Roundup: Pittsburgh chief says city cops will ignore ban on trivial traffic stops; QI gone haywire; a horrifying jail death in Arkansas
Here’s your roundup of criminal justice and civil liberties stories:
Pittsburgh police chief says officers will continue to make trivial traffic stops despite a city ordinance barring the practice, because it’s good for officer morale. Which, frankly, is a pretty crappy thing to say about Pittsburgh police officers.
On the plus side, it looks like San Francisco police will end pretextual traffic stops, at least for now.
Study finds that most Pennsylvania police agencies have no written policy governing police interrogations, and the overwhelming majority do not require interrogations to be recorded.
Erik Tavira walked into a New York City hospital pleading for medical attention. He was having a mental health crisis. Instead, a police officer provoked a confrontation with him and arrested him. A week later, still without treatment, Tavira was arrested for assault, and hung himself in his Riker’s Island jail cell.
More evidence that MDMA could be an effective therapeutic for PTSD — and more evidence that drug war prohibitions into such studies have needlessly prolonged a lot of suffering.
In 2021, Knox County, Tennessee, deputies shot and killed a 17-year-old boy. Recently, some Knoxville police officers entered the deli where the boy’s 15-year-old sister works. The deputies later claimed the girl refused to serve them (this is disputed by the girl’s co-worker). After department and its communications chief blasted the incident on their Facebook page, the sister was fired from the deli.
Outrageous qualified immunity story of the week: Cop molests boy. Cop had been fired from two other agencies, and county that employs him had been warned about hire him. Boy’s parents (one of who happens to be a cop in the same agency) threaten to sue county. County then launches retaliatory investigation into the boy’s parents. Federal courts: county officials who launched retaliatory investigation are protected by qualified immunity. The Supreme Court just declined to review.
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Runner-up: You might remember the 2020 viral video in which Windsor, Virginia, police pulled over Caron Nazario, a black veteran in uniform, for not having a properly displayed license plate. Nazario didn’t pull over immediately because the road was dark, and instead proceeded to well-lit area. The police then proceeded to scream at him, point their guns at him, pepper-spray him, and take him to the ground. Turns out, the traffic stop itself was illegal — he had a temporary plate in the window. A subsequent lawsuit by the Virginia attorney general found a significant disparity in the race of motorists pulled over in Windsor. Still, the federal courts ruled that the officers are protected by QI, though Nazario can still proceed with a few claims under Virginia state law.
One for the “Gee, ya’ think?” files: U.S. Sentencing Commission proposes limiting judges’ ability to sentence defendants based on crimes for which they were acquitted.
The new Baltimore state’s attorney has dropped the murder case against Keith Davis, Jr. He was charged with the crime shortly after police shot and nearly killed him. It’s a crazy, crazy story. Read more about it here. Davis also has a Go Fund Me to help him get his life back together.
Pennsylvania county was supposed to spend the millions it made charging prisoners and their families for phone calls on jail improvements. Instead, it spent the money on perks for staff.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein has apologized for his criticism of fellow justice Kyra Bolden. As I discussed here at The Watch, Bernstein attacked Bolden for hiring a clerk who had served time for an armed robbery during which he fired a gun at police officers, but who had since turned his life around. I still think Bernstein’s comments about being “intensely pro-law enforcement,” at minimum, should require him to recuse himself from cases to which police officers or agencies are a party, which would include a case that’s coming up.
Madison, County, Alabama sheriff’s deputies responded to a domestic violence report, then shot and killed a man when he came out of his house carrying a gun. The man’s family says the police had the wrong house.
Arizona bill attempting to ban drag shows is clownishly unconstitutional.
Incredible line from an incredible story about a cop who killed three relatives of the 15-year-old girl he was stalking, and who was hired despite ample warning flags: “Police may be reluctant to search Edwards’ apartment because having an officer commit murder and pursue children sexually is ‘not a good look’ for law enforcement,” Pelfrey said.
Alabama has received quite a bit of scrutiny lately for a surge in prison deaths. So naturally the state has responded by . . . making it more difficult to track prison deaths.
Walgreens executive admits that the company’s claims about a shoplifting epidemic — claims that led to a nationwide panic, nonsensical claims blaming the epidemic on a recent ballot measure, and that helped stoke the recall of a sitting district attorney . . . were probably exaggerated.
A North Carolina man has been charged with “assault with attempt to kill” and “assault with a deadly weapon” after throwing some fentanyl out his car window during a stop. The exposure to the drug apparently caused one detective to
suffer a hysteria-induced panic attack“lose consciousness.”
The U.S. (and for that matter, the rest of the world) is still facing a chronic shortage of qualified medical examiners, and that’s a big problem.
Georgia’s Joey Watkins is out on bond, 20 years after he was convicted for a murder which he, his attorneys, and ample evidence all say he didn’t commit.
Academic freedom watch: Harvard revoked a fellowship offer to head of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth over his criticism of Israel. Meanwhile, a Hamline art professor was fired for showing students a 14th-century painting of Muhammad.
Boston cops raked in over $4 million in overtime pay while breaking up two homeless encampments in the city.
A schizophrenic and intellectually disabled man was arrested in Arkansas for “making terroristic threats” — which apparently meant making a finger gun and pointing it at police. His bond was set at $100, which he couldn’t afford. A year later, he was found dead “in a solitary confinement cell with his eyes wide open, naked, starved, dried saliva on the corners of his mouth, in a pool of standing water so large his feet had shriveled. He had long since had his medication taken away. Toward the end, he had resorted to eating his own feces and drinking his own urine.” Though he had shrunk from 200 pounds to 90, “even after his death, the jail monitors continued to give reports stating, ‘Inmate and Cell OK.’” There’s a photo of his “OK” cell at the link, if you can stomach it.
“The social changes that paved the way for gay and trans acceptance have made pedophile acceptance less likely, not more.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in which a Hennepin County, Minnesota, seized a woman’s home over $15,000 in back taxes, sold it for $40,000, then kept the proceeds.
California begins to disband its massive death row.
An assessment of the Biden administration’s record on criminal justice reform.
Video of the week:
Tweet of the week:
This week in dog history:
The inaugural “World Dog Awards” were held in January 2015. At the ceremony in Santa Monica, California, hosted by actor and comedian George Lopez, dogs and owners were presented with “Golden Hydrants” for categories like Best Celebrity Dog Selfie, Pawpular (best social media presence), Best Dog-Owner Reunion, Top Trick, and — strangely — Most Doglike Animal. Scooby-Doo, who is not actually a real-world dog, was presented with a lifetime achievement award. Though he didn’t win an award, Duke, a seven year-old Great Pyrenees who was elected mayor In Cormorant, Minn., was also in attendance.
Photo: A shop at Old Bazar Kujundziluk in Mostar, Bosnia
Hennepin County, Minnesota, seized a woman’s home over $15,000 in back taxes, sold it for $40,000, then kept the proceeds.
Foreclosure sales are really expensive.