on sale now at amazon

on sale now at amazon
paperback or ebook

Trial date reset for Chico officer charged for punching man at Oroville casino

Trial date reset for Chico officer charged for punching man at Oroville casino

OROVILLE — A trial date has been reset for a Chico police officer charged with allegedly punching a man while off duty outside an Oroville casino.

Judge William Lamb rescheduled the trial date for Todd Lopez to Oct. 1 after defense attorney Denny Forland requested the continuance. Lopez did not appear Wednesday in Butte County Superior Court.

Forland said he needed additional time for his investigator to interview witnesses of the incident at Feather Falls Casino on Nov. 23.

Lopez is charged with misdemeanor simple battery for an alleged punch thrown at a 35-year-old man at the man's car in the casino parking lot. The man had been ejected by casino staff after he had reportedly been drinking, obnoxious and apparently insulted a woman with Lopez.

Supervising deputy district attorney Kurt Worley opposed the request, saying surveillance video sufficiently corroborated current witness accounts.

Forland said the video wasn't sufficient because it lacked audio. What was said before the incident could play a role in a case of self-defense.

Lamb reset the date, acknowledging the defense request and taking into account the personal and trial schedules of both attorneys.

If convicted, Lopez could be sentenced to six months in jail and lose his right to carry a gun for 10 years.

Newark Police Officer Charged With Falsely Reporting Vehicle Stolen To Collect Insurance

Newark Police Officer Charged With Falsely Reporting Vehicle Stolen To Collect Insurance

TRENTON – A Newark police officer has been charged with falsely reporting to police that his vehicle was stolen and fraudulently collecting $10,791 from the company that insured the vehicle, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.

Suliaman Kamara, 30, of Newark, an officer with the Newark Police Department, was charged by complaint-summons with third-degree theft by deception and tampering with public records or information, also a third-degree offense. He surrendered to detectives from the State Police Official Corruption Bureau today for processing on the charges.

Kamara allegedly filed a report with the Newark Police Department on Feb. 23, 2009, stating that his 2003 GMC Yukon had been stolen, when, in fact, he knew that it had not been stolen. It is alleged that he filed a fraudulent claim related to the purported theft with his insurer, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, which paid him a total of $10,791, including $9,744 for the vehicle, $477 for property he reported stolen inside the vehicle, and $570 for a rental car. Nearly three years later, a representative of Liberty Mutual spotted the vehicle outside Kamara’s residence and alerted authorities. The State Police located the 2003 GMC Yukon, bearing a license plate from another vehicle, parked outside of Kamara’s residence on March 14, and executed a search warrant, confirming that it was the vehicle that Kamara had reported stolen.

Kamara was a Newark Police Officer at the time of the alleged criminal conduct. He was initially hired by the police force in July 2008, but was laid off in November 2010. He was subsequently rehired in March 2012. The Newark Police Department suspended Kamara after the complaint was filed against him yesterday.

Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000. The complaint is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because the charges are indictable offenses, they will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment. Kamara was released on his own recognizance after being processed on the charges.

Officer charged with manslaughter, released without having to post bail

Officer charged with manslaughter, released without having to post bail

A Baltimore County police officer is back home with his family after being charged with manslaughter in the death of a teenager from Randallstown.

Officer James Laboard faces a charge of manslaughter, and a charge of involuntary manslaughter, in connection with the death of 17-year-old Christopher Brown.

Brown's mother said she had been hoping for a second-degree murder charge, and a high bail. “And I didn't get it,” Chris Brown said. “I got a slap. Telling me to hush hush. Tuck yourself under.”

Laboard was released on personal recognizance -- no money or property in exchange for his freedom.

“But if it was an average person, there would not be any doubt that it would be a 100,000 dollar bail on an average citizen who you know has to put up their house,” Brown said.

In court, Laboard's attorney, Shaun Owens, argued that the officer has family in the area, poses no flight risk, and has no previous criminal record. “We’re very satisfied with the decision that was made as far as the bail,” he said.

Four county police officers told the judge about Laboard's character, as an officer and a father. “I guess what bothers me about that is that they talked to me earlier, and they never called me and told me to come in and tell the judge how you feel Ms. Brown,” Brown said.

In announcing his ruling, Circuit Court Judge Jan Marshall Alexander said: "It's not a matter of leniency. It's a matter of what's fair and appropriate.”

Christopher Brown's mother has a different view. “They didn't even have to put up a bail. Boy, you didn't make it a fight no kind of which way, so that lets me know that I have to,” she said.

If Officer Laboard is convicted of either manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The charges are both felonies so he has been suspended without pay.

Christopher brown's mother is calling for an external investigation -- and she is organizing a rally in front of the state's attorney's office in Towson this coming Monday at 6 o’clock in the evening.

A&E 'Rookies' cop goes wild

A&E 'Rookies' cop goes wild

A New Orleans-area mom said she was shackled, beaten and tasered by sheriff’s deputies while picking up her teen daughter from a party last year, and now she’s suing the deputies and the sheriff.

Madelyn Zuppardo, 42, of Metairie, claimed in the suit that both she and her daughter, Sabrina, now 17, were brutalized by a pair of thuggish cops at an apartment in Jefferson Parish last May.

According to the suit, Sabrina was partying with pals at 24-year-old Frank Palermo’s apartment on May 14, 2011, when police arrived to investigate complaints about noise and underage drinking.

Glenn McGovern, Zuppardo’s lawyer, said trouble started when Palermo said he wanted a lawyer.

Cops cuffed Palermo and chained him to a friend, Tiffany McBrier, now 21, according to police and McBrier.

Police said Palermo resisted, so Deputy Frank Caracci tasered him.

The jolt send shock waves up McBrier’s arm, she told local station WWL-TV.

"It was just like a stinging in my arm, as soon as they hit him with it, I felt it," she told the station.

Chilling video shot by a camera inside Carraci’s X-26 Taser showed Palermo lying motionless getting shocked, while McBrier and others in the room scream for mercy.

“Please stop!” a woman pleads.

“Stop resisting!” Carraci says.

Zuppardo, a cab driver, said her daughter called her in a panic and said people were being tasered.

While on the phone, Zuppardo said she heard cops calling her daughter a “little whore” and “sweet cheeks,” according to the Times-Picayune newspaper.

When she arrived, her daughter was in cuffs.

Cops said they found a marijuana pipe in Sabrina’s purse.

Zuppardo told Sabrina to stay quiet and told the deputies she was going to call Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand the next day, her lawyer said.

That’s when she said she was cuffed, kicked and then shocked with a Taser and a stun gun.

 “(Caracci) hit her in the buttocks with two darts and then hit her in the back with two darts,” McGovern told the Daily News.

Zuppardo was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, interfering with police and battery on Caracci.

She was convicted on the first two counts on Tuesday and sentenced to one year probation and community service.

Zuppardo is suing Caracci, Normand and Deputy Sean Williams, who she said also shocked her, claiming that she suffered burns on her breasts and legs.

Sabrina, who said police hit her and gave her a black eye, was also named as a plaintiff.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s department has not commented on the case.

Caracci, who appeared on the A&E police reality show “Rookies,” has since resigned from the department.

Over the past few years, he was plagued by complaints of thuggish behavior, the Times-Picayune reported.

In one of those incidents, he was accused of tasing a man to death during a traffic stop in 2004. The case was settled out of court in 2007.


Newburgh city cop suspended

 Newburgh city cop suspended

NEWBURGH – A detective who has been a Newburgh city police officer since 2000 has been suspended for 30 days. Police Chief Michael Ferrara confirmed that Det. John Staton has been suspended, but would comment no further saying it was a “departmental personnel matter.”

The chief said the matter was being handled by the city’s corporation counsel.

Staton was among a few police officers singled out two years ago in a lawsuit filed by a female police officer who alleged she was harassed by comments from him and other officers.

Details of the current situation facing the detective could not be learned on Wednesday.

Two Prince George’s officers indicted on kidnapping, assault charges

Two Prince George’s officers indicted on kidnapping, assault charges

Two Prince George’s County police officers are suspended and placed on leave after being charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment of three juveniles at a Charles County cookout.

Officers Michael Rowe, 26, of the 9500 block of Noble Drive in Upper Marlboro and Christopher Perry, 27, of the 8900 block of Tower Mill Lane in Waldorf, were indicted by the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office on charges of kidnapping, second-degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office, according to Kevin Davis, assistant police chief for Prince George’s County police.

The charges stem from an incident that happened between the two men and three juveniles who were all at a May 28 Memorial Day weekend cookout in Charles County, but no further information about what actions led to the charges was unavailable from police. The juveniles and their parents contacted the Charles County Sheriff’s Department and Prince George’s County Police was notified May 29, Davis said.

Both Perry and Rowe were off duty and in plainclothes on May 28 but were operating a marked Prince George’s County police cruiser, Davis said. Perry has been a county police officer for four years and Rowe for five years, Davis said.

Calls to the Charles County State’s Attorney’s office went unanswered Thursday evening since the office closes at 4:30 p.m. No attorney information was listed for either officer in online Charles County District Court records.

Both officers will enter a closed hearing on Monday to determine whether they will still receive pay via their suspension, Davis said.

Davis added there will be “administrative proceedings” within the police department after their cases go to trial

Discrimination charges put Mascotte Police Department in turmoil once again

Discrimination charges put Mascotte Police Department in turmoil once again

Things have gone wild in Lake County's second-chance police department.

Over the years, the Mascotte cop shop has become known in law-enforcement circles as a haven for unfortunate officers who were dismissed elsewhere and those who deemed it best to depart before they were shown the door.

Even its current chief, who proudly declares that he is the first Hispanic to hold the office, bailed out of another agency while being investigated for misconduct.

Sometimes redemption comes for those hired by Mascotte, and when it does, officers leave for a new agency and life. They never stay long, in any case. The pay is scanty, and patrolling for speeders on State Road 50 gets old fast.

And then there's the constant turmoil.

One of Mascotte's former officers is on death row for raping and killing an 11-year-old girl on a fine May night while he was on duty in 1988. A decade later, nearly the whole department quit at the same time. And then there was the occasion when City Hall exploded and burned to the ground, and state fire marshals focused on the Mascotte cops as the chief suspects.

Every officer except then-Chief Gary Birman took a lie-detector test, and no one ever was charged in the 1984 fire. Birman, however, later was convicted of two counts of arson in other cases and went to prison.

And now, the Mascotte pot is roiling again, just as the city is fighting off financial collapse.

This time, three white officers — a third of the department — have filed federal discrimination complaints alleging that they were fired by Chief Rolando Banasco to make room for Hispanics on the force. A fourth white officer also was dismissed.

The three stated in their complaints that Banasco, who was promoted in January from sergeant to chief, regularly made racially insensitive remarks and boasted that he would "flex his Hispanic muscle" to pave the way for Hispanic officers to be hired in Mascotte, where nearly 60 percent of residents are Hispanic — most of them Mexican.

The officers say they were hounded and taunted so badly over trumped-up charges that they lost their jobs. City Manager Jim Gleason said that's untrue and that he doesn't tolerate racial discrimination. He said that two Hispanic officers, one black officer and one white officer were hired to replace the four men.

Two of the dismissed officers lost their emotional stability along with their paychecks. Both were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by the department's upheaval and were finally dismissed May 15 when they were unable to return to work after family leave and other paid leave time ran out.

One of those, a well-respected 15-year veteran of the Leesburg Police Department, said he has since been offered a position by another agency but is afraid to trust himself with a gun. Gregg Woodworth provided a copy of a letter that his psychiatrist sent to Mascotte on April 26 saying that that it would be "very inadvisable" for the lieutenant to return to work "for his safety and the safety of others."

The third officer, Scott Thompson, said he and the fourth fired patrolman were harshly punished for petty "infractions" such as making a quick call on a personal cellphone while on duty. The families of those two officers have moved in together to help ends meet. Thompson said he ultimately was unjustly accused of lying to a supervisor and terminated.

"Within two weeks of taking over, the chief put me on a performance-improvement plan, yet there is nothing in my file showing any reasons to put me on a performance-improvement plan," said Thompson, 33, who is continuing to look for a job.

Thompson, who came to Mascotte after being dismissed from a South Florida agency, said he thought he was doing fine until then, and a recent performance evaluation backs his contention.

"My own sergeant never came to me and said I need to pick up my performance," Thompson said.

Banasco said the cases are in the hands of a lawyer, and he didn't want to get into details. City personnel files, however, tell a story of proper discipline, he said, and the claim of reverse discrimination is "absolutely false."

"That, ma'am," the chief said, "is not in my character."

Gleason said Banasco and Woodworth were the two finalists for the chief. Gleason said he chose Banasco because the sergeant, whose career has been mostly in corrections, brought fresh ideas about policing to his interview for the job, and Woodworth did not. Gleason said that's what the City Council wanted.

Woodworth, for his part, said he was asked only "stupid" questions during his interview, such as "Did you ever have to shoot anyone?" Nobody, he said, wanted to hear his ideas about the future of the department and how it should be run.

So who is right, and who is wrong? The answers likely will become more clear as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates the allegations.

But the aftermath of all this drama in what is supposed to be a friendly little town is shameful. Four families are struggling, their lives in emotional and financial disarray. Workers-compensation claims, discrimination complaints and allegations of improper and even illegal behavior by city officials will be several years in the sorting out.

"I'm living off my savings, waiting to hear from the EEOC and Social Security," said Woodworth, who is also an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. "I'm putting in for unemployment this afternoon."

"The only thing I know is wearing a uniform, and I've worn one for 34 years serving the community and the country, and this is how I get treated.

"I'm 54 years old — who is going to hire me?"

Stay tuned for Sunday's column, which will examine the cost of police departments to taxpayers and take a look at alternatives.



Four off-duty D.C. police officers indicted in nightclub beating

Four off-duty D.C. police officers indicted in nightclub beating

Four D.C. police officers were indicted Wednesday in connection with an assault outside a Northwest Washington nightclub last June in which a District Heights man was beaten so severely he lost an eye, according to officials and the man’s lawyer.

The officers, who were off-duty at the time of the June 10, 2011 fight, were involved in the incident outside the Lotus nightclub in the 1400 block of K Street, police officials said in a statement released late Wednesday night.

During the brawl, two club patrons were embroiled in a fight with several individuals, some thought to be bouncers at the club, police said. One of the patrons, Walter Blair II, 24, of District Heights, was taken to a hospital for treatment but lost his right eye as a result of the fight, his attorney, Ronald Karp, said last year.

A total of nine people were indicted after more than a year-long investigation by the D.C. police department’s internal affairs division, officials said.

Police did not release specific information about the charges. No police officials could be reached for comment at the department’s public information office late Wednesday.

Detectives recovered security-video footage of the fight and confirmed the identities of three officers, all of the 1st District. They were identified as Kenneth McRavin, Thaddeus Modlin and Nikeith Goins, police said.

The fourth officer who was indicted is Yolonda Lampkin, also of the 1st District, officials said.

It was unclear what role the officers allegedly played in the incident.

Baltimore Co. police officer indicted on manslaughter charges in death of teen after struggle

Baltimore Co. police officer indicted on manslaughter charges in death of teen after struggle

TOWSON, Md. — A Baltimore County police officer was indicted Wednesday on manslaughter charges in the death of a teen after a chase and a struggle sparked by youths throwing rocks at his Randallstown home while he was off-duty.

A grand jury indicted Officer James Laboard on manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of 17-year-old Christopher Brown. Both charges are felonies, with each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. County officers facing felony charges are suspended without pay. Laboard was arrested and released on personal recognizance after a court appearance Wednesday, police said.

Laboard was at home on June 13 when he heard a loud noise, went outside and found his front door damaged — and three or four people running, police said. Laboard chased the group for several blocks before pulling Brown from some bushes and struggling with him. Police said Laboard called for help when the teen lost consciousness. Brown was later pronounced dead at a hospital and his death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

Some, including Brown’s mother, were frustrated by the pace of the investigation and had raised concerns that Laboard was getting special treatment because he is a police officer. But State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in a statement announcing the indictment that the case was treated like any other.

“The fact that Mr. Laboard was an off-duty police officer had no bearing on the time that it took to evaluate the evidence and move this case forward to the Grand Jury,” the prosecutor said.

Brown’s family is unhappy that Laboard is not facing more-serious charges, according to attorney Russell Neverdon, who represents Brown’s family. Based on neighbors’ accounts of what happened that night, Laboard should have been charged with at least second-degree murder, he said.

“They’re very disappointed and what adds salt to the wound is that he walks,” Neverdon said referring to Laboard’s release without bail. Laboard poses a threat to public safety, he said.

In the same statement, Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said officers are asked to make “split-second, life-and-death” decisions, but they aren’t above the law.

“The evidence shows that at a moment during this altercation, Officer Laboard stepped beyond the scope of his employment,” Johnson said. “He, as well as the Brown family, deserved a thorough investigation of the facts, which we have conducted. Now, Officer Laboard deserves due process under the law, the same as any other citizen.”

Shaun Owens, an attorney for Laboard, a nine-year department veteran, extended sympathies to Brown’s family, but stressed that the officer “acted in full accordance with his rights and responsibilities under the law.” He said the circumstances surrounding the matter would come to light in a courtroom.

“It is important for the community to bear in mind that tragedy does not require blame,” Owens said.

NYPD Ticket Fixing Scandal Mushrooms to Other Police Agencies

It looks like we haven't heard the last of the ticket fixing scandal that roiled the ranks of the NYPD. The Albany Times-Union reports that more than a dozen state troopers and officers in at least six other police departments are also under investigation "on charges ranging from misconduct to tampering with records."

The mushrooming scandal began in October following a years-long probe by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, which irritated the union that represents police officers. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly went so far as to order internal affairs to monitor traffic court to make sure cops weren't tanking tickets.

Steven Reed, a spokesman for Johnson, said investigators found questionable conduct by other cops but "nothing of what we encountered rose to the level of alleged misconduct for which NYPD officers have been indicted here in the Bronx."

"We have had conversations with the Offices of at least five District Attorneys and two United States Attorneys about our findings," Reed added.

Meanwhile, a state police spokesman confirmed there was an investigation into ticket fixing in that agency. A treasurer and delegate in the state police union recently retired. The Times-Union quotes an anonymous state police official saying his departure was related to the probe.

Police Brutality Lawsuit: What Leone Says Happened After Initial Arrest

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Earlier you saw portions of a cruiser cam video that a lawsuit says shows Robert Leone of Vestal beaten by Pennsylvania State troopers.

But according to Leone's lawsuit the force used by police at the scene of his arrest was just the beginning.

That lawsuit filed in March says Robert Leone sustained more injuries at the hospital in addition to what he says troopers inflicted on him on Route 6 in Bradford County.

The lawsuit claims State Troopers did not allow EMS personnel to treat Leone on the scene.

"(EMS) Think you're going to make it? You going to make it? You think you're going to make it? (Leone) What? Yeah. (EMS) You're going to make it? OK. He's gotta go to the hospital."

The lawsuit says troopers wouldn't even allow Leone to be transported by an ambulance.

Instead, it was Trooper Scott Renfer who rode in the ambulance from the scene after he broke his hand while allegedly raining blow after blow on Leone's head.

Leone was taken to the hospital by police, hogtied in the back of the police vehicle.

"He has excruciating pains to this day... the inside of his head.. He said it's inside, it's not a headache. The inside of my head, it goes down the neck, down the right side of his ribs, to the front of the ribs. He said in the beginning they had to physically pick him up off the slab because he could not move himself," said Joan Leone.

After an initial trip to the hospital, the lawsuit claims Leone was brought back to the Towanda State Police Barracks where he was shot with tazers, pepper sprayed, and beaten again.

He was then taken to the hospital for a second time and treated for a rough cut on his right eyelid, and wound repairs to his face, ears, and nose.

It's believed by Leone's family that authorities want to keep their son imprisoned for the maximum four years in an attempt to let the statute of limitations against the troopers involved run out meaning the troopers involved couldn't be held responsible.

"The corruption in PA is so widespread that they're going to keep him in for four years. Because they have no intention of letting him out because he's going to be speaking about what's happened to him," Joan Leone said

Sue Chicago Police, Alleging Drunk Off-Duty Cop Attacked Them

The recent release of 911 call audio could help a Chicago couple make their case in a lawsuit alleging police misconduct.

Heather Rzany and her boyfriend Luis Cordero, Jr. say they were accosted by Chicago Police Officer Chris Gofron on June 26, 2010 while Gofron was off duty and intoxicated, WGN reports.

The couple says Gofron attacked them, grabbing Rzany by her neck and sticking a gun in her mouth, hitting Cordero with his weapon and leaving both bloodied, according to photos allegedly taken after the incident.

In 911 call audio released Tuesday by the pair's attorney Gregory Kulis, exactly two years after the call was made, Rzany can be heard explaining the situation, via NBC Chicago:

"An off-duty cop is very drunk...He just assaulted us and put a gun to my face."

Working with Kulis and attorney David Lipschultz, the couple worked for two years to identify the officer so they could file a suit against the city, knowing only that the man was assigned to the city's Englewood police district, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. In February Rzany was able to examine hundreds of officer photos and identify her alleged attacker, which the police department identified on June 14 as Officer Chris Godon, currently under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority.

The suit claims that responding officers talked to Gofron, then left the scene, CBS Chicago reports. Gofron was previously sued for excessive force by the families of two Englewood juveniles who ultimately settled with the city.

Razny and Cordero's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, according to the Sun-Times.

Two leave police review panel in protest

Two leave police review panel in protest

SARASOTA - The chairman and a founding member of the city's Police Complaint Committee have each resigned in protest from the citizens group, saying it lacks any real authority to fix disciplinary problems within the Sarasota Police Department.

Ronald L. Riffel, a retired social worker who chaired the committee, and Frank Brenner, a lawyer who spent 50 years as a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge in New York City's municipal court system, tendered their resignations Wednesday evening during the committee's June meeting.

Riffel said he wanted to stop perpetuating the illusion that there is actual civilian oversight of the police department.

"Citizens should not be misled that their interests are served by a committee of citizens overseeing the SPD when in fact the committee is a window dressing," Riffel said in his resignation letter, which was sent to the mayor and other city officials.

Brenner quit for similar reasons.

"The committee is ineffective — more than ineffective. It hasn't been embraced by the city or the police department," he told the Herald-Tribune. "It has no teeth. There's no way to fix it. Nobody wants it to accomplish anything."

Both men blamed the police union for having a "stranglehold" on the administration, which they said stifles good management practices.

The committee was initially touted by city officials as a way to restore public confidence in a department left reeling after an officer was caught on video kicking a handcuffed immigrant at the county jail.

On paper, the committee was intended to advise the police chief on policies and procedures pertaining to complaints made against his officers.

In practice, however, both Brenner and Riffel said all the four volunteers do is read closed internal affairs investigations that have already been settled. Every recommendation their committee has made has been ignored by the police department, they said.

Peter Graham, administrator of both the Police Complaint Committee and the similar Police Advisory Panel, said the committee will continue to meet. Graham brought a new member to the meeting, Hal McDuffie, a trained polygraphist now working in security at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Riffel said Graham, who receives a $65,000 annual salary and is the only paid employee of the two groups, has a "vested interest in trying to keep the committee going."

"It might be as simple as he needs a job," Riffel said. "In private, he has agreed with everything I've said and done."

Vice-Mayor Willie Shaw, who attended the meeting, said he understood the members' frustration.

"Your frustrations are the frustrations of the community, who have the same views," Shaw said. "This is not a committee, but a community problem."

A local police officer has been suspended for three days without pay

A local police officer has been suspended for three days without pay

SALISBURY — A local police officer has been suspended for three days without pay following an internal investigation that was completed yesterday.

Officer Patrick Szymkowski had been on paid administrative leave in the days following an incident that took place Saturday, June 9, according to Town Manager Neil Harrington.

Harrington wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the incident, citing advice from the town’s attorney.

“It’s pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, these occurrences happen from time to time and we make every attempt to deal with them swiftly and fairly,” Harrington said.

Szymkowski, who makes a base salary of around $53,000, has been reinstated to the police department but has yet to serve his three-day suspension. The timing of his suspension will be worked out between himself and acting police Chief Robert Roy. Szymkowski is one of 12 officers on the force.

The department’s newly hired chief Thomas Fowler is expected to begin his tenure July 16.

Buffalo Police Officer, Three Co-Defendants Indicted

Buffalo Police Officer, Three Co-Defendants Indicted for Operating a Large-Scale Marijuana Grow Operation

BUFFALO—United States Attorney William J Hochul, Jr announced today that Jorge Melendez, Jason Elardo, Robert Osika, and Gale Elardo were charged in a 10-count indictment with conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants; manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants; maintaining a premises for drug purposes; and possessing marijuana with the intent to sell it. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, a fine of $8,000,000, or both.

Defendants Jason Elardo and his wife, Gale Elardo, were also charged with possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking for firearms located in their residence in close proximity to marijuana packaged for sale. This charge carries an additional mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of life, a fine of $250,000, or both. If convicted, the sentence would run consecutive to any other imposed sentence.

Assistant United States Attorney Melissa M Marangola, who is handling the case, stated that on May 31, 2012, Melendez, Jason Elardo, and Osika were arrested after a long-term investigation into a large-scale marijuana grow operation at three locations.

Specifically, Elardo and Melendez are accused of maintaining a marijuana grow operation at the warehouse located at 2157 South Park Avenue in Buffalo. During the course of an investigation into the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, law enforcement officers installed hidden surveillance equipment on the second floor of the South Park Avenue warehouse where a grow operation was located. According to the court documents, Melendez and co-conspirator Elardo were observed tending to over 100 marijuana plants.

Prior to installing cameras inside the warehouse, officers monitored the outside of the building, also using surveillance cameras. According to the court documents, Melendez was observed arriving in a Buffalo Police patrol car, while on duty, and entering and exiting the location.

The defendant works in the Buffalo Police Department’s “D” District; however, the warehouse is located in the “A” District.

The outside surveillance cameras also observed defendant Elardo entering the warehouse on a daily basis to tend to the marijuana grow operation. In addition, officers obtained credit card information indicating that Elardo purchased equipment used to sustain an indoor, hydroponic marijuana grow operation. The equipment included a dehumidifier and filters.

At one point during the investigation, officers observed a police badge and credentials belonging to Melendez inside the warehouse. According to court documents, Melendez claimed to have previously lost the badge and identification.

On May 31, 2012, two additional locations were found to contain grow operations.

A warehouse located at 1372 Clinton Street in Buffalo and a residence located at 76 West Woodside, both owned by Jason and Gale Elardo, were found to contain a marijuana grow operation. The residence also was found to contain marijuana packaged for sale and two firearms.

All four defendants were arraigned this afternoon. They are due back in court on August 6, 2012 at 10 AM Gale Elardo is schedule to return to court on June 28, 2012 to appear with an attorney.

The indictment is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Investigators of the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Christopher Cummings; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Wilbert L Plummer, Acting Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Division; special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher M Piehota; and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commission Daniel Derenda.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Reported by: FBI

Man charges police brutality in Troy

TROY – Police are conducting an internal investigation after a city resident says he was unnecessarily beaten by police.

It started with a disagreement between an officer and the accuser on Facebook.

Brian Houle, 40, is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But Houle paints a very different picture. He's charging police brutality. He filed charges against Officer Kyle Jones on Tuesday morning.

Houle has two black eyes, cuts to the side of his face and he's wearing an arm brace. He says these are all injuries he suffered overnight after he claims to have been attacked by Jones.

He says that led to a heated phone conversation.

Then he says the officer came out to his street and was snooping around his car with a flashlight overnight.

Houle claims when he went out to see why, the officer followed him back to the porch of his house and assaulted him.

“He kept hitting me with a flashlight, kept hitting me with a flashlight and then a boot, kicked me, punched me. I saw another patrol officer come up and I thought 'Ok, this is my saving grace.' But it wasn't my saving grace. That patrol officer dragged me to the concrete, smashed my face into the concrete,” said Houle.

The report says Houle walked in front of the police car and resisted arrest. A struggle took place from there.

Police will not talk about any of this because of the internal investigation.

Citizen review board interviews finalists for Atlanta post; will vote on hire July 12

Citizen review board interviews finalists for Atlanta post; will vote on hire July 12

Three candidates for executive director of the Citizen Review Board — one of them answering questions via phone — talked of challenges they have faced as police watchdogs and what they would do to make oversight stronger should they be chosen to run the embattled Atlanta agency that was created in response to a 2006 fatal shooting of an innocent 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid.

All three spoke of striking a balance between the police and the citizenry, something the previous executive director found difficult and frustrating.

Communication and trust would be key, said Samuel Reid, now the assistant director of the Minneapolis Police Review Authority.

Build trust through community outreach with forums, brochures and talking with the "entire police department about what the Citizen Review Board does," said Victoria Urbi who was the top staff person with the Police Review Commission in Berkeley, Calif., until March 2011.

"Building the ACRB into a true community force by being ... fair and balanced" and making reasonable decisions, Richard Rasmussen, an administrator with the Salt Lake City Police Civilian Review Board, said via a telephone line.

The ACRB hopes to choose one of them July 12.

This was the second time this year that the board has met with finalists for the position that has been vacant since Cristina Beamud resigned last November in frustration with the Atlanta Police Department, the police union, city leaders and her own staff.

The person selected out of the three will be stepping into the middle of Atlanta politics, a difficult relationship with the Atlanta Police Department and the police union and a board of volunteers with conflicting personalities who have in the past fallen into bickering and name-calling.

In March, the board chose a former federal prosecutor and a one-time deputy monitor of the New Orleans Police Department, Holly Wiseman, as its executive director. A week later the board rescinded the selection because some members were upset with a decision to reopen the process for a day after it was closed.

Wiseman was among the four finalists chosen this time out of 247 applicants, but she withdrew from the competition last week.

All three candidates questioned Tuesday have experience in police oversight, believe in gathering statistics on crime and allegations of police misconduct and sharing that information with the public and the police. They all advocated for mediation as a way of resolving some issues between individuals and officers but said it was not necessarily best when policies were violated or in cases of alleged abuse.

The questions from the board concerned how they would work with police and what they would do to get the public involved.

Questions from members of the public were more pointed.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, noted that the police department and city leadership have not "bought into" the idea of police oversight. "Are you still wanting this job?"

All three said "yes."

"My whole life has been a struggle," said Urbi, an attorney.

"I do have the courage to deal with those issues... That's what I've been doing for the past six years." said Reid, also an attorney.

Rasmussen, a former FBI agent, said the conflict seen in Atlanta is common for oversight agencies but "if done correctly that second set of eyes" can not just benefit the public but also individual officers . "The outcome [of any case] should be based on the facts and what can be proven"

Pressure mounts for Oakland police commission

Pressure mounts for Oakland police commission

OAKLAND -- A politically connected community group is pitching a proposal that members say will improve oversight of Oakland's embattled police department and dissuade a judge from placing it under federal control.

The group, which includes both longtime critics and supporters of the department, has been lobbying council members for weeks to support a citizen-run police commission with powers to set department policy, audit police investigations and -- if the police union will agree to it -- discipline officers.

"If the city shows it's really quite serious about police misconduct, it might convince the judge to relent and not punish the police force," said Don Link, a commission advocate and longtime community policing leader.

Many major cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have independent police commissions, but so far an Oakland commission hasn't gotten much traction.

Council members have reacted coolly to the plan, the police union is opposed, and Oakland's top administrators say the city is already implementing reforms.

"There is just so much going on with our police department, it just doesn't seem like the type of change we should rush into," Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said.

This is a pivotal year for Oakland's understaffed police department. A recent city-commissioned report blasted its handling of the first major Occupy Oakland protest and questioned its ability to properly investigate officer misconduct

Later this year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson is scheduled to consider stripping city control of the department, which has failed for nine years to fully implement reforms spelled out in a court order that settled the Riders police misconduct case.

"We think the commission is a potential game-changer for how residents and the judge look at the Oakland Police Department," police commission supporter Pamela Drake said.

Drake and other supporters envision a seven-member commission with appointments made by both the mayor and the City Council. The commission would have authority over the Office of Inspector General, which audits internal police department investigations, and the Citizens Police Review Board, which investigates complaints against police.

The commission wouldn't have the authority to hire and fire police chiefs, but it could recommend that the mayor fire a chief. Perhaps, most importantly, it would be able to hold hearings and set department policy on major issues, such as gang injunctions and internal affairs investigations.

"That's what's missing in Oakland right now," said commission advocate and department critic Rashidah Grinage. "That's why there's never any progress on these things. There's never been a sustained focus investigating any of these things."

The commission would not initially have the power to discipline officers because of safeguards in the union contract, Grinage said.

Police union President Barry Donelan called the commission unnecessary because Oakland already has a civilian complaints board, an inspector general, a federal judge and an independent monitoring overseeing the police department.

"I think you have all the regulation you need," he said. "Why would Oakland use its scarce resources on another regulatory body rather than fighting crime?"

Police commissions vary greatly in terms of power and usefulness, said Frank Zimring a criminologist and professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He said a well-run commission could help provide Oakland with needed expertise, but feared that such a panel could add to an already-muddled oversight program.

"There are not a lot of straight lines in the governance of Oakland police at this point," he said. "It's unclear to me that a commission structure would be a way of straightening things out instead of tying another knot in what is already a pretty convoluted process."

Mayor Jean Quan, who counts several of the commission advocates as political supporters, recently proposed several police reforms that stopped short of establishing a commission. Her budget proposes civilianizing the Office of Inspector General and making the civilian review board, rather than the department's Internal Affairs unit, responsible for intake of complaints.

She also is proposing an outside review of department practices and policies.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.