Friday, April 24, 2009

Reverend Harvey Burnett & Others Complain About Police Brutality

One local community activist worries that efforts to hear complaints are not being taken seriously.

Reverend Harvey Burnett and half dozen residents with complaints about police brutality brought their concerns to city hall today.

Burnett argues that the police department, Mayor Ardis and the States Attorney office are derelict in addressing complaints from residents about allged abuse by some police officers.

Rev. Harvey Burnett said, "When we do complete forms it seems that the forms evaporate in thin air. No action is taken, whatever action is taken they send out letters saying after investigating this we find there is no warrant for your particular claim."

Peoria Police Spokesman Doug Burgess said, "Any complaint is looked into, it's taken very seriously and we investigate every complaint we get. As far as allegations of complaints getting lost I know of no complaints that have been lost."

The group took their complaints to the city's legal department.

Each of the individuals is scheduled to meet with a city attorney to talk about their particular allegations.

Three Peoria police officers Jeremy Layman, Andrew Smith and Gerald Suelter were recently indicted for official misconduct, battery and mob action for allegedly abusing a man last May during a car chase.

Arizona VS Gant Changes Rules on Vehicle Searches


A recent U.S. Supreme Court limits the ability of police officers to search a vehicle after making an arrest, and the decision means changes for local law enforcement agencies after 28 years of standard procedures.

The deciding case, "Arizona v. Gant," took 10 years to make it to the high court. Citing the Fourth Amendment's guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision ruled that enforcement should not come at the expense of privacy.

The court's ruling means that when an officer makes a traffic arrest, the decision to search the vehicle cannot start without a warrant, which is a change from the past three decades of warrantless searches.

Local drivers said they have mixed feelings about the ruling.

"If you got pulled over and arrested for something to begin with, you've kind of waived your rights to privacy," said Mark Spaith, an area driver.

But driver Tony Ried said police should have a warrant to search.

"They got to have a search warrant, because if you didn't have a search warrant, police be searching through your stuff, tearing your stuff up, pulling papers out," Ried said. "And then you got to go and put the papers back in. You got to clean up your van."

But Capt. Vic Wahl, of the Madison Police Department, said he's concerned that potential crimes might now be overlooked.

"With this decision, it really turns that area of the law on its head and really limited the situations now," Wahl said. "I do think there will be certainly instances where, two weeks ago, we would've discovered weapons, drugs or contraband that now we will not discover because of the restrictions from this ruling."

Defense attorney Stephen Mays said the decision rightfully puts citizens' privacy in the forefront.

"Constitutional protections are big," Mays said. "It's not one of those situations where you look to protect the 1 percent of the people that are out committing crimes, (but) rather the 99 percent of us that aren't. So I think it gives back a little bit of expectation of privacy."

There are exceptions to the new requirement. The Supreme Court ruled that police can search without a warrant if there is a threat to an officer's safety or if the officer believes the vehicle contains evidence pertaining only to the arrest.

The exceptions provide some gray areas for law enforcement, and those exceptions will weigh heavily on an officer's prerogative, WISC-TV reported. The Madison Police Department said it hopes to continue educating its force on the law's subtle details.

"You have officers that make decisions in a snap of a finger in a few seconds, dealing with very complicated legal issues every day out on the street," Wahl said.

Meanwhile, those supporting this ruling said they hope a dialogue on privacy rights remains on the minds of law enforcement.

VIDEO: Watch The Report
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Officer Kevin Sowell in Trouble for Exchanging Threatening E-Mails with Teen

Officials with the DeKalb Police Department said a 15-year veteran of their department and an 18-year-old girl were exchanging e-mails that threatened her family.

Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Rosseter spent the day digging through the officer’s personnel file and she found two offenses of conduct unbecoming – both within the past four months, and both over contact and e-mails with teenage girls.

DeKalb County police confirmed Kevin Sowell resigned two weeks ago after the department said it would fire him for two offenses – including a string of e-mails that threatened a young girl’s family.

The first offense allegedly took place in January. Sowell was suspended after he “developed a friendly relationship with a 16-year-old child,” according to officials. According to his file, after the girl’s parents requested that he discontinue contact, he continued with the child in person, by e-mail, and by a cell phone he purchased for her.

Just two months later, the second offense allegedly occurred. The internal affairs memo said, “The content of the messages was threatening in nature and spoke of violent acts towards the female’s parents” and said he “admitted to sending the correspondence.”

And another report noted, “They were both planning to harm her parents and sister-in-law. Instead of discouraging her, he responded in a manner that encouraged further thoughts on the act to harm.”

Channel 2 Action News went to Sowell’s DeKalb County home and knocked on the door to ask him about it, but no one answered the door.

Channel 2 Action News did ask DeKalb officials why Sowell was allowed to resign, even after Acting Police Chief William O’Brien "concurred with the termination," calling it "a very serious issue that cannot be taken lightly."


Officer Erik Hanson Arrrested for Child Rape

A Forks police officer was arrested Thursday and has been booked on charges of second-degree child rape, said Det. Sgt. Lyman Moores of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department.

Forks Police Chief Mike Powell and the sheriff’s department have been investigating the officer since February when a 12-year-old girl reported the officer had inappropriate sexual contact with her, Moores said.

During the three month investigation, the accused officer, 33-year-old Erik Hanson, was in Iraq serving as a member of the National Guard Reserves.

Detectives interviewed the 12-year-old and as a result search warrants were served on Hanson, including phone records that supported the victim’s statement, Moores said.

Hanson was home on military leave when he was arrested by Clallam County Sheriff Detectives.

Moores said Hanson was off duty when the alleged incident occurred.

The case has been referred to the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office for review and a charging decision.
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Sheriff Joe Arpaio Being Investigated Again

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office arrested 22 people yesterday, including 14 illegal immigrants, as part of a crime sweep in the West Valley.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said at least two of those arrested were violent criminals. The crime sweep is continuing Friday.

Arpaio has conducted similar sweeps in Mesa, Phoenix and Guadalupe. Critics of the sheriff, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, charge the actions unfairly target Hispanics. The ACLU and Hispanic activists filed a federal lawsuit against MCSO’s sweeps, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating its sweeps and raids.

Some of those raids have been conducted at businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants.

The sheriff has said many times that criticism of his actions is unjustified and he’s simply enforcing the law.

Arpaio on Friday derided attempts by political opponents to move forward some kind of county or state measure that would make sheriff’s positions appointed rather than elected. Some Arpaio critics are looking at a statewide referendum that would make sheriff and perhaps county prosecutor positions appointed by their county boards, not chosen by voters.

Arpaio was elected to a fifth four-year term in November.

“It’s never going to happen,” Arpaio said of his job becoming an appointed position. “I would leave in one second. I get my strength from the people.”

A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports shows Arpaio remains popular among Arizona voters -- more popular than President Barack Obama.

Sixty-eight percent of state voters have a favorable view of Arpaio, compared with a 53 percent approval rating for Obama and 57 percent for new Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Forty-seven percent disapprove of Obama’s performance during his first months in office, compared with a 37 percent disapproval rate for Brewer and 26 percent for Arpaio.

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters in March.

Officer Martray Proctor Charged with Manslaughter

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Martray Proctor was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter in the wreck last month that killed a 20-year-old woman.

Proctor, 24, turned himself in just after noon and was fingerprinted, photographed and released on $10,000 bond.

Proctor's attorney George Laughrun wouldn't discuss the case, but said: “We are going to plead not guilty – absolutely not guilty – to involuntary manslaughter.”

Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by 10 months to nearly five years in prison, and is generally defined an unintentional killing stemming from recklessness, negligence or an unlawful act.

Shatona Robinson was a popular cafe worker at The Pines retirement home in Davidson, where residents recalled her compassion and sunny nature.

Her cousin Crystal Robinson said she thinks the charge is fair. She'd feared Proctor might not be prosecuted.

“I was surprised and relieved they're actually taking care of it,” said Robinson, 29. “They're doing something about it and letting the officers know it's not OK for you to go out and speed and do what you want to do.”

Proctor, who has been cited three times for speeding in North Carolina, was driving his patrol car on Old Statesville Road on March 29 and collided with a 1991 Ford Escort. Robinson, the driver of the Escort, died at the scene. Three passengers in her car and Proctor were injured.

Proctor was en route to assist another officer who had made a routine traffic stop. Police Chief Rodney Monroe said Proctor was driving over 90mph with the siren off. The speed limit on that part of Old Statesville Road is 45.

Investigators said they received conflicting statements on whether Proctor had his emergency blue lights on. But police said an in-car camera that starts automatically when the blue lights come on never activated.

N.C. law and department rules require that officers obey posted speed limits unless their vehicle's blue lights and siren are activated.

Proctor has been on paid leave as police do an internal investigation into the wreck.

“This is a most tragic incident for both the Robinson family and the Proctor family, who, along with their friends and relatives, have been impacted the most,” police said in a statement Thursday.

Police and prosecutors on Thursday didn't have statistics on how many times officers have been involved in fatal wrecks. But they recalled only two other cases in which officers were charged in several decades.

District Attorney Peter Gilchrist declined to comment on the case against Proctor.

“We do not discuss the facts in pending cases,” he said.

Proctor has been ticketed for speeding three times, according to court records, twice before he became an officer.

In June 2007, he was stopped in Cleveland County and accused of driving 63 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to court records. The charge was later reduced to driving 44 mph in a 35mph zone and a clerk waived the case, documents show.

In October 2005, authorities in Gaston County stopped Proctor for driving 86 mph in a 60 mph zone, according to court documents. The charge was later reduced to 74 mph in a 60 mph zone. Proctor received a prayer for judgment, which typically means the driver admits to an infraction, but does not receive points on their driver's license. Proctor paid $110 in court costs, records show

In the third case, Proctor was cited for driving 30 mph in a 20 mph zone in 2003 in Cleveland County, records show. He paid a fine and court costs, records show.

Proctor, who works in the department's north division, has not had any complaints lodged against him and has never been disciplined by his superiors since becoming an officer, officials said.

CMPD said it conducted a background check on Proctor in February 2007 and hired him the next month.

The department looks into the driving histories of all prospective officers during background searches, officials said. A history of speeding tickets does not automatically disqualify a candidate from becoming an officer. But offenses such as driving while impaired, negligent accidents, incidents of road rage and recent violations could disqualify a job candidate, they said.

Sworn officers are not required to inform the department of speeding tickets they get on their own time. If their license is suspended or revoked or if they are cited for a crime more serious than speeding, such as drunken driving, they must inform the department.

On Thursday, Crystal Robinson said the family hasn't heard from Proctor.

“We forgive him, but it's hard to forget,” she said. “You have to believe in God – that's the only way. If you didn't you'd be angry forever.”


Sgt. Burney Hayes Accused of Biting Teen on Nose

A Lake Wales police officer who was named the 2008 Public Servant of the Year by the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce has been charged with biting a teenager's nose.

As a lieutenant last year, Lake Wales police Sgt. Burney Hayes received the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce's 2008 Public Servant of the Year award. Saturday, Sgt. Burney Hayes, 48, who is also a coach for the Lake Wales High School junior varsity team, is accused of biting a player's nose during a football game in Winter Haven on Oct. 16, 2008.

According to the State Attorney's Office, which received the complaint on March 2, Hayes denied biting the student but said he placed his teeth over the student's nose.

"But I did not bite because if you are talking you can't bite," Hayes said, according to the complaint affidavit.

When a State Attorney's Office investigator called Hayes on April 17, Hayes said he didn't understand why the State Attorney's Office was looking into the matter because he was acting like a coach that night, the affidavit states.

The student who allegedly was bitten stated that Hayes had previously disciplined him by slapping him on the head. Despite these incidents, the student stated that Hayes has done a lot for him and considers him a positive role model, according to the affidavit.

Hayes told an attorney while under oath that he was at the game in a coaching position and what he did during halftime was a "motivating factor for a group of young men who were whining."

He said the team was losing 21-7 at halftime but later won the game "when everybody stopped whining and started playing."

According to the affidavit, the student at the center of the alleged incident acknowledged that he was bitten and that he stated he was scared, embarrassed and mad for a short time, but forgot about the incident.

Four of the seven students interviewed as witnesses claimed they saw the biting incident and three of them claimed they saw teeth marks.

One student said he was "intimidated by what Coach Hayes did and backed up because he did not want it to happen to him," according to the affidavit.

"He stated that he felt it could happen to him or any other player if they got out of line," the affidavit states. "He stated that Coach Hayes could 'snap at any given time and get super mad quick.' "

Lake Wales Police Chief Herb Gillis said Hayes has been placed on administrative leave. Hayes' hearing on this case is set for May 20.

Hayes recently was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant because of insubordinate behavior against Gillis, the police chief said.

Hayes appealed the demotion with Lake Wales City Manager Tony Otte, but a hearing determined the discipline was appropriate, Gillis said.

Sgt. Jeff Reagan Arrested for DUI

A veteran South Lake Tahoe police officer has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The Nevada Highway Patrol says Sgt. Jeff Reagan was off duty when he was stopped early the morning of April 16 in Carson City, Nev., by a trooper.

NHP spokesman Chuck Allen says preliminary tests indicate Reagan's blood alcohol content was about 0.12 percent—1 1/2 times the legal limit.

Reagan, who works in the detective division, also is the subject of an internal affairs investigation by Police Chief Terry Daniels.

In 2005, Reagan was charged with domestic battery after being accused of pushing his wife out the back door of their home in Minden. But the charge was later dropped.


Correctional Officer Kenon Arnold Charged with Sexual Contact with Inmate

A correctional officer at the Hamilton County Workhouse has been indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for having sex with a female prisoner.

Kenon Dontae Arnold, an employee of the Corrections Corporation of America, is charged with having sexual contact with an inmate.

The indictment says on Dec. 9 he "did unlawfully engage in sexual contact or sexual penetration" with the female prisoner.

Arnold, 28, of 5220 Hickory Woods Lane in Hixson, had no prior record except for a seat belt case and for having a loud muffler.