it criminal."

Matt Cameron, a criminal defense lawyer in East Boston, said the state's law against "disorderly conduct" dates to the 1600s.

"It's a handy tool for the police because it is so broad and confusing," he said...

Mass. Cops Point to Favoritism in Harvard Prof Case
ABC News
July 22, 2009

Police officers from across Massachusetts are raising questions about favoritism over the handling of disorderly conduct charges that were lodged and promptly dropped against prominent Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. refutes the police account of his arrest.

The incident began when Cambridge Police Sgt. Joseph Crowley Crowley had responded to a call about someone apparently trying to break into Gates' Cambridge, Mass., home. Crowley said Gates called him a "racist cop" after he arrived at the house and asked the Harvard professor for identification.

Gates refused after saying: "No I will not." Gates then, according to Crowley, said he was being harassed because he is a "black man in America." As the confrontation escalated, Crowley was then joined by a Hispanic Cambridge police officer and a black sergeant, according to two high-ranking law enforcement officials who have been briefed on the case and Cambridge police reports.

Gates was arrested and booked on a disorderly conduct charge.

"The actions of the Cambridge Police Department, and in particular, Sergeant Joseph Crowley, were one-hundred-percent correct,'' said Hugh Cameron, president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. "He was responding to a report of two men breaking into a home. The police cannot just drive by the house and say, 'looks like everything is ok.'

...Jim Carnell, a union representative for the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said cops are "furious at the way Crowley is being vilified."...

"If Professor Gates was poor, he'd be in a jail cell."

[Maura Larkins comment: If Professor Gates were white, he'd never have been arrested. Does the police union approve of keeping poor people in jail for entering their own homes? I doubt that the DA does. I simply do not believe that the DA would prosecute such a case unless cops have some sort of ongoing understanding with the DA. If I were this cop, I'd have apologized and left, and I sure wouldn't have arrested the homeowner whose homecoming I had interrupted.]

...there are questions about the way the case was handled. David Frank, former prosecutor and a writer for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, said it was "unusual" for a case to be "nul-processed" [charges dropped] without a court appearance. Gates was slated to be arraigned on disorderly conduct charges on Aug. 26. He is now demanding an apology from Crowley instead.

[Maura Larkins comment: I don't believe David Frank. I believe that what is unusual here is that a man was arrested as a result of entering his own house. No arraignment should have been scheduled.]

"Legally, the prosecution made the right call. The issue, though, is that if Gates were an electrician from Everett and not a well-known professor from Harvard the reality is in that in all likelihood he would have to defend himself against the charges in a courtroom," Frank said.

[Maura Larkins comment: Does Frank think it is right for a citizen, any citizen, to have to defend himself in court for entering his own home?]

..."I think what went wrong personally is that you had two human beings that were reacting to a set of circumstances, and unfortunately at the time cooler heads did not prevail," said Downes...

Gates, who according to his lawyer had been trying to force open a jammed door, was inside the house when the Cambridge police officer got there.

Asked about allegations that Gates' arrest was racially fueled, Downes said, "Our position is very firmly that race did not play any factor at all in the arrest of Mr. Gates."

[Maura Larkins comment: The next paragraph seems to contradict Downes' conclusion.]

The officers were sent to the house after a 911 call placed by a Lucia Whalen Thursday afternoon. Whalen, who works at Harvard Magazine, had reported that two "black men with backpacks" shouldered their way into a home on a tony, upscale Cambridge block – one of the leafy neighborhoods that ring the college.

Though Gates eventually identified himself, he was arrested after he allegedly came out of the house and continued yelling at police, even after he was warned that he "was becoming disorderly," according to the police report.

Gates, the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, and former host of the PBS show "African American Lives," had just returned from a trip to China and found the front door of his home jammed, according to his Harvard colleague and attorney Charles Ogletree.

He entered the house through the back door, but then tried to get the front door open so he could bring his luggage in, which may have been when the woman who called 911 saw, Ogletree said.

Photo: Sgt. James Crowley
Photo by Christopher Evans Boston Herald

Cop in Scholar Arrest Is Profiling Expert
Officer Slams Obama for Saying Police 'Acted Stupidly'

NATICK, Mass. (July 23, 2009) -- The white police sergeant accused of racial profiling after he arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his home was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling.

Friends and fellow officers — black and white — say Sgt. James Crowley is a principled police officer and family man who is being unfairly described as racist.

[I don't think this police officer is being accused of being racist. He's accused of overreacting when an innocent suspect became angry and called him a racist. There's a difference. Crowley let his pride decide whether the targeted man would be punished for expressing anger at being questioned for entering his own home. I think the racial profiling was done by the woman who reported a black man breaking into a house. Crowley's weakness was being too hot-headed to walk away when an innocent man became furious at having the cops question him for being in his own home.]

Cambridge (Mass.) Police Sgt. James Crowley, seen speaking to reporters Wednesday, said he followed police procedure in arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Gates' Cambridge home. "There will be no apology," he said. On Thursday, it emerged that Crowley is a police academy expert on understanding racial profiling.

Cambridge (Mass.) Police Sgt. James Crowley, seen speaking to reporters Wednesday, said he followed police procedure in arresting Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside Gates' Cambridge home. "There will be no apology," he said.

"If people are looking for a guy who's abusive or arrogant, they got the wrong guy," said Andy Meyer, of Natick, who has vacationed with Crowley, coached youth sports with him and is his teammate on a men's softball team. "This is not a racist, rogue cop. This is a fine, upstanding man. And if every cop in the world were like him, it would be a better place."

Gates accused the 11-year department veteran of being an unyielding, race-baiting authoritarian after Crowley arrested and charged him with disorderly conduct last week.

Crowley confronted Gates in his home after a woman passing by summoned police for a possible burglary. The sergeant said he arrested Gates after the scholar repeatedly accused him of racism and made derogatory remarks about his mother, allegations the professor challenges. Gates has labeled Crowley a "rogue cop," demanded an apology and said he may sue the police department.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama elevated the dispute, when he said Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" during the encounter.

Obama stepped back on Thursday, telling ABC News, "From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably that it would have been better if cooler heads had prevailed."...

Crowley's encounter with Gates was not his first with a high-profile black man, although on the prior occasion he was lauded for his response.

He was a campus cop at Brandeis University in suburban Waltham when was summoned to the school gymnasium in July 1993 after Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis collapsed of an apparent heart attack. Crowley, also a trained emergency medical technician, not only pumped the local legend's chest, but put his mouth to Lewis' own and attempted to breathe life back into the fallen athlete...

[Maura Larkins comment: I think it's pathetic that this incident is being touted as proof that Sgt. Crowley is not a racist: he did his job even though it required helping a black man. His only other option was to stand there and do nothing while the man died. Few human beings would do nothing. This simply proves that Crowley has some basic human decency. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but he's too proud and vindictive.]

Skip Gates Speaks
The Root
By: Dayo Olopade
July 21, 2009

In an interview with The Root, Henry Louis Gates Jr. talks about his arrest and the outrage of racial profiling in America.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.: I’m outraged. I can’t believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I’m astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race. And I’m deeply resolved to do and say the right things so that this cannot happen again.

Of course, it will happen again, but … I want to do what I can so that every police officer will think twice before engaging in this kind of behavior.

TR: Can you describe, in your own words, what went on in and outside of your home? When did you suspect you were the victim of racial profiling?

HLG: I just finished making my new documentary series for PBS called “Faces of America.” It was a glorious week in Shanghai and Ningbo and Beijing, and on my trip, I took my daughter along. After we finished working in Ningbo we went to Beijing and had three glorious days as tourists. It was great fun.

We flew back on a direct flight from Beijing to Newark. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday I flew back to Cambridge. I was using my regular driver and my regular car service. And went to my home arriving at about 12:30 in the afternoon. My driver and I carried several bags up to the porch, and we fiddled with the door and it was jammed. I thought, well, maybe the door’s latched. So I walked back to the kitchen porch, unlocked the door and came into the house. And I unlatched the door, but it was still jammed.

My driver is a large black man. But from afar you and I would not have seen he was black. He has black hair and was dressed in a two-piece black suit, and I was dressed in a navy blue blazer with gray trousers and, you know, my shoes. And I love that the 911 report said that two big black men were trying to break in with backpacks on. Now that is the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life. (Laughs.) I’m not exactly a big black man. I thought that was hilarious when I found that out, which was yesterday.

It looked like someone’s footprint was there. So it’s possible that the door had been jimmied, that someone had tried to get in while I was in China. But for whatever reason, the lock was damaged. My driver hit the door with his shoulder and the door popped open. But the lock was permanently disfigured. My home is owned by Harvard University, and so any kind of repair work that’s needed, Harvard will come and do it. I called this person, and she was, in fact, on the line while all of this was going on.

I’m saying ‘You need to send someone to fix my lock.’ All of a sudden, there was a policeman on my porch. And I thought, ‘This is strange.’ So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’

My lawyers later told me that that was a good move and had I walked out onto the porch he could have arrested me for breaking and entering. He said ‘I’m here to investigate a 911 call for breaking and entering into this house.’ And I said ‘That’s ridiculous because this happens to be my house. And I’m a Harvard professor.’ He says ‘Can you prove that you’re a Harvard professor?’ I said yes, I turned and closed the front door to the kitchen where I’d left my wallet, and I got out my Harvard ID and my Massachusetts driver’s license which includes my address and I handed them to him. And he’s sitting there looking at them.

Now it’s clear that he had a narrative in his head: A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me.

So he’s looking at my ID, he asked me another question, which I refused to answer. And I said I want your name and your badge number because I want to file a complaint because of the way he had treated me at the front door. He didn’t say, ‘Excuse me, sir, is there a disturbance here, is this your house?’—he demanded that I step out on the porch, and I don’t think he would have done that if I was a white person.

But at that point, I realized that I was in danger. And so I said to him that I want your name, and I want your badge number and I said it repeatedly.

TR: How did this escalate? What are the laws in Cambridge that govern this kind of interaction? Did you ever think you were in the wrong?

HLG: The police report says I was engaged in loud and tumultuous behavior. That’s a joke. Because I have a severe bronchial infection which I contracted in China and for which I was treated and have a doctor’s report from the Peninsula hotel in Beijing. So I couldn’t have yelled. I can’t yell even today, I’m not fully cured.

It escalated as follows: I kept saying to him, ‘What is your name, and what is your badge number?’ and he refused to respond. I asked him three times, and he refused to respond. And then I said, ‘You’re not responding because I’m a black man, and you’re a white officer.’ That’s what I said. He didn’t say anything. He turned his back to me and turned back to the porch. And I followed him. I kept saying, “I want your name, and I want your badge number.”

It looked like an ocean of police had gathered on my front porch. There were probably half a dozen police officers at this point. The mistake I made was I stepped onto the front porch and asked one of his colleagues for his name and badge number. And when I did, the same officer said, ‘Thank you for accommodating our request. You are under arrest.’ And he handcuffed me right there. It was outrageous. My hands were behind my back I said, ‘I’m handicapped. I walk with a cane. I can’t walk to the squad car like this.’ There was a huddle among the officers; there was a black man among them. They removed the cuffs from the back and put them around the front.

A crowd had gathered, and as they were handcuffing me and walking me out to the car, I said, ‘Is this how you treat a black man in America?’

TR: What was the jail experience like? Was it humiliating?

HLG: By the time I was processed at the Cambridge jail, I was booked, fingerprinted, given a mug shot and answered questions. Outrageous is the only word that I can use. The system attempts to humiliate you. They took my belt; they took my wallet, they took my keys, some change; they counted my money. And I knew that because they said, ‘We’re going to release you upon your own recognizance, and the fine is $40, and we know you can pay it because we went through your wallet.’

It’s meant to be terrifying and humiliating. And I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. And I said I can’t wait to get out, I am eager to talk to my lawyer, and they said they had to book me first. Then I was told that Charles Ogletree was in the building, and that he was there with three other Harvard professors—my friends Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Larry Bobo and Marcelina Lee Morgan.

I was in jail for four hours. I told them that I was claustrophobic, that I couldn’t be in this cell. And a very nice police officer said here are some of your friends and I could talk to them one at a time in the interview room until the magistrate came and signed the form allowing me to leave. I was there just between 1:00 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., which is an interminable amount of time. I spent the rest of the time in another room, slightly bigger, and my friends just had to sit there and wait. And it was kind of like a Senate filibuster; we had to tell stories in the prison cell.

TR: How has this resonated within the academic community at Harvard? I know that Larry Bobo and Charles Ogletree, also black men, have expressed dismay. President Barack Obama has talked about how difficult it is to hail a cab, even as an elected official. Is there an irony to your notoriety and the incident?

HLG: There is such a level of outrage that’s been expressed to me. I’ve received thousands of e-mails and Facebook messages; the blogs are going crazy; my colleagues at Harvard are outraged. Allen Counter called me from the Nobel Institute in Stockholm to express his outrage. But really it’s not about me—it’s that anybody black can be treated this way, just arbitrarily arrested out of spite. And the man who arrested me did it out of spite, because he knew I was going to file a report because of his behavior.

He didn’t follow proper police procedure! You can’t just presume I’m guilty and arrest me. He’s supposed to ask me if I need help. He just presumed that I was guilty, and he presumed that I was guilty because I was black. There was no doubt about that.

TR: What do you make of the suspicious neighbor who called the police with an erroneous report of “two black men” trying to enter your apartment? Was this neighborhood watch gone wrong?

HLG: I don’t know this person, and I’m sure that she thought she was doing the right thing. If I was on Martha’s Vineyard like I am now and someone was trying to break into my house, I would hope that someone called the police and that they would respond. But I would hope that the police wouldn’t arrest the first black man that they saw—especially after that person gives them an ID—and not rely on some trumped-up charge, which is what this man was doing.

The good news about the Henry Louis Gates fiasco

America's most prominent black intellectual was arrested trying to get into his own house. So why am I glad?

By James Hannaham
July 22, 2009

...this event will probably make members of the Cambridge Police Department and other P.D.s think twice before they arrest another black man. Imagine the confusion it will cause the po-po -- "Uh-oh. Is this brother a professor, too? What does Cornel West look like?” Maybe some ordinary, untenured black men in the street will get some much-deserved benefit of the doubt now...

Are Police to be Feared?

By Bill Bradshaw, Mission Beach
Voice of San Diego
July 31, 2009

Did anyone else notice the similarities between the current flap involving the Cambridge police and a "distinguished Harvard professor" and the incident a few weeks ago involving a local political fund raiser? Both resulted in allegations of police overreaction and poor judgment in handling seemingly innocent situations, but let's back off and look at the two incidents.

Both started with trouble calls to the police by neighbors. In each case, the responding officer was met with indignation by the person contacted, and rapidly escalated into charges, in one case, of "racial profiling" and in the other, of "right-wing politics". The motives of the responding officer were impugned before the facts were clear. We even had the President, to his discredit, weigh in on the latest case.

There's a simpler, less sinister, explanation. One of the first things a police officer is taught is to take charge of a situation, and to require compliance with his or her instructions in order determine just what's going on. When the officer, knowing nothing of what to expect save for a brief summary from the dispatcher, encounters a "big shot", rattling on about his or her civil rights, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the officer asserts authority, and if an audience is present, bad things can happen.

Let's give the cops a break. Police officers aren't college professors or wealthy political activists, they're public servants trying to do a tough job, who deal daily with the worst of society. Next time you encounter a cop, how about a friendly greeting and cooperation, instead of a recitation of rights?


I agree that society is best served when citizens are friendly and respectful to police. Police, like the rest of us, function better when receiving positive reinforcement. But I disagree that police are doing us a favor just by doing their jobs. We taxpayers pay them for their contributions. If Professor Gates should have thanked Officer Crowley for reporting to work, then Officer Crowley should likewise have thanked Gates for helping to pay his salary. I'm afraid the chances of such a conversation was pretty close to zero in the two cases mentioned since it appears that the manner in which Officer Crowley and Deputy Marshall Abbott approached the individuals they later arrested was not conducive to a friendly exchange. There are some police, however, who do deserve an extra thank you: the ones who keep their emotions out of their decisions.

Posted by Maura Larkins

What happened in San Diego and Cambridge are less about racial profiliing and right-wing conspiracies then they are about a gap between police and citizens. Does the average person know their rights when being stopped by police? I'm not sure they do. I know police officers have a tough job and can never be certain what they are walking into on a call, but they have a higher duty to de-escalate a tricky situation precisely because we give them guns and handcuffs. The officer in the Cambridge situation had no reason to arrest Gates no matter what a jerk he was being. It's not a crime to be rude to police. The San Diego case is a little trickier because of the crowd of people. But I make no apologies for second guessing police in these situations. It's the only way to deter abuse of authority.

Posted by Catherine

A light-hearted look at the situation:

JULY 31, 2009
Obama Pronounces Beer Summit "Thoughtful" Except Biden

WASHINGTON, D.C. Eager to put a major distraction behind him, President Obama today pronounced yesterday's "beer summit" with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge, Mass. policeman a "thoughtful" exchange except for the contributions of Vice President Joseph Biden, who crashed the event.

"All right--honey roasted peanuts!"

"America will never be able to have an honest and candid conversation about race until the Vice President shuts up about the freakin' Philadelphia Phillies," Obama said with ill-concealed annoyance to a White House pool reporter as he returned to the Oval Office...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Did Lowell Bruce fit in with police culture? I'll bet he did.

Why was wife-killer Lowell Bruce hired by the San Diego Sheriff's department?

A Questionable Hire
By Lee Hazer, Clairemont
Voice of San Diego
July 14, 2009

Despite having the knowledge that Bruce failed the psychological test twice, and being rejected by at least eight other law enforcement agencies, he was still ultimately hired by the Sheriff's Department, and went on to fatally shoot his wife, the plaintiff's complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges the Sheriff's Department of "careless and reckless hiring policies or practices led to the issuing of a gun to Bruce, which then led to the death of Kristin."

But according to Judge Houston there is no direct link between the county's screening process for hiring purposes and the death of Kristin.

The plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the shooting was "a plainly obvious consequence of the hiring decision," a threshold that was established in 1997 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Houston said."

Um..... The Sheriff's Department handed Bruce the murder weapon.

Maura Larkins' response:

Like most workplaces, I suspect the sheriff's department looks for employees who will "fit in" with the predominant culture of the staff. Quite possibly our sheriff's department rules out people who are too smart. (A court has found this practice to be legal.) Or maybe the applicant displaced by Lowell Bruce didn't like to drink. (See below.) I suspect that the sheriff's department could benefit from hiring some "different" types of people. People with different attitudes might help change the department for the better.

Drinking to fit in at the police academy

"The results showed that recruits socialize and drink more with colleagues after entering the Academy than they did pre Academy. The way recruits drank also changed during training with a tendency towards heavier drinking sessions. Further results indicated that recruits did feel some pressure to drink to fit in and be one of the crowd." (Page 3 of Does the Police Academy Change Your Life?)

"When asked what were some of pressures to drink in the Academy, 20% of recruits said peer pressure, 10% said to be one of the boys..."(Page 7 of Does the Police Academy Change Your Life?)

Court says Police can refuse to hire applicants with high IQ scores

Judge Rules That Police Can Bar High I.Q. Scores
METRO NEWS BRIEFS: CONNECTICUT; Judge Rules That Police Can Bar High I.Q. Scores

A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a man who was barred from the New London police force because he scored too high on an intelligence test.

In a ruling made public on Tuesday, Judge Peter C. Dorsey of the United States District Court in New Haven agreed that the plaintiff, Robert Jordan, was denied an opportunity to interview for a police job because of his high test scores. But he said that that did not mean Mr. Jordan was a victim of discrimination.
Judge Dorsey ruled that Mr. Jordan was not denied equal protection because the city of New London applied the same standard to everyone: anyone who scored too high was rejected.

Mr. Jordan, 48, who has a bachelor's degree in literature and is an officer with the State Department of Corrections, said he was considering an appeal. ''I was eliminated on the basis of my intellectual makeup,'' he said. ''It's the same as discrimination on the basis of gender or religion or race.'

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Google street scene solves Dutch crime

Dutch muggers caught on Google street view camera
June 19, 2009

Dutch twin brothers who mugged a teenager in the northern town of Groningen were arrested after being caught on camera by a car gathering images for Google's online photo map service, police said.

The pair stole the 14-year-old boy's mobile phone and 165 euros ($230) in cash last September.

"The picture was taken just a moment before the crime," a police spokesman said.

In March, the victim recognized himself and the two robbers while surfing Google Maps, which has a "Street View" feature allowing users to see images of buildings. The images are usually taken by a camera mounted on a car.

After an investigation by the police, one of the 24-year-old twins confessed to robbing the boy. ($1=.7183 Euro) (Reporting by Harro ten Wolde)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cops made up false accusations about brothers selling cocaine in Queens: who's in jail now?

Brothers Prove Cops Wrong With Video
June 13, 2009

When undercover detectives busted Jose and Maximo Colon last year for selling cocaine at a seedy club in Queens, there was a glaring problem: The brothers hadn't done anything wrong.

But proclaiming innocence wasn't going to be good enough. The Dominican immigrants needed proof.

The Story: Undercover police arrested two brothers for dealing cocaine at a New York night club. The officers claimed Maximo Colon, left, and his brother Jose sold two bags of cocaine to them. - The Truth: The brothers proved their innocence -- and laid the groundwork for a multimillion dollar lawsuit -- with a video from the club's security cameras.

"I sat in the jail and thought ... how could I prove this? What could I do?" Jose, 24, recalled in Spanish during a recent interview.

As he glanced around a holding cell, the answer came to him: Security cameras. Since then, a vindicating video from the club's cameras has spared the brothers a possible prison term, resulted in two officers' arrest and become the basis for a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

The officers, who are due back in court June 26, have pleaded not guilty, and New York Police Department officials have downplayed their case.
But the drug corruption case isn't alone.

On May 13, another NYPD officer was arrested for plotting to invade a Manhattan apartment where he hoped to steal $900,000 in drug money. In another pending case, prosecutors in Brooklyn say officers were caught in a 2007 sting using seized drugs to reward a snitch for information. And in the Bronx, prosecutors have charged a detective with lying about a drug bust captured on a surveillance tape that contradicts her story.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia prosecutors dismissed more than a dozen drug and gun charges against a man last month when a narcotics officer was accused of making up information on search warrants...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

LAPD detective charged 23 years after being named a suspect in slaying

Nels Rasmussen says he told LAPD detectives in 1986 that a jealous ex-girlfriend had broken into his daughter's condo and told her 'If I can't have John, nobody can,' in the days before her slaying.

Detective stalked slaying victim, father says

By Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin
June 10, 2009

Nels Rasmussen says he vividly remembers the calls from his daughter 23 years ago when she confided her fears that a jealous LAPD officer was out to harm her. She told him the young female officer had shown up in uniform at the hospital where she worked and issued a chilling warning about her husband, "If I can't have John, nobody can."

He remembers the call when his daughter told him that she had found the officer, again in uniform, standing in the Van Nuys condo she shared with her new husband, John Ruetten. Then there was the call, days before she was beaten and shot to death in 1986, when Sherri Rasmussen said she believed the officer had been following her on city streets.

All of this, Nels Rasmussen says, he told Los Angeles Police Department detectives in the days, months and years after his daughter's slaying. His information was ignored by police until this year when cold-case detectives reopened the homicide investigation. Last week his suspicions were validated when Det. Stephanie Lazarus was arrested and charged with capital murder. Police say Lazarus, who had dated Ruetten, killed Sherri Rasmussen in a crime of passion.

On Tuesday, as Lazarus made her first court appearance, Nels Rasmussen and his wife held a news conference, calling on the LAPD to investigate their belief that detectives overlooked glaring leads that pointed to Lazarus...

LA Police Detective Charged With Murder

LOS ANGELES (June 8, 2009) - A veteran detective was charged with murder Monday in the slaying of her ex-boyfriend's wife in 1986 — a crime that went unsolved for more than two decades as she rose through the Los Angeles Police Department ranks.

Detective Stephanie Lazarus, 49, could be sentenced to death if convicted of breaking into the victim's condominium on Feb. 24, 1986, and repeatedly biting, beating and shooting the woman.

Police in Los Angeles charged a veteran detective in the 1986 murder of her ex-boyfriend's wife Monday. Stephanie Lazarus, here in court Tuesday, could face the death penalty if convicted of repeatedly biting, beating and shooting the woman. Lazarus was identified as a suspect through a recent DNA match of saliva taken from bite marks on the victim's body.

Lazarus, who joined the force in 1983, was identified as a suspect through a recent DNA match of saliva taken from bite marks on Sherri Rasmussen's body, said Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

Lazarus' husband, Scott Young, who works as a detective in the San Fernando Valley, knew nothing about the slaying, Beck said.

"None of us blames him. I don't know if he's been interviewed yet, but he will be, as will a lot of people," he said.

Lazarus was not a suspect at the time of Rasmussen's death because detectives believed that two robbers who had attacked another woman in the victim's Van Nuys neighborhood were to blame.

The case file mentioned Lazarus because she had once dated the victim's husband, John Ruetten, but investigators did not pursue her as a suspect until DNA tests recently showed the attacker was a woman...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Police allegedly stand by as man is beaten to death in Northern Ireland

From The Times
May 26, 2009
Catholic man Kevin McDaid beaten to death 'by UDA gang'
David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent

A Catholic community worker was beaten to death by men shouting that they were members of the Ulster Defence Association, his widow said today.

Evelyn McDaid, a Protestant who suffered serious head injuries when she tried to save her husband Kevin,spoke as police questioned nine men over the killing.

“UDA, they called themselves the UDA. I went across to help him and they beat me while they beat him,” she said.

“My neighbour had to step in to save me and she was pregnant and they beat her too and she shouted ‘I’m pregnant’ and they didn’t care.”

She added: “It was all to do with religion, and I’m not even a Catholic. I am a Protestant, it’s a mixed marriage, but they just seem to hate us so much.”

Mr McDaid, 49, was killed in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, on Sunday evening. Another man, Damien Fleming, 46, is in intensive care and his case is being treated by police as attempted murder.

Both men were targeted by separate gangs of up to 40 men who entered a mainly Catholic housing estate afterGlasgow Rangers won the Scottish Premier League.

Mrs McDaid appealed for the Catholic community not to respond to the attacks.

“He wouldn’t want retaliation for it,” she said.

“He wouldn’t want my sons to get hurt, he wouldn’t want this. He was trying to keep the peace, he didn’t want all this, the nonsense that’s been going on here for years and years. He wanted peace.”

Mr McDaid, a former plasterer, had three sons and a foster son. His widow said that the family’s life had been shattered.

“My life’s over,” she said. “A big part of me is missing now. He was my soulmate and now that’s finished. I have to try to go on for the wee foster boy and my other three sons. I have to try and go on but I’ve lost a very big part of me and I can never replace that, never ever.”

Celtic scarves have been tied on railings and flowers left close to the scene of the savage attack.

Ryan McDaid, one of the dead man’s sons, claimed that police stood by and did nothing during the attack. “The police sat and watched as Dad died, they never moved,” he said.

“There were four police officers in a car and they sat and watched from Pates Lane. They never moved, never came, never helped.

“Before I rang the police on my mobile I was shouting at them [the police in the waiting patrol car]. They didn’t want to know, they were 100 yards away. They saw the whole thing and did nothing.

“He died in my arms, dad was staggering up the road, he had gone out to help Damien. Damien was getting beaten and I rang the police on my mobile. Four or five times I rang 999. They said they were coming.

“When dad staggered up and he fell I was trying to bring him around again and I rang the ambulance on my mobile as he was in my arms. Police arrived in a van and ran up and gave Dad CPR but it was too little too late.”

Mr McDaid said that the family would be taking the matter to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

A police spokesman said that all the circumstances surrounding Mr McDaid’s death were being thoroughly investigated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

San Diego's justice system has a problem: a cop who hid evidence tapes for eight years

DA Reviews Cases After Taped Cop Interviews Found
May 19, 2009
Channel 8 San Diego and Associated Press

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) - San Diego County prosecutors are trying to determine how many criminal cases could be affected by the discovery of a stash of taped suspect interviews going back as far as 2001.

Public Defender Steve Carroll said Tuesday that Oceanside Officer Damon Smith taped interviews for eight years but never turned them in as evidence.

Defense attorneys were unaware of the tapes' existence until they were notified earlier this month by the district attorney's office.

The tapes came to light in April when Smith was testifying in a domestic violence case.

Carroll says Smith's motive is unclear...

The discovery was originally reported by the North County Times.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Arizona police versus free speech

Arizona v. Pataky

Citizen Media Legal Project
Posted April 9th, 2009 by David Ardia

Threat Type: Criminal Date: 03/09/2009
Legal Claims: Harassment; Theft

Party Issuing Legal Threat:
State of Arizona, Maricopa County

Party Receiving Legal Threat:
Jeff Pataky

In March 2009, Phoenix police raided the home of Jeff Pataky, a blogger who runs Bad Phoenix Cops, a blog that has been highly critical of the Phoenix Police Department. According to The Arizona Republic, Pataky's home was raided by ten Phoenix police officers who handcuffed his girlfriend for three hours while they conducted the raid. "We have heard internally from our police sources that they purposefully did this to stop me," Pataky told the Republic. "They took my cable modem and wireless router. Anyone worth their salt knows nothing is stored in the cable modem."

The search warrant lists petty theft and computer tampering with the intent to harass as potential crimes. Pataky, who was away on a business trip when the raid occurred, says he has yet to see an affidavit that explains why they had probable cause to conduct the raid.

The search warrant provides little insight into what police believe Pataky has done. It does, however, mention repeatedly that police were to search for personal correspondence between Pataky and "Dave Barnes." According to The Arizona Republic, Barnes is a former Phoenix homicide detective who went public in 2007 with claims of mismanaged evidence at the city's crime lab. In May 2009, Barnes' home also was raided by police due to his alleged "involvement in what some officers perceived to be a connection to a blog critical of the police leaders," the Republic reported at the time.

Carlos Miller, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime Blog, is reporting that Pataky recently filed a lawsuit over the raid, which netted three computers, routers, modems, hard drives, memory cards and everything necessary to continue blogging. Pataky told Miller that he has not let the raid stop him from blogging, however, "They thought they were going to scare us into a corner but they just made us stronger."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Innocent man jailed for 11 years forgives his accuser

Jennifer Thompson is a truly moral person who is bravely accepting responsibility for identifying the wrong man in a police lineup.

Mark Hansen, Forensic Science: Scoping out eyewitness Ids, 87 A.B.A.J. 39, April, 2001.

Nobody understands better than Jennifer Thompson how unreliable eyewitness evidence can be. Except maybe for Ronald Cotton.

Thompson is a North Carolina rape victim whose eyewitness identification of a suspect put the wrong man in prison for life. Twice.

Cotton is the innocent man who spent 11 years of his life in prison because of Thompson's mistake. And he might still be behind bars today if he hadn't been watching the O.J. Simpson trial on television in prison in 1995 and heard about a test for DNA.

Thompson, now the 38-year-old mother of triplets, was a 22-year-old college student in 1984 when someone broke into her apartment, put a knife to her throat and raped her.

Several days later, she went to the police station and picked Cotton's photo out of a lineup. She also picked him out of a physical lineup and identified him as her assailant at his 1985 trial.

"I was absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt certain he was the man who raped me when I got on that witness stand and testified against him," Thompson recalls now. "And nobody was going to tell me any different."

Two years later, though, Cotton won a new trial where there was testimony about another man, a fellow inmate who had reportedly told other prisoners he had committed the rape for which Cotton had been convicted.

But the man denied it on the witness stand. And Thompson testified that she had never seen the other man before in her life.

Nine years later, Cotton was watching the Simpson trial unfold on TV when he heard about a miraculous new test that could prove his innocence. So he asked to be tested.

And when the results came back, Thompson got the shock of her life. Cotton was innocent. It was his fellow inmate, the man she swore she had never seen before, who had raped her.

"I felt like my whole world had been turned upside down, like I had betrayed everybody, including myself," Thompson says.

But experts say they aren't surprised by her story. Mistaken eyewitness identification is the No. 1 cause of wrongful convictions, they say.

Cotton isn't angry. In fact, he and Thompson have since become friends. "You can't forget, but you can forgive," he says.

But he also counts his blessings every day. And thanks God for DNA. "If it weren't for that, I wouldn't be where I am today," he says.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Did police belief in discredited lie detector test cause them to let Chandra Levy's killer go free?

Arrest Near in Killing of Chandra Levy, Authorities Say
New York Times
February 21, 2009

Police officials here are close to making an arrest in the killing of Chandra Levy, the former federal government intern whose disappearance in 2001 ended Gary A. Condit’s Congressional career after his relationship with her was revealed, several law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said on Saturday.

Law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because charges had not been filed, identified the suspect as Ingmar Guandique, 27, a Salvadoran immigrant who has previously denied any involvement in Ms. Levy’s disappearance and killing.

Ms. Levy’s killing is one of Washington’s most sensational unsolved crimes and has brought intense pressure on the Police Department. Ms. Levy disappeared on May 1, 2001, and more than a year passed before her body was found in Rock Creek Park in Washington.

Mr. Guandique pleaded guilty to assault in September 2001 in two cases involving attacks on women in the park in May and July 2001. He is now serving a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Adelanto, Calif., and is eligible for parole in 2011.

The police recently submitted new evidence to the United States attorney’s office after an inmate serving time with Mr. Guandique contacted them, law enforcement officials said. The inmate said Mr. Guandique told him he had killed Ms. Levy, the sources said.

In the initial investigation, Mr. Guandique told the police that he had seen Ms. Levy in the park, but that he had not harmed her. The police called Mr. Guandique a “person of interest,” but said he had passed a polygraph test...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Innocent man died in prison; real rapist is "sorry"

Justice Finally Served
Harry Cabluck, AP
Feb. 7, 2009

A man who died in prison while serving time for a rape he didn't commit was cleared Friday by a judge who called the state's first posthumous DNA exoneration "the saddest case" he'd ever seen.

Calling it "the saddest case" he'd ever seen, a judge exonerates Timothy Cole, who was convicted of rape in 1985. DNA evidence helped clear Cole -- and pointed to Jerry Wayne Johnson instead. Here, Johnson walks into a Texas courtroom on Friday, past a portrait of Cole. This was the first case in Texas history where DNA cleared someone who had died in prison.

Cole was convicted of raping a Texas Tech University student in Lubbock in 1985 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He died in 1999 at age 39 from asthma complications.

DNA tests in 2008 connected the crime to Jerry Wayne Johnson, who is serving life in prison for separate rapes. Johnson testified in court Friday that he was the rapist in Cole's case and asked the victim and Cole's family to forgive him.

"I'm responsible for all this. I'm truly sorry for my pathetic behavior and selfishness. I hope and pray you will forgive me," Johnson said.

The Innocence Project of Texas said Cole's case was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in state history...

Cole and his relatives for years claimed he was innocent, but no one believed them until evidence from the original rape kit was tested for DNA. Cole had refused to plead guilty before trial in exchange for probation, and while in prison, he refused to admit to the crime when it could have earned him release on parole.

The Innocence Project pressed for a hearing to start the process of clearing Cole's name. Cole's family now wants Gov. Rick Perry to issue a formal pardon.