Posts Tagged ‘police misconduct’

This kind of stuff just makes me sick. I try really hard to be objective when writing about police misconduct, but this one got right under my skin.

Here are the details on this case, according to the local Fox affiliate in Milwaukee:

It was February 20th, 2013, and Deputy Quiles was working the night shift on patrol at General Mitchell International Airport. As he pulled out onto Howell Avenue to make his rounds, he T-boned a passing car and sent it spinning into a tree.

“Very scary,” Weyker [the driver of the other car] recalls.

Her spine was already fused with steel. Now, she had a fractured neck to go with it.

“It was a miracle I wasn’t paralyzed,” she said.

As rescue workers tended to Weyker, police and Sheriff’s deputies started asking questions.

“One asked if I had anything to drink that night,” she said. “And I told them a few sips from a friend’s drink.” A deputy noted a light odor of alcohol on her breath. He said her speech was slurred. And her eyes looked red and glassy.

“I explained to him my eyes were red and glassy because I was crying,” she said.

Instead of doing their jobs by fully investigating the accident and what caused it, the deputies jumped to the immediate conclusion that Weyker was drunk and had been at fault.

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Tanya Weyker

The article goes on to explain what happened next, according to Weyker’s mother and her attorney:

“She was in traction and just sitting there. She was crying and said they accused her, they arrested her and accused her of something she didn’t do,” [Weyker’s mother] said.

Her lawyer, Todd Korb, says the arrest is surprising, since there was virtually no evidence that she was drunk. “I can’t say it is necessarily a cover up, but it is suspicious,” Korb said.

Drunk driving defense expert Andrew Mishlove says it’s questionable if deputies had cause to arrest her at all. “She was the suspect right from the start,” he said.

If deputies had cause to arrest her, he says, it’s only because of the statements made by the deputy involved in the crash.

You would hope and expect that since there was scant evidence of any wrongdoing by Weyker, the deputy involved in the crash would clear things up by, at the very least, giving an accurate statement about his role in the crash.

Deputy Joseph Quiles

Deputy Joseph Quiles

But again, no:

In his official report, Deputy Quiles wrote that he stopped at the stop sign and looked both ways before pulling out. He told a Milwaukee police officer that he never saw any headlights, even though Weyker’s Camry had lights that come on automatically. “I knew I was innocent this whole time,” Weyker declared.

The truth might never have surfaced were it not for video from a nearby airport surveillance camera. It shows what investigators say is Deputy Quiles’ squad car traveling west on Hutsteiner Avenue, then continuing onto Howell without making a complete stop, as Quiles claimed in his report. The Sheriff’s Office knew about the video just two days after the crash. But no one told Weyker.

So, the deputy not only lied about what happened, but he also allowed an innocent person to take the blame for what he himself caused. On top of all that, the County did nothing whatsoever to help Weyker:

Instead, the County sent letters blaming her for the crash and threatening legal action if she didn’t pay for the damage.

Of course, if Weyker was drunk, it would have been easy to pin the blame on her. But less than a month after the crash, test results showed she had no alcohol in her system. And by July, her drug test came back negative too. Five months after the crash, it was clear Weyker had been stone cold sober.

But still the case didn’t go away.

“I don’t think it is fair at all,” Weyker said.

Five more months passed before a prosecutor finally looked at the case and declined to file charges. But even then, Weyker says, she was left in the dark.

“No one called me.”

“She had to live with this hanging over her head for way too long,” Mishlove said.

And, if you thought the deputy involved has since been fired or received any significant consequences, again you would be wrong. He did receive a brief suspension for “damaging County equipment,” but is otherwise milking the situation for all it’s worth:

Deputy Quiles has not worked in more than a year since the crash. He has exhausted his injury pay and has now filed for permanent duty disability for injuries he suffered in the crash he caused. His application is still pending before the County’s Employee Retirement System.

All of this is happening, despite the fact that reports written at the time of the crash indicate Deputy Quiles suffered only minor injuries and was “treated and released” at Froedtert Hospital.

To summarize, then: A law enforcement officer–who swore an oath to protect and serve his community–illegally runs a stop sign, seriously injures someone, blames that person for the accident, causes her to be arrested and charged with a crime, and then only tells the truth once video evidence showed that he was indeed at fault.

Nice bit of police work there.

And, if the officer was somehow confused about what he was supposed to do in this situation, it’s right there in the Milwaukee Sheriff’s Department Code of Conduct. In fact, it’s the very first one on the list. The very first one:

A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. The officer’s powers and duties are conferred by statute. The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property, protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.

If you find any of this concerning, contact Milwaukee County Sheriff, David A. Clarke, and let him know how you feel.

David A. Clarke Jr., Sheriff
821 West State Street, Room 107
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 278-4766

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You’re being watched and recorded. Not necessarily by Big Brother or a store security camera either, but by your fellow citizens, armed with cell phones and an insatiable desire to capture something interesting on film.

The ubiquity of cell phones in modern society has put the power to record anything and everything into the hands of the masses. Assaults, shootings, police misconduct, and just about any other crime under the sun has likely been captured by the ever-present digital eye of the general public.

Some police departments have begun to harness the power of this social surveillance through programs, such as Eyewatch in Australia, that encourage citizens to upload crime videos to one of their 80 regional Facebook pages.

And it’s paying off. One suspect who saw his face on the Eyewatch page turned himself into police, rather than wait to be captured.

So, this week’s videos feature a roundup of cell phone vigilantes capturing all kinds of bad behavior on their cameras.

Click, kick back, and enjoy!

(more…)

I always try to take a balanced approach when examining police conduct on this blog. I feel I owe it to my students, and to readers in general, to contribute to reasoned discussion and debate about the role of police in modern society by sharing both the good and the bad about police behavior.

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My personal position is that most officers do a fine job – despite making mistakes at times – but we rarely hear about the positives.

I’ve written previously, though, about cops who’ve bought Christmas gifts for burglary victims or even literally given someone the shirt off their back, as well as about those who go out of their way to protect the constitutional rights of citizens to peacefully protest or record police activities.

So, I was troubled to see a recent post on PINAC (Photography is Not a Crime) about an officer in Florida who was found to have violated his department’s policies in response to the lawful, constitutionally protected videotaping of public police behavior.

Watch for yourself.

BCSO Task Force Arrest of PINAC Editor

The officers in the video not only do an incredibly poor job of managing the situation overall, in my opinion, but more troubling (to me at least) is that they appear to be engaging in a form of pseudospeciation, which is the idea that one group views members of another group as dangerous and/or unworthy of fair treatment.

The term is normally applied to differences between ethnic or racial groups, but in this case it appears related to subcultural differences. The police view the photographer as “one of those guys,” which is apparently code for someone from an “out group” who should be treated with suspicion and taught a lesson.

Regardless of the underlying causes, the officers’ superiors obviously agreed that misconduct occurred, having issued at least one of the officers a letter of reprimand for his behavior in this case.

And, that officer, identified by PINAC as Agent Brian Stoll in a follow-up post about the above incident, is no stranger to allegations of misconduct.

A public records request by PINAC to the officer’s agency, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), resulted in the release of 28 documents, some of which describe specific misconduct allegations against “Agent S,” as he’s referred to in the released forms (although one of the forms, dated 2/3/11, does list “Brian Stoll” by name). Fourteen of the documents reference various use of force incidents (the released form is titled “Response to Resistance”), but do not appear to have been generated by a specific complaint of misconduct.

Instead, those forms seem to be documenting incidents in which an injury occurred during an arrest or other encounter, and the matter is being reviewed by the agency’s administrators to make sure the officers’ behavior was in compliance with department policy. Of the fourteen, thirteen of the forms indicate that the department’s internal review found the officers’ behavior to be “in compliance.”

One of those, though, indicates that Agent S was not in compliance when a Taser was used improperly during an arrest.

2013-U-110 - 2013-U-110.pdf 2014-01-01 05-49-01Excerpt from 10/29/13 BCSO memo regarding misuse of force by Agent S

In three of the 28 documents, Agent S is listed only as a witness or as an indirect participant.

The eleven remaining documents (see the table below) describe specific allegations of misconduct against Agent S, referencing incidents that occurred over an eight year period between June of 2005 and October of 2013. The outcome of nine of them was either unknown or the allegation was determined by an internal BCSO investigation to be unfounded.

Only two, including the above incident involving PINAC, were substantiated and resulted in some type of consequence for Agent S.

It’s very interesting that the two incidents that did result in substantiated misconduct involved either video evidence (in the PINAC case) or the combined reporting of multiple police witnesses at the scene (misuse of the Taser).

Incident Date Reported on Date Allegation Outcome Outcome Date
6/1/05 7/15/05 Rudeness and improper citation Unknown  8/14/05?
9/3/08 9/4/08 Rudeness, unlawlful search/seizure, and damage to personal property Unfounded 10/1/08
10/2/08 10/03/08 Lying in police report and planting drugs Unfounded 10/15/08
Unknown 12/17/08 Improper arrest/detention and search of vehicle Unfounded 1/9/09
8/9/07 4/9/09 False arrest Unfounded 5/12/09
2005 9/1/10 Unspecified violations of law and department policy Unfounded 2/3/11 – According to time stamp on the document, employee involved was “Brian Stoll”
10/30/12 10/31/12 Use of force Unfounded 11/2/12
12/21/12 12/25/12 False arrest and use of force Unfounded 1 /4/13
7/16/13 7/16/13 Use of force Unfounded 8/1/13
10/17/13 10/17/13 Use of force (Taser) Not in compliance – Letter of counseling 10/29/13
10/23/13 10/23/13 Failure to investigate, failure to document evidence, and failure to provide information Letter of reprimand 10/29/13

Summary of allegations of misconduct against Agent S, 2005 – 2013, as obtained by PINAC

In the end, I’m not sure exactly what hard and fast conclusions we can confidently draw from all this, though. Zealous, proactive police officers are going to generate complaints from suspects, arrestees and others who, rightly or wrongly, feel their rights were violated. Allegations against police aren’t always made with the most honorable of intentions, and they’re not always accurate.

On the other hand, the video evidence above does appear to show that, in this case at least, this officer misinterpreted the law, acted out of personal anger or animosity toward a person perceived to be from an “out group,” and misused the authority granted to his role by society.

Video evidence like this is quite powerful, as it turns out, and perhaps that’s why some officers continue to insist that photography is a crime when it actually isn’t.

What are your thoughts?

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We pay a lot of attention when cops get things wrong. Police misconduct is heavily reported in the traditional media, and social media only serves to amplify the negative messages that shape our perceptions of policing in modern America.

PoliceMisconduct.net.jpg

And, with the advent of easily accessible portable video, everyone can now get in on the act of catching cops at their very worst.

Even just a cursory search of Youtube turns up thousands of videos of police misbehaving, violating the law, being aggressive, physically violent, or just generally acting like jerks.

Which is unfortunate.

Most cops I personally know are not jerks – far from it, in fact.  Many of them are quiet, everyday heroes doing their best at a really tough job.

So, this week, we’re going to look at a few cops who are caught on film getting it right. They know the law, understand their role, act with restraint and compassion, and just do an awesome job of policing.

So, click, kick back, and enjoy!

The now internet-famous Deputy Lenic defends First Amendment rights

Some New Hampshire troopers defend an individual’s right to film a public meeting

Officer J. Estes from the Albany, Oregon, PD gets it right during an open carry encounter

What positive experiences have you had with the police? Share yours by leaving a comment below!

Have a safe weekend!

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Video cameras are more prevalent than ever, and even a cursory search of youtube or similar sites quickly shows that anything and everything is being recorded these days (especially cats, with over 11.6 million results on youtube alone).

Another favorite seems to be filming police behavior in public, with sometimes controversial results.

For example, a California man recently died during a police incident, part of which was captured on a cell phone.  While the video is grainy, it seems to show several people striking someone repeatedly.  The woman who captured the footage had her camera confiscated by detectives, reportedly before a warrant was obtained for the seizure. When the camera was later returned, one video that had previously been on the phone had allegedly been deleted.

The FBI has now gotten involved in the case, and the investigation is ongoing.

Raw footage of alleged beating of David Sal Silva

All of this brings us to the question of whether or not individuals are allowed to record police activity in public. While it appears that the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution allow it, the issue is fraught with problems.  Some police departments train their officers not to seize video footage without authorization, for example, while others have no clear policy at all.

There’s a risk to filming police activity, even if you’re acting within your Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

While this isn’t legal advice (nothing on crimeandjusticeblog.com is), one website offers the following “rules” when recording police activity:

  • Rule #1: Know the Law (Wherever You Are)
  • Rule #2 Don’t Secretly Record Police
  • Rule #3: Respond to What Cops Say
  • Rule #4: Don’t Share Your Video with Police
  • Rule #5: Prepare to be Arrested
  • Rule #6: Master Your Technology
  • Rule #7: Don’t Point Your Camera Like a Gun

Rules number 1 and 7 would seem to be particularly important, but all of them might be helpful if you find yourself in a situation that you believe warrants filming police behavior. If you have questions, though, seek legal advice from an attorney who knows the laws in your jurisdiction (I just can’t stress that enough).

And finally, before we conclude that all police officers are somehow bad people who need to be constantly videotaped in order to prevent bad behavior, take a look at this video of a Portland police officer who stops to take care of a family of ducks, even though the bad guy gets away as a result.

An officer with a heart

Have a safe weekend!