Police Corruption News StoriesExcerpts of Key Police Corruption News Stories in Major Media
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When lawyers were preparing to defend against a lawsuit over a death in police custody in Fresno, Calif., they knew whom to call. Dr. Gary Vilke has established himself as a leading expert witness by repeatedly asserting that police techniques such as facedown restraints, stun gun shocks and some neck holds did not kill people. Officers in Fresno had handcuffed 41-year-old Joseph Perez and, holding him facedown on the ground, put a spinal board from an ambulance on his back as he cried out for help. The county medical examiner ruled his death, in May 2017, a homicide by asphyxiation. Dr. Vilke, who was hired by the ambulance provider, charged $500 an hour and provided a different determination. He wrote in a report ... that Mr. Perez had died from methamphetamine use, heart disease and the exertion of his struggle against the restraints. Dr. Vilke ... is an integral part of a small but influential cadre of scientists, lawyers, physicians and other police experts whose research and testimony is almost always used to absolve officers of blame for deaths, according to a review of hundreds of research papers and more than 25,000 pages of court documents, as well as interviews with nearly three dozen people. Their views infuriate many prosecutors, plaintiff lawyers, medical experts and relatives of the dead, who accuse them of slanting science, ignoring inconvenient facts and dangerously emboldening police officers to act aggressively. Many of the experts also have ties to Axon, maker of the Taser.
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The caption read "hanging with the homies." The picture above it showed several Black men who had been lynched. Another photo asked what someone should do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The answer, according to the caption, was to break "a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him." The comments represent a sliver of a trove of racist text messages exchanged by more than a dozen current and former Torrance police officers and recruits. The Times examined some of the contents of the until-now secret texts and identified a dozen Torrance police officers under investigation for exchanging them. The broad scope of the racist text conversations, which prosecutors said went on for years, has created a crisis for the Torrance Police Department and could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests. California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said Wednesday his office will investigate the department in the wake of the scandal. The officers' comments spared no color or creed. While no officers currently face criminal charges in direct relation to the text messages, the racist exchanges have led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases involving the officers implicated in the scandal. County prosecutors had tossed 35 felony cases as of mid-November, and the Torrance city attorney's office has dismissed an additional 50, officials said. In total, the officers were listed as potential witnesses in nearly 1,400 cases in the last decade.
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We got a touching email Wednesday from a 30-year veteran of a Massachusetts police force. He wrote that his distinguished career "was all tarnished ... after I reported (an) officer lying on the stand and going to the FBI." He was responding to an investigative story we published this week, Behind the Blue Wall, that documented how often police whistleblowers face retaliation for reporting misconduct. They have been threatened, fired, jailed, one was even forcibly admitted to a psychiatric ward. "I want to personally thank you for bringing this to light," the officer wrote. "You were able to write what I have experienced for the last 6 years. After reading this I took a deep breath and for the first time since this began I feel liberated from the stigma of being a rat, untruthful, discredited." Police covering for colleagues, and punishing those who don't, isn't new. But with this investigation, we wanted to quantify, for the first time, the extent of the problem and how it impacts the whistleblowers. Reporters sent out 400 public records requests and secured tens of thousands of pages of records. They found 300 cases in the past decade where an officer helped expose misconduct – a small window into how the system works. The vast majority of those cases ended with those whistleblowers saying they faced retaliation. "Whistleblowing is a life sentence," former Chicago undercover narcotics officer Shannon Spalding told our team. She faced death threats ... after she exposed corruption that led to dozens of overturned convictions.
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When Daunte Wright was killed last spring by a police officer in Minnesota after being pulled over for expired registration tags, the case drew national attention. So have several other seemingly avoidable deaths of motorists. Now, a New York Times investigation reveals the scope of such cases across the country – and why traffic stops for minor offenses can escalate into fatal encounters. Over the last five years, The Times found, the police killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were not wielding a gun or a knife or under pursuit for a violent crime. Traffic stops – which are often motivated by hidden budgetary considerations because of the ticket revenue they generate – are the most common interactions between police officers and the public. Yet the police consider them among the most dangerous things they do. Presumption of peril has been significantly overstated, but it has become ingrained in police culture and court precedents – contributing to impunity for most officers who use lethal force at vehicle stops. In case after case, officers avoided criminal liability when they claimed to have acted in self-defense. In the roughly 400 deaths, five officers were convicted. Nearly two dozen cases are still pending. While prosecutors deemed most of the killings justifiable, local governments paid at least $125 million to resolve legal claims in about 40 cases.
The Supreme Court had an opportunity this week to protect your right to record the misbehavior of rogue police officers. Instead, the court looked the other way while cops who sought to seize such a recording are shielded from accountability. So much for First Amendment protections. By declining to hear a case from a federal appellate court, the Supreme Court let stand a dangerous ruling granting qualified immunity to Denver police officers accused of snatching a computer tablet from a man who had used it to record them punching a suspect in the face and grabbing his pregnant girlfriend, causing her to fall to the ground. In recent years, such recordings have been vital to a national movement against racial injustice and excessive police force. In a few cases, the recordings have been a key to holding police accountable for a person's brutal death. By refusing to take Frasier v. Evans, the Supreme Court managed to set back both the public's right to record police and efforts to hold police accountable for violating citizens' constitutional rights. The decision in this case makes the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals an outlier and leaves people living in the six states it covers – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming – with weakened constitutional rights. Six other federal appeals courts, covering nearly half of the states, have ruled that citizens have a clear constitutional right to record police in public.
After the FBI seized Joseph Ruiz's life savings during a raid on a safe deposit box business in Beverly Hills, the unemployed chef went to court to retrieve his $57,000. A judge ordered the government to tell Ruiz why it was trying to confiscate the money. It came from drug trafficking, an FBI agent responded in court papers. Ruiz's income was too low for him to have that much money, and his side business selling bongs made from liquor bottles suggested he was an unlicensed pot dealer, the agent wrote. The FBI also said a dog had smelled unspecified drugs on Ruiz's cash. The FBI was wrong. When Ruiz produced records showing the source of his money was legitimate, the government dropped its false accusation and returned his money. Ruiz is one of roughly 800 people whose money and valuables the FBI seized from safe deposit boxes they rented at the U.S. Private Vaults store in a strip mall. Federal agents had suspected for years that criminals were stashing loot there, and they assert that's exactly what they found. The government is trying to confiscate $86 million in cash and a stockpile of jewelry, rare coins and precious metals taken from about half of the boxes. But six months after the raid, the FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles have produced no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the vast majority of box holders whose belongings the government is trying to keep. About 300 of the box holders are contesting the attempted confiscation.
Note: In the recent past, police have been caught using asset forfeiture to pad departmental budgets. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
It was an unusual forearm tattoo that the police said led them to Luis Reyes, a 35-year-old man who was accused of stealing packages from a Manhattan building's mailroom in 2019. But the truth was more complicated: Mr. Reyes had first been identified by the New York Police Department's powerful facial recognition software as it analyzed surveillance video of the crime. His guilty plea this year ... was part of the sprawling legacy of one of the city's darkest days. Since the fall of the World Trade Center, the security apparatus born from the Sept. 11 attack on the city has fundamentally changed the way the country's largest police department operates, altering its approach to finding and foiling terrorist threats, but also to cracking minor cases like Mr. Reyes's. New Yorkers simply going about their daily lives routinely encounter post-9/11 digital surveillance tools like facial recognition software, license plate readers or mobile X-ray vans that can see through car doors. Surveillance drones hover above mass demonstrations and protesters say they have been questioned by antiterrorism officers after marches. The department's Intelligence Division, redesigned in 2002 to confront Al Qaeda operatives, now uses antiterror tactics to fight gang violence and street crime. The department's budget for intelligence and counterterrorism has more than quadrupled, spending more than $3 billion since 2006, and more through funding streams that are difficult to quantify, including federal grants and the secretive Police Foundation.
Portland narrowly avoided tragedy on Sunday as the city's police force abandoned its duty to secure the streets and officers made no effort to stop assaults on residents by members of the far-right Proud Boys gang, many of whom had traveled from around the country to live out their fantasies of attacking anti-fascist protesters. The absence of the police, in line with a policy on nonintervention announced beforehand by Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell, reinforced a sense among anti-fascists that they were on their own. So when a right-wing gunman fired in the direction of black-clad protesters who had chased him away from their protest at gunpoint, it was shocking but perhaps not surprising that one of the anti-fascists fired back, according to witnesses. The fact that the right-wing gunman – 65-year-old Dennis Anderson from the neighboring city of Gresham – was arrested within minutes by an undercover officer and two uniformed colleagues underscored for many protesters that the police could have intervened earlier but had chosen not to do so. The gunfire came after a Proud Boys rally, devoted to the "political prisoners" of the January 6 Capitol attacks ... had devolved into violence, with attacks on left-wing protesters who fought back with paintballs, fireworks, and pepper spray. Although multiple assaults were captured on video by journalists on the scene, the police failed to intervene.
Last summer, as one city after another broke out in protest against the murder of George Floyd, some of the most enduring images were not of the demonstrators, but of the police: decked out in riot gear, aiming automatic weapons at peaceful crowds, and riding around on armored vehicles built for war. The crackdowns on protesters renewed furious demands to end a suite of federal programs that have put billions of dollars' worth of military weapons in the hands of local police. The Pentagon's 1033 program ... transfers weapons and equipment from America's foreign wars directly to domestic law enforcement agencies. Under a Freedom of Information Act request, HuffPost has exclusively obtained hundreds of letters that local law enforcement agencies wrote to the Department of Defense in 2017 and 2018 making the case to receive an armored vehicle under the 1033 program. The documents reveal that hundreds of police departments across the country, in communities of all sizes, are willing to deploy armored vehicles to carry out even the most routine tasks: making traffic stops; serving search warrants; responding to domestic violence; responding to people threatening suicide. In response to these requests, the Pentagon has provided thousands of small-town police and sheriff agencies with vehicles built to withstand conditions of war [and] distributed billions of dollars' worth of helicopters, body armor, night vision equipment, ammunition, rifle sights, machine guns and assault rifles.
Note: This ABC News article shows that providing police with military gear does not reduce crime nor protect police officers. Read more about the Pentagon's 1033 program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in the military and in policing from reliable major media sources.
Last week, the Justice Department's Inspector General released a scathing report detailing just how badly the FBI botched the major child abuse case involving Larry Nassar, former doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team and Michigan State University accused of abusing dozens of young patients in his care across several states. The report says the FBI's Indianapolis Field Office did not respond to the claims against Nassar "with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar." According to Jane Turner, a 25-year FBI agent-turned-whistleblower who reported the mishandling of crimes against children on American Indian reservations in North Dakota, the FBI's failures in the Nassar case are, unfortunately, not unique. Turner believes the breakdown comes from a lack of training in handling these kinds of cases, a lack of oversight when things do get handled badly, and a lack of interest on the part of a majority white and male staff who, according to Turner, would rather be working more glamorous assignments. "They don't give a shit about kids or young people," she says. Because of the Indianapolis Field Office's delays ... the Inspector General's report said that Nassar was able to abuse an estimated 70 more young athletes between July 2015 and August 2016.
New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered a controversial robotic dog undergoing trials with the city's police off the street, and a $94,200 contract with creator Boston Dynamics cancelled. The robot canine, named "Digidog", is to be returned to its manufacturer following outrage tied to calls to cut police funding and law enforcement access to military-developed or surplus hardware. De Blasio voiced that he is "glad the Digidog was put down." A city government spokesperson added: "It's creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers." The 70lb robot could run at three and a half miles per hour and climb stairs. It was primarily intended to go into situations deemed dangerous for officers, and had been undergoing trials in the Bronx since it was unveiled last December. But the dog sparked an immediate backlash, with critics noting police dogs have been traditionally used to suppress and intimidate communities of color. Some critics also pointed out it was reminiscent of robot dogs in the dystopian Netflix series Black Mirror.
Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus. And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city's criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby's office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes. So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car. A number of big-city prosecutors have moved to decriminalize drugs, and Oregon voters decriminalized small amounts of drugs statewide.
Note: The fact that the rest of the US last year experienced a "Massive 1-Year Rise In Homicide Rates" makes this all the more impressive. A 2016 report by the Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy found that the the war on drugs harmed public health. When Portugal decriminalized drugs, its addiction rates were cut in half.
In response to the high rate at which American police kill civilians, many on the left have taken up the call for defunding the police, or abolishing the police entirely. But some policing experts are instead emphasizing a different approach that they say could reduce police killings: training officers better, longer, and on different subjects. Police in the United States receive less initial training than their counterparts in other rich countries - about five months in a classroom and another three or so months in the field, on average. Many European nations, meanwhile, have something more akin to police universities, which can take three or four years to complete. European countries also have national standards for various elements of a police officer's job - such as how to search a car and when to use a baton. The U.S. does not. The 18,000 police departments in the U.S. each have their own rules and requirements. "Police officers, police chiefs, and everyone agree that we do not get enough training in a myriad of fields," Dennis Slocumb, the legislative director of the International Union of Police Associations [said]. Many policing experts recommend that officers be trained to slow down when they are able to do so, giving themselves time to decide the best course of action. "Police are taught in the academy [that] police always have to win," says Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. But sometimes it's okay not to win, particularly if it means saving a life.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says the city will no longer prosecute for prostitution, drug possession and other low-level offenses. Mosby made the announcement on Friday following her office's one-year experiment in not prosecuting minor offenses to decrease the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. "Today, America's war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction, said Mosby. The experiment, known as The Covid Criminal Justice Policies, is an approach to crime developed with public health authorities. Instead of prosecuting people arrested for minor crimes ... the program dealt with those crimes as public health issues and work with community partners to help find solutions. The program has led to decreases in the overall incarcerated Baltimore population by 18%. Violent and property crimes are down 20% and 36% respectively. Mosby said her office will no longer prosecute the following offenses: drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public. The state's attorney's office is also working with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a crisis center dealing with mental health and substance abuse issue, to offer services instead of arresting individuals.
When thousands of New Yorkers poured into the city's streets last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, they were met with the very police violence they had come to protest. New York police arrested hundreds of people, many with no probable cause. Over multiple incidents, police regularly and unjustifiably used force against peaceful protesters, with state investigators finding that they beat people with blunt instruments at least 50 times, unlawfully pepper-sprayed them in at least 30 instances, and pushed or struck protesters at least 75 times. Officers targeted and retaliated against people engaging in constitutionally protected activity, New York Attorney General Letitia James's office concluded, and "blatantly violated the rights of New Yorkers." Leading the violent crackdown was the New York Police Department's Strategic Response Group, or SRG, a heavily militarized, rapid-response unit of several hundred officers. Investigators found a disproportionate number of SRG officers accused of wrongdoing to have exceeded their legal authority, when compared with the wider department. The group earned a reputation among activists as the NYPD's "goon squad." Despite initial reassurances to the contrary, the SRG ended up policing protests far more than it did any "counterterrorism" work – already the job of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau – but it brought its militarized mentality and tactics to the policing of civil unrest.
Two Maryland police officers are being credited for helping calm down a man having a behavioral health crisis. Hyattsville police received a call Saturday about an agitated, angry man inside the convenience store at a Sunoco gas station. Officers Edgar Andrickson-Franco and Mancini Gaskill responded. "When we first arrived, he appeared to be incoherent," Andrickson-Franco said. "He wasn't making much sense." "We engaged in conversation with him and we didn't want to be too overbearing," Gaskill said. Andrickson-Franco sat down on the floor with the man. He said at times the man became verbally abusive, but he refused to react. "Me reacting the way he was reacting wasn't going to get us anywhere," Andrickson-Franco said. "If anything, it would have worsened the situation." The officers were understanding, built trust, and the man calmed down. He eventually handed over his phone. The officers called his relatives, and they picked him up at the gas station. The encounter is an example of what the Hyattsville Police Department is teaching in their new pilot program called Mental Health and Wellness Program. "It feels really good to know that they were able to deescalate that situation," said Hyattsville police spokesperson Adrienne Augustus, a manager of the program. "Not everyday situation you have to arrest somebody, right?" said. "That's not our job. Our job is to help." Next month the department will have a Mental Health and Wellness Day focusing on mental health and domestic abuse training.
Detective Michael Pezzelle spent his last seven years on a suburban police force here amassing a body count. He was involved in shootings that wounded two people and killed five. Pezzelle faced no public consequences. He retired in 2018. Today, he trains police officers around the country to follow the kind of advice he shared on Instagram: "Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everyone you meet." During most of the years in question, [Pezzelle] was assigned to task forces run by the U.S. Marshals Service, an arm of the federal Justice Department. In recent years ... marshals have been acting like local police – only with more violence and less accountability, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and the USA Today Network. In cities and towns across the country, the Marshals Service has set up task forces largely staffed by local law enforcement officers who get deputized as federal agents. About two-thirds of the agency's arrests since 2014 were of people wanted on local warrants, not federal ones. On average, from 2015 to late 2020, marshals shot 31 people a year, killing 22 of them. By comparison, Houston police reported shooting an average of 19 people a year, killing eight. Philadelphia officers shot an average of nine people a year, killing three. Both departments employ roughly 6,000 officers, about the same number who serve in the Marshals Service and on its task forces. No marshal has ever been prosecuted after a shooting.
The rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol had been hyped for weeks, including by the president himself. "It definitely shows the ineffectiveness of the intelligence network that we've built since 9/11 – that the Capitol Police would not have been prepared for an assault on the Capitol that was planned in public," Mike German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and former FBI agent specializing in counterterrorism, [said]. Adam Isacson, the D.C.-based director of the defense oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America, linked the events to a broader politicization of law enforcement under Trump, reminiscent of the anti-democratic movements the U.S. has historically sponsored in countries around the world. "You don't get to ransack the Capitol for hours, then calmly walk away, unless law enforcement and its command share your views," he wrote. "What we saw yesterday was tacit approval of the rioters." The insurrectionary mob was met with some resistance as they descended on the Capitol – some, but not much. Police did use chemical agents against the crowd, but by and large the response bore little resemblance to the iron-fisted crackdown on racial justice protesters witnessed in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country just months before. When they were through, Trump's irregular forces walked out of the building triumphant and unmasked, smiling as a law enforcement officer held the door for them. "We love you. You're very special," the president said to his supporters.
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When Chanelle Helm helped organized protests after the March 13 killing of Breonna Taylor, Louisville police responded with batons, flashbang grenades and tear gas. The 40-year-old Black Lives Matter activist still bears scars from rubber bullets fired at close range. So Helm was startled and frustrated Wednesday to see a White, pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol - breaking down barricades, smashing windows and striking police officers - without obvious consequence. "Our activists are still to this day met with hyper-police violence," Helm said. "And today you see this full-on riot ... with people toting guns, which the police knew was coming and they just let it happen. I don't understand where the 'law and order' is. This is what white supremacy looks like." For veteran social justice demonstrators, the images of men and women wearing red Trump 2020 hats and clutching American and Confederate flags walking through the Capitol building largely unmolested came as shocking yet predictable evidence of their long-held suspicions that conservative, White protesters intent on violence would not be met with any of the strongarm tactics as anti-police brutality demonstrators. Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, who died at age 18 in a 2014 police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., [said] that the lack of a police response was stunning. "There was no shooting, no rubber bullets, no tear gas," she said. "It was nothing like what we have seen. Nothing like what we have seen."
More than three years after the FBI came under fire for claiming "Black identity extremists" were a domestic terrorism threat, the bureau has issued a new terrorism guide that employs almost identical terminology. The FBI's 2020 domestic terrorism reference guide on "Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism" identifies two distinct sets of groups: those motivated by white supremacy and those who use "political reasons – including racism or injustice in American society" to justify violence. The examples the FBI gives for the latter group are all Black individuals or groups. The FBI document claims that "many" of those Black racially motivated extremists "have targeted law enforcement and the US Government," while a "small number" of them "incorporate sovereign citizen Moorish beliefs into their ideology, which involves a rejection of their US citizenship." In 2017, a leaked copy of an FBI report on "Black identity extremists" sparked an outcry from activists, civil rights groups and Congress, who criticized the bureau for portraying disparate groups and individuals as a single movement, even though the only common factor was that those associated with the term were Black Americans. Those critics also faulted the FBI for equating isolated attacks against law enforcement with those perpetrated by white supremacists, which even the FBI said represent the majority of domestic terror attacks in recent years.
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Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.