The Shield
March 15, 2018 8:25 AM   Subscribe

In January, the Asbury Park Press (APP) published "The Shield" -- a 19-part investigation of police corruption and lack of accountability in New Jersey. The exposé took two years to complete and revealed that municipalities across the state had collectively spent about $43 million in taxpayer money to cover up the brutal actions of rogue cops who had killed, beaten and stalked more than 200 citizens. In many cases, the cops were not only protected from punishment, but even kept their jobs and received promotions.

The Investigation
Overview: What you need to know about APP's investigation. Protecting The Shield.

Part 1: Secret settlements cost millions, keep bad cops on street. Warning signs ignored.

Part 2: Killer cop Philip Seidle talks about day he killed his wife

Part 3: 'Pile on the rabbit.' Inside death by cop

Part 4: Sex with teens and stalking. The hidden cop problem

Part 5: The high cost of pushing out honest officers. Whistleblower lawsuits drain taxpayers.

Part 6: Money and silence push along bad cops. Officer discipline hidden.

Part 7: No NJ standard for drug testing officers. Residents at risk.

Part 8: Bad cops are built. Here's how.

Part 9: 3 arrests and still on the force. NJ doesn't license officers.

Part 10: What killed man during police restraint? Two different causes of death.

Part 11: How police brutality in NJ can be stopped. Five fixes needed.

Part 12: Seaside Park accused of trying to shut bar over image. Town denies it.

Part 13: Anatomy of a police investigation. A look at one Lavallette pedestrian accident

Part 14: New Jersey's PBA president responds to the paper's 'Shield' investigation.

Part 15: What happens when the chief is accused of being a bad cop? Text message unravels department.

Part 16: Police opposed law aimed to fix Edison department. Department had arsonist and bank robber in its ranks.

Part 17: Officer's fight to clear name took a decade, ruined career. Officer a target over chief's vendetta

Part 18: What would you do if you were a cop? We try a police shooting simulator.

Part 19: Berkeley cop, sued 3 times, demands return to duty.


Background
* CJR: ‘We found this and you gotta fix it’: Asbury Park’s mighty watchdog. How did the Asbury Park Press break the story? "Reporters, who combed through 30,000 pages of documents obtained via public records requests, were pulled from their daily beats for months at a time in order to focus exclusively on the investigation." This despite the fact that the paper has lost nearly half its staff in the last 21 years.

* Protecting the Shield reporters talk police brutality, solutions on NJTV News

* Videos:
- Police Misconduct: reporters discuss their findings: Part 1
- Police Misconduct: reporters discuss their findings: Part 2
- Police Misconduct: reporters discuss their findings: Part 3
- Police Misconduct: reporters discuss their findings: Part 4


Response
* In part 14 of the series, New Jersey PBA President Patrick Colligan was interviewed twice for his response to the investigation. The paper released a transcript.

* "Lawmakers promise changes to dump bad cops after APP investigation"

* Asbury Park Press editors and reporters along with several state and community leaders led a forum in mid-February at the newspaper's offices to respond to concerns raised by the series.
- Two legislators said they would push for police oversight reform in the wake of the investigation.
- State Senator Declan O'Scanlon, Jr. and Deputy Assembly Speaker Gordon Johnson of Bergen County called for reform and cultural changes within police departments to empower officers to speak up without fear of retaliation.
- It was noted that the police department had cost the state millions of dollars in settlements related to "abuse allegations involving 19 deaths, 131 bodily injuries, seven cases of sexual misconduct and dozens of other abuse issues."

* The Press also published a selection of reader responses from Facebook.
posted by zarq (17 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
A few bad apples.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:38 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


A few fantastic journalists.
posted by clawsoon at 8:39 AM on March 15 [14 favorites]


Getting my 62 year old father to agree with ACAB in the last year is a minor victory for me. He wasn't ever particularly pro cop but was raised in an era where cops were more respected, but the idea that even if only a few cops are bad actors every other cop that lies, obfuscates or shields them is just as culpable was compelling to him.
posted by Ferreous at 8:47 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


A few bad apples.

And many more "good cops" who know about them, and keep silent.

Though some of them must have talked to these journalists, if they won't help prosecute the criminals in their midst, they're accessories to their crimes.
posted by Gelatin at 8:52 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


This looks fantastic -- I'm surprised to see USA Today supporting this work; I always mentally slotted them as lower-c conservative; information-light and more likely to align with protect-the-system interests than deep critical dives into the authorities.

I'm glad this exists, and, again, a bit amazed it wasn't killed by a middle manager early in the planning stages.
posted by Shepherd at 8:55 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


The exposé took two years to complete and revealed that municipalities across the state had collectively spent about $43 million in taxpayer money to cover up the brutal actions of rogue cops who had killed, beaten and stalked more than 200 citizens. In many cases, the cops were not only protected from punishment, but even kept their jobs and received promotions.

Chicago needs to learn from these municipalities! Since 2004 we've dropped more than half a billion dollars and counting on police malfeasance with something like 300 more cases still to go.
posted by srboisvert at 8:55 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


All cops are bad. We need to rebuild our policing infrastructure from scratch. There is a legitimate need for law enforcement; cops, sheriffs, even ICE - can serve a needed purpose. But every single person currently involved in this profession is suspect to me.
posted by Arbac at 9:01 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


The paper (a Gannett property) restricts free article views to 10 per month. The usual metered paywall bypasses will work. However, a digital-only subscription to the Press is only $1.99 a month. If you feel inclined to support the paper and its team, please do. It's definitely worth it.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


Just goes to emphasize the importance of a healthy local press.
posted by praemunire at 9:28 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


Fuck tha police.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:38 AM on March 15


Quick reminder that a rotting apple emits a gas which promotes rot in nearby apples. To say that there are a few bad apples is to say that all of the apples are rotten.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:40 AM on March 15 [11 favorites]


Rogue cops aren't actually "rogue" when there is institutional knowledge of and cover for their illegal actions.
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on March 15 [12 favorites]


I think it is a bit too simplistic to say "Fuck the Police". They are already fucked and tragically they fuck others.

My initial response to the police situation in Chicago was to condemn them but the situation is a bit more nuanced than that. It would be easy for me to say "Fuck the police" because I live in a very low crime area of Chicago and have been untouched by crime of any sort in the five years I have been here. The situation is drastically for different others. One of my friends from my building is a retired CTA bus driver and if asked will just say "There are some really bad people out there" and he is pretty pro police despite being a black man who grew up in Chicago. The reason is that he has lived in bad neighbourhood and had lot so experience with bad and messed up people. He needed the police even if they were not good police.

People deserve better cops than they are getting and even more critically the good cops need better fellow cops and better training so that they can stay good cops. The rotten cops don't merely "spoil" the other cops. The 'bad apples' actively undermine and endanger the other cops and make their jobs harder. Chicago police detectives routinely blame the community for their low homicide clearance rate via a "They don't/won't cooperate" argument that glides right past the police force's history of tortured false confessions, planted evidence, racist targeting and dehumanizing disinterest in solving crimes in black communities. Why would anyone cooperate with a police force routinely that frames people like Sgt, Ronald Watts or Detective Reynaldo Guevara did? This makes being a good detective practically impossible and must certainly be demoralizing.

The murder of Laquan MacDonald hasn't been punished yet but a number of cops who filed false reports have already been punished. The murderer took down some fellow cops who may have felt they had to cover for him or they would have faced the informal sanctions for violating the 'Code of Silence' which the city has tacitly admitted exists in a $2 million settlement to two whistleblowing cops. I don't feel a lot of sympathy for them but I do feel some. To do the right thing would have been to stare down almost all of your coworkers - including some who are very bad people - all of whom have guns and the ability to get away with your murder. That would probably make for a very uncomfortable long ride to pension eligibility. And there is a recent history of a CPD officer taking out a contract on a whistleblower.

Even ignoring the code of silence and the bad cops, it is very clear that police are not being trained well and the leadership and media are complicit by pushing cowboy hero narratives. The recent shooting of a police commander in the Chicago Loop being a case in point. The commander was brave, and hailed as such repeatedly, but tactically stupid in cornering a man in a crowded area without any support present though it was highly likely support could have arrived very quickly. And the pursuit wasn't even triggered by a crime other than a man running from some police who wanted to ask him some questions (now he was armed, wearing body armor, carrying drugs and a felon but those were only known after he killed the police commander). A properly trained officer would not have pursued a suspect into a dead end alone. The tactical error and training shortcoming was completely unmentioned. Only the hero narrative got play. Curiously, the slain officer had several years earlier cost the city $30 million in a settlement for a fatal accident resulting from disobeying orders and continuing a high speed pursuit that had been called off due to bystander risk.

Another weird story came up last summer where a female officer was assaulted by a suspect during an arrest and used as a political bludgeon against people opposed to cops shooting people. The claim was that she hesitated to draw and fire on the suspect because of the recent concerns about police shootings. Largely ignored in the narrative was that she was on a busy public street with 2 other officers and she was attempting to cuff the suspect. There was no way she could or should draw her weapon. If she had she could have been disarmed and shot, her fellow officers could have been shot by her or passersby could have been shot. Yet all the way up to the Chief of Police parroted the FOP line that hesitation due to concerns over police shooting oversight endangered her and is why she ended up concussed. No mention of flawed arrest procedures. No mention that not drawing a weapon was the correct decision. No criticism of the two other officers who appear to failed to come to her aid in a timely fashion.

The uncritical media acceptance of police statements and posturing is a big part of the problem. FOP spokesmen have been caught lying to the press over and over again, particularly right after officer involved shootings, and yet they are parroted over and over again by reporters at both the Tribune and Sun Times always with mentioning their history of deceit. The pushing of machismo stories and the failure to closely examine police conduct, both the good and the bad, results in an extremely toxic policing culture where the police don't know what to do, don't trust anyone, including each other, and where the people certainly should not trust, count on, or believe the police.

To me the solution is to provide a situation where good cops can actually be good cops. That means whistleblower protection, strict enforcement of police conduct standards, increased expectations of professionalism, transparency and honest press relations, and most importantly far far better training. To get this will probably involve a serious fight with police unions but I think a savvy politician with some spine could do it (ie - probably not any Chicago machine pol and definitely not the current mayor)
posted by srboisvert at 12:12 PM on March 15 [12 favorites]


Sorry, I figured in context people would catch the irony in my previous comment. Hamburger and all that.

I've pretty much lost most all respect for law enforcement. I think we need a truth and reconciliation style commission to do top to bottom justice reform. Too many police view their jobs with an us vs them mentality, and honestly, as long as this is allowed to continue, everyone loses. The hero-worshiping of police is sickening to me. They get to play it both ways. When they kill someone who is innocent, they squeeze out a few tears, say they were in fear of their lives, and that their primary job is getting home to their families. When they bust down someone's door and throw a bomb in the baby's crib they say, "Although we attacked by the darkness of night, used smoke and noise to deliberately cause confusion, and came through the door with a battering ram without knocking, we did properly identify ourselves, so it sucks that the homeowner picked up his lawfully purchased weapon. He should have known we were really the police and not just drug dealers with guns." The police are under absolutely no legal obligation to render aid or to put their lives at risk for anyone. They have this codified in their police officers's bill of rights. They don't even pretend otherwise. When kids are being murdered in a school, they hang out outside (and I don't blame them when it's pistol vs. rifle). They kill kids, the mentally ill, bystanders, and people who happen to be unfortunate enough to just get in the way of their high speed chases. Oh yeah, and then they sue these people.

I would only call the police in the event I was willing to have someone die. So in the event of rape or murder, sure, I want a cop. Anything less and I want them as far away as possible. They don't give a shit about basic rights anymore. They can turn anything into probable cause. You were too nervous, or not nervous enough, you were traveling alone, or with people, laughed, or pretty much any reason. As long as they are sincere in their belief you are screwed. They can even trust their guts. The drug field test kits are only about 50% accurate, and drug dogs aren't tracked as far as their percentage of success. Basically, if you get pulled over you can essentially be rapedwith or have cop crawl up your vaginal tract for 11 minutes on the side of the road with impunity. If you are traveling with legal tended they think they are more entitled to your money than you are and take it without cause. They take food money from hungry prisoners and buy mansions and they brag that this is legal. In a large portion of the US they don't even need a reason to molest you. Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches only applies to like 80% of the country. Don't forget the 4th Amendment free zone.

I could literally go on all damn day. You can spend hours watching police kill people on video now, and many of them end in acquittals. Police conduct no-knock warrants ending in death on the wrong fucking houses entirely too often (assuming your threshold for this is greater than one). They've killed grandmothers asleep in their beds. They murder the mentally ill at an alarming rate.

They now have MRAPs even in sleepy college towns like mine. They will take up residency in your home and eat your food and tell you to go fuck yourself. They are often impossible to distinguish from actual military, and are often trained in the same manner.

And fuck you if you can't afford a lawyer. A damn good one. The problem with the above citations, is that I had tons to choose from. You would think police killing grandmothers in bed would be a vanishingly small number, or that finding cops who faked evidence, or crime labs that faked evidence, but there are entirely too many incidents to pick from, and they still walk free. So if you want to quibble over a link, just find a source you believe is more reputable, and I guarantee you can find an example.

Do we track this stuff? Nope. Not in any sort of systematic manner. The Washington Post stepped into fill the void, but even here the numbers are probably underreported. We get more upset when a puppy smothers in an overhead compartment than we do when a cop shoots someone. Someone gets shot by a cop, their photo is online in minutes and every Facebook photo of this person with a gun or beer is shown. A cop shoots someone, good luck getting the footage (even if you are an oversight agency). And this is in the event that the body camera was turned on, or more accurately, not turned off right before a killing, or not damaged, or footage not corrupted and lost, or tampered with.

I am starting to consider police to be an occupying force. Some days I feel like I am "self-radicalizing" online, and all I do is read the damn news. I don't know what the answer is. I know I am getting angrier and angrier about this sort of thing, and anymore, when an officer is killed, I uncharitably wonder if he was one of the bad ones, because I no longer have it in me to mourn the unworthy.

If I had my way we'd end the war on drugs. It's a pretense for police to invade people's lives, murder them, imprison them, and steal their shit. The US has 5% of the world's population, but we have 25% of the world's prisoners. This is probably an underreported number, since not every detainment is counted in the same manner; jails, juvenile detention centers, prisons, immigration detention centers, etc. And now we have a President that wants to execute drug dealers because he's out of his ever loving mind.

I'm going to stop now.

A few bad apples.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:48 PM on March 15 [29 favorites]


A cop once explained to me that if I saw someone commit a crime and did not call the police or otherwise try to stop that crime, I was guilty of aiding and abetting that crime, which meant that I was guilty of a crime myself and my crime would carry the same sentence as the crime I did not stop or report.

So, as far as I'm concerned, every single "good" police officer who knows about one of those "bad apples" is exactly as guilty as the "bad" police officer.

Fortunately, my follow-on idea (that they should receive the same punishment) is already happening in most cases.

Unfortunately, that punishment is nothing. Or a promotion.
posted by sirshannon at 2:07 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


A cop once explained to me that if I saw someone commit a crime and did not call the police or otherwise try to stop that crime, I was guilty of aiding and abetting that crime, which meant that I was guilty of a crime myself and my crime would carry the same sentence as the crime I did not stop or report.


You understand that cops lie all the time, right?
posted by rdr at 3:55 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this. It's right in my backyard, and I knew nothing about it.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 2:41 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


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