DOJ Reaches Agreement to Reform Cleveland Police Brutality

Originally published on May 28, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The Justice Department and the city of Cleveland announced on Tuesday that they have entered into a court enforceable agreement to reduce systemic police abuse and repeated violations of the Fourth Amendment. Although the Cleveland Police Department (CPD) has not admitted any wrongdoing, the Department of Justice found that a significant amount of CPD officers utilize deadly and excessive force. With a lack of proper training and transparency, CPD officers now face a myriad of reforms and independent auditors in order to reinstate the broken trust between the police and their community.

At the request of Mayor Frank Jackson on March 14, 2013, the Justice Department began investigating allegations of excessive force and violations of the Fourth Amendment being committed by the CPD. The investigation included a comprehensive assessment of officers’ use of force, and CPD’s policies, procedures, training, systems of accountability, and community engagement. On December 4, 2014, the Justice Department announced that a significant amount of CPD officers used excessive force and constituted an ongoing risk to the public and their fellow officers.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that every American benefits from a police force that protects and serves all members of the community,” stated Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “The agreement we have reached with the city of Cleveland is the result of the hard work and dedication of the entire Cleveland community, and looks to address serious concerns, rebuild trust, and maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. I am pleased to have the full cooperation of law enforcement and city officials in this effort. And I look forward to working with the entire community to build a stronger, safer Cleveland for residents and officers alike.”

According to the agreement, the CPD expects its officers to treat all members of the Cleveland community with courtesy, professionalism, and respect, and not to use harassing, intimidating, or derogatory language. CPD officers will no longer employ neck holds, assault handcuffed suspects, strike individuals in the head with their Taser or service weapon, use force against people verbally confronting them, pepper-spray compliant persons, or engage in retaliatory force. Officers will also use de-escalation techniques and allow suspects the opportunity to submit to arrest before using force against them.

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DEA Agents Reprimanded for Forcing Student to Drink His Own Urine to Survive

Originally published on May 7, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to the Department of Justice, six DEA agents were either reprimanded or received short suspensions for leaving a UC San Diego engineering student jailed for five days without food or water. Although the student almost died of dehydration, near-kidney failure, and a perforated lung from a suicide attempt, no DEA agents were fired or indicted on criminal charges.

Engineering student Daniel Chong was smoking marijuana at a friend’s apartment in San Diego early on the morning of April 21, 2012, when DEA agents raided the residence. Chong and the other detainees were transported to a DEA field office in Kearny Mesa and interrogated. After the agents determined that Chong had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, they decided to release Chong without charges and even offered to give him a ride home.

Instead of releasing Chong, the DEA agents claimed that they simply forgot about him. Left handcuffed in a windowless five-by-ten-foot holding cell, Chong endured the next five days without any food, water, or human contact. Dying of dehydration, Chong was forced to drink his own urine in order to survive.

“I had to do what I had to do to survive…I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong recalled. “I was completely insane.”

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NY Senate Leader and Son Arrested on Corruption Charges

Originally published on May 5, 2015, at NationofChange.org

New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, were arrested on Monday on federal corruption charges. Accused of committing fraud, extortion, and accepting bribes, Skelos allegedly abused his official position to solicit nearly $220,000 in payments to his son. After NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested in January for accepting roughly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, Adam purchased a burner phone and naively shared the number with a confidential informant working with the FBI.

On December 20, 2010, Dean Skelos met with a senior executive, a lobbyist, and the founder of Glenwood Management, a real estate development firm. According to the complaint against him, Skelos directly asked them to send Glenwood’s title insurance commissions and other business to his son in exchange for negotiating upcoming legislation renewals. Unbeknownst to Skelos, the senior executive at the meeting would end up cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording their conversations.

After several meetings with Skelos, the FBI informant at Glenwood caused a $20,000 check to be issued to Adam from a title insurance company dependent on Glenwood for business even though Adam did no work for them whatsoever. The informant also arranged for an environmental company named AbTech Industries to hire Adam in 2011 as a consultant and pay him $4,000 each month for his father’s political influence. With financial investments in AbTech, the informant and Glenwood’s founding family had substantial influence in hiring Adam at AbTech. In a conversation recorded in February 2015 by a senior AbTech executive who recently began cooperating with the FBI, Adam admitted that he became a consultant for the company even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”

When Skelos felt that AbTech was not paying his son enough money, he threatened to block Nassau County’s approval of a $12 million contract with the environmental company unless payments to Adam were sharply increased. AbTech’s CEO begrudgingly agreed to increase Adam’s payments to $10,000 each month in exchange for the contract’s approval.

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13 Current and Former Law Enforcement Officers Arrested for Drug Trafficking

Originally published on May 2, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Thirteen current and former law enforcement officers, a 911 dispatch operator, and a civilian were indicted this week for allegedly participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy. After a two-year undercover investigation, the FBI arrested all 15 alleged conspirators on Wednesday as they attempted to transport what they thought was a shipment of illegal narcotics. Several of the defendants have also been charged with money laundering, extortion, bribery, attempted possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and carrying firearms while trafficking drugs.

According to Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp, his office contacted the FBI after receiving numerous tips about police corruption taking place in Northampton County. The FBI began investigating these reports and launched a massive sting operation codenamed Operation Rockfish. Between 2013 and 2015, the FBI discovered numerous sheriff’s deputies, correctional officers, a police officer, a 911 operator, and a civilian participating in trafficking multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin.

“We received numerous tips and information from confidential informants. We follow up on every lead and every tip to make sure it’s credible,” stated Sheriff Tripp. “I have a sick feeling in my stomach right now because we all take an oath to defend and protect the state and federal constitution. We’re not supposed to break the law.”

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DOJ Opens Investigation into Police Suspect Killed by Spinal Injuries

Originally published on April 23, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The Justice Department announced this week that it is opening a criminal investigation into the death of a suspect who died from fatal spinal cord injuries while in police custody. Although Baltimore police officers claim that they did not use force against the suspect, witnesses and cell phone footage reveal officers dragging the suspect as he screamed in pain. The Justice Department has already been conducting a review of the Baltimore Police Department after the city paid nearly $6 million in court judgments and settlements involving over 100 lawsuits alleging police misconduct since 2011.

At 8:39 a.m. on April 12, a Baltimore police officer made eye contact with two individuals standing at a street corner who immediately fled. Officers pursued the individuals and apprehended one of them. According to the police, 25-year-old Freddie Gray surrendered without requiring the use of force as another officer aimed a Taser at Gray but did not deploy it. After restraining him, Officer Garrett Miller allegedly found a switchblade inside Gray’s pants pocket.

Witnesses assert that the arresting officers used excessive force to arrest Gray and refused to give him medical treatment. After watching the officers sitting on Gray’s back while handcuffing him, a bystander named Kiona Mack took out her cellphone and recorded a video of officers dragging Gray into the back of a police van as he screamed in agony.

“They had him in a crab-like position, where his legs were bent back and his arms,” another witness recalled. “He was handcuffed, and at this point, they had knees in his back and his head.”

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DOJ Admits FBI Forensic Examiners Gave False Testimony for Decades

Originally published on April 21, 2015, at NationofChange.org 

In response to a Washington Post investigation, the Department of Justice and FBI have formally admitted that the majority of FBI forensic hair analysts provided flawed testimony and false evidence against criminal defendants for nearly three decades. With the advent of DNA testing, the FBI has discovered that their own forensic examiners gave erroneous testimony in more than 95% of cases that have been reviewed. Due to the fact that FBI analysts provided scientifically invalid testimony for decades, numerous innocent convicts have been exonerated and released from prison.

In 1997, the Justice Department discredited the work of FBI analyst, Special Agent Michael P. Malone, and 13 other analysts, finding that they had made false forensic reports and performed inaccurate tests. Five years later, DNA analysts at the FBI found that the Bureau’s own forensic examiners reported false hair matches over 11% of the time. The 2009 National Academy of Science report on forensic science, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, deemed microscopic hair comparison analysis to be highly unreliable.

In December 2009, Donald E. Gates was released from prison and exonerated after DNA evidence proved that the hair and semen found on the victim’s body did not belong to Gates. FBI Special Agent Michael Malone’s false testimony and flawed hair analysis resulted in Gates’ conviction for a rape and murder that he did not commit. Gates served 28 years in prison for Agent Malone’s incompetence.

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Police Officer Faces Murder Charge for Shooting Unarmed Man in the Back

Originally published on April 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A South Carolina police officer was arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder after shooting an unarmed man in the back. Law enforcement officials arrested North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager after a video surfaced recorded by a bystander who witnessed the incident. On the same day, another South Carolina officer was arrested on a felony weapons charge resulting in the death of another unarmed man.

At 9:33 a.m. on Saturday, Patrolman Slager noticed 50-year-old Walter “Lamar” Scott driving with a broken brake light. Some time after Slager pulled him over, Scott exited his car and fled on foot. Slager chased after him and reportedly fired his Taser at Scott in an attempt to subdue him.

According to Slager, Scott turned around to confront the officer and managed to take Slager’s Taser from his hands. Slager claims that he felt threatened, pulled out his gun, and fired several rounds at Scott. But video of the shooting appears to contradict the officer’s account.

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