Police Behaving Badly 8.28.15

I began the ‘Police Behaving Badly’ series last year as a way of documenting the stories of police officers who engaged in questionable, unethical, immoral, or illegal behavior. At the time, I knew that there were cases of on-duty cops sexually assaulting women, that cops had been caught stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug suspects, that it was not uncommon for officers to use excessive force, and that police brutality and racism often go hand-in-hand. What I didn’t know was how often this shit occurred. I didn’t know how pervasive these problems were. Like many, I trusted law enforcement officials. As I read more and more stories of police officers behaving badly, I came to realize that these individual cases pointed to a more significant problem-rampant corruption within law enforcement across the country as well as departments filled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. Not just individual officers either, but entire police departments (the New York and Ferguson PDs immediately spring to mind). I learned that this shit happens all the time and as a result, this series will continue for a very, very long time (as long as I’m blogging most likely). Here are several recent examples of Police Behaving Badly:


Singing in public, no matter how loud or off key, may be protected by the First Amendment, said William T. Gaut, a former Alabama police captain and criminal justice consultant.

“It’s questionable whether it’s even disorderly conduct,” said Gaut, who viewed the video for The Morning Call. “In order for disorderly conduct, you would have to offend someone by language or by action. They have to be threatening in some way or be offensive in some way that is not covered by the First Amendment.”

Allentown police say Ochse was singing loudly outside Shula’s when he was approached by an officer — identified in court records as Busch — and two men who appear to be private security guards.

In the video, Ochse appears to be walking away after berating the officer and security guards when the officer grabs Ochse’s arm and takes him to the ground.

Tod Burke, a former Maryland police officer who now teaches criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia, also viewed the video for The Morning Call.

Burke said the officer would have been within the law to forcibly restrain Ochse if the singer was saying something dangerous or was refusing to comply with the officer’s commands.

“That being said, given the age of the individual, if he was not posing an immediate threat, there were better ways to resolve it. An arrest can still be made without body-slamming an older man to the ground,” Burke said.

The incident happened on a privately owned walkway next to Shula’s outside bar, city officials said.

Busch, who last month helped crack a shooting spree that claimed three lives in Easton and Allentown by finding the alleged killer’s getaway vehicle, outlines the reason for Ochse’s arrest in an affidavit of probable cause.

According to the court record:

Busch received a call that a man was “in the area of The Hamilton Kitchen [restaurant] at Seventh and Hamilton streets, singing loudly and bothering patrons.”

The officer found the man — later identified as Ochse — walking in the area nearby and he was still singing loudly. Ochse was also covered in an unknown liquid, the officer noted.

Busch approached Ochse, who “immediately became very hostile and began yelling in my face.”

Busch explained to Ochse that he was being disorderly and bothering people. Busch said Ochse refused to let him speak, pointed his finger in his face and told him to get away from him.

Ochse refused to provide any information and turned around to walk away from Busch. The officer ordered Ochse to stop and turn around, but he refused and “remained very hostile.” Busch grabbed Ochse by the arm. Ochse tensed up and remained hostile.

Busch “feared he may try to fight,” so he took Ochse to the ground. On the ground, Busch continued giving Ochse orders to give up his hands, but he refused while screaming and pulling his hands away from the officer.

“Feared he may try to fight”? The guy is 61 years of age. I can’t imagine him putting up much of a fight. This is just as bogus to me as those cops who say “I feared for my life”.

Additionally, tensing up doesn’t mean someone is going to fight. It’s a fairly natural reaction to being treated the way Ochse was. I mean FFS, I tense up when I get my teeth check out, but that doesn’t mean that I want to open a can of whoop ass on the dentist!

“The defendant had his arms so tense that I could not move them or get the handcuffs on the defendant,” Busch wrote.

After a minute-long struggle, Ochse was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters, where he requested medical treatment, according to court records.

It seems reasonable to me that the situation would have been remedied by simply allowing Ochse to continue walking away. It’s not like he was a threat to anyone’s safety. But if there’s one thing that cops in the U.S. like to do, it’s to unnecessarily escalate a situation.

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 NYPD cop charged with torching car in Jersey City for insurance money

Niculae Madalin of Woodside, N.Y., made his first court appearance on the charge of arson in Central Judicial Processing court where he was represented by attorney Brian Neary.

He is charged with starting a fire or causing an explosion at 15th and Coles streets in Jersey City on Aug. 3, 2014, “with the purpose of collecting insurance for the destruction or damage of such property under circumstances which recklessly place any person in danger of death of bodily injury,” the criminal complaint said.

He is charged specifically with “setting his 2010 Acura on fire and filing a claim with Geico insurance,” the complaint says.

Probable cause for the charge is “the defendant’s statements to New York Police Department detectives and his cell tower records.”

During the hearing before CJP Judge Margaret Marley, an NYPD lieutenant told Madalin he was suspended effective immediately and ordered Madalin to surrender to the New York County District Attorney’s Office tomorrow where he will face charges including insurance fraud.

Just wish it was this easy to charge cops for the use of excessive force against civilians. It’s depressing to think that Madalin was so quickly caught and punished for insurance fraud (a crime yes, but one for which there is no victim), yet a fucker like Darren Wilson doesn’t even see the inside of a courtroom for killing a human being. Or all the other law enforcement officials who aren’t indicted for the use of extreme or deadly force.

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There is a seemingly never-ending list of behaviors African-Americans cannot engage in without the threat of being detained, harassed, or arrested by law enforcement officials. From walking with your hands in your pockets to riding a hoverboard at the airport to embarrassing cops at a game of basketball to saying something “rude” to the son of a police officer, the list of activities that cops will get up in a black person’s face for grows by the day. And here’s another new one: don’t make direct eye contact with a police officer-

Why…it’s almost as if existing while black is treated as a crime or something!

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While most of the examples of police behaving badly are focused on the treatment of ethnic minorities by police officers, make no mistake, cops harass, detain, and mistreat white people as well (though to a lesser degree). Couple this with the mentality many police departments have that they’re fighting a war, and thus have to adopt military tactics (and weaponry), and you have a veritable police state here in the United States. One Iraq War veteran recently had a too-close-for-comfort call with police officers who treated him like a potential enemy rather than a US citizen whom they are ostensibly charged with serving and protecting:

I got home from the bar and fell into bed soon after Saturday night bled into Sunday morning. I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity. I’d been here before. This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment. As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon. Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule: Aim only at something you intend to kill.

I had conducted the same kind of raid on suspected bombmakers and high-value insurgents. But the Fairfax County officers in my apartment were aiming their weapons at a target whose rap sheet consisted only of parking tickets and an overdue library book.

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat. Instinct told me to get up and protect myself. Training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.

In a panic, I asked the officers what was going on but got no immediate answer. Their tactics were similar to the ones I used to clear rooms during the height of guerilla warfare in Iraq. I could almost admire it — their fluid sweep from the bedroom doorway to the distant corner. They stayed clear of one another’s lines of fire in case they needed to empty their Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistols into me.

They were well-trained, their supervisor later told me. But I knew that means little when adrenaline governs an imminent-danger scenario, real or imagined. Triggers are pulled. Mistakes are made.

I spread my arms out to either side. An officer jumped onto my bed and locked handcuffs onto my wrists. The officers rolled me from side to side, searching my boxers for weapons, then yanked me up to sit on the edge of the bed.

At first, I was stunned. I searched my memory for any incident that would justify a police raid. Then it clicked.

Earlier in the week, the managers of my apartment complex moved me to a model unit while a crew repaired a leak in my dishwasher. But they hadn’t informed my temporary neighbors. So when one resident noticed the door slightly cracked open to what he presumed was an unoccupied apartment, he looked in, saw me sleeping and called the police to report a squatter.

Sitting on the edge of the bed dressed only in underwear, I laughed. The situation was ludicrous and embarrassing. My only mistake had been failing to make sure the apartment door was completely closed before I threw myself into bed the night before.

I told the officers to check my driver’s license, nodding toward my khaki pants on the floor. It showed my address at a unit in the same complex. As the fog of their chaotic entry lifted, the officers realized it had been an unfortunate error. They walked me into the living room and removed the cuffs, though two continued to stand over me as the third contacted management to confirm my story. Once they were satisfied, they left.

Alex Horton’s tale might have ended well, but what if he’d been a squatter? The police would likely have felt justified in their actions. The question is: should they? Barging into an apartment, weapons drawn, handcuffing a potential suspect who was in bed and presenting no apparent danger to anyone. Is *that* how cops should conduct themselves? By treating even a potential suspect as if they’re an enemy combatant? And all without even attempting to suss out the situation to determine if such actions are warranted?

Nope. Sorry. Unacceptable.

This is not how agents charged with ‘serving & protecting’ ought to act towards the people they work for. The safety of the public should come first and foremost. Keeping that goal in mind means (among other things) assessing a situation to determine what, if any conflict is occurring and what, if any force is necessary. Now we just have to convince the 1 million-plus US police officers of that fact.

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And finally, remember the Rohnert Park, California man who had a police officer brandish a gun at him while he was loading his boat outside his home? That man has filed a civil rights complaint against the city:

A man who recorded a California police officer pulling a gun on him is now filing a civil rights claim against the city and the officer is now answering the accusation.

“The purpose of the brandishing of the weapon was apparent. It was to harass him, it was to intimidate him,” McComas’ attorney Jarin Beck said.

Beck told ABC7 News his client didn’t deserve the treatment he received from Rohnert Park police officer Dave Rodriguez.

“You have your gun out because you’re a police officer and you’re trying to intimidate me and this is going all over YouTube,” McComas said in a video he shot.

“No one died, but It’s a situation where police can’t do this. They’re the people who are supposed to be protecting us and we shouldn’t feel like we need to protect ourselves from them,” Beck said.

Beck has filed a claim against the department alleging civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The incident happened July 29 as McComas was loading his boat outside his Rohnert Park home. “What have I done? Answer me, what have I done,” McComas asked.

Doug Foley, the attorney for officer Rodriguez, released a statement saying: “While some aspects of their contact were captured on video, Rodriguez is eager to share a complete accounting of the vents which led to his contact with Mr. McComas.”

Oh, do share! I want to see how the officer tries to spin this. What exactly was Mr. McComas supposedly doing that caused the officer to point a gun at him?

The Rohnert Park cops are in the news again. This time for storming the home of a California man for the flimsiest of reasons, cuffing him despite the fact that he presented no danger, and harassing his daughter:

Greg Del Secco says three Rohnert Park police officers unexpectedly banged on his door early one morning, and when he opened it with his hands in view, he was cuffed and taken outside.

“I put it out so they could see my hand, knowing that I wasn’t opening it with a weapon or anything like that,” Del Secco said. “As that hand, and I stepped out, they grabbed that hand and twisted it behind my back and started cuffing me and taking me off the porch.”

Del Secco says he has no idea why officers were at his home, and he didn’t do anything wrong. Police Chief Steve Masterson says he considers Del Secco’s putting his hands up unusual.

“To me that an indication that he has some involvement in something that’s gone on inside that house,” said Masterson.

Del Secco says the officers then began searching his home with guns drawn. He believes they had no right to search his house.

But Rohnert Park Police tell 2 Investigates that they had good reason to search the house without a warrant because they received a 911 call from someone who claimed they heard a woman screaming for help inside Del Secco’s home.

The department refused to released the audio of the 911 call to KTVU. Police Chief Steve Masterson would only say that the 911 caller was “about 200 feet from the residence and he clearly heard a woman screaming for help.”

Civil rights attorney John Burris says it appears that Del Secco acted appropriately before the officers cuffed him.

“It’s the one lesson we give everybody: always make sure your hands can be seen by an officer,” said Burris. “It should not have been perceived as a threat of any kind.”

Officers did not find anything inside Del Secco’s home and did not arrest him.

“It was handled with force,” said Del Secco. “It was not handled with diplomacy.”

It’s so aggravating to see once again that cops are not assessing a situation before leaping into the fray. Is this standard operating procedure for 911 calls? How did they know the caller could be trusted? Why was Del Secco treated like a suspect when he answered the door even though he kept his hands visible? Why did police escalate the situation instead of talking to him about the call? Oh, and is it any surprise that the police are not releasing the 911 call?  There’s an additional wrinkle to this story. One that may connect to the harassment of Don McComas:

2 Investigates has uncovered a bizarre connection between the two incidents. Del Secco says he and McComas are coworkers who work side by side in an auto body shop.

Just a few days after McComas posted the cell phone video online, Del Secco wrote a Facebook post on Rohnert Park Police’s page that criticized the officer and the department. It has since been deleted, although other critical posts from different users have been allowed to remain public.

In the post, Del Secco called the Rohnert Park police “gun happy,” saying they “harass citizens,” and that officers would be “looking for revenge.”  A week later, three officers showed up at his door.

Del Secco says he believes his Facebook post is “potentially” connected to the reason he received a visit from police.

Chief Masterson called the connection an “odd coincidence.”

For Del Secco and others, the two cases are now raising questions about whether there is an issue with the use of force within the Rohnert Park Police Department.

Chief Masterson disagrees. “I would say no. I would say absolutely not.”

Sorry buddy-you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Too many cops in too many departments have lied about the sequence of events surrounding the use of extreme force. Too many damn departments are filled with corruption and/or racist assholes. Cops need to be working overtime to rebuild the goodwill of civilians. Actions like those of the Rohnert Park Police Department only serve to worsen the relationship between cops and their civilian populace and erode any trust people have in law enforcement.

Police powers have spiraled far out of control ladies and gentlemen. Law enforcement needs their powers curtailed and they need to have a system of checks and balances in place. When or if this will happen is anyone’s guess. But until it does, we’re going to continue hearing stories of police officers unjustly badgering, detaining, harassing, arresting, brutalizing, and killing civilians.

If you can please consider donating to ye old Shoop, who is still in the throes of economic uncertainty. Every little bit helps.

Police Behaving Badly 8.28.15