Posts Tagged ‘police bill of rights laws’

Victim’s-rights law shields cops’ names after civilian shootings

A coordinated national campaign promotes enactment of Marsy’s Law, a set of victim’s rights enactments that have been added to state constitutions in many states. (Marsy’s Law amendments were on six state ballots this fall, and did well.) My colleague Roger Pilon testified in 1997 against a proposed federal constitutional amendment.

Now a South Dakota version of such a law is being used by police officers to conceal their identities from the public after a shooting by a police officer of a civilian who was subsequently charged with assaulting the trooper. Similar claims of confidentiality have been made under other states’ Marsy’s Laws to prevent disclosure of names of officers who have carried out shootings. [Scott Shackford, Reason]

More on the problems with victims’ rights laws from Scott Greenfield (“a right has been created for the ‘victim,’ which is curious since there is no victim until there’s a crime, and there is no crime until a jury says there is….many of these ‘rights’ are in direct conflict with some other guy’s rights in the well. Can you guess who that might be?”), Steve Chapman, Jill Lepore, and Sophie Quinton at StateLine, and my opinions against victim impact statements.

While we’re at it: Rules barring the interviewing of police soon after an officer-involved shooting (“cooling-off period”) impair, not advance, accurate investigation [Tom Jackman, Washington Post via Radley Balko] And via Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun, although the general rule in Maryland is that police officers on probationary status can be fired without internal due process, that rule applies except in instances of brutality allegations. Thanks a million, Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR)!

Police misconduct roundup

  • “Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights” laws give police officers interrrogated over suspected misconduct a wide range of rights not enjoyed by general citizenry under like circumstances [Alex Tabarrok, earlier] Followup: “A new paper, The Effect of Collective Bargaining Rights on Law Enforcement: Evidence from Florida, suggests that police union privileges significantly increase the rate of officer misconduct” [same]
  • Courts should retain power to scrutinize arrests motivated by First Amendment retaliation even when probable cause is also present [Ilya Shapiro and Matthew Larosiere on SCOTUS case of Lozman v. Riviera Beach, Florida]
  • “Aurora police union: City should let cop fired over hidden cameras used to spy on ex-wife go back to work” [Hannah Leone, Aurora, Ill., Beacon-News]
  • “Even if consent decrees don’t do squat to fix police impropriety,” the appointed monitors make out well [Scott Greenfield]
  • “Hancock County, W.V. officer is convicted, sentenced to 18 months in prison for beating up drunk motorist who displayed insufficient respect. Officer: The trial court erred by letting the jury know about those other times I beat up people who failed to respect my authority. Fourth Circuit: We’re OK with it.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on U.S. v. Cowden]
  • “Internal NYPD files show that hundreds of officers who committed the most serious offenses — from lying to grand juries to physically attacking innocent people — got to keep their jobs, their pensions, and their tremendous power over New Yorkers’ lives” [Kendall Taggart and Mike Hayes, BuzzFeed]

“Against Collusive Consent Decrees, For Police Reform”

From Chicago to Baltimore and beyond, don’t assume that consent decrees with higher levels of government (the U.S. Department of Justice included) are the best route to police reform. John McGinnis, Liberty and Law:

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has welcomed the lawsuit [by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan] and is looking to acquiesce in a consent decree which will create a new set of rules for the police department and a monitor to enforce them.

This collusive suit is a bad idea. To be sure, the Chicago Police Department needs reform, but this method reduces democratic accountability, imposes unnecessary costs, and most of all runs the risk of letting more people die from uncontrolled crime. And it is very unlikely to do what is most needed: eliminating or reducing the protections against discipline that police enjoy in union contracts or under civil service laws.

For an example of the kind of consent decree that is likely to be agreed upon, look at similar litigation in Baltimore….

…the greatest problem for lawful policing is that police departments have difficulty firing the few bad actors disproportionately responsible for civil rights violations because departments face constraints imposed by union contracts and civil service laws. The Baltimore consent decree does not rewrite these contracts or laws nor it is clear that it would have the power to do so. And I expect no different result in Chicago. Thus, the consent decree may retard the most important kind of police reform by giving a false sense of progress.

See also: “The lost history of police misconduct in Chicago” [Elizabeth Dale, PrawfsBlawg, first and second posts]

Police roundup

  • Investigation of problems with no-knock “dynamic entry” police raids [Kevin Sack, New York Times; cf. Radley Balko’s work] But her living room furniture was just sitting there! Why shouldn’t we take it? [C.J. Ciaramella on Mississippi case]
  • Minnesota judge approves (which doesn’t mean Google will go along with) police demand for all search records on a certain name from any and all users in town of Edina [Mike Mullen, City Pages]
  • “The L.A. County sheriff wants to release names of 300 deputies with histories of misconduct. He can’t.” [Jessica Pishko, Slate; Tim Cushing, TechDirt (list is of cops considered highly impeachable in court testimony)]
  • Just catching up with this still-relevant Joshua Muravchik critique of Black Lives Matter [Commentary]
  • Feds indict seven members of elite Baltimore police gun trace task force on racketeering charges; underlying predicates include robbery, swearing out false search warrants, false overtime claims (“one hour can be eight hours.”) [U.S. Department of Justice, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post]
  • “New Orleans Police Chief Says He Needs to Hire and Fire Commanders at Will to Protect Reforms” [Ed Krayewski]

Reuters investigates police union contracts

“Over the last 40 years, cities have bargained away the power to discipline police officers, often in closed negotiation meetings with local unions.” Contracts frequently call for discipline records to be erased at short intervals, allow officers accused of misconduct to see the opposing evidence before having to commit to a story, and require dismissal of citizen complaints not filed within a very short window, such as 30 days, or with signed affidavit. Those are among things Reuters found in its investigation, which doesn’t even get into the effect of “police bill of rights laws” enacting some of the same measures legislatively.

Police and community roundup

Maryland falters on LEOBR reform

Following a series of episodes including the death of Freddie Gray in a Baltimore police van, sentiment seemed to run high for reconsidering at least some of Maryland’s “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” law, which erects tenure-like obstacles to firing or disciplining police over suspected misconduct. But critics say by the time a commission’s recommendations made it to legislative consideration, they had been watered down to accomplish relatively little and even give the state’s police unions more power than before [WBAL, Jim Giza/Baltimore Sun]

Police union roundup

Great moments in public employment: correctional officers’ rights

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan blamed the state’s largest employee’s union for not being able to remove corrections employees who face charges that range from driving under the influence to assault….Since 2013, more than 200 Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services employees have been charged with crimes that include DUI, assault and having sexual relations with an inmate, yet they remain on the job.” Union officials, however, say the governor is in error, and that it’s state law, rather than AFSCME contract terms, that restrict dismissals. So no problem! [WBAL, auto-plays; earlier on Maryland’s Correctional Officers Bill of Rights law, a younger sibling to its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) law for police]

More background on police bill of rights laws, and their origin in the wake of the Kerner commission report on 1960s civil unrest [Scott Greenfield] Veteran police lawyer Herbert Weiner, general counsel to Maryland State FOP Lodge, defends the state’s LEOBR [Al-Jazeera] And commenter Daniel Martin at Popehat on some curious implications of Maryland’s LEOBR, which prohibits investigating cops for some types of misconduct “until the victim, their immediate family, or a direct witness swears out a complaint.”

Yet more: In Pennsylvania, “members of the Fraternal Order of Police are rallying behind legislation to shield the identities of officers who use force.” It’s backed in Harrisburg by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Sen. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia. [Watchdog] And with respect to our post of the other day, a commenter writes that the city of Tucson’s two-tiered informational release — withholding the names of police in a prostitution investigation while releasing those of civilians — was not done at city authorities’ discretion but in compliance with a newspaper’s public records request, in conjunction with a state law shielding police privacy.