This should be done in every department in every state!
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware could soon require police to record interrogations of suspects in custody.
Democratic lawmakers are pushing a bill to create the requirement, which would apply to criminal allegations against adults and children. The recording could be audio or video with audio.
House Bill 215 by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle South, is the latest proposed law change to policing in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that seeped through Delaware in 2020 following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The bill has the backing of the police.
The bill would allow some exceptions, including pressing circumstances, if someone refuses to be recorded, if the interrogation is done in another state or if the recording would reveal a confidential person’s identity or jeopardize someone’s safety.
The recordings would not be accessible to the public. Investigatory and criminal files are already exempt from state public records laws.
It’s unclear how much the state would have to spend on the proposal, should it become law. As of Tuesday, state financial analysts have yet to release a cost estimate.
In a statement, Minor-Brown likened the proposal to body cameras — which Democratic lawmakers also want to require — because they increase transparency and accountability while also adding protection for the officer and the person being questioned.
“Interrogations are a critical component of the law enforcement process, but too often, there are questions about what actually was said or what happened in that room,” Minor-Brown said. “It will reduce false accusations and help restore trust in the process.”
The Delaware Police Chiefs Council, which represents all police departments in the state, supports the bill, according to the head of the council Patrick Ogden. He said that electronic recordings may increase the likelihood of successful prosecution.
“When I began my law enforcement career, there was a general understanding that if information was not documented appropriately in the report, the information would be of little use in the courtroom,” Ogden said in a statement. “I think the same expectation extends to video recordings at this point.”
Nearly one year ago following the initial wave of peaceful racial justice protests that turned violent in Wilmington and Dover, Democrats in Delaware promised to make the interrogation process more transparent.
At the time, they promised to require all police in the state to video-record all interrogations of juvenile suspects and defendants, except under certain circumstances.
It is critical for cops to maintain community contacts, and to offer more than crime fighting services, like police help for social services, mental health or substance abuse support.
Excerpts from the Article:
As law enforcement agencies negotiate calls for change to traditional policing methods, the Dover Police Department is moving forward with Chief Thomas Johnson’s “community policing” approach with a mobile command unit. “As part of the community policing model, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to brick and mortar,” Mayor Robin Christiansen said. “I believe the model that will make our community policing efforts successful is ‘feet on the street’ interaction with the citizens and community that we serve.”
Chief Johnson said in a Tuesday Dover city council meeting he would like to implement mental health clinicians alongside officers come the fall. In the meantime, he announced a pilot program for the mobile command unit to aid the police department in making community connections.
This new style of policing is meant to help bring the department “into the 21st century,” as Mayor Christiansen put it, and allow officers to have a more “fluid” response to a variety of situations.
“We’ve been trying to envision the best way to deliver services, because the services that we deliver won’t be the same thing every day,” Chief Johnson said. “Sometimes it might be an athletic event where we go somewhere and work with the kids. It might be something where we engage with seniors, other times at-risk populations.”
Chief Johnson said he will be utilizing one of the department’s existing vehicles, a 2001 Ford Chassis-based vehicle, that will be refitted as a mobile command unit.
“In an attempt to be as fiscally responsible as we can, we think we can use this vehicle and we’re going to reassign it to community policing to fulfill various missions,” Chief Johnson said. Chief Johnson said the mobile command unit will be manned by officers who have been selected for the community policing assignment.
Noting who delivers services often matters, Chief Johnson said the vehicle will be marked as a police car, though he hopes that does not discourage people from seeking police help for social services, mental health or substance abuse support.
“If we don’t make the connections we’re trying to make during this summer season, I would come back and say, ‘hey we need to rethink this,’” Chief Johnson said. “We want to be involved, but if folks don’t want to approach this vehicle marked as it is, looking as it is and we need a different way of doing this — maybe an unmarked type vehicle — something where we break down some barriers to that engagement.”
Still, Chief Johnson said he would like to gather data that shows the mobile command unit is working “before I come to you and say ‘I need dollars for a shiny new’” vehicle. He said this vehicle also could be used by mental health clinicians to do “proactive work” and engage with the community.
Councilman Fred Neil said the vehicle doesn’t necessarily need a “big police” sign, but rather a smaller one with community services listed as well. “Simply because that may be more welcoming to the folks that are going to be there,” Councilman Neil said.
He also suggested the vehicle be used in other ways like at the Firefly Music Festival.
“It is portable and it can move,” Councilman Neil said. “I see a lot of things that can be done and police are only one part of it, even though we know it is a police vehicle. We don’t necessarily need the bells and whistles saying that it’s a police vehicle. So that it’s more warm and welcoming.”
Chief Johnson agreed with Councilman Neil’s assessment of the various uses the vehicle lends itself, saying it will be the “Swiss Army knife” of his fleet.
Noting it is a responsible and cost-effective plan to modify an existing vehicle, Councilman Matthew Lindell asked if the unit will be moved to other parts of the city rather than just the downtown area.
Mayor Christiansen answered by saying the pilot program will allow fluidity and allow the police department to gather data in support or against the city funding more vehicles like this one — or ending the program entirely if that is what the data suggests.
Councilman Lindell also suggested the council outline long-term funding for this program.
“I have no problem discussing the viability of if it’s going to work or not,” he said. “I think it’s disingenuous if we don’t bring forth the idea of where to fund it. You know, put our money where our mouth is. If we think it’s going to work, then we need to invest. If not, then we need to shut up.”
Council President Roy Sudler also spoke in favor of the program, but said the community “has been very clear” they would like the mobile command unit to help reduce crime, as well as provide other services. He suggested surveying the community to see what services they would like.
Councilman At-large Andre Boggerty spoke in support of Chief Johnson’s focus on providing services over overt law enforcement from the start, saying there needs to be an “atmosphere of trust” before citizens will want to participate in a survey.
“The plan is to go out to build that trust and then ask those questions,” Councilman Boggerty said. “In conventional wisdom, you would make those assessments first. … In this endeavor, it’s more of building that trust so individuals will participate and then we know exactly what direction we should go.”
DOJ Report: Use of Deadly Force Justified in Rehoboth Shooting That Left Fugitive Dead, Officer Injured
Because our AG, my friend Kathleen Jennings, has the brains to hire good (fair) investigators and prosecutors, and is a person of unquestionable integrity, we can rely on such conclusions.
Excerpts from the Article:
The Delaware Department of Justice on Friday said an investigation into a December shooting that left a wanted man dead and an officer seriously injured concluded that the use of deadly force by police was justified.
The incident happened Thursday night, Dec. 10 in the parking lot of the EconoLodge, located at 19540 Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach.
According to the DOJ’s final report, 37-year-old Evelio Rivera, of Reading, Pa., was wanted for an attempted murder charge involving his use of a handgun toward his brother after a disagreement at a party in Reading. Rivera reportedly had a significant criminal history, including convictions for weapons offenses, aggravated assault, drugs, and domestic violence. He was on parole at the time of the attempted murder and was listed as fugitive by the Pennsylvania Parole Board. The DOJ said that to avoid capture, Rivera fled to the Rehoboth Beach area with his girlfriend and her three children. They were staying at a room in the Econo Lodge Inn on Coastal Highway.
According to the DOJ’s report, on or about the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 10, United States Marshals Service Task Force members were notified of a lead on Rivera’s possible location. Senior Cpl. Timothy D. Webb, a Milford police officer and a member of the USMS Task Force, volunteered to drive past the Econo Lodge and attempt to locate the vehicle of Rivera’s girlfriend. Webb conducted a check of the parking lot and observed Rivera in the company of a woman and two of her children in the vehicle The vehicle then left the parking lot.
The DOJ said that initially, Webb and the USMS Task Force intended to develop a plan to take Rivera into custody the following morning. Upon further discussion, the Task Force decided they would respond to the area and attempt to apprehend Rivera that evening. Webb, along two other USMS Task Force members, namely Delaware State Police Cpl. Josh DiGiacomo and Probation and Parole Officer George Ramsburg, established surveillance positions and developed a plan on how they would take Rivera into custody. There was a concern that the apprehension would be more dangerous if they allowed Rivera to get out the vehicle or get into his hotel room, according to the DOJ’s report.
At approximately 7:45 p.m. that same day, the vehicle Rivera was operating returned to the parking lot of the hotel. It did a lap around the building before pulling, head-in, to a parking space at the front of the building.
The DOJ said that after Webb and his partners took their places in the parking lot, Webb got out of his vehicle, identified himself as a U.S. marshal, and ordered Rivera to show his hands while moving toward Rivera’s driver side door. Investigators said Rivera got out of the driver’s side door and immediately began firing his Taurus handgun at Webb, striking him at least six times. Webb returned fire, striking Rivera. The DOJ said Webb fell to the ground, severely wounded, as Rivera ran through the parking lot.
Investigators said that it appears, due to two shell casings in that area, that Rivera fired two additional rounds as he was running between Webb’s vehicle and DiGiacomo’s vehicle. As Rivera ran through the parking lot, DiGiacomo and Ramsburg fired additional shots at Rivera. Rivera fell near a tree located within a landscaped area of the parking lot. When officers approached Rivera, he appeared deceased, according to investigators, who said Rivera had expended all of the ammunition in the weapon. However, investigators said a loaded spare magazine was located on the ground near Rivera, suggesting he may have been in the process of reloading.
As the exchange of gunfire between Rivera and officers was taking place, Rivera’s girlfriend removed her children from the vehicle and entered her hotel room. Rivera’s girlfriend and her children were not injured.
DiGiacomo rendered aid to Cpl. Webb at the scene. Webb was then assisted into DiGiacomo’s vehicle and driven to Beebe Hospital for treatment. He was later transported via helicopter to Christiana Care for advanced care.
Webb sustained the following injuries: a fractured femur; a left shoulder gunshot wound; a right upper arm gunshot wound requiring the removal of skin and muscle; an armpit and right arm gunshot wound with a lodged, inoperable bullet; a gunshot wound to his chin; and injuries to both of his hands from falling to the ground.
The DOJ investigation into the Dec. 10 incident found that Rivera was bipolar and would carry his gun “everywhere.” His girlfriend told investigators that she was afraid of him. The investigation also found that Rivera had told his girlfriend that “he wasn’t going back to jail.”
Following an examination of all of the evidence and interviews with all parties involved, including Rivera’s girlfriend and other witnesses, the DOJ concluded the use of deadly force by the USMS Task Force officers was justified.
The report stated:
“Rivera’s danger to the public and the police was well known. He was a fugitive with a substantial history of violence and he was wanted for attempted murder. The USMS Task Force took on the responsibility of securing Rivera’s arrest. During their attempt to lawfully take Rivera into custody, Rivera shot at the officers. He fired the same handgun, multiple times, that he had used in his earlier attempted murder, and he caused serious, life-threatening injuries to Cpl. Webb. Under the circumstances, the Task Force officers’ use of deadly force in response to Rivera’s shooting was justified and necessary to protect themselves and others.
“Furthermore, the Task Force officers were not reckless or negligent in forming the belief that force was immediately necessary. Rivera had a history of violence, was a parole absconder and a fugitive from an attempted murder case – and he fired repeatedly at the police who were trying to bring him to justice. The Task Force officers were not reckless or negligent in forming the belief that return fire was immediately necessary.
“Lastly, given that the police were justified to use force towards Rivera pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 464, we further determine that they were not negligent or reckless in injuring or creating a risk of injury to third persons under 11 Del. C. § 470(b). No third persons were injured in this case, despite the volatile and dynamic situation Rivera created.
“Upon careful consideration of the available evidence and the application of expert opinion to that evidence, Cpl. Timothy Webb, Corporal Josh DiGiacomo, and Probation Officer George Ramsburg reasonably believed that the use of deadly force upon Rivera was immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting themselves and others. For these reasons, the Department of Justice concludes the use of deadly force in this case does not constitute a criminal offense under the laws of the State of Delaware.”
As I have said many times over the years: “Sometimes good policing means letting a suspect escape.” This article reminds us that racism is all too common in policing, and throughout the criminal justice system.
Excerpts from the Article:
Sometimes good policing means letting a suspect escape. When officers instead pursue a fleeing suspect and end up killing him, prosecutors can face a difficult question: Was the killing justified? Yet another district attorney has answered this question the wrong way — revealing once again how Black lives not mattering is embedded in routine practices by police and prosecutors.
Seven law enforcement officers went to Andrew Brown Jr.’s home in Elizabeth City, N.C., to execute arrest and search warrants for nonviolent drug crimes. The cops found Brown in his car; 44 seconds later, they shot him dead — in the back of the head.
Pasquotank District Attorney Andrew Womble, announced this week that none of the officers would face charges. He claimed that Brown was using his car as a “deadly weapon, steering it toward officers.” That “apparent danger,” even though no officers were injured, was enough to justify the use of deadly force, Womble asserted.
Leave aside that Womble has objected to the release of all the body cam videos, a move that does not inspire confidence in his fairness. Cherry-picking what evidence the public can see is the opposite of transparency. Leave aside that while Womble claimed the body cam video showed Brown steering his car toward the officers, some of the reporters who viewed it said the video depicted Brown moving the car in a way to avoid hitting anybody. Leave aside that Womble rejected the common sense calls from Brown’s family and the North Carolina governor to recuse himself, because he works with the same officers who he had to decide whether to prosecute.
What’s clear is that this death did not need to happen. Two officers positioned themselves in front of Brown’s car, and then used their vulnerability as an excuse to kill him. Womble claimed the police were “duty-bound to stand their ground, carry through on the performance of their duties and take Andrew Brown into custody.” This “dead or alive” mentality may be the law of old western movies, but the Constitution does not support it.
Just because someone resists arrest or tries to escape police custody does not entitle the police to kill. The law requires police act reasonably, in light of all the circumstances, including the crime the person is suspected of, and the danger he poses.
The reasonable thing, in this case, would be for the cops to get out of the way and let Brown escape. They could have arrested him another time; they knew where he lived and what his car looked like. Brown was wanted for nonviolent drug offenses, hardly a crime that justifies killing a suspect to prevent him from escaping.
If you don’t believe me, believe the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office manual, which advises, “Shots fired at or from a moving vehicle involve additional considerations and risks now rarely effective. When feasible, deputies should take reasonable steps to move out of the path when approaching a vehicle instead of discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants.”
Womble said this was an “administrative policy” that had no bearing on his decision not to prosecute the officers.
This is sadly typical of how routine police practices devalue the lives of Black and Brown people. Recall the tragedy of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman killed by Louisville police during a botched search warrant raid of her apartment. Or Daunte Wright, killed in April during a routine traffic stop when police tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.
Every day the police confront people who do not feel like being arrested. Suspects should cooperate and fight the case in court, but if they make the bad decision to flee, they do not automatically deserve to die. No one disputes that police officers, like anybody else, should have the right to self-defense when lives are at risk. But the license to kill carries the responsibility to promote the sanctity of every life.
There are so many outstanding arrests warrants in the United States that no one is able to count them all. The numbers we know are astounding: In Ferguson, Mo., in one year, courts issued almost 33,000 warrants — in a city whose population was 21,000. In New York City, in 2016, there were 1.4 million, the majority for quality of life offenses such as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk or being in a park after closing time. In New Jersey, there are 2.5 million outstanding warrants.
The three officers who fired the shots that killed Andrew Brown Jr. are back on the force. The sheriff says they will be “retrained.” Their continued service as law enforcement officers is an insult to the memory of Brown, and a clear and present danger to the citizens they are supposed to protect. The failure to prosecute means yet another Black victim of police violence is denied equal protection of law.
The police told the medical people that Mr. Greene died when his car hit a tree … but the doctor at the ER noted that taser prongs were stuck in his back, writing “does not add up”!
The feds no doubt will be bringing some charges, just as they should. We cannot tolerate such racism and lies!
Here is an UPDATE. Some video now is available. Video shows Black man beaten – 2019 arrest in La. subject of a federal investigation
Excerpts from the Article:
Federal authorities are investigating the death of a Black man during what Louisiana State Police described as a struggle to take him into custody following a rural police chase last year, officials told The Associated Press.
The death of 49-year-old Ronald Greene remains shrouded in secrecy because state police have declined to release body camera footage related to the May 2019 chase north of Monroe, La. Troopers say it began when Greene failed to stop for an unspecified traffic violation.
Greene’s death drew new attention after his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit this year, alleging state troopers “brutalized” Greene and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death.
Greene’s family said authorities initially said Greene died after crashing into a tree but omitted what state police now acknowledge was a “struggle” preceding his death. The lawsuit, drawing on witness accounts, alleges officers pinned Greene to the ground and used a stun gun on him, even after he apologized for leading them on a chase.
Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said her family has not been able to grieve because so many questions remain unresolved. She said her son was a well-liked barber who lived in West Monroe and had a “giving spirit.”
“This has gutted our family,” Ms. Hardin told the AP. “How do people live with themselves after doing something like this?”
The investigation comes amid heightened racial tensions within Louisiana State Police, an agency that has been plagued by misconduct cases in recent years. Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said it was “unacceptable” that the police had failed to discipline a trooper who was caught on camera using a racial slur on duty.
The handling of Greene’s death has eroded the agency’s credibility even further, said Eugene W. Collins, president of the Baton Rouge branch of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
“The public has a right to know what happened to Mr. Greene that day,” he said, “and the concealing of this information by the Louisiana State Police is not only disgusting but immoral.”
State police spokesperson Capt. Chavez Cammon said the agency is “cooperating with federal officials” even as it conducts its own internal investigation.
Two law enforcement officials familiar with the case said Louisiana State Police are investigating whether one of the responding troopers improperly turned off his body camera during Greene’s arrest. They spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Mr. Edwards “is aware of the investigation and expects that there will be a comprehensive and fair evaluation of the facts,” spokesperson Shauna Sanford wrote in an email. “He has not seen the video.”
Greene’s death was ruled accidental and attributed to cardiac arrest, said Renee Smith, the Union Parish coroner who was not in office when that determination was made. Ms. Smith said her office’s file on Greene attributed his death to a car crash and makes no mention of a struggle with police.
“The physical evidence we’ve been able to review is inconsistent with the manner of death that they’ve described,” said Lee Merritt, a prominent civil rights lawyer representing Greene’s family.
Local prosecutors did not bring charges against the responding troopers but referred Greene’s death to the U.S. Justice Department for a civil rights investigation, said Laurie James, first assistant district attorney in Union Parish.
Asked for his reaction to footage of Greene’s death, John Belton, the Union Parish district attorney, said it would be “inappropriate for me to comment because of the ongoing federal investigation.”
The FBI declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport confirmed the federal investigation into Greene’s death but declined to comment further.
State police have released few details about Greene’s death. A crash report says troopers attempted to pull him over for an unspecified traffic violation shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019, about 30 miles south of the Arkansas state line. Greene “refused to stop,” the report says, and “a pursuit ensued.”
A single-page police report released by the police says the chase ended when Greene crashed his vehicle.
“Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with Troopers,” the report says, adding that he “became unresponsive” and died on the way to a hospital. The report doesn’t describe any use of force by troopers.
Greene’s family contends the crash was not serious enough to account for his fatal injuries. Their lawsuit says his vehicle “did not make impact with a tree and his airbag did not deploy.”
Greene “was not injured and could walk, speak and otherwise function in a healthy manner after the crash,” the lawsuit says, adding an autopsy found cuts and “blunt-force injuries” to Greene’s head and face.
“Obviously, the bodycam footage is critical,” said Mark Maguire, a Philadelphia attorney also representing Greene’s family.
Dewey Beach police are getting ‘remote handcuffs’ for arrests. Could other Delaware agencies be next?
These are a good idea. You don’t need to hurt people to maintain law and order.
Excerpts from the Article:
Pepper spray, an expandable steel baton and a Taser.
Those are the nonlethal options that a typical Delaware police officer will have on his or her belt when responding to someone who is resisting arrest.
But all those options cause pain. That’s why the Dewey Beach Police Department is trying an alternative.
Dewey Beach police will be one of the first agencies in the state to use BolaWrap. Promoted as “remote handcuffs,” this tool acts almost like a lasso by shooting out Kevlar ropes that wrap around the subject’s arms or legs. Two small hooks on the end of the cords grab the person’s clothing or latch onto the cord to fully wrap and restrain the person.
In a resort town that sees its fair share of intoxicated and disorderly people in the summer, Dewey Beach police officers frequently deploy stun guns. BolaWrap gives officers another option to arrest someone without pain, said Sgt. Cliff Dempsey, spokesperson for the Dewey Beach Police Department.
“If it works, this could be revolutionary to Dewey,” Dempsey said.
Dewey Beach Police Chief Sam Mackert said he participated in a demonstration of BolaWrap and he “felt no pain at all when it wrapped me up.”
The town commissioners and mayor voted unanimously on Friday to use up to $15,000 to cover the cost of the devices, cartridges and training for officers.
This money comes from the 2019 sale of more than 2,000 military surplus items that the town received through the Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO Program. Mayor Dale Cooke said the town made a commitment to use the funds from that auction solely for the Police Department.
Town Manager Bill Zolper said the cost for 10 devices and all the related equipment and training will be about $12,000. While he said that may sound like a lot, the effort will be worth it to show that the town and its Police Department are moving away from using pain for compliance.
“When you look at what’s happening to towns and cities across the country with the current (use-of-force) lawsuits, I think it’s very little to spend to try to bring a product to our folks, that if they use it once a year, it’s going to be worth it,” he said.
This decision comes at a time when police agencies in Delaware and nationwide have been reevaluating use-of-force policies and the weapons they use for compliance.
Studies, like one published in the National Institute of Justice Journal in 2010, show that less-lethal weapons like pepper spray and stun guns can reduce injuries to both the suspect and the officer.
At one point, many police departments opted to use stun guns instead of pepper spray, said Jamie Leonard, president of the Delaware Fraternal Order of Police. Now, these agencies are bringing back pepper spray in addition to stun guns – a trend that lines up with this effort to give officers more non-lethal options.
“There’s no one that signs up to take this job that wants to have to be engaged in a deadly force situation. I can assure you that,” Leonard said. “If there’s an opportunity where we can mitigate that possibility, then we’re going to take it.”
EVERY jurisdiction in the nation should do this! I have been saying that for years. With all of the killings by police, more and more will.
Lawmakers on Thursday announced they are filing a bill that would require all police officers in Delaware to wear body cameras.
House Bill 195 by Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, would require all police officers and certain employees from the Department of Correction and Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families to wear the cameras.
The governor, the attorney general, the Statehouse’s majority party, activists and police support the statewide body camera mandate — all but ensuring it’s a done deal in Delaware. Lawmakers are likely to pass the bill before the legislative session ends June 30.
On Thursday, Attorney General Kathy Jennings called the body camera policy a “top priority” in building trust and accountability in policing.
The state Department of Justice hopes to have cameras on all officers sometime in 2022, though an exact timeline is so far unclear.
Officials expect the bill to be approved and funding for the program to be secured by July, and then the state will start the bidding process for camera manufacturers, according to Chief Deputy Attorney General Alex Mackler.
According to the proposal, the Council on Police Training would create rules for the use of the cameras for police — including whether to let members of the public see the footage. The council would have to present the rules to the attorney general by January 15.
Jennings supports public access to footage, except in certain circumstances such as interviews with children or sexual assault victims.
“There has to be some type of filter…that protects the rights of those people who, by statute, are guaranteed that protection,” Jennings said.
These police disciplinary records should be made public information! As you can see, the unions are a problem. Police and prison guard unions spend millions of dollars lobbying against needed reforms.
Excerpts from the Article:
Lawmakers in more than 20 states have considered bills this year to make the disciplinary records of police officers public or to share them with other agencies, a push that comes amid high-profile deaths at the hands of law enforcement. About 20 states still largely prohibit their release, however.
Supporters of greater transparency say it could help improve police accountability, build trust with the community and prevent officers with disciplinary problems who leave one department from being hired by another.
Opponents say the release of such records could harm the reputations of officers with only minor infractions or even put them in danger. They also argue that disciplinary actions are part of personnel records, which are exempt from state open records laws.
But amid growing nationwide protests against alleged excessive force by police officers, at least 16 states have contemplated measures to release such records, or summaries of them, publicly. Another eight have discussed making the records accessible to other law enforcement agencies.
In Utah, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill in March providing legal immunity to law enforcement agencies that share background information about former employees with other agencies looking to hire. State Sen. Jani Iwamoto, a Democrat in the GOP-dominated Legislature, introduced the legislation in response to the case of a University of Utah officer who resigned while being investigated for allegedly sharing explicit photographs of a victim in an alleged extortion case who was later killed. The officer was later hired by police in Logan, Utah, who did not know about the probe.
“We want people to feel that they can report a bad cop,” said Iwamoto, who also successfully sponsored another bill to ensure that police disciplinary investigations are completed even if an officer resigns while one is in progress. Without legislation in place, lawyers advised police departments not to share disciplinary records lest they be sued, Iwamoto said.
In North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, lawmakers want to create a confidential database from which law enforcement agencies in the state can track all disciplinary actions to prevent officers from hiding past problems when looking for a new job.
“We enable agencies to better screen individuals … so that we can weed out who the bad apples are,” said Republican state Sen. Danny Britt.
Under an expansive police reform bill Britt is sponsoring, authorities also would track all use of force by officers resulting in serious injury or death. And the legislation would create an “early warning system” to collect data on citizens’ complaints and any transgressions with the aim of correcting an officer’s behavior before it leads to a deadly outcome.
Maryland has gone further, approving the release of records related to formal misconduct complaints. The Democrat-controlled Legislature overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who objected to the public release of complaints that haven’t been substantiated. Supporters contend the public has a right to see how police departments investigate complaints against officers.
The proposals come amid a national reckoning over the killings of Black people at the hands of police. Efforts to get access to police disciplinary records have increased along with public awareness of the issue, which has grown since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, said Rachel Moran, an associate professor and founder of the Criminal and Juvenile Defense Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.
In Maryland, the move is part of a sweeping police reform package that was prompted by the 2018 death of Anton Black, a 19-year-old African American who died in a rural Maryland town after officers pinned him to the ground for more than five minutes as they handcuffed him and shackled his legs.
One of the officers, Thomas Webster, had nearly 30 use-of-force complaints lodged against him while previously working in neighboring Delaware. Webster also had been charged with second-degree assault in that state for allegedly kicking a Black man in the head, but was acquitted in 2015.
Anton Black’s sister, LaToya Holley, said she hopes the new law translates into quicker answers for the families of anyone who dies at the hands of police.
“They need to work on trust,” she said of law enforcement. “There isn’t that much trust in the community.”
In 2018, California lawmakers voted to allow public access to records of officer shootings and other major uses of force. New York lawmakers last year repealed a law that had blocked public disclosure of disciplinary records for police officers, firefighters and correctional officers. Hawaii took similar action, allowing the public to learn the details of more than 80 cases of unwarranted assault and more than 100 cases of officers filing false reports or covering up infractions.
In New Jersey last year, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, without waiting for legislation, ordered local and state police to release the names and summaries of disciplinary records of officers who had been fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days. Grewal said the information was needed to promote community trust and police accountability amid protests against the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
For their part, members of New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled legislature considered but have failed to pass a bill this year to make police records public, though an early warning system of the kind being considered by North Carolina is already in place.
Meanwhile, nothing has come of Grewal’s order yet because of a legal challenge by law enforcement unions. They argue that personnel records are exempt under state open records laws, and that officers and their families could be put at risk if they are made public. They also object to releasing information about past confidential disciplinary agreements for problems such as drinking and domestic violence.
Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said many officers who have dealt with problems like that have gone on to have good careers. Colligan said he would support the release of records only for major infractions, such as excessive force and civil rights violations, from now on.
He also would like to see the state’s early warning system be given a chance to provide officers with help or weed out those not meant to wear a badge.
“People have to stop assuming every officer is a problem officer,” he said.
The Whole Story:
Group advocates for those arrested in wake of law enforcement killing of Andrew Brown Jr.; protests continue for day 11
Tonight (5/3/21) police are arresting protesters earlier than ever in the evening.
These protests must continue until we learn the TRUTH of why cops shot Andrew Brown. DEMAND TRANSPARENCY!
All of the hiding of their body cam film is BULLSHIT!
Excerpts from the Article:
A social justice group held a press conference on Saturday in Elizabeth City to advocate for protesters arrested in the wake of the law enforcement killing of Andrew Brown Jr. and to make several demands.
Rev. Curtis Gatewood, founder of “Stop Killing Us Solutions Campaign,” was among the speakers. He was one of several protesters arrested and wanted to clear up misconceptions.
He said he sat down on the streets of Elizabeth City at 8 p.m. earlier this week because he says it was his way to protest an “unjust law,” meaning the curfew. The curfew originally started Monday at 8 p.m. and was later extended from midnight to 6 a.m.
He said the curfew put in place was unnecessary because all protests have been peaceful, and that it infringes on the First Amendment.
Gatewood, who was also joined by former Elizabeth City State student and local business owner Addonis Jones and others, also called for the elimination of no-knock warrants and a national registry of law enforcement officers who’ve been fired for previous offenses at other precincts.
“I’m doing this for all those children out there who look like me or will look like me one day. I did that for them because if don’t nobody do it, our same kids will keep dying,” Jones said.
Jones also is calling for psychological evaluations for police officers.
The group is pushing for the release of bodycam footage in the case and the suspension of all seven deputies involved in the raid in which Brown was killed. 3 who fired their weapons are still on administrative leave but four who did not have been reinstated.
The bodycam footage in the case was delayed from public release this week for at least 30 days. The district attorney in the case, Andrew Womble, claims video shows Brown’s car making contact with deputies before they fired. The family believes that wasn’t the case and have called Brown’s death an execution.
The group also demanded that law enforcement officers staying at Elizabeth City State University housing leave, calling the decision to house the officers an escalation. ECSU said Friday that 13 officers that were being housed there were moving off-campus.
The press conference came a day the North Carolina ACLU and other civil rights groups sent a letter to Elizabeth City officials, saying a new requirement that permits need to be filed to hold protests violates the First Amendment. The group also demanded for Elizabeth City to lift its midnight curfew.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, and the FBI has also opened its own probe.
Protests started in Elizabeth City around 5:30 p.m Saturday. Protesters began outside the Pasquotank County Public Safety Office.
At least 100 people were involved in the march.
Protester Denita Latta drove all the way down to Elizabeth City from Philadelphia to participate in the protests. She’s an Elizabeth City State University alum and brought a sign reading “Genocide by status quo.” She said she made the sign 10 years ago after Trayvon Martin was killed. It’s the same old song. It’s the same old song. We’re still doing this. And I just can’t stop. I have three Black sons, so every day that I wake up, it could be one of them,” she said.
Latta — who now lives in Delaware — echoed what Jones and others said during the press conference Saturday afternoon. She wants to see federal changes in policing requirements.
Protesters, escorted by Elizabeth City police, chanted “release the tapes” as they marched to the Waterfront area Saturday night.
By 9:30 p.m., there was a police presence by the bridge connecting Pasquotank and Camden counties. Elizabeth City police had blocked Water Street and Colonial Avenue after some protesters tried to block the bridge.
A different group of protesters then returned by 10:20 p.m. and were standing off against police at the start of the bridge. NC state troopers were waiting across the bridge.
Some protesters has dispersed by 11 p.m.
BELOW: Video from day 10 of protests in Elizabeth City.
As it should be. We need more judges like this, rather than tRumpster idiot governors who want to make it legal to kill peaceful protesters!
District Judge Algenon L. Marbley wrote that “some of the members of the Columbus Police Department had no regard for the rights secured by (the First Amendment of the Constitution) this bedrock principle of American democracy. This case is the sad tale of police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal judge in Columbus granted a preliminary injunction Friday against the Columbus Division of Police, barring officers’ use of tear gas, pepper spray, wooden bullets and other so-called “non-lethal force” against nonviolent protesters.
In a decision favoring 26 protesters who said they were brutalized by officers during demonstrations last year, Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley wrote that “some of the members of the Columbus Police Department had no regard for the rights secured by (the First Amendment of the Constitution) this bedrock principle of American democracy. This case is the sad tale of police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”
Marbley, who opened his 88-page decision Friday with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., also barred police from inflicting “pain or punishment to deter nonviolent protesters” — those who “are chanting, verbally confronting police, sitting, holding their hands up when approaching police, occupying streets or sidewalks, and/or passively resisting police orders.”
The ruling requires Columbus police to ensure that body and vehicle cameras “are in good working order and used during every interaction” with nonviolent protesters, and that officers’ badge numbers and/or identity cards are clearly displayed “even when riot gear is worn.”
John Marshall, lead attorney for plaintiffs in the case, said the decision “will have a significant impact on the ability of the Columbus police to inflict violence against lawful protesters.”
“We captured through eye-witness testimony and by combing through thousands of hours of video, including body cams, what really happened on the streets of Columbus during the Black Lives Matter protests,” Marshall said. “And what really happened was that the police vindictively attacked lawful and peaceful protesters, we believe, because they were protesting against the very violence that the police have long inflicted on communities of color.”
A request for comment from Columbus police made through the Department of Public Safety was met with a prepared statement from Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, who said that the city last summer “was faced with extraordinary circumstances not seen in more than two decades. Today’s ruling tells us we fell short in our response.
“We have already implemented changes that address most, if not all, of the orders in the court’s decision so that residents can feel safe in expressing their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent way,” Ginther said, referring to rules the city imposed that had limited use of non-lethal force to situations where officers were directly threatened with physical violence.
“The changes we made last summer have been evident in many protest events that followed, without confrontation or incident. We are committed to continuing to reform policing in Columbus to not only meet, but exceed, the community’s expectations.”
City Attorney Zach Klein said in a prepared statement that the city respected the judge’s decision.
“We have always believed that nonviolent, peaceful protesters must be respected, and unnecessary and excessive force must not be used against them,” Klein said. “This is reflected in our efforts to change police policies regarding the use of chemical agents and further underscores the need to welcome the Department of Justice to help change the way Columbus polices.”
The protesters sued the city in U.S. District Court in Columbus, saying that they were brutalized by Columbus police during protests following the May 25, death of George Floyd last year at the hands of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who was recently convicted of murder in the case.
Racial injustice protests over Floyd’s death began in Columbus on May 28 and continued into June and July. Plaintiffs said in court filings that they were “dedicated to nonviolent protest, including civil disobedience of traffic, parade and mass-gathering regulations to generate urgent widespread public attention to the historic and continuing police violence directed overwhelmingly at communities and people of color condoned by mostly white police supervisors and administrators,” according to documents.
Much of the118-page complaint, filed in September, described in detail incidents of what the plaintiffs say was police brutality against nonviolent protesters. The filing included photos of bloody gashes, broken bones and large bruises caused by wooden bullets or from protesters being thrown to the ground by officers, plaintiffs alleged.
Attorneys for the officers and other defendants countered that the city supports peaceful and lawful protest and already “prohibits unjust or prejudicial treatment based on race or color as well as the use of excessive or punitive force.”
They reiterated in court filings the policies and procedures in place to protect and prioritize citizens’ right to “peacefully and lawfully protest” and “prohibit police from retaliating against protesters based on their speech and from using excessive and punitive force.”
They also noted that the city has revised policies, including changes to the city code and charter, to address issues raised in the lawsuit and that “sizable protests pertaining to allegations of police brutality” have taken place in Columbus “with no uses of force at all.”
Plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction barring Columbus police from using pepper spray, wooden bullets and other non-lethal weapons against nonviolent protesters, plus compensation for how they were treated by officers.
Similar lawsuits were filed elsewhere. A federal judge restricted Los Angeles police from using projectile launchers against protesters. A similar decision was issued by a federal judge in Oregon.
More than 800 complaints related to police actions during the Columbus protests were submitted to the city. A subsequent investigation by BakerHostetler, the local law firm hired by the city, resulted in 49 reports, though only eight involved sustained allegations and one resulted in discipline. That officer was given documented counseling for not filing the proper paperwork.
The city also hired a retired FBI agent to investigate any potential criminal misconduct by officers during last year’s protests. To date, no charges have been filed.
Additionally, the city commissioned a $250,000 review of police response during last year’s protests by former U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University and offer recommendations for improvement.
Judge Marbley’s decision Friday included a “History of Policing,” tracing the development and racial underpinnings of law enforcement agencies and practices in the United States from colonial times onward.
The list included formal “slave patrols” in the South during the 1800s; post-Civil War Black Codes and Jim Crow laws and other policies that targeted people of color and immigrants.
The judge described police handling of civil rights protests, writing, “… peaceful protests for civil rights were met with police violence and arrests, fire hoses, and dog attacks. Riots that erupted after instances of police brutality or discrimination occurred with regularity in American cities during the 1960s.”
In addition, Marbley wrote about more-recent incidents, including the “brutal police beating of Rodney King in 1991” and Floyd’s murder last year.
He recounted Columbus police crowd control policies and practices for the use of tear gas, pepper spray, wooden bullets and other munitions, as well as plaintiffs’ descriptions of how they were treated during protests in May and June.
“It is understandable why an officer might take personally profane and provocative chants,” Marbley wrote. “But what is not comprehensible is why she would then let that dictate her treatment of individuals exercising their First Amendment right, no matter how unkind their chants and signs might be. What separates our nation from some others is the ability to criticize our leaders and those bearing the imprimatur of state authority without fear of retribution. Typically, police are the ones who protect and ensure that this cherished right remains unencumbered. That is not what occurred last summer.”
He added later: “Plaintiffs allege that throughout last summer’s protests, they were peacefully observing, providing medical aid, or protesting when Defendants, often clad in riot gear, exercised an indiscriminate use of chemical irritants, physical force, and other weapons.”
The ruling does not completely ban the use of force by police, when warranted.
“The relief that plaintiffs request leaves open all lawful options for police to use reasonable force when necessary to defend against a threat and to make arrests when supported by probable cause,” Marbley wrote. “And any possible benefit police officers could gain from deploying chemical agents, projectiles, or striking weapons against demonstrators who pose no threat and are not resisting lawful commands is outweighed by the irreparable harm peaceful protestors could face.”
Marbley also wrote that protests against police brutality continue: “Protests are inherently ongoing, and it is often difficult to tell where one protest ends and the next begins. There is nothing in the record that indicates that upon another protest, plaintiffs will not experience further constitutional deprivations and physical harm at the hands of the police. Indeed, plaintiffs and witnesses have attended multiple protests and were twice subject to problematic police treatment.”