Celebrated Cop Was Robbing Drug Dealers

Baltimore police officer Wayne Jenkins was living a double life. He was an admired leader of aggressive street squads and would head the elite Gun Trace Task Force, one of the Baltimore Police Department’s go-to assets in the fight against violent crime. He was also the ringleader of a criminal enterprise of police officers who robbed people and sold drugs, reports the Baltimore Sun. The indictment of Jenkins and six of his officers on federal racketeering charges rocked Baltimore in 2017. A squad of veteran cops stood accused of committing numerous robberies, as well as extortion and overtime fraud. Many Baltimore residents had long distrusted the police, and more so after the death of Freddie Gray. The scope and breadth of these allegations were staggering.

Inside the police department, the Gun Trace Task Force was known for its success in capturing suspected drug dealers, their stashes and their illegal firearms. Jenkins was celebrated as a leader with an uncanny knack for delivering the goods. If his arrest was stunning, the depiction of his crimes wasn’t news to everyone. Some drug dealers told their lawyers that Jenkins made stuff up to arrest them and had kept a good chunk of their money and drugs. A Sun investigation found warning signs that Jenkins wasn’t such a good cop. His supervisors either failed to see the red flags or chose to ignore them. From 2006 to 2009, Jenkins was the subject of at least four lawsuits alleging misconduct. The plaintiffs prevailed in three of them, but they  triggered no internal punishment. Jenkins’ supervisors failed to scrutinize arrests he was making. He was getting suspects off the street, but his cases weren’t holding up in court. Reporter Justin Fenton spent a year investigating Jenkins and his officers. He is writing a book about the case.

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

June 18, 2019 at 11:26AM

Floridians Are Suing a Cop Fired for Planting Drugs in Their Vehicles

Thanks to the diligence of one assistant state attorney, 119 cases were thrown out and the officer is under state investigation.

In October 2017, Derek Benefield was driving in the Florida Panhandle’s Jackson County when he was pulled over for allegedly swerving into the opposite lane. Once at the car, sheriff’s deputy Zachary Wester claimed to smell marijuana and conducted a search of the vehicle, which, he reported, turned up methamphetamine and marijuana. Despite insisting the drugs weren’t his, Benefield, who was already on probation, was arrested, charged $1,100 in fines and court fees, and sentenced to one year in county jail.

Benefield was seven months into his sentence when, in September 2018, the state attorney’s office dropped his case and those of 118 others. Largely thanks to the diligence of one assistant state attorney, Wester was suspected of routinely planting drugs during traffic stops over his two years in the department.

Last month, Benefield and eight others filed a federal lawsuit accusing Wester and two other deputies of planting drugs and making illegal arrests, and the Jackson County sheriff’s office of negligence. The suit accuses all the defendants of violating the individuals’ civil and constitutional rights through illegal search, seizure, detention, prosecution, and incarceration. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Marie Mattox, told The Appeal the suit represents “only the tip of the iceberg,” and she plans to add another 18 to 20 plaintiffs. At least 37 people have filed lawsuits against Wester at the state level. The sheriff’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A criminal investigation into Wester’s behavior was opened last August by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but no charges have been filed. Mattox said that, for the first time, three of her clients were subpoenaed for interviews in connection with that investigation in early June.

It didn’t take Christina Pumphrey long to become familiar with Zachary Wester’s name. When she was hired as an assistant state attorney at the 14th Judicial Circuit in May 2018, her duties included reviewing evidence before filing charges in several categories of arrests, including drug possession. “This is an exaggeration, but it felt like his name was on half the cases,” Pumphrey told The Appeal. “It was seriously disproportionate.”

As she watched the body camera footage from Wester’s arrests, Pumphrey grew concerned: His vehicle searches were not always conducted legally, and his written affidavits didn’t always match what she saw in the videos. People’s reactions to their arrests also seemed unusual. “It wasn’t, ‘OK, crap, I’m busted,’” she said. “It was, ‘What do you mean?’” Pumphrey began looking more closely at Wester’s arrests.

When the internal affairs division of the sheriff’s office heard she was looking into Wester’s arrests and asked for more information, she shared several body camera videos and explained what to look for. Within weeks, the sheriff’s office pulled Wester off the road and asked the law enforcement department to investigate.

More than 100 people who Wester had arrested during his two years on the force were still out on bond or—if their arrest had violated probation—behind bars. Yet the state attorney’s office did not immediately move to drop the cases. At the time, Pumphrey said, she was “getting an explicit instruction to not dismiss the cases.”

“I know these people are sitting in jail. I know that the particular charges they’re in jail on they’re either innocent of, based on the information I see, or there’s no way I could take this in front of a jury. But I’m being told, ‘Just let them sit in jail.’”

Pumphrey continued pulling Wester’s earlier arrest videos for the sheriff’s office, including ones from closed cases that had been assigned to other attorneys in her office.

In August, she flagged a February 2018 video of Wester pulling over Teresa Odom for a faulty brake light, and allegedly finding a baggie of methamphetamine in her truck. Looking closely, Pumphrey had noticed something hidden in Wester’s hand as he initiated the search.

The Odom video could not be ignored. Within weeks of Pumphrey’s discovery, the sheriff’s office fired Wester, and late September, the state attorney’s office dropped 119 cases that relied on his arrests or testimony.

Internally, however, Pumphrey said the chief assistant state attorney, Larry Basford, chastised her for sharing the videos with the sheriff’s office. “He starts yelling over the phone. What was I doing looking through all the videos? Why in the world did I find the Teresa Odom video? Why was I looking for it? And just having an absolute fit.” Basford did not respond to comment on Pumphrey’s characterization of this conversation. Pumphrey turned in her resignation the following day. She filed a whistleblower complaint, but later dropped it because she said she didn’t want it to affect her ability to represent her clients at her new state job in public defense at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for the First DCA Region of Florida.

The law enforcement department investigation remains open, according to a spokesperson. “Whether or not criminal charges will ever be filed, I don’t know,” said Pumphrey. “I’m not holding my breath.”

The nine plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, and dozens of others, continue to live with the lingering effects of their arrests, and in some cases, incarceration. “One of the things that, routinely, every one of them has asked me is, ‘What is going to happen to Zach Wester out of all of this?’” said Mattox of her clients. “They’re not calling me, asking me, ‘How much money am I going to get?’ The question is, ‘What are they going to do to Zach Wester because of what he did to us?’ … They want to make sure that he’s not going to be a law enforcement officer so that he can’t do this to somebody else.”

The recently filed federal lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000, as well as prospective injunctive relief, and alleges that Benefield and the others have suffered “grave mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of reputation, lost employment opportunities, lost wages, and the loss of other emoluments.”

“People still had consequences. It wasn’t like this was just all erased,” Pumphrey said. Dropped charges still remain on a person’s criminal record. And “even though the charges got dropped, there were people sitting in jail for six months on no bond because of this case. Or you’ve got people who have to spend money on supervision fees; they have to spend money paying for their own urine analysis test; they’ve done community service hours; they paid cost of bond—like $1,500. … You’re not getting back six months of your life. Or you’re not getting back the job that you lost because you sat in jail for a week before your girlfriend could get the bond money.”

For instance, Benefield’s co-plaintiff Darrell Watkins was arrested and charged with a felony after Wester claimed to find 26.4 grams of methamphetamine in his car in March 2018. He was released after paying a $5,100 bond but was arrested and searched by another officer named in the lawsuit, Trevor Lee (with Wester as backup), just four days later—which again allegedly turned up meth. Watkins lost six days of work at a tax preparation service during the height of tax season, and his employment was phased out for the year. His name and charges were on the local news, “creating tremendous obstacles for his employment prospects,” according to the suit.

Many of those Wester arrested had prior drug charges, which amplified the consequences of an arrest and likely hurt their chances of being believed over an officer. “It’s a small town, it’s a small community,” Pumphrey said. When she started the job, “I had some names I knew that I was seeing coming up in my caseload. And a lot of them, you see the name, and you know the reputation, and you think, I know he’s guilty.”

She said a culture of wanting to rack up conviction statistics—which are sent out to voters on postcards—incentivizes prosecutors to seek misdemeanor plea deals, instead of dismissing cases when the evidence doesn’t add up.

“The state attorney’s office was just as bad and just as guilty as Zach Wester when we found this out and were not dropping these cases immediately, in my mind,” Pumphrey said. “When it was ignorance it was one thing, but as soon as we know there are innocent people sitting in jail and we don’t drop the charges, we’re as guilty as he is.”

via The Appeal https://theappeal.org

June 17, 2019 at 09:09AM

Philly Removes 72 Cops Over Social Media Posts

The Philadelphia Police Department pulled 72 officers off regular duties as authorities investigate inflammatory social media posts revealed in a database that found thousands of offensive postings by current and former officers, NPR reports. It was the largest removal of officers from the street in recent memory. “We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. It is the latest fallout since the advocacy group The Plain View Project this month released thousands of Facebook posts and comments by current and former police officers that range from racist memes, to celebrations of violence and messages containing Islamophobic themes. Police internal affairs officials in Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas are probing whether the distasteful and sometimes violent material should warrant disciplinary action or terminations.

Ross said that at least “several dozen” of the 72 officers now on desk duty will be disciplined and others will be fired. Civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky called the decision to place 72 officers on desk duty “significant,” saying the social media posts appear to show conduct that is inconsistent with the department’s promise of fair and equal treatment for all residents. “More important will be the future decisions regarding sanctions or other measures to deal with this widespread problem in the police department,” he said. Criminal defense lawyer Paul Hetznecker cited “the underlining problems of implicit bias and explicit bias that these posts reflect that have existed for a long, long time.” The project tracking officers’ use of social media flagged offensive material posted by 2,900 current officers and hundreds of former police officers across eight police departments.

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

June 20, 2019 at 08:24AM

This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A Hawaii police officer breaks bad and an Arkansas jail guard gets nailed. Let’s get to it:

[image:1 align:left]In Honolulu, a Maui Police Department officer was arrested last Friday after a months-long investigation into drug sales on the island of Molokai. Officer Daniel Imakyure went down after investigators obtained search warrants for his cellphones, computers, and lockers. Evidence recovered showed he was complicit in drug distribution on Molokai. He was charged with promoting a dangerous drug in the first degree and criminal conspiracy. 

In Marion, Arkansas, a Crittenden county jail guard was arrested Monday after he got caught trying to sneak drugs into the jail. Corrections Officer Torell Harris, 23, went down after authorities were appraised of a smuggling plan and caught him picking up a stash hidden in a wastebasket in the sheriff’s office. He is charged with furnishing prohibited articles and possession of a controlled substance.

via Criminal Justice http://bit.ly/2SI2Tpv

June 12, 2019 at 04:44PM

Is There a Right of Self-Defense Against Police?

On March 18, 2018, in Sacramento, Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police officers who thought he was holding a gun and aiming it at them.

At least, that’s what the police officers say they saw. One also thought he saw a muzzle flash from the gun, indicating Clark was already shooting at them. The other officer only thought he saw light reflected off the metal of the gun.

As it turned out, Clark was only holding a cellphone. Light could have reflected off the phone, or Clark could have been taking a photo of the officers (as people who think the police are harassing them often do) and they saw the flash.

It was dark and the police are taught to shoot first when they believe their lives, or the lives of their fellow officers, are in danger. They at least thought they were pursuing a violent felon who had already broken several car windows and a sliding glass door on a home.

In any case, the police were not charged with a crime. So, is shooting someone because you think they are pointing a gun at you legal?

What if that someone is a police officer? If someone breaks into your home without warning, is it legal to shoot that person if you don’t know he  or she is a police officer?

What if Stephon Clark had been holding a gun? If he had shot them preemptively because he thought they would shoot him on sight when they saw he had a gun, would he have been justified? What if the police had broken into Clark’s home?

Would he have been acquitted? Should he?

The law is one thing, reality another. While there is some legal theory that a using lethal force in defense of a home would have been justified, the courts and the police tend to overlook the errors of law enforcement more generously than those of the general citizenry.

Here are a few examples, all involving no-knock warrants looking for armed and dangerous drug dealers but which found nothing to justify police action:

  • On Dec. 19, 2013, Texan Henry Goedrich Magee shot and killed an officer entering his home with a no-knock warrant. He said he thought he was being burglarized and the grand jury decided that was a reasonable assumption. They decided against indicting him, on the shooting, anyway, though Magee did spend 18 months in jail on a marijuana charge.
  • On the other hand, in a similar case, Marvin Guy of Texas is still awaiting trial more than four years after a no-knock raid resulted in an officer’s death.
  • Cory Maye of Mississippi spent 10 years on death row for killing a police officer during a drug raid on his home before a plea deal reduced the charge to manslaughter and time served in 2014. Maye had claimed he was defending his young daughter against what he believed was an attack on his home.
  • Ray Rosas – who wasn’t even the target of the raid and didn’t kill the police officers he shot – spent two years in jail, mostly in solitary confinement, awaiting trial before he was acquitted. His elderly mother was removed from his care and he lost his family home.

So, yes, sometimes you can shoot a police officer in self-defense – at least if it’s a no-knock raid and you don’t know the intruder is a police officer – but that doesn’t mean you will get off scot-free.

Stephon Clark’s case wasn’t a no-knock situation. He was out in the open. Still, he didn’t have the gun police thought he did. There were other factors, however, that may have led to the officers not facing charges.

Clark was acting peculiarly.

What the officers couldn’t have known at the time is that Stephon Clark had multiple drugs in his system – alcohol, marijuana, opioids, benzodiazepine, and an over-the-counter allergy medicine – and his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.091, higher than the 0.08 drunk driving standard.

Some have suggested he was committing suicide by cop. At a press conference, Sacramento district attorney Anne Marie Schubert implied that Clark was suicidal. At the very least, he may have been depressed. Evidence included:

  • His browser search history revealed he was looking up ways to commit suicide with drugs;
  • His girlfriend/fiancé said he struck her and now was threatening him with jail for violating parole;
  • A text he sent to his girlfriend showed a photograph of a handful of pills (Xanax), with the message, “Let’s fix our family or I’m taking all of these.”

But, as has been pointed out by some commentators, we don’t know if the police had any drugs in their system or their mental state. There’s no indication that their blood was tested for drugs, or that their phones or browsing histories were checked for incriminating evidence.

And they should be. Police officers are two or three times more likely to abuse drugs than the population as a whole.

A quarter of police officers are estimated to have alcohol or drug abuse problems. We should be doing more to help them into addiction rehab before their self-medication leads to avoidable civilian or police deaths, and that starts with knowledge.

Aside from the risks associated with performing their duties, there is the risk of suicide. According to Blue HELP, in 2018 more police officers took their own lives than were lost in the line of duty for at least the third year in a row.

Another police officer involved in a shooting was Amber Guyger, who was off-duty when she shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment, Sept. 6, 2018, in Dallas. In a way, this was a no-knock situation, but no warrant or raid was involved.

Guyger had just gotten off a 14- or 15- hour shift (she wanted the overtime) when she attempted to enter Jean’s apartment, which was one floor above her own. She claims she thought it was her apartment and that Jean was an intruder. She also says she was tired – understandable after a long shift. But other aspects of her story have changed:

  • Guyger at first said the apartment door was closed, then later she claimed it had been open a little, ajar at least. Neighbors have said that the apartment doors close automatically, so it couldn’t have been ajar.
  • Guyger says she put her key in the lock, pushed, and the door opened. Lawyers for Jean’s family claim they have a witness who heard her pounding on the door demanding to be let in.
  • Guyger claims she thought it was her apartment, but when she called 911 she had to check the apartment door to give them the number. (If she had just realized she was in the wrong apartment, this would be understandable.)

Guyger has been indicted and was fired by the Dallas Police Department. The trial is set to begin in September 2019.

That Guyger was off-duty at the time of the shooting may explain why her treatment differed from that of Stephon Clark’s shooters. Police Chief Renee Hall said at a press conference that “we have ceased handling it under our normal officer-involved shooting protocol.”

Even so, she is receiving much better treatment than civilians who shoot police officers. Guyger at least is out on bail.

Although Guyger’s blood was drawn for a toxicology report, the tests either haven’t been completed or have not been released more than nine months later. Stephon Clark’s toxicology report was revealed after less than six weeks. It would be cynical to suggest that if Guyger’s report was clean, it would have been released already.

Some of Guyger’s behavior suggests possible intoxication, mental confusion or poor judgment. She might even be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (she shot a suspect in 2017).

Allegedly, Guyger had complained about noise from Jean’s apartment before. Maybe she went there to say she needed some sleep and to please keep the noise to a minimum, and it escalated. Maybe she held a grudge and was in a bad mood. (Her Pinterest account was said to include violent braggadocio.)

Police have a dangerous and stressful job. It’s a job that most citizens know needs doing. That doesn’t excuse police officers who abuse their authority or are reckless or careless.

It doesn’t excuse institutional racism either. It may only be circumstantial, but with the exception of Magee, all the civilians in these cases are persons of color.

Finally, it doesn’t excuse so violent and fallible a technique as no-knock raids. There are more than 20,000 no-knock raids every year – as many as 50,000 in 2004 – but only about 25 percent turn up the suspected drugs.

The New York Times’ own inventory found no-knock raids resulted in an increase in officer deaths (eight instead of five) while civilian deaths decreased (31 instead of 47) over knock-and-announce.

Stephen Bitsoli

Stephen Bitsoli

The U.S. Constitution made the right to bear arms a guaranteed right second only to freedom of speech.

Police shouldn’t give the law-abiding citizens they are sworn to protect cause to exercise this right against them.

Stephen Bitsoli, a Michigan-based freelancer, writes about addiction treatment, politics, history, and related matters for several blogs. He welcomes comments from readers.

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

June 10, 2019 at 07:33AM

Cops Celebrated A Copwatcher’s Arrest. They Had No Idea They Were Caught On Tape.

New York City just paid Jose LaSalle of the Copwatch Patrol Unit nearly $900,000 over claims of false arrest related to the 2016 incident, but his fight for justice is far from over.

At around 11 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2016, Jose LaSalle was brought into the NYPD’s Police Service Area 7 in the Bronx in handcuffs. Several officers noticed LaSalle, the city’s most well-known copwatcher, and celebrated his arrest.

“It’s a party! It’s a party! It’s a party! Hey!” one of the officers joyously sang.

When another officer excitedly told LaSalle that he was “a felony collar,” the room broke into applause and cries of “Got him!” and “We did it, guys!”

LaSalle, founder of the Copwatch Patrol Unit, was arrested on disorderly conduct charges. Later that night, officers claimed the walkie-talkie he used for copwatching was illegal and charged him with illegally possessing a radio device that transmits over police frequencies. But the officers were unaware that they were being recorded. Their celebrations and their attempts to falsely charge LaSalle would come back to haunt them.

Lawsuits settled, but LaSalle still seeking justice

In late March this year, the city and the NYPD agreed to pay LaSalle an $860,000 settlement after he accused the police of false arrest, imprisonment, and conspiracy. Also in March, he received $65,000 to settle a separate lawsuit against the department.

But LaSalle wants more than monetary settlements. At protests he held on April 3 outside Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s office and Police Service Area 7, LaSalle said he wants the cops and prosecutors who he said tried to frame him held accountable. He and his lawyer are now considering taking their case to the Department of Justice.

“We gathered in front of the Bronx district attorney’s office to send her a message that she needs to indict these officers that have cost the city close to a million dollars and are still working, and are still doing the same things that they’ve been doing,” LaSalle told The Appeal. “And also, from there, we ended up marching to PSA 7 because we want to send them a message, too, that what they’re doing is standing behind criminals. These officers perjured themselves, and they committed a crime because they tried to set me up with felony charges.”

Bronx cops celebrate an arrest

LaSalle was part of a coalition of activists and families affected by gang raids who sought to push back against them. Just months before LaSalle was arrested, NYPD and myriad federal law enforcement agencies raided the homes of people living in the New York City Housing Authority’s Eastchester Gardens housing complex and made mass arrests. One hundred twenty people were indicted in federal court in what the Department of Justice lauded as “the largest gang takedown in New York City history.”

So LaSalle started paying extra attention to police in public housing during his routine copwatching. The night of the arrest, he was in NYCHA’s Patterson Houses in the Bronx. He began recording Sgt. Miguel Frias, Officer Felix Baez, and Officer Elvis F. Duran conducting stop-and-frisks on two young men. After the officers finished searching the men, they turned their attention toward LaSalle. “Y’all need to stop harassing people for no fucking reason, though,” LaSalle told the officers. The cops got angry at LaSalle for cursing at them.

“It’s my freedom of speech,” LaSalle responded. “I could say what the fuck I want to say. What you going to do? Show your true colors?” One of the officers then told LaSalle to “shut the fuck up” to which LaSalle responded “you shut the fuck up!” Then the cops handcuffed him.

The incident was caught on video.

In the patrol vehicle, LaSalle told the officers, “This is something that you’re going to have to answer to, believe me.”

They replied that they had “no problem” because it “doesn’t cost [them] anything.” LaSalle responded, “You’re right! It doesn’t cost you anything. It costs the fucking taxpayers money.”

When the officers brought him to the NYPD’s Police Service Area 7 in handcuffs, LaSalle noticed that it was in the middle of the shift change, so there were more than 20 officers present. That’s when the officers started celebrating.

“Oh, Jose LaSalle!” one officer yelled as other officers laughed.

“He told me to Google him. I didn’t believe him!” another one of the officers joked.

“Now for him, filming is a crime, right? All right,” LaSalle responded.

And then one of the officers sang: “It’s a party! It’s a party! It’s a party! Hey!”

The police searched LaSalle and removed his belongings from his pockets. They found the two-way radio that he used to communicate with Copwatch Patrol Unit members. LaSalle explained how he used his radio, but the officers insisted that it was a scanner transmitting on the NYPD’s frequency.

“This is illegal. You are now transmitting in our frequency,” one officer triumphantly told LaSalle as others cheered. “You are a collar, my man. You are a felony collar! You cannot transmit in our frequency. That is a FEL-O-NY!”

Loud applause broke out and several officers jokingly cheered, “Got him!”

A fleeting moment of freedom

Months before LaSalle’s arrest, someone taunted and threatened cops on the NYPD radio frequency. The media closely covered the story, so when LaSalle was arrested in August 2016, one officer told a fellow officer to “make sure you call operations, let them know, ’cause they’re looking for guys with this.” That officer also commented that LaSalle’s arrest was “a great collar, especially right now.” A month later, the police said they found the people who were actually responsible for using their radio frequency.

“I was in a cell all the way until 6 in the morning,” LaSalle told The Appeal. “Then they transferred me to the Bronx Central Booking, and I was there until about 9 at night when I was mysteriously released.”

As LaSalle waited to see a judge at Central Booking, he was told to go with an officer. LaSalle cautiously agreed, but the officer refused to answer when he asked, “Where are you taking me?” The officer took LaSalle to a back door, released him, told him he was free to go, and closed the door behind him. LaSalle was confused; he thought it was a set-up so the NYPD could claim he attempted to escape. He would later learn the NYPD had tried to charge him with disorderly conduct and illegally possessing a radio that could transmit over police frequencies, but the Bronx district attorney declined to prosecute.

When LaSalle realized that he was free, he went to Police Service Area 7 to retrieve his belongings.

“I went to pick up every single thing they took from me,” LaSalle told The Appeal. LaSalle then traveled to the Crown Diner on 161st Street in the Bronx to meet with friends doing jail support that night. “I ordered a deluxe cheeseburger with fries. Before the cheeseburger with fries got there, the police got there.” Deputy Inspector Jerry O’Sullivan, Lieutenant Eric Dym, Lieutenant Ramon Tejeda, and Sgt. Raymond Contreras then entered the diner to re-arrest LaSalle.

Shannon Jones, an activist with the abolitionist group Why Accountability, was with LaSalle in the diner that night. “This is really weird because this is your top brass of the precinct rolling up to speak to one guy,” Jones told The Appeal. “The cops basically form this perimeter around Jose and begin to get on their phones and you can hear them discuss the need to confiscate Jose’s technological equipment.”

In a video of LaSalle’s re-arrest, the officers can be seen asking him about the copwatching equipment he had when he was first arrested. After making some calls and talking among themselves, the cops decided to handcuff LaSalle. They told him he was accidentally released without seeing a judge, and took him back to Police Service Area 7 to give him a court date. LaSalle and his law

Bronx Cops Celebrated A Copwatcher’s Arrest. They Had No Idea They Were Caught On Tape.

yer later learned that once LaSalle was released, several top NYPD officials called Bronx DA Clark to inform her that one of her assistant DAs had made a mistake by declining to prosecute and that LaSalle needed to be re-arrested and have his charges reinstated.

Back at Police Service Area 7, officers asked LaSalle for the passcode to his phone. He refused. They took him back to Central Booking where he was eventually given a desk appearance ticket that didn’t even list his charges. He was again released without seeing a judge. When LaSalle went to collect his belongings for a second time, the police said his two phones, a video camera, his two-way radio, and a GoPro camera were being vouchered as evidence. Days later, on Aug. 16, LaSalle and other copwatchers held a rally outside NYPD headquarters to raise awareness of what happened.

Audio of arrests emerge

In January 2017, the Bronx DA’s office dropped all the charges against LaSalle, including illegal possession of a police radio, and sealed the case. Later that month, LaSalle and his lawyer, Jeffrey Emdin, went to pick up his belongings from the NYPD property clerk’s office in the Bronx. They were accompanied by the Bronx DA’s Public Integrity Bureau, including assistant DAs Gary Lee Heavner and Peter Kennedy, and Detective Investigator Peter Moro. LaSalle had Moro forensically examine the devices. The meeting was recorded on video, and LaSalle discovered missing memory cards from his cameras. He also found out through an app installed on his phones that cops tried to unlock at least one. (The app takes a photo when someone attempts to unlock a phone with an incorrect passcode and sends an email alert to its owner along with a photo and even a few seconds of audio.) LaSalle showed investigators that on the night of his Aug. 6, 2016, re-arrest he received three messages indicating that someone had tried to unlock his phone. Another app alert captured a blurry picture and audio of someone saying, “I’m going to shut this off so it’s not on.”

A few weeks later, LaSalle retrieved the remainder of his belongings and realized that one of his phones saved audio recordings of the first of the two arrests. It captured everything, including the police officers celebrating and their discussion of the felony against him.

“When we got the audio tape back and we’re listening to their conversation, you could hear them trying to figure out a felony to charge him with,” Emdin told The Appeal. “Then, there’s even some conversation, and they’re going to say it was joking but I submit that it was tongue-in-cheek joking, of ‘Oh, maybe we can slip the ADA $800 and stick him with a gun charge.’”

The audio recording also captures officers saying they hoped to find weapons like pepper spray or a Taser on him. And officers Duran, Frias, and Baez were recorded reading one of LaSalle’s fliers and mocking the statistics on the number of people killed by police every year. While discussing charging LaSalle with “obstruction of governmental administration” (for recording their stop-and-frisks), Duran said they “could charge him with it, but the DA is going to say that he didn’t come into physical contact with us.” The audio also caught Baez admitting that LaSalle was “15-20 feet away” and therefore not interfering with the officers when he recorded them.

In early April 2017, LaSalle released some of the audio which he dubbed the “Copwatch Tapes” during a rally outside the NYPD’s headquarters. The Bronx DA’s office told NY1 it was investigating the officers’ actions during LaSalle’s arrests, and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said, “I haven’t heard the audios yet. If Mr. LaSalle has an allegation he should come forward with it so we can investigate it.”

Later that month, LaSalle and other activists held a rally outside the Bronx DA’s office and crashed the Police Service Area  7 precinct council meeting to demand that the cops who falsely arrested him be indicted. But the office refused to prosecute the officers. The DA’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

‘Something’s got to happen’

The $860,000 that LaSalle received in March over his arrests was a significant settlement for someone who wasn’t beaten or injured by the police. LaSalle said the city and the NYPD did not want to take the case to trial where high-ranking NYPD officers and even Bronx DA Clark would have been called as witnesses. “They didn’t want these officers on the stand to continue to perjure themselves or plead the Fifth Amendment because it would’ve been a big embarrassment to the NYPD,” LaSalle told The Appeal. “They didn’t want to put these officers through that. They didn’t want to put the Bronx DA, who would have to take the stand, which would’ve been crazy, [through that].”

Several of the officers involved in his case have cost the city more than $6 million in total, LaSalle said. According to the Legal Aid Society’s CAPstat database, officers Larry Nikunen, Frias, Baez, Duran, Dym, and Tejeda have all been named in past state and federal civil rights lawsuits, usually in cases involving false arrests and excessive force.

In fiscal year 2018, New York City paid $230 million in settlements in 3,745 lawsuits against the NYPD, according to an April 15 report by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office. Of the $230 million, approximately $108 million stemmed from allegations of police misconduct like false arrests and excessive force.

“I feel like it’s so easy for everybody to discount people that have been saying for years ‘They pinned this on me! They’re lying! This isn’t true! They violated me in these cells! They planted evidence!’ and all that falls on deaf ears because there’s no evidence. This was the best evidence ever of what happens in these precincts,” Kim Ortiz, an activist who is also a member of LaSalle’s Copwatch Patrol Unit, told The Appeal. “Imagine how many people that don’t have the reputation, the reach, and the resources that Jose LaSalle has. They get fucked, and there’s nobody there. There’s no technology on their phone to save them. They just get stuck in the system.”

On April 17, LaSalle finally got a copy of the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board’s investigation into his case. LaSalle plans to take his case to state Attorney General Letitia James or even the Department of Justice, and he doesn’t plan on giving up until the cops who tried to set him up are finally held accountable.

“Something’s got to happen. Because I’m not going to stop until these officers are no longer on the job continuing to do these things to other people. So I

Bronx Cops Celebrated A Copwatcher’s Arrest. They Had No Idea They Were Caught On Tape.

’m going to keep fighting for that,” LaSalle told the Appeal. ”And I know it’s a long road ahead of me, but guess what? Thanks to the NYPD, I got a little bit of money to make a little more noise.”

via The Appeal https://theappeal.org

May 9, 2019 at 09:53AM

This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

An NYPD narc gets busted for lying to create drug cases, a former Philadelphia cop heads to prison in a scheme that also saw eight Baltimore cops jailed for drug stealing and dealing, and more.

In New York City, a former NYPD narcotics detective was arrested last Wednesday for making false statements in court and in court documents that resulted in multiple unlawful arrests Joseph Franco, who was assigned to Manhattan South Narcotics Division, allegedly lied during at least three arrests for drug crimes in 2017 and 2018. Three innocent men pleaded guilty in those crimes, and two of them went to prison. The Manhattan DA’s Office has since moved to vacate those convictions. Franco is charged with perjury, offering a false instrument for filing, and official misconduct.

In Baltimore, a former Philadelphia police officer was sentenced last Friday to nine years in federal prison for conspiring with officers in Baltimore to sell cocaine and heroin seized on that city’s streets. Eric Troy Snell, 34, was paid thousands of dollars to serve as a conduit between crooked Baltimore cops and his brother, who sold the drugs in Philadelphia. He had pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs after one of the Baltimore cops testified against him. In all, eight Baltimore cops involved with the Gun Trace Task Force, including two commanding sergeants, have been convicted and imprisoned in the case.

In Atlanta, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for trying to smuggle meth into the facility. Mark Edward Jeffery, 34, tried to sneak the drugs in through his beverage container last year, but the drugs were found during a search. He copped to one count of possession with intent to distribute in February.

via Criminal Justice http://bit.ly/2SI2Tpv

May 1, 2019 at 04:08PM

This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

Prison guards go wild, a Customs and Border Protection agent heads for federal prison, and more. Let’s get to it:

[image:1 align:left]In Ridgeland, South Carolina, a state prison case worker was arrested last Wednesday after being caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison in a paper bag. Steven Allen Washington got nailed carrying nearly four pounds of marijuana, 262 doses of ecstasy, 30 grams of meth, and nine grams of cocaine. He is charged with manufacturing and possession of drugs with intent to distribute, trafficking in more than 100 doses of ecstasy, trafficking in more than 28 grams of meth, possession of cocaine and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner.

In Charleston, West Virginia, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday for plotting to smuggle meth into the South Central Regional Jail. Guard John Roach II went down in a sting where an undercover agent provided him with four ounces of meth and money to smuggle the drugs into the jail. He is charged with delivery of a controlled substance.

In Millbrook, Alabama, two state prison guards were arrested Monday in unrelated cases. Guard Darryl Jerome Bradley, 25, was charged with promoting prison contraband and unlawful possession of marijuana. Following his arrest, Bradley resigned from his position. Meanwhile, Guard Wiggins Washington, 50, was arrested at a local business and charged with methamphetamine trafficking. Washington also faces additional federal charges for being in possession of a firearm at the time of his arrest.

In Los Angeles, a Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Monday to 151 months in federal prison for helping to move hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Southern California to Chicago as part of drug trafficking ring. Manuel Porras Salas, 52,had been found guilty in December of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of making false statements to law enforcement.

via Criminal Justice http://bit.ly/2SI2Tpv

April 24, 2019 at 05:28PM

USA Today Network Compiles Trove of Police Misconduct Records

At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the country have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, USA Today reports that an investigation by USA TODAY Network found. Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds. The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments.

Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed. Reporters from USA TODAY, its 100-plus affiliated newsrooms and the nonprofit Invisible Institute in Chicago have spent more than a year creating the biggest collection of police misconduct records. USA TODAY plans to publish many of those records to give the public an opportunity to examine their police department and the broader issue of police misconduct, as well as to help identify decertified officers who continue to work in law enforcement.

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

April 25, 2019 at 09:25AM

Phila. Drug Police Falsified Info, Hid It from DA: Report

In May 2017, Philadelphia Narcotics Bureau supervisors Raymond Evers and Anthony Boyle called staff into a mandatory meeting. Evers called it a “pep talk” to “get better-quality investigations.” What he outlined, according to an internal affairs report obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer, was a scheme to flip low-level suspects into off-the-books confidential informants through a process that evolved into falsifying paperwork and hiding information from the District Attorney’s office. Some officers described the system as illegal and a violation of police directives, the report said. It sustained allegations Evers abused his authority, failed to supervise subordinates, and lied about it. Internal Affairs sustained charges against Boyle for failure to supervise. The Police Board of Inquiry has not held a hearing.  “I was shocked … These officers were provided improper instructions involving illegality,” narcotics Capt. Laverne Vann told investigators.

One officer said Evers “was encouraging the officers to obtain informants by flipping. Persons with a small amount of drugs, he said to put it on a property receipt and say you found it on the highway.” The internal investigation was launched in response to a letter “from stressed black personnel of the Narcotics Unit.” It echoes claims in a lawsuit filed by the Guardian Civic League, an organization representing black police officers, and three African-American narcotics officers who claimed they suffered retaliation for resisting. Boyle said followed “legitimate and long-standing law-enforcement procedures.” He called the allegations baseless, and said Evers acted properly. The rift could have far-reaching consequences, says Michael Mellon at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, who said hundreds of arrests made could be tainted. Mellon said, “This practice clearly violates the law, police protocol, and often the constitution.”

via The Crime Report http://bit.ly/2myW3Gx

January 14, 2019 at 07:54AM