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Rogue Cop U.S.A.

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jul 27, 2017 - 3:54:33 PM

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The stories of corrupt officers, their misdeeds and their impact on the Black community

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In New Orleans, scandal has once again reared its ugly head in a city that has a long history of police corruption and brutality.  Chad Scott, a 17-year DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agent is the latest law enforcement representative under a federal investigation that began in early 2016 into the alleged misconduct of the New Orleans narcotics task force he led.

Mr. Scott, known in the streets as “White Devil” because of his roguish tactics has had his badge and gun taken away, sources say. He had been hailed the “model agent” by his colleagues for bringing in some of the biggest busts in the New Orleans division. However, many citizens feel he’s done nothing but wreak havoc on the community, which has led to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Justice reviewing a host of allegations against Mr. Scott that date back at least a decade.

Allegations include selling and planting drugs, stealing cash seized during raids and committing other DEA violations.  Deputies under his leadership have been arrested for conspiracy and drug distribution. More arrests are expected to be made soon.

It’s no secret that the citizens of New Orleans lack confidence in their law enforcement and these sentiments are not limited to the ‘Big Easy.’ But in New Orleans distrust has festered and been bred from many incidents that resulted in loss of lives over the years, specifically after the high-profile killing of Kim Groves in 1995.  She was the 35-year-old mother of three who filed a police brutality complaint on Officer Len Davis after witnessing he and his partner pistol whipping a young man. Mr. Davis later hired a hit-man to kill Ms. Groves when he was told by a fellow officer about her report.  Known in the streets as ‘RoboCop,’ Mr. Davis was charged with her murder, found guilty and is currently on death row.

Protecting and serving who?

Cops are supposedly here to protect and serve, however, when the ones who are charged with protecting us are the ones committing the crimes, it has an unfavorable outcome and effect, explained Damon K. Jones, New York representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

“It has an adverse effect on the community no matter what color the community is, but we know the Black community is usually the one over policed. But it creates even more distrust in law enforcement and even the officers that try to do their jobs within policy, procedures and training,” Mr. Jones added.

Around the country there are disturbing cases of law enforcement officers accused of becoming the very criminals they are sworn to apprehend. Misconduct by law enforcement officers on the city, state and federal level is not strictly limited to police shootings.

Baltimore Police Officer Richard Pinheiro is accused of allegedly planting drugs at a crime scene which was allegedly caught on video.

Prosecutors indicted retired Los Angeles County Sheriff Lieutenant Reggie Wright, Sr. and his son former Compton Police Officer, Reggie Wright, Jr., on federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges, mid-July.  They were also among 22 Grape Street Crips gang members, arrested for their alleged involvement in a running heroin, cocaine, meth, and marijuana pipeline from Los Angeles to another gang in Memphis, Tenn.

Also in Los Angeles, 31-year-old Police Officer Robert Crain, awaits a court date in August on felony weapons charges.  One hundred guns, including assault rifles, were found in his home when he was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a 15-year old police cadet. He was charged July 20 with sexual assault and is currently in custody. If convicted on the assault, Mr. Cain faces a sentence in state prison of a minimum of seven years and eight months.

In May of this year the city of Oakland settled a sex abuse scandal for nearly $1 million stemming from allegations from a 19-year-old young woman who said she had sex with over a dozen officers, some of the encounters happening while she was a minor.

Criminal cops are not just a big city phenomenon and is not limited to traditional law enforcement entities.  In small cities too, like Clarksburg, Maryland at a jail, a corrections officer forced an inmate to have sex with him.  Lucky for her, she saved evidence and reported the incident.  The officer was arrested in his home and camera footage of her cell confirmed her allegations.

In March of this year a San Diego federal court approved a settlement of $1 million for the family of a Tijuana teenager who died in federal custody at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in 2013 after being instructed by two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to drink liquid methamphetamine, reported the National Police Accountability Project. The two officers allegedly involved are reportedly still employed.

Recently Baltimore Police Officer Richard Pinheiro, 29, was suspended pending an investigation of footage from his body camera that allegedly records him planting drugs at a scene in January of this year.

“Perception is reality,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference July 19. He explained, “If the community thinks police officers are planting evidence, I’ve got to do a bunch of things when allegations surface.”

The investigation will determine if any crimes were committed or any police procedures violated. “None of us can rely just on observations of video,” the commissioner said. “There are other factors we have to explore,” he added.

 “This is why people don’t trust the police,” Carl Willis, a Baltimore resident told The Final Call.  “My son was falsely arrested so I know the pain of dealing with crooked cops.  Protect and serve to them is a joke and we are not laughing.”

These undated photos provided by the Baltimore Police Department show, from left, Daniel Hersl, Evodio Hendrix, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, Maurice Ward, Momodu Gando and Wayne Jenkins, the seven police officers who are facing charges of robbery, extortion and overtime fraud, and are accused of stealing money and drugs from victims, some of whom had not committed crimes. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

Distrust breeds more distrust

New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson saw that New Orleans was in dire need of intervention, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where five police officers pleaded guilty to the shooting death of 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a disabled man shot in the back on the Danziger Bridge, September 4, 2005.  An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department called it a cover-up that was one of the most significant police misconduct prosecutions in the U.S. since the Rodney King beating case.

“When I got here in 2010,” Ms. Hutson said, “I could see trust was lost between the police and the community, and I wanted to help bridge that gap,” she said.  “I had a list of officers being investigated for crimes and it was almost three percent of the department. That’s a huge number. So, we use to have a lot of officers who were not following the law and actually breaking the law. Now, there has been a lot of turnover in the department and we have not seen the same level of charges that we saw previously, so I think it’s getting better.”

However, she says, the police monitor needs more information to make sure they can watch over an officer accused of doing something corrupt. “I want to look and see what history he or she has. This keeps us strong,” she said. Her office is responsible for among other duties, reviewing police performances, police involved shootings and complaints or discipline in cases of wrongdoing.

Some residents in New Orleans are outraged by the amount of crime committed by corrupt law enforcement officers and wonders if it will ever get better or can it even be reduced.

One 18-year veteran New Orleans law enforcement officer believes that corruption is an adverse effect of the city having a residency policy, where you could only apply to the department if you lived within the city limits.

“New Orleans is such a small city that the very cops who are protecting and serving are the same ones who grew up in the same streets as the so called ‘criminals,’ which many are still associated with,” he stated.  “Above all, wages earned by police officers, which isn’t sufficient to be putting their lives on the line each day, can also lead to some sort of corruption, overtime schemes, paid detail schemes, etc.,” he added.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck stands next to a display board showing an image of Offi cer Robert Cain while speaking to reporters during a news conference, June 22, in Los Angeles. Cain has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old cadet who's suspected of joy-riding in stolen patrol cars. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

“The majority of the men and women in law enforcement are good people, no doubt about it,” said Captain Dennis Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, and founder of the PeaceKeepers.

“It’s only a small percentage that gives a good department sore eyes.  We always hear that the majority of officers are good.  That is true, but if the good ones don’t put the bad ones in check, and if the good one remains silent then we have to say like Martin Luther King, Jr., that silence is betrayal,” said Mr. Muhammad. He has traveled the country training citizens in various cities in areas of conflict resolution tactics and strategies and he also presents to law enforcement agencies better, more effective ways to work with and in Black communities.

“The silence of not reporting a bad cop is betrayal to the very oath they swore to, so no longer do we see you as a good cop. If you refuse to point out the bad cop.  As a matter of fact, the bad cop is who he is, but you become worse than the bad cop,” said Mr. Muhammad.

Mr. Muhammad, who has presented many sensitivity trainings to law enforcement asks the question, “What are you afraid of? You afraid to tell on a fellow officer? Then if you are fearful, then why are you a cop? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said one apple can spoil the whole barrel, so you have to remove the bad apple.”

He added that that goes for the community also. “If it’s only a small percentage of those in our community that is bringing down the quality of life in our community, they have to be removed as well,” Mr. Muhammad added.

“Well if the good people refuse to say anything about the bad people then we’re no better than the police department. You have two sick communities.  You have a police department that has become numb and insensitive to the community and you have a community that has become numb and insensitive to themselves.  That’s why they can never get rid of crime and violence because crime and violence is rooted in unmet social needs and the police officers are not social workers,” he charged.

The no-snitching policy puts a strain on cops when they’re out there trying to do the job they’re sworn to do, added Mr. Jones. “We need to push more of the good cops to stand up to the bad cops. Policing is no different from another profession, we all know somebody in whatever job that we have that shouldn’t be working at the job.  It’s the same in law enforcement. There are people that shouldn’t have that job. But we’re  still caught up in the culture where we don’t want to say anything. We don’t want to be blackballed, we don’t want to be looked at as a snitch and we are ultimately losing our respect that we worked hard for doing the job we were sworn to do in the community that we serve,” he explained.

Alex Salazar, a former LAPD officer and currently with the National Association of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice says, corruption in law enforcement is both common and systematic.

Alex Salazar, a former LAPD offi cer and currently with the National Association of Law Enforcement Offi cers for Justice

“The code of silence has always existed but what the police need to remember is that the police is the people and the people is the police and if they can’t do this job anymore because they become too traumatized or because they are simply racist then they need to get out.  There needs to be leadership out there that steps forward that says we’re not going to do this anymore,” said Mr. Salazar.

If policing can ever get to the point where good law enforcement officers stand up to the bad law enforcement officers, Mr. Jones said he thinks more trust will actually grow in the community.

But, he added, first the Black community needs to take control of their policing.  “We are the only community in the nation and in the world, that really have no say in how their community is policed. Real community policing is not the police commissioner or the mayor telling the community how their community is going to be policed, it’s the community stepping up and demanding policies and procedures that’s reflective of their community.”

Black people like others are taxpayers, and the ones that pay salaries of law enforcement officers and therefore should have a say so in how they work in communities, said Mr. Jones.

Black people must also educate themselves to understand the political process in how that works in the community.

“Now if you have a police commissioner that is not holding officers accountable when they violate policies and procedures and that mayor does not want to get rid of the commissioner then you get rid of the mayor. If he’s not going to have people underneath him that is going to respect the community and do right by the community then he has to go,” he said.

Mr. Jones said there must be police management that will fire cops for not doing their jobs.  “We need behavior modification because if other cops start seeing their co-workers getting 90-day suspensions, 180-day suspensions, some getting fired, they’ll start acting differently.  We have to look at our politicians and why haven’t they been more aggressive in pushing progressive laws and legislation to hold law enforcement accountable over the years.  You know police brutality and violations and cops doing unethical things is nothing new, this has been going on it’s just now with social media we see it more on a regular basis.”

(Nisa Islam Muhammad and Final Call staff contributed to this report.)