Articles Posted in Cops Out Of Control?

This week, the New York Times published an article about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition software. The article specifically mentions the San Diego Police Department, and accuses it of misuse of this software. Facial recognition software is a new technology to local law enforcement. It was first utilized by the military, and critics of the technology worry about violations of civil liberties, privacy, and misidentification of individuals. The New York Times story includes an account of two local men who said they felt San Diego police violated their rights when the facial recognition software was used on them. Neither man was actually arrested.

One of the men, Eric Hanson, a retired firefighter with no criminal record says that he was “stopped by the police after a dispute with a man he said was prowler. He was ordered to sit on a curb while officers took his photo with an iPad and ran it through facial recognition software. The officers also used a cotton swab to collect a DNA sample from the inside of his cheek. I was thinking, ‘Why are you taking pictures of me, doing this to me?’ I felt like my identity was being stolen. I’m a straight-up, no lie, cheat or steal guy, and I get treated like a criminal.”

San Diego police spokesman Lieutenant Scott Wahl agreed to be interviewed for the New York Times story because he says that he understands the concerns and debate about the use of facial recognition technology by local police. He explained why it is important to be transparent, to ensure people understand the software. The New York Times article claimed that the software is used “with little oversight or training, and that San Diego County law enforcement are building a massive database of photos of people, whether they are suspected of crimes or not.” Wahl refutes these claims and says that they simply are untrue.

We are seeing an increase in news about people resisting arrest. These mishaps began to enter the public consciousness with the  Rodney King video release, and continue through situations like the  Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Most people who are arrested will not resist the arrest, all too often out of fear of police brutality, regardless of whether the arrest is lawful or not. However, some individuals who have not done anything wrong will resist an unlawful arrest, and rightfully so, considering the arrestee had not done anything wrong. What does resisting an unlawful arrest get you? Usually in more trouble.

Resisting Arrest and the Consequences

Resisting an arrest usually involves fighting a police officer, running away from a police officer, or threatening a police officer. In most jurisdictions resisting an arrest is an additional charge that can be added to the underlying charge for which you are arrested. So what type of consequences come along with a resisting arrest charge? Resisting arrest is considered a Class A Misdemeanor. Under this class of crime, the Court can order jail for 48 hours or order you to perform community service for at least 100 hours. The resisting arrest conviction does not resolve with the initial reason why you were arrested in the first place.

Prior to the U.S. Department of Justice uncovering a history of racial profiling and discrimination in Ferguson, MO, a group of attorneys filed suit claiming that municipal courts in the town were arresting and imprisoning a large number of people for unpaid traffic tickets and other minor offenses. In 2013, 33,000 arrest warrants were issued for residents, earning the city $2.6 million. Ferguson is not the only town in America profiting off of residents’ debt. This is a problem here in California as well. Four million people in the state have suspended licenses for failing to pay citations, and are deeply in debt because of this.

Traffic Courts & Inequality

A coalition of civil rights groups issued a report entitled “Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California.” The report found that a driver who commits offenses as small as littering or driving without a seatbelt is subject to a $490 fine. Many Americans are not able to afford such a fine, and if the driver does not pay the fine in full quickly enough or misses a court appearance; the punishment is a suspended license. This creates a real problem for many Californians – they only way they can pay off their fine and lift the suspension on their driver’s license is to drive without a license to work. They then risk even more fines ($300-$1,000) and six months in prison for getting caught driving with a suspended license. This creates a cycle of debt that many are unable to break.

Schools are taking drug use more seriously to the extent of hiring drug-sniffing dogs to secure narcotics from students’ belongings, so much so that the district decided to use close to $60,000 acquired in an education grant to purchase Blitz – their very own drug detecting dog. Previously, principals of the schools in the San Diego district had to pull the funds for separate narcotic searches with canines from their individual campus budgets, but since the hiring of Blitz authorities have been able to visit and have the dog sniff out nearly all of the high schools the district encompasses. Some parents, however, are far from happy about the acquisition and claim the drug searches are a violation of the freedom rights of their children. The administration has taken as many precautions as possible to make sure students are aware the searches are voluntary and parents are notified; text messages are sent to the parents when searches are going to take place. Students are allowed to choose whether or not to exit classrooms and leave their belongings in order to volunteer being subjected to searches from Blitz. Having a personal narcotic sniffing canine certainly is out of the norm for a school district and It isn’t clear if other districts will follow in San Diego’s footsteps.

Sources:
“Drug Sniffing Dog Has Increased Presence On San Diego Campuses” – UT San Diego

A San Diego woman, Tanya Lorenzo, is finally stepping out to speak her version of the truth about her husband, San Diego police officer Gilbert Lorenzo. Tanya, 24, sat down with NBC 7 and described a horrible scene of domestic violence where she legitimately felt her life was in danger. According to Tanya, her husband Gilbert Lorenzo, 31, sunk his teeth into her back and then proceeded to drag her along the carpet by her neck. In an attempt to get him to release her, she grabbed his groin area; he didn’t let up. The fight only came to a close because the neighbors ran to Tanya’s rescue and pulled Gilbert off of her. Tanya went on to describe her feelings on the matter, stating she never thought her husband could do something like that – causing her to feel her life was in danger. Gilbert Lorenzo, on the other hand, has a different version to tell. He claims to be not only guilt-free of domestic violence, but that he is victim himself! He claims his wife Tanya is bi-polar with violent mood swings, possessing prescription medication for the disorder. He also claims she has abused or continues to abuse alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine…and it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Lorenzo filed a formal document requesting custody of his children, stating their mother is unpredictable, violent and has made threats to take the kids to Mexico. Tanya’s response to Gilbert’s allegations was simple, in which she stated she has never been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and has never used drugs. Like many women who become victims of domestic violence, Tanya kept quiet the first time her husband showed signs of it. She wanted to stand by her husband and was reluctant to tear her family apart over one incident. When it happened again, however, it was a different story; she feared for her life. At this point in time, Tanya feels she will never be able to forgive him and she can no longer help him. There has been no word on Gilbert Lorenzo’s status in the police department and if he will remain a part of the force.

Sources:

“Accused Cop, Wife Allege Physical Abuse, Drug Use in Public Feud”

Former San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos is now serving more than eight years in prison for conduct that has sparked a compilation of lawsuits against the city and questioned the dignity of command staff. Whether or not command staff condoned Arevalos’ improper behavior is yet to be uncovered. Fourteen separate plaintiffs have sued the San Diego Police Department, eleven of which have settled and three of which are still pending. According to the City Attorney’s Office, of the eleven cases that have settled, the city is to pay $1.55 million in total compensation to the plaintiffs. The remaining cases yet to settle realistically portray how the department failed to discipline officers and the command staff provided special protections and treatment to specific employees and other law enforcement personnel.

Many of the allegations against the department contain testimony from other officers speaking of the corruption going on behind the scenes, which the department is strongly disputing as false. Lt. Kevin Mayer stated, “Trust within the community is essential, and maintaining that trust has always been a priority of the department.” However in a July deposition, an 18-year veteran of the department testified that police officials routinely hid officer misconduct from the public. This testimony was in support of a lawsuit issued by a woman who pleaded Arevalos molested her in a convenience store bathroom. Another testimony in this case from former sergeant Kevin Friedman revealed that the officer was taught to not ticket other officers, prosecutors, or investigators for traffic violations while in training at the police academy and admitted to destroying a dozen or more citations for friends throughout his career. He admitted that many other officers did the same. Last year, a data analysis by U-T Watchdog confirmed that one out of every 79 citations goes missing and perhaps Friedman’s testimony explains these occurrences. Friedman also said he let law enforcement officials’ family and friends slide when caught in legal scrapes because it was the department practice to do so. Former officer, Arthur Perea, testified that commanders favor officers who are “in the club” over those who are not and stated, “A lot of things that happened on the San Diego Police Department don’t ever hit the media. A lot of misconduct. Officers getting arrested for DUI off duty. DUI crashes. Beating up prostitutes. Pursuits involving other law enforcement agencies while off duty. Sex on duty. And those- and the code of silence is that the department keeps it quiet and does not release it to the media or outside of the department.” The surplus of allegations have succeeded in bringing to the surface many issues inside our legal entity here in San Diego, and it is important to remember that no one is exempt from the law and may find themselves facing legal charges.

Sources:

San Diego Police Officer David C. Hall of the San Diego Police Department committed suicide around 9:50 a.m. Monday, August 1 2011. Mr. Hall, a 14 year department veteran, was awaiting trial for accused crimes he committed back in February. In May he was charged with two counts of felony drunk driving causing injury, one charge of a hit and run and allegations that his BAC or blood alcohol level was greater than 0.15%. Mr. Hall plead not guilty to all charges. If he was to be found guilty of all the alleged crimes he would could have face up to three years and eight months in state prison.

The charges originated from a February 22nd vehicle accident in Serra Mesa, where a driver of a Chevrolet Suburban reported she was injured by a drunk driver who also left the scene of the accident thereby committing a hit and run. Officer Hall was later arrested and placed on paid administrative duty. He was off duty at the time of the alleged crimes. Mr. Hall blood alcohol level was registered at a very high level, .32% according to police reports which is four times the legal limit. Despite his not guilty plea to the charges a judge ordered Hall to attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at least twice a week pending the outcome of the case.

Officer Hall was one of at least eight officers of the San Diego Police Department that had been recently accused of misconduct prompting a change in the Department’s policy by Police Chief William Landsowne. Further information about these misconducts can be found here.

Former Oceanside Detective Brian Bruce who was accused of misconduct while on duty by Detective Aaron Miller, his partner, will not be prosecuted by the San Diego District Attorneys Office. Mr. Bruce was a former Detective for the Oceanside Police working on cases related to drugs, prostitution and gang activity.

Mr. Bruce alleged misconduct was brought about due to a current lawsuit between Mr. Miller and the Oceanside Police. Mr. Miller is fighting that he was wrongfully demoted after telling Oceanside Police of Mr. Bruce’s misconduct.

Former Detective Brian Bruce was accused of stealing cash and an iPod from suspects he had arrested. Along with these accusations Mr. Bruce is also accused of stealing Mr. Millers T-shirt from his vehicle. Prosecution of Mr. Bruce is being declined because a district attorney feels that there is not enough evidence to prove he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Cop Car.jpgDeputy Marilyn Doris Mendez of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. Several sources confirm that she was arrested at 2:10 am Saturday in the Gas Lamp District. She was initially pulled over for making an illegal turn, but after further investigation, was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Deputy Mendez was off duty during the time of her arrest.

Sources told news stations that Mrs. Mendez was cited for a DUI but was never booked into jail. Deputy Mendez’ arrest had enough cause to warrant the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to conduct an internal investigation.

Oceanside Police department is reviewing evidence against former Oceanside Detective Brian Bruce. He may need to hire a criminal defense attorney to protect his rights! Mr. Bruce was accused of several misconduct crimes, including stealing cash and personal property from alleged criminals. The crimes came to light after a 1.5 million lawsuit between Detective Aaron Miller, his partner, and Oceanside Police Department. There are three main incidents that Police Chief Frank McCoy made mention of, and hinted that there could be more.

The first incident is directly involves Detective Aaron Miller, who was Mr. Bruce’s partner before he resigned. Mr. Miller left for a vacation leaving his work car with personal possessions inside to Detective Bruce’s care. Nothing was to be taken from the car but Detective Bruce had permission to use the vehicle. Upon return, Mr. Miller noticed that one of his T-shirts was missing from the car. He accused Detective Bruce of taking his T-shirt but he denied everything.

A few months later in April of 2009 the second allegation against Detective Brian Bruce came to light. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Bruce were at a crime scene where they arrested a women for suspicion of dealing drugs. She had in her possession $512 dollars according to Mr. Miller who counted the money several times. Later that night Mr. Bruce had reported they had confiscated $412 dollars from the suspect. When Mr. Miller addressed Detective Bruce he stated in his defense that their was a possibility that some money might have been left at the crime scene.