News in Brief
California: Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Sukhdeep Gill, 27, was arrested in January 2021 for faking his own shooting and alleging he’d been a victim in a drive-by shooting while on patrol, according to thefreethoughtproject.com. He was charged with felony vandalism and falsely reporting a crime, a misdemeanor. Gill had alleged he’d been shot in his body camera on January 31, 2020. This meant there was no camera evidence, though Gill did credit it with saving his life. According to a press release from the department, “responding police found no serious injuries on Deputy Sukhdeep Gill. It appeared he had been shot only once, and in a miraculous spot – his body-worn camera, which was destroyed. The incident triggered a manhunt for the shooter.” An investigation found discrepancies in his story.
Florida: Sarasota County reached a $90,000 settlement in December 2020 in an excessive force claim made by a Michael Basile, who said he was body-slammed in March 2015 by sheriff’s deputies, heraldtribune.com reports. At the time Basile, who was homeless, was arrested for disorderly intoxication. Sheriff’s reports say he was verbally threatening with deputies during booking and “horse stomped” and kicked Deputy Shaun Martin. The incident was captured on video. Basile was charged with battery on an officer. Martin body slammed the man to the ground, and he sustained “severe injuries to the face that required surgery while he was in custody,” heraldtribune.com reports. Martin was suspended after an internal investigation, and the findings are to be presented at trial. “Basile’s complaint included battery, Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Martin. It also included claims against the Sheriff’s Office for false arrest and malicious prosecution.”
Florida: The Florida Bulldog in January 2021 reported on a recently filed federal lawsuit that alleges “Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz railroaded a former special victims unit detective by misleading her into believing she was about to be arrested for corruption.” The name of the person suing is Melanie Ortiz, but she is no relation to Javier Ortiz, who is named in the suit, along with others, including Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, the City of Miami and the Miami chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. “She alleges Ortiz pressured her into resigning three years ago and blocked her from defending herself in connection with an Internal Affairs investigation into police officials accused of accepting illegal payments from tow truck drivers who picked up cars from accident scenes,” the Bulldog reports. She alleges they denied her due process and violated her Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. Captain Ortiz told the newspaper that Melanie Ortiz voluntarily resigned.
Georgia: Richmond County Deputy Brandon Keathley was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated assault on another deputy and was released on a signature bond, WJBF.com reported December 2, 2020. Brandon Keathley allegedly hit Deputy Nicholas Nunes over the head with the tip of a flashlight while the two were investigating the shooting death of 17-year-old De’Angelo Burns Feb. 7, the news site reported. The men had reportedly argued while treating burns at the scene. Keathley was initially suspended without pay and given counseling, while Nunes was reprimand. The sheriff, Richard Roundtree, issued a statement about his disappointment in the indictment and suggested it was politically motivated. D.A. Natalie Paine denied this and said the case came before the first grand jury before the election.
Illinois: A state criminal justice reform bill adopted by the General Assembly was awaiting Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature in January 2021, but he faced pressure from conservatives critical of a couple of provisions, including a call to eliminate cash bail by 2023 and mandating officers to wear body cameras by 2025. Other features of the Black Caucus-supported bill are use-of-force limitations. “It is no secret that there is a significant problem with the incarceration and criminalization of Black Americans, and this reckoning is long overdue,” said state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago. “This legislation is about confronting, addressing and dismantling the systemic racism that our criminal justice system is rooted in, and is inherent in our society. These critical reforms cannot wait. The time is now to create a criminal justice system that works for everyone.” A coalition of law enforcement was involved in the bill process.
Illinois: With a decision by one member,the city of Chicago Police Board (“CPB”) ruled in January 2021 against discipline for cops who handcuffed and searched a pre-teen in June 2018 after someone called 911 to say someone had a gun near Roosevelt Road and Sawyer Avenue, according to the Chicago Sun Times. “The call came out as a young man, 10 to 12 years old, that was passing out a gun, and the description fully matched the individual that they stopped,” CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said at the time. In cellphone video footage shared with NBC 5, the child can be seen on the hood of a squad car with handcuffs behind his back as he’s searched by CPD officers. The boy’s mother brought a federal lawsuit against the city and two officers involved. City and court records show the lawsuit was settled in 2019 for $18,000. Once the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”) investigated, it recommended officers Anthony Spicuzza and Robert Garduno each be suspended for 30 days, but Supt. David Brown recommended they be exonerated of any wrongdoing. COPA chief administrator Sydney Roberts said in a statement: “While COPA values the member’s review and conclusion, it maintains that the officer’s prolonged restraint of this child — after he was searched, demonstrated he was not armed, could no longer present any threat and was experiencing emotional and physiological trauma — is unacceptable and in violation of CPD policy.”
Maine: The second in command in the Maine Capitol Police is in charge after “reprehensible” comments allegedly made by the chief on social media, according to bangordailynews.com. Chief Russ Gauvin had been placed on administrative leave in January 2021 pending an investigation. Gauvin apologized for those posts after they were revealed by the Portland-based alternative news publication Mainer. In addition, 70 lawmakers signed a letter to Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck indicating their trust in Gauvin had been diminished. Reports mainernews.com: “Dozens of posts on Gauvin’s personal Facebook page, which was deleted shortly after Mainer contacted him for comment, show him sliding into an increasingly paranoid and hateful worldview since the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last spring.”
Maryland: Baltimore Police face a community with a growing number of homicides — more than 300 alone in 2020 — as well as pushback on tactics. New initiatives include the launch of focused deterrence to fight violent crime and reforms that emphasize police accountability and a training program to achieve it, according to the Baltimore Sun. “Ethical Policing is Courageous” is based on a partnership with the National Police Foundation. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison brought the training program to Baltimore from his previous job as the head of the New Orleans Police Department. “The department has been operating under a federal consent decree for several years after a Justice Department investigation found a pattern of unconstitutional policing,” the Sun reports.
New York: Body-camera footage revealed a Rochester police officer pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl in the face in response to a family domestic call January 29, 2021, in a residential neighborhood. “The girl had indicated she wanted to kill herself, and she wanted to kill her mom,” Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson stated. According to The New York Times, cops pushed the child into snow to place her in handcuffs as she pleaded with them to stop. She heard the officer say: “You’re acting like a child.” And she said: “I am a child.” She screamed to officers that she wanted her father. “When she refused to sit inside a police car, an officer pepper-sprayed her,” the Times reports. A news conference addressed the issue. “I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK,” Rochester police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said. “I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see ... This is not something that any of us should want to justify, can justify,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “And it is something we have to change.”
New Hampshire: Detective Bryan Croft of Concord was arrested January 22, 2021, Concord Patch.com reports. The 39-year-old was “charged with second-degree assault, two counts of witness tampering, and two counts of falsifying physical evidence, all felonies, as well as a single domestic violence charge.” An investigation into Croft was sparked by an anonymous tip to the Department of Children, Youth and Families. During the investigation, authorities learned the alleged attack on a woman on October 17, 2020, was recorded on a baby monitor. “Croft, whose father is David Croft, the Merrimack County sheriff, was accused of removing the baby monitor as well as an Alexa unit from the home before investigators could access them. He is also accused of convincing the victim of deleting the recording of the assault as well as a backup version of the assault the victim had attempted to preserve, court documents stated.”
New York: NYPD Officer Carmine Simpson was arrested in January 2021, according to lawandcrime.com, for “allegedly posing as a 17-year-old on Twitter in order to obtain sexually explicit pictures and videos from “at least 46 apparent minors, who appear to have been between the ages of 13 and 17.” Police used the chat logs to document explicit conversations with children between April 2020 and December 2020. The cop allegedly obtained 18 images and 33 videos based on Twitter review, lawandcrime.com reports.
Ohio: NPR reports that Andre Maurice Hill was fatally shot by Columbus police officer Adam Coy on December 22, 2020 in the 47-year-old man’s garage. The incident followed a nonemergency call to police about a man turning his car ignition on and off repeatedly. Officers came upon Hill’s open garage and shone flashlights. Hill turned around and held up his cellphone, npr.org reports. “Hill took several steps toward Coy, who raised his gun and shot him.” Body cameras were not turned on until after the shooting, but a “look back” option gave video of what happened, though not audio of the first 60 seconds. “‘Put your f***ing hands out to the side. Hands out to the side now,’ Coy shouts in the video, breathing heavily. ‘Roll to your stomach now.’ Coy asks another officer if medics are coming, walks up to Hill and rolls him over onto his back.” Since it was a nonemergency call, there was no dashcam video. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther told a press conference that he was “outraged.” In addition, he said, “I am also very disturbed about what I don’t see next in the body-worn camera footage. From what we can see, none of the officers initially at the scene provide medical assistance to Mr. Hill. No compression on the wounds to stop the bleeding. No attempts at CPR. Not even a hand on the shoulder and an encouraging word that medics were en route.”
Pennsylvania: Pennlive.com reports that in December 2020 Bucks County police chiefs created a 15-point uniform use-of-force protocol sparked by the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody. The “county’s 42 law enforcement agencies pledged to incorporate” the protocol into “their policies to ensure a unified response.” Included are “standards for duty to render aid, use of chokeholds, de-escalation, and circumstances when officers can use force.” The protocol has been endorsed by The Bucks County NAACP chapter, which also urges county police to “adopt uniform guidelines for vehicle stops to reduce so-called ‘nuisance stops’ that research shows disproportionately impact racial minorities.”
Texas: The Austin City Council voted February 4, 2021, to hand control of its police-run forensic lab over to an independent entity, forensicmag.com reports. The nearly $12 million cost will come from cuts to the police budget. Said council member Greg Casar in a release: “It’s in the best interest of justice when forensic evidence departments are run by scientists. We never want a rape kit backlog again; we never want cases to be confused in our labs again. We want justice and transparency for all.”
Texas: Dallas police released body-camera footage in December 2020 of 35-year-old Steven Keith Jarrell Jr., who became the sixth in-custody death involving Dallas police in 2020. He died in police custody while he was being taken from his home to a mental health hospital, WFAA.com reports. The mom assured her son he would be fine and would receive help. She told the officers her son was schizophrenic and had missed doses of his prescription. The video reveals “Jarrell’s mother told officers her son hadn’t been violent since 2010 and that he usually goes to Green Oaks when he has a mental illness episode.” However, the young man groaned as the handcuffs were applied, then struggled to get in back of the squad car. His mom said “bye” and “I love you.” He was heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” in reply. His mother looked at the officers and said, “He could breathe.” In body camera footage, Jarrell said he could not breathe and an officer said he would crack open a window. “Do you want me to sit back there with him?” an officer asked the other. But the officer replied no, the video revealed. The man groaned. At Green Oaks, cops noticed Jarrell was unconscious in the back seat, said Dallas police Maj. Danny Williams. “Hey, Steven!” an officer yelled as he realized Jarrell wasn’t breathing anymore. Officers released his handcuffs and began compressions. He was taken to Medical City Hospital, where he later died. An investigation is under way.
Texas: Former Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office Jay Allen Rotter faces charges of murder and evidence tampering in the death of girlfriend Leslie Lynn Hartman at their home, dallasnews.com reported in September 2020. On August 26, 2020, the officer phoned 911, identified himself as an officer and said Hartman, 36, had shot herself in head and that he was hugging her when it happened. Police used a search warrant to obtain contents from his phone and computer, the newspaper reports. A chat log allegedly revealed the couple arguing about his firing his gun in the backyard. Rotter had been assigned to the department’s narcotics division.
Washington: Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan is being asked to resign, The Seattle Times reports. Eight of nine members of the Seattle City Council urged his resignation January 11, 2021, for his remarks implicating Black Lives Matter in the violent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, usnews.com reports. Retract your words and apologize, or resign, was the message from Mayor Jenny Durkan a week earlier. Echoing the call for resignation was The Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council. “Seattle’s internal police watchdog, the Office of Police Accountability, is investigating Solan’s tweets, including one on Friday saying the ‘far right and far left are responsible for that sad day,’” usnews.com reports. “Solan also retweeted, with approving comments, a right-wing blogger who said ‘an extreme BLM activist’ was among those in the pro-Trump mob.” He also commented: “As the [mainstream media] point to one group as being the culprits, clearly evidence also shows another group w/ a history of riotous criminal actions .... Far right and far left are responsible for that sad day,” he wrote. The remarks came amid police contract negotiations. “It’s time for Mr. Solan to hand this important position over,” Councilmember Alex Pedersen said. “We must have a partner who has truly embraced that we cannot go back to the way things were. The current president of the police union has, in my view, disqualified himself to be a fair partner in negotiating the contract.”
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