Monday, December 28, 2009

Officer Joseph Kraus Arrested for DWI

A suburban New York police officer accused of an off-duty drunken driving accident that injured another police officer had been featured in a television news story warning against driving while distracted.

Scarsdale police say Westchester County Police Officer Joseph Kraus was released without bail Monday, pending a future court date on a misdemeanor DWI charge. He was not represented by a lawyer.

Police records show Kraus refused to take a breathalyzer test after driving through a blinking red light in the village on Sunday and hitting a marked police car.

Kraus was suspended with pay after the accident. The injured Scarsdale police officer underwent surgery Monday for injuries that were not considered life threatening.

A WABC-TV news video showed Kraus as part of the county's Crash Reduction Unit, which tries to prevent accidents.

Man says Officer Struck Him with Night Stick

Montreal police on Monday defended the “heavy-handed” tactics used when evacuating a downtown métro station Saturday night, saying they were dealing with a volatile situation that came close to being a full-scale riot.

Several innocent passengers caught up in the brawl say they were struck by aggressive police officers wielding night sticks and screaming at them to leave the Place des Arts station.

“It was a very dangerous situation and we had to restore order,” said Sergeant Ian Lafrenière of the Montreal police’s media relations division.

“I am not going to tell you that everything went perfectly. I am sorry if people weren’t treated the right way.”

Lafrenière said some youths were running in the tunnel between the stations and others were pelting police with bottles. The trouble started after a fight broke out between a large group of youths in a métro car between the McGill and Place des Arts stations.

Police, who were called after the emergency brake was pulled several times, were attacked by a large gang of youths on the platform. They called for backup and dozens of tactical squad officers with helmets and night sticks arrived to clear the station, which was packed with Boxing Day shoppers who were heading home.

“When you are facing an aggressive group who are throwing objects, it requires a huge police presence,” he said.

Bill Ryan, 50, was heading to Longueuil to visit family when he was caught up in the near-riot.

“There were hundreds of people, people who had come out of stores with bags, elderly people and children,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he takes issue with the manner in which police evacuated the station. When the order to evacuate was given, Ryan and his partner headed toward the Bleury St. exit, which was about six metres from the last métro car, where they had been standing.

But Ryan said a large group of officers refused to let them use that exit and ordered them to walk the entire length of platform to the Jeanne Mance St. exit. In doing so, they herded many passengers toward the middle of the platform, where a large group of youths were jostling with police.

“They were pushing us toward the problem – we weren’t being protected,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we were being handled like innocent citizens caught up in a situation.”

When he eventually made it past the unruly crowd to the other exit, Ryan said he couldn’t get up the stairs because a large group of youths were streaming down the stairs. When he complained to an officer, he said the officer struck him with a night stick and told him to get outside.

Ryan also questioned why police allowed so many passengers to get off at the Place des Arts station when there was a large group of youths trying to fight with police on the platform. “It was like New York City at rush hour – we were shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

Lafrenière said he couldn’t comment on those specific complaints. However, he said police officers who have orders to evacuate a métro station don’t have time to talk to citizens, who are seeking explanations for what is going on.

“This isn’t the kind of situation when you have time to talk to people,” he said. “When you see officers in helmets, you have to leave.”

Apart from the métro patrol squad, officers from downtown stations and the tactical squad were also deployed to the stations during the brawl.

As is the case with all major police interventions, senior officers will meet to review how the situation was handled, Lafrenière said.

“We were able to restore order and no one was seriously injured,” he said. “But we can do better.”

Officer Luic Mendonca Accused of Beating Suspect

The FBI is investigating Providence police after an officer was caught on videotape beating a restrained suspect, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Thursday.

A separate probe by the attorney general into the Oct. 20 arrest of Luis Mendonca will continue as the FBI conducts its own investigation, attorney general spokesman Michael Healey told The Associated Press.

The FBI would not confirm or deny an investigation, and Providence police did not immediately comment. The FBI investigation was first reported by WPRI-TV.

Surveillance video from the arrest in a parking lot shows police surrounding an apparently handcuffed Mendonca as one officer kicks and strikes him.

A lawyer for the 20-year-old Mendonca has said his client was so badly hurt that he was in a coma for two days and needed staples to close a gash in his head.

Cliff Montiero, head of the Providence branch of the NAACP, said he asked the FBI on Monday to investigate. He also spoke with Mendonca’s family, and said they filed a complaint Monday with the FBI. Montiero said he visited Mendonca on Wednesday at the state prison, where he is being held as a probation violator.

“He was angry and felt he hadn’t done anything wrong,” Montiero said. “He didn’t understand why they had to beat him so badly.”

Police have previously said that Mendonca was stopped by campus police for the Rhode Island School of Design, then told he could go but struck one of the officers and ran away as they waited for Providence police to arrive. A group of officers tracked him down in a parking lot, where his arrest was videotaped by a nearby surveillance camera.

A spokeswoman for RISD did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the FBI investigation.

Two unidentified Providence officers were placed on administrative duty earlier this month.

Montiero, a former Providence police officer and deputy sheriff, said the case had been “terribly handled,” and that he believed if there was no videotape the officers would not have been disciplined at all.

“If a Providence police officer, or several of them, go to jail over this, it’s going to send a lesson to all police officers,” he said. “It’s your job to detain them, not to punish them.”