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City Not Liable for Arrest of Mouthy Diner Patron

ORLANDO (CN) - A federal judge has dismissed claims from a couple who say officers arrested them because the wife told a not-pregnant female officer that her belly made it look as though she was "having a baby."
In a February 2012 complaint against Officers Kelly Williams, Jennifer Shaffer, Kevin Theriault, Michael Brouillette and the city of New Smyrna Beach, Polly and Thomas Granger said they suffered physical and emotional harm because of an allegedly false arrest.
On Nov. 21, 2010, New Smyrna police responded to a local restaurant where a "minor dispute" had occurred.
The Grangers, who were sitting in the restaurant, told officers that they were not involved but a dispute had occurred. Allegedly convinced that another patron was involved in the conflict, Officer Theriault threatened to arrest everyone for disorderly intoxication, according to the complaint.
After no one complained of being victimized or hurt, the officers allegedly told the group to go home.
But instead of going home, Polly Granger says she made rude comments to Willimas, such as, "Are you having a baby?" and "I thought her belly looked like she might be pregnant. Sorry."
After heated words, the officers arrested the Grangers for disorderly intoxication, according to the complaint.
A restaurant manager has characterized the incident differently, saying the Grangers were belligerent and started a fight.
Polly Granger says police dropped the bogus charges, but that she lost her job as a nurse because of the arrest.
She and her husband claim New Smyrna never disciplined the officers, who were negligently hired and trained.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell dismissed the city as a defendant Monday, finding that the Grangers' claims rely solely on the officers' conduct and the city's failure to punish them.
Their claim for failure to train is not sufficient because they cannot show deliberate indifference on the part of the city, the decision states.
Without a pattern of constitutional violations, the Grangers cannot allege that the city deliberately avoided training officers in this area, Presnell said.

Independent Agency Gets New Powers to Prosecute New York Police Officers

Lawyers for the independent agency that investigates allegations of police abuse in New York have been given wide new powers to prosecute officers in misconduct cases under an agreement city officials reached on Tuesday.

The changes follow a period in which the Police Department has withstood an onslaught of corruption cases and increased scrutiny on several fronts, including its surveillance and stop-and-frisk practices, the integrity of its crime data and its use of force in policing Occupy Wall Street protests.

Details of the agreement were contained in a memorandum signed on Tuesday by the department and the independent oversight agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The changes are intended to shine light on a police disciplinary process that critics have long said is murky and secretive.

The agreement means that board lawyers, instead of police agency employees, will act as prosecutors in cases in which board members have substantiated wrongdoing by officers and have recommended that the most serious kinds of internal, or administrative, discipline be handed out.

From 2007 through 2011, the board substantiated an average of 200 cases annually that it referred to the police so officers could be put on trial by departmental lawyers before an administrative judge who also was a Police Department employee.

“I think this is a question of, for me, the C.C.R.B. felt like a toothless tiger, the place where people went to make complaints about the few bad apples out there, but they did not know what happened since the prosecution was not done by the C.C.R.B.,” said Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the City Council.

The speaker announced the agreement with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and the board.

Ms. Quinn said the agreement, which mirrors one sought by the Giuliani administration in 2001, “not only gives teeth, but gives transparency to a part of the process that New Yorkers feel is opaque.”

Under the agreement, Police Department employees will still serve as judges in misconduct cases, and Mr. Kelly will retain his powers as ultimate arbiter in such matters, with the ability to accept or reject a trial judge’s recommendation.

What is different, several officials said, is that Mr. Kelly must make his rationale known to the board, in writing, in cases in which he deviates from the judge’s recommendation. Then the board can appeal his ruling.

“And all of this can be reported publicly,” Ms. Quinn said.

She said the staffing needs for the board, which was separated from the Police Department in 1993, would be addressed in the city’s budget process.

Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, an advocacy group, who has been pushing for four years for board lawyers to be prosecutors, called the development a milestone, forcing greater accountability in the way the Police Department polices itself.

In a vast majority of cases, he said, the department had not followed the board’s recommendations that officers guilty of misconduct be given the most serious penalty. From 2002 to 2010, he said, the board recommended that 2,078 officers receive the most severe penalty. That suggested discipline was given to only 151 officers.

“Public confidence in the police to keep New York safe and secure is high,” Mr. Dadey said. “But that confidence doesn’t extend to the way the department handles those officers who are charged with violating the public trust when they use excessive force, abuse their authority, or are discourteous and use offensive language.

Before the agreement, a police commissioner could opt not to send any substantiated cases to trial. But the cases of wrongdoing substantiated by the board that make it to trial are only a small part of the function of the department’s trial room. Internal Affairs Bureau cases and other matters brought directly by the police make up much of the work, and in those cases departmental advocates will still work as prosecutors.

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, took issue with both sides of the disciplinary process — the board’s role and the department’s internal disciplinary process.

“Our problem with the C.C.R.B. has always been first, their predisposition that police officers are always wrong, second, their inexperienced investigators who conduct faulty investigations that arrive at improper conclusions, and now those wrong conclusions will be prosecuted at these kangaroo trials,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement.

The union fought over whether the agency should get new powers when Mr. Kelly’s predecessor, Bernard B. Kerik, sought to reinforce the public’s confidence during a turbulent time more than a decade ago. Though the city prevailed in court, the “Bloomberg administration never re-took up the possibility,” Ms. Quinn said, until now.

The announcement came on the eve of a speech on policing issues that the public advocate, Bill de Blasio, who, like Ms. Quinn, is planning to run for mayor, was set to deliver on Wednesday at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In recent years, in fact, he and Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick drafted legislation on the issue.

Assemblyman Hakeem S. Jeffries, a Democrat who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, said the agreement should be seen against a host of other police practices, like the “out of control” numbers of streets stops, mostly of minorities, that officers carry out each year.

Ms. Quinn said she would push for a change in state law to address the issue of police trial-room judges being police employees.

Daniel D. Chu, the board president, said: “This agreement is a milestone in the history of civilian police oversight in New York City. Public confidence in the disciplinary process will be strengthened by having the C.C.R.B., an independent agency, prosecuting these cases.”

ACLU to Va State Police: Halt social media reviews

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 5:56pm ET


Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday urged the Virginia State Police to stop demanding a look at job applicants' Facebook and Twitter accounts, calling the practice an invasion of privacy akin to eavesdropping on a phone call or opening someone's mail.

Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, told the agency in a letter that it may be violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution by requiring applicants to sign onto their social media sites so interviewers can read their private communications.

"Absent a concrete reason to believe that a potential employee is engaged in wrongdoing of which his Facebook account is likely to contain evidence, these communications are simply none of the VSP's business," Glenberg wrote.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the agency has received the letter and will respond, but meanwhile will keep its existing policy.

"As we have stated before, we feel our investigative background process is necessary and appropriate for the job our applicants are expected to do and the authority granted to such individuals upon being hired on to the Virginia State Police," Geller said in a written statement.

She said the burgeoning popularity of social media has made a review of those sites an important component of a thorough background investigation.

"There is no way the public or public interest groups would tolerate the hiring of an individual with, for example, prejudiced or racist commentary posted on a personal social media site," she said.

The Virginia State Police began asking for access to applicants' social networking sites Jan. 1, joining a national trend. Some employers ask for passwords and log-in information.

Two U.S. senators said this week they are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law.

Geller said the state police don't ask for the information during job interviews. Instead, a job-seeker goes through several steps _ including a written test, a polygraph and an interview _ before being asked to sign a waiver allowing access to social media accounts. The investigator then asks the applicant to log onto the sites so they can be examined.

So far, Geller said, nobody has refused access to the sites.

The background investigation also includes interviews with former or current employers and neighbors, a criminal history check, credit history and personal references.

Dana Schrad, executive director the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said it's "not unusual" for local police departments to also look at applicants' Facebook and Twitter accounts, although exact figures on the number of departments conducting such inquiries are not available.

"It's kind of a recommended practice these days," she said.

Schrad said the practice is a logical, modern extension of the old routine of canvassing an applicant's neighborhood.

"We've changed so much as a society _ we don't interact with neighbors and live in the same place a long time," she said. "The place we live is Facebook. It becomes a place to learn about a person's personal ethics, value systems. Those are important things for law enforcement."

Schrad said she is sympathetic to privacy rights, but the public demands a high level of scrutiny for police officers.

Glenberg said the state police policy may violate the Stored Communications Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to intentionally access stored electronic communications without valid authorization. She said it also may violate the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Broward driver busted by cops, exonerated by cell phone

BY ADAM H. BEASLEY The Miami Herald

Two Coral Springs police officers are under investigation after an audio recording of an October arrest they made sharply contradicts their sworn statements.

Most every crime novel has a variation of this back-and-forth: Cop collars a suspected criminal. Suspect says the bust is unjust — but faces the uphill challenge of convincing a judge or jury.

But in the recent real-life case of a stranded motorist-turned-alleged felon, there was one juicy twist: The whole altercation was caught on tape under the most outlandish of circumstances.

As a result: Charges were dropped against the driver and prosecutors are investigating whether Coral Springs police officers Nicole Stasnek and Derek Fernandes filed false documents relating to the extraordinary encounter.

None of this would have happened if the driver — Susan Mait, a 60-year-old widow from Coral Springs — hadn’t dropped her phone to the floor of her SUV while the cops yanked her from the vehicle. Unbeknownst to any of them, the phone was still connected to a GEICO customer service rep, who, following company policy, recorded everything that happened.

The audio tape, made public this week, depicts a starkly different exchange than what Stasnek and Fernandes described in their reports and during questioning under oath.

The recording catches Stasnek cursing out Mait (although the officer later denied it), giving no advance warning that Mait was about to be cuffed for resisting arrest (although the officer testified that she had done so three times), and later hashing out a plan with her fellow officer to make sure their stories jibed (they did).

The explosive recording prompted prosecutors to drop all outstanding charges against Mait — and focus their attention on the officers.

“When I finally got this tape, I was totally, completely disgusted with what the police did to this woman,” said Michael Catalano, Mait’s defense attorney. “And everyone who has listened to it since has agreed with me.”

Now, Catalano wants those cops off the street, and last week sent a letter to the Coral Spring Police Department, claiming both he and his client fear they will retaliate.

As of Tuesday afternoon, neither had been suspended, although Lt. Joe McHugh, a police spokesman, acknowledged that they were the subjects of an active investigation.

“As the facts are developed, we will take any and all appropriate administrative actions,” McHugh said.

The complicated, conflicting ordeal began late-afternoon on Oct. 4, when Fernandes, a four-year CSPD veteran with no previous internal affairs complaints on his record, noticed Mait’s Lexis SUV stopped in the left lane of Royal Palm Boulevard.

Fernandes, 35, pulled up behind her vehicle to see what was wrong. Mait approached his car and told him that two of her tires had blown out, and she needed a tow. What happened next is not entirely clear — and depends on who you believe.

According to police reports and the officers’ sworn depositions, Mait told Fernandes and later Stasnek, who arrived as backup, that she was on Xanax, and that she couldn’t move the car out of traffic — but that she did want to drive it the two miles to her home.

Before Stasnek pulled up, Fernandes told Mait to call for a tow, which she did from her passenger seat. But as she waited for a GEICO roadside assistance representative to dispatch a wrecker, things unraveled.

When Stasnek, a four-year member of the force with a clean prior record, approached Mait’s SUV, she repeatedly asked for a driver’s license, the tape shows. Mait refused. In her deposition, Stasnek said she warned the driver repeatedly she “would be disobeying my lawful command and would be arrested for resisting my lawful command.”

At some point, Mait put a hand in the officer’s face to dismiss the request, according to police accounts, which was apparently one insult too many.

The officers hauled her out of her car and tried to arrest her, which they claim she resisted by tensing her body and slamming into Stasnek.

Mait spent a night in jail, charged with felony obstruction and — because officers believed she was impaired by drugs — DUI. The latter charge was dropped when a toxicology test came back positive for only Wellbutrin, a widely used antidepressant, and prosecutors ultimately decided to reduce the resisting charge to a misdemeanor.

And then the tape emerged.

The 17-minute recording features a series of exchanges that Catalano says contradict the officers’ sworn testimony, including this back-and-forth between Mait and Stasnek after the female officer asked for ID:

Mait: “Did you not see me on the phone?”

Stasnek: “Did you not see this uniform I have on? Don’t give me any s--- right now. Give me your f---ing driver’s license.”

During her deposition, Stasnek was asked by Catalano — who did not tell the officers the encounter had been recorded — if she had used those words. She twice said no.

Catalano also pressed both officers under oath on whether Stasnek had given Mait notice that the driver was disobeying a lawful command. Both officers testified she had — at least twice. The recording catches no such exchange, although it is possible she did during a short stretch when GEICO had Mait on hold.

Late in the recording, while Mait can be heard sobbing in the distance, the officers say the following:

Fernandes: “I didn’t hear anything you said. I was in the back of the car.”

Stasnek: “I did drop the F-bomb.”

Fernandes, laughing: “I didn’t hear that. In my [internal affairs] statement, I’ll say I didn’t hear that. ... Don’t worry, I will put everything I heard beforehand.”

Why doesn't the Justice Department clena up the American Police problem?

Milwaukee WI female cop added to list of 7 officers accused of illegally performing body cavity searches in public [1] http://bit.ly/GSdgfH

New Orleans LA cop suspended after posting on news site that Trayvon Martin was a thug that deserved to die [0] http://huff.to/Hbj6Hh

Los Angeles CA cop found to have racially profiled Latinos during stops, lied on citations to hide it [0] http://lat.ms/GScWgS

New York NY police retaliate against yet another cop for blowing whistle on how the department was fudging crime rate statistics. [5] http://bit.ly/GTFmLG

Jacksonville Beach FL cop investigated after 911 tapes contradict his arrest report involving female journalist [0] http://bit.ly/H9GcCN

Fairview Heights cop arrested for DUI Sergeant crashes car in Belleville

A Fairview Heights police sergeant was arrested for DUI on Saturday in Belleville.

James Krummrich, 47, was booked after he was involved in a traffic accident about 5:45 p.m. in the 900 block of North Illinois, according to Belleville police. He allegedly appeared intoxicated, so he was taken into headquarters where he was released after posting bail.

Krummrich declined to comment for this story.

Krummrich, a 15-year police veteran, has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Fairview Heights Police Chief Nick Gailius said. If the investigation turns up any evidence he did something unbecoming of an officer, his case will be turned over to the city's Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, the chief said.

"It's important to note that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court," Gailius said.

Gailius would not comment on whether Krummrich had ever been previously disciplined by the department. Krummrich was off-duty and not in his police vehicle when the crash occurred, Gailius said.

"We are very thankful that no one was injured in the accident," Gailius said.

No additional information about Krummrich's arrest or the crash was released Monday by Belleville police.

Krummrich has been a sergeant since 2008 and is currently paid $86,136 to be a patrol supervisor. He is also an instructor at the Southwestern Illinois Police Academy.

Academy Deputy Director William Sax said he was unaware of Krummrich's arrest and whether the academy would take any action against him.

Atlanta settles four police misconduct lawsuits for $940,000

The Atlanta City Council agreed Monday to spend $940,000 to settle four lawsuits filed against the Atlanta Police Department after officers allegedly used excessive or unnecessary force or conducted public strip searches.

The taxpayers’ total tab is about $2.6 million plus legal fees to resolve several police misconduct lawsuits in little more than a year.

There was no discussion before the council unanimously approved the four settlements; council members had just met privately with the city attorney, who briefed them.

But council member Felicia Moore said after the settlement vote that she was "concerned by the nature" of the allegations and would be "demanding" police officials appear before members to give a "full vetting of these [policy] changes so our citizens can be certain this doesn't happen again."

The APD has declined to discuss specific cases.

The settlements approved Monday provide for:

Paying $330,000 to resolve another lawsuit based on the 2009 raid at the Atlanta Eagle bar, where patrons and employees were forced to lie on the floor for an hour while they were searched. The settlement says officers can be fired for destroying evidence needed in a civil case, a concern raised after some officers deleted from their cellphones pictures and text messages from the raid. Taxpayers had already spent $1.2 million on two other Eagle raid lawsuits.

Paying $470,000 to settle a lawsuit by five men who said officers pulled down their pants and touched them inappropriately while looking for drugs that were not found. New APD policies are to say strip searches can be conducted only at the jail and that includes officers putting their hands inside a suspect's clothing.

Paying Felicia Anderson $50,000 because officers took her cellphone and erased images of cops allegedly beating a handcuffed suspect. A new policy says officers can be fired if they destroy photos, videos or other recordings citizens make of police activity.

Paying Shequita Walker $90,000. She was injured when an officer pulled her from a lawn chair and arrested her because she was sitting in a vacant lot, watching neighborhood goings-on

Denver police chief aiming to upgrade internal-affairs probes

Denver Manager of Safety Alex Martinez speaks Tuesday at a news conference where it was announced that the Denver Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau would have its chief and staff replaced. Retired Judge John Jess Vigil, left, was introduced as the deputy manager of police discipline for the Department of Safety, and Division Chief Mary Beth Klee, right, will head internal affairs. Police Chief Robert White, second from right, said he wants to improve perceptions of how police monitor and discipline their own. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Denver Police Chief Robert White will replace the head of the Internal Affairs Bureau and the division's staff in an attempt to heal police relations with the public and improve investigations into police misconduct.

He announced the changes Tuesday, part of an ongoing shake-up of a department rattled by allegations of police brutality and questions about the adequacy of internal investigations of officers.

During the same news conference, Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, who oversees Denver's Sheriff, Fire and Police departments, named retired Judge John Jess Vigil, 59, to a new position: deputy manager of police discipline.

In his new job, Vigil, who served on the Adams County Court and District Court for the 17th Judicial District, will oversee investigations of police and command-staff reviews of the cases before they go to Martinez, who makes the final determination on discipline.

Before he left his position as Denver's independent monitor in December, Richard Rosenthal issued a report questioning the ability of police to investigate cases of officer misconduct. Rosenthal, who monitored internal investigations, frequently recommended discipline in excessive-force cases that was tougher than officers had been subject to before he arrived in 2005.

White said questions raised by Rosenthal played a part in his decision to shake up internal affairs.

While he praised the work done by current internal-affairs Cmdr. John Burbach and his staff and said Burbach was instrumental in implementing new discipline regulations, White said there is a perception among some people that internal affairs sides with cops.

The public won't cooperate with police if residents don't believe internal affairs is capable of unbiased investigations, White said.

He appointed Division Chief Mary Beth Klee, 53, a 29-year veteran of the department, to head the Internal Affairs Bureau. Officers now handling internal-affairs investigations will be replaced by 12 sergeants whom she will pick.

"I have already developed a list of sergeant investigators, men and women I know that have integrity, honorable people that care about the Police Department and the perception that people have of it," she said.

Martinez said he expects the appointment of Vigil to decrease the amount of time it takes to reach a decision on discipline meted out to officers.

Rosenthal set a goal of resolving 95 percent of all complaints lodged against police within 150 days of the date they were received. Last year, the time to resolve complaints tumbled to 69 days from 106 days in 2010.

Martinez, a former state Supreme Court justice, and White, who previously headed the Louisville, Ky., Police Department, were appointed after Mayor Michael Hancock was sworn in last July.

Martinez said he was happy with the improvement in complaint resolution, adding that even as the time needed to complete investigations has dropped, the number of terminations and suspensions of more than 10 days has risen.

"But Chief White and I didn't come aboard to be satisfied with the past," Martinez said. "We are here and determined to make significant improvements in the Department of Safety and Police Department, particularly in this important area of police discipline."

As part of his reorganization, White plans to eliminate a layer of senior administration and reassign some or all of the commanders in the city's six districts, replacing some of them by promoting lower-ranking officers.

He has said he will boost the number of officers available to patrol the streets by as many as 70 men and women, but that will happen over time and depend on the department's budget.

White said he will move those new patrol officers into the divisions by reassigning some members of specialized units, such as the gang bureau, and hiring civilians to handle some jobs now held by cops.

The changes will increase accountability, make the department more responsive to residents and improve its ability to fight crime, he has said.

Complaints allege mistreatment by New London police

"I was taken from a vehicle and choked by police and given a ticket for no seat belt."

This one-line complaint about treatment by New London police, filed in the spring of 2009 by someone who gave the homeless shelter as their permanent address, is typical of many filed against city police.

Common threads in the allegations are a lack of respect for citizens; a police stop for an innocuous offense, like jaywalking or not wearing a seat belt; and sometimes arrests on charges like interfering with police.

The complaints detail instances of alleged racial profiling, a motor vehicle stop in which someone claims to be targeted because of race, as well as police brutality.

I obtained a few dozen complaints, dated from 2009 to 2010, from the NAACP, which is taking aim lately at city policies, allegations of police misconduct, the alleged planting of drugs on a black resident, and Mayor Finizio's firing of the first black firefighter hired in more than 30 years.

The specific complaints that the NAACP passed along originally were copied and provided by Police Chief Margaret Ackley, and many of the incidents occurred before she became head of the department in 2009.

They have been reviewed by the NAACP and are sort of background noise as the group plans for its second town meeting this year in New London, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Second Congregational Church on Broad Street, as they again encourage residents to come forward and make known their complaints about city police.

In discussing the record of complaints and the files they have obtained, NAACP officials told me recently that New London has a reputation among departments in southeastern Connecticut for being more prone to engage in racial profiling.

There are certainly no shortage of incidents in the complaints on file with the NAACP of police stops in which the person's race seemed to be a principal factor.

In one of these, for instance, a city resident said he was stopped for riding his bike without lights and was searched.

Another man said he was stopped because of the plastic rim around his license plate, which gives the name of the dealership. The car was searched, while the driver was made to stand, spread eagle, against the side of it, but police found nothing. A drug dog also was called in.

"The only explanation I could see for why I was pulled over was racial profiling," the driver wrote in his complaint, noting the excuse of the dealer's frame around the license. "Despite the fact that I am a law abiding citizen with no criminal record, nor civil one, I was treated like a criminal. Repeatedly asking me whether I had a criminal record … made the officers' assumptions transparent."

Someone else who was stopped said police called him a "spook" and said "you fit the description."

One city resident, the son of a minister of a prominent church, said he was confronted for not using a crosswalk while crossing Truman Street to do his laundry. The officer spun him around, threw two consecutive punches and then arrested him, he said.

"I was compliant, dropped my keys and laundry money and lied face down with my hands behind my back," the resident wrote in his complaint. "After I was brought downtown, I heard the officers saying out loud, 'What should we book him for?'"

They deliberated for a while, then charged him with interfering with police and resisting arrest.

One of the worst incidents I saw was a description by someone who says he was stopped randomly while walking down a city street. One officer, who is repeatedly cited in the complaints for using brute force, started punching the individual and pushed him to the ground, kicked him and accused him of trying to swallow drugs, the man said.

"I hope you choke and die," the officer is reported saying.

Again, police apparently found no drugs.

Claims of physical brutality run disturbingly through the complaints, including an assault on a pregnant woman who allegedly spent two nights in the hospital as the result of her injuries. There is a lot of alleged punching, choking, kneeing, arm twisting and other aggressive behavior by police.

One especially horrific incident occurred at New London Shopping Center, where a complainant said he was stopped at gunpoint. Police, he says, took him into a nearby Radio Shack, ordered him into a back room, told him to strip and conducted a body cavity search.

Again, he said, they found nothing and released him out the back door of the Radio Shack.

That incident is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, pending in Superior Court, against the city.

An internal police investigation, incredibly, found no misconduct.

The way police investigated the matter also bothered the New London Police Community Relations Committee, a citizens' panel.

By a 6-1 vote, the committee concluded the investigation of alleged misconduct by police was neither fair nor adequate.

But then Chief Ackley overruled their objections, saying there was no violation of specific policies.

No wonder the NAACP is worried, if police can drag a suspect into a back room of a Radio Shack for a body cavity search, as alleged, and get away with it.

Cop to get damages for wrongful arrest

Bloemfontein - The police must pay a Western Cape man R50 000 in damages for being unlawfully arrested and detained, the Supreme Court of Appeal found on Thursday.

The court dismissed an appeal by the minister of safety and security against an order of the Western Cape High Court declaring the arrest and detention of Johannes Swart, who was a police officer, unlawful.

The SCA found no reason to interfere with the high court's allocation of R50 000 plus interest in damages.

Swart was arrested by a constable without a warrant on a suspicion of drunken driving in May 2007. He was detained at De Doorns police station.

The criminal charges against him were withdrawn the next day after tests revealed that his blood alcohol level at the time of driving was below the permissible legal limit.

The key issue in the appeal was whether the mere smell of alcohol was sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion, on the part of the arresting official, that Swart was drunk.

Swart's car landed in a ditch on a dangerous curve early in the morning. When he stopped two police officers to help him get it out, he was arrested.

The SCA held that the arresting official's suspicion was not based on reasonable grounds and therefore the arrest and detention were unlawful.

The court found that Swart had behaved like a person in full control of himself at the time of his arrest.

7 MPD officers, one supervisor reassigned during probe

Seven Milwaukee police officers and a supervisor with a long history of misconduct complaints have been stripped of their police powers after several people complained about invasive body searches on the streets of District 5, according to sources familiar with the internal investigation.

The searches are being investigated as potential sexual assaults and civil rights violations, the sources said.

The supervisor at the center of the investigation is Sgt. Jason Mucha, who has been investigated in the past after suspects accused him of beating them and planting drugs on them, according to police and court records.

Mucha has not been disciplined or criminally charged in connection with any of the past complaints. Despite being the focus of a 2006 court case that opened the door for juries to hear about officers' past wrongdoing and giving inconsistent testimony that caused a 2010 federal gun case to fall apart, Mucha has continued to supervise a District 5 anti-gang unit.

Mucha could not be reached Wednesday.

Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz confirmed in an email that seven officers and a supervisor had been reassigned temporarily. She said the investigation was "related to possible policy violations" and that the department initiated the probe, but refused to elaborate.

"As is our standard practice, we will have no further comment while the matter is pending," she said in an email.

Schwartz would not name Mucha or any of the officers. The Journal Sentinel confirmed that Mucha is a target of the police investigation through numerous police sources who did not want their names used because they are not authorized to talk with the media. The names of the seven officers could not be confirmed Wednesday. Although only seven officers had been placed on administrative duty and transferred to separate districts as of Wednesday, more officers could become targets before the investigation is complete.

Sources noted it is unusual for the department to suspend police powers and transfer so many people before the internal investigation is complete.

The case is being investigated by the department's Professional Performance Division and is expected to be referred to the district attorney's office for possible charges, the sources said.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm confirmed police had contacted him about the matter.

"I am in communication with the Milwaukee Police Department while they conduct their investigation," he said.

He would not comment further.

Civil rights cases are often investigated by federal authorities. However, that has not happened in this case, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Johnson, who specializes in civil rights prosecutions in Milwaukee.

"This doesn't have anything to do with us, at least not so far," Johnson said.

But Johnson said he was interested to see how this investigation unfolds. He said there have been several instances in the past where the U.S. Attorney's Office has had questions about searches performed by Milwaukee police officers. None of those cases, however, rose to the level of being actionable, he said. He did not provide details.

Johnson prosecuted former Milwaukee police officer Ladmarald Cates, convicted by a federal jury in January of violating a woman's civil rights by raping her after he responded to her 911 call in July 2010.

Johnson also prosecuted seven Milwaukee police officers convicted in federal court for beating Frank Jude Jr. Jude recently settled his civil rights case for $2 million. However, the tab is likely to top $2.5 million when legal fees and other expenses are included.

Johnson and the FBI also reviewed some of the previous allegations against Mucha in 2007 - after the Journal Sentinel reported that at least 10 defendants in unrelated cases had accused Mucha of beating them, planting drugs or both, and that the police failed to investigate the pattern of incidents.

One of those complaints led to a state Court of Appeals ruling that questioned Mucha's credibility. The ruling also changed the way Wisconsin courts consider cases of alleged police misconduct.

Despite that ruling, Mucha was not placed on a district attorney's list of officers not fit to testify in court, and he continued to take the stand against defendants, the newspaper reported in 2010. That year, a federal gun case fell apart amid inconsistencies in Mucha's testimony.

Although he was not disciplined in connection with any of the earlier complaints, Mucha was among 93 officers disciplined for breaking the department rule against violating laws or ordinances, as reported in the Journal Sentinel's "Both Sides of the Law" series last fall.

Mucha violated that rule twice shortly after he was hired as a police aide in 1996. He was suspended for one day for underage drinking in 1999 and for three days for having an open container of vodka in a car as a passenger in 2000, according to internal affairs records. He was promoted to sergeant in 2005.

You Have Only the Right to Remain Silent

In Florida, Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was shot to death by a civilian white man who has admitted to the crime but has not been arrested. Allegations of serious police misconduct have arisen, including the "correction" of a witness who said the boy called for help and not his attacker, George Zimmerman, who claims he shot in self defense.

In several states, laws have been passed requiring that, even in cases of rape, women seeking abortions go through medically unnecessary procedures before being allowed the treatment they choose. One male politician suggested that if a woman does not want to see the image from the trans-vaginal ultrasound, she can "just close her eyes." So if, say, a rape victim doesn't want a child from the act of violence perpetrated against her, Tom Corbett, gracious Governor of Pennsylvania, suggests she close her eyes while she is again violated for no medically justifiable reason. Elsewhere, a law passed saying that doctors must inform women of a link between abortion and breast cancer even though no such link has ever been established. When Sandra Fluke spoke out about the expense of birth control for women, she was publicly pilloried by Rush Limbaugh, called names and her honor besmirched.

In those cases, as in the case of the Occupy Protesters who have been tear gassed and pepper sprayed, bludgeoned and shot with non-lethal but painful ammo, the message is the same. Whether it is a message sent to the black, women or anti-corruption demonstrators, the message is this: "Dissent at your own peril. We can shame you, humiliate you, violate you, kill you if we choose. Be quiet. Comply. Know your place. You have the right to remain silent and that is all."

There has been a push in the past several months for anyone who sees bullying taking place to speak up. Well I see it and I am saying something. Trayvon Martin did nothing wrong and citizens of all races should be able to walk the streets unafraid. People, regardless of gender, must be allowed their own reproductive, medical and recreational choices regardless of the religious beliefs of politicians. Freedoms of speech and peaceful demonstration are the people's right. As a white male and a tax-paying citizen, if I do not speak up, I am a conspirator.

I will not be cowed into playing the role of collaborator. If we want our kids to behave decently toward one another, to stand up on behalf of one another, we must set the example. The bullying must stop.

Denver group looks to feds to address police abuse

The Colorado Progressive Coalition (CPC), along with victims and the families of victims of high-profile recent alleged assaults, announced a petition effort Tuesday aimed at persuading the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation.

The move comes in the wake of the decision by the city’s Civil Service Commission Board to reinstate officers fired for allegedly lying about a 2009 confrontation at the Denver Diner. The incident, like other of the recent incidents motivating the activists, was captured on video and to many seemed a clear case of abuse of authority. To the men and women injured during the confrontation and to their champions, the board’s decision reinforced the impression that the police act on the city’s streets with impunity, buffered by what former Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal and the ACLU have called a “culture of silence.”

“[W]e have been working with the city to confront serious systemic failures in Denver law enforcement’s ability to dismantle a culture of police brutality and whispered discriminatory practices,” said Mu Son Chi, racial justice director at CPC, “[but] issuing this request for millions of Americans to join our petition for federal help create[s]… increased awareness of families in our community who are forced to fear those who have taken up the calling to protect us.”

CPC Co-Executive Director Miriam Peña, who was handcuffed by police during the diner confrontation and watched it unfold while seated against a wall, said allowing the officers back on the street sent the wrong message to the public.

“This is a warning to all residents of Denver. No one is safe when abusive officers return to the streets,” she said.

Anthony DeHerrera, a Pueblo sheriff’s deputy whose son Michael was beaten by Denver police in 2009, said the board’s decision spotlights holes in the system.

“Yet again, the officers are getting off on a technicality. It is another part of the appeals process that should be changed,” he said. “Seeing these officers reinstated is re-victimizing the victims of police brutality.”

The city commission found that, although the police reports on the diner confrontation were inaccurate, they weren’t designed to “deceive or hide the truth.”

The coalition hopes to draw petition support from all around the county and has released a video to help make their case.