New Police Misconduct Database Shows Thousands Of Violations, Very Little Accountability

from the be-bad,-get-paid dept

USA Today has scored a coup. It has partnered with police accountability nonprofit Invisible Institute to obtain misconduct records from around the nation. These paint a pretty bleak picture of American policing -- not just in the number of incidents, but in the number of incidents that go unpunished.

Public records requests have resulted in thousands of documents detailing at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, along with more than 100,000 internal investigations. The database is completely searchable and leads readers, reporters, researchers, etc. directly to the underlying documents.

Here are the morbid stats this database has produced:

Most misconduct involves routine infractions, but the records reveal tens of thousands of cases of serious misconduct and abuse. They include 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers.

Dishonesty is a frequent problem. The records document at least 2,227 instances of perjury, tampering with evidence or witnesses or falsifying reports. There were 418 reports of officers obstructing investigations, most often when they or someone they knew were targets.

Less than 10% of officers in most police forces get investigated for misconduct. Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.

The last number is perhaps the most concerning. Without effective deterrents in place, there's nothing stopping officers from spending years under investigation while still earning a paycheck and, possibly, being allowed to directly interact with the public. Some agencies pull the trigger quickly when officers misbehave repeatedly, but the investigation found there are many that almost never pull a cop's certification, no matter how many misconduct complaints/lawsuits they've racked up.

Decertifying law enforcement officers can slow the roll of "gypsy cops" -- ones that wander from department to department violating policies, rights, and laws, traveling under the opacity provided to them by restrictive public records laws and union agreements. But since decertification so rarely happens, the worst cops can land top law enforcement gigs simply by looking for work in small communities unlikely to have the resources to fully investigate candidates for these openings.

That's what happened in a small Ohio town. Amsterdam town officials hired David Cimperman as their new police chief. It was only after he engaged in a shitload of official misconduct that anyone started asking questions.

[Town officials] found forms featuring the mayor’s apparently forged signature that David Cimperman used to add more than 30 officers to the town’s police roster – one for every 16 residents. Many never did any paid police work for the town, logging hours instead for a private security business that state investigators say Cimperman ran on the side. He tried to outfit them with high-end radios. The riot gear and other surplus military equipment he bought with taxpayer money are missing.

One phone call to Cimperman's former boss in New Philadelphia could have prevented this. Cimperman had been fired from that police department for… well, just about everything.

They hired a chief without knowing he’d been fired for perjury, quit a job as his bosses started investigating missing police equipment and was charged with a felony for tampering with police radios to make untraceable phone calls.

Fired twice from one department, Cimperman simply went somewhere and took a position giving him a lot of unearned power. This sort of story has been repeated multiple times around the nation. The records obtained through this investigation show multiple officers with long rap sheets obtaining high-level positions in other departments thanks to years of minimal accountability and the opacity that accompanies so many internal law enforcement documents.

The new database is an invaluable tool -- one that will continue to grow as more records roll in. National exposure of endemic law enforcement problems may nudge a few agencies to clean house and encourage even the smallest communities to vet incoming law enforcement officers and officials more thoroughly.

Filed Under: accountability, police misconduct


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 May 2019 @ 7:59pm

    Hmmm,

    You mean the blue code of don't give a shit is real? Shocker!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 8:22pm

    Get out of penalty free badge

    Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.

    Meanwhile in jobs not riddled with corruption I highly double many people would even be able to hit the first number of ten charges before they'd be given the boot from wherever they were working, and as for the second, I'm imagine even organized crime syndicates have higher standards for 'employment' than that.

    US police love to hold the general public to high standards(even if they have to make those standards up on the spot), but when it comes to their own they just never seem to have the time/energy/interest for some reason...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MathFox, 9 May 2019 @ 5:45am

      Re: Get out of penalty free badge

      An allegation does not imply guilt. But the fact that 90% of the officers goes without allegations of misconduct shines a certain light on the remaining 10%, especially those that have been under investigation multiple times.

      Giving officers the boot after being found guilty of misconduct (one case of serious misconduct, repeated minor misconduct) seems appropriate to me. In time it will improve the public opinion on police-officers so that the 90% get the respect they deserve.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re: Get out of penalty free badge

        I understand and agree mostly with what you posted, however -

        Respect is not "given", it is earned and this is something many in law enforcement seemingly do not understand. Some go as far as to demand respect, which of course will result in less of it.

        Your claim they deserve respect .... I do not understand what you are saying. How does one "deserve respect" ... is it simply putting on the badge and you deserve respect? This is wrong in many ways.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 9 May 2019 @ 8:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Get out of penalty free badge

          No. The type you're discussing may say they deserve respect, but what they really expect is submission.

          The job attracts the "schoolyard bully" type. At some point in the past, society decided it was better to have that type of person on the inside pissing out rather than outside pissing in.

          The very last thing that type is deserving of is respect.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 8:27pm

    Why are you writing about police misconduct when in fact the biggest misconduct in American history is on display with the Mueller report, and it’s origins. The Steele Dossier is used to justify spying on Americans by Comey, Clapper and Brennan (and Rice)?? Really?

    The truth is tht under the first, last and only nigger President, the US became a very dark place.

    Why don’t you write about that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      teka, 8 May 2019 @ 8:52pm

      Re:

      Excellent examples of 'whataboutism', racism and Orange-Man Delusion Syndrome. Good thing you are making a useful instructive example, otherwise people might call you out for being a sad waste of human flesh.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 9:20pm

        Re: Re:

        And by the way, I’m black, or i identify as black, so calling Obama a nigger is totally fine. It’s my right as a black person to call another black person a nigger, it is not insulting in the least, it is a sign of our mutual respect for our blackness. But you if ain’t a nigger than you can’t even SAY nigger, or some niggers will beat the SHIT out of you.

        Would you say that was nigger misconduct? If we beat white people, put a noose around their neck, poured bleach on them and told them THIS IS BLM COUNTRY< WHITEY! Is that OK? I think it’s OK, right? Is no different from the congressman berating teenagers at PP sites, right? We’re BLACK, we’re OPPRESSED, SO GIVE US YOUR MONEY! AND DON’T USE OUR WORDS! And other things, too, yeah, that would be good.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    christenson, 8 May 2019 @ 8:43pm

    A few more numbers, please...

    Heya Mike:
    How many cops do we have, how many are covered by this collection, and how many years does it cover???

    what are the other biases in the collection???

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 11:18pm

      Re: A few more numbers, please...

      what are the other biases in the collection???

      How can undisputed facts be biased?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rocky, 8 May 2019 @ 11:45pm

        Re: Re: A few more numbers, please...

        When they don't fit a persons distorted worldview.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        christenson, 9 May 2019 @ 3:13pm

        Re: Re: A few more numbers, please...

        Dear Mr Coward:
        You and I are not using the same meaning or connotation to the word bias. I had the neutral technical sense in mind and was interested in the limitations of the data.

        Recall that data has to be selected down from the totality of reality; there is too much reality. What that selection process does, inevitably, is introduce bias, in the statistical sense, which is what I had in mind. This kind of bias is inevitable and unavoidable. The tendency of Techdirt to report on police misconduct is a bias.

        Here, we have a dataset of undisputed facts.... but.... when we have commenters here saying perjury goes way under-reported, that is a bias of the data. When Maricopa county reports one thing under Sherriff Arpaio, and another under the new, more law-abiding sherriff, that is a bias. When ICE is included or excluded from the database, that is a bias.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 7:21pm

      Re: A few more numbers, please...

      Heya christenson:

      Why don't you go have a poke at the linked source materials?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bt, 9 May 2019 @ 5:12am

    "2,227 instances of perjury, tampering with evidence or witnesses or falsifying reports"


    From what I have seen from some of the lawyers I have known, that number is way way lower than the real number. For a lot of police AND prosecutors, if they believe you are guilty they will shade a lot of things to get a conviction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MathFox, 9 May 2019 @ 5:52am

      Re: perjury, tampering with evidence

      It is easy to accuse someone of perjury or one of the other crimes you know, but hard to prove it. I agree with you that the actual count will be larger than the proven count; but significantly smaller than the number of accusations.

      Even with that said: 2227 is a serious number and I think that policemen caught for (intentional) perjury should be fired and never get another job where their word is taken as the legal truth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 6:42am

        Re: Re: perjury, tampering with evidence

        "fired and never get another job"

        This only happens to minimum wage workers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Alphonse Tomato, 9 May 2019 @ 12:02pm

        Re: Re: perjury, tampering with evidence

        Prosecutors (and judges) tend to be very reluctant to charge cops with perjury. They're on "the same side", and if a prosecutor pisses cops off enough convictions will become difficult as police develop memory problems on the stand. And campaign for the prosecutor's opponent. Then there goes the political aspirations, it's back to chasing ambulances. And besides, those cops have guns, you know.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 6:09am

      Re:

      Word.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobmark, 9 May 2019 @ 1:19pm

    My father was a city councilman in a smaller town, I remember him saying most of the complaints were generated by a single officer, which the union protected from being fired.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 10 May 2019 @ 3:50am

    Will this lead to more introspection on the part of police departments or public outrage? No, of course not. It will only lead to public outrage over the violence that follows from those abused, their families and friends, which will only allow the rest of the public to let the same police behaviour slide or even condone it. I'm old enough to remember that the kent state shootings and how that sort of behaviour turned out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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