Internal Affairs Departments, District Attorneys' Offices Helping Keep Bad Cops From Being Held Accountable
from the can't-solve-a-problem-if-no-one-wants-to-solve-it dept
A certain percentage of police officers are “bad cops,” just like a certain percentage of the human race is composed of thuggish sociopaths. That’s an unfortunate fact of life. Whether the percentage of bad cops is greater than the percentage in non-law enforcement positions is still open for discussion, although there’s a lot about a cop’s job that would attract thuggish sociopaths: power, better weapons, nearly nonexistent accountability, etc.
We often ask why bad cops aren’t rooted out more quickly. And the answers are depressing and numerous. Bad cops are protected by their own. Bad cops are also, unfortunately, protected by otherwise “good” cops because “bad cops” are often the most dependable of cops. In the rare cases when bad cops are cut loose from the force, the local police union usually works tirelessly to get them reinstated. But even within police departments themselves, there’s little interest in rooting out the bad apples.
Inside every cop shop is an Internal Affairs department. In some rare cases, these departments are effective in rooting out the worst of the force. In return for this service, they are universally reviled by the rest of the department — even by “good” cops. And they often see their uphill battles undone by police unions or upper management.
In other cases, though, Internal Affairs is just another integral part of the defensive “blue line” that shields bad cops from accountability. Among the many instances of abusive behavior uncovered by the DOJ’s review of the Newark (NJ) police department (including racist behavior, stop-and-frisk abuse, intimidation and excessive force being routinely deployed) is this incredibly ugly statistic.
The previous year, the American Civil Liberties Union had filed a complaint with the Justice Department accusing police of misconduct. The group provided statistics showing that only on rare occasions did the department act on complaints against officers accused of using excessive force or conducting improper searches and false arrests.
In 2008 and 2009, only one complaint of 261 filed was sustained by department investigators, the ACLU found.
The Justice Department review appeared to confirm that the trend continued in the ensuing years; from 2007 to 2012, just one complaint of excessive force made by civilians was sustained.
One complaint sustained in five years. New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman blamed this on a “dysfunctional Internal Affairs department.” Paul: you spelled “corrupt” wrong. The only way this happens is if Internal Affairs is in the business of clearing officers of wrongdoing, rather than investigating allegations. That’s not accountability. That’s aiding and abetting.
The DOJ uncovered all sorts of misconduct that should have been discovered by IA and corrected by PD management.
Blacks, on average, are 2½ times more likely than whites to be stopped on the street, the report found. While Newark police conducted 111 stops for every 1,000 residents among whites, it made 283 stops for every 1,000 residents for blacks — even though the likelihood of finding evidence of crime was about the same for whites as it is for blacks, the report noted…
The reports also said there were “credible” complaints that police sometimes detained people in their cruisers without filing charges, calling it “a humiliating and often frightening experience.”
It also documented so-called “contempt of cop” arrests, a phrase used to describe people charged with a crime because they lawfully objected to police actions or were disrespectful.
Finally, in a sentence that is inadvertently hilarious, the DOJ notes that the Newark PD likes to punch people until they calm down.
And, the report noted, officers were quick to defuse volatile situations by using open and closed fists to the head, even though “in many cases these actions were not necessary … and seemed to be simply retaliatory.”
The Newark Police Department is ugly all over and Internal Affairs is as much to blame as every officer who participated in this abusive behavior.
But it’s not just complicit Internal Affairs departments keeping bad cops on the force. It’s also people outside the department who are equally unwilling to hold officers accountable for their abusive behavior. (via Ben Swann)
The Hartford state’s attorney has rejected an arrest warrant submitted by Enfield police to charge one of their own officers with third-degree assault and fabricating evidence.
The seven-page arrest warrant application submitted by Lt. Lawrence Curtis concluded that Officer Matthew Worden hit suspect Mark Maher with punches that “were neither necessary nor needed” during an arrest on April 1.
Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy rejected the arrest warrant application late last week, concluding that although Worden’s actions might violate police department rules they did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.
“Although striking Maher may have violated Enfield Police Department’s use of force policies, Worden’s conduct seemed to be aimed at an attempt to restrain Maher who was resisting officers’ attempts to handcuff him, rather than an intention to inflict physical harm,” Hardy concluded.
When police departments make proactive moves to not only oust but press criminal charges against one of their own, it should be taken seriously. No one knows better just how abhorrent Officer Worden’s behavior was than the Enfield Police Department. But when it tried to do the right thing and hold him accountable for his misconduct, the State’s Attorney’s office shut it down. And not only did it shut the arrest warrant down, it made excuses for the officer’s actions.
Officer Worden said Maher was “clenching his fists” and “tensing his arms” as he moved in to effect the arrest. This supposed resistant behavior led to the following:
Worden told Curtis that he delivered two closed fist punches aimed at Maher’s upper right arm “to disrupt the nerves and incapacitate the muscles so the arms could be controlled.” Worden said Maher was thrashing on the ground after officers took him down and that “this thrashing caused one of the punches to hit Maher in the right side of his forehead above the eye,” the application states.
Except the booking photo shows the punches landed somewhere else, contrary to Worden’s assertions.
This looks like the result of a direct hit, not the “right side of the forehead above the eye.” Then there’s this:
The application states Curtis concluded that the video did not show Maher resisting arrest and that at one point it shows Worden, while Maher is on the ground with one arm pinned behind him, stopping to adjust the glove on his right hand before delivering two of the four punches he threw.
I would think someone has effectively stopped “resisting” if the apparently threatened officer has time to make sure his punching fist is gloved properly.
Adding to the ridiculousness of the State’s Attorney’s decision is the fact that the entire incident was caught on video. The attorney’s excuse for seeing/not seeing the same actions that led to the PD drawing up a warrant for Officer Worden’s arrest? The arrest scene was complex, therefore: nothing to see here.
In her letter rejecting the arrest warrant Hardy said the video “depicts many moving parts where it is extremely difficult to keep up with everything that is going on with all parties.”
“ALL parties?” Does Hardy mean all both of them? She only had two people to keep an eye on: Maher and Worden. But she makes it sound as though the altercation took place on the Coca-Cola bottling factory floor during a visit by a touring Cirque de Soleil troupe. This willingness to see the forest rather than the trees does nothing to deter future bad behavior by Worden or any other officer on the force. And it’s apparent that Worden was one of Enfield PD’s worst.
Enfield, a department with nearly 100 sworn officers, has had 26 civilian complaints in the past four years. One-third of those were against Worden, records show. In 2013, Worden had half of the six citizen’s complaints against the department.
In his seven years on the force, Worden has been involved in a domestic dispute, fought with another officer, and faced multiple complaints about racist behavior or racial profiling. Notably, not a single complaint filed since 2010 has been sustained. Internal Affairs has played a part in Officer Worden’s lengthy, troublesome career.
But this is yet another part of the “bad cop” problem. Worden had been previously suspended and ordered to attend additional training, but those deterrents haven’t worked. He’s apparently still a problem for the department. So, the department made what appears to be a long overdue move and brought assault and fabricating evidence charges against one of its own — an incredibly rare move in the world of law enforcement. And when it did, the state’s attorney tossed it out because the recording was hard to follow and her office apparently doesn’t feel it can win the case. But we can be 100% sure that if the situation was reversed, and the arrestee had dealt out a few punches of his own, Hardy’s office would have suddenly found the recording easy to follow and clearly indicative of the citizen’s guilt.
The system has been rigged for so long that when a law enforcement agency tries to buck the trend by holding an officer accountable, its efforts are completely undermined by the next step in the legal process. Bad cops are here to stay.