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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Police news roundup

This is a special edition of the news roundup dedicated to police. As the city gets set to have another public beatification ceremony for another dead cop, let's take a second to remember what cops really do in a day's work. And this is just what they've been up to recently!

Officials fire Alton police chief accused of sex assault

Alton's chief of police has been fired weeks after the South Texas lawman was accused of sexually assaulting two male employees.

Jose Luis Vela was suspended after his August 29 arrest on two charges of sexual assault. Since then, three current and former police department employees have accused Vela of sexual harassment.

Vela was officially fired yesterday for poor record keeping and possible theft of confiscated items. City Manager Jorge Arcaute said allegations surfaced accusing Vela of stealing alcohol confiscated by his department.
E. Bruns. cop claims DWI bias
He has made more than 100 drunken-driving arrests a year and has won convictions in 99 percent of his cases.

But Patrolman Joseph Marcantonio, 17-year veteran of the East Brunswick Police Department, alleges in a lawsuit that drunken off-duty police officers skated from DWI arrests in East Brunswick, and his complaints to supervisors brought retaliation against him.

Marcantonio, in a complaint filed in Superior Court, New Brunswick, in July also claims that East Brunswick police officers engaged in racial profiling, failed to deal appropriately with DWI arrestees — some of whom later died. And the department destroyed video evidence, misused breath-testing devices and misspent funds used to combat drunken driving, he alleges.
Officer referred to murder-suicide during fight with wife, police say
An area police officer was arrested Thursday night at his Bethlehem home after his wife told police he was acting erratically and made reference to a murder-suicide this week involving another police officer and his wife.

John Fiore, 44, of 1041 N. New St. was charged with making terroristic threats and harassment. He was arraigned before District Judge James Stocklas of Bethlehem and released on $10,000 unsecured bail. According to court documents, Fiore is being treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg.

Police said Fiore was acting ''erratic and explosive'' and made statements about having nothing to lose after mentioning the murder-suicide, according to court documents.
Cop who shot, killed a man had been involved in 2 previous shootings
But King's parents, Gary and Catherine King, decried what they believed was excessive force. Their son had just left a liquor store with a bag of chips and soda, they said.

"My son didn't deserve to be brutally murdered this way," Gary King, 52, said. "Gary is a good boy, and he didn't hurt anybody and he was well-loved."

Catherine King, 50, acknowledged that her son could have been armed. "If he had a gun, I don't know," she said. "It's possible, and that wouldn't necessarily be the kind of thing he would share with his mom and dad."

Still, she said she didn't believe the sergeant had to shoot to kill.

Their son wasn't involved in any homicide, she said, adding her son probably fit the description of "thousands of 20-year-olds - or thereabouts - men who are light-skinned and have braids around here."

Friends of the slain man set up a makeshift memorial Friday in the median of Martin Luther King Jr. Way that featured pictures of King and messages that read, "RIP G-Money" and "The police did this."
Santa Cruz councilman accuses Santa Cruz police of racial profiling
City Councilman Tony Madrigal, upset with a city plan to step up law enforcement on Halloween, accused police of "racial profiling," which city police immediately responded to as "wildly irresponsible."

Madrigal's allegations came Tuesday as the council was considering a plan to increase public safety on a night that draws up to 30,000 people, many outlandishly dressed, to Pacific Avenue.

Madrigal told the council he visited downtown during last year's Halloween celebration and witnessed officers "patting down" a group of young Latinos. But police didn't question a group of young white people nearby, he said.

"I asked [the Latinos], and they said they weren't doing anything," Madrigal said. "There was racial profiling going on. Those issues concern me."
Castroville Residents, Police Square Off Over Racial Profiling
A public forum was held in Castroville Monday night after civic leaders said racial profiling by the Monterey County Sheriff's Department was putting residents on edge.

Nearly 150 residents, elected officials and civic leaders, were on hand to hear what the League of United Latin American Citizens said is the improper targeting of Hispanic men.

Victor Mejia said he was disappointed in what he always thought was a sheriff's department going after the bad guys. But instead, Mejia said he discovered that he should fear authorities more.

Mejia, the executive director of the nonprofit agency said he was unfairly targeted in December due to his ethnicity and was consequently arrested by a sheriff's deputy.

Mejia's complaint was one of a number of recent alleged incidents that brought community members to the Castroville Community Center.

Martha Padilla Chavarria, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the evidence is overwhelming -- especially after she said her son, a Fresno State student, was pulled over and questioned as to his gang affiliation.

Among the long list of racial profiling examples community members cited were: intimidation; mocking residents; and excessive force.
Police complaints abound at initial open forum
Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick got an earful of complaints from citizens at her first ever open forum Wednesday night.

Not sure how many people to expect, Kirkpatrick was met by a mostly crowded room, with many in attendance voicing their concerns about racial profiling, bullying, police brutality and a handful of other related issues.

Spokane’s top cop set up the meeting after receiving a petition of more than 100 signatures calling for the Spokane Police Department to be held accountable for their actions.

“I think you’ve seen already in my one year being here,” Kirkpatrick said, “that we have been pretty upfront.”

However, there were a number of people in the audience who didn’t feel that her sentiment properly addressed the extent of the problem. They feel that there should be more oversight on the Police Chief’s part.
Police brutality victim says he was targeted because he's black
A Twin Cities man who won more than $700,000 in a police brutality case says he is still haunted by that day two years ago when he was arrested by Golden Valley police. He believes the arrest was motivated in part by race.

Two Golden Valley officers pepper sprayed and arrested Al Hixon in April 2005 as he was filling his car at a gas station. They believed he was involved in a robbery at a nearby US Bank.

Hixon says police knew the suspect was white, but assumed he was involved because he's black.

He says he hopes winning the trial last week sends a message.

"Justice is a very big word in reference to the situation," Hixon said. "Going to trial so the nation and the world could hear the story meant a lot to me."

Hixon says he suffers from depression, stress and physical injuries because of the incident, but says the trial was even tougher for him than the arrest itself.

"To sit on the stand to testify, and to sit and listen to people lie about you is the most difficult thing I've ever gone through," Hixon said.
Group Alleges Racial Harassment by Police
About 100 Flora residents gathered outside City Hall Tuesday protesting what they call unfair treatment at the hands of the city's police officers.

"Concerned Citizens of Flora" called for the resignations of former Police Chief Ernie Scarber, Sgt. Mike Alderman, and Mayor Scott Greaves.

The group of African-American residents says police target them for tickets, set up roadblocks in their neighborhood and place them under curfew.

"It's a whole lot of things that are going on in this town that's being swept up. It's time for them to come out. What are some of those things? Those things are we have a chief of police here. He's still chief. He's still getting the same pay. That was told to us by a alderman. He still getting the same pay and everything. Nothing has changed," said group spokesperson Rosetta Harris.
Hispanic Heritage Month event banned by UW police
A national fraternity says a decision by University of Wisconsin Police to cancel an event that was to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month is "very close to racial profiling, if not racial profiling."

The Madison branch of Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino fraternity, had arranged for the celebration to be held Saturday in Memorial Union's Tripp Commons, but was told last week that the event would be canceled due to concerns the University Police had about security.

Agustin Garcia, national chairman of the Lamda Theta Phi Foundation, said in a telephone interview from Florida this morning that the police would not give the fraternity specific reasons why they thought the event was unsafe.

"They kept coming back to the music and the nature of the event," said Garcia. "They said the event was unsafe but we don't have a reputation for problems, so that's where we got concerned with racial profiling."

According to Garcia, the fraternity felt there was no reason behind the decision to cancel an event planned only to be a dance with "a melody of Latin music."

Garcia said when the fraternity learned of the cancelation Sept. 11 they did everything to try and prevent it, even offering to pay for additional security.
Wife says man killed by Sunnyvale police was unarmed
The wife of a man killed Wednesday by Sunnyvale police said that her husband was unarmed and was shot in his car while leaving for work.

Erika Cañas, 22, said she was standing in the front yard of her apartment complex with her 18-month-old twin sons when police confronted her husband, Jose Cañas, 32.

"They shot my husband in the head," Erika Cañas said.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety is investigating the death and has placed two officers on paid administrative leave, keeping with departmental policy on officer-involved shootings, Capt. Doug Moretto said. Police, with a warrant, were seeking to arrest Cañas and two others for investigation of an Aug. 17 killing in the neighborhood.

About the claim that Cañas was unarmed, Moretto would only say that an unspecified weapon was involved.

The other two men, whom police would not name Thursday, were arrested without incident.

At 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, Jose Cañas was pulling out of his parking place on the street when a car rammed his, his wife said. She said an officer drew a gun and shouted "Stop." She said her husband turned to look at the officer and was shot twice.

"I said, 'Don't shoot him, leave him alone,' " she said.

Then, she said, another officer threatened to shoot her, as she was standing in front of her apartment at 1144 Ayala Dr., and also threatened to handcuff her if she didn't go inside.

"I said no, you guys are shooting my husband."

A neighbor then took her keys and her crying sons, Jesus Angel and Jose Emmanuel, inside, she said.
Parents of man fatally shot by Hayward police sue city
The parents of a 20-year-old man killed by Hayward police while he fought with his brother have filed two $10 million lawsuits against the city alleging the man had surrendered before he was fatally shot.

Naser Solis of Hayward was unarmed and pinned to the ground by Officer Jason Corsolini moments before Corsolini shot him, according to separate lawsuits filed by Saleh Ali and Maria Joya last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"Witnesses also confirm that although there was a struggle between Mr. Solis and the officer, Mr. Solis gave up and surrendered, and that's very clear," said Ben Nisenbaum, a lawyer for Joya. "For whatever reason, the officer didn't take it that way."
City Settles On Police Brutality Suit
One of Chattanooga's most high profile brutality cases does not go to trial...but reaches a settlement. And taxpayers will be footing the bill. But the two men who sued the department got nowhere close to what they were seeking.

Jason McCollum and Matthew Jones combined will receive 114 thousand dollars, well short of the 20 million they were seeking together. Both men agreed to not release the terms, but because this is public money we were able to find out the details.

This is what each young man looked like after their arrests in September three years ago.
The city agreed to pay McCollum 42 thousand dollars and Jones, the more seriously injured man, 72 thousand dollars. The two young men raced out of north Georgia. Both had been drinking. And when they stopped at Kanku's convenience store, the video surveillance shows officers hitting Jones.

Instead of going to trial, the city agreed to pay both men damages. McCollum told me it was not about the money, but the principle. His attorney spoke for him. Robin Flores said, "He felt wronged and rightly so. If it was up to him and he had the inclination to do it, he may have gone to trial just for the principle of it."

The lawsuit also used testimony from former officer Ray Brantis, who got the maximum 28 day suspension. Brantis testified that before this happened, then deputy chiefs Freeman Cooper and Skip Vaughn both told officers they were authorized to use whatever means at your disposal to clean up this city.
Force was excessive, ex-police chief testifies in brutality case
Former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza was unequivocal on Monday in U.S. District Court. "The force used in this case was excessive, unnecessary and constituted police brutality," he said.

Bouza testified as an expert witness on behalf of Al Hixon, who is suing the city of Golden Valley and two of its police officers over an incident on April 2, 2005.

Hixon is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, alleging that his civil rights were violated by excessive force, battery and assault.

Everyone agrees that Hixon was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had just taken his Jaguar out of winter storage and pulled into a Sinclair gas station near his home to fill it up and get some fresh oil.

Unbeknownst to him, a U.S. Bank branch inside a nearby Byerly's grocery store had been robbed. Officers swarmed the gas station on the heels of possible suspects. They saw Hixon allegedly trying to run and captured him.

The next thing Hixon knew, he was on the ground, handcuffed and had been sprayed in the eyes and nose with a chemical irritant. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is a changed man as a result of the ordeal, he said in testimony Friday.



Anonymous Regis Carnifex said...

Dear PI,

Thanks for the roundup of the most recent police abuses. Are you at all familiar with the work of Radley Balko? He runs a blog, theagitator.com, that consistently deals with abuses of the legal system, stretching from cops to courtrooms. He is, I think, I contributing editor for Reason magazine, so there are bound to be ideological differences between you. Nevertheless, I think you'd be interested in his reporting, and you might consider adding his blog to your list at the side.

Libertarians of the (post!)left and right have more in common than they often realize. It's just that pesky "property" issue...

Sincerely yours,
An old (young) comrade and continuing sympathizer.

Tue Oct 16, 04:20:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Regis Carnifex said...

Also, you may find this national map of botched police raids interesting. (Although probably a few dozen raids out of date at this point.)


Tue Nov 20, 04:25:00 PM 2007  

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