This is the kind of crap which must be exposed! This excellent article is so extensive that I have had to delete much of it, which segments reveal more of the bullshit around the secrecy. You CAN read it all by clicking on “The Whole Story”, below.
Thank God for the Bangor Daily News and its ongoing investigation of these issues!
Excerpts from the Article:
Dana Kitchin died in a Kennebec County jail observation cell on Dec. 12, 2014, from a ruptured spleen. Before he died, other inmates heard him screaming for medical attention for seven to eight hours, according to a lawsuit filed by Kitchin’s family against a list of defendants that included the jail and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. A man with mental and physical illnesses, Kitchin had smeared blood and feces on the window looking into his cell. Those smeared bodily fluids remained on the door for 14 hours, according to the lawsuit, which was settled for an unspecified amount in 2020.
Kennebec County, which runs the jail, disciplined three corrections officers who were on duty while Kitchin was pleading for help. Records of that discipline, obtained by the Bangor Daily News as part of an investigation into discipline at all 16 county sheriff’s offices, corroborates much of what Kitchin’s family alleged in the lawsuit.
The three corrections officers were punished for not notifying the medical department or logging that an unnamed inmate wanted medical attention. Two of them were disciplined for not checking on the inmate, and for making no attempt to clean the feces off the cell door window despite its presence “making it impossible to see inside,” according to the records. One of the officers was also disciplined for writing that he checked the cells every 15 minutes when he had not.
But those records failed to mention Kitchin — or his death. Anyone reading the records without prior knowledge of what happened to Kitchin would have no way to know that the discipline handed down to the three officers had anything to do with a man dying in his cell while begging for medical attention.
Likewise, the officers’ punishments wouldn’t lead anyone to suspect the incident was more than a few minor violations of jail policy. Two of the officers, Keith LaChance and Bryan Robbins, received “written reprimands.” The third officer, Myra Gagnon, recieved a lesser “verbal counseling.”
Maine is one of more than a dozen states where law enforcement discipline records — like the ones that described how officers acted the day Kitchin died — are public. In many states, discipline records are either confidential by law or so difficult to obtain they might as well be.
But Maine’s public access laws don’t always result in transparency.
Early this year the Bangor Daily News requested all discipline records since 2015 from Maine’s 16 sheriff’s offices and 15 county jails. The newspaper received nearly 500 records for corrections officers, deputies, lieutenants and sergeants, and found that, in many instances, the records didn’t actually describe the misconduct in question, leaving the public in the dark about what really happened, whether discipline is equitable across offices and violations, and whether elected sheriffs are holding their staff accountable.
In fact, a third of the records documenting serious punishments — a suspension, demotion or termination — or resignations in lieu of punishments did not contain enough information to determine with any certainty the misconduct that warranted the punishment.
Records of less severe discipline, including written reprimands and verbal counselings, were more likely to be detailed, the BDN found. Only 10 percent of those records didn’t have enough information for a reader to understand the circumstances in question, demonstrating how some sheriff’s offices are more likely to provide details about minor infractions than serious misconduct.
Kennebec County Administrator Bob Devlin said that, while he couldn’t answer for the author of the records detailing the circumstances of Kitchin’s death, “the record is for employment purposes, so it is most likely that both the involved employee and the supervisor knew what the specific issues were and it wasn’t necessary to provide detail.”
As of November, the three officers were still employed at the jail. Current Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty was Kennebec County sheriff at the time Kitchin died and a defendant in the lawsuit. He did not respond to questions.
Like other private and public-sector employers, sheriff’s offices create discipline records for several reasons. They can help in deciding whether to grant promotions and can be examined by future employers deciding whether to hire someone. They can also be used in legal disputes between employers and employees.
Maine law mandates that only final disciplinary records are public, while internal investigations leading up to that final discipline record are confidential.
Nearly 60 percent of the discipline records that the BDN determined to be lacking information mention the existence of an internal investigation, but they share little about the findings of the investigation or the conduct in question. Many only cite the numerical title of the policy violated.
For example, in 2019, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office fired Deputy Matthew Shiers based on the results of an internal investigation, according to his discipline record. But the record did not mention what prompted the investigation or what it concluded, meaning anyone looking at it wouldn’t know he had been charged with aggravated assault, domestic violence assault and cruelty to animals after fighting with his girlfriend.
A September 2018 discipline record for Deputy Robert Potter from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office contained no written description of misconduct, only a box checked by an investigator indicating “misconduct noted” and another checked box showing the discipline levied was “termination.”
Records related to internal investigations may be more vague because those investigations can contain confidential information, said Bill Doyle, regional director for the National Correctional Employees Union, which represents corrections officers.
“They’re trying to discipline the officer,” said Doyle, who is also the mayor of Saco. “I don’t think they’re trying to hide the conduct, but I think in certain circumstances they are looking to shield protected information.”
But two Maine sheriff’s offices — in Washington and Somerset counties — didn’t provide any discipline records at all, a dearth of data experts found troubling. County sheriff’s offices differ in how often they administer and document discipline, including among similarly sized offices.
“We need to, as a state, all be on the same page here,” said Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen, whose office was more likely than others to document a narrative of why employees needed to be disciplined. “Is it fair for one county to see it and not the other county? No, I don’t think so.”
These gaps in discipline records are “not good for any of us,” said Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, co-chair of the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, in response to the BDN’s findings.
The coming legislative sessions will produce “a lot of legislation having to do with keeping track of the disciplinary records of law enforcement in Maine at all levels,” she added.
Several states — including New York and California — have recently opened law enforcement discipline records to the public, and more are considering legislation to do so after the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests against police violence that followed.
But Maine could serve as a warning: The records can be public and still not shed light on some of society’s most closed institutions.
Maine is still “on the transparent end” of states when it comes to laws around the disclosure of police discipline records, said Rachel Moran, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who has studied law enforcement discipline records and public access.
While Maine law has long held that discipline records are public, “there is no legal requirement that a final disciplinary action statement has to be of any particular length or contain any particular content,” said Linda McGill, an attorney with Portland law firm Bernstein Shur who has worked on employment issues on behalf of municipal governments.
There is also no entity responsible for reviewing discipline records or rates of discipline. County jails are required to report some data to the Maine Department of Corrections, which runs the state’s prisons, but they aren’t required to submit any information on employee misconduct. The Maine Sheriffs’ Association doesn’t provide model policies or best practices to its members, said its president, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton.
Law enforcement leaders and experts agreed that more information and transparency is better for the public.
“The community should have the ability to monitor and in essence audit the performance of their law enforcement services,” said Dave Mahoney, sheriff of Wisconsin’s Dane County, which is home to Madison, the state capital. Mahoney is also president of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “There needs to be transparency so that the public trusts the work.”
“If you’re finding no discipline in a department of that size, that’s concerning to me, particularly because of the corrections angle,” said Moran of the University of St. Thomas, noting that she had no knowledge of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office operations. “It’s so incredibly easy to take advantage of prisoners and have a potentially abusive environment with no way for them to speak up.”
The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office is the fourth largest sheriff’s office in the state, with 112 full- and part-time officers in 2019, according to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Only Cumberland, Kennebec and Penobscot County sheriff’s offices employ more. But, like Washington County, it also did not provide any documents in response to the BDN’s public records request.
In an interview on Oct. 27, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said he had disciplined employees over the last five years, but “didn’t really have an answer” as to why his office did not provide discipline documents.
In that interview, he said he would look into why records were not provided, but he did not respond to follow-up emails.
Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said she told Lancaster that his office was legally obligated to turn over the records.
“[Lancaster] told me he was very upset about the request, and he didn’t think by law he had to turn it over,” DiBlasi said. “I had to say, ‘If you have anything, you have to turn it over.’”
The BDN has since refiled its initial request for Somerset County discipline documents.
Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-York, said she would like to see “more standardization” in the recording of discipline.
“I think the best thing would be a requirement to have a central repository in the state,” Deschambault said. “So you could hold a county like Somerset responsible and say ‘Really?’”
This sure makes sense! Change is coming, albeit too little too slowly.
Excerpts from the Article:
New York University School of Law’s Center on Race, Inequality and the Law released a report on Tuesday outlining an evidence-based approach to law enforcement focused on community safety. The center called it “a roadmap to smart policing under President-elect Joe Biden’s Administration.”
Authors called their version “a direct counterpoint to the unlawfully produced and incomplete” report of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, which The Crime Report described on Monday.
Contrary to the theory that more policing, prosecution, and incarceration will achieve public safety, the NYU authors say they provide “a new vision for inclusive public safety” that examines how the justice system has “driven up incarceration rates, disproportionately harmed communities of color, and failed to provide true public safety.”
Anthony Thompson, founding faculty director of NYU School of Law’s Center on Race, Inequality and the Law, noted that the Trump commission was composed of law enforcement officials.
Thompson said, “We are responding with data from academics and those with a background in criminal defense, civil rights, and community advocacy, supported by a coalition of law enforcement, faith communities, crime survivors, community groups, activists, academics, universities. This is a more complete and balanced picture of how justice in America should be administered.”
One co-author of the NYU effort, chief Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, noted that a judge ruled that the Trump commission had operated in violation of federal law. Mosby said that when such a panel “fails to abide by the same laws they were tasked to uphold, it is imperative for community leaders and representatives to step in and offer alternative solutions to safety and justice reform.”
Among others who co-authored the NYU report are Stephanie Morales, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Portsmouth, Va., chief Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx, chief Boston prosecutor Rachael Rollins, and Garry McFadden, Mecklenburg County, N.C., Sheriff.
Among recommendations in the NYU report:
Developing factual, community-based strategies that “provide greater stability, transparency, and accountability.”
Reorienting government priorities toward solutions that will both prevent and provide accountability for serious violent offenses while diverting those who commit non-serious offenses rooted in mental health challenges, housing and food insecurity, poverty, or substance use disorders.
Providing community members the tools to work with local officials to guide public safety policy by tailoring solutions to local social and economic needs.
The NYU authors said they focused on “major areas where mechanisms of control and punishment, deployed most harshly against communities of color, can be transformed to achieve true safety: policing, prosecution, and sentencing,” proposals they said were in line with President-elect Joe Biden’s criminal justice plan.
The Whole Story:
Another outrageous case of police misconduct! To me, as a former prosecutor, few things are worse. The job of police and prosecutors is to be FAIR, not just to lock up people!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Innocence Project of New York, along with the Cincinnati, Ohio, law firm of Gerhardstein & Branch (collectively “Plaintiff’s Counsel”), negotiated a settlement on September 14, 2020, wherein the Cincinnati Police Department (“CPD”) agreed to an unprecedented audit of its DNA-based homicide cases.
The settlement emerged from a 2018 civil rights lawsuit filed by Plaintiff’s Counsel on behalf of Joshua Maxton.
Maxton spent over a year in jail until a jury acquitted him of murder. During trial, the defense learned for the first time that the Cincinnati police were informed seven months earlier that DNA evidence from the crime scene resulted in a “CODIS hit” for alternate suspect Dante Foggie. A CODIS hit is a match of DNA submitted to the FBI’s CODIS database, which is a compilation of more than 18 million DNA profiles taken from people convicted of crime across the U.S.
The terms of the settlement provide that an audit team, overseen by court-appointed Special Master Ronald Safer, will conduct “a comprehensive investigation into a subset of homicide cases to determine whether DNA evidence obtained by the CPD was properly disclosed to persons, as is required by law.”
Covering cases from June 2011 to June 2018, the audit seeks to determine whether a CODIS hit matched DNA to a person other than the accused/convicted person, and if so, was the evidence disclosed to the defense. Any undisclosed DNA matches will be provided to the convicted person or that person’s last-known counsel. The cases will be reviewed by Safer, a team of pro bono attorneys and students from the Ohio Innocence Project. The settlement also provides that Safer will confer with numerous stakeholders in Hamilton County, Ohio, to recommend improvements for timely disclosures of DNA/CODIS evidence.
Nina Morrison, senior litigation counsel for the Innocence Project, said: “This settlement is historic. It acknowledges that Josh Maxton sat in jail for more than seven months on a wrongful murder charge, even after police were notified of DNA evidence that supported his longtime claim of innocence. It also provides a novel and rigorous process to determine if other innocent people in Cincinnati were convicted of crimes they did not commit.”
At least some bad cops were convicted, but no amount of money can right a wrong like this.
Excerpts from the Article:
Baltimore officials are set to approve a roughly $8 million settlement to two men who went to prison after drugs were planted on them a decade ago during an encounter with members of a rogue police unit that brutalized, robbed and falsely arrested residents.
The city’s spending board is scheduled to take up the settlement Wednesday, news outlets reported. The Board of Estimates has approved several settlements in recent weeks stemming from the misconduct of members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a once-lauded group that was supposed to take guns off the streets of Baltimore.
The settlement for Umar Burley and Brent Matthews is the largest settlement in connection with the task force and surpasses the amount paid in 2015 to the family of Freddie Gray, a young Black man who died a week after he was critically injured in police custody and whose death lead to civil unrest.
The proposed payment includes $6.3 million for Burley and Matthews as well as $1.8 million to pay off a lien due to the estate of Elbert Davis, which sued Burley. Burley and Matthews encountered task force members in 2010 during an illegal traffic stop that led to a high-speed chase. Burley crashed with another vehicle, killing Davis.
Burley spent seven years in prison, while Matthews served two-and-half years behind bars. Their convictions were vacated in 2017 after officers cooperating in the federal investigation into the task force told authorities that a member of the unit had spoken of drugs being planted in the incident.
“Mr. Burley and Mr. Matthews were overtly and undeniably framed by a conspiracy of at least four police officers,” the men’s attorneys, Steve Silverman, said in a statement. “It should not take an army of lawyers litigating for years to right wrongs like this.”
The investigation into the task force has led to the convictions of more than a dozen officers. Hundreds of criminal cases based on their work have been dropped or vacated.
Our friend, Lynn, sent me this article. If we really want to reduce crime, WE MUST DO MORE OF THESE PROGRAMS!
Excerpts from the Article:
County leaders will use nearly $665,000 in grant money to reduce gun violence and help ex-prisoners reintegrate. The grants were reviewed and approved Nov. 5 by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. They were spurred in part by a 2018 Safety and Justice Challenge study paid for by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, county Community Development Specialist Aisha Shepherd told commissioners. The foundation’s goal is to reduce jail numbers, address racial disparities and increase community engagement.
“Both violence and the justice system have desperate impacts on Black people living in Buncombe County,” Shepherd said.
Findings showed that of the first nine homicides of 2020, seven victims were Black men, she said.
“In 2019, Black people represented 6.3% of Buncombe County’s population, yet comprised 25% of the jail population and 69% of gun violence victims.”
Asheville Police block Fayetteville Street in West Asheville as a homicide is investigated on Jan. 13, 2020.
Pandemic jail reduction efforts released 40% of those in the county detention facility, or 158 people. That actually increased the racial disparity, with 33% of the remaining population being Black.
Shepherd said the county is now seeking proposals from community organizations for two $225,000 grants to help with the problems. One $50,000 grant would pay for the development of a comprehensive plan that addresses community safety and reduces gun violence.
A second $175,000 grant would be for a program working with communities most affected by gun violence. That work would include creating “intergenerational spaces that empower safety, trust and healing.”
Republican District 3 Commissioner Joe Belcher of Candler said he supported the efforts and felt some of the “root causes” came down to “lack of jobs and other resources,” particularly for those with criminal records.
Democratic Board Chair Brownie Newman of Asheville said that most places people lived in the county were safe. “But you know we have neighborhoods in our community that are not safe. And I think part of the struggle is you know we don’t want to come at this with the approach of, let’s just throw the most law enforcement resources to this as we can,” Newman said.
Police are part of the solution, he said, but a hard enforcement strategy could also increase the jail population, which goes against one of the goals. “We’ve got to think in other ways about this so I’m really glad we’re doing this process, I’m excited about what ideas might emerge from this.”
In Asheville, police have responded to 522 calls for service regarding a gun discharge or an individual who has been shot, from from Jan. 1 to Nov. 5. During that same time, 38 people have been shot in Asheville.
In a separate action, commissioners voted unanimously to accept a $439,883 grant from the Dogwood Health Trust to reduce recidivism and increase access to medical and mental health and substance use care for prisoners leaving the Buncombe Detention Facility and Swannanoa and Craggy Correctional Centers.
Dogwood was formed during the sale of the nonprofit Mission Hospital to the for-profit company HCA. Dogwood received the profits from the hospital sale and is tasked with distributing them to organizations that help increase the region’s health.
This is all wrong and very dangerous to our freedoms!
Government watchdog organizations are reporting that multiple government agencies employed high-tech surveillance aircraft over cities with demonstrations over the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
On June 2, thousands of protestors took to the streets in major cities across the U.S. to call for an end to police brutality. In response, cities such as Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas, Nevada, sent police out for crowd control. And, after an armed protestor was shot in Las Vegas, the police were joined by the National Guard.
A review of unfiltered flight data examined by Motherboard on ADS-B Exchange showed police in Washington, D.C., employed several RC-26Bs carrying infrared and electro-optical cameras used in counter-narcotic and military combat missions. A letter from Congress to the House Armed Services Committee about these craft reads: “The aircraft is uniquely qualified as the only fixed-winged aircraft to have Title 32 authority to conduct domestic surveillance while maintaining the ability to conduct Title 10 missions abroad.”
Security researcher John Scott-Railton discovered the same craft over Las Vegas as well as aircraft flown by the Texas Department of Public Safety over Houston and California Highway Patrol aircraft being flown over Oakland. In addition, Chris Stelmarski of the political strategy and media consultant firm MVAR Media tweeted several photos of other aircraft over D.C.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection flew unarmed Predator drones over Minneapolis, the FBI had Cessna 560s over D.C., Portland Police Bureau used its own Cessna 172N, New York Police Department deployed helicopters, and other local departments had their craft airborne over protestors in their cities.
Civil rights activists are concerned about invasion of privacy issues these aircraft present. Many of them are outfitted with “Dirtbox” technology, which are devices that mimic cellphone towers to collect phone numbers, conversations, e-mails, texts, and even GPS locations.
Activists say this is a large amount of information gathered from citizens who are not involved in illegal activity. “It’s concerning because we see an unprecedented amount of aerial surveillance of U.S. citizens in multiple cities at once in a clear attempt to chill speech and silence Americans exercising their First Amendment rights,” Electronic Frontier Foundation senior technologist Cooper Quinn stated, adding, “We have no way of telling what kind of signals intelligence or other surveillance those planes are carrying but that kind of wartime surveillance on our own citizens should enrage everyone who values freedom.”
See my earlier related articles. I have called for Body cams on all cops since they came out; they can eliminate/solve sooooooo many problems.
Excerpts from the Article:
Wilmington officials have received a federal grant to pay for the Police Department to wear body cameras, the city announced Thursday.
The $630,000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice will cover the cost of cameras for the department’s 315 officers and four additional officers that will be hired to oversee the program.
The City Council this month approved adding $400,000 to this year’s city budget to hire those officers. The council on Thursday night will vote on a $2 million contract over the next five years between the city and Axon Enterprises Inc. for the equipment, maintenance and video storage.
“We would have started this program with or without a federal grant because it’s that important,” Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a news release. “But it sure is good at a time of COVID-related dwindling revenue to receive this critical support.” It will still likely be months before police actually start wearing the cameras, but the grant and this month’s budget amendment are the most concrete steps so far toward the program starting.
A copy of the grant application obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal last month outlines some of the department’s goals for a body camera program. They include reducing misconduct complaints by 25% by the end of the first year of the program and cutting complaints in half by the end of the second year.
The department also aims to reduce civilian complaints, of which Wilmington police received about 300 between 2015 and 2019, by 30% by the end of the first year.
Police also intend to use body camera footage as evidence in both internal complaints and criminal trials and noted in their application they believe footage would clear officers accused of wrongdoing, as well as reduce lawsuits and protests.
An anti-police protest resulted in two people being arrested after an altercation with police, apparently sparked when an officer tried to take a bullhorn that a protester was using in close proximity to a line of police Saturday at Market and Fourth Streets in Wilmington. The department next will purchase the cameras, finalize policies governing their use with the police union and train officers.
Adopting body cameras for police in Delaware’s largest city has been subject to years of delays. A pilot program of the cameras – which ran for most of 2016 and early 2017 on 22 officers who volunteered – ended around the time Robert Tracy became police chief.
He told the City Council in early 2019 that he was concerned with how costly the program would be. The city applied for a federal grant to pay for cameras but failed to get approved last fall. Wilmington police applied again this year with the help of the state’s Criminal Justice Council. After protests against police brutality erupted this summer, Purzycki promised the city would pay for body cameras if the grant was not awarded.
Search and Seizure with cell phones is usually straightforward. Police cannot inspect the contents of your phone without a warrant, with certain exceptions, like and emergency. Such as: A shoots B. The cops arrive 3 minutes after the shooting and use C’s phone to ID the shooter, who was recorded by C.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle ruled that the FBI conducted an illegal search of a defendant’s phone by powering it on to inspect the lock screen, resulting in suppression of information obtained from the search.
Joseph Sam was arrested pursuant to an indictment on conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. When Sam was arrested, Tulalip Police seized his phone. He was booked into police custody, and his phone was inventoried, including determining whether the phone was locked and attempting to place the phone in airplane mode to prevent remote wiping.
On February 13, 2020, the FBI temporarily obtained Sam’s phone from police inventory, powered it on, and took a photo of the lock screen, which displayed the user’s name as “<<<Streezy.” Sam’s lawyer filed a motion to suppress this evidence as the result of an illegal search.
The Court briefly discussed the governing law, starting with the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court explained that the “default rule is that a search is unreasonable unless conducted pursuant to a warrant.” Veronica School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995). The Supreme Court has defined “search” in one of two ways: (1) if it physically intrudes on a constitutionally protected area to obtain information (Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1 (2013)), or (2) if it intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy (Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018)).
The Court explained that the FBI physically intruded onto Sam’s personal property by powering on the phone to examine the lock screen, and by doing so, the FBI violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. The Government claimed this did not constitute a search because Sam had no reasonable expectation of privacy in preventing the examination of his lock screen — indeed, that is what is meant to be seen by anyone who isn’t you when trying to access your phone.
The Court flatly rejected this argument by pointing out the Supreme Court has consistently instructed that “a person’s Fourth Amendment rights do not rise or fall with the Katz [Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 437 (1967).] formulation….” Rather, “the Katz reasonable-expectations test” is in addition to, not instead of, the traditional property-based test under the Fourth Amendment. Jardines. The Court explained that when the government physically intrudes on constitutionally protected areas, as it did in this case, it’s unnecessary to perform a reasonable expectation of privacy analysis.
Accordingly, the Court ordered suppression of the contents of the lock screen obtained by the FBI. However, the Court also ordered the parties to brief it on the circumstances under which the Tulalip Police Department may have inspected Sam’s phone pursuant to search exceptions established as constitutionally valid without a warrant if conducted incident to an arrest or proper procedures for inventorying a defendant’s property. See: United States v. Sam, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87143 (W.D. Wash. 2020).
It’s about time. I have been pushing for body cams for all law enforcement agencies ever since their inception! They are so beneficial in many ways. In these days of increased tensions between police and the community, I say the more transparency, the better!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Wilmington City Council approved spending $400,000 on a Police Department-wide body camera program after years of activists’ calls for city officers to wear the equipment.
Now, the department hopes to use that footage to reduce lawsuits and complaints against officers and further repair relationships with the community.
The money, approved at Thursday night’s meeting, will be used to hire a police sergeant and three patrol officers to oversee the program.
For the program to start, city officials are still waiting for the approval of a federal grant, which would provide $542,388 to purchase cameras for a total of 319 sworn officers. A response from the U.S. Department of Justice is expected in the next two or three weeks, according to a Delaware criminal justice official who helped the city apply.
If rejected for the grant like the city was last year, Councilman Bud Freel said he will introduce another budget amendment to pay for the cameras with city funds. The council’s approval of the funds is the first budgetary commitment the city has made toward body cameras since the Police Department began testing the equipment nearly five years ago. Community activists, the NAACP and former Mayor Dennis Williams had called for the cameras to increase trust between police and civilians.
A five-year, nearly $2 million contract between the city and Axon Enterprises Inc. for the cameras, maintenance and video storage is pending before the council. Freel said he hopes it’s approved in November.
Wilmington police have released little information about how a body camera program would be administered, but the city’s application for federal funding outlines some of the department’s intentions. In the application obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal, Wilmington police list promoting transparency and accountability, decreasing complaints and lawsuits against the city, recording incidents for police training and increasing video evidence for criminal trials as goals for the body camera program.
Wilmington officials refused to release a copy of the grant application when requested in June through the Freedom of Information Act.
The application states the 315-person department – in which 255 officers regularly interact with the public –investigated 2,000 complaints against officers internally from 2015 to 2019. Three hundred of those came from civilians.
With body cameras, the department aims to reduce misconduct complaints by 25% by the end of the first year of the program and cut complaints in half by the end of the second year. The goals also include reducing civilian complaints by 30% by the end of the first year.
Nationwide studies are mixed on the effect of body cameras on officer complaints and on uses of force.
“In addition to the evidential value, [body cameras] expedite the investigatory process and allow investigators to come to a conclusion and share information before protests and distrust begin to escalate,” the application states.
Wilmington police intend to use body camera footage as evidence in both internal complaints and criminal trials, according to the application.
“Our agency is working on developing a policy that would guide the administration of a Body-Worn Camera program, and which will stipulate when cameras should be activated, with privacy concerns taken into consideration,” Karas wrote in an email.
“The AG supports body cameras as an assurance that quality evidence will be available from police officers’ interactions with the public,” Marshall wrote.
We can see good solutions and substantial savings when law enforcement officials keep their thinking caps on.
Excerpts from the Article:
Since the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by police, a movement to defund police departments across the U.S. has been gaining momentum. Defunding is not always the answer to law enforcement agencies that have traditionally been tasked in jack-of-all-trades roles of mediator, mental health crisis responder, and traffic accident responder, among dozens of other roles they are either ill-equipped or not equipped at all to handle. Some cities have discovered that augmentation is a safer, more successful and cost-effective method to handle many situations rather than depending solely on response by armed police — and they have been successfully utilizing it for decades.
Barry Friedman runs New York University’s Policing Project. He points out that police officers are molded from a “one-size-fits-all-model. Police just aren’t trained to do a lot of the things they end up doing. They are trained for force and law. So you get force-and-law results.” The old saying “when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail” is particularly apt with respect to cops, so some forward-thinking municipalities around the country have stopped sending hammers to every type of emergency service call with unsurprisingly positive results.
Currently, activists across the country have been clashing with cops, sometimes violently. In Eugene, Oregon, a group of activists there have been, literally and actively, in CAHOOTS with cops and have been for 30 years. Citizens in Eugene and neighboring Springfield who report or are suffering from a mental health crisis are responded to by a medic and mental health crisis responder rather than a cop, as members of the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (“CAHOOTS”). CAHOOTS teams handle a full 20 percent of the two cities’ 911 calls at an annual $2.1 million cost. The annual police budget is $9 million.
Colorado is implementing a similar program by having trained mental health professionals accompanying cops responding to mental health crisis calls. These co-responders’ salaries are paid for by money collected by the state for marijuana taxes.
The initials OSS remind many people of the CIA’s forerunner agency but not in New Orleans, Louisiana. A company called On Scene Services now responds to work traffic accident scenes in the Big Easy. Response times by OSS agents is only 90 minutes as compared to over two hours by city cops. This leaves armed police free to handle more serious problems.
In Seattle, Washington, cops are required to divert minor drug offenders and sex workers to addiction counselors and social workers. Six-month recidivism rates are down by 60 percent for those diverted from arrest and jail with annual costs to taxpayers per client averaging only $9,507 versus average annual incarceration costs of $42,000.
Miami-Dade County, Florida, has successfully ideated a way to reduce homelessness and address domestic violence. In 1993, the area imposed an additional one-percent tax on restaurant bills for food and beverages. All revenue would be used toward housing solutions for the county’s homeless population. At present, that population is down by 85 percent from the program’s beginning. Fifteen percent of the tax revenue is allocated to Miami-Dade County for domestic violence centers, which aid victims.
Cooperating with cops instead of confronting them has gone a long way toward reducing negative encounters in these cities; no defunding required or needless animosity generated.