Archive for the ‘Police and Prosecutorial Abuse’ Category.

Taking the Fifth, Because No One Can Pledge Confidentiality any More

Teacher John Dryden was absolutely correct in counseling his students to take the fifth rather than fill out a school drug use survey.  Three cheers for him

Yesterday John Dryden, the Illinois teacher who warned his students that they did not have to answer questions about alcohol and drug use on a survey distributed by their high school, got a warning of his own. The Kane County Chronicle reports that the Batavia School Board voted to issue "a written warning of improper conduct" to Dryden, who also was docked a day's pay. Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger explained Dryden's offense this way:

In this case, district teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists and others worked together for over a year to select a data-gathering instrument that could be used to determine what social or emotional issues our high school students are experiencing, and whether individual students could benefit from new or increased supportive intervention by our staff. These purposes were shared with our parents and our teachers.

The issue before the board was whether one employee has the right to mischaracterize the efforts of our teachers, counselors, social workers and others; and tell our students, in effect, that the adults are not here to help, but that they are trying to get you to "incriminate" yourselves.

Barshinger seems to think it is inconceivable that there could be anything wrong with the survey, since people with good intentions worked on it for "over a year." Yet the survey forms that Dryden picked up from his mailbox 10 minutes before his first class on April 18 not only asked about illegal behavior; they had students' names on them, thereby destroying any assurance of confidentiality.

Forget for a minute whether or not the public school employees were trustworthy (which is a heroic assumption in and of itself).  But consider local law enforcement.  They get a tip that kids have admitted drug use on these forms.  What do they do?  Well in many jurisdictions (imagine our own Joe Arpaio in action here) the police would immediately pull out every legal stop (and a few illegal ones likely) to seize these surveys.

Don't believe me?   Back in 2003 Major League Baseball asked its players to take a super-confidential drug test whose results would never be released for the purpose of assessing the extent of steroid use in baseball (almost exactly the same purpose the school is claiming).  Eventually, the FBI, Congress, and every other government agency tried, and were eventually mostly successful, in obtaining these supposedly secret confidential tests.

Several years later, Frank Mitchell was asked by MLB to investigate the steroid issue.  He asked for players to speak to him "confidentially" about steroid use.  The Players Association took better care of its members than this particular school does of its students, counseling players:

...while Senator Mitchell pledges in his memo that he will honor any player request for confidentiality in his report, he does not pledge, because he cannot pledge, that any information you provide will actually remain confidential and not be disclosed without your consent. For example, Senator Mitchell cannot promise that information you disclose will not be given to a federal or state prosecutor, a Congressional committee, or perhaps turned over in a private lawsuit in response to a request or a subpoena.

This is EXACTLY the statement that could and should have been made to students about this drug survey -- three cheers for one brave teacher willing to do so.  Shame on the rest of the school for its naivete (at best) and callous disregard for the students (at worst).

Curbing Prosecutorial Abuse in Texas

This is good news.  I hope it passes.  And the related law setting up stricter rules for eye-witness testimony may the first law named for a victim I can remember ever supporting

With more than 300 exonerations across the nation of people convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, we all have witnessed the limits of a criminal justice system flawed by human error — be that unintentional or intentional.

Nowhere more than in Texas has the weight of those imperfections been felt in cases that have tested public confidence in the criminal justice system and spurred big changes at the Legislature. That was true in the Timothy Cole case and is proving true in the Michael Morton case.

Morton’s testimony last week before the Texas Senate helped steer Senate Bill 825, prompted by his case, over a crucial hurdle. The bill aims to hold prosecutors accountable if they hide or suppress evidence from defendants. Morton’s lawyers claim prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence supporting Morton’s claim of innocence. Clearly, current laws are too lenient in punishing such practices, which not only are unethical, but illegal. The Legislature should pass the bill.

Puppycide

From the AZ Republic

A Flagstaff police officer who used his baton, boot and a cable to kill an injured dog after a fellow officer accidentally hit the animal with his car in August will not face criminal charges, according to the Navajo County Attorney’s Office.

...

Tewes was called after another officer hit a loose dog with his car Aug. 19. Tewes and the other officer decided the dog needed to be euthanized, but Tewes was concerned about using his gun in the neighborhood.

According to a Coconino County sheriff’s investigative report, Tewes repeatedly tried to bludgeon the dog to death, but it didn’t die. He then tried to jump on the dog’s head and cave in its skull, but that also didn’t kill the animal. Eventually, after some 20 to 30 minutes of trying to kill the dog, he used a hobble, which is like a metal cable, to try to strangle the dog. It took several tries before the dog died.

We give police officers unique and dangerous powers and authority.  It is amazing the poor judgement of the people we so entrust.

My Current Favorite Non-Profit

The Institute for Justice, or IJ.  The do great work.  What the ACLU should have been if it wasn't founded by Stalinists.  Check out this aggravating example:

Imagine you own a million-dollar piece of property free and clear, but then the federal government and local law enforcement agents announce that they are going to take it from you, not compensate you one dime, and then use the money they get from selling your land to pad their budgets—all this even though you have never so much as been accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one.”

That is the nightmare Russ Caswell and his family is now facing in Tewksbury, Mass., where they stand to lose the family-operated motel they have owned for two generations.

The most contentious civil forfeiture fight in the nation will be the subject of a week-long trial starting Monday, November 5, 2012, in Boston. Throughout the week, the Institute for Justice, which represents the property owners in the case, will expose the ugly practice of civil forfeiture—where law enforcement agencies can pad their budgets by taking property from innocent owners who have never been convicted or even charged with a crime.

 

Dictator of Their Immediate Area

I have argued before that police often behave as if they are legally dictator of their immediate area, and frequently assume they can issue orders, however asinine, to anyone in their visual range.  Of course this is legally not true (though I suppose it is legally true if you take into account that courts and the minimal accountability processes that exist for cops never punish them for such behavior).

Here is a great example.  The 2-minute TSA freeze drill, with the TSA yelling at people -- already through security -- within their visual range for moving.  I think they are ripping off Heinlein - was this in Starship Troopers?

Shot Trying to Escape

It's become a joke of totalitarian states that prisoners killed by the state are all "shot trying to escape."  I can't get that phrase out of my head when I read this

A state crime lab report claims Chavis Carter, the man shot to death while handcuffed in the back of a Jonesboro, Arkansas police cruiser, committed suicide.

The left-handed Carter, the report claims, retrieved a 380-caliber Cobra semi-automatic, which he had managed to conceal from officers during two searches, and used his right hand to shoot himself in the head.

Drug Enforcement Outrage of the Day

The government commandeers a company's driver and truck for a drug smuggling operation without the company's knowledge or permission (and without any compensation).  The innocent and apparently overly helpful driver then dies in a hail of bullets that also riddle the truck as authorities screw up the bust.  In the process, police are wounded when they end up shooting at each other.  What a mess.

Two Views of the Police

Radley Balko has this amazing comparison of two different citys' police recruitment videos, which paired together give great insight into really different ways these departments see themselves and their mission.  As Balko asks, which town do you want to live in?

Police Don't Like It When The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

Via Radley Balko, certain Dallas residents are upset that they are getting "nitpicked" for speeding and other traffic violations caught by camera.  Normally, I would be quite sympathetic.  But not in this case.  You see, those who are upset about getting punished for violating traffic laws are Dallas police:

The Dallas Police Department has suspended a special unit’s regular reviews of dash-cam video from patrol cars because officers felt they were being nitpicked with disciplinary action for minor infractions such as speeding.

The recordings and the reviews are meant to provide evidence when patrol officers go renegade, and they are especially helpful in excessive-force cases. They’re also crucial for protecting officers falsely accused of wrongdoing.

In 11 months of operation, the unit reviewing the video found numerous examples of officers exceeding the department’s speed requirements, failing to turn on their lights and sirens or failing to stop at stop signs or red lights during chases or when responding to other emergency calls.

While in many cases these actions are against department policy, police commanders say they became concerned that some supervisors were taking a heavy-handed approach to routine problems, meting out discipline rather than finding ways to change behavior.

“The folklore among officers is, ‘I’m afraid to go five miles over the speed limit because I’ll be disciplined,’” said Chief David Brown. He ordered a cooling-off period for the review process while the department takes a look at what can be done to ensure that it is fair and reasonable.

As someone who has gotten a ticket from a police officer for going less than five miles over the speed limit, I can think of a two word response:  Equal protection.

While some supervisors informed of violations have simply counseled officers to be more cautious, Dallas Police Association officials say at least a couple of dozen officers were disciplined, mostly with minor write-ups, for speeding violations.

Well, since police officers like all public officials are impossible to fire, this does not mean squat.  I don't see any fine here, or points on their license, penalties absolutely everyone else would face.  A better spin for this article would be "police violations of traffic law treated far more leniently than those by anyone else."  And even with this lenient treatment, they still shut it down as too onerous.

All that being said, the video review program Dallas was doing is a good idea.  It should continue, and if traffic law enforcement is getting in the way of the program continuing, I would be willing to let the officers slide if only to catch more substantial violations in how they interact with the public.

 

Interesting Analysis of Trayvon Martin Probably Cause Affidavit

I have not really posted on Trayvon Martin (except to comment on NBC's corrupt editing of the 911 tape) because a) high-profile criminal cases don't really have the hold on me they seem to have for many other Americans**; b) I have nothing to add; c) I have a bias that would make my commentary suspect.

But since I am about to post on the case, and may in the future, I should explain the bias.  We have a problem from time to time with campground workers we call the "badge-heavy" syndrome.  They get obsessive about rooting our rules violations.  They stalk campers.  They follow people around.  The spy on campers, looking for violations or crimes to report.  The folks they pick out for such treatment are often chosen because they are somehow different from the employee.

This is just awful for customer service.   It drives me crazy.  It is the absolute first thing we discuss at every training session.  Employees who demonstrate that they have this mentality are generally shown the door as fast as possible.  Government-run recreation facilities actually have this problem much worse, because 1) they give all their park staff a law enforcement title, a badge, and a gun, which tends to just encourage this kind of over-zealous harassment and 2) it is almost impossible for them to fire someone for this type of thing (because in the government employee heirarchy of values, enforcement of and consistency with rules is far more important than customer service or visitor satisfaction).

So this is a hot button issue for me.  And my first thought in this case was that Zimmerman's actions seemed just like those of my badge-heavy employees that I frequently have to fire.  So I am not very predisposed to by sympathetic to him, so thus my bias.

Anyway, keeping with my habit in this case of commenting more on issues at the periphery rather than of the case itself, this post from Ken at Popehat (I believe a former US attorney and current defense lawyer) is quite interesting.  Here is the bottom line:

I'm in a rush, but I can't avoid commenting on the affidavit of probable cause submitted in the matter of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin.

It's a piece of crap....

This is not the worst affidavit I've ever seen — but it's damn close, and the decision to proceed based on it in such a high-profile case is stunning. Cynics may say that I've been spoiled by federal practice, where affidavits are on average considerably more careful and well-drafted, particularly in some districts. But if it takes a high-profile case to highlight shoddy practices in everyday cases, so be it. An affidavit like this makes a mockery of the probable cause process. There's no way that a judge reading this affidavit can make an intelligent or informed decision about the sufficiency of the evidence — even for the low hurdle of probable cause.

** footnote:  I lived in Boulder through the whole Jon Benet Ramsey case.  I believe this was like aversion therapy, the equivalent of your dad forcing you to sit in a closet and smoke three cigars to put you off smoking, which has turned me off high profile criminal cases forever.

Thanks, Joe

Maricopa County will likely settle three suits against Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas for about $2 million.  This is on top of nearly $1.5 million in defense costs the County has already incurred in the cases.   Apparently, they consider themselves lucky to be getting off that cheap.

Andrew Thomas Disbarred, but Only Because His Prosecutorial Abuse Was Against Elected Officials

The good news:  Andrew Thomas was disbarred, a fate he richly deserved for his amazing prosecutorial abuses, for example bringing fake RICO and bribery charges against a judge to force him to recuse himself from another case in which he was likely to rule against Thomas.  Some of my many articles on Thomas are here.

But here is what depresses me:  I believe he was disbarred only because his prosecutorial over-reach and abuse was aimed at public officials.  Similar or worse abuses against private parties are seldom if ever punished.   This is lawyers and public officials defending their own.  When I see this much concern aimed at abuses of private individuals, I will be more likely to cheer.

Update:  I am a terrible editor, but I am sure I did not type "Proprietorial" rather than "Prosecutorial" in the original title.  I think I have some kind of weird auto-correct problem going on.  Though until now I did not know "proprietorial" was a word.

One of the Worst Abuses I Have Read About In A While

I can't possibly excerpt this story of the jailing and torture of a woman for buying a box of Sudafed.  Read it all and get totally pissed off.  It makes me want to go to law school and pass the bar just so I can represent this woman pro bono.

California Vote on Death Penalty

I have migrated from being a death penalty hawk 30 years ago to being against the death penalty.  In short,  if I don't trust the government to be able to make decisions on alternate fuel loans, I don't trust them to make life and death decisions.  I grew up in Texas where governors in political races would compete with one another on who has or promises to execute the most people.  Literally they were running on body counts.  This is not an environment conducive to good decision-making.

Further, the death penalty does too much to cut off one's full appeal rights.  A black man in Mississippi in 1965 was never going to get his full Constitutional appeal rights.  Men have been executed that later improvements in racial tolerance or DNA evidence might have exonerated.

Apparently, some of the original supporters of California's death penalty expansion in the 1970's* are now promoting its repeal, and are trying to woo other Conservatives to the cause

Thirty-four years later, another initiative is going on the California ballot, this time to repeal the death penalty and replace it with mandatory life without parole. And two of its biggest advocates are Ron Briggs and Mr. Heller, who are trying to reverse what they have come to view as one of the biggest mistakes of their lives.

Partly, they changed their minds for moral reasons. But they also have a political argument to make.

“At the time, we were of the impression that it would do swift justice, that it would get the criminals and murderers through the system quickly and apply them the death penalty,” Mr. Briggs, 54, said over tea in the kitchen at his 100-acre farm in this Gold Rush town, where he grows potatoes, peppers, melons, cherries and (unsuccessfully, so far) black Périgord truffles.

“But it’s not working,” he said. “My dad always says, admit the obvious. We started with 300 on death row when we did Prop 7, and we now have over 720 — and it’s cost us $4 billion. I tell my Republican friends, ‘Close your eyes for a moment. If there was a state program that was costing $185 million a year and only gave the money to lawyers and criminals, what would you do with it?’ ”

*For those who did not live through the 1970's, it is hard to describe how much the culture was absolutely steeped in the notion that city streets were Road Warrior-esque free-fire crime zones.  The Dirty Harry movies, the Charles Bronson vigilante movies, Escape from New York, the Warriors, etc. etc all promoted this notion that we were too soft on crime and that we had allowed criminals to run wild.

GRRRRRR

I grew up in Houston.  Around and embedded in Houston are a number of small cities and villages with their own police forces.  You generally really, really did not want to encounter these folks.  They often hired the dregs of large police forces, preferentially taking the hard cases even the larger forces could not tolerate.  I remember the small village next to my high school hired one of the Houston Police officers who beat Joe Campos Torres to death (after Texas courts gave the two leaders of the beating probation and at $1 fine for killing the Vietnam vet).  These police forces are famous for their hostility to non-whites.

So it comes as no surprise, but never-the-less with great irritation, to see another such Houston-area independent city (in this case Bellaire) refusing to punish criminal officers who gunned down an innocent man in his own driveway for the apparent crime of driving while black

Cop runs license check on a suspicious vehicle. Although they apparently committed no traffic violation, cop insists that his decision to run a check had nothing to do with the fact that the occupants were black, and happened to be driving in an affluent, predominately white neighborhood. The cop’s partner apparently then enters the wrong license number, which returns a car that had been reported stolen. So cop follows car into driveway, which happens to be the home of the driver’s parents, where he lives. Cop approaches driver and occupant with his gun drawn. Driver’s parents come out to see what’s causing the commotion. Cop roughs up driver’s mother. Driver gets up from ground to tell cop to lay off of his mother. Cop shoots driver, a full 32 seconds after pulling into the driveway.

The driver, who was unarmed, will now carry a bullet in his liver for the rest of his life. The cop was charged with first degree aggravated assault. A jury acquitted him. Now this week, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon dismissed the driver’s lawsuit against both the cop that fired his gun and the cop who entered the wrong license plate number, citing qualified immunity. According to Harmon, the officer acted “reasonably,” and moreover, wrongly accusing an unarmed man of stealing a car, pointing a gun at him, then shooting him in the liver, “did not violate [his] constitutional rights.”

Both cops are back on the force. The guy with the bullet in his liver? Tough luck. He’ll be paying his own medical bills.

Everything I Need To Know About The Effect of Metrics on Police Behavior I Learned from The Wire

Scathing report on how NY police gamed the process to improve their reported crime numbers.  Nothing in this should be the least surprising to anyone who watched a few seasons of The Wire.

These are not just accounting shenanigans.  There were actions the directly affected the public and individual liberty.  People were rounded up on the street on BS charges to pad arrest stats while real, substantial crimes went ignored in a bid to keep them out of the reported stats.

There is one part in here that is a good illustration of public vs. private power.  People who fear corporations seem to have infinite trust for state institutions.  But the worst a corporation was ever able to do to a whistle blower was fire him.  This is what the state does:

For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraftsecretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the "stats" that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports.

Arresting bystanders made it look like the department was efficient, while artificially reducing the amount of serious crime made the commander look good.

In October 2009, Schoolcraft met with NYPD investigators for three hours and detailed more than a dozen cases of crime reports being manipulated in the district. Three weeks after that meeting—which was supposed to have been kept secret from Schoolcraft's superiors—his precinct commander and a deputy chief ordered Schoolcraft to be dragged from his apartment and forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward for six days.

None of the Police Officers Were Held Accountable For Their Behavior

Outrageous. More at Radley Balko's place.

Phoenix Police Fail

On the way to work today, which is normally only a 5-minute drive for me, there was a small fender-bender among a couple of cars.  The cars did exactly what you are supposed to do:  they pulled off the road into a nearby parking lot so they would not block traffic.  The police could not be bothered, and just parked in the right lane, jamming traffic up for a mile or so.  I looked - there was no debris or anything in the road that they were trying to block (you can confirm that from the picture below), the police simply did not have the common courtesy that the other drivers had.

Yes, the police car below is actually parked and unoccupied in the right lane at morning rush hour.  The citizens involved can be seen pulled into the parking lot at the left.  Though it is hard to see from the picture, the traffic backup extends well into the distance.

Photography is Not A Crime

I was surprised to find this bit of awesomeness on the net:

Update: Speaking of which, Carlos Miller, from whom the title of this post is stolen, was yet again arrested for filming police in a public place.

Why Sheriff Joe is Still Sheriff

For those of you not in Arizona that wonder from all the articles about him why Sheriff Joe is still elected by almost landslide majorities, and why Republicans all over the state still beg him for his endorsement, here it is:

A subsequent examination of the sheriff's file showed that residents of Maricopa County wrote to him regarding the presence of Mexicans in greater Phoenix.

Citizens saw day laborers. They saw people with brown skin. They heard Spanish spoken.

And what the letters reveal is enormous anxiety about Hispanics:

  • "I always see numerous Mexicans standing around in that area . . . These Mexicans swarmed around my car, and I was so scared and alarmed . . . I was never so devastated in my life regarding these circumstances . . . Although the Mexicans at this location may be within their legal right to be there . . . I merely bring this matter to your attention in order that all public agencies, FBI, etc., may be kept informed of these horrific circumstances."
  • "I would love to see an immigrant sweep conducted in Surprise, specifically at the intersection of Grand and Greenway. The area contains dozens of day workers attempting to flag down motorists seven days a week."
  • "The Mesa police chief drags his feet and stalls . . . the head of the Mesa police union is a Hispanic."
  • "As a retiree in Sun City, formerly from Minnesota, I am a fan of yours and what you are doing to rid the area of illegal immigrants . . . when I was in McDonald's at Bell Road and Boswell (next to the Chase Bank) this noon, there was not an employee in sight, or within hearing, who spoke English as a first language — to my dismay. From the staff at the registers to the staff back in the kitchen area, all I heard was Spanish — except when they haltingly spoke to a customer. You might want to check this out."

And Sheriff Arpaio did check it out.

None of the Hispanics described in the letters had broken the law. It is not against the law to speak Spanish or work as a day laborer.

Arpaio nonetheless gave the correspondence to Deputy Chief Brian Sands. Federal Judge Snow determined that raids and roundups quickly followed. Hispanics were rousted because white people were uncomfortable.

Sheriff Joe once did a roundup in tony Fountain Hills, which I would be surprised if it had even 5% Hispanic population, and managed to drag in for various petty violations (e.g. cracked windshield) a group that was about 95% Hispanic.  His favorite thing to do, when he isn't busting into homes with Hollywood celebrities, is to send his deputies into a business and have them handcuff everyone with brown skin and refuse to release them until they or their family members have arrived to prove they are in the US legally.

This whole article is a good roundup of yet another abusive side of Arpaio, his flagrant disregard for public records laws and the rules of evidence.  In Maricopa County, "exculpatory evidence" and "shredded" have roughly the same meaning.

Contempt of TSA

I have written frequently of the non-crime called "contempt of cop" which seems to be at the heart of so many bad arrests and harassment incidents.  Well, you will be happy to know that the helpful folks at the TSA want the same power, to be able to arrest anyone who does not show them proper respect and deference.

Postscript:  Thinking about this more, I have to add a personal angle.  As my company privately operates public parks, our employees are often taking over from state park rangers who have law enforcement credentials.  When we propose our services, we often get pushback on this issue -- how are we going to live without all these law enforcement officers with arrest powers and guns and badges in the parks?

The answer I give is:  Things will be better.  It is an enormous mistake to handle customer service problems with a badge and gun and hard-ass attitude, but that is often what happens in parks.  You don't see McDonald's issuing citations to their customers, but state parks organizations do it all the time.

It turns out that the reason there are so many law enforcement officers in parks has nothing to do with demand -- with very few exceptions, the parks we operate all require fractions of an FTE of law enforcement.  Maybe 20 hours a year per park.  But there are huge incentives for state workers to get a law enforcement license.  Beyond the psychic advantages of having a gun and badge, they typically qualify for a much richer law enforcement pension plan.   Park supervisors don't care -- the extra benefits don't come out of their budgets.

The Answer Is Always A More Intrusive State

Radley Balko linked this article about Virginia drivers being fined for not having proof of insurance, something that is actually not illegal in the state.  Apparently, it is illegal to drive without having insurance coverage, but there is no requirement to carry proof of insurance or any crime defined in law for not carrying such proof.

SO there is some "confusion", but note that the only confusion is in the mind of state law enforcement officers, who are attempting to exceed the law.  The obvious solution, to me, would be to educate the officers and prosecutors on the damn law.   Of course, agents of the state have a different solution (emphasis added)

Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Michael R. Doucette agreed that failure to have proof of insurance while driving is not illegal.

"Rather, the offense is having an uninsured motor vehicle and not paying the uninsured motorist fee of $500 per year," Doucette said.

Doucette said requiring drivers to present either proof of insurance or proof of payment of the uninsured vehicle fee would go a long way to clear up the confusion. The General Assembly has considered such a mandate at least three times, but has never passed it.

Get it?  The best way to solve the problem of the state exceeding its authority is to just give the state new powers and criminalize more things so its actual authority matches it's desired powers.  I fear that this will also be the state's answer for the fact that photography is not a crime.

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Apparently, while Sheriff Arpaio was busy raiding businesses and zip-tieing everyone with brown skin and distracted by his attempts to arrest judges that handed down unfavorable decisions, there was actual violent crime happening in Maricopa County.  With the Sheriff busy with celebrities raiding homes suspected of cockfighting with tanks, minor stuff like rape got put on the back burner.  The story has just been discovered by the AP but it has been kicking around town for a while:

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases, including dozens in El Mirage, over a two-year period because of poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott's desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity, according to documents pertaining to a recent internal investigation released by the Sheriff's Office.

The errors led to interminable delays for victims of serious crimes who waited years for the attackers to be brought to justice, if they were ever caught.

More than 50 El Mirage sex-crime cases, most involving young children reportedly victimized by friends or family, went uninvestigated after police took an initial report. The lack of oversight was so widespread in El Mirage that it affected other cases: roughly 15 death investigations, some of them homicides with workable leads, were never presented to prosecutors, and dozens of robberies and auto-theft cases never led to arrests.

The East Valley Tribune actually had details on this story over three years ago, in a story that won a Pullitzer, but the Sheriff never bothered to do anything until the story hit the AP.

Employees were preparing to close the 99 Cent Discount Store in El Mirage on Aug. 20, 2006, when a teenage girl ran inside.

Agitated and refusing to leave, the 15-year-old girl told the store's manager that two men had just raped her in a ditch outside, a police report says.

Paramedics took the girl to Del E. Webb Hospital in Sun City West, where medical staff found physical evidence of sexual assault, according to deputy chief Bill Knight, head of the sheriff's central investigations, who researched the case.

At midnight, a detective from the MCSO's special victims unit arrived at the hospital to begin an investigation, the report says.

But the investigation never really began.

The MCSO closed the case a month later by designating it "exceptionally cleared," which is supposed to be applied to cases where a suspect is known and there's enough evidence to make an arrest but circumstances prevent an arrest. That designation allows the MCSO to count the case in the same reporting category as investigations that end in arrest.

But in this case, the detectives didn't have a suspect and appear to have done no work on the case.

I would love to see a reincarnation of "the Wire" focused on our Sheriff's department.  All the same corruptions in the show are on display every day here in Arizona.

Shut Up

Good advice from Popehat

Hence, the government’s chickenshit false statement trap works — even though the government agents set it up from the start. Now, however weak or strong their evidence is of the issue they are investigating, they’ve got you on a Section 1001 charge — a federal felony. In effect, they are manufacturing felonies in the course of investigations.

You think this is an improbable scenario? You think I’m talking about rare and extreme cases to color the entirety of federal law enforcement? To the contrary, as a federal defense attorney, I’m encountering this more and more often. Not to sound like an old fart, but we never indulged in such bullshit when I was a federal prosecutor (cue the scoffing from many defense attorneys). But in the last 12 years, I’ve seen it in a dozen cases, and heard about it from colleagues across the country. It’s now routine for federal agents to close out an investigation with a false-statement-trap interview of a target in an effort to add a Section 1001 cherry to the top of the cake.

The lesson — other than that criminal justice often has little to do with actual justice — is this: for God’s sake shut up. Law enforcement agents seeking to interview you are not your friends. You cannot count on “just clearing this one thing up.” Demand to talk to a lawyer before talking to the cops. Every time.

Read it all.  He explains how easy it is to fall into this trap, and how even non-material statements get spun as felonies.   Remember, Martha Stewart went to the slammer for lying to investigators, not for stock fraud or insider trading.

Abusive Prosecutorial Tactic of the Month Award

The unindicted co-ejaculator.    I'll let Radley Balko explain it.