Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is this Police Brutality? What do you think?

Officer Carlyle Cokke Arrested for DUI


A Navajo Nation Police officer from Dilkon Police District was arrested early Wednesday morning by Flagstaff Police for DUI and extreme DUI. This was his third offense, according to Dilkon’s Lt. Emerson Lee.

According to the report, Sgt. James Jackson was working a special detail, patrolling the area of Fourth Street around 1 a.m., when he saw a red 2001 Neon being driven through the parking lots of several closed businesses. When the vehicle pulled into the parking lot of B&T Glass and shut off its lights Sgt. Jackson drove around to the business and informed dispatch that he would be checking on a suspicious vehicle.

As he approached the vehicle the driver, identified as Carlyle Cokke, 27, a Dilkon Police officer, got out of the car and stood by the driver’s side door. Jackson identified himself and asked Cokke why he was driving in the area of the closed businesses. Cokke stated he had just parked the vehicle, the report states.

“I told him I had seen him drive across Fourth Street from the other parking lot, and he stated, ‘I know,’” according to Jackson, who noted that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Cokke’s breath and that his eyes were bloodshot and speech slurred.

Upon questioning, Cokke told the officer that he had consumed six Budweisers that evening. “After answering the questions, he stated, ‘I’m screwed.’ I asked him what he was referring to and he did not answer. I asked again what he was talking about and he stated, ‘I’m NPD.’ I asked him what that was and he stated, ‘Navajo Police,’” according to the report.

Cokke told the officer, “’I just want to go home. Just take me home.’”

Jackson stated he told Cokke that if, in fact, he was a police officer, he should know the severity of driving while intoxicated. “The driver stated, ‘I know. I’ve done this before.’ I asked what he did before and he did not answer,” Jackson said.

The officer asked Cokke for his driver’s license, at which point Cokke reached back inside the vehicle, turned off the ignition and pulled the keys out, dropping them on the floor, the report states.

Cokke was asked by another officer on the scene, Matthew Schmidt, if he was armed or had any weapons in the vehicle and Cokke said no. A duty belt with loaded gun was located later on the rear seat, driver’s side.

Cokke was asked to perform a couple field sobriety tests, including the one-leg stand and walk and turn, to which he agreed, but after attempting each one reportedly told the officer, “I can’t do the test.”

Cokke was placed under arrest at 1:36 a.m. for DUI, and his duty belt, handgun, law enforcement paper work, ballistic vest, uniform and police laptop were collected and booked into safekeeping. Schmidt transported Cokke to the Coconino County Jail where he was read his rights and submitted to breath tests showing a blood alcohol content of .187, .212, and .217 — nearly three times the legal limit for intoxication, or .08.

The first time Cokke provided a sample of breath he blew into the machine for a very short time, paused, and did it again. The second and third samples were given with controlled blowing into the machine, the report states.

When Jackson arrived at the jail, Cokke asked him to contact his supervisor and advise him of the situation, which the officer did. After being issued a citation and given a court date, Cokke was given a ride by Schmidt to a local residence and released to a responsible party. His vehicle was towed.

“Normally, if it was any other Joe Schmoe, he would probably still be in jail,” Lt. Emerson Lee said. “This is the third arrest of Carlyle Cokke. The first one was off the reservation in Flagstaff and the second one was off the reservation in Holbrook. He was incarcerated and went on parole and we took disciplinary action on that.

“Now he’s done this again. Nobody’s above the law. This is really an unethical and unprofessional example.” Now, Lee said, Cooke will have to “face the consequences.”

“Any civil or criminal issues are at the hand of the justice system off the reservation. We have no input. The only thing we are dealing with is the administrative issues according to the Navajo Nation Personnel Policies Manual,” Lee said.

Cokke is scheduled to appear in Flagstaff Municipal Court Feb. 25.


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Taser Use by Massachusetts Officers on the Rise

The use of Tasers by police in Massachusetts has soared in recent years.

The Boston Globe reports police used Tasers in 229 incidents between September 2007 and September 2008. That’s a fourfold increase from three years ago.

Fall River police reported 45 Tasers incidents last year, the most in the state, at one point firing the weapon 11 times to subdue a man his family described as mentally ill.

Police say Tasers, which deliver a five second, 50,000-volt shock, are an effective, non-lethal way to subdue violent suspects.

Amnesty International said at least 334 people across the United States died after police used Tasers on them since 2001. The human rights group said it’s difficult to know if the Tasers caused the deaths.

Feds Investigating Alleged Brutality by Officers


The private investigator hired to determine whether or not police officers violated the rights of a local teen has requested federal authorities to assist in finding out what happened to Calvin Wilkerson.

As previously reported, private investigator Donald Stephens was hired by Crystal Wilkerson to investigate an incident in which citizens claim law enforcement officials from three agencies beat her son and allowed a police dog to attack him outside the Williamson State Police barracks. Police escorted him there after arresting him when he allegedly became disorderly at the attorney’s office where he and his mother attended a mental hygiene hearing. Crystal Wilkerson told a Daily News reporter she feared for her son’s safety due to his mental state and was seeking help for him.

A man contacted the Wilkerson family, claiming he saw officers with the West Virginia State Police, the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department, and the Williamson City Police Department trip Calvin Wilkerson when he got out of a police cruiser on Third Street. He told the Wilkersons and later Stephens that officers allowed the police dog to attack Calvin Wilkerson while they kicked him and shouted at him with racially-charged language.

Wilkerson was taken to Williamson Memorial Hospital that night and treated for four different lacerations, including two dog bites.

There has been a total of eight people to give Stephens statements about seeing an altercation outside the police barracks, he said, adding, ‘After questioning all the witnesses, I found that they are credible.’

However, as Stephens pointed out, allegations are just that until an investigation is complete.

Asserting he believes there are other witnesses, as police waved people through on the street the night of the incident, Stephens said, ‘It’s crucial that people come forward and tell me what they know so we can get to the bottom of this issue.’

He has requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to assist in the case, taking what evidence he has to the Williamson agent, who will formulate a preliminary report for Washington officials, who will decide whether or not the incident warrants a probe.

‘I’m sure the people of Mingo County want to know what happened,’ Stephens said. ‘Also, I’m sure its in the best interest of the city, the county and the state to find out what the truth is regarding the case.’

The National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) has been involved in the investigation since a day or so after the incident occurred in January 2009, but is leaving the probe in Stephens’ hands, he said.

Taking the case of Calvin and Crystal Wilkerson this week, Wayne County attorney Gary L. Michaels said he does not know what the status is for the federal investigation, but will be working with the NAACP and Stephens in finding the truth.

‘I want to make sure the facts are clear, and at this time it is unclear as to what the facts are,’ Michaels said. ‘There are several witnesses and I’m resolved to help the Wilkerson’s to fully develop the facts in this case and, if necessary, to file any appropriate civil action.’

Although unsure what the NAACP’s role is in the case at this point, Michaels said they are involved.

Stephens urges anyone with information about the case in question to call him at (304) 234-3355.

Having received numerous reports alleging past abuse from the officers named in the Wilkerson case, Stephens said there is nothing he can do about those occasions, and people sometimes say stuff out of anger.

This is why is so important not to point fingers or make statements that could be harmful to anyone, he said adding, ‘We are just looking for the truth.’


Former Atlanta Officers Apoliogize for Shooting Woman


A sentencing hearing got under way Monday for three former Atlanta police officers who pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with the death of an elderly woman during a botched drug raid.

Jason R. Smith, Gregg Junnier and Arthur Tesler appeared in federal court for sentencing on a charge of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death.

During the hearing Smith apologized for the shooting.

"I am very sorry for my conduct and apologize to everyone for what I did," Smith said. "There is no excuse for this conduct and I accept the sentence of this court."

"I pray daily for Ms. Johnston. I also pray other officers in Atlanta will have the moral fortitude I didn't have," Smith added.

Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman, was killed by police gunfire during the 2006 raid at her home.

"Her death was the foreseeable culmination of a long-standing conspiracy in which the officers violated their oaths of office," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon-Peter Kelly during the hearing.

The officers "regularly swore falsely" to get warrants and make cases, he said.

Johnston fired one shot went through the door and over the heads of six police officers as they rushed into her house. Police shot back, firing 39 times; hitting Johnston five times. They handcuffed her on the floor, as she died.

Junnier and two other officers were wounded by shots fired by fellow officers.

"She died a violent death at the hands of people who were supposed to protect her," neighbor Kellie Hill told WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Jeff Dore at the federal courthouse.

"I miss my friend very much," she sobbed.

Kathryn Johnston's family was not in court.

"Those guys obstructed justice not just that night, but for years," Atlanta City Councilman Ivory Young testified during the hearing. "This is how they regularly operated."

"What happens in a community," Young asked, "when the police are the most consistent violators of human rights?"

The judge heard a letter from Johnston's niece, who could not be in court because of her health, as well as state Sen. Vincent Fort.

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Officer Ryan Hutchison Resigns After Making Racial Comments on Video


A Krebs police officer has resigned after the Tulsa World obtained video showing the officer making racist comments during a traffic stop of four black men.

As first reported on, federal indictments against three of the men were dismissed after the video surfaced in the identity-theft case in Muskogee's federal court, an attorney said.

Reserve Krebs Police Officer Ryan Hutchison resigned Friday, said Krebs Police Chief Dennis Cook. Cook was not aware of the arrest video and its racial content until contacted by the World this week.

William Earl Bill, Korell Rashaud Harp and Kelvin Lamont Jackson were indicted Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court in Muskogee on 13 counts of aggravated identity theft, false identification and possession of counterfeit checks with intent to deceive, court records show. Hutchison arrested the men Sept. 10 on U.S. 69 near Krebs in Pittsburg County, according to court records.

When pulled over for allegedly speeding, the suspects were in possession of a cache of counterfeit checks and driver's licenses with different names, court records show. The licenses were high-quality fakes complete with holographic images and other convincing identifiers, court records show.

Records show the men were allegedly planning to use the driver's licenses to cash counterfeit checks at various banks.

However, comments by the arresting officer caused federal prosecutors to throw out the felony indictments on Feb. 13, said Assistant Federal Defender Rob Ridenour.

The World obtained the police video of the traffic stop containing the racist comments by Hutchison. The audio portion of the video recorded Hutchison using the term "n----r" to describe the black occupants of a rental car he had just stopped for alleged speeding.

On the video Hutchison can be seen talking to the driver and then returning to his patrol car. While sitting in his police unit, Hutchison can be heard saying: This "smells funny. F--king n-----s in a rental car and ain't none of them on the rental agreement. I'll call the f--king rental company and make them all walk. If you ain't on the rental agreement you ain't supposed to drive the car."

In the video, Hutchison is talking to another person, whose identity is not available, who is riding with him on patrol that night.

Hutchison could not be reached for comment.

The video contains other racial comments. There is also a general comment about President Barack Obama. "Got a damn Obama sticker on the back window," Hutchison said.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said federal charges were dismissed due to action taken at the district court level.

"We comprehensively reviewed the evidence in the case, and we dismissed federal charges in deference to an appropriate state court disposition," Sperling said. "I would respectfully submit that this outcome is consistent with our oath and obligation to use common sense and discernment."

After having their federal indictments dismissed, the three men pleaded guilty in Pittsburg County District Court to one felony count of possessing false identification, Ridenour said. The men received two years of unsupervised probation, he said.

After being contacted by the World earlier this week, Cook said he suspended Hutchison and then called for his resignation after viewing the arrest video.

"I have spoken to the officer about this, and he does not deny it, but he also says he does not remember it," Cook said. "That's why we put videos in the cars, to be sure these kinds of things don't occur. I assure you that we are not going to tolerate any racial comments or activities on this police force."

Cook said Hutchison joined the Krebs police in October 2005 and has no record of disciplinary actions with the police force. As a reserve officer, Hutchison is CLEET certified but works part-time without pay, Cook said.

Krebs is located east of McAlester.

Ridenour said that Hutchison's comments were racist and point to racial profiling.

"I'm an Okie and a red-neck, but I am ashamed that in this day and age that these guys knowing they are cops and knowing they are being taped and they would say things like that," he said. "The comments are wrong and unacceptable."

Ridenour was one of three attorneys representing the defendants. Ridenour represented Bill, who has an extensive criminal record involving crimes similar to the ones he was charged with, a source said.

If convicted of the federal indictments, the men would have faced at least seven years in prison or more, Ridenour said.

Ridenour said the federal prosecutor took the proper action by throwing out the indictments.

"Once they saw the video, they knew it was inappropriate, and they did the right thing," Ridenour said. "They left it to the state to do what it wanted to do."

Ridenour said the defendants accepted the plea agreement in state court because they wanted to get out of jail. They had been in federal and state custody since their arrest in September.

Bill was the driver of the rental car. Bill and Jackson are from Dallas, while Harp is from Barnesville, Ga. A fourth person in the car, Antonio Jackson, is from Fyffe, Ala., and was not indicted on any crimes. The four men were traveling from Texas to Milwaukee when they were arrested, Ridenour said.

Additional footage from the video shows Hutchison and back-up police officers searching the vehicle and discovering what the officer thought was marijuana and the counterfeit licenses and checks.

Janice Purcell, a Tahlequah attorney representing Jackson, said her client did not have an extensive police record.

Defense attorney Michael McGuire of Tulsa said police officers did not obtain proper consent to search the vehicle. He had harsh words for Hutchison's conduct.

"It is disgusting. It speaks for itself," McGuire said. "These are the real reasons for the dismissal and the bogus consent to search. You can tell these clowns were wanting to search the vehicle, and you can hear them planning how to do it on the video, but it was not a proper search."

Sperling said: "We do not believe the search is subject to much legitimate question."

McGuire represented Harp, who he said had no previous criminal record.


Stories From Teens Sentenced by Corrupt Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr

It started with a Crunch bar and escalated with a pillow. Alyson Baber thought it would end at home. But it didn’t.Ms. Baber, then 15, remembers hitting her mother in the backside three times with a pillow during an argument over the candy bar. Her mother called the police, and before Ms. Baber knew it, she was in front of then-Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.

“He asked me how I would plead, and I thought, ‘I did hit her with a pillow, so I guess I did do it,’ ” Ms. Baber said. “Everyone thought it was just another one of my mom’s stupid little stunts for attention. No one thought I would ever go away.”

In January 2003, Ms. Baber was sentenced to 56 days in a detention facility.

She is one of thousands of juveniles sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since 2002. Those found guilty were often sent to private detention centers or to wilderness camps like Camp Adams in Jim Thorpe.

Earlier this month, Judge Ciavarella and former Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan pleaded guilty to accepting $2.6 million in exchange for facilitating the development and county use of two privately owned juvenile detention centers — the Pennsylvania Child Care Center in Pittston Twp. and Western Pennsylvania Child Care in Butler County.

Because juvenile records are sealed, The Sunday Voice relied on 11 young adults and five parents who agreed to discuss their experiences with the Luzerne County juvenile court system. Most admit the juveniles deserved punishment but feel their cases were handled unfairly.

Some feel like pawns, believing their sentences were simply moneymakers.

Some are suing the judges and their business partners.

Some cried when remembering their time away from home.

All expressed dismay with what they called a broken judicial system.

They want it fixed.

Alyson Baber, 21

Most of Ms. Baber’s sentence was spent at Camp Adams, a world away from her home in quiet Forty Fort. Many girls were there for stealing cars, dealing and using drugs, even armed assault.

“Then there was me, the pillow batterer,” Ms. Baber said. “That was a lifestyle I should never have been exposed to.”

The classes — they did word search puzzles in history, she said — left Ms. Baber far behind when she returned to high school.

It was difficult to maintain good hygiene.

“The shampoo made our hair come out in clumps,” she said. “I had my hair put in box braids so I wouldn’t have to wash it as much.

“My caseworker told me to take the braids out of my hair because Judge Ciavarella wouldn’t talk to kids with braids in their hair because he thought they had a bad attitude.”

After serving her time, Ms. Baber switched schools and moved in with her father in the Lake-Lehman area. The rumors followed her. She transferred again before her senior year, this time to Bishop O’Reilly High School.

“I think people who I went to high school with today still believe I stabbed my mom,” Ms. Baber said.

Ms. Baber is now a senior studying biology at Delaware Valley College. She wants to become a veterinarian. The few friends she’s told about her stint in Camp Adams hardly believe it.

“If you really think about it, I don’t think that’s a crime,” Ms. Baber said. “People get hit by pillows every day. I would never mean to hurt my mother.”

Bree McCabe, 20

Michelle McCabe is living a mother’s nightmare: her daughter is homeless and far from her friends and family. McCabe blames the years Bree spent in juvenile detention centers like Pennsylvania Child Care.

“She has no idea of how to function without someone telling her what to do from the moment she wakes up,” Ms. McCabe, who was interviewed on Bree’s behalf, said. “That’s going to make anyone a little crazy, when you’re torn away from your family and locked up. I firmly believe that had Bree been with me, she wouldn’t be where she is today.”

Bree was 13 when she was in a shoving match at Crestwood High School. It was her first offense. She violated her probation by smoking marijuana and would later spend five years in and out of various facilities across the country. Judge Ciavarella sentenced her every time, Ms. McCabe said.

Her mother believes Bree missed out on normal high school experiences. Instead of learning how to do simple tasks such as writing checks, she learned how to hustle cigarettes.

“She missed all these things, and it’s really taken its toll,” Ms. McCabe said. “She has zero self-esteem. She does wrong because she doesn’t know any different.”

Bree lives in southern New Jersey and has no job prospects. Ms. McCabe wonders if her daughter will ever lead a normal life.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” Ms. McCabe said. “You trust the system, and the system screws you.”

Jesse Miers, 19

Jesse Miers was 17 when a friend’s younger brother showed him a stolen gun.

Mr. Miers, of Exeter, considered himself a mentor to the 13-year-old boy, who wanted to threaten bullies with the gun.

“He wanted to take the gun and kill someone,” Mr. Miers said. “What if it happened? That would have been on my conscience because I could have stopped it. So I did.”

He took the gun away from the boy and gave the gun to his boss, who told Mr. Miers he would take care of it.

Months later, Mr. Miers was arrested for possession of a stolen firearm. He was ordered to appear before Judge Ciavarella and spent a week in the Pittston Twp. detention center, awaiting a hearing.

“Immediately, I wanted a lawyer,” he said. “I was charged with a felony. I wanted a lawyer to represent me. The hearing came; one never showed up.”

Mr. Miers wrote a note to Judge Ciavarella.

“He didn’t even read it,” Mr. Miers recalled. “He just put it next to him ... didn’t even bother with it.”

Mr. Miers was shackled and bused to Western Pennsylvania Child Care, where he was to serve three months.

“That place was horrible, fights everywhere,” he said. “I didn’t belong there.”

Mr. Miers was eventually released and put on probation.

“I feel I got in trouble for trying to do the right thing,” Mr. Miers said. “But I feel bad for half these kids. You went there thinking you were going to get a fair trial, that you were going to be heard. Then you got 45 seconds in front of the judge. You got brushed off.”

Paige Cicardo, 18

Paige Cicardo threw a sandal at her mom during an argument.

Judge Ciavarella threw six months back.

Starting in summer 2006, Ms. Cicardo spent her sentence at Western Pennsylvania Child Care and Pennsylvania Child Care. Her mom may have pressed charges to teach her a lesson, Ms. Cicardo said, but not to see her daughter sent away.

“I think it was wrong, because the case wasn’t that bad,” Ms. Cicardo said. “I could see, like, if he wanted to punish me, he could have given me probation or something.”

Going away was difficult, and Ms. Cicardo said she would have done anything to get back home with her family. She didn’t understand why she was locked up with girls who had used drugs, stolen or worked as prostitutes.

Everything was different when she was released. She felt unstable.

Then she moved with her mother to Mount Pocono. She enrolled in school, met her boyfriend and had a baby. Donnivan is 7 months old.

Ms. Cicardo is in her last semester of high school and working a part-time job.

She still thinks her sentence was unjust, but she’s proud of how her life has unfolded.

“I wouldn’t want to change anything, because I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said.


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Family Still Looking for Justice for Anita Gay

Family, friends, and supporters against police brutality gathered on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, and Ashby Avenue in Berkeley on Friday night, to commemorate the one year anniversary of Anita Gay.

The Berkeley police shot Gay in the back, but the reason behind the shooting is still unclear. According to the police, Gay had a knife and the officer, Rashawn Cummings, pulled the trigger to prevent Gay from harming her daughters. Gay's family says that she was old and did not have a knife, nor did they feel that police needed to shoot because Gay was complying with the officer's requests.

The vigil was not only to remember Gay, but the many others who lost their lives to police brutality. Supporters held up signs to commemorate the death of Oscar Grant who was shot and killed by BART police at the Fruitvale station on New Years day, as well as the names of other victims.

"This cause is important to me because it affects my community," said Rachel Reynolds from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, (ANSWER), "I think the police if in theory they are supposed to protect and serve, then they really should not have killed nearly as many people as they did in the last year."

Supporters say that police brutality affects the community as a whole, and needs to end. Gay's family said that the shooting took a toll on them.

"My family, we were devastated," Patricia Johnson, Anita Gay's sister said, "They didn't have the courtesy to call my mother, they still haven't called my mother and it's been a year. They really need to be accountable for their actions, just like me and you."

The crowd cheered and shouted, "No Justice, No Peace," as people honked their car horns or watched the protest from stoplights. At 6:00 p.m., supporters lit candles and took a moment to reflect.

Gay's sister and granddaughter thanked the supporters for attending the vigil. Even though the event was postponed on Monday due to rain, the family says that they will be out every year to remember those who died from police brutality.


Mayor and Police Chief Miles Jenkins Arrested for Corruption

The mayor and police chief of a federally funded Louisiana speed trap town were arrested Wednesday on felony corruption charges. A Tensas Parish Grand Jury indicted Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham for felony theft, malfeasance in office, payroll fraud and using public funds for personal use. Waterproof Police Chief Miles Jenkins faces three felony counts for receiving bonuses for meeting traffic ticket quotas and altering traffic citations. The activities of both officials were fueled by federal taxpayer dollars.

In 2007, Higginbotham received $37,500 from the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development's Community Facilities Program for the purchase of two police cars fully equipped with the latest speed detection equipment. Higginbotham ordered Miles to use these vehicles to prey on State Highway 65 travelers as the speed limit dropped without warning to 45 MPH within the town limits.

"They have the nicest police cars in Louisiana," one commenter on the National Motorists Association Speed Trap Exchange website observed. "However they are the most unprofessionally dressed cops I've ever seen."

Even before the arrival of the new cruisers, Waterproof earned 37 percent of its budget from speeding tickets, according to a 2007 report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. Higginbotham and Jenkins are out on bond awaiting trial. Louisiana State Police officials say the investigation into their activities is ongoing.

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