Police

Police Professionalism Roundup

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  • In 2007, Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell slammed into a car while responding to an accident call. Though other officers were already at the scene of the other accident, Mitchell drove in excess of 120 miles per hour, sending email and to talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone along the way. En route, his car crossed into the wrong lane and struck a car with four women inside, killing two sisters. Mitchell was put on administrative leave, and continued to collect his $68,000 salary for nearly two years while his department investigated. He was finally fired and given probation after pleading guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving. Here's the kicker: He's now suing the state for workman's compensation for the injuries he suffered in the crash.
  • Prince George's County, Maryland police kill another pet dog. According to TBD, the dog belonged to a family who called 911 after being robbed. An altercation then broke out between members of the family and the police, while an officer not involved in the altercation shot the dog.
  • A Hillsboro, Oregon man says a police officer threatened him for taking cell phone photos and demanded he delete them. David Emerson told KATU TV that he watched the officer cause an accident, then began taking photos to document the accident after noticing that the officer turned on his lights and siren after the collision. The police department denies the officer asked Emerson to delete the photos, though a spokesman did say police can confiscate phones if they're believe to contain evidence. Fourth Amendment experts I've spoken to say that mostly isn't true. They can confiscate your phone at the scene only if they suspect the phone itself was used in the commission of a crime.
  • Police in Okaloosa County, Florida wrongly arrest and imprison a man for three days after mistaking his heart medication for cocaine. One of those notorious field tests, which have mistaken everything from shampoo to tea to soy milk to chocolate to billiards chalk for illicit drugs, somehow came back positive on George Funti's nitroglycerin. But that isn't even where it gets weird. The medication was sent to a crime lab for further testing, which determined in March it was not cocaine. But Funti was still arrested and jailed a month later. He was then kept in a cell for three days. He was also denied the bottle of nitroglycerin he was carrying when he was arested, which he says the arresting deputies confiscated, believing it too was cocaine.
  • The Dallas Morning News looks into the continuing problem of "gypsy" cops, police officers who are fired from one department for misconduct, then merely go on to work for another. Given that Roma may take offense to the term "gypsy cops," I suggest a new phrase, in honor of the West Virginia police officer who took the practice to new heights: Let's call them "Leavitt Cops".

NEXT: The Battle for the Future

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  1. Too early! Too many!

    C’mon, Radley. One, maybe two of these, on Friday morning, is all we can take.

    1. Hey, if you’re reading this from the future, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

  2. “gypsy” cops, police officers who are fired from one department for misconduct, then merely go on to work for another.

    You could also call them “clergy” cops.

    1. I wish that didn’t make sense.

    2. The proper term is “Roma cops”.

    3. To add – my father-in-law fits that description. He went from church to church, and several of those times he was leaving one because of getting sexually involved with women he was counseling for marital problems.

      1. That doesn’t quite count, in the generic sense, since the people he was having sex with were:

        1. Female
        2. Not eight years old

        1. It is immoral for person in a position of authority abusing that authority to score with those he has authority over. This counts for DAs*, cops, bosses, college professors, military officers, the clergy, et al.

          * I’d provide links for all but H&R won’t allow it and it would just be tiresome anyway.

          1. …and it would be pointless and would do absolutely nothing to prove your assertion.

  3. fir . . . DAMN.

    BAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLKKOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  4. He’s now suing the state for workman’s compensation for the injuries he suffered in the crash.

    The traditional analysis is that worman’s comp is payable only for injuries suffered within the scope of employment. Violating the law is not within the scope of employment, so injuries suffered while breaking the law are not compensable.

    Of course, this is a cop, so violating the law probably is within the scope of his employment.

    1. I AM THE LAW!

    2. Cop and a union worker.

    3. He was, in fact, doing his job (responding to an accident) at the time. Of course, he was also violating the law (sending email and talking on the phone, assuming that that was illegal in Illinois at the time). He was allowed to violate the speed laws as part of his duty, although 120 MPH was probably against policy (so was talking on the phone and sending email).

      This type of situation is why we have courts.

      1. In fact, the state statutes that I have checked do not contain any exception to speed limits for police officers.

        He might have been responding to an accident, but it is reported that other officers were on the scene. So what justification would he have had to be traveling at 10 mph over the speed limit, let alone 120?

        He was violating the law by driving carelessly to the point of recklessness. Any one of us that did the same thing would have immediately lost his or her driver’s license and been criminally charged.

  5. The police department denies the officer asked Emerson to delete the photos, though a spokesman did say police can confiscate phones if they’re believe to contain evidence.

    Bzzt. Wrong. If the cops want to obtain evidence in your possession, then need a search warrant or subpoena. They can’t just grab it.

    1. Yes, but trying to keep a police officer from trying to grab something is likely to get you tasered, at the least.

      1. At the very least demanding a warrant or arguing the law is “escalating behavior”, which they believe justifies arrest, shooting, or pretty much any other damn thing they can think of.

    2. What you need to do, when the cops tell you to delete the pictures, is look like you’re doing just that, and when you’re done, say, “Whoops, I must have fucked up there and accidentally posted those pix onto Facebook. Now that they’re up, I’ll delete them from my cell phone, though.”

      1. Or, alternatively, record them demanding that you delete them, upload all of them while claiming that you’re trying to figure out how to delete it (helps if you have a friend to turn to and ask for “help”), and then delete it all from your phone without saying anything. Then upload the video again to YouTube, send a copy to all of your local news stations, and file charges against the officer for obstruction of justice. Also, give away any pets and install hidden recording equipment in your house and car, since you are a target after that.

  6. Ha!

    I saw this coming. I was wearing a cup before reading this.

    Unfortunately, Radley kicked me in the gut instead of the cojones. Oof.

    Thanks, Balko.

  7. Does anyone know whether Trooper Matt Mitchell fucks sheep?

    1. He does not. He prefers goats and taxpayers.

    2. Some say he does, some say he doesn’t. I’m just here to teach the controversy.

    3. There are some who say that Trooper Matt Mitchell fucks sheep. However, there are others who say Trooper Matt Mitchell blows dogs and swallows.

    4. The fact that it is a possibility is an irrefutable fact!

    5. Silly adolescents.

    6. Well you could insult him by claiming that he could fucks sheep, or you could just point out that his misconduct caused the death of two women. I mean the second one sort of speaks for itself.

  8. “He said no disciplinary action has been taken at this time.”

    I think 3 days in the clink would be appropriate, but they’ll probably give the person a medal…

  9. 5 Balko cock punches at once?!

    Screw you, Balko.

    1. With whose battered dick?

  10. “…an officer not involved in the altercation shot the dog.”

    It barked at me in a menacing manner. I felt my life was in danger. I pulled the trigger.

    1. After a thorough investigation it was determined the officer acted responsibly and in accordance with established department procedures.

  11. I can’t decide if I want to be a cop or a politician. As evidenced on this site, both jobs have their perks. Maybe I’ll be cop first and transition to politics? Either way, I’ll come out ahead.

    And to think, my mom wanted me to be a dentist.

    1. If you value your soul, run hard from all three choices.

  12. the dog belonged to a family who called 911 after being robbed

    It seems like a cliche, but…never call the cops unless you absolutely must. And I guess that if you want to file an insurance claim, you need to call them, but if all that got stolen was your TV or something, you won’t get it back or get insurance for it anyway, so don’t even bother calling. It’s safer.

    1. Sad but true. What is the clearance rate on burglary/theft anyway? 5%?

      Worse still is when they laugh at you when you ask about whether they think you have any chance of getting your stuff back. Yet you can always see two or three of them on the side of the highway, keeping motorists safe… Lost a lot of my faith in Houston P.D. when I worked nights, needing them to help clear out someone drunk/disorderly, and having a response time measured in hours. But hey, if you want to stop traffic moving at 55 on a 45 mph frontage road, they’re your men.

      1. And by ‘worse still’, I’m obviously not talking about worse than having your pet shot. I agree with RC, that I’m amazed more cops don’t get shot after something like that happens. My dog gets shot, I’m not going to be in my right mind for a long time.

      2. Why do four of them have to respond to a traffic stop?

        1. one to hold you down, three to beat the shit out of you.

    2. We had a robbery at the library a few years ago. A bunch of flat screen TVs were stolen. The police were called. They took a few notes and milled around. My wife pointed out that where the TV was plugged in, the connector had a nice flat surface and wonder if they could get fingerprints. The cop looked at her and said “You watch too much TV.” And then left.

      1. Well duh. On TV cops investigate property crimes all the time. In real life they only investigate murders, pot growers and internet porn.

        1. Oopsy daisy, that was lil ol’ me.

  13. They can confiscate your phone at the scene only if they suspect the phone itself was used in the commission of a crime.

    I guess this is anytime, since most cops think it’s a crime to catch them doing wrong.

    Snitches get stitches jail time!

    1. That’s only some cops. The rest seem to think it’s a crime not to be a police officer.

  14. SNL nailed this behavior 35 years ago.

    It’s only a script, not a video so don’t freak out.

    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75xpolicestate.phtml

    1. Another cocaine-related death.

  15. Oh christ, I just went and actually read the dog shooting article. It’s even worse than you’d think.

    Dude comes home, pulls into his driveway, two armed guy approach him and try to rob him. He managed to run into the house – here’s where he made the big mistake: he came back out with his own gun and started shooting at these guys. The attempted robbers took off; this guy’s family called the cops.

    Cops show up and start putting a beat-down on this guy and put the cuffs on him.

    Another female cop walks over and shoots the dog in the head, while the dog’s owner is pleading “please don’t point your gun at my dog; she’s not doing anything.” Family says the dog didn’t do a thing, even when the cops were beating this guy in the face.

    Then – this guy “was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including insulting an officer.

    Holdit, holdit, holdit, wait, wait – just wait a minute. Just wait a goddamn minute! It’s a fucking CRIME to “insult an officer”? WHAT? “Gee, officer, I think you’re a dick.” WHAM, out come the cuffs? Are you fucking kidding me? In America, it’s a CRIME to “insult” an officer? What the shit?

    And then, predictably: “Police say the officer acted appropriately when shooting the dog.”

    Of course she did.

    “Neighbor Barbara Wells said, ‘The dog did not attack anyone. He never approached anyone. Even as the officers grabbed Sterling the dog didn’t do anything.'”

    “Police spent hours Wednesday searching for the full police report. Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, police called ABC 7 News on the phone and confirmed that an officer did shoot and kill the dog out of self defense. There will be a police investigation but that officer will not be placed on administrative leave.”

    Self-defense. Riiiiight.

    “The alleged robbers have not been found.”

    Heckuva job, P.G. County cops!

    Fuck. Just plain FUCK.

    1. Stories like this convince me I need CCTV installed for 24-7 monitoring of the house. Would it be admissible as evidence in court?

      1. you’d be prosecuted under wiretapping laws, because apparently police interacting with the public in public have an expectation of privacy

      2. Stories like this convince me I need CCTV remotely controlled, laser-guided, tracking 30-cal mini-guns installed for 24-7 monitoring protecting the perimeter of the house.

        FIFY

    2. Jesus Christ.

    3. It’s not necessarily ‘against the law’ to insult an officer. But it will help get you a free police car ride.

      Then the magnanimous DA will ‘decline to press charges’ cause, you know, he’s doing you a big favor to not charge you with something that’s not a crime. Maybe he’ll even hold a press conference to say he’s dropping the charges, cause he’s such a great guy.

      However, the purpose is still served by the ride and the bond and the overnight stay in the local lockup: you must respect their authoritah!

      1. Speaking of bail and bonds, I found this story from Texas Aggie-land amusing. (“Putting the cult in Agriculture since 1876”) http://blogs.houstonpress.com/…..gie_ri.php http://www.kbtx.com/local/headlines/103017554.html

        Short version: Frat boy gets accused of getting into fight. During fight, he wrenches the Aggie class ring off his opponent and throws it somewhere into a field. Ringthrower is taken before the local justice of the peace (lowest level of Texas jurist). JP sets bond at $50,000. Keep in mind, bond for a garden variety theft is 2,000-8,000.

        The first linked article is a delightful look at how seriously Aggies take their rings, as well as everything else.

        1. Oh, and as it turned out, the jailee turned out not to be the one who threw the ring. The $5k fee for the bond, is, of course, non-refundable.

        2. Fucking queer-ass Aggies. They’re almost as bad as Longhorn fans.

  16. I watched the spokeshole for the PG PD on the news this morning and he said “cops love dogs – most cops have their own dogs”, ipso facto the shooting MUST have been justified.

    Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you PG PD

  17. Here’s another dog incident. Happened last week during a street festival.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..03938.html

    1. Been discussed in detail the day after it happened

  18. Mitchell was put on administrative leave, and continued to collect his $68,000 salary for nearly two years while his department investigated. He was finally fired and given probation after pleading guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving.

    I’ve said this before, but when the government is your employer, they are required to provide due process before taking away your salary. It may seem galling that guys like this only get paid suspensions, but there is a constitutional right involved.

    1. there is a constitutional right involved

      BULL FUCKING SHIT.

      Explain to me what constitutional right there is to receive government pay? Answer: this isn’t one. The Supreme Court has stated flatly that there is no constitutional right to be a police officer.

      The only reason the government has to provide due process before terminating CERTAIN (not all) government employees is because of some bullshit federal court decisions that decided that certain types of employment contracts with the government constitute a property interest. Accordingly, when the government is going to terminate such an employee, they are taking away a property interest and must first provide due process lest it be an uncompensated taking.

      To be sure, the government does NOT have to provide due process for every person receiving a government paycheck. It depends on the understanding between the employer and employee and whether the person’s interest in continued employment can be considered to rise to the level of a property right.

      We covered this issue to death in my administrative law class. I never bought the argument that you have a property interest in keeping your job. An interest, yeah, sure, but it’s not “property”. You cannot give it to anyone else; it has no fair market value; you cannot lease it to someone; it is not subject to the laws of descent; you cannot borrow against it; etc., etc. Only by the most nuanced legal sophistry can your employer’s promise to keep you employed be considered “property.”

      Terminations like this should be covered under normal contract and employment law just like everyone else.

      1. You’re right that there is no right to be a government employee, but you have a property right in your pay once you are hired. (see citation below)

        Also you’re wrong about contractual rights to government employement (at least, federal employment). In the federal employment context, employees generally cannot make a breach of contract claim because they are appointed to their positions, not contracted. See, Collier v. U.S., 56 Fed.Cl. 354, 357-58 (Fed.Cl., 2003).

        1. Abdul,

          Please re-read Collier. You have a property interest in pay that has been *earned, ceded, or granted* not in the prospect of earning further pay beyond that to which an employment K presently entitles you. Employment of all types is a privilege, not a fundamental right, and as such there is no constitutional process violation arising from a termination. Assuming, arguendo, that due process concerns were at play, however, that still would not justify two years of paid employment, as due process certainly does not require two years of paid administrative leave.

    2. You’ve said it before and you were wrong before.

      There is no constitutional right involved. It has nothing to do with the constitution. It is at most statutory/regulatory at the state level, but more likely just part of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union.

      There is, as of yet, no constitutional right to a job and the government, even when it’s your employer, is not depriving you of any “property” since you don’t have a property right in a job (as of yet, thankfully).

      1. Just to be clear, I’m not saying they don’t have a “right” to due process, just that that “right” is based on state statute, regulation, collective bargaining agreement or contract law (if the person has an employment contract).

        What I’m taking issue with is Abdul’s repeated claims that somehow anytime someone is employed by any government their firing is suddenly a Fifth / 14th Amendment issue. That is nonsense. Perhaps before continuing to make this claim, Abdul could cite the relevant court case that gave all government employees a property right in their jobs raising mere employment law to constitutional proportions for government employees.

      2. It’s the right to due process before the government can deprive you of property. Your salary is a property right.

        If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the Supreme court: Once a legislature has conferred a property interest in public employment, “it may not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an interest … without appropriate procedural safeguards.” Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134, 167, 94 S.Ct. 1633, 40 L.Ed.2d 15 (1974).

        1. Abdul, Abdul, Abdul…what are we going to do with you? Please read the decision in Arnett v. Kennedy. The plurality decision here stated clearly that: “[W]e hold that the Lloyd-La Follette Act***did not create any expectancy of job retention***requiring procedural protection under the Due Process Clause*** Did you follow that? Even in cases where a statute specifically awards a guarantee of employment to a FEDERAL employee, no due process concerns are implicated. As for your citation, it came from the dicta of a partial concurrence, in which it was reasoned that a guarantee of employment specifically granted by a statute may be analogous to a college professor’s tenure, and that *tenure* itself may constitute a property interest. Your citations have nothing to do with the case at hand, and I suggest that you complain to your dean’s staff about the quality of instruction in your Property/Con Law classes.

  19. “You have to consider the redemptive value of somebody who has a misdemeanor arrest when they were 17 or 18 years old,” Heaton said. “And they clean up their act and went on to become a responsible citizen … vs. someone who is continually getting themselves into trouble and finding themselves in unprofessional or unethical situations.”

    He’s a cop, obviously he chose the second path…

  20. Now, for some US Prosecutor Professionalism:

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/…..nduct.html

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/…..probe.html

  21. Apologizing in advance . . .

    You have to consider the redemptive value of somebody who has a misdemeanor arrest dabbled in witchcraft when they were 17 or 18 years old,” Heaton said. “And they clean up their act and went on to become a responsible citizen … vs. someone who is continually getting themselves into trouble and finding themselves in unprofessional or unethical situations spouting stale crypto-Marxist nostrums.

  22. I’d just like to take the time to reiterate Urkobold’s denial that we have had anything to do with the recent spate of dog shootings.

    1. One of these things is untrue:

      There are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States.

      Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog.

      Eighty-nine percent of law enforcement officers in the United States have shot and killed at least one dog.

      http://www.humanesociety.org/i…..stics.html

      1. All of these things are untrue:

        Police shooting and killing pets when the pets pose no harm is acceptable.

        Police shooting and killing pets while the police are serving warrants for non-violent (e.g., drugs) “crimes” is just as fine.

        Police shooting and killing pets is not part and parcel of a larger problem of out-of-control, power hungry cops who enjoy lording it over “citizens”.

  23. From the land of Minnesota:
    http://blogs.citypages.com/blo…..1.php#more
    Long story short: cop is implicated in shooting (8 times) of a possibly unarmed man, charged with domestic assault, and fired. Rehired due to union bullshit even though he refused to submit to a secondary drug test (he failed the first one). Then he is accused of kicking a young black man in the head during an arrest and then lying to the review board about it. Fired again, but his lawyer and union are just getting warmed up.

  24. Got another one for ya:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_…..homes.html

    FTA: A Brooklyn man standing in front of his apartment was hit with a trespassing ticket, even after cops watched him use his key to get inside.

  25. ” He was also denied the bottle of nitroglycerin he was carrying when he was arested, which he says the arresting deputies confiscated, believing it too was cocaine.”

    Meanwhile, he’s having a fucking heart attack in the prison cell . . .

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