Bad cops bounce from city to city
TRISHA L. HOWARD AND HEATHER RATCLIFFE Post-Dispatch
Family members phoned for
help after a bloody Elliot Smith arrived home one night 14 months ago and said a
cop had shot him.
It was the first that St. Louis police had heard about
the incident. Their officer, Stanley Davis, hadn't called it in, although he
later said he had exchanged shots with a fleeing man. ....
was carrying a new police badge - for Moline Acres. That lasted, the city's
police chief said, until Davis got caught with stolen property.
was forced to resign, Davis landed on the force in Beverly Hills, a tiny north
St. Louis County municipality. He later resigned but still holds a police
license entitling him to work for any department in Missouri.
job-shifting is common enough among the 123 municipal police agencies across
metro St. Louis that insiders have a name for it: "the muni shuffle."
is a two-step dance. First, a department lets a problem officer go without
completing a formal investigation that might cost him his police certificate.
Then another department, eager to find an already-trained recruit at a bargain
wage, hires him without asking too many questions.
The muni shuffle is a symptom of a system that doesn't always hold police officers to high standards. But not every officer in trouble has to do the shuffle. Some departments just give them chance after chance. ....
The Jeff Crisel case
By the time Brooklyn Officer Jeff Crisel accidentally ran over and killed a traffic violator he was chasing this year, he had worked at nine departments in a 15-year career marked by numerous allegations that he beat suspects with a flashlight.
The alleged beatings prompted at least three lawsuits, including one filed by a Macoupin County sheriff's deputy who said he was injured by Crisel when he tried to intervene on a suspect's behalf.
Village officials found that Crisel had left some previous employers off his application. On that basis, Brooklyn fired him. ....
The Stanley Davis case
Crisel's police career ended, at least for now, with an episode of violence. In Davis' case, violence is how it began.
Just three months out of the academy, Davis had a reputation as a tough guy, said Anthony Gray, Smith's lawyer. That was the reason, Gray said, that several men on a street corner in September last year scattered at the approach of Davis' St. Louis police car.
Smith was running through a gangway when he was shot four times in the back and legs by Davis, according to court documents. No other officers saw it happen. Davis did not tell his dispatcher. "That's more telling to me than anything. He never called for backup," Gray said. "Elliot was unarmed and running for his life." Davis later claimed that Smith had fired first. Prosecutors accused Smith of assaulting a police officer but then dropped the charges, citing unspecified problems with the case.
The St. Louis police fired Davis, but because he was still on probation, the department was not required to report the incident to the state authorities who license officers.
In Moline Acres, which pays officers about two-thirds as much as the city, Davis was caught with a stolen radio taken from a towed vehicle and fired, said Moline Acres Police Chief G. Thomas Walker - and again, with no report to the state.
Walker told state officials that Davis had resigned, but the chief didn't tell them why. Later, Walker said he didn't mention the incident because Davis left before the internal investigation was completed. ....
Officials are broadly aware of the muni shuffle.
"The less professional departments with problems tend to have a revolving door," Normandy Police Chief John Connolly said.
But the practice is impossible to quantify. Smaller departments hardly brag about taking on other agencies' discards. Misconduct is seldom reported to the state. Department personnel records are not public.
Post-Dispatch reporters documented at least a dozen examples of officers who repeatedly shifted among departments and at some point ended up in difficult circumstances that drew public attention. Most were accused of behavior the public would not expect from a profession generally held to higher standards.
Among them are:
Craig T. Inman, whose records show was fired from the Waterloo Police Department in 1999 for omitting more than a dozen traffic violations from his employment application. The omission came to light after Inman initiated two high-speed pursuits in two years that resulted in the deaths of four people. Inman is now an officer in Jennings.
James Fitzgibbon, who kept his job as a Pine Lawn detective after he was convicted in October of making harassing phone calls to a driver after a road rage incident in March. Since Fitzgibbon began his police career in 1986, he also has patrolled streets in Glendale, Country Club Hills, Jefferson County and Wellston. Fitzgibbon declined comment.
Marvin Shannon, who was charged with misdemeanor assault after police said he cut a student with a knife at Riverview Middle School, where he worked as a security guard. Shannon has worked at eight departments on both sides of the river despite a string of criminal charges and a felony conviction....
Officer J.D. Patton, was fired from two police agencies in Washington County, Ill., both times after fellow officers arrested him for various offenses, including DUI and fighting at a local bar. According to court records, Patton has misdemeanor convictions for the DUI and for providing alcohol to minors. He remains certified in Illinois and was recently given a temporary full-time police position in Washington Park.
Roy White, according to police records, shot and killed an unarmed man during a traffic stop in 1989 while he was working for the St. Louis police. The city fired him for violating policies, saying that he should have taken cover or called for backup. After his termination, he continued to work in law enforcement. He is now a part-time sergeant in Hillsdale. ....
Officer William E. Garrett, who started working in Venice in 1998, was convicted in 1987 of first-degree assault for shooting at a car during a road rage incident. Garrett's felony was removed from his record after he completed five years of probation. He is currently facing a misdemeanor battery charge filed three years ago in Madison County Circuit Court after he allegedly beat his girlfriend. ....
Supply and demand
Police chiefs say they fear the legal repercussions of providing negative job references. And they say it wastes time and money to complete an internal investigation against someone who has gone. Those factors create a supply of certified officers with questionable backgrounds.
On the demand side, small departments with small budgets and low pay are eager to get applications from people already certified. That saves them from paying tuition and wages for up to 15 weeks of training time. Chiefs doing the hiring may not know what they're getting; they may not even want to know.
Only after Crisel and Inman got into trouble did their bosses find significant omissions from their applications.
"The last thing cops want, unfortunately, is to be held accountable," said Clarence Harmon, who served 27 years with the St. Louis police before retiring as chief and later becoming mayor.
"A lot of these smaller departments kind of don't want to know because they have limited capacity and lower salaries," he said. "It's beneficial for them not to have to fund that training. That's the major driving force behind why agencies would hire somebody with a problematic background."
McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, said he is frustrated that police chiefs tacitly endorse the muni shuffle by the way they fire and hire.
"It's way too many times that someone moves from department to department when a problem arises and that problem is never addressed," he complained. ....
Some don't shuffle
While some departments cast out misfits to be snared by another community, others are known to keep officers working despite repeated accusations of misconduct.
"Then these officers continue to engage in the behavior, and oftentimes the deviance escalates," said Victor Kappeler, a professor at Northern Kentucky University who studies police misconduct. "It doesn't serve an agency's interest to uncover an act of deviance because it tarnishes the organization."
Since Brian Britton joined the Calverton Park police in April 1996, he has been sued four times in federal court, accused of brutality and misconduct. ....
East St. Louis Officer Brett Rodgers got suspended eight times during his five years on the force.
The city paid $550,000 to a man who lost an eye after Rodgers and another officer beat him during a traffic stop in 1996. But Rodgers stayed on the force until 1999, when he was arrested for shooting a security guard in the leg at an East St. Louis nightclub. ....
Reporter Trisha L. Howard
Reporter Heather Ratcliffe
ARE COPS CONSTITUTIONAL?
Police work is often lionized by jurists and scholars who claim to employ "textualist" and "originalist" methods of constitutional interpretation. Yet professional police were unknown to the United States in 1789, and first appeared in America almost a half-century after the Constitution's ratification.
contemplated law enforcement as the duty of mostly private citizens, along with
a few constables and sheriffs who could be called upon when necessary.
This article marshals extensive
historical and legal evidence to show that modern policing is in many ways
inconsistent with the original intent of America's founding documents. The
author argues that the growth of modern policing has substantially empowered the
state in a way the Framers would regard as abhorrent to their foremost
Uniformed police officers are the most visible element of America's criminal justice system. Their numbers have grown exponentially over the past century and now stand at hundreds of thousands nationwide.1
Police expenses account for the largest segment of most municipal budgets and generally dwarf expenses for fire, trash, and sewer services.2
Neither casual observers nor learned authorities regard the sight of hundreds of armed, uniformed state agents on America's roads and street corners as anything peculiar — let alone invalid or unconstitutional. Yet the dissident English colonists who framed the United States Constitution would have seen this modern 'police state' as alien to their foremost principles. Under the criminal justice model known to the Framers, professional police officers were unknown.3
The general public had broad law enforcement powers and only the executive functions of the law (e.g., the execution of writs, warrants and orders) were performed by constables or sheriffs (who might call upon members of the community for assistance).4
Initiation and investigation of criminal cases was the nearly exclusive province of private persons. At the time of the Constitution's ratification, the office of sheriff was an appointed position, and constables were either elected or drafted from the community to serve without pay.5
Most of their duties involved civil executions rather than criminal law enforcement. The courts of that period were venues for private litigation — whether civil or criminal — and the state was rarely a party. Professional police as we know them today originated in American cities during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, when municipal governments drafted citizens to maintain order.6
The role of these "nightly watch" officers gradually grew to encompass the catching of criminals, which had formerly been the responsibility of individual citizens.7
While this historical disconnect is widely known by criminal justice historians, rarely has it been juxtaposed against the Constitution and the Constitution's imposed scheme of criminal justice.8
"Originalist" scholars of the Constitution have tended to be supportive, rather than critical of modern policing.9
This article will show, however, that modern policing violates the Framers' most firmly held conceptions of criminal justice. The modern police-driven model of law enforcement helps sustain a playing field that is fundamentally uneven for different players upon it. Modern police act as an army of assistants for state prosecutors and gather evidence solely with an eye toward the state's interests. Police seal off crime scenes from the purview of defense investigators, act as witnesses of convenience for the state in courts of law, and instigate a substantial amount of criminal activity under the guise of crime fighting. Additionally, police enforce social class norms and act as tools of empowerment for favored interest groups to the disadvantage of others.10
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