New Castle County Settles Sex Harassment Lawsuit New Castle County says it has settled a federal lawsuit claiming decades of sexual harassment, largely by an officer who rose to the police department’s second-highest rank.
Why is Lt. Col. Quinton Watson allowed to retire “in good standing”? He should be charged with sex crimes! Too bad that the Statute of Limitations has run.
Excerpts from the Article:
New Castle County announced Tuesday night it has settled a federal lawsuit claiming decades of sexual harassment and cover-ups in its Police Department, largely by an officer who rose to the agency’s second-highest rank.
The announcement came a little over an hour after the County Council passed a pair of proposals to allow the county to dip into its tax reserve to cover legal fees to the tune of about $3 million. About $1.7 million of that will go to “partially fund” settling claims that various members of the county allowed now-retired Lt. Col. Quinton Watson to continue decades of sexual harassment and abuse.
“There is no place in the County for harassment in any form, particularly when based on sex, race, age, disability, or any other protected category,” read a joint statement issued by a spokesman for County Executive Matt Meyer on behalf of New Castle County and the six women who filed the lawsuit. “No individual should be expected to tolerate such conduct, and the County is grateful for these brave women that brought this disturbing conduct into the light, and applauds their courage.
“The County acknowledges and is sorry that these women experienced such inappropriate conduct. The County remains unwavering in its commitment to eliminate inappropriate conduct in the workplace. The County is taking steps to expand its policies and practices in furtherance of this commitment.”
News of the agreement comes after the county spent more than $1.2 million in legal fees since the lawsuit’s filing in 2020, according to the proposal passed Tuesday.
While it’s unclear what the terms of the settlement are, the ordinance says the county, on the advice of its counsel, “has agreed with the plaintiffs to settle the lawsuit, contingent on Council’s approval of the funding of the settlement amount ….”
Watson has agreed to pay an amount directly to the plaintiffs to settle their claims against him, according to the passed ordinance. The law also stipulates no portion of the $1.7 million would be used to “pay the amounts Watson has agreed to pay the plaintiffs.”
Ten council members voted to pass the items, while Councilwoman Dee Durham voted present on both ordinances and Councilmen Penrose Hollins and Bill Bell were absent.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2020, came after six women detailed their experiences at the department to Delaware Online/The News Journal earlier that year. The women shared their stories with the newspaper after what they called years of inaction by the department and county.
Even before the lawsuit was filed, the women said they were not interested in money from the county but rather public acknowledgment that this conduct happened. The attorney representing the women could not be reached for comment.
Tuesday night’s statement from the county said none of Watson’s “incidents of misconduct” took place under the current county executive’s tenure, which began in January 2017.
Watson retired in “good standing” in 2019 while the investigation into these claims was ongoing. The investigation was conducted by the Wilmington Police Department, which sent letters to five of the women saying their claims were sustained.
Tuesday’s statement also claims that as a result of this litigation, Watson has surrendered his police certification issued through the Delaware Council on Police Training and has further surrendered his New Castle County retiree credentials, which include his police retirement badge and police retirement identification card issued by the New Castle County Police Department.
After Wilmington police’s investigation, the women approached the state Attorney General’s Office, and a second investigation into their complaints was quietly initiated. This investigation by the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust found that the three-year statute of limitations had passed to prosecute sexual harassment crimes by a public employee. But Chief Deputy Attorney General Alexander S. Mackler wrote in a letter to New Castle County Council’s attorney that the findings were “disturbing.”
Though they could not criminally prosecute, the Delaware Department of Justice retained the private law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP “to investigate whether the NCCPD has engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct in violation of Delaware law, and if warranted, initiate enforcement proceedings against the County in Delaware’s Court of Chancery,” Mackler wrote.
He also wrote that given the investigation’s findings, the matter is not considered closed. The Depar tment of Justice, on Tuesday, said the investigation is ongoing.
In their 40-page complaint, the women argued that Watson “set workplace precedent and spawned a hostile environment of rampant sexual harassment, sexual assault, overt misogyny, and retaliation among female employees within the NCC government.”
The 40-page lawsuit goes on to say Watson “normalized the practice of preying on subordinate female employees which Defendant NCC covered up for years, allowing Defendant Watson, as an abuser, to thrive.”
The women – who at the time were five current officers and one retired – argue in the filling that not only were they discriminated against because of their sex, but they also endured a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and an abuse of power at the hands of numerous county officials, including former Col. Vaughn Bond, Meyer and county Chief Administrative Officer Vanessa Phillips.
Bond, who retired last year as the Police Department’s colonel, heads the county’s Public Safety Department.
After the claims against Watson came out, county officials said they instituted mandatory sexual harassment training and hired an outside law firm to review the patterns and practices within county government regarding bias in the workplace.
Tuesday’s statement also said the county will institute a phone line to allow employees to anonymously report workplace misconduct.
“The County will also retain an outside monitor as an additional layer of oversight and this individual will independently ensure that complaints from employees are received and addressed appropriately,” according to the county’s joint statement. “Finally, the County will continue its bi-annual harassment- prevention training, designed to help all employees understand the boundaries of appropriate workplace conduct, and what to do when those boundaries are crossed.”
Retired Lt. Col. Quinton Watson faces sexual assault and harassment allegations from six women who worked in the department.
Once they get to court this one could go either way. It depends whom the jurors believe.
Excerpts from the Article:
The family of Brandon Roberts, the Milford man shot and killed by police in January 2020, is suing the city of Milford and the two officers who shot him in federal court.
The wrongful death lawsuit claims Cpl. Nigel Golding and Patrolman Patrick Karpin violated Roberts’ Fourth Amendment rights and the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Golding is still employed at the department, while Karpin left the department in good standing, according to Milford Police Department Sgt. Robert Masten. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Darlene White, Roberts’ mother; could not be reached for comment. She and Erica Jones, the mother of Roberts’ two children, are being represented by Wilmington attorney Joseph Longobardi III and Marc Maguire of the Philadelphia law firm McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt.
Maguire is part of a team of lawyers specializing in excessive force led by attorney Lee Merritt. Merritt is a prominent national civil rights lawyer who has worked on many high-profile cases. Most recently, he represented the family of Ahmaud Arbery.
A motion has been filed to allow Maguire, who is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and not Delaware, to prosecute the case.
The Delaware Attorney General’s Office investigated the events that unfolded the night Roberts died. The office later released 911 calls, body camera footage, interviews and other items related to the incident. Those items, as well as court documents and interviews with Jones, detail the events leading up to his death.
On Jan. 5, 2020, Roberts was at his home at Silver Lake apartment complex in Milford with a pregnant 28-year-old Jones and their 1-year-old child.
He was experiencing a mental health crisis, according to Jones. Later, according to the Attorney General’s Office report, she told police he had been drinking alcohol and consumed Xanax and “molly” (MDMA).
A postmortem toxicology report found Roberts had cannabinoids in his system and a blood alcohol level over 0.1%, according to the Attorney General’s Office report. The report did not indicate the presence or lack of presence of any other drugs.
It started with Roberts calling 911 multiple times and hanging up, telling the dispatcher there was a domestic dispute. Delaware Online/The News Journal’s review of the calls found, at first, Roberts mostly spoke too quickly to understand or spoke over the dispatcher. Some things he said were audible, though, such as, “He has a gun; he’s about to shoot everybody,” and “I’m holding ’em hostage.”
Eventually, Jones got on the phone with the dispatcher. Security camera footage captured the entire incident between Roberts and police, which lasted less than five seconds. “I can’t use my phone because somebody here keeps trying to hit on me while I’m pregnant and he won’t let me use my phone,” she said in the recording.
Jones told the dispatcher she didn’t want to provide their apartment number “because he keeps trying to go out there with a knife,” but Roberts gave the apartment number in the background.
“And any cops that pull up here, I’m killing all y’all (expletives), pull up,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve got a weapon, I got a big (expletive) machete, I got an AK-47 and a bomb strapped to me. I’m part of ISIS. I’m about to blow this whole (expletive) up.”
The dispatcher could hear Jones say to him, “You put your hands on me and you hit (the child) by accident.”
“Y’all gonna have to shoot me ’cause I’m not going to jail,” Roberts said.
Roberts then said heard saying Jones could leave, but Jones told the dispatcher he wouldn’t let her out of the room. He had “only a knife,” a “house knife,” and no gun, she said. When asked if she needed an ambulance, Jones said she did.
“He’s been punching me in my head, punching me in my back and everything, and in my ribs and stuff and I’m pregnant,” she said. Jones told the dispatcher multiple times Roberts has mental disabilities, according to the recording, and dispatch communicated to police that Roberts might be “a mental patient,” according to body camera footage.
As Golding approached the apartment complex, a dispatcher can be heard in his body camera footage telling him, “(Roberts) is threatening a machete and an AK-47. He said he is going to be violent with law enforcement.”
The last thing Jones said to the dispatcher before police arrived was, “Please take it easy on him because his is bipolar and he is schizophrenic. And yes, he does have a mental disability, anxiety and a lot of other problems that we don’t know yet.”
Golding and Karpin climbed the stairs to the second-floor apartment with their guns drawn at about 6:30 p.m. Golding knocked on the door and said, “Milford police.”
“Corporal Golding and Patrolman Karpin did not make any attempt to communicate with Mr. Roberts or (Jones) through the door of the apartment or de-escalate the situation in any manner,” the lawsuit claims.
Roberts opened the door slightly, and both officers began yelling, “Let me see your hands!”
Continuing to yell at Roberts to raise his hands, Golding pushed open the door. Forcing the door open “escalated the interaction,” according to the lawsuit. Roberts, with a knife in one hand at his side, said, “Shoot me!” as he took two or three steps into the hallway, toward Golding.
Golding told investigators that Roberts was “raising the knife towards him” and that he thought he was “a dead man.” The Attorney General’s Office report says Roberts “began to raise his knife.”
The lawsuit claims Roberts never raised his knife. Delaware Online/The News Journal found it to be unclear in the video.
Karpin discharged his weapon first, and firing seven shots total. Golding fired three shots. Roberts was hit eight times.
“Oh, my God, they really shot him,” Jones said, and the dispatcher hung up. Roberts dropped the knife and fell to the ground, bleeding. The video shows less than five seconds passed between the time he first opened the door and he was shot.
The Attorney General’s Office found Golding and Karpin were justified in their use of force and committed no crime.
The lawsuit claims Roberts “posed no imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury to the officers” and that he “died an agonizing death.”
Roberts had a disability, the lawsuit states, and the officers’ conduct demonstrated the city of Milford’s failure to develop procedures and policies to accommodate it, which is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Roberts, according to the lawsuit, died due to that failure.
White and Jones are asking for damages from both the officers and the city.
A court date has yet to be scheduled.
This important principle is simple: the police are to protect and serve, and when one cop sees another actually unlawfully harming someone, regardless of rank, he should intervene in order to protect and serve.
Excerpts from the Article:
Derek Chauvin has already been convicted for the murder of George Floyd. To the extent any conviction “sends a message” to anyone, the message has been sent. But the trial of the three officers working under Chauvin’s training eye is set to commence today, and the hope is that it sends another message. Where the Chauvin messages was that cops can’t recklessly kill people, this message is that cops have a duty to intervene when a “superior” officer engages in improper conduct.
Former Minneapolis officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao are charged with failing to render medical aid after Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Additionally, Kueng and Thao are charged with failure to intervene to stop Chauvin. Legally, the trial is unprecedented.
Chauvin, who was convicted in April on state murder and manslaughter charges and later pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights, was the senior officer on the scene that day (Lane and Kueng had only been on the streets for a few days).
While a “duty to intervene” to prevent another officer from using unreasonable force has existed for 50 years, it has led to few federal prosecutions. In fact, I can find no federal prosecutions of lower-ranking officers for failing to intervene to prevent a higher-ranking officer — or even a peer officer — from using unreasonable force.
In retrospect, the duty here seems obvious. Retrospect does that to fact patters, where we know the outcome so we can easily conclude what should have been done to avoid the outcome. For Kueng, Lane and Thao, their duty is clear and their culpability for failing to fulfill this duty puts them at the defense table in a criminal court, staring at imprisonment as their future rather than a gold shield, a chestful of ribbons and stories of glory to tell their grandchildren. All because they didn’t stop Chauvin.
Thus, this trial could set federal precedent for holding officers criminally culpable not just for committing civil rights violations themselves, but also for failing to prevent another officer — even a peer or superior officer — from committing them. And that precedent could add momentum to a badly needed sea change in policing — toward a shared expectation that every officer will take all feasible steps to prevent another officer from violating constitutional rights, regardless of rank.
There is a spectrum of ways in which cops can influence bad conduct perpetrated by other cops. Some fit into far easier narratives than others. When one cop sees another punch a cuffed person for no reason, there isn’t much to debate about its wrongfulness. Whether the punching cop needs to be restrained because he’ll punch again may not be clear, but should another cop intervene, it sets a series of consequences in motion.
Some, like prevention of further harm are good. Others, like two cops beating each other, losing focus on the person apprehended who could then flee or grab a gun, not so much. And the subsequent consequences, such as discipline, even prosecution, could be significant for the cop’s survival. Just ask Frank Serpico how that can happen.
There are signs this shift may be underway already. Compare the experience of former Buffalo officer Cariol Horne, fired after intervening in 2006 to prevent another officer from using an unnecessary chokehold, to that of a Sunrise, Fla., officer who in November was grabbed by the throat by a sergeant after she intervened to stop him from using apparently excessive force. Horne spent years fighting her firing before finally being vindicated last year. In contrast, Sunrise Police Chief Anthony Rosa answered police union criticism of his support for the intervening officer with a long statement further praising the officer.
Whether these two scenarios reflect a shift in attitude toward police intervention or just two very different scenarios gets glossed over here. It also ignores a public relations shift, as the post-Floyd Sunrise, Florida choking incident was caught on video, and it was ugly.
But how does an officer know, beforehand, where the line is drawn to intervene upon pain of prosecution?
Further, building a culture of intervention is an essential component of broader efforts to transform policing and public safety. When officers stand by while another officer causes needless harm, they commit a separate, in some ways more corrosive, damage: the delegitimizing of police and rule of law that takes hold when abuse committed by bad-apple officers is tacitly condoned by passive bystander officers.
This has long been a grievance about cops, tacitly condoning bad behavior, violence, theft, rape and abuse by fellow cops and doing nothing. It’s the basis of dismissing the “one bad apple” rationalization when a cop openly engages in flagrant misconduct and they either say or do nothing, or worse, cover it up by falsifying reports and denying the abuse occurred. There are no shortage of horrifically outrageous conduct by police, where others stood by and did nothing aside from laugh and make jokes, and these are the incidents we think of whenever the “one bad apple” argument is made. That bad apple couldn’t have been a bad apple without the acquiescence of the other cops standing there, letting it happen.
Another reason the trial of Kueng, Lane and Thao is so important is that the particular facts of Floyd’s murder underscore the importance of training officers in how to effectively intervene. Turning the legal duty to intervene into routine practice requires building a policing culture that supports active bystandership.
We use the acronym PACT — for probe, alert, challenge, take action — to help officers remember not only the potential need to ratchet up intervention, but also how to do so. Officers role-play escalating stages of intervention. Imagine if just one of the officers had directly challenged Chauvin (“Take your knee off his neck!”) and, if that didn’t work, taken action to physically remove him.
Much as this sounds functional in teaching an elementary schooler how to stop another from bullying before he tells the teacher, it fails to provide any guidance as to where the line is drawn for one cop to intervene when he believes another cop has crossed a line. If the consequences were limited to a disciplinary complaint, it would be difficult enough, but not the end of the world for a cop.
But if the consequence of not intervening is a prosecution and potential imprisonment, neither a cute word nor acronym is going to help in a fluid situation guide an officer to do the right thing when it’s not absolutely clear. The Floyd murder offers as clear a scenario as possible in retrospect. But most won’t, particularly when viewed prospectively. There needs to be consequences for cops who acquiesce to fellow cops committing harm, but the message this prosecution sends may not be the answer to shifting cop culture we need.
We must eliminate “qualified immunity,” and hold police accountable for their conduct.
Excerpts from the Article:
James King was a college student walking to work in 2014 when two officers in street clothes stopped him and asked his name. King answered them, but one tore the wallet from his pocket anyway. Thinking he was being mugged, King ran.
The officers tackled him and beat him badly – so badly that bystanders called 911. One officer later said he beat King in the head and face “as hard as I could, as fast as I could.” It quickly became clear law enforcement had the wrong man, but prosecutors put King on trial for resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.
King was acquitted, but when he tried to sue the officers for violating his civil rights, the Supreme Court ruled they were protected against legal action.
Evading consequences for injustice
King’s case is one in a lengthy list of incidents where law enforcement officers violate the rights of citizens and hardly ever face consequences. It’s probably one reason polls show faith in state and local governments falling.
The lack of accountability is due in part to a policy crafted largely by court decisions over the past 50 years that protect government employees from lawsuits. Almost no legislature voted to create “qualified immunity,” but it protects police and other officials from civil suits anyway. You can sue a doctor or lawyer if their recklessness causes egregious harm, or even death. But you typically can’t sue an official who happens to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Internal Revenue Service.
Sadly, there are countless stories like King’s.
Dave Myers: I’ve seen enough police abuse in my career to know qualified immunity harms good cops
In January 2017, Muhammad Muhaymin walked into a public community center in Phoenix to use the restroom. A member of the staff tried to prevent him from bringing his service dog, a chihuahua, and eventually called the police. When officers responded, they found that Muhaymin was not behaving violently or aggressively but had an outstanding warrant for possession of a marijuana pipe. They attempted to arrest him, but Muhaymin protested, seeking assurances about what would happen to his dog. At least six officers got on top of Muhaymin to hold him down, with some putting their knees on his neck and head over a period of nearly eight minutes.
Muhaymin, a 43-year-old experiencing homelessness and mental health issues, repeatedly pleaded for help and said he could not breathe.
This was how Muhaymin died. The video, like so many others, is excruciating to watch.
A police investigation determined the officers’ actions were “in policy,” and county prosecutors found no behavior that warranted criminal prosecution – though advocates, including Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia, have made calls to reopen the investigation. That left his family with only one option to seek justice: civil court.
Muhaymin’s sister filed a wrongful death suit, and the city approved a $5 million settlement in November. A judge even ruled that the individual officers involved aren’t entitled to qualified immunity for their conduct. But that is a rare outcome, and the officers still managed to avoid criminal accountability and continue in their jobs.
Unfortunately, there are many stories like Muhaymin’s, but because of the doctrine of qualified immunity, few families get their day in court, often in spite of egregious misconduct by government officials.
Aloe Blacc is a Grammy nominated, American singer-songwriter and philanthropist.
The point is not whether officials acted unforgivably, but whether a victim’s loved ones have an opportunity to plead their case in an impartial venue. Officers should have to answer to more than just their own department and the prosecutors who count on them. No one in America should be above the law.
Time for change
In an era when many believe big government is stripping away our civil rights, qualified immunity tramples our most basic right to a fair trial against government officials.
Qualified immunity isn’t in the Constitution. Instead, it was crafted by court decisions over the past five decades, starting in 1967 with Pierson v. Ray, that have mostly continued to expand this policy of shielding government employees from civil lawsuits.
Fatal police holds across the U.S.: George Floyd is not alone. ‘I can’t breathe’ uttered by dozens in fatal police holds across U.S.
There’s no reason it needs to be this way. Multiple bills have been introduced in Congress and in the states over the years to reform qualified immunity. Congress and state legislatures can act at any time to revise those rules. That action is way overdue. We need reform that gives everyone an equal chance to make their case.
Police and other government officials have a lot of responsibility, and like everyone else, they make mistakes. But creating a cultural and legal practice where their errors are buried also means they rarely have the opportunity to prove they acted with good intentions. This hurts everyone. And until it changes, we shouldn’t be surprised if faith in government continues to decline.
My friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton, sent me this Article, and added, quite correctly: “CO’s in Kansas with license to kill the mentally ill. Especially if they are a minority. In all the descriptions of this incident I see nothing about the CO’s asking for help from mental health. Their policy, like Delaware DOC’s policy, is use force to solve every problem.”
Excerpts from the Article:
A Kansas district attorney announced he will be filing no charges in connection with the death of Cedric Lofton, a Black teenager who died in law enforcement custody, citing the state’s robust “stand your ground” law.
Lofton, 17, died in September after being handcuffed and restrained in the prone position, meaning lying face-down, during a struggle with staff and corrections employees at a juvenile facility.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said at a Tuesday news conference that the employees involved acted in self-defense under the “stand your ground” law because the teen resisted and struggled with corrections staff and they, therefore, are immune from prosecution.
Lofton family lawyers disagreed, saying officers “took his breath away” by putting Lofton in the prone position. And they said Bennett’s decision is another instance of no accountability for the death of an unarmed Black teen.
An autopsy report found in December that Lofton’s cause of death was “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.” The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
“The cause of death was brought about by the position in which Cedric was held as well as the ongoing struggle which lasted for over thirty minutes largely unabated,” said a report released by Bennett. “The long-lasting struggle while in the face-down position impeded his breathing, which caused the supply of oxygen to his heart to be compromised to the point that his heart stopped.”
Bennett’s report includes a timeline of events leading up to the teenager’s death, analyses of both the law and the forensic evidence and his conclusion. The video from what happened inside the juvenile facility has not been released by officials.
The prosecutor said Tuesday that while there was a “lot of opportunity” in that night for things to have gone differently, the employees involved acted in self-defense when they continued to restrain the teen because he continued to resist. The video, the interviews of all the employees and the coroner’s findings regarding the effect of a prolonged struggle, support the conclusion that Cedric continued to offer resistance to the physical restraints being applied to his hands and legs. That he continued to resist for some thirty minutes meant the staff could continue to lawfully apply restraint,” the report said.
Generally, “stand your ground” laws across the US allow people to respond to threats of force, without the fear of being criminally prosecuted, in any place where a person has the right to be, including his home or business. Under Kansas law, a person is justified in using force if they are acting in defense of themselves in those circumstances or to protect another party.
“You cannot be arrested, you cannot be charged, you cannot be prosecuted, if you’re acting in self-defense in Kansas under the ‘stand your ground’ law,” Bennett said, adding that Kansas has “one of the most robust ‘stand your ground’ laws in the United States.”
His report added that the district attorney’s conclusion “is not a reflection of this office’s approval of what happened to Cedric Lofton, adding, “This should never have happened.” The county previously said the employees involved in the incident were placed on paid administrative leave pending results of the district attorney’s investigation. A county spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday the corrections employees remain on administrative leave and officials will review their status in the next several days and “will make a determination on a timeline for returning to work.”
Glenda Martens, director of the county’s department of corrections, said at a separate news conference that the “employees acted well within the policy and the requirements of that policy.” “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t review it and look for better recommendations,” she added.
In a statement on behalf of the teen’s family, who had previously called for criminal charges, civil rights attorneys Andrew M. Stroth and Steven Hart said they were “extremely troubled” by Bennett’s decision not to prosecute. “This is yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity,” and without “threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability,” the statement said. “Similar to the George Floyd case, Cedric’s death was caused by authorities obligated to protect him. In this case, they restrained Cedric in the prone position and took his breath away.”
Martens announced Tuesday that the county would “immediately'” recruit community leaders to spearhead a task force that would examine the facility’s procedures and what happened that night and make recommendations about any needed changes.
Among other things, the county will consider will be whether to add audio to the cameras at the juvenile facility where the incident took place, Martens said. Bennett said in his news conference that having audio in the case “would have been very helpful.” The report also notes in one instance that without audio of the incident, there is no evidence to dispute the staff’s claim that they did not hear Lofton ask for help or complain he could not breathe while he was on the floor.
Assistant County Manager Rusty Leeds said the county will release the juvenile facility footage — which does not include audio — to the public in the “very near future.”
Late Tuesday, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple released the body camera footage from all of the police officers involved in the incident.
Lofton, who was in foster care, returned to his home in the early morning hours of September 24, 2021. His father, who later told investigators the teen had recently began acting “paranoid,” called 911 at the directive of the foster care agency. After attempting to talk the teen into coming with them to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, Wichita police officers tried to take him to the patrol car and a struggle ensued. Lofton is heard yelling “help” multiple times, according to the footage.
Police placed the teen in leg shackles and in a “WRAP” restraint system, which according to the report is a “canvass-type, movable plastic material used to wrap around the legs and arms/ lower torso of a person while in a seated position.”
Lofton was taken to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) to be “processed for multiple counts of battery of a law enforcement officer,” after “striking and kicking” officers who went to his home that night, the report said. Officers removed the restraint system and left Lofton in a holding room at the JIAC, where a staff member came by to explain the assessment process and let him into the open foyer, the report said.
Video from what happened inside the JIAC facility has not been released. Body camera video from officers stops when police left the teen at the juvenile facility and picks back up when they were called back later that night and the teen was no longer conscious.
According to the report, after Lofton was let out of the holding room, he approached the intake counter and grabbed the computer monitor. The JIAC employee told Lofton to step back, according to the district attorney’s report.
The JIAC staff member and a Juvenile Detention Center (JDF) employee struggled to get Lofton back into a holding room and he struck one while trying to get away, the report said. “The men then acted in self-defense and continued to forcibly move Cedric toward the holding room.” According to the report, employees told investigators that during the struggle, Lofton was “‘mumbling’ at times, repeated that he was ‘Jesus,’ said that staff should kill themselves and that he would ‘hex’ them.”
After two corrections supervisors arrived, the group put leg shackles on Lofton and move him from a seated position to “face down to better control the situation and possibly place handcuffs on Cedric,” the report said. The group was also physically holding the teen down, according to the report. One staff member told investigators that Lofton, who was still face down on the floor, “continued to argue and resist” and they could not put handcuffs on him as they waited for police to arrive after one employee called 911. After more than 30 minutes on the floor, handcuffs were placed on Lofton, the report said.
Bennett, in his analysis of the JIAC facility video, said it did not appear that any of the workers put their full weight on the teen’s back or torso, and the staffers were following their training to protect themselves and get Lofton to follow orders. Two corrections members noticed some blood, the report said, adding the teen was later seen with a bloody nose. An officer who later arrived also noted the teen had a bloody nose, according to body camera footage.
Around the time handcuffs were applied, a little after 5 a.m., employees said Lofton “finally relaxed” and they heard the teen “snore,” according to the report. About four minutes later, a JIAC employee said he could not hear the teen breathing and could not find a pulse, the report said. Lofton was rolled onto his back but was not responsive after staff performed a sternum rub, which is used to try and assess if a person is conscious. Body camera footage shows workers attempting to revive Lofton.
The teen was taken to a hospital a little before 6 a.m. on September 24. Early on September 26, he was pronounced dead, the report said. Whipple, the mayor, said the city will work together with the county to “take unprecedented action on how we handle crisis intervention in our community.”
“As Mayor, I’m committed to changing the status quo in how we respond to those in crisis. The time for action is now,” Whipple said.
Excessive force by the police plus a huge error by the owner of the car!
Excerpts from the Article:
A California man alleges he lost full use of his right arm after a police K-9 violently latched onto it during a 2020 arrest stemming from an erroneous report of a stolen rental car, according to a federal lawsuit.
Ali Badr, 42, of Oakland, filed the civil lawsuit last month against the city of San Ramon, its police chief, Craig Stevens, and seven officers, following the Dec. 20, 2020, stop of a 2017 Toyota Camry that Badr was renting.
The car was reported stolen by its owner, the lawsuit said. But an attorney for Badr, Matthew Haley, told NBC News his client had only fallen behind on a payment.
The lawsuit accuses police of using excessive force and violating Badr’s civil rights, when Officer John Cattolico, the dog’s handler, released the animal. Badr was complying with police orders and not posing a threat to them during the 6:20 p.m. traffic stop, the lawsuit said.
Badr’s subsequent apprehension was partly captured on police video released this week by Badr’s attorney to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The complaint, seen by NBC News, says the K-9 violently bit Badr’s arm for about a minute.
“With the K-9 still latched onto BADR, ripping and tearing at his arm and hand while BADR screamed in pain, CATTOLICO walked toward Plaintiff while removing his service weapon and pointing it directly at BADR’s face,” the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Cattolico then grabbed Badr’s left arm, while the dog’s teeth were still sunken into Badr’s other arm, and threw Badr to the ground. The officer then knelt on Badr’s back, and grabbed his neck and forced him face-down on the pavement while two other officers also knelt on Badr’s back as he was handcuffed, the suit said.
“The police K-9 was allowed to continue biting the Plaintiff for over 50 seconds,” the lawsuit said.
During the traffic stop, all officers named as defendants pointed their guns at Badr. No officers intervened during the dog attack, the lawsuit said.
The city attorney for San Ramon, Martin Lysons, told NBC News in a letter on Wednesday that an internal investigation is being conducted, “including a review of current policies and whether or not the actions of the officers involved were consistent with those policies.”
“The injuries sustained by Ali Badr are a matter of great concern to the City of San Ramon and its Police Department, and we wish Mr. Badr a speedy return to his normal life,” Lysons said. “The City has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens and their property and takes this responsibility very seriously.” Citing the ongoing litigation, Lysons said there would be no other updates from the city. NBC News has not seen Badr’s arrest report and Lysons said a request for copy was being reviewed.
Police Chief Stevens and Mayor David Hudson did not respond to requests for comment.
It was unclear if any of the officers who responded to the traffic stop were disciplined.
Cattolico could also not be immediately reached.
Badr declined to comment on Tuesday. The immigrant from Egypt worked as an Uber driver, Haley said. Badr used the rental car in his job with Uber Eats, Haley said Wednesday.
“It’s had a significant effect on him, both physically and mentally. He’s still in shock from the whole thing. He’s been unable to come to grips with it,” Haley said. “The video speaks for itself. It was just completely uncalled for. There was no reason to release that dog and then allow the dog to remain with him on the ground.”
Video of the traffic stop posted by the San Francisco Chronicle shows an officer restraining a dog while yelling orders, telling the alleged suspect to get his hands out of the window and then put his hands in the air. It is unclear what happened prior to the video being recorded.
Once the man is out of the vehicle, the dog is released and the man is heard screaming.
After the dog is released, the man asks police repeatedly, “What I did? What I did?” After he is handcuffed, he asks police again, “What I did? I just want to know,” according to the video.
Badr has not regained full use of his right arm, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also names as defendants the rental car’s owner, John Blomeke, CEO an co-founder of CarMommy Rentals LLC. The company is based out of San Jose, Calif.
Another company was involved in the car rental, Hyrecar Inc., based in Los Angeles, the lawsuit said. The companies and Blomeke were negligent and also responsible for Badr’s injuries, according to the lawsuit.
A representative of Hyrecar declined comment Tuesday. Blomeke could not be reached. Blomeke incorrectly reported the car stolen, according to the lawsuit.
The defendants had a duty to ensure Badr “would not be a subject to a false stolen vehicle report,” the lawsuit said.
Badr entered into a contract for the rental car from Aug. 28, 2020, until Dec. 23, 2020, the lawsuit said.
Following his detainment, Badr was hospitalized and received dozens of stitches on his arm, according to Haley. The case was never pursued for prosecution by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Haley said.
No one with the office responded to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon on if police recommended charges.
A little more of this would save a lot of lives … and allow police to do policing!
Excerpts from the Article:
If confronted by the man a few months earlier, the four police officers from Inglewood, Calif., might have killed him.
But the officers had practiced situations like this in simulation training, learning to slow their responses and look for other options. As the man walked toward them, insisting he was armed with a knife and a gun, they used their cars as barricades and fired foam projectiles that are far less lethal than bullets. Eventually, they handcuffed the man and took him for a psychiatric evaluation.
“The officers did feel the training prevented them from using deadly force,” Sgt. Joseph Cupo, who oversees training for the Inglewood Police Department, said of the June 2020 incident, weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis launched a national conversation on public safety. “It gave them the knowledge to recognize the event for what it potentially could be, and to go through some alternative methods to bring it to resolution.”
Study: Killings by police are undercounted by half across the country
At a time when police use of force is increasingly under scrutiny, experts say training simulations are a key way to reduce the number of times police fire their weapons. There are a variety of role-playing options and a growing body of evidence that they work. Some use live actors, others project videotaped scenarios on screens that wrap around the room. A few places, including a laboratory at the University of Maryland, helped design virtual reality headsets that surround officers with videos or computer-generated images, like in a video game.
Experts say each approach can be valuable so long as it feels realistic. The key is that the officer isn’t just learning de-escalation skills in a classroom but is acting them out, over and over, until they become second nature.
“Giving police officers the ability to practice these scenarios, particularly when they’re very young in their careers, is really important,” said Rashawn Ray, a sociology professor who heads up the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland at College Park. Both he and Robin Engel, a criminal justice professor at the University of Cincinnati, noted that police officers generally spend far less time on de-escalation training than on firearms practice, even though the vast majority of police interactions involve unarmed civilians.
Engel began researching de-escalation training in 2018. She’d been asked to find ways to improve accountability in the campus police department at her university, where an officer had recently shot an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop.
She found that in nearby Louisville, de-escalation training created by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum corresponded to a 28 percent reduction in officer use-of-force incidents, a 26 percent reduction in citizen injuries and a 36 percent reduction in officer injuries.
Breonna Taylor’s death sparked police reform in Louisville. But the path forward is complicated.
The training is aimed at defusing tense situations officers may encounter on patrol, Engel said. It does not address higher-risk scenarios like the raid in Louisville that led to the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman whose boyfriend exchanged gunfire with police.
But proponents say it helps police develop alternative, nonlethal responses to situations where a person is acting erratically or threatening to use force. In Newark, officers did not fire a single shot on duty last year, which Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said is at least partly because of training in which community volunteers assist in scenario-based instruction.
In Camden, N.J., officers haven’t fired a lethal weapon in the line of duty since 2017, and complaints for excessive use of force have dropped from 44 in 2015 to five last year. Again, officials say simulation training played a role.
The Camden County Police Department sometimes has officers wear heart monitors while they train in de-escalation and conflict resolution, and supervisors keep tabs on whether the officers’ voices become louder or crack from anxiety, how they move their bodies, what they’re doing with their hands and whether they’re perspiring. The agency also reviews body-camera footage as “game film,” department spokesman Dan Keashen said, to show officers what they did right and wrong.
“I can tell you, it absolutely works — 100 percent,” Keashen said.
The more realistic the scenario, the more prepared officers will be. The question is, which technology gives the most realistic experience? Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, touts the model that group created, which is called Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics and uses live actors who respond to the officers in the moment. But he acknowledged that type of training was more labor-intensive and costly than systems that rely on technology.
Some companies, like VirTra, project taped scenarios on screens around the room. A supervisor or trainer can act like a puppeteer, choosing how those on screen respond to whatever action the officer takes.
Axon, the creator of the Taser, offers a virtual-reality headset in which actors play out fraught scenarios and the trainee makes choices, such as whether to use a Taser, chemical spray or a gun to keep a man in mental distress at bay. The subject responds accordingly.
Rick Wall, a retired Los Angeles Police Department captain who now runs de-escalation trainings, prefers live actors but said using them for role-play is cost prohibitive for all but the biggest departments. And more than half of fatal police shootings occur in jurisdictions with fewer than 50,000 residents, according to a 2018 study in the Annual Review of Criminology.
“That’s why a lot of agencies are moving toward the virtual reality,” Wall said. “It works, and it’s less expensive.”
Matthew Griffin, a former police officer who now trains for Axon, recalled sitting through 40 hours of desk-based in-service training a year while he wore the badge. Officers learned things like how to identify whether a person they were interacting with might have autism, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease. But he thinks simulations are far more effective. In Axon’s virtual-reality scenarios, for example, officers can act as a person with autism or schizophrenia interacting with police, and then switch back to the officer’s role. Griffin said such training leaves officers better able to recognize the cognitive or mental health issues they may be confronting on the job.
Most virtual-reality simulations require a trainer or the officer to press a button to get the subject in the video to respond to a particular action. But Jigsaw, the technology incubator for tech giant Google, has created a program called Trainer that uses artificial intelligence, based on data gathered from law enforcement and civil rights groups, to prompt actions and responses. Every time officers put on a headset, their experience is different. The scenarios offer hundreds of potential outcomes — albeit with avatars that do not appear completely human, a technological limitation that experts say can prevent the user from becoming completely immersed in the scene.
Axon expects to upgrade its virtual-reality headsets next year to include similar artificial intelligence direction.
The technology gives trainers a checklist to use as officers run through the scenarios. The trainers can bookmark spots in the video where the officer completed a task properly, or failed to do so, then play the video again and discuss what to do differently.
Jigsaw has given the technology to researchers at four universities — the University of Maryland, University of Cincinnati, Georgetown University Law Center and Morehouse College. All plan to test it on police.
Another instance of police abuse! What a coincidence; I have a man coming in this morning with a similar tale; the cop shattered his teeth on Friday.
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal lawsuit has been filed against a Wilmington police officer seen on social media repeatedly slamming a man’s head during an arrest last month inside a Southbridge convenience store.
In addition to using “excessive force,” the lawsuit filed in Wilmington’s U.S. District Court claims Wilmington Patrolman Samuel Waters used a racial slur when arresting 44-year-old Dwayne Brown who is Black. Waters is white.
The lawsuit, filed by the Jacobs & Crumplar Law Firm, claims Waters called Brown the N-word.
“Such racial statements are reflective of his state of mind and discriminatory intent in this incident,” the lawsuit states.
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki’s office issued a statement Monday afternoon.
“While we can’t comment on pending legal matters, we can confirm that an officer was placed on administrative duty related to this matter, and that an investigation of the incident is continuing which we hope to have wrapped up as quickly as possible,” Purzycki’s Deputy Chief of Staff John Rago said.
Wilmington police, who placed Waters on administrative duty before the video of the Sept. 21 incident went viral, said its Office of Professional Standards immediately launched an investigation into what the video captured.
No public press release about Brown’s arrest or the investigation was issued by the department until a Delaware Online/The News Journal reporter asked about the incident.
It was not known Monday what Waters’ current status is with the department. . The Wilmington Police Department has not released the officer’s name, but said he has been on the force for three years.
The lawsuit, which names only Waters as a defendant, claims Brown’s constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable seizures guaranteed to him by the Fourth and 14th Amendments were violated.
The suit seeks that Brown be awarded, among other things, compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit states that the repeated slamming during the arrest has caused Brown to suffer serious physical and emotional injuries.
A press release issued by Brown’s lawyers asks that anyone who knows of other incidents of “improper actions” by Waters to come forward.
Attorney Thomas C. Crumplar gives remarks during a press conference earlier this month in which he asked for full transparency in an incident where his client was slammed into a plexiglass wall by a Wilmington officer.
Earlier this month, civil rights activists called for Waters’ firing and arrest.
Members of the Delaware NAACP also said they want the resignation of Wilmington Police Chief Robert J. Tracy and a federal investigation of the Wilmington Police Department and other police agencies that have continuously mistreated people of color in the state.
“This incident is just the one straw that broke the camel’s back,” New Castle County Councilman Jea Street said during an Oct. 4 press conference.
The activists and Brown’s lawyers have urged the department to release Water’s body camera footage.
The incident, however, was captured on surveillance video and shared widely on social media.
The video shows Brown inside 3 C’s Food Market in Southbridge ready to leave when he stops to let a man on crutches enter. Brown then appears to start speaking to someone.
That’s when the officer appears in the frame.
The officer grabs Brown’s right wrist and begins to turn him, putting Brown’s right hand on plexiglass near the cashier. Brown, who is turning his head over his right shoulder, can be seen saying something to the officer.
As the officer has Brown turned toward the plexiglass, the officer then grabs Brown’s left wrist and, with his body, slams Brown toward the plexiglass. This, according to the lawsuit, occurred despite Brown not being “combative, physically aggressive, actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
The officer then takes his left hand and grabs the back of Brown’s head, banging it twice against the plexiglass before taking Brown down. Both the officer and Brown then disappear from view.
The lawsuit claims Waters never identified himself as a police officer and that he did not give a warning that use of force would be used as the department directive requires.
According to the lawsuit, Brown was taken outside the store where Waters continued to use excessive force. During this time, Brown feared he would end up being killed, according to the lawsuit.
“Given the current national climate regarding police brutality and in light of the Eric Garner, George Floyd, and countless other cases involving members of law enforcement killing black men, Mr. Brown was in fear for his life when he was brutally beaten and slammed against the convenience store wall,” the lawsuit states.
Dwayne Brown, right, whose head was slammed by a Wilmington officer, attends a press conference at Spencer Plaza in Wilmington on Oct. 4, 2021. The resignation of Wilmington’s police chief and the arrest and firing of the officer was sought.
All of this occurred despite police knowing that Brown had no violent adult criminal record or history of violence as an adult, the lawsuit states.
The officer said in court documents that Brown has a “no contact” order prohibiting him from being on New Castle Avenue, the street on which 3C’s is located. The no-contact order stems from a May incident in which Brown was charged with possession of marijuana and a controlled substance.
That case is pending in Superior Court.
After his September arrest, Brown was charged with two counts of harassment, resisting arrest, breach of release and possession of marijuana. Brown was released on $4,100 unsecured bail.
Another good reason to expand the Court. Cops should be accountable, like everyone else.
Excerpts from the Article:
In two unsigned opinions Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of police officers seeking qualified immunity from allegations of excessive force.
In both cases, the justices overturned lower court decisions that went against the officers.
The rulings — and the fact that no justice publicly dissented — suggests that the court is not willing, at least for now, to radically transform how it considers qualified immunity cases.
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine, developed by the courts, that shields law enforcement from liability for constitutional violations including allegations of excessive force. In recent years, legal scholars, lawmakers and judges have criticized the doctrine, arguing that it is not grounded in the proper legal authorities and too often shields officials from accountability. Calls for the court to take a substantial new look at the doctrine intensified after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
Under existing precedent, an officer is not liable, even if he or she violates the Constitution, unless it was “clearly established” by prior cases that the conduct at issue was unconstitutional. Critics say that bar is too high and forces those claiming excessive force to search for a prior case with nearly identical facts.
Last term, there were two instances where the court wiped away lower court opinions that had granted qualified immunity to government officials, leading some to believe the court was moving in a new direction to chip away at the doctrine.
But on Monday, the justices made clear that last term’s cases were outliers, and that the traditional framework could stand.
“Monday’s cases are further evidence that the Supreme Court is not going to reconsider the fundamentals of the doctrine and the justices are reaffirming the general idea that in most cases plaintiffs still need to find a nearly identical precedent to make their case,” said Jay Schweikert, a research fellow the Cato Institute who studies the issue.
“This means that until and unless Congress addresses qualified immunity, public officials can continue to violate people’s rights with impunity” Schweikert said.
Police face a ‘crisis of trust’ with Black motorists. One state’s surprising policy may help. VA is the first state to ban low level traffic stops.
This is what happens when the police are so racist and out of control.
Excerpts from the Article:
In the months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, public defenders in Virginia saw an opportunity to overhaul policing in the state. Among their key priorities to address racial disparities: a ban on traffic stops for such infractions as broken taillights, tinted windows and the aroma of marijuana.
What happened next stunned police officials across Virginia. In just three months, the ban the public defenders pitched to Democratic legislators sailed to the governor’s desk and was signed into law. With Covid-19 shutting down the state Capitol and forcing the legislative sessions to take place via Zoom, the law enforcement officials who objected to the bill had failed to galvanize the opposition.
In March, Virginia became the first state to prohibit the kind of low-level traffic stops that disproportionately affect people of color and are often used as pretexts to search for drugs and weapons. An NBC News analysis of the early data shows that the measure is having an impact on the percentage of Black motorists searched by police during traffic stops.
“As public defenders, we aren’t exactly used to winning, let alone winning big,” said Brad Haywood, the chief public defender for Arlington County and executive director of Justice Forward, a criminal justice reform organization made up of public defenders across the state. “This will dramatically reduce race-based policing and impact so many lives.”
Long a cornerstone of American law enforcement, the traffic stop has emerged as a flashpoint in the debate over police reform.
Over the last 20 months, district attorneys in California and Minnesota have ordered prosecutors to drop cases in which officers found guns or drugs during traffic stops for minor infractions. Other states, including Washington and Massachusetts, are considering restrictions similar to Virginia’s.