USA: Police State

Police Professionalism Roundup

by Radley Balko, Reason

  • 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”.
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