Some States Are Finally Getting Serious About Addressing Police Misconduct

“The nation has finally learned what it takes to remove a bad officer from a police force and provide some modicum of justice in a police-abuse case. We need only capture on video an officer slowly snuffing out a man’s life, have that video go viral, endure some of the most far-reaching protests and riots in modern history and, then, after nearly a year of soul-searching and debate, wait for a jury to render a verdict.”

“The causes of that incident, however, took place long before the awful scene we watched unfold last May.
“(A)nyone who looked closely at Chauvin’s record would have known—should have known—that one day something bad was likely to happen while he was on the job,” noted Jonathan Last in a column this week in The Bulwark. Chauvin “had 18 official complaints against him in his file—these are only the ones that citizens actually got up and followed through on registering.”

In discussing police reform on social media and with friends, people often will say, “Police departments should just fire dirty cops.” That’s the right idea, of course, but legislatures and courts have created a multi-layered system that makes it nearly impossible to accomplish that seemingly simple task. Public-safety debates become emotional and divisive, so it becomes difficult to pass reforms that advance that common-sense outcome.”

The Supreme Court just made it harder for cops to shoot people with impunity

“Imagine, for example, that a police officer randomly opens fire on two innocent bystanders, with no justification whatsoever for doing so. One of those bystanders is struck in the arm and successfully flees; the other is struck in the leg and thus is unable to escape the officer.

Under Roberts’s rule, both of these bystanders could bring a Fourth Amendment suit against the officer. But under Gorsuch’s rule, only the person struck in the leg could do so. Whatever the framers intended to accomplish when they drafted the Fourth Amendment, it’s hard to imagine that they wanted to write such an arbitrary distinction into the Constitution.”

“practical effect of Torres…means that officers who use excessive force can be subject to Fourth Amendment suits, even if the plaintiff in that suit successfully escaped the officer.”

The Chauvin Verdict Is a Reminder That We Still Need To Abolish Qualified Immunity

“It’s remarkably rare for a police officer to face criminal charges for the misuse of force. We know that Chauvin had 22 complaints filed against him by the time he was arrested for Floyd’s death, and that he was allowed to remain with the MPD through all of them.

When it comes to fatal encounters, we have a slightly better idea of the disparity: Only about 139 officers since 2005 have been charged with murder or manslaughter in relation to an on-duty shooting, though about 1,000 fatal police shootings occur each year. Of the officers charged, a small minority are convicted.

Counting fatal encounters omits many more victims of police misconduct who live to tell about it. The data we do have paints an incomplete but unsettling picture, as police departments often refuse to make public reports against officers. A report from ProPublica is instructive: “In 2018, the [Civilian Complaint Review Board] looked into about 3,000 allegations of misuse of force [in the New York Police Department],” wrote Eric Urmansky last summer. “It was able to substantiate 73 of those allegations. The biggest punishment? Nine officers who lost vacation days.”

In other words, people whose rights are violated by police can’t always count on the criminal courts or even police departments to reprimand their employees; civil suits are often the only avenue to justice. Yet thanks to qualified immunity, those individuals often find that road blocked off, too.

The legal doctrine, manufactured by the Supreme Court, protects government officials from federal civil rights lawsuits if the official’s specific behavior was not “clearly established” as a rights violation in a precedent handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court or by another court within the same circuit. In other words, for a plaintiff to sue a police officer in federal court, a prior plaintiff must’ve already sued over the exact same violation and won. Any plaintiff who sues after being harmed in a remotely unique way risks being told that the officer who harmed them could not have been expected to know they were violating the Constitution.”

“Chauvin might seem like an example unbefitting of this discussion—the City of Minneapolis settled with Floyd’s family for a reported $27 million. Had the case not been filmed and highly publicized, as in the above examples, that might not have happened.

“Incredibly, had the city not chosen to settle the lawsuit, Derek Chauvin would have had a very plausible chance of getting the suit thrown out on qualified immunity grounds—even after being convicted of murder,” says Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute. “There is no preexisting case in the Eighth Circuit under which it was ‘clearly established’ that pinning a suspect under one’s knee for nearly ten minutes until they lose consciousness and their heart stops beating violates the Fourth Amendment.”

The video footage here was the game-changer—something that victims aren’t always afforded. It’s also something that government officials may take issue with. In 2014, officers in Denver, Colorado, attempted to force a bystander to delete a film he took of them beating a suspect during an arrest. Though a federal court ruled those cops violated the First Amendment in doing so, it gave them qualified immunity.”

A California Man Died After Cops Knelt on His Neck During a Mental Health Call. Then the Department Tried To Hide It.

“On December 23, cops responded to a call from Isabella Collins, Quinto’s sister, who reported a mental health crisis. A wrongful death claim filed by the family against the city of Antioch mentions that Quinto made a plea upon seeing the officers: “Please don’t kill me,” he said. He would be dead just moments later, after the cops knelt on Quinto’s neck for five minutes, according to the suit.

The claim notes that Quinto “had been suffering from depression, anxiety, and paranoia for the previous few months” and that the evening of December 23 brought on an episode of paranoia. “What are you doing?” he kept asking people in the house, following them as he feared they would leave him alone. Quinto’s sister phoned the police for help; Quinto’s mother, Maria Quinto-Collins, calmed her son by sitting with him on the floor as she held him “onto her chest with her hands clasped behind his back.”

Upon arriving, the officers removed him from Quinto-Collins’ arms and put him on the floor before one placed his leg on Quinto’s neck. “This is what we do to keep them calm,” he said.

That cop eventually got fatigued, and so the second officer replaced him, at which point Quinto began to bleed from his mouth. “At no time while being restrained did Mr. Quinto resist physically or verbally,” the suit says.

Video footage taken by Quinto-Collins shows police turning over her lifeless son to reveal blood dripping on his chin as they try to shake him awake. “What happened?” Quinto-Collins asks. “Please, please…What is happening? Does he have a pulse?”

Quinto was later transferred to a hospital, where he died three days later.”

“It’s an investigation that the public may never have known about if the police department, which attempted to conceal the information from both lawmakers and community members, had its way.”

How the Police Bank Millions Through Their Union Contracts

“One town’s police contract guaranteed a retiring lieutenant $121,000 for unused sick time. Another’s promises officers six months pay with no work required as a parting retirement benefit. In another contract, cops get paid $109 an hour for side gigs like monitoring traffic at construction sites.

Despite attempts to rein in police union contracts in New Jersey, costly provisions remain common, an unprecedented analysis by the Asbury Park Press and ProPublica found. The news outlets identified contract clauses throughout the state that protect officer payouts that cost the public hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection

“The riot squad defending the embattled entrance to the west side of the U.S. Capitol was surrounded by violence. Rioters had clambered up the scaffolding by the stage erected for the inauguration of President Joseph Biden. They hurled everything they could get their hands on at the cops beneath: rebar, plywood, power tools, even cans of food they had frozen for extra damage.

In front of the cops, a mob was mounting a frontal assault. Its members hit officers with fists and baseball bats. They grabbed at weapons slung from the officers’ waists. They unleashed a barrage of M-80 firecrackers. Soaked in never-ending streams of bright orange bear spray, the officers choked on plumes of acrid smoke that singed their nostrils and obscured their vision.

One officer in the middle of the scrum, a combat veteran, thought the rioters were so vicious, so relentless, that they seemed fueled by methamphetamine. To his left, he watched a chunk of steel strike a fellow officer above the eye, setting off a geyser of blood. A pepper ball tore through the air over his shoulder and exploded against the jaw of a man in front of him. The round, filled with chemical irritant, ripped the rioter’s face open. His teeth were now visible through a hole in his cheek. Blood poured out, puddling on the pavement surrounding the building. But the man kept coming.

The combat veteran was hit with bear spray eight times. His experience overseas “was nothing like this,” he said. “Nothing at all.”

Over the last several weeks, ProPublica has interviewed 19 current and former U.S. Capitol Police officers about the assault on the Capitol. Following on the dramatic video of officers defending the building that House lawmakers showed during the first day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, the interviews provide the most detailed account to date of a most extraordinary battle.”

“The interviews also revealed officers’ concerns about disparities in the way the force prepared for Black Lives Matter demonstrations versus the pro-Trump protests on Jan. 6. Officers said the Capitol Police force usually plans intensively for protests, even if they are deemed unlikely to grow violent. Officers said they spent weeks working 12- or 16-hour days, poised to fight off a riot, after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police — even though intelligence suggested there was not much danger from protesters.

“We had intel that nothing was going to happen — literally nothing,” said one former official with direct knowledge of planning for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “The response was, ‘We don’t trust the intel.’”

By contrast, for much of the force, Jan. 6 began like any other day.”

“At 7 a.m. on Jan. 6, an officer on the department’s midnight shift finished work and got into his car near the Capitol. Already, swarms of people were walking past, waving Trump flags. He sat in the driver’s seat for a minute, watching. He called up an old colleague and marveled at the crowd.

The officer was surprised his superiors were letting him off duty. During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, the night shift had often been held over to help. But he hadn’t heard anything from his bosses, so he drove home”

An Unconstitutional Arrest for Refusing To Show ID to the Cops

“In an important win for Fourth Amendment advocates, a Virginia man’s arrest for refusing to show identification to the police has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal appellate court.”

” “To be sure, officers may always request someone’s identification during a voluntary encounter,” the court said. “But they may not compel it by threat of criminal sanction. Allowing a county to criminalize a person’s silence outside the confines of a valid seizure would press our conception of voluntary encounters beyond its logical limits. We therefore decline to do so here.”

If Wingate had been lawfully detained by the police, the 4th Circuit said, then the officer could require him to show ID. But that was not what happened here.”

House passes police reform bill

“The bill would prohibit racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at every level while banning chokeholds at the federal level and no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. The federal policies would be tied to law enforcement funding for governments at the state and local levels.

The measure would also eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, mandate data collection on police encounters and create a nationwide police misconduct registry to hold accountable problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency.”

“the bill’s fate in the upper chamber is still uncertain, as Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to send the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk.”