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News in Brief

Arkansas: Police officer Josh Hastings shot and killed 15-year-old burglary suspect Bobby Moore III in August 2012 while investigating car break-ins at an apartment complex. Although the now-former officer was criminally charged, two trials closed with hung juries. After that, a wrongful death lawsuit in which Moore’s family was awarded $415,000 found Moore personally liable. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. A Washington Post investigation reveals the department is “a horror show of misconduct, cover-up and cascading institutional failure at the department.” Many officers have thick disciplinary files. Hastings also had a lengthy disciplinary history, including reckless driving, failure to file reports and activate his dash cam, sleeping on the job, lying and racist language before he was fired. “But getting rid of him doesn’t get rid of the rot, of the internal rot, that allowed Josh Hastings to happen. If you don’t get at that rot, you just get more officers like Josh Hastings,” Lt. Johnny Gilbert Jr., the only high-ranking officer to raise objections to Hastings’ hiring, told the Post. That speaks to the lawsuit the family brought against the Little Rock Police Department and the city. While a federal judge denied a Monell claim from Moore’s family, the appeal has moved to oral arguments before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Did deficiencies in training, policies, supervision and discipline “foreseeably lead to violations,” the Moore shooting, the lawyers debated.

Arkansas: Bully police officer Michael Moore, who was described in a recent News in Brief for harassing young black men, has been fired, according to katv.com. Moore followed England, Arkansas, resident Demarcus Bunch on July 21, 2018, as Bunch and a cousin were recording a music video in the neighborhood where he grew up. Bunch said Moore was on their heels “nearly all day and eventually parked and just stared at them,” the thefreethoughtproject.com reports. “I was wondering, ‘Why is he doing this,” Bunch said. “We’re in small England. Everybody knows everybody.” When the young men confronted Moore during their last film spot, Moore told them, “you don’t belong in my city. ... I know who my people are, right, who belongs here and who doesn’t?” After telling the men to step away from his cruiser, he brought out his K-9. Bunch felt disrespected and filed a complaint with the police chief, then showed footage of the encounter online. Nothing happened until public release of the video—which went viral.

Florida: Bonifay Police Department officer Dwayne White, 48, was caught in a sting operation selling opioids from his police car and using a personal cellphone for sales, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported in early October 2018. The investigation concluded he was selling drugs while in uniform and just 1,000 feet from an assisted living facility, wjhg.com reports. “The local police department was tipped off about the issue and surprisingly, the local police chief actually contacted the FBI to have them conduct an investigation,” thefreethoughtproject.com reports. “Usually, this is the sort of issue that is swept under the rug by police departments, so this is an extremely rare occurrence.” In lieu of payment for hydrocodone pills, White reportedly demanded a woman touch his genitals and exposed himself to her, the Free Thought Project reports.

Florida: A former Biscayne Park police chief who ordered officers to make bogus arrests in order to clear cases was sentenced by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in November 2018 to 36 months in prison — three more than what the government sought — for conspiracy to deprive individuals of their civil rights. According to npr.org, Raimundo Atesiano schemed to “frame black alleged criminals for some burglaries and car thefts” in his quest to earn a “100 percent crime-solving rate.” He pleaded guilty to the corruption scheme, as did three officer accomplices. “The police department reported clearing 29 of 30 burglary cases during Atesiano’s tenure as chief, but at least 11 of those cases were based on false arrest reports, according to federal authorities,” the Miami Herald reports.

Indiana: Former Veterans Affairs police officer Michael Kaim was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for repeatedly shoving and punching a man arrested at the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center, then filing a false report saying the patient showed aggression and would not heed an order to leave, the Indianapolis Star reports. The September 18, 2018, sentence was announced by the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. Under a plea agreement, Kaim, 28, a former police officer with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Department, admitted to using “excessive force” against the patient he was arresting outside the VA in April 2017, a U.S. Department of Justice press release said.

Massachusetts: Rachael Rollins brings a fresh outlook to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office: She aims to dramatically reduce the prosecution of 15 low-level non-violent crimes, according to theappeal.com. “Rollins said she would decline to prosecute not just marijuana possession, but drug possession and possession with intent to distribute, as well as trespassing, theft under $250, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, breaking and entering into a vacant property with the intent to avoid cold, destruction of property, threats, and some resisting-arrest charges,” the website reports. Critics say this will lead to a rise in those types of crimes because folks will think they have free reign to commit them and that “blanket refusals to prosecute violate the separation of powers.” But reform is on her side. Prisons are ineffective in deterring crime and some crimes are “motivated by poverty, homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse disorder, or some toxic interaction of these problems,” says The Appeal, pointing to stable and affordable housing, mental health and drug treatment, and other alternatives to combat crime. Rollins “in effect would require the public health agencies to confront these issues instead of relying on expensive, ineffective, and often violent jails instead,” The Appeal states.

Mexico: Acapulco’s police force has been disarmed because of its alleged ties to drug gangs, according to NBC News. The state government reported suspicions that the force was infiltrated by “criminal groups” and failed to fight a crime wave, the New York Post reports. Two commanders suspected of homicide face arrest warrants and remaining officers were stripped of radios, guns and bulletproof vests. In addition, the state government cited “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave.” In 2017, “Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in Mexico and the world,” the Post reports. “Local police in several parts of Mexico have been disbanded because they were corrupted by drug cartels.”

Missouri: A Missouri county sheriff illegally tracked the cellphones of hundreds of people, including a judge and State Highway Patrol members, according to charges filed in state and federal court. However, “Mississippi County Sheriff Cory Hutcheson admitted to wire fraud and identity theft and agreed to resign by Saturday [November 24, 2018] as part of a plea deal. Federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss 26 other counts,” the New York Times reported. Authorities said Hutcheson used a Securus Technologies database to track the cellphone locations without permission. His attorney said “Hutcheson is expected to plead guilty only to a misdemeanor state charge of improperly using a notary.” Hutcheson also got into hot water when he attempted to pick up his sister-in-law’s final paycheck at the place she worked. He allegedly made threatening comments to the shop owner and sought to obtain assault and kidnapping charges against her. However, witnesses said the shopkeeper was not kidnapped or assaulted. In 2017, he was sued over the death of a mentally ill jail prisoner. The suit said the man died “after Hutcheson and others beat and choked him” and that “Hutcheson used his knee to press on the man’s neck and refused to let up, even when another officer urged him to do so.”

New Jersey: A high-speed chase and a gun being pulled on one off-duty cop by another off-duty cop eventually led to an indictment. The confrontation began when off-duty Franklin Township police Sergeant Teddy Cerra, 43, was being tailed by an unnamed off-duty Lumberton officer in his personal car on November 1, 2017, for driving erratically and hitting bushes along the road. Cerra allegedly pointed a gun at the other off-duty officer when stopped on the shoulder of the road, according to 2.philly.com. The other off-duty cop left after both men reportedly showed each other their police IDs. However, Cerra allegedly pursued the other officer at speeds exceeding 100 mph during part of the chase “and was eventually arrested by the New Jersey State Police after hitting a vehicle and a mailbox,” 2.philly.com reports. Cerra was indicted on September 20, 2018, and charged with second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and two counts of aggravated assault (one third-degree; the other fourth-degree). He also “received summonses for reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor or drugs,” NJ.com reports.

New Jersey: A former Bayonne Police Officer who brutally hit a handcuffed man on the head with a flashlight was recently sentenced. Domenico Lillo faces 42 months in prison for excessive force during an arrest, falsifying records, and aiding a relative to fraudulently obtain a home rehabilitation loan, according to nationofchange.org. “On September 22, 2015, he confessed to beating [Brandon] Walsh with a flashlight and falsifying a Bayonne Police Department Use of Force Report related to the arrest with the intent to impede an investigation into the case,” according to the website. “Lillo also pleaded guilty to helping a relative in preparing and submitting a fraudulent HUD application to get a federally funded rehabilitation loan on a home Lillo co-owned.” But that’s not all. “According to the Walsh family’s federal lawsuit,” says newsofchange.com, “Lillo and other officers unnecessarily and without warning pepper-sprayed them when they entered the home causing everyone, including children, a disabled woman, and the family dog, to become ‘violently ill.’” Walsh and family members were awarded $1.6 million from the city.

New York: Former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who pummeled a handcuffed man for taking a duffel bag containing a gun belt, ammunition, cigars, sex toys and pornography from his department-issued SUV in 2012, then tried to cover it up, was freed from federal prison in November 2018. He was transferred from the Federal Correctional Complex in Allenwood, Penn., to a halfway house after serving most of his 46-month sentence, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said. “The ex-cop pleaded guilty to beating up heroin addict Christopher Loeb,” nypost.com reports. “He’s scheduled for release from federal custody six months ahead of his full sentence, in April 11, 2019,” the news site reports. “In February, the county said it agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the federal lawsuit brought by Loeb,” newsday.com reports. State records show Burke collects an annual pension of $145,485, the website notes.

New York: Following a three-year undercover investigation, seven New York Police Department officers have been busted for running a cop-protected prostitution and gambling ring, including brothels, in Brooklyn and Queens, the New York Post reports. Two detectives, two police officers, and three sergeants face such charges as enterprise corruption, promoting prostitution and official misconduct, according to the nypost.com, and more than 40 civilians have been arrested. “The ring, which is believed to have brought in $2 million between August 2016 and September 2017, used online ads and a knowledge of NYPD procedures to stay in business,” according to reason.com. The name of its ringleader, a retired vice detective, was not immediately released. The department said undercover officers performed more than 300 hours of surveillance and used court warrants to intercept the officers’ electronic communications during the investigation.

Ohio: Former Cuyahoga County judge Lance Mason, who beat up his wife and served nine months in the slammer for it, pleaded not guilty in December 2018 to fatally stabbing his now-estranged wife, Aisha Fraser Mason, a sixth-grade schoolteacher, at her home in Shaker Heights, cleveland.com reports. Bond was set at $5 million. Police were tipped off by a 911 caller who said she was Mason’s sister and that Mason, 51, admitted to the stabbing. Mason, however, attempted to flee the scene and reportedly drove an SUV into a police cruiser, causing “serious injuries” to a police officer’s legs and ribs, according to washingtonpost.com. Police said Mason then tried to flee on foot and was arrested. He was initially charged with felonious assault in the crash that injured the officer. Mason has a troubling history. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to an attack on his wife in front of their children. He punched her 20 times and rammed “her head against the dashboard of his car five times, breaking an orbital bone,” Cleveland.com reports. The injuries were so severe that she reportedly required facial reconstructive surgery. At the time of his recent arrest, he was minority business development director for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration. He has since been fired.

Texas: Evidence in at least two sexual assault investigations were affected by a crime scene investigator at the Houston Forensic Science Center (“HFSC”) who used an alternate light source (“ALS”) to test biological evidence, according to forensicmag.com and abc13.com. HFSC fired the investigator for violating protocol and policy. Eighteen cases in which the ALS was used were reviewed. Evidence was available in three of those cases for retesting with the HFSC-approved tool. Some “that had been reported as negative came back positive” for biological fluids, HFSC announced. The ALS used by the investigator works on one wavelength rather than a range of wavelengths to ensure quality work, according to the agency.

Washington: A former Monterey County-based California Highway Patrol officer was sentenced in late September 2018 to 26 years in prison for raping a child, according to poughkeepsiejournal.com. Jacob Mark Duenas was found guilty by a Washington jury in August 2018 of repeatedly raping a boy, 8, while training to become a law enforcement officer in 2000, according to thefreethoughtproject.com. In addition, he was accused of molesting two girls, 13 and 14, while he was an officer in 2008, but served no jail time after pleading no contest. He also pleaded no contest to assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 2014, then sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years’ probation. “A court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Daisy Switzer, testified that Duenas was a sexually violent pedophile,” reported ksbw.com.

Wales: A former South Wales Police officer and a former senior lawyer advising the Welsh Government preyed on young girls and shared images of them on the internet, according to dailymail.co.uk. Dean Roberts, the former officer of Bridgend, filmed himself raping a child and shared it on a messaging app for pedophiles, investigators say. Roberts was apprehended after investigators arrested another pedophile and traced the footage to him. According to dailymail.co.uk, “Roberts admitted rape, sexual assault of a child, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.” Judge Recorder of Cardiff Eleri Rees, who gave Roberts a 16-year extended sentence, told him he must serve at least 12 years behind bars. The lawyer, John Ryan-Guess, of Cardiff, was sentenced to 26 years for sex offences against children and must serve at least 20 locked up. Ryan-Guess pleaded guilty to 37 charges, including sexual assault of a child and aiding and abetting Roberts to commit sexual assault, according to the BBC. South Wales Police Detective Superintendent Wendy Gunney called the child abuse evidence “disturbing” and said the guilty pleas spared a jury “from viewing evidence that would have been extremely traumatic.” 

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