Monday, March 01, 2010

Officer Scott Morales Suspended for the 14th Time

Officer Scott Morales is walking on thin ice after his latest violation.

Police Chief Rusty York says he suspended Morales for five days without pay for problems with "alertness on duty."

"It resulted from him not being at his post for an assigned time within the building," explained York. The incident took place in January while Morales was working the third shift York told Indiana's News Center.

York says Morales wondered away from his post to another part of the building. While the offense may not be a major one, it further tarnished the record of the 19-year veteran, who has now been suspended for the 14th time since 1991.

Morales' last suspension was in February, after he was accused of inappropriately using a taser on an individual who was already handcuffed. He received a three-day unpaid suspension for that incident.

Prior to that, Morales was accused of going absent without leave multiple times, being involved in several accidents with his police cruiser, falsifying reports, excessive force and searching a home without a warrant.

When asked why Morales has been allowed to keep his badge, York explained that discipline problems are handled with a "progressive system."

"It shows that probably the attempts to correct any behavior is not working. So certainly, we've reached the point that any subsequent allegations will certainly take on a much more serious tone," responded York.

Members of the police merit board would ultimately decide Morales' professional fate. Members were notified of his suspension Monday afternoon.

Detective Thomas Sadler Convicted of Assaulting Prostitute

A veteran sheriff's detective was convicted Monday of picking up a prostitute and assaulting her in a Mission Valley parking lot, but he was acquitted of sexually assaulting the woman.

Thomas John Sadler, 49, was convicted of felony assault and battery by a peace officer, along with misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment. He could receive a sentence ranging from probation on the low end to three years in prison on April 14.

The defendant -- on unpaid administrative leave from the sheriff's department -- was acquitted of felony charges of sexual battery by restraint, sexual battery and false imprisonment.

Two charges of accessing a computer to defraud were dismissed by the judge before the case went to the jury.

Sadler stared straight ahead as a courtroom clerk read the verdicts. The 20-year veteran was immediately ordered into custody by Judge Michael Smyth.

Jurors, who did not want to be interviewed, deliberated about two full days before reaching their decision.

"I'm pleased, largely, with the verdict, because originally Mr. Sadler had been charged with five felony counts. He was convicted of only one," said defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge, the senior supervising attorney for the Office of the Alternate Public Defender.

"I would have preferred, of course, that he be completely exonerated of all, but I think being found not guilty of four out of five is pretty good," she said.

Attridge said Sadler's sentencing range is better now than with a plea bargain offered by prosecutors. She said Sadler will not have to register for life as a sex offender.

"He was found not guilty of anything sexually oriented in any way, and so I think that overall it is an acceptable verdict, although I would have preferred he'd been found not guilty of everything," Attridge told reporters outside court.

Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort said in his closing argument that Sadler had a plan to sexually assault the prostitute during a search for drugs but ran into a problem when he didn't find any.

Sadler assaulted the prostitute just as he had sexually assaulted four other women during searches dating back to 2001, the prosecutor told jurors.

But Attridge said the prostitute got into Sadler's unmarked car on El Cajon Boulevard on her own about 11 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2008.

"When she smiled and he smiled back, she thought of money," Attridge said.

Sadler, "like a fool," drove to a Mission Valley parking lot but changed his mind about having sex with the prostitute, Attridge said.

"He thought, 'What in God's name am I doing?'" his attorney said.

Sadler testified that he thought of his wife of 22 years and didn't want to go through with his original plan.

But Dort told the jury that Sadler had a history of pulling over women, searching them for drugs with no one around and touching them inappropriately.

The prosecutor told the jury the defendant was "a rogue cop" who thought he was above the law. Sadler planned to search the prostitute and sexually assault her "because he had gotten away with it before," Dort said.

Attridge said the prosecution was relying on "unreliable" drug addicts, felons and prostitutes to convict a veteran deputy sheriff for something that "did not occur."

The attorney said Sadler admitted to making very poor choices but did not sexually assault the prostitute, who was on probation at the time.

Attridge said the prostitute became irritated when Sadler showed his badge and ordered her out of the car in the Mission Valley parking lot.

Sadler took the woman's cell phone away when she tried to take a picture of his license plate, Attridge said.

"This was a business deal gone bad by a foolish middle-age man and a very sad young woman with a very dicey job," Attridge told the jury.

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Trooper Marvin Norfolk Sr Charged with Child Abuse

A Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper is indicted on child abuse charges. Trooper Marvin Norfolk Sr. is facing charges of child abuse and filing a false police report in a December 2009 criminal investigation conducted by the Tipton County Sheriff's Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Children's Services.

The investigation surrounded a December 2009 allegation of physical abuse of a 9 year old family member at the Norfolk's home in Brighton, TN. Police say the child was at the home during a court approved visitation for the Christmas holidays. According to investigators, the child had bruising to the face, back, upper torso, arm, thighs, legs and groin area. The child was treated and released at Baptist Memorial Hospital after the incident.

During the investigation, Marvin Norfolk denied the allegation along with his wife, Dawn Norfolk who was present during the incident. The investigation revealed Marvin Norfolk and his wife lied about their role in the incident. Dawn Norfolk was indicted for filing a false police report.

The couple is scheduled to appear in court March 4th.

Investigation Ongoing for Officer Accused of Forcible Rape of Teen

It's been nearly a month since a high school student accused a Memphis Police Officer of forcibly raping her. No charges have been filed in the case. What's taking so long?

The 17-year old goes to Fairley High School in Whitehaven. She reported the rape to a police officer at the school on February 5th. She said happened off-campus on an earlier day.

Students at Fairley high school say they haven't heard much about the rape accusations since they were first reported a month ago.

“They really aren't saying a lot about it,” said Senior Jeremy Ross. “I think they're just trying to let it go.”

The Memphis Police Department put the officer on “Non-Enforcement” status pending the investigation. An investigation it says is still ongoing. Some of you want to know what's taking so long.

The MPD told Eyewitness News it was waiting on forensic testing. That's done by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI says DNA results take an average of nine weeks to complete in the Memphis lab.

“If you look around at other states,” said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. “That’s probably one of the fastest DNA turnaround times that you'll find at any crime lab at any state.”

It can be done faster, however.

“Something that's a very serious nature that needs to be expedited, that's a threat to public safety,” said Helm. “They can always request us to expedite things and of course we will do that for them.”

Eyewitness News asked the Memphis Police Department about this case and if there was any consideration given the fact the accused is a Memphis Police Officer. The department issued a statement saying "This is a complex investigation and will take time. Sex crimes asked for an expedited examination when they submitted the request." The statement went on to say, ”This case is being investigated as any other complaint.”

The Sex Crimes Bureau and the Inspectional Services Bureau, the department that investigates criminal wrongdoing by officers, are working on the case.

Former Officer Pleads Guilty in Katrina Killing

A former police lieutenant pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to obstruct justice after federal officials say he helped cover for officers who killed two people on a bridge in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina.

Federal investigators say former lieutenant Michael Lohman knew two people shot to death as they crossed the Danziger Bridge had no weapons, but he and others filed false reports to make the shootings seem justified. Four other people were wounded.

Family members of the victims gathered at the downtown federal courthouse as Lohman arrived to enter his plea.

“We are very, very happy about the progress that the FBI and the US Justice Department have made,’’ said Dr. Romell Madison, brother of Ronald Madison, who was killed on the bridge.

“It’s a tremendous relief for us to see some sort of closure. The people of New Orleans should be relieved that there is still justice for everybody here.’’

Seven officers were charged with murder or attempted murder in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings, just days after Katrina smashed levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

But a state judge dismissed the charges in 2008.

Until Lohman’s plea yesterday, no one had been convicted in the deaths of Madison, 40, a mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 19.

Four others were wounded.

Former Officer William George Charged with Breaking Mans Jaw

A former West Virginia small-town police officer was arrested Friday, accused of breaking his daughter's ex-boyfriend’s lower jaw during a January altercation.

William G. George, 41, of Bonita Springs, was charged with felony aggravated battery. He was released on pre-trial supervision. George was employed by Reedsville Police Department and lists retirement on his arrest report.

According to Lee County Sheriff's Office reports:

On Jan. 19, George's daughter, whose name was not released, and the teenage boy met at Coconut Point Mall to exchange property after they split as a couple. George parked nearby and listened to the conversation through a cell phone. The boy said he heard tires screeching, saw George get out of the car and then hit him repeatedly in the head. The boy got George to the ground, but a friend who was waiting nearby told the boy to let the 6-foot-tall, 220 pound former cop up. George left.

At first the boy and his mother, Keri G. Snider, 41, did not want to press charges. But the boy began having face and head pains. He sought medical attention and the broken mandible was found.

On Friday, George went to the Lee County Jail and surrendered.

Former Officer Faron White Expected to be Released from Prison

A Decatur police officer convicted of theft is expected to be released from federal prison at the end of the week. This Friday, Faron White will head home from a federal prison in Louisiana.

For 21 years, White fought crime in the city of Decatur.

"He was always the go-to guy. He always seem to know the answer," said John Bradford, who is now retired from the Decatur Police Department.

One day in January of 2009, White ended up on the wrong side of the law when he staged his own kidnapping with accomplice Sarah Richardson.

Bradford supervised White a few years before the incident.

"He was a great guy. It was just a total shock that he got involved with this," said Bradford.

Bradford believes White has some roads to mend when he gets out of prison. Namely, with the men and women who tirelessly searched for him.

"Those guys went at it 24-7, virtually not eating or sleeping, following every lead they could imagine in hopes of finding somebody they respected as a supervisor and a good friend. I hope he finds a way to somehow bring closure for those fellows for what he put them through," said Bradford.

Bradford hopes White will be able to land on his feet once he is released from prison. He'll have to find a job.

"To me, it's just obvious that the guy fell on some rough times, made some mistakes that snow balled on him and just got worse. It just got to the point that he couldn't get out of it and he did something very, very stupid," said Bradford.

White pleaded guilty to a federal theft charge for stealing $82,000 from the Decatur Police Department. A judge sentenced White to 16 months in prison.

He'll be getting out three months early, but will then be on supervised released for five years.

White's attorney, Jake Watson, says his client plans to get in the cabinet making business when he's released.

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Officer Keith Hicks Pleads Guilty to Harassing Women

A Camden police officer who served as a driver and ever-present confidant to former mayor Gwendolyn Faison has pleaded guilty to harassing women.

Keith Hicks, a 19-year veteran of the city police force, admitted Monday that twice last year he ordered women into his personal truck when he was off duty but in uniform, and touched them "offensively.''

He also admitted that he once demanded that a woman partially undress before she was processed for an outstanding warrant.

The 51-year-old Hicks, who lives in Gloucester Township, was suspended from the force in August 2009.

As a result of his plea, he is expected to be sentenced to probation and must forfeit his police badge.

His lawyer, William Buckman, did not immediately return a call.
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Officer Jorge Ibarra Charged with Drunk Driving

A McAllen police officer has been suspended without pay after his arrest Sunday on suspicion of driving drunk.

Jorge Ibarra, 43, of San Juan, refused to take a Breathalyzer test after state troopers pulled him over just before 3 a.m. near the intersection of North Alamo and East Minnesota roads, north of Alamo.

Shortly before the traffic stop, Ibarra reportedly ran off the road and hit a fence, causing minor property damage, said Trooper Johnny Hernandez, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. The officer did not hurt himself or anyone else.

He will remain on leave until the conclusion of the criminal charges against him, said McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez. Internal investigators have also opened their own probe into Ibarra’s alleged conduct.

Ibarra, a 12-year veteran of the department, was released from the Hidalgo County Jail on a $500 bond shortly after his arrest.

If convicted, he could face up to six months in the county jail, termination from the police force and $2,000 in fines.

Officer Torrey Sitterly Charged with Aggravated Harassment

A Herkimer village police officer who threatened to kill his former wife earlier this year was allowed to remain on duty with his service weapon until his criminal charge was resolved, officials said Monday.

Officer Torrey Sitterly was charged Jan. 17 with second-degree aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor, after he made 19 menacing phone calls within a 20-minute time span to his former wife, Kelly Stalter, of Cooperstown, state police said.

Stalter is a state trooper with Troop C based in Oneonta.

During that series of phone calls, the 31-year-old Sitterly threatened to physically harm Stalter, 29, and her boyfriend, police said. In addition to the misdemeanor charge, a temporary order of protection was also imposed for Sitterly to stay away from Stalter.

State police investigated the case. When Sitterly was charged, however, state police did not issue a press release.

Otsego County prosecutors ultimately adjourned the charge in contemplation of dismissal on Feb. 18 in Oneonta Town Court, which means the charge would be dropped in a year if Sitterly does not break any laws. The order of protection also was dropped last month.

Stalter said she hasn’t had any problems with Sitterly since the arrest, even while she occasionally encounters him during Family Court proceedings.

“I do feel safer now,” Stalter said. “This was just my way of saying I’m not going to allow this to go on anymore, and that he can’t be saying these things or making these kinds of threats.”

Sitterly could not be reached for comment Monday.

While the case was pending, Herkimer Village Police Chief Joseph Malone said he believed there was no need to suspend Sitterly, reassign him to other duties, or prohibit him from carrying a weapon on the job.

Instead, Sitterly was required to secure his firearm at the department while he was off-duty to comply with the order of protection, Malone said Monday.

“Obviously, if we felt there was any kind of threat we would have taken other action,” Malone said, who previously discussed the matter with the village’s Albany-based labor attorney, Bryan Goldberger. “We felt there was no need for any type of action, just based on the circumstances and what I know about it.”

Goldberger could not be reached Monday.

Sitterly, one of the department’s 21 full-time officers, has been with Herkimer Police for three years and previously was employed by the Fort Plain Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Stalter on Monday declined to elaborate on the details of what happened with Sitterly because they have a child together. Their divorce was finalized in August, but they still have matters pending in Family Court, she said.

“Both agencies – state police and the village of Herkimer police – acted in the best manner they could,” said Stalter, whose own Troop C investigated the incident. “They were professional, and both agencies were more than willing to help me with whatever it was that I needed.”

News of Sitterly’s threats drew comparisons to a more serious domestic incident involving a police officer that occurred less four months earlier. In September, Utica police Investigator Joseph Longo Jr. stabbed his wife, Kristin, to death before killing himself shortly after the couple began divorce proceedings.

Now, the Utica Police Department faces a potential lawsuit alleging that it failed to do enough to prevent Longo from killing his wife after she repeatedly expressed concerns about Longo’s mental state. In Longo’s case, however, the department did take away his firearms and reassigned his duties.

Eugene O'Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former New York City police officer, said it would be unfair to question Malone’s judgment without knowing how immediate the threat really was.

“You have to be careful as a police chief not to rush to judgment,” O’Donnell said. “If there’s going to be a perception that the chief’s kneejerk reaction is to immediately take adverse personnel action against an officer, then that could result in a collapse of morale at the agency. Punish first and inquire later is not fair, and it’s not the right way to do things.”

Sitterly is the latest among a series of Herkimer police officers to find themselves in trouble with the law:

* Investigator Robert Risi, 42, currently is serving 1 to 3 years in state prison after he admitted to stealing nearly $16,000 from the Herkimer Police Department’s evidence room to fuel his gambling addiction.

* Officer Shauna Wright, 40, was charged by state police with second-degree harassment, a violation, in May 2009 following a confrontation with her sister-in-law, Heather Wright, in the parking lot at West Canada High School. Shauna Wright was ticketed to appear in Newport Town Court, but the outcome of that case could not be determined Monday.

Malone acknowledged these incidents involving the three officers have placed a dark cloud over the department.

“Do we suffer a black eye for a while? Yes, but you retain your professionalism and move on,” Malone said. “Everyone has problems in their lives, and we’re obviously held to a higher standard in the public’s eye, so it becomes more of an issue than the people we deal with on a daily basis with these same issues that aren’t police officers.”

Officer Jared Bledsoe & Wife Charged with Child Endangerment

A Las Vegas police officer and his wife will be charged with child endangerment with substantial bodily harm after their 2-year-old shot himself with the officer’s gun in February.

Las Vegas Metro police Officer Jared Bledsoe and his wife, Shawnee Bledsoe, both 27, face one count of the felony charge after their son discovered a loaded gun in the night stand after he was put to bed.

The toddler, Jared Benjamin Bledsoe, was hit in the arm and abdomen after the gun went off and was at one point in critical condition after the gun discharged.

The complaint, made in Moapa Valley Township Justice Court, said the toddler suffered “unjustifiable physical pain and substantial bodily harm.”

Officer Shaun Harder Pleaded Not Guilty To Aggravated Menacing

An Elmore police officer and humane society volunteer has denied threatening members of a horse rescue group last month on his Facebook page.

Shaun Harder, 23, Elmore, pleaded not guilty today to one misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing in Ottawa County Municipal Court. He was released on a recognizance bond and will have a pre-trial next month, said his attorney, Tom DeBacco of Port Clinton.

Harder is charged with posting a message on Facebook that threatened Arabian Horse Rescue, a group that has on-going disagreements with the Humane Society of Ottawa County over malnourished horses the humane society confiscated in January from Robin Vess’ Carroll Township farm.

“The horses need ppl (sic.) like us; the Arabian rescue group needs to be slaughtered like livestock,” authorities allege Harder wrote.

Authorities arrested Harder Friday, and he spent the weekend in jail, said Detective Amy Harrell of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

This comes after the FBI agents from Toledo investigated the posting when ARM’s attorney, Leonard Yelsky of Toledo, called them and reported it, she said. They decided not to charge him federally and turned the case over to the sheriff’s office.

Vice Officer Samuel Roccaforte Arrested for Tampering with Records

A Houston Police Department vice officer appeared in court this morning after being arrested during the weekend on two charges of tampering with a government record in connection with a prostitution arrest.

Samuel Anthony Roccaforte, 57, is accused of arresting a woman for prostitution and filing a false police record about what the 45-year-old said in her bedroom.

The woman, whose prostitution charges have been dropped, protested being arrested for offering sex in exchange for money.

On tape, the officer can be heard saying, “Well, you did, you know you did, I know you did. There's no audio, there's no video. It's gonna be my word against yours and who do you think they're going to believe?” according to court records.

Documents show Roccaforte called the woman after seeing an advertisement with her phone number on a website. The woman invited the officer to her apartment and once inside, into her bedroom, where she invited him to place a donation on a table.

Because Roccaforte began asking questions about having sex for money, the woman believed he was a police officer, the charging document shows. She said she did not provide that type of service.

Roccaforte arrested the woman for prostitution and wrote that she agreed to have sex for $200.

Roccaforte is free after posting $4,000 bond Sunday. Both charges stem from the same incident. The state jail felony is punishable by a maximum of two years behind bars.

Harris County records show that the woman has been convicted of DWI and was placed on deferred adjudication for drug possession.

Roccaforte's attorney Chip Lewis said he had not heard the tape.

“Our preliminary investigation directly contradicts the state's version,” Lewis said. “However, I will not be able to be more specific until we've had an opportunity to review the evidence.”

Calls to HPD were not immediately returned.

Trial Starts for Officer Kenneth Tomlinson II Charged with Sexually Assaulting Boy Scout

The top police officer in a remote eastern Missouri town was ordered to stand trial Monday on charges that he sexually assaulted two members of the Boy Scout troop he led after an investigator testified that the officer had confessed to the crimes.

Kenneth Tomlinson II, 42, faces 16 counts of sodomy. Madison County Judge Robin Fulton set an arraignment date of March 18 following emotional testimony at the preliminary hearing, at which only prosecutors presented evidence. Fulton determined they had enough to warrant a trial.

Tomlinson, who stands about 6-foot-2 and weighs well over 300 pounds, sat passively during the hearing, his wrists cuffed in front of him. The alleged victims, ages 12 and 14, were also in the courtroom but mostly looked away from him.

Fulton closed the hearing to the public during testimony from the boys. The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they were victims of sex crimes.

During the open session, a teenage girl sobbed as she testified that she became aware of the abuse on Jan. 2, when she found sexually explicit text messages on the 14-year-old boy's phone. She told her parents, who contacted police.

The case was turned over to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Investigator Scott Rawson was the first to interview Tomlinson.

"He dropped his head," Rawson testified. "I said, 'This happened, didn't it?' He shook his head yes."

Rawson said Tomlinson admitted the assaults began last spring, usually on Mondays after Scout meetings, and usually in his truck. Sometimes, Rawson said, Tomlinson would drive the boys to an old lead mine or an industrial park. Other times, the assaults happened at the location of the Scout meetings, Rawson said.

Public defender Susan DeGeorge asked whether Rawson had taped the confession, and Rawson acknowledged he was able to tape only part of it.

A probable cause statement from the Highway Patrol also said Tomlinson admitted videotaping some of the acts. The statement said Tomlinson and the boys viewed the video on the camera screen, then he destroyed the recordings.

Tomlinson joined the police department in Fredericktown — a community of 4,100 about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis — as a patrolman in 1997. He was promoted to captain, the equivalent of the town's police chief, in April. Tomlinson is on unpaid leave until the case is adjudicated, and he remains jailed on a $100,000 cash-only bond.

The judge on Monday denied a request from DeGeorge to reduce the bond and allow Tomlinson to stay near relatives in the Chicago area.

DeGeorge left the hearing without commenting to reporters.

Joe Mueller of the Boy Scouts of America's Greater St. Louis Council said the council has not been contacted by police or prosecutors and officials did not previously know that the victims were members of Tomlinson's Scout troops.

Mueller said Tomlinson had led the troops in Fredericktown since 1998. His association with Scouting was revoked after his arrest.

84-Year-Old Man Tasered by Officer

The Waupaca County Sheriff's Department says an officer who used a stun gun on an 84-year-old man acted within department policy and procedure.

The department says the man, who is a resident of the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, was suicidal and became combative with the officer last Monday.

After the officer issued several warnings to comply and warned about the Taser, the officer stunned the man, authorities say.

The man was taken away by ambulance for treatment. We were told last week he was doing fine.

Officer Charged with Domestic Violence

A 52-year-old OPP officer has been charged with assault after an off-duty domestic incident, police said Monday.

On Feb. 26, the OPP professional standards bureau finished an investigation into the December 2009 domestic incident.

As a result, the officer was arrested and charged with assault, police said. The man was released from custody on a promise to appear in court on March 23.

Police said they will not release the officer's name to protect the identity of the victim. Police have not released any details of the assault.

The officer is a 16-year veteran of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry OPP detachment.

He has been assigned to administrative duties, police said.

Corrections Officer James Mikesell Accused of Having Sex with Inmate

A Louisville Metro Corrections officer accused of having sex with an inmate appeared before a judge Monday morning to answer to that charge and others.

During a proceeding that lasted less than five minutes, Officer James Mikesell entered a plea of not guilty in Jefferson District Court.

Mikesell is charged with tampering with physical evidence, sexual assault and official misconduct. The charges stem from what has been described as an "inappropriate relationship" with a female inmate.

"Mr. Mikesell maintains his innocence of all these charges," said Steve Schroering, Mikesell's attorney. "We're awaiting any evidence that they say they have to review that so we can actively defend the case."

Mikesell is on unpaid leave from Metro Corrections and has been removed from a freshman high school coaching position at Butler Traditional High School pending the outcome of the case.

He is scheduled to return to court for a pre-trial hearing March 26.

Const. Doug Lemna Accused of Using Excessive Force

A longtime veteran of the Abbotsford, B.C., police department has been charged with assault.

Const. Doug Lemna is accused of using excessive force on a mischief suspect in September 2009.

Police say the 19-year member was responding to a disturbance call on Jasper Court around 4 a.m. when two suspects believed to be yelling and breaking windows fled on bikes.

The duo was eventually located three-and-a-half blocks away. The alleged assault happened while one of the suspects was being detained and other officers went back to the scene to investigate.

Abbotsford Police Chief Constable Bob Rich ordered an investigation after "an issue with the use for force" used by Lemna was brought to the department's attention by a member reviewing the case file.

A criminal charge was recommended after the completion of a probe by the department's professional standards section.

Crown Counsel approved a charge of assault late Friday night.

Lemna was re-assigned to desk duties in October, where he remains.

This is the second investigation into an Abbotsford police officer in recent months.

In February, B.C.'s Police Complaint Commissioner ordered a public hearing into the conduct Const. Alex Wood after he allegedly broke a man's finger while seizing his camera in September 2008.

Civil Trial Begins for Officer Jason Smith

A civil trial began Monday in Trumbull County for a police officer involved in a fatal car accident.

Cassandra Thompson died in 2006 after being hit by a Cortland police cruiser driven by officer Jason Smith on South High Street.

Troopers investigating the accident then said the 16-year-old walked out in front of the cruiser, which didn't have its sirens or lights activated even though the officer was responding to a fight at a high rate of speed. Police did not have sufficient evidence to charge patrolman Jason Smith, who was driving the cruiser, with a crime.

Surviving members of the victim are seeking damages from the city of Cortland, its police department and Smith.

A jury in the wrongful death lawsuit was seated Monday and began hearing testimony. The trial is expected to last several days.

Trial to Begin for Officer Michael Ficken Accused of Misconduct

A jury trial involving officer misconduct allegations against former Prior Lake police officer Michael Alan Ficken is set to begin next week in Scott County District Court in Shakopee.

Ficken, 34, of Savage was charged by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office in June of last year with officer misconduct, fifth-degree assault, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection is set to start the morning of Tuesday, March 2. Opening arguments are expected to start later that afternoon and the trial will continue into Wednesday, March 3.

According to the criminal complaint:

While Ficken was on duty as a police officer, at about 7 a.m. June 10, he allegedly called his former girlfriend and when she didn’t answer, he drove to her house in Prior Lake. When Ficken arrived, he saw a vehicle he did not recognize and allegedly ran the license plate, without any known work-related reason to do so.

Ficken then allegedly went inside the house and attempted to find the 30-year-old woman, who was in a lower-level bedroom with the door locked. Ficken asked to be let into the bedroom, and the woman said, “No,” the complaint states.

Ficken then allegedly broke through the bedroom door while the woman attempted to hold it shut. While inside the bedroom, Ficken began to yell at the woman and a man who was inside the room with her, according to the complaint.

Ficken was then escorted out of the home by the woman and returned to duty. The man and woman then called 911, and Ficken was arrested by the Shakopee Police Department later that day to avoid a conflict of interest.

Following an internal investigation into the matter, Ficken was terminated from his position as a Prior Lake police officer on Sept. 21, 2009.

The Dakota County Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case to avoid a conflict of interest.

Officer Brian Cloninger Resigns

A North Carolina police officer has resigned after prosecutors say he tried to get a robbery victim to pick out a predetermined suspect from a photo lineup.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Officer Brian Cloninger gave the robbery victim the photo of the man he thought committed the gunpoint holdup, then urged the victim to study the suspect's face until she could pick him out.

Prosecutors say Cloninger said he tried to get a bad guy off the streets.

Prosecutors reviewed pending cases in which Cloninger's testimony was crucial and dismissed two other felonies and about 70 misdemeanor charges and traffic offenses. They say they couldn't trust Cloninger.

The former officer's attorney says he's sorry and paid for his mistake with his job.

Did Officer Intentionally Strike Bicyclists?

Once a month, bicyclists converge on downtown's Woodruff Park and begin a two-hour ride through city streets. Well documented with helmet-mounted cameras, the ride is called Critical Mass, with the dual roles of good times and raised awareness.

"It is pretty controversial," said cyclist Stephen Toucet.

It's controversial because the bicyclists of Critical Mass routinely block intersections, regardless of whether they have a red light or green light. Called "corking," they say they do it because it keeps the cyclists together and makes the ride safer.

They admit that some motorists find the practice obnoxious and strongly display their annoyance.

Friday evening, they corked the intersection of Peachtree St. and Eighth. One motorist strongly took exception.

"You can't go through a red light if you're a vehicle," the motorist is heard saying on a YouTube video.

The video, shot by cyclist Matt Todd, shows the driver threatening to strike a bicyclist with his car.

"If you don't move, I'll run you over," he said just a few seconds before putting the car in gear, lightly striking a bicyclist.

The driver dares the cyclists to get his license number as he pulls what appears to be a police badge.

"A badge was the last thing I was expecting to see," said Todd. "And when he pulled it out, it was like, OK. You're trying to intimidate us, you're trying to bully us."

"Because he was a police officer, he had the option of pulling us over and giving us a ticket for going through a red light. I totally accept that," said Toucet. It makes his action inexplicable, said Toucet.

Both bicyclists say they want to file a complaint against the motorist -- if he's a police officer, and if they can ever identify him. They never got a badge or license number.
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Former Officer Gary Pignato Pleads Guilty to Another Charge

Former Greece Police Officer Gary F. Pignato, who already is in prison for sexually coercing a woman he met on duty, pleaded guilty today to charges involving another woman.

Pignato pleaded guilty before Monroe County Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. to misdemeanors of official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass.

He will receive two years in the Monroe County Jail to run at the same time as his sentence for the previous conviction.

Pignato, 49, is serving a prison term of two to six years for forcing a woman to have sex with him in 2008 in exchange for not reporting her for violating probation on a misdemeanor conviction for petit larceny. He was convicted after a trial last spring.

The latest charge he admitted to involves a woman who said he forced her into having sex with him in 2005 in exchange for not reporting her for smoking marijuana.