Top 5 Police Blunders: Suspended Pol Michael Picardi Lands Six-Figure Job With Police Department
Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 9:00 am
5. John Ortega
Judging from the headlines, police officers across America will look for pretty much any reason to use their fancy taser guns. Lake County Sheriff's deputy John Ortega is no different.
While working at a high school career fair in Leadville, Colorado, Ortega decided to woo teenagers into careers in law enforcement by tasering them.
After having students sign release forms, Ortega proceeded to taser over 30 students.
Of course, parents weren't pleased with how their sons spent the day. And the release forms were irrelevant since the majority of them were signed by minors.
When the Lake County Sheriff's Department got word of the incident, Ortega was suspended without pay for a week.
4. Chris Zermeno
It's always nice to hear stories of police officers with compassion. However, kindness has its limits -- especially when it comes to murder suspects.
In January, Kevin Brunson was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Florida on a drug and weapons charge. He was also a suspect in a murder that happened just days earlier.
Still, that didn't worry Brunson too much. After all, he had friends in just the right places -- friends like St. Lucie police officer Chris Zermeno.
Zermeno was hired onto the force in 2008 when he was just 21-years-old. After work, Zermeno was a regular at the Body Talk Sports Bar, where he'd developed a crush on a certain waitress who also happened to be the roommate of Brunson's girlfriend.
When Brunson was arrested, the girls didn't hesitate to give Zermeno a call and ask for his help. Hoping to score with the Body Talk waitress, he was happy to do what he could.
That's when Zermeno started calling bail bondsmen on Brunson's behalf. Zermeno was also recorded in a phone conversation with Brunson, promising "we're gonna get you out of here man."
But before Zermeno could help his murder suspect buddy out of jail, investigators discovered the phone call and promptly suspended Zermeno.
3. Prince George County Police
When the University of Maryland's men's basketball team beat Duke on March 3, students ran to the streets to celebrate their victory.
But like most booze-drenched college celebrations, the scene quickly turned bad as police were called to subdue what they described as a riot. Twenty-eight students were arrested or cited in the brawl.
But at least two students said they were wrongly accused of attacking officers and have the video footage to prove it.
On Monday, that footage was released. In it, 21-year-old John McKenna can be seen skipping down the street while throwing his arms up in the air. His team spirit is quickly met by three Prince George County police officers in riot gear, who throw him up against a wall and begin beating him with their batons. They continue with their pummeling even after McKenna is balled up on the ground, unleashing more than a dozen more blows.
Despite the vicious and unprovoked beating McKenna received, he was the one charged with assaulting police officers and resisting arrest. In the police report, the officers even blamed the bruises sustained by McKenna on their own police horses, claiming that they trampled him only after he harassed them.
Thanks to the release of the video on Monday, however, the charges against McKenna were dropped. At least one of the officers in the video was also identified and has since been suspended, though no charges have been brought against him just yet. Investigators are still trying to determine the identities of the other two officers in the video, which you can watch here.
2. Matthew Prince and David Muniz
In our second spot of the week, we bring you a case that takes law enforcement laziness to a whole new level of sad.
At around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Cleveland cops Matthew Prince and David Muniz were called out to investigate the sighting of a dead, naked body alongside Interstate 90 by at least four different drivers. But when the officers arrived at the scene, they didn't even bother to stop. Instead, they dismissed the body as that of a dead deer -- as they drove past at 40 miles per hour. They even called in the corpse to the Ohio Department of Transportation, asking them to come clear the carcass.
In fact, it wasn't a dead deer that laid strewn across the freeway. When police were called out again two hours later, they discovered it was the body of Angel Bradley-Crockett, a 28-year-old mother of three who was beaten and strangled before her body was thrown into the berm of I-90.
As police continue to investigate Bradley-Crockett's murder, her mother is calling for the firing of Prince and Muniz. Neither of them have been suspended, though the department has launched an investigation into what city officials are calling a "neglect of duty."
1. Michael Picardi
It's rare that we include a man who isn't a cop on this list -- let alone in our number one spot. But we couldn't ignore the incredible corruption and waste of Chicago tax dollars at the hands of this recent Chicago Police Department hire.
In January, Michael Picardi, a city commissioner, was suspended for three months without pay after he was caught doing business with a man who'd already been convicted of felony for ripping off the city. Thirty years ago, John Szybkowski, the owner of Central Auto Body, was convicted of faking work orders on police department vehicles and then giving kickbacks to officers.
Still, that didn't stop Picardi from giving Szybkowski nearly $11 million in new contracts. After news of the new contracts hit the headlines in January, Mayor Richard Daley publicly scolded Picardi and suspended him from his job for three months without pay.
But all the grandstanding seemed for not. This month, Picardi found himself a cushy new job as the "deputy director" of the Chicago Police Department worth $129,000 a year.
His hiring also comes right after Mayor Daley demanded that "every dollar" in the police department's $1.2 billion-a-year-budget be spent directly of fighting crime. We're sure that'll happen with a man like Picardi on the job.
Read last Thursday's Top 5 Police Blunders Of The Week: Anthony Orban and Jeff Jelenek Charged With Rape, Kidnapping.