Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Teen Says Officer Dustin Cox Assaulted Him

A school resource officer in Rutherford County who helps keep at-risk youth on the right track is accused of assaulting one of the troubled teens.

The alleged assault happened at Central Middle School over the weekend at Rutherford County Operation Integrity boot camp, where the 14-year-old boy was one of 15 juveniles taking part.

The teen claims school resource Officer Dustin Cox pushed him Saturday, causing him to fall on the ground and land on his elbows. He also alleges Cox dragged him by his pants down the hallway of the school.

Murfreesboro police were called to Middle Tennessee Medical Center on Sunday by the boy's mother and stepfather. That’s where the assault allegations were made. Pictures were taken of the boy's knees and elbows.

The teen said there were several people present but they were standing with their noses touching lockers and he isn’t sure if anyone saw what happened.

Cox serves at Smyrna High School and remains on duty pending investigation results.

This is the first time since Operation Integrity started five years ago that someone has made an allegation against a deputy. According to Rutherford County officials, more than 200 at-risk young people have completed the program. It is an intervention program targeting teens that have behavioral problems at school and or at home or have shown signs of drug use.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office made a request to the district attorney’s office to ask the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation. It will be up to TBI to help decide if the allegations against the officer are true or not.

Operation Integrity’s boot camp is held one Saturday a month for 12 hours.

There are follow-up sessions the youths also have to complete.

Parents or guardians also must attend a mandatory parent component session.

Officer Adrian Makuch Charged with Soliciting Minor

A veteran police officer is free on bail after being charged with soliciting sex from minors.

Officer Adrian Makuch, 49, a crime scene investigator, is accused of making contact with a 15-year-old boy in the Northeast last summer and trying to lure him into his vehicle. The boy refused, but allegedly saw the officer several more times and filed a complaint last December.

Police then launched a sting operation, including coordination with other agencies and surveillance of Makuch, which revealed an “alarming and disturbing pattern,” according to Internal Affairs Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua.

DiLacqua said that Makuch, a 21-year veteran, also made contact with an undercover officer who he thought was a 17-year-old. He allegedly exchanged text messages and solicited the officer for sex.

Police said they are unsure how Makuch found the 15-year-old, and that he may have had contact with other minors.

“I don’t know of a relationship between Makuch and the 15-year-old, other than Makuch soliciting him,” DiLacqua said.

Makuch had a preliminary hearing yesterday and bail was set at $20,000. He posted 10 percent bail and was released, but has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss.

Makuch could not be reached for comment.

Officer Kenneth Aragon Drinking Before Accident

A Los Angeles police officer killed in a motorcycle accident last week had been drinking at a bar on the department's training academy campus the night he died and had a blood-alcohol level "well over" the legal limit, a police official said Wednesday.

After the early-morning crash Dec. 3, department officials launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Officer Kenneth Aragon's death in an effort to determine whether he was plied with too much alcohol by academy bartenders or got drunk at another location, said LAPD Cmdr. David Doan, who is overseeing the inquiry.

Department officials are also taking a broader look at the long-running tradition of officers drinking at the academy. They have ordered bar staff to undergo retraining on laws on serving alcohol, and put them on notice that undercover officers would be performing compliance checks in the future, Doan said.

Aragon, a 19-year veteran of the department and father of five, spent several hours drinking and singing karaoke with other officers and guests in a banquet room outfitted with a bar on the upper floor of the academy's main building, Doan said. They had gathered for 'payday Wednesday,' an unofficial but regular event held every other week at the idyllic Elysian Park campus to celebrate their latest paycheck.

The 47-year-old officer left the academy about 12:30 a.mAbout 90 minutes later, about 2:15 a.m., he crashed his motorcycle while driving north on Fletcher Drive, less than three miles from the academy. Investigators, Doan said, have not yet learned where Aragon went during the unaccounted time, and he left open the possibility that the officer had gone to another bar before the crash.

Regardless, police are working to determine how much Aragon drank at the academy. Investigators are reviewing video footage from a security camera in the bar and questioning the two bartenders working that night and officers who were drinking with Aragon, Doan said. It is a misdemeanor crime in California to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated.

When Aragon crashed, Doan said, he was "certainly under the influence" and "well over the legal limit." He declined to provide the results of blood-alcohol tests performed at the hospital where Aragon was pronounced dead.

The bar -- like most of the academy facilities -- is run by the Los Angeles Revolver and Athletic Club, a tax-exempt organization that is separate from the department and accepts only LAPD employees as members. Except for the payday parties, the bar is typically open only for officer retirement parties and similar catered events.

Calls to members of the club's management were not returned.

Beyond the details of Aragon's death, Doan said investigators are examining whether bartenders at the academy are properly licensed. Department officials are also "looking at whether there is adequate oversight" of the Wednesday-night gatherings.

Payday Wednesdays hold a particularly infamous spot in LAPD lore. Older officers tell sordid stories of wild, booze-fueled gatherings in the 1970s and '80s, at which officers and female guests had sex in the academy's garden. One well-known legend holds that a guardrail in front of a home set on a sharp turn in the road leading out of the academy was installed after several drunk officers failed to navigate the bend. Several officers say academy gatherings are much more staid today.

Sgt. Gene Tomatani Charged with Embezzling From Union

A former Redondo Beach police sergeant has been charged with embezzling more than $72,000 from his police union.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office says 40-year-old Gene Tomatani was charged Tuesday with felony grand theft.

Prosecutors say Tomatani stole from the Redondo Beach Police Officer's Association while serving as treasurer and then president of the group from 2004 to 2008.

Tomatani will be arraigned Jan. 8. If convicted, he faces up to four years in state prison.

Tomatani resigned from the department in October.

Pensacola Police Change Pursuit Police

The Pensacola Police Department has changed its pursuit policy as a result of a chase that left a bicyclist dead Oct. 3.

Victor Steen, 17, tried to elude Pensacola police Officer Jerald Ard, who spotted the teen on a bicycle at a construction site at Cervantes and T streets. Ard fired a Taser stun gun from the window of his moving car while chasing Steen.

Steen fell into the path of the cruiser and was hit by the car.

The change announced Tuesday prohibits officers from chasing vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians through apartment complexes and other heavily populated areas — like mall parking lots — parks and school grounds, in police cars.

Officers should attempt to make arrests by setting up perimeters using adjacent roadways, Pensacola Assistant Police Chip Simmons said.

When pursuing bicyclists and pedestrians on roadways, officers should try to keep at a safe distance from the fleeing suspect in an effort to prevent the suspect from being hurt, Simmons said.

"We wouldn't expect an officer to stop pursuing a dangerous felon," Simmons said. "If the guy is shooting a gun, the officer has do whatever he has to do stop him. He can deviate from the policy as long as he has a justifiable reason."

In October, the Police Department announced a revision to its Taser policy as a result of the fatal incident. Simmons sent a memo saying officers are not allowed to fire stun guns out of or into moving vehicles.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigating Steen's death.

Ard was placed on administrative leave with pay immediately after the incident. He returned to work Oct. 13 and was assigned administrative work for the patrol division.

"It's unfortunate for everyone that this process takes a long time, but we all want a thorough review," Police Chief John Mathis said.