Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Drunk Driving Deputy Allowed to Go Home Without Being Charged

The Nebraska State Patrol is conducting an internal investigation after one of its troopers is accused of showing preferential treatment to another law enforcement officer.

An off-duty Sarpy County sheriff's deputy was pulled over December 20th suspected of drunk driving. But the man in charge of the State Patrol, Col. Bryan Tuma, confirms the deputy was never given a sobriety test, never arrested and was allowed to get a ride home with a friend.

The allegations come amidst a DWI crackdown by the State Patrol, with a 37-percent increase in arrests last year by Omaha's Troop A alone. It was one of those troopers, Col. Tuma says, who let a suspected drunk driver go. “I believe he acknowledges that he made a mistake."

"The fact that (the party pulled over) was a law enforcement official may have had some bearing, may have had some influence on his decision of how he followed through."

"It's a double standard," says UNO Criminal Justice Professor Sam Walker, "because someones getting a break because he's a law enforcement officer."

The Nebraska State Patrol calls it an isolated incident.

Colonel Tuma says, "We know that there was alcohol involved and that officer allowed the person to be transported from the scene. Clearly out of context of what we normally do."

The stop happened after midnight on southbound Interstate 680 at Highway 75. One trooper noticed a car driving without headlights and pulled the driver over.

The trooper already had a suspect in custody from an earlier stop. “He radioed for assistance, another one of our troopers that was in the area came over and took over the traffic stop," says Col. Tuma.

That second, unnamed trooper approached the suspect’s vehicle. “There was an odor of alcohol in the vehicle. What's concerning is the trooper didn't follow through exactly the way we would prefer they follow through on one of those types of contacts."

"Instead of making an arrest or writing a citation or whatever was appropriate for that particular case, didn't occur and that's out of sync with our protocols."

For all we know -- the deputy who was off-duty and driving without headlights on may have been perfectly sober -- but without a test -- no one really knows.

The incident is disappointing says Mothers Against Drunk Driving Executive Director Simera Reynolds. "What we want to see is equitable treatment of all offenders. I think that this is a particular event that was unfortunate, but I don't think it's common practice."

Col. Tuma says his office was told about the situation immediately and the matter was turned over to Internal Affairs. However, the details of that investigation are not being disclosed.

"The officer will be disciplined here, appropriately, in the not-too-distant future," says Col. Tuma. He calls what happened “an error in judgment,” one which the trooper has admitted to and which is being taken "very seriously."

Sarpy County Sheriff Jeff Davis says a supervisor in his department was contacted when the off-duty deputy was stopped. He says his office understood the State Patrol would follow whatever steps were called for.

Since the sheriff’s department discovered protocol was broken, they conducted their own internal investigation. “Appropriate steps were taken with the deputy,” says Davis. He says just what steps were taken are an internal matter and cannot be released to the public. The same for State Trooper.

"I don't know if this should be a firing offense," says Professor Walker, "but definitely some discipline. There needs to be additional training and a reminder to officers that this isn't acceptable. It's favoritism and 'look the other way' and 'excuse your crime' when we wouldn't do that for somebody else."

Last year, the State Patrol’s drunk driving arrests increased by more than 18 percent over the previous year. The number of road fatalities also decreased, from 91 in 2007 to 60 in 2008.

Two Off-Duty Officers Arrested for Speeding & Reckless Driving


The man grinning in his mug shot is a Volusia County deputy and he's accused of taking local cops on a high-speed chase with his motorcycle. It all started when Edgewater police tried to pull over deputies Omar Lopez and Austin Littleton.

Police said the deputies were speeding and driving recklessly on their motorcycles, but the officers said they had no idea they were pursuing deputies.

There was an officer posted in a parking lot when he saw two men on motorcycles speeding past him; one was doing a wheelie. As soon as police followed them, they sped up and disappeared into a neighborhood.

Lopez was smiling when he was booked into jail Tuesday, even though the five-year sheriff's veteran is facing a felony charge, accused of running from Edgewater police.

"I think that they really needed to stop and think what they were doing, and especially the one that took off from the scene and kept on going," said Paulette Tubbs, Edgewater Police Department.

Lopez was spotted on US-1 Tuesday with Deputy Austin Littleton. Both were on personal motorcycles when an officer saw them going 60mph in a 35mph zone. They did eventually pull over, but Lopez wasn't about to stay there.

"The other officer stopped and then took off again from that position," Tubbs said.

More officers joined the pursuit and Lopez was spotted again near Oak Hill, where he appeared to be hiding behind a gas station. Again, he sped away.

It wasn't until police checked the ID of the other motorcyclist that they realized they were dealing with off-duty deputies. Police reports said a sheriff lieutenant was called to the scene. He compelled Littleton to give up Lopez and police arrested the 34-year-old in his New Smyrna Beach home.

Police insist, the pair were done no favors.

"No, no, no, 'cause they did not know that they were deputies," Tubbs said.

While Deputy Littleton was stopped and getting three tickets for his part in it, his cell phone rang and it was Deputy Lopez. The sheriff lieutenant who was on scene grabbed the phone and answered it, only to have Lopez hang up on him.

Both men were suspended with pay Wednesday morning while the sheriff's office investigates.


Kansas City Vetern Officer Accused of DWI


A 20-year veteran with the Kansas City police department is accused of driving while intoxicated.

The off-duty sergeant was arrested early Saturday on northbound Interstate 29 at 64th Street, according to court documents.

The sergeant has not been charged, so KCTV5 News is not releasing his name.

An official with the department said an internal investigation would not begin until the case gets through the court system. He also said what an officer does off-duty may not affect his on-duty status.



Officer David Gilliam Arrested for Sexually Attack Woman


A Dougherty County Police Officer assigned to the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit is arrested for a sexual attack on a woman while working an off-duty security job.

Albany Police charged 41-year old David Gilliam with sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violation of oath of office.

Investigators say a 26 year old woman reported Gilliam tried to rape her in one of the rooms at the Superior Creek Lodge on North Slappey Boulevard February 4th. Gilliam worked at that motel as a Security Guard.

Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek said "He has been on suspension with pay status since the morning after this incident last week. We place him in a suspension status at that time and he had been relieved of all duties."

Warrants for Gilliam's arrest were signed Wednesday morning.

He turned himself in at the Sheriff's Office and was released on bond.

Dougherty County Police fired him Wednesday.

He worked for D-C-P since October 2005 and was assigned to the drug squad the last two years.

Two Officers Investigated for Beating Man

FRESNO, Calif.

Police are investigating the arrest of a homeless man after a video showed one officer striking the man as another officer restrained him.

The two officers have been put on desk duty. Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the officers' report said 52-year-old Glen Beaty was combative and intoxicated and he struck one officer in the arm.

The video made Monday by a bystander was shown on KSEE 24 in Fresno. It shows Beaty lying on his side on the ground being punched in the face at least five times.

Dyer says the recording is troubling but it's too early to determine whether the officers' actions were appropriate for the situation.

In another videotape case, a New York City police officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to using excessive force on a man he was arresting last July.

The video obtained by his supervisors showed 43-year-old David London beating Army veteran Walter Harvin with a baton after he entered a city building without identification. The charge against Harvin was dropped.


Former Officer Rolando Balanos Jr Charged with Bank Robbery

The son of Hialeah's former police chief was arrested Wednesday morning, two days after he is accused of robbing a bank, according to detectives.

Rolando A. Bolaños Jr., a former police officer himself, was charged with the strong arm bank robbery of a Bank Atlantic in Hialeah -- a city where he's well known by police, politicians and attorneys.

Police said the former cop walked into the bank with a black baseball cap hanging low over his face, and then he handed the bank teller a note demanding money. He walked out with a stack of cash and rolled away in his black Mercedes Benz.

The married 36-year-old is the son of former Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños Sr., a man who was famous for single-handedly stopping bank robbers in 1996.

His voluntary arrest comes five years after his last run-in with the law, when the Hialeah police discovered Bolaños failed to disclose a grand theft auto charge when he applied for the department. The officer narrowly escaped misdemeanor charges by surrendering his police certification on Jan. 5, 2004.

A year earlier, the police chief's other son, Daniel Bolaños, resigned from the police department as well. He and his brother were arrested for a 1998 police brutality incident, and Daniel Bolaños later resigned under pressure from Miami-Dade prosecutors, who agreed to drop the two felony official misconduct counts.

After another joint police beating in April 2003, a jury found both brothers violated a man's civil rights when they beat him during an arrest.

Daniel Bolaños' defense attorney at the time, Michael Band, said his client's decision to leave law enforcement took a toll on other family members.

Family members did not say what toll Rolando Bolaños' recent arrest warrant would take on the family.

Daniel Bolaños, who was contacted Wednesday morning, sighed heavily into his phone's receiver as he said he already knew the purpose of the call.

''Right now, I have no comment,'' he said slowly, without changing a single tone in his voice.

He asked to be called later in the day.

According to Hialeah police spokesman Detective Carl Zogby, Bolaños used his own car to drive to and from the bank at 7775 W. 33rd Ave., and police tracked him down by identifying his license plate.

Wednesday morning, detectives got in contact with Bolaños Jr. or someone close to him and arranged an arrest by 10:50 a.m.

However, Hialeah Councilman José Caragol said anyone who would have seen Bolaños would have recognized him.

''He's easy to find. Everyone knows who and where his wife and kids are,'' he said.

Caragol, who served as the city's spokesman for more than two decades while Bolaños' father was police chief, said the chief took great care in raising his kids -- and that the bank robbery charge was a shame.

The former police chief once had an impeccable record with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and during the violent and chaotic 1980s, he ran Hialeah's police department with an iron fist.

Years later, Bolaños Sr. admitted to lying under oath when he told prosecutors he did not know about his son's 1989 arrest for auto theft, which later caused his son trouble when he was accused of lying on his application to the police department.

At the time, the chief told a prosecutor, ``If it came down to saving my son or telling the truth, I would have been happy to lie.''

Bolaños Sr. was Hialeah's first Hispanic police chief, and he briefly gained fame for arresting three bank robbers who happened to rob a Hialeah bank just as he drove by it.

Officer David London Accused of Beating Suspect

Last July, Police Officer David London arrested a man in the Upper West Side building where he lived with his mother, accusing him of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

But the building’s surveillance video told a different story, District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said Wednesday.

It showed Officer London pulling the man out of an elevator, Mr. Morgenthau said, and beating him 18 to 20 times with a baton. The beating continued even after the man, Walter Harvin, fell to the ground, Mr. Morgenthau said. And even after Mr. Harvin was in handcuffs, Officer London delivered another eight to 10 blows, some with his feet, Mr. Morgenthau said.

Officer London, 43, has been indicted on charges of assault and filing false records and pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. He was released without bail. If convicted he faces up to seven years in prison.

Stephen C. Worth, his lawyer, said Officer London “maintains his innocence strenuously.”

Mr. Worth said his client was a 16-year veteran of the force assigned to a housing unit and is married with three children. He also has an exemplary record as a police officer, Mr. Worth added.

Daniel J. Castleman, the chief assistant district attorney, said, “We will dispute that,” but he declined to give details.

Mr. Worth said it was important to put the video of the beating in the context of what happened before and after it was captured.

“Oftentimes the videotape is the beginning of the story, not the end,” Mr. Worth said.

Several officers have been indicted in recent months after videos contradicted their accounts of how they made arrests. In December an officer was indicted on assault and other charges after a video showed him shoving a bicyclist in Times Square. Last month two undercover narcotics officers were charged with lying about a drug sting after a nightclub video showed they had had no contact with four men they arrested. Prosecutors dropped charges against the bicyclist and the four men after the videos came to light.

In Officer London’s case, prosecutors said they could not release the video, which came from surveillance cameras, to the public because it was part of the evidence. But they said it captured the episode in detail.

The confrontation took place on July 28, 2008, when Mr. Harvin, 29, an Iraq war veteran, was trying to get into his apartment building, a public housing project, at 93rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Mr. Morgenthau said. Officer London stopped him and asked for his identification. Mr. Harvin did not have any, nor did he have his key to the building, Mr. Morgenthau said, and he got into a shoving match with Officer London.

Mr. Harvin made it to the elevator, where the assault began, Mr. Morgenthau said. Mr. Harvin was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but prosecutors dropped the charges last September after the surveillance video contradicted Officer London’s account.

Mr. Harvin suffered bruises and welts on his arms, back and head, Mr. Morgenthau said. Afterward, Mr. Harvin became homeless and drifted about the country, and prosecutors could not find him, Mr. Morgenthau said. But a lawyer representing Mr. Harvin informed the district attorney’s office Wednesday that he was back in New York.

“He’s a fragile person," said the lawyer, Adam Orlow, who added that Mr. Harvin suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq. “He became only worse after this incident.”

He said he would file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan within the next two weeks.

Officer London was placed on modified duty shortly after the episode and was suspended without pay because of the indictment.

Officer Melissa Daniels Reprimanded Before Taser Death

The Soddy-Daisy police officer who used a Taser to stun a man who later died was reprimanded by the former police chief for her “inability to perform (her) duties as an officer” before that incident.

The undated letter, contained in Officer Melissa Daniels’ personnel file, states that her attention to detail and job performance had deteriorated to the point that she was inefficient in her job. The letter is signed by Officer Daniels and then-police chief David Loftis.

Officer Daniels’ personnel file contains no further explanation of what prompted Chief Loftis to write the letter.

The officer could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Chief Phillip Hamrick said she took a day off and would not be available.

On Jan. 4, Officer Daniels responded to a disturbance call at 9921 Dayton Pike. The police report stated that 52-year-old Roger Redden would not cooperate with officers and continued to struggle, so he was shot with a stun gun. He went into a coma and died 18 days later.

According to the police department’s policy on Tasers, “trained officers must go through annual retraining courses taught by a certified instructor in order to carry and deploy the Taser Device.” The policy was created June 9, 2008, and expires June 9 this year.

Officer Daniels received Taser training Aug. 13, 2004, through the Cleveland State Police Academy. She was trained again on Jan. 24 and passed the requirement of the Soddy-Daisy Police Department, according to a certificate in her personnel file. Her file does not contain any other Taser training certifications.

Officer Daniels was sworn into the Soddy-Daisy police department March 2, 2007. The reprimand’s letterhead shows that Bob Privett was mayor at the time. Current Mayor Gene Shipley took over in November 2007.

Mr. Privett, now the vice mayor, said he did not know about the reprimand letter in Officer Daniels’ file. He said commission members should have been informed once the reprimand was written.

“I think that all the commission should be made aware once we’ve had and have had complaints on the officer,” he said. “But we shouldn’t be in the decision-making process of the chief’s decision to reprimand.”

Mr. Loftis could not be reached for comment. His resignation as chief took effect Jan. 15.

Officer Daniels previously worked in Red Bank as an officer but quit because she disagreed “with officers being treated bad by ranked officers,” she wrote on her Soddy-Daisy application.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation into the stun incident.

Chief Hamrick has said Officer Daniels will not be available for comment because of the pending investigation.

Detective Heidi Fischer Accused of Street Racing While on Duty

Ontario Provincial Police officer had her licence pulled and her cruiser impounded after being accused of violating the province's street-racing law while on duty.

Ontario law allows police to speed in the execution of their duties, Inspector Dave Ross said. An officer was pulled over on Jan. 31 along Highway 403, clocked at 165 km/h in a 100 km/h zone, the OPP said yesterday. An investigation determined there was no call or assignment requiring the officer to drive that fast, Insp. Ross said.

Detective Constable Heidi Fischer was charged under the Highway Traffic Act on Friday with driving more than 50 km/h above the posted limit. Her unmarked police cruiser has been impounded for the week.


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Strip Searching Inmates for Minor Offenses Ruled Unconstitutional

The policy of strip-searching inmates held for minor offenses at the Burlington and Essex County jails is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled this month.

More than 10,000 people arrested for minor crimes have been strip-searched at the facilities since 2003, a practice that could end up costing the counties millions of dollars, said Susan Chana Lask, a New York lawyer suing the jails.

"They just think the law stops at their doors, and they can do whatever they want," Lask said. "I'm fighting it and winning it to make sure constitutional rights are not stripped away in prison."

Similar lawsuits are pending against other county jails in New Jersey. The Camden County jail agreed in 2007 to pay $7.5 million to as many as 20,000 people strip-searched while held on minor charges.

Lask's case grew out of a lawsuit she filed on behalf of Albert Florence, a New Jersey man arrested while driving on I-295 in Burlington County in 2005.

A police check revealed that he had an outstanding warrant in Essex County for failing to pay a court fine, even though Florence produced documentation to show the fine had been paid.

He was held in the Burlington County jail for six days before being transferred to the Essex County jail. Florence said he was strip-searched at both facilities.

Lask successfully argued to make the case a class action, encompassing anyone strip-searched at either jail since 2003 while held on minor, "non-indictable" charges.

Burlington County jail officials argued that their procedures for inmates held on such offenses amounted to a "visual observation" of their bodies, not the more intrusive strip-search required for serious offenders.

They said the inspection of the nude inmates was necessary to ensure they were not smuggling contraband, to identify gang members through tattoos, and to detect health issues, such as evidence of the MRSA virus.

But District Judge Joseph Rodriguez said subjecting those arrested for minor violations to a strip search was unconstitutional unless there was "reasonable suspicion" they were carrying contraband.

"Thus, a hypothetical priest or minister arrested for allegedly skimming the Sunday collection would be subjected to the same degrading procedure as a gang member arrested on an allegation of drug charges," Rodriguez wrote in his Feb. 4 opinion.

He called that an "unreasonable result" of the jail's policy.

Rodriguez said federal circuit courts had "split" in recent years over whether strip-searches without reasonable suspicions are unconstitutional.

J. Brooks DiDonato, an attorney for Burlington County, said he could not comment at length on the case.

"The county fully intends on appealing and defending the case vigorously," he said.

A spokesman for the county could not be reached yesterday evening.

Lask said typical settlements for plaintiffs in these cases range from $1,500 to $3,000 each. She said she hoped to have a jury trial soon to determine damages.

Sgt Pete Bunch Charged with Resisting Arrest


Officials with the Spokane Police Department confirm they arrested a sergeant with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office after an incident Friday morning.

Sergeant Pete Bunch has been identified as the person involved in the incident.

It started when a police officer was called to a home in the 3200 block of East Marie Court on Friday by a woman who dialed 911 to report that a suspicious person was in her backyard.

Court documents say the first officer on scene stopped Sgt. Bunch in the street, but Bunch would not look at him and he appeared to be in a daze.

Police say Bunch was uncooperative and wouldn't answer questions, saying only that he was looking for his lost dog.

The report says the officer grabbed Bunch's wrist to arrest him but Bunch tried to wiggle free.

"There was a point the officer felt he couldn't control the situation and needed to bring his tazer out to effect the arrest. It was at that point that other officers arrived and they were able to take him into custody," Officer Jen DeRuwe of the Spokane Police Department said.

Sgt. Bunch was taken to the Spokane County Jail and booked on a count of Resisting Arrest and Obstructing an Officer. It was only after he was taken into custody that he was formally identified as a sergeant with the sheriff's office.

"They didn't know until they checked his pocket after he was arrested," Officer DeRuwe said.

Police said that Bunch probably would not have been arrested had he just cooperated with his fellow law enforcement officers.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says Bunch has been on the force 32 years.

"These charges of all things, I would expect better from a seasoned veteran," Sheriff Knezovich said.

Sheriff Knezovich says that Bunch has been placed on paid administrative leave and that there will be an internal investigation into his conduct once the criminal case is complete.

"The county doesn't have a system where we put people on unpaid status. It's all paid leave. I don't like that system, so I'm going to find a way to plug the sergeant into a position where he can work and the taxpayers can get some benefit for that pay," Sheriff Knezovich said.

The Sheriff also wanted to assure people that no one gets preferential treatment when it comes to the law.

"This agency will hold people accountable. You've seen me hold people accountable and nothing has changed," Sheriff Knezovich said.

Bunch has been in trouble before and was once demoted from lieutenant to sergeant. The sheriff would not comment on past disciplinary actions taken against Bunch.