Archive for January, 2013

Why I study police deviance…

Posted: January 30, 2013 by garrettkicksbutt in Uncategorized

Why should we study police deviance? Why do I study police deviance? The answer to both of these questions lies in the human need to feel secure. Knowledge and information free us from  our insecurities and alothough that information might raise more answers, it is important we ask questions and inquire about important  matters that effect us all.

So much of our lives are spent working or finding a mate, that we often take for granted the social structures we are born into. We are just to busy to care. That is until our saftey is called into question. That is when people take what little knowledge they possess about the Criminal Justice System and expect great things to happen for them. When grea things take time or dont happen at all, we feel insecure and untrustworthy about a system we have little knowledge about.

Why do I study police deviance? This semester i study police deviance in the classroom, in order to gain a deeper understanding of those who watch over us. The majority of my experiances with polices forces in the lower mainland have not been good ones. Race and age discrimination, illegal search and seizures along with an array of second hand incidents heard from people I know. My opinion on the police that enforce the laws I live by, they are human like every other person they interact with and to pretend they are not causes us to don a lense that automatically puts police in a far less favourable light when studying or inquiring about their wrongdoings or misconduct. My travel through the relms of criminology guided me to this conclusion. I can say with confidence that my outlook on police would be accompinied by alot less understanding if my education was aimed toward understaning crime, police and the criminal justice system.

On September 4th, 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina, four New Orleans police officers, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, opened fire on six unarmed residents, two of whom died. Afterwards, these officers as well as their at the time Sargent, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting, attempted to cover up the shootings.  The cover up included conspiring to plant a firearm, fabricating witnesses and lying on police incident reports. The cover up lead to the arrest of Lance Madison on attempted murder charges. The officers falsely claimed that Madison opened fire on them which is what led to them opening fire on those six residents. Madison spent three weeks in prison before a judge released him.

Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon were convicted of federal firearms charges, which has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 35 years. Kaufman was convicted of assisting in the cover up of the shooting. Faulcon who was convicted of charges in both fatal shootings, was sentenced to 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius, were sentenced to 40 years. Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman was sentenced to 6 years. All five were convicted of participating in a cover up.

In order to understand these officers’ corruption, it is useful to refer to Punch’s (2009) three typologies of police corruption, a typology of types of officers, a typology of practices, and a typology of levels of police deviance.

These officers would be classified as meat eaters, according to Punch’s (2009) typology of types of officers. Meat eaters are officers who actively and knowingly participate in illegal activity. In this case, all officers actively and knowingly committed illegal actions, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime.

A typology of practices contains eight categories, a few of which are applicable to this case. Specifically, this case is relatable to the following categories the fix, direct criminal activities, and flaking and padding. The fix refers to “undermining criminal investigations or proceedings, loss of evidence, fixing parking tickets” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers attempt to undermine the criminal investigation of the shooting by attempting to cover it up. Direct criminal activities, refers to “committing a crime in clear violation of criminal norms” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers violate the law in numerous ways, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime. Lastly, flaking and padding refers to “planting or adding to evidence to ‘set someone up’” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, the officers attempt to justify their opening fire on six residents by falsely claiming that Lance Madison shot at them first.

Punch’s (2009) typology of levels of police deviance includes three levels, externally driven, within the police domain and system failure: labeling and wider impact of corruption. There is evidence of police deviance within the police domain, specifically process corruption. The officers plant evidence and make false statements. If one reads further into the case, the prosecution of the case, there is evidence of system failure, specifically police and criminal justice failure. During the case’s prosecution, prosecutors are criticized by the judge in seeking a lighter sentence for the highest ranking officer at the shooting scene and unsure of the credibility of officers who plead guilty and testified against other officers.

References

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/04/04/katrina-police-killings.html

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, oh!

Posted: January 30, 2013 by tysonnesdoly in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Officer John (Johnny) Poland, with the South Lake Tahoe police department, has been arrested and charged with five counts of witness tampering after a three year joint investigation with the FBI (Swankie, 2013). This kind of headline is, unfortunately, becoming all too common. It is alleged that Poland had engaged in sexual activities with underage students of a high school while he was working as a school resource officer in 2006 (Roxas & Chhuon, 2013).

Image

In the years following, it is alleged that Poland had instructed several individuals to lie to investigators and dispose of, or manipulate evidence that had been revealed during department briefings that Poland had attended. Also, Poland was observed interacting with a known gang member’s girlfriend in ways that were ‘questionable’, while the gang member was the subject of investigation. He was recorded warning the woman there is a FBI investigation and “if there is anything f***ing bad on your phone, go ahead and delete it” (Campion, 2013). When situations like this arise, the how and whys seem impossible to determine and explore in a narrower focus.

Watch the News 10 video on this case for more details.

In Maurice Punch’s text “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing”, he outlines several different typologies of police deviance and corruption. Punch combines his typologies with those of the Knapp Commission and Barker and Roebuck. There are three categories that cover the causes of deviance, ‘externally driven,’ which is any outside influence such as political pressure or control, ‘within the police domain,’ which includes behaviours like ‘grass eating’ and ‘meat eating’, and finally ‘system failure,’ which blames the institution or justice system as a whole. The typology that best describes the case of John Poland is the category of ‘Meat-eating: predatory (strategic) corruption,’ which is categorized ‘within the police domain’. This typology describes a police officer who actively and aggressively pursues illegal activities for personal gains. Meaning, this type of officer would affiliate with organized crime groups and even commit criminal acts themselves, such as, extortion, ‘testilying’, thefts, assaults and even murder. The use of this typology in this case is important because it offers explanations that go behind the crimes and into the mind of the offending officer. It rules out excuses such as, ‘it was just a one off mistake’ which attempts to belittle the prior intent.  This helps us see that Poland is, in fact, a predator of the vulnerable operating within a police organization. Poland is calculated and proactive in intimidating his victims and committing crimes. Interestingly, before this investigation, Poland was fired for misconduct during his years at the high school and fought the decision in court to get his job back and won (Jensen, 2009).

Now, because of the work done by Punch, the Knapp Commission, and Barker and Roebuck, we can begin to understand the causes of police corruption. And, more specifically, how officers like John Poland have become text-book examples of  ‘meat-eaters’ operating within police forces around the world today.

Further readings on this story can be found on the references below.

Campion, C. (2013). US District Court Document. Retrieved from News 10: http://www.news10.net/assetpool/documents/130123071054_TahoeCop.pdf/

Jensen, A. (2009). Johnny Be Good: South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Johnny Poland will return to work. Retrieved from Tahoe Daily Tribune: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/article/20091029/NEWS/910299984/

Roxas, G., & Chhuon, S. (2013). South Lake Tahoe Police officer accused of witness tampering arrested. Retrieved from News 10: http://www.news10.net/news/article/226489/2/South-Lake-Tahoe-Police-officer-accused-of-witness-tampering-arrested

Swankie, G. (2013). South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Arrested . Retrieved from FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/sacramento/press-releases/2013/south-lake-tahoe-police-officer-arrested/view

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed by Cops

Alexandra Torrensvila, 23 is a victim to police corruption. She was arrested by four cops for a DUI  due to an accident that the officers had caused themselves. As of now, the charges against her have been dropped by the Broward State Attorney’s Office.  Thankfully for Alexandra, the attention moved from her to the four cops. Prosecutors are now looking into the Hollywood police who made up the entire story to cover up a February traffic accident involving a cop car. The interesting thing about this case is that it was all caught on tape by one of the officer’s dashboard cameras. This video shows Alexandra handcuffed in the back of a squad car as the officers try to decide on a story to explain what had happened.

Watch Video Here

Officer Joel Francisco, 36 is an 11 year veteran. He was the officer who crashed into the back of Torrensvila’s vehicle on February 17 at midnight. Francisco then radioed the other cops who arrived at the scene to try to find a way to bail him out. Officer Dewey Pressley arrived on scene after and questioned Torrensvila. She told him that she had been drinking and Pressley takes this information to his advantage and arrests her for DUI. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear the officers brainstorm ideas for excuses of the accident. In the video one of the cops acknowledges that what they are doing is illegal but decides there is nothing wrong with bending the law for a few cops.

When taking a closer look into police corruption we can classify these officers into three typologies. Typology one is from the Knapp Commission. These officers would be described as Meat-Eaters; this is when officers abuse authority for self gain. In this situation, these officers used Torrensvila to take blame for their own accident. Although these officers did say, “I never lie and make things up ever because it’s wrong”, they did however not mind “bending” the law for a fellow police officer. These officers took advantage of their authority and believed they were above the law. Instead of protecting civilians like police are suppose to, these officer framed Torrensvila for an accident she didn’t cause.

In typology two from Categories of practice by Barker and Roebuck, Francisco and Pressley would fall under direct criminal activities and flaking and padding. These officers committed a crime in clear violation of criminal norms. In the video, the cops acknowledged several times that what they are doing is illegal. I would also consider that these officers committed flaking and padding. They constructed a false story against Torrensvila to ensure a conviction against her. In the video, a cop debates with Pressley on who is going to write the false police report and they go over different stories they can use to put the blame on Torrensvila.

In this case, the camera on the dashboard of the cop car caught the incident on film. But there are numerous incidents in which cops abuse their power that unfortunately go undetected. If we refer to history, we can see many cases like this in which cops have failed to follow standard legal procedures. For example, in the cause of Robert Dziekanski, the cops failed to communicate with Mr. Dziekanski properly which lead to his death. It is quite unfortunate that incident like these occur because officers overuse their authority. One of the main responsibilities of cops is to ensure that citizens are following the law accordingly. However, cops need to understand that the term citizens involves everyone, including other cops. Cops should not and are not immune to the consequences of breaking the law.

References:

Former Hollywood Cop Gets 90 Days In Jail. (January 13, 2012). CBS Local News. Retrieved by

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/01/13/former-hollywood-cop-gets-90-days-in-jail/

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed By Cops. (July 29, 2009). NBC News. Retreived by

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Cops-Set-Up-Woman-After-Crash.html

Former Hollywood Cop On Trial For Alleged Cover Up. (November 28, 2011). CBS Local News. Retrieved from

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/11/28/former-hollywood-cop-on-trial-for-alleged-cover-up/

Corruption is an extremely broad word, and can be defined in numerous ways. If one looked up the word corruption in the dictionary it will read, “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery “(Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I quite like this definition, except, it leaves out so many other contributing factors, and solely basis it on bribery. A more comprehensive definition of corruption is illustrated by Punch, when he states, corruption can be classified as: The abuse of authority, of the oath of office, of trust and it involves the misuse of police power and authority (Punch 2009).

In keeping with the misuse of police powers, Punch explains in-depth three typologies of deviance and corruption, grass-eaters, birds and meat-eaters (Punch, 2009). First we do a general overview of grass-eaters. Grass-eaters do not look for kickbacks, such as free coffee at Tim Hortons, or a free meal; however, when offered, these officers who engage in grass-eating do not decline. The birds are officers who do not indulge in deviant behaviors, they “fly high above it”. However, being a “bird” does not come without scrutiny, perhaps one does not participate in deviant ways, but perhaps they are well aware of the practices going on but fail to report it, due to the blue wall of silence (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence is something most officers uphold strongly. Police officers do not whistle-blow on each other and they have each others backs, even in the most corrupt ways. Finally, we have the meat-eaters, they are proactive carnivores. Meat eaters go out looking for ways to get graft (forms of money and or benefits) and organize arrangements to facilitate this (Punch,2009). They set out deals with drug dealers for mutual benefit, they compromise homicides, they are illicit in bribery, extortion and run illegal enterprises (Punch, 2009).

A prime example of meat-eating took place within the 25th district of the Philadelphia police department on July 13, 2010. Three officers, Mark Williams, Robert Snyder and James Venziale orchestrated an elaborate scheme to act outside the law with three drug dealers in a $15, 000 heist of Heroin (FBI, Philadelphia Division, 2011). The three Philadelphia police officers, ranging from 4-9 years on duty, organized a plan to place a traffic stop in downtown Philadelphia. They had worked with confidential informants and other drug dealers who told them where and when this car would be that was carrying 300 grams of Heroin. They were to stop the car, in a routine stop, arrest 1 drug dealer who was in the car and complicit in this deal and seize the drugs. However; there plan backfired when they tried to sell the heroin to an undercover Drug Enforcement agent who had been tipped off about this illegal seizure. The DEA had numerous audio and visual recording of these three police officers engaging in over 14 indictable offenses (FBI, Philadelphia Division, 2011).

These three officers engaged in something Punch calls, Meat-eating: predatory (strategic) corruption. Punch explains this as proactive aggressive efforts to regulate criminal markets and extort money from illegal enterprises. They also engaged in direct criminal involvement preying on competitors (stealing their drugs to resell them for their own personal gain). Williams, Snyder and Venziale all committed “direct criminal activities”, this is when one commits a crime that is in clear violation of criminal norms. They also committed “ opportunistic theft”, this can be defined as, stealing from arrestees, victims of crime, dead bodies, and from scenes of crimes (Punch, 2009).

The charges against Williams, Snyder and Venziale ranged from Conspiracy to attempted robbery. Williams was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years 3 months in state prison. Snyder pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 years in state prison. Venziale provided the FBI with information leading to more aggressive charges being laid against Williams and Snyder. For this cooperation, Venziale received 42 months in state prison (FBI, Philadelphia Division, 2011).

This is a photo of all 3 men. link: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/photogallery/bad-cops.html?curPhoto=6

In summation, there are many categories and theoretical approaches to corruption; however, the most important thing to take away from this is, how not to fall prey to it.

link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCinB4Yc9_c

References

Punch, Maurice, 2009, Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing, Routledge, NY.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Philadelphia Division. Retrieved Jan, 24, 2013

http://www.fbi.gov/philadelphia/press-releases/2011/former-philadelphia-police-officer-sentenced-to-16-years-for-drug-conspiracy

The Central Field Command drug squad, Team 3, squad officers accused of beating and robbing suspects of drugs and large sums of money. after doing so they are accused of falisfying official police records to cover up their wrong doings. The charges against John Schertzer, Ned Maodus, Joe Miched, Ray Pollard and Steve Correia date back to the late 1990s. The offenses range from conspiracy to obstruct justice, to theft, assault, perjury and extortion.  The investigation started in 1997 and has gone through the courts and a verdict was handed, and there is an appeal in the process.

RCMP Chief Superintendent John Neily, handed in his final report to chief Julian Fantino, who was Toronto’s police chief until 2005, In it, he wrote that the task force had found evidence of a “crime spree” by “rogue officers.” He then went on to say “that the real victim, while initially portrayed to be drug dealers who may have lost cash, was indeed the justice system and the police service because by means of the courts, affidavits, search warrants and so on were being utilized as tools for the potential gain of the suspects,” who were all police officers. (CBC)

Throughout the investigation, the much of the information and evidence collected was circumstantial and that many of those who say they were robbed would not be reliable witnesses even if they were willing to come forward at all.

  • Allegations that members of Toronto Central Field Command’s drug squad beat up informants, stole money from drug dealers, gave false testimony, falsified documents and faked search warrants.
  • Allegations that Toronto 52 Division’s plainclothes officers demanded cash from bars in the entertainment district in exchange for protection.
  • Allegations of an improper relationship between some officers and luxury car-leasing salesman and convicted criminal Jeffrey Geller, who died in 2004.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/torontopolice/index-old.html

This is a clear form of corruption. First engaging in criminal activity and using their trust from the public and also using authority for personal gains. This falls right into the conventional definition of Corruption – An officer knowingly doing or not doing something against his or her duty for some form of financial or material gain or promise of such gain.

According to the Typology 1 –  from the The Knapp Commission (1972) this fits right into the model of Mister average, which is described as being an officer who is laidback about the rules and have the idea that “Don’t fill out form. We can bend some rules.” this become dangerous very fast. an officer choosing to fill out certain incident reports and forms can easily make an investigators job extremely difficult. by not leaving a paper trail, it is hard to prosecute and understand what happened. this is a major challenge prosecutors are dealing with in this case. These “Crusaders” saw an opportunity and used it for their own gain.

In the second typology which deal with the categories of practice, we see that the officers are using a clear Corruption of Authority. By using their authority they  are getting  personal gain by virtue of their own powers. this includes using their job tools in order to conduct business and find drug dealers and isolate business opportunities for themselves.One of the most apperant categories of practice in the second typology would have to be Opportunistic Theft which is stealing from crooks. This was exactly what the police officers did. Beating up drug dealers and crooks and taking their profit and drugs in order to sell it them selves. The officers used excessive force, unlawful searches and seizures, and theft of cash and valuables which fits right into the typologies we have discussed thus far. The officers also used The Fix, which is when evidence is sabotaged, key witnesses are made unavailable. This also fits into one of the first typologies of Corruption of authority.

In the third Category of typologies, ‘externally driven’ is most prominent. We see that the squad enforces the law when it is convenient to their own personal gain. The officers made sure that the enemies are crushed and they are not opposed in any way.

These types of typologies only scratch the surface of what is currently going on in our policing system throughout the world. only corruption rings are brought to light when the officers slip up or when an agency makes it public. we must be open to the fact that there are many more cases such as this that occur and are far more complex that involve many officers. Though they are sworn to protect and serve us, we must also effectively watch and investigate them of them doing their job correctly and within a code of conduct.

References:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2013/01/04/toronto-police-officers-sentencing.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/01/13/police-corruption-trial.html

Corruption time line:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/01/13/police-corruption-trial.html#timeline

If you have been following the Policedeviance Twitter feed (or provincial news outlets) over the past week, you will know that the proposal to create a regional police service for Greater Vancouver has gained some momentum. The idea to unite the currently-disparate arrangements for policing the municipalities of the Metro Vancouver by creating a single regional police force became a topic of conversation (again) in the wake of the Vancouver Police Department’s endorsement of the recommendations of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. The Commission prepared a report entitled Revisiting the Regionalization Debate: A Dialogue on the Structure and Organization of Policing in British Columbia.

Commissioner Oppal’s list of final recommendations includes the following:

Regional Police Force

I make the following recommendations respecting a regional police force:

9.1 That Provincial Government commit to establishing a Greater Vancouver police force through a consultative process with all stakeholders.

9.2 That Provincial Government establish an independent expert committee to develop a proposed model and implementation plan for a Greater Vancouver police force.

 For this unit’s food for thought question:

  •  Assume that the various stakeholders come to an agreement and decide to adopt the recommendation to create a Greater Vancouver Regional Police Service. The existing policing forces for Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley,  New Westminster and Coquitlam would be amalgamated, becoming a single regional police organization.
  •  As part of the amalgamation process, the provincial and municipal governments would have to decide on the accountability structure for this new regional police force.
  •  Drawing on the resources for Unit 3, write a post that describes the features of an ideal accountability framework for the Greater Vancouver Regional Police Service. Explain your position.

This post is due on February 7.