Noah Kovacs has over ten years experience in the legal field. He has since retired early and enjoys blogging about small business law, legal marketing, and everything in between. He recently purchased his first cabin and spends his free time remodeling its kitchen for his family. Twitter: @NoahKovacs
Law enforcement officials do one of the toughest jobs there is. People are generally cognizant of the risk accompanying chasing bad guys but they often forget police are also called to deal with the confused, agitated mentally ill; the violent drunk or drugged; scenes of heartbreaking abuse and frustrating recidivism. They’re summoned to the scenes of terrible accidents (auto and otherwise) and gruesome suicides. Then, of course, there’s the fallout from those things we only read about in the paper- the helping and consoling of devastated victims as best they can and the contacting of family members about to find out they’ve lost a loved one to an untimely death.
Being only human, police officers, like anyone else, can succumb to pressure, anger or an easy buck. While their sacrifice and the stress of their profession should never be forgotten, corruption among law enforcement is a betrayal of public trust that must be acknowledged and dealt with for the preservation of a safe, free and democratic society. Here are some of the infamous examples of American police misconduct.
The Boys in (Black and) Blue
In 1995 a young man was shot and killed at nightclub in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Four suspects were reported fleeing from the scene. Three members of the Boston Police Department, spot a man slip while in the process of jumping a fence at the end of an alley. They catch the man and beat him unconsciously. Unfortunately, the victim was Michael Cox- a decorated police officer in plain clothes but wearing a badge and gun.
Cox, whose recovery took several months, was willing to let bygones be bygones had his attackers (and coworkers) apologized and received some minor censure from the BPD brass. In an epically bad move, the officers involved and some of their superiors attempt a cover-up, suggesting that Cox had “slipped on ice”. Despite having done nothing but received a beating, the African American policeman began receiving threatening phone calls nearly every night and had his tires repeatedly slashed. He hired a lawyer, filed a lawsuit and won. Cox is now assistant chief of the Bureau of Professional Standards. Under his command is the Department of Internal Affairs, members of which had done nothing to pursue justice for Michael Cox.
On November 21, 2006, three undercover police officers executed a warrant in a rough section of Atlanta, kicking in the door of a suspected crack dealer. That dealer opened fire on them, wounding all three of the officers. The policemen returned fire, killing the suspect. None of that would be particularly surprising were it not for a few minor details. For instance, the “crack dealer” was Kathryn Johnson, a 92-year-old grandmother without a grain of crack in the house. Though the officers did find marijuana there- after they planted it. They explained that while it was unfortunate all of this happened, an informant had contacted them, claiming he’d bought crack there. Nope; it seems after the botched “no-knock” warrant, the policemen had contacted the informant and demanded he lie for them.
However, there is the matter of her shooting all three of the officers. Well… not so much. It seems that this 92-year-old grandmother living in a high-crime section of Atlanta was worried in large part about the violent rapist who targeted old women operating in the area and kept a “rusty revolver” to protect herself. When the police cut through the burglar bars on Ms. Johnson’s door and kicked their way in without identifying themselves as police, not being a crack dealer, she had no reason to believe cops would kick her door in and got one shot off… which missed the policemen. Their injuries were all sustained from friendly fire- they shot each other. Kathryn Johnson’s family eventually won a $4.9 million settlement. The policemen, apparently intent on robbery (“booming doors” is slang for robberies in the guise of warrant search and seizures), all went to prison.
In mid-December of 2008, Dymond Milburn went outside to flip a breaker that’d gone off. Milburn, a 12 year old African American girl, was seized by three white men. One of them informed her, “You’re a prostitute. You are coming with us.” Milburn, terrified screamed “Daddy, Daddy!” and fought against the men as they dragged her toward their van. The men covered her mouth when not beating her face and neck.
It turns out the men were police officers. They were responding to prostitution activity that had been reported… several blocks away. And the prostitutes in question were… adult white women. The officers explained that they seized track star and honor student Dymond because she was wearing “tight shorts”. Traumatic as the whole thing had been and despite Dymond suffering damage to her throat and an eardrum, she and her parents had let it go. That is, until three weeks later when Dymond was arrested at school for… assaulting police officers. Her father was likewise arrested. Because what business do a young girl and her father have confronting unidentified strangers accusing a pre-teen of being a prostitute, hitting her and dragging her into a van?
If there was more room, I’d include the account of Justin Volpe, the NYPD officer who brutally beat, tortured and savagely sexually battered Abner Louima after Louima punched Volpe in the stomach outside a nightclub. (Volpe later admitted it probably hadn’t been Louima who hit him.)