Sunday, August 31, 2008

Russian Officers Accused of Killing Website Owner


The owner of an independent website critical of authorities was shot and killed Sunday by police in a volatile province in southern Russia, his colleague said.
Police arrested owner Magomed Yevloyev on Sunday, taking him off a plane that had just landed in Ingushetia province near Chechnya, said the site's deputy editor, Ruslan Khautiyev.

Police whisked Yevloyev away in a car and later dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in the head, Khautiyev said. He said Yevloyev died in a hospital shortly afterward.

In Moscow, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that Yevloyev was detained by police and died in an "incident" while being taken to police headquarters for an interrogation. Markin did not elaborate, saying that a check to clarify the circumstances of Yevloyev's death had begun. The committee is under the Prosecutor General's office.

Yevloyev has angered regional authorities with bold criticism of police treatment of civilians in the region. A court in June ordered him to shut his site on charges of spreading "extremist" statements, but it reappeared under a different name.

Khautiyev said that Yevloyev arrived in Ingushetia from Moscow on Sunday on the same plane with regional President Murat Zyazikov. Police blocked the jet on the runway after it landed in Ingushetia's provincial capital, Magas, entered the plane and took Yevloyev out.

Yevloyev's death is likely to further stir up passions in Ingushetia, which has been plagued by frequent raids and ambushes against federal forces and local authorities. Government critics attribute the attacks to anger fueled by abductions, beatings, unlawful arrests and killings of suspects by government forces and local allied paramilitaries.

Many in Ingushetia are intensely unhappy with Zyazikov, a former KGB officer and a close ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Immediately after Yevloyev's detention, his website urged Ingushetia's residents to gather outside the headquarters of a leading opposition group.

Officer Accused of Misconduct Allowed to keep Working


When Sgt. Bradley Lawrence was accused of criminal misconduct by a fellow police officer July 2, he was allowed to continue working.

About a month later, a complaint lodged by another officer, alleging more constitutional violations, resulted in police leaders putting Lawrence on paid leave effective Aug. 7.

Lawrence is now the subject of an internal investigation, police leaders have said.

But questions have grown louder in recent weeks about whether an internal investigation is appropriate in this case, or consistent with common police practices.

A survey of several area policing agencies shows a general alignment in the way each handles criminal or procedural complaints against officers.

For the most part, agencies stick to a practice of investigating complaints of non-criminal behavior internally while bringing in an outside agency, usually the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, when the behavior would be criminal.

"Most of our policy violations are done in-house through an internal- affairs department that reports to the chief," said Fontana police Sgt. Jeff Decker. "As a general rule, if there was a criminal allegation, there would be an internal and separate investigation into criminal activity done by an outside agency."

But Decker, like leaders in other departments, stressed that the rule isn't immutable.

"There is some room for flexibility," Decker said.

But recently,fresh attention has been aimed at investigations of officer misconduct.
A number of officers have groused privately about the way in which Lawrence's situation has been handled.

Some, including retired Lt. Don Soderbloom and Police Association President Sgt. Rich Lawhead, have openly suggested that unequal treatment - or the perception of favoritism - may be at play, with Lawrence's investigation kept in-house and casting a shadow over its progress and ultimate conclusions.

But other department leaders' statements about the criteria by which investigations are conducted internally or by an outside agency suggest that San Bernardino police are out of step in their internal handling of Lawrence.

"There are allegations of criminal conduct, without question," said Gary Smith, a local attorney representing Greg Parker, whom Lawrence is accused of illegally detaining in September 2007. An internal booking log obtained by The Sun lists Parker as held "on ice," and does not list charges.

Smith noted that if internal documents use such terms to describe Lawrence's detentions, there is no telling how many may have been complicit.

"It is my expectation that the department must go to an outside, independent agency for the investigation," he said. "Lawrence isn't operating alone."

In the case of San Bernardino, some discretion has clearly been exercised in who faces outside or inside investigations, Soderbloom said.

Soderbloom points to his own investigation, in which he was accused of dissuading another officer from filing charges against a bartender who served alcohol to a minor. That was conducted by District Attorney's Office at the administration's request, he said.

Soderbloom was cleared of wrongdoing.

But Lawrence is being investigated in-house.

Soderbloom names other officers accused of serious crimes - including former officer Ronald VanRossum, who was convicted of rape - whose initial investigations were conducted in-house.

Rialto police Capt. Tony Farrar, like Decker and Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann, said it is important to maintain the perception that investigations are open and impartial by investigating criminal allegations through an outside agency.

"We definitely don't want to lose the public's trust," Farrar said.

Assistant District Attorney Dennis Christy, who has said the Lawrence investigation is proceeding normally, said San Bernardino police are in line with protocol with their internal investigations.

"There are occasions when an outside department will do an investigation, but that is the exception rather than the rule," Christy said. Larger departments tend to do internal investigations into criminal wrongdoing more often than smaller ones, he added.

But Bueermann said conducting internal investigations can be problematic and raise questions about the integrity of the process.

"For us, it's very simple," Bueermann said. "If there's any indication that an employee may have committed a crime, we ask an outside agency to investigate," Bueermann said.

In San Bernardino, Billdt has steadfastly declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Lawrence and the investigation into his conduct, citing state law prohibiting him from discussing personnel matters.

Lawrence has a checkered history, including standing trial for allegedly threatening to tie a child to the back of his patrol car during an interrogation in 1989.

And new questions as to the probity of the department's internal investigations were raised, when it was revealed last week that an investigation into alleged police brutality on the Westside was unfinished after a year, meaning the statute of limitations for internal discipline had expired.

Lt. Scott Paterson said a lack of cooperation from the community was partly to blame for the protracted investigation.