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News in Brief

Arkansas: A former police officer in Lonoke County was convicted on March 18, 2022, in the killing of a white teenager reports Courthouse News Service. The former sheriff’s deputy, Michael Davis, was acquitted of a manslaughter charge but convicted on a misdemeanor charge in connection with the shooting of Hunter Brittain, 17. Brittain, who was eulogized by the Reverend Al Sharpton, was found have been unarmed at the time of the shooting, which took place on June 23, 2021, during a traffic stop near Cabot. Davis managed to avoid a sentence of three to ten years which would have come had he been convicted of manslaughter, and instead was charged with the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor, one year. The charge, reached after just a day of deliberation by the jury, did not satisfy Brittain’s family, who were hoping for Davis’s conviction of the felony manslaughter in so that he would not be able to serve in law enforcement again.

California: VTDigger reports that a former police officer with the Caledonia County Sheriff’s Department reached a plea deal on March 7, 2022. The former Sheriff’s Deputy, Stephen Bunnell, 47, is accused of soliciting nude photos and sex for money. He was found to have met some of the women while on duty in his official capacity as a law enforcement officer. The cash amounts were between $300 and $400, and Bunnell was found to have repeatedly contacted some of the women to “harass” them into taking his offer. The deal that he has agreed to allows him to avoid jail-time by deferring a two-year sentence, paying a $100 fine, dismissing two charges of committing prohibited acts, and completing sex offender treatment. If he complies with his end of the deal he will also have a charge of prohibited conduct wiped from his record.

Connecticut: A former Norwalk police officer was barred from working in Connecticut law enforcement on March 10, 2022. The Hour reports that police officer, Taranjit Singh is accused of using his badge to urge women to give him their phone numbers. According to a report from a spokesman for the Norwalk Police Department, an investigation opened into his conduct found that Singh had broken department policy, falsified a police report, and that he had lied to officials. He is accused to using a DMV database to view criminal records and personal information. The vote by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council to revoke his certification in early March 2022 came after Singh, how had been with the department since 2013, resigned in the face of the accusations in June 2021. There are criminal charges pending as a result of his misconduct.

Florida: WPBF, a news channel serving Tequesta, reports that a police officer in Delray Beach was arrested after turning herself in on March 22, 2022. The officer is Jacaria Stringer, 25, and she was taken into custody on accusations of misconduct and grand theft. Stringer, who was hired by the department on Feb. 3, 2020, was accused by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) of falsely claiming military leave for a total of 21 days between March 2020 and August 2021. The FDLE opened an investigation into her conduct in September 2021 when officials began questioning her time sheets. The 21 false claims resulted in her being paid a total of more than $6,500 for the time she was supposed to be in military training. The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney.

Florida: The U.S. DOJ reports that a former Hialeah police officer pled guilty on March 5, 2022, to three charges of civil rights abuses. Jesus Manuel Menocal Jr., 34, was charged with three counts of deprivation of civil rights in connection with his coercion of three women into having sex with or providing sexual favors to him while he was in uniform and on duty. In his plea Menocal also admitted to having coerced a fourth woman into exposing herself to him in Hialeah Police Department building while he was on duty. His sentencing is set for May 12, 2022. The statutory maximum sentence in his case is three years in prison.

Georgia: WSB-TV, a news channel serving Atlanta, reports that a former Bibb County police officer was arrested after being found in the house of a deceased man. The former officer, Vashone Hakeem Jones, 29, was found on March 13, 2022, in the home of Demaryius Thomas, a former wide receiver for Georgia Tech who died in 2021 from injuries sustained in a 2019 car accident. Jones was found in the home with a woman he met at a night club and five other individuals. The discovery came as police were responding to a call from Thomas’s mother, who claimed she has evidence on the social media of Thomas’s friends that people were partying in the house when they were not supposed to. Jones claims that he used to live in the house and helped Thomas with his health, and that he had a habit of “checking up” on the residence.

Honduras: A former National Chief of Police was arrested in early March 2022, on charges of drug smuggling. Vice reports that “El Tigre” was arrested by members of a law enforcement force that he once led. His true name is Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, and he charged in connection with drug smuggling from Honduras to the U.S. two years ago by the Southern District of New York. The charged prompted the U.S. federal government to called for his extradition, though he was protected by the now former Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who is also tied up in drug smuggling cases, was arrested three weeks after leaving office in January, and has a case pending before the Honduran Supreme Court determining whether he will also be extradited. Bonilla is accused of protecting cocaine shipments bound for the U.S. on behalf of Hernández.

Illinois: Chicago Sun Times reports that the on March 15, 2022, Illinois state attorney Kim Foxx announced that she will not criminally charge officers who used lethal force on two young men in 2021. The Chicago police officers in question were caught on body camera footage engaging in foot chases with Adam Toledo, 13, and Anthony Alvarez, 22, in two separate incidents in early 2021. Toledo was shot by police officer Eric Stillman on March 29, 2021, when Stillman was pursuing the boy down an alley in Little Village after responding to a Shotspotter alert. Toledo had a gun and when he went to throw it away from his person Stillman shot him in the chest. Alverez was shot by police officer Eric Solano on March 31, 2021, when he was chasing the man through Portage Park. Alverez too had a visible handgun, though he was not actively threatening the officer with it when Solano fired. State Attorney Foxx harshly criticized the officers in both situations for contributing to the situations that led to the deaths of Toledo and Alvarez but declined to bring charges against them. Toledo’s death in particular sparked protests in the city in 2021.

Kansas: An investigation into a Wichita sheriff’s deputy for domestic violence initiated in April 2021, turned up a group chat in white officers use racial slurs and make violent jokes. The Wichita Eagle reported on March 26, 2022, that the leaked messages from the group chat reveal white officers in Wichita, some of whom have shot and killed civilians while on duty, posting and liking racially charged and arguably racist memes, using racial slurs, and praising violent methods used by SWAT officers. As a result of what was found in the group chat, 11 police officers came under investigation, not all of whom engaged directly in the activity described above. However, the largest punishment any received was a multi-day suspension for calling a member of department leadership a “tool.”

Missouri: On March 23, 2022, a former agent of the FBI pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, reports Zero Hedge. The former agent, now a private investigator, is William Son Tisaby, 69. He was hired to investigate former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned from office in 2018 under accusations of invasion of privacy. Tisaby was hired in 2018, just before the resignation, by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner to investigate the conduct of the former governor. In his plea deal Tisaby acknowledged that during the subsequent investigation he hid evidence, including notes that Gardner gave him. Gardner too has come under scrutiny, with a disciplinary hearing upcoming to look into whether she hid evidence from her team during the investigation. Greitens, who is now a candidate for senator and accused of domestic abuse, celebrated the result of Tisaby’s trial.

New York: Daily News reports that two former NYPD police officers are going to serve time in prison after being caught up in an “integrity sting.” The two former officers are Jose Aracena, 37, and Joseph Stokes, 42, and both have been found guilty on charges of stealing money from a victim they were busting in connection with a DUI in 2019. Jose was said to have stolen $200 from the victim on the Lower East Side and was convicted of official misconduct and petit larceny, while Stokes was found to have stolen $4,800, and was convicted of official misconduct and felony grand larceny. They were dismissed in June 2021, and Stokes was convicted in February 2022, followed by Aracena in early March 2022.

Oregon: The Atlanta Black Star reports that a former police officer in West Linn was charged on Feb. 25, 2022, with first-degree official conduct for his role in a racist conspiracy to target a black man. In 2017, the officer, Tony Reeves, and other officials conspired with business owner Eric Benson to target one of Benson’s employees, Michael Fesser. Benson convinced the West Linn police officers to help him retaliate against Fesser, who had been complaining about workplace racial harassment. Reeves and other officials in West Linn wrongfully arrested Fesser, who lives in Portland, recorded him, and seized his cellphone and cash without a warrant. Fesser has received $1 million in compensation in discrimination lawsuits but is worried West Linn officials are managing to evade being held to account.

South Carolina: On March 18, 2022, a police officer in Columbia was arrested and charged with sexual assault, reports The State. The officer, Keith Ryan Williamson, an 11-year member of the Columbia Police Department, was fired shortly after his arrest, when he was accused of sexually assaulting an incapacitated person in late October 2021. Within days of the alleged assault a complaint was filed against Williamson, and an investigation was opened into his conduct. Investigators looked through digital records, medical records, and interviewed Williamson, and the arrest came as a result of their findings. If he is found guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which specifies an attacker’s knowledge of a victim’s mental incapacity, Williamson could face up to 10 years in prison.

Texas: KTRK, a news channel serving Houston, reports that former Harris County police officer pled guilty on March 18, 2022, to child pornography. The officer, Donald Dehnert, 50, was charged with three felony counts of child pornography on March 29, 2018, after investigators found a flash drive containing the material in his Kingwood home. Denhert, who joined the police force in 1992, was relieved of duty by the department.

Vermont: As of March 21, 2022, almost every police barracks in the state has a professional in mental health crises embedded with law enforcement officers, reports WPTZ, a news station serving Champlain Valley. Of the ten barracks in the state, nine now have a worker who will travel with police officers and help respond to civilians experiencing mental health crises. When it is safe for these workers to do so, they will respond to such civilians alone, with a police officer in a nearby patrol vehicle. The VT Dep. of Public Safety reports that there has been success in the nascent system, with the mental health workers reportedly helping some people find help. At the same time, certain rights groups emphasize that more should be done and the ACLU in VT asserts that such a close link between mental health professionals and police should not be long-term.

Virginia: WJHL, a news channel serving Johnson City, Tennessee, reports that a police officer in Bristol was charged with his second DUI on the morning of March 26, 2022. The officer is Nathaniel Channing Call, 25, of the Bristol Virginia PD, and was arrested after being pursued by police with the Bristol Tennessee PD, who were responding to reports of a car diving unsafely on Interstate 81 North at around 2 a.m. He is said to have been off duty during the time of the incident as he was already on administrative leave for a separate DUI charge. Sobriety tests administered upon his being stopped by police indicated that he was intoxicated.

United States: Axios reported in mid-March 2022, that the DOJ claims an increasing number of police departments across the country are refusing to share statistics about hate crimes with the FBI. The number, according to the DOJ report, has reached a staggering 88% of departments declining to share their data on the number of and details of hate crimes, including those against Black Americans, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ+ Americans. The data from 2020 indicate why such a reporting gap is a problem. In that year, more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies had a hate crime report rate of zero, including in places like Miami, Little Rock, and Huntsville. At the same time however, the data that was made available indicated a spike in hate crimes against the groups mentioned above, especially Black Americans. Such reporting gaps make understanding the prevalence of these crimes difficult.

West Virginia: In mid-March 2022, a former police officer with the Logan Police Department (LPD) was sentenced on his conviction in using excessive force. The U.S. DOJ reports that the officer, Everett Maynard, 45, was convicted on Nov. 17, 2021, of assaulting an arrestee until he was unconscious and had sustained a broken shoulder. The assault took place at the LPD when Maynard assaulted the victim in a bathroom, dragged him to a different room, and rammed his head into a doorframe. Maynard is said to have verbally abused the victim for “making demands” of him such as asking to use the bathroom. He then left the arrestee laying in his own blood and bragged about his use of violence. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and three years of supervised release. 

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