Thursday, March 12, 2009

Officer Scott Taylor Fired after being Investigated for Beating Police Dog

Scott Taylor, the University of Nevada, Reno police officer who has been under investigation for claims of police abuse and for allegedly beating his assigned police dog, no longer works at UNR, spokeswoman Jane Tors said today.

“He is no longer an employee,” she said. “He was notified of this (Wednesday).”

Tors said she is prohibited from discussing whether Taylor was fired or why he no longer works at UNR because, by law, it is a confidential personnel matter.

Neither Taylor or his attorney could be reached for comment.

When contacted Wednesday about reports Taylor had been fired, Tors said the university had taken action that dealt with Taylor and that the action was based on “an internal matter and not the dog, which would still be within the purview of the Attorney General’s office.”

UNR Police Chief Adam Garcia had put Taylor on paid leave last month pending an internal investigation after a complaint of police abuse was made against him Feb. 3.

“It was a complaint against his inappropriate conduct with a citizen while on duty,” Garcia had said.

In an earlier complaint filed in January with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA said Taylor had been accused of beating his K-9 patrol dog, a male German shepherd name Niko, to the point that the dog defecated on the floor at the university’s police station.

Garcia turned that investigation over to the Attorney General’s office.

Michael Langton, Taylor’s attorney, has stated that his client maintains he is innocent.

Langton said Taylor had explained that the dog defecated on the floor at the UNR police station not out of fear, but because the animal was ill, and that Taylor took him to a veterinarian after the incident.

Garcia said that after PETA contacted him Jan. 29 about the complaint, he had Niko taken away from Taylor and brought to a Reno veterinarian to be examined and kept, pending the outcome of the Attorney General’s investigation.

University officials have said that the initial assessment by the veterinarian who examined Niko found “no overt signs of abuse or trauma.”


Officer Justin White Charged with Theft by Fraud

A Shreveport police officer is free on $5,184 bond after being booked into Caddo Correctional Center today on a charge of felony theft by fraud.

Officer Justin Matthew White, 27, also is on paid administrative leave from the Police Department, police Cpl. Bill Goodin said.

White is accused of falsely reporting his all-terrain vehicle as stolen to Blanchard police in June and collecting $7,012 from the insurance claim he filed, Cindy Chadwick, a Caddo sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said.

He and a friend, who is wanted by the sheriff’s office, traded the ATV to a Bossier City business for automotive work, according to Chadwick. White blew the ATV’s motor and could not afford to fix it.

“It was really just by accident this was discovered,” she said.

Bossier City police are working a similar case involving an ATV and were checking the ATV for their case Monday and it turned out to be the one that was allegedly stolen from White’s Blanchard property, Chadwick said.

BCPD contacted the Caddo sheriff’s office, and the obtained warrants for both White and his friend’s arrest on a charge of felony theft by fraud. The friend’s name was not release as he has not yet been arrested.

Shreveport police supervisors turned White over to the sheriff’s office Thursday after being notified the parish had a warrant for his arrest, Goodin said.

White was booked into Caddo Correctional at 4:48 p.m. today, according to booking records.

Police Chief Henry Whitehorn has relieved White of all duties pending an internal investigation. “I will not tolerate misconduct on the part of our officers,” the police chief said.

White has been employed by the Police Department for four years.


Operation Shattered Innocence Nabs Two Probation Officers

Law enforcement statewide made two more arrests Thursday and seized more computers in the wrap up of a statewide sweep to gather up those who sent and received pornographic images of children.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said 103 computers have now been seized and 25 people arrested over three days, including two private probation officers and at least two juveniles.

On Tuesday, local, state and federal officers spanned out across the state, executing 44 search warrants that were based on the findings of a three-month-long investigation, “Operation Shattered Innocence.”

The GBI, which coordinated the operation, was still gathering information from all the law enforcement agencies involved Thursday but the agency had some information on who was arrested and what has been found so far.

One of the probation officers charged with felony sexual exploitation of children was Christopher Lee Tucker of Hazelhurst, who turned himself in to the Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning.


Death by Taser

Millions of people were stunned and outraged by the videos that showed Oakland BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop Johannes Mehserle draw his gun and kill Oscar Grant. Mehserle quit his job 7 days after the killing to avoid giving any statement about what happened or why he did it. Now Mehserle’s lawyers are working hard to offer a plausible explanation to exonerate the cop for the killing. They say that contrary to what people might think, Mehserle had “no criminal intent” when he fired his gun into Grant’s back at point-blank range. They back up this outrageous statement by explaining their theory that this cop “may have mistakenly deployed his pistol rather than his taser” and did not mean to kill Oscar. He just meant to tase him.
Meanwhile, a little more than a month after Oscar Grant was killed in Oakland, another young man was killed by police taser, 40 miles away in San Jose. His name was Richard Lua, and police killed him in front of his own garage, during a “routine patrol.” Police murder has become so “routine” that many times an explanation is offered only as an afterthought. Like Oscar Grant, Richard Lua leaves behind a young daughter and a grieving, outraged family.

Taser use is so routine in San Jose that Lua’s is the 6th death by police taser there just since 2005. Death by police taser is on the increase, and in California these deaths are not even counted as part of the state attorney general’s official tally of “police involved homicides,” which numbers over 100 every year. Neither are deaths from police chokeholds or from asphyxiation through being maced or hog-tied. All of these weapons and methods are part of an ugly panorama of police brutality that is entrenched and endemic and an indispensable part of the function of police in this society.

Amnesty International reported in 2004 that the organization was “concerned by the growing number of fatalities involving police tasers. Since 2001, more than 70 people are reported to have died in the USA and Canada after being struck by M26 or X26 tasers, with the numbers rising each year.” In 2005, the ACLU issued a report saying that “Since 1999, at least 148 people in the United States and Canada have died after encounters with police who shocked them with Tasers.” A website put up by family and friends of Richard Bagnell, a Canadian man who died after being tasered, now lists 397 people killed in North America. And at least 8 people have been killed by tasers in only the first two months of 2009.

Ev’ry time I hear the crack of the whip
My blood runs cold
I remember on the slave ship
How they brutalized our very souls

—Bob Marley, “Slave Driver”

Tasers have replaced the slave driver’s whip and the prison guard’s cattle prod as one of the high-tech control device used by more than 12,000 police departments and in prisons worldwide.

Taser International claims that its products are a less lethal weapon than guns or even batons, and that tasers are "changing the world and saving lives everyday." But the new tasers deliver a staggering 50,000 volts of electricity. These electro-shock weapons can be used in “stun mode” or with darts. When in “dart” mode, the shocks cause total “momentary neuro-muscular incapacitation” (source: University of California, San Francisco press release), while the stun mode inflicts intense localized pain. Tasers are used extensively around the world, including in Iraq, most notoriously by the same U.S. military brigade accused of "sadistic, blatant and wanton" abuse in Abu Ghraib.

Along with guns, sticks, pepper spray and the choke-hold, tasers are part of an arsenal of weapons employed against the people to inflict terror and pain and even death. And, unlike firing his gun, in most places a cop needs only the slightest excuse to justify using his taser.

In the U.S., far from being used only on supposedly “violent suspects” the Amnesty International study says that tasers are often used against "passive resisters"—people who refuse to comply with police commands but do not interfere with an officer and pose no physical threat. Police use tasers on people who “mouth off,” or people who are distressed or mentally ill and who are not suspected of a crime. Amnesty reported that “at least 1,000 U.S. jails and prisons have adopted the new generation M26 or X26 Tasers, where they are deployed in both dart projectile and stun mode.” Amnesty documents cases of pregnant women having miscarriages after being tasered.


In 2006 millions of people reacted with shock at a brutal taser attack on a student in the UCLA library, but a less-known outrage is that there are hundreds of reported cases where cops have used taser guns on children. In Arizona a 13 year old was tased for throwing a book in a public library. In another Arizona case, a 9-year-old runaway girl who was sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed, was tased because she was "screaming, kicking and flailing, and would not listen." Would not listen? The youngest reported victim of police tasing was in Miami, a boy who was only 6 years old. He was in the vice principal’s office where he had broken a picture frame, and was waving a piece of glass around. His outraged mother told CNN, "If there's three officers, it's nothing to tell a 6‑year‑old holding a glass, if you feel threatened, 'Hey, here's a piece of candy, hey, here's a toy. Let the glass go."

Taser Confusion

While some media have jumped on the taser confusion bandwagon and trotted out various “experts” to talk about how stressed out Mehserle must have been to mistake a taser for his gun, others have ridiculed this idea as preposterous and marshalled the cold facts. The X26 taser issued to BART cops is a plastic device that weighs only 7 ounces. The Sig Sauer that Mehserle shot Grant with is made of metal, weighing 30 ounces unloaded—more than 4 times as much as the taser. The taser was holstered on the opposite side as Mehserle’s gun, and looks and feels completely different.

But another question needs to be asked. Before he was shot, Oscar Grant was detained, lying on his stomach, with his hands behind his back and with an officer’s foot on his neck. What excuse was there to even tase the 22 year old? Perhaps Officer Mehserle only meant to torture him?

The ACLU and Amnesty International are not alone in condemning tasers. In 2007 the U.N. Committee Against Torture said the use of tasers could constitute a form of torture. This cruel punishment, a brutality carried out by police for the slightest offense, without charges or trial, is increasingly a part of American injustice and part of an international epidemic of state-sponsored violence and murder.

The outcome of the murder trial of Mehserle has great significance. If the cop happens to “mistake” his gun for a taser and kills that person, and if this cop is then judged in court to be devoid of “criminal intent,” then what is to stop any cop from killing anyone at any time for any reason? If intending to use an electro-shock weapon on a person lying face down with his hands behind his back can be categorized as following correct police procedure, then it will exonerate police brutality. What kind of legal precedent will that set and how much of this can people tolerate? Enough is enough.

Officer Justin White Charged with Felony Theft

A Shreveport police officer was arrested today on charges he falsely reported an ATV stolen in order to collect insurance on it.

Officer Justin White was suspended from the Police Department after Caddo sheriff's detectives obtained a warrant charging him with felony theft.

Caddo sheriff's detectives said White's four-wheeler blew the motor. Rather than pay to have it fixed, White had a friend get rid of it, then reported it stolen and collected $7,012 in insurance, detectives said.

The four-wheeler was found in Bossier City. Investigators said White's friend swapped it for repair work on his truck.

The friend faces fraud charges, authorities said. He had not been arrested late this afternoon.


Seven Detroit Vice Officers Suspended for Falsifying Arrest Reports

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing whether to issue criminal charges against seven Detroit police officers who are accused of falsifying arrest records, the office's spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The cops labeled it Operation Ice Breaker, a city-suburban law enforcement effort to bust drug dealers and prostitutes along 8 Mile.

Instead, seven Detroit vice cops have been suspended with pay on allegations of falsifying the arrest reports.

The allegations against the cops are: They couldn't find any prostitutes on 8 Mile, so they went to Harper and Chalmers on the east side and arrested five people for prostitution during three days in mid-February. The officers are accused of writing their report to say the busts happened on 8 Mile to fit the roundup's purpose.

Members of the Board of Police Commissioners last week refused to suspend the cops without pay, despite a recommendation from police executives and Chief James Barren.

Commissioner Adela Rivera, a former Detroit police officer, told the Free Press Wednesday that she believes the cops should be paid until they appear before a departmental trial board to present their cases.

"Look at the economy, people can't afford to be laid off with no income," Rivera said. "I think the city blanketed all seven officers together under one allegation. Sometimes as a police officer you do what your boss tells you and if that's the case, I think they should be allowed to justify why they did what they did."

Police spokesman James Tate said the matter is under investigation by the department's internal affairs division.

"Once the allegations were presented, the department moved swiftly to assure no further allegations would take place," Tate said.

Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said her office also is investigating.

John Goldpaugh, an attorney for the Detroit Police Officers Association, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said his department was part of the crackdown in February along with other suburban communities along 8 Mile.

"It was something, quite frankly, that Chief Barren came up with and it was producing good results," Dwyer said. "It's not my place to comment on what happened. I talked to the chief and he indicated there were some problems."

Dwyer said there was supposed to be a news conference announcing the results of the anticrime blitz. He's uncertain whether the allegations against the seven cops led to cancellation of the news conference.

Rivera said she will change her stance if the officers are found guilty at their respective trial boards.

"We don't have any room for lying officers," she said. "But I don't think it's fair to suspend them without pay until they've had their day in court."

Lawsuit Being Filed Against Suffolk County for Wrongful Death

A lawsuit will be announced today against Suffolk County, the district attorney's office and five police officers investigated but not charged in the death of a Bay Shore man beaten with flashlights, attorneys for the man's family said yesterday.

Kenny Lazo, 24, died on April 12 after a violent altercation with Suffolk police officers during a traffic stop on the shoulder of the Robert Moses Causeway.

Hempstead attorney Frederick K. Brewington said the lawsuit, which he plans to file in federal court in Central Islip and will announce today at his office, will allege wrongful death, battery and civil rights violations. Lazo's mother, Patricia Gonzalez, and his son's mother, Jennifer Gonzalez, will be the plaintiffs.

A grand jury convened by District Attorney Thomas Spota decided not to indict the officers in November. At the time, Spota's office said police used "necessary force" on Lazo.

A police investigation found Lazo fled on foot, was tackled by an officer and then tried to grab an officer's gun. He was beaten with flashlights and then taken to the 3rd precinct in Bay Shore where he passed out, police said. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

County Attorney Christine Malafi said yesterday: "The county again extends its sympathies to the Lazo family, but we stand behind the actions of our police officers, sergeants and detectives and district attorney's office in connection with this matter."

Spota's office, the police department and the officers - Sgt. James Scimone, Officers William Judge and Joseph Link and Dets. John Newton and Christopher Talt - referred questions to Malafi.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District continues to monitor the case, a spokesman said.