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Top 5 Police Blunders: Jim Broderick Charged With Lying To Secure Colorado Murder Conviction

By Chris Parker in Lists, Police bungling
Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 9:00 am
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Membership has its advantages, as an ad campaign once asserted, but as Shakespeare counters, the truth will win out, which is the case in this week's Top 5 Police Blunders. For this episode's malfeasance champ, Lt. Jim Broderick, that's disturbing news, because he's accused of withholding evidence and perjuring himself to convict an innocent man of murder...

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5. Steve Epps

"Don't get mad, get even" could be Caseyville, Illinois officer Steve Epps' credo. According to Epps, he was just doing his job when in late November he faxed Munie Greencare Professionals about one of their employees' reckless driving, and requested information on the driver of the truck the night before.

Of course, the driver in question, Matt Kohnen, hadn't been in Caseyville or even on the road that night. But he was, coincidentally, parked in the driveway of Epps' ex-girlfriend. After receiving a call from Kohnen, Chief J.D. Roth looked into the matter and discovered the department hadn't received any reckless driving complaints. (There was however a big box of complaints about people sleeping with ex-girlfriends.)

When Roth interviewed the ex-girlfriend, she reported that Epps had "done things like this is the past." In the course of investigating Epps, temporarily suspending him and eventually recommending his dismissal, Roth discovered the ten-year veteran had that same month spent a couple nights with a woman in a hotel while on-duty. (Presumably undergoing on-the-job grief counseling.)

While Epps' charms may have gone unappreciated by his ex, they weren't lost on his fellow officers, who queued up behind him like a stadium bathroom line during the 7th inning stretch. Eight of the department's ten officers signed a petition calling for the chief's ouster. Then again, who doesn't hate their boss?

Epps was never charged, and was reinstated after a village arbitration hearing. You certainly won't find a link to any of this on his Match.com page.

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4. Kenneth Crockett

What can't be seen can't hurt you -- unless there's videotape of it. So it was that junior safecracker/cop Kenneth Crockett's larcenous impulse was exposed.

Crockett and two other members of the K-9 unit answered an alarm at a Philadelphia auto repair shop. After finding the shop secure, they noticed a cellar door open at nearby Pat's Cafe. They cleared the cellar and entered the bar through a trap door. Two of the officers drank non-alcoholic beverages while attempting to contact the establishment's owner.

It was soon reported, however, that $825 dollars was missing from the safe, and nobody was convinced that the dog ate it. Review of the place's videotape surveillance (who needs Scooby and his Mystery Machine mates?) revealed Crockett reaching into the safe and pocketing some envelopes while his fellow officers were out of the room or had their backs turned.

District Attorney Seth Williams reported that Crockett began "freaking out" when informed of his misdeed and had to be committed to a mental institute. (And to think, he could've had a V8!) Crockett will face charges whenever he's released from psychiatric care.

The incident is only the latest scandal for the Philly police force, which has seen 11 officers arrested since March of last year, including two for murder, three for stealing heroin from a drug dealer, one for plotting to rob a dealer's cocaine stash, and another who shot himself but claimed a black man did it.

It's gotta be the shoes.

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3. James Dobbs

Call it stress relief for a very difficult job, but whatever you call it, sleeping with a stripper generally doesn't end well. Just ask Rialto, California police officer James Dobbs.

According to Nancy Holtgreve, who works at the Spearmint Rhino, she met Dobbs three times last year at the Rialto Police Benefit Association's union hall for sex while he was still on the clock, giving new meaning to the term "server." The accusation prompted an investigation of six officers that led to four of them being placed on administrative leave.
 
Holtgreve, who has a son with Dobbs, alleges that he didn't want their relationship to come to light for fear it might affect custody proceedings with his ex-wife, or the situation with a police secretary he was allegedly having an affair with, or his current live-in fiancee. (You can't deny, he's got game.)

She also claims that Dobbs has physically abused her and refused to pay child support. Dobbs has accused Holtgreve of being depressed, on anti-depressants (which in that case apparently aren't working), and trying to make him and his fiancee miserable, going so far as to show up at his ex-wife's house and talking with his former in-laws. (She knows where to find a sympathetic ear.)

Police Chief Mark Kling told the media he wouldn't allow this situation to distract from the department's goal of becoming the premier police force in the Inland Empire. Then again, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

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2. Chad Hilde

Jon Lovitz would love Poplar, Montana Police Chief Chad Hilde, who when confronted with the eight pot plants growing in his barn, claimed they were medicinal marijuana he was letting a friend grow there. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Unfortunately they didn't take his word for it, and investigated his excuse. While the medical marijuana card belonging to Kristofer Boyd proved legit, the Montana Medical Marijuana forms he showed officers hadn't been processed, and no one was licensed to be Boyd's "caregiver."

Officers discovered the stash when a Roosevelt County Sheriff's deputy was called out to find a female runaway from Culbertson. The juvenile runaway apparently knew Hilde -- it's not clear how -- and told the deputy that Hilde was growing pot in his barn.

When officers went to Hilde's house to investigate the barn, he refused to let them enter. While waiting for a search warrant, he asked if he could get "something" out of the barn if a deputy escorted him there. (Well, he sounds like a stoner.) He was arrested for production or manufacture of dangerous drugs and criminal possession of dangerous drugs.

In March of last year, Hilde was charged with eight felony counts stemming from the killing of four moose on the Fort Peck Reservation. Hilde's accused of letting his 14-year old son shoot them during a hunting trip, which he explained by suggesting he thought his adopted son was an associate member of the tribe. (He wasn't.) Details, details.

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1. Jim Broderick

When a TV detective has an inkling a suspect did the crime but there's no evidence, they doggedly stick to their convictions and 45 minutes later they're proven right. In real life what happens is the guy's released after nine years in jail when DNA evidence indicates he didn't do it, and it's discovered the detective -- in this case, Fort Collins, Colorado Lt. Jim Broderick -- suppressed evidence and lied under oath.

Broderick suspected 15-year old Jim Masters in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick almost from the start, as the body was discovered near Masters' home. Yet there wasn't a shred of forensic evidence.

They searched the young horror movie afficiondo's room (with his father's permission) and discovered not only a knife collection (many were gifts from relatives) but violent artwork and a suitcase containing pornography. (Just shocking stuff to find in a rebellious teen's room.) Because of the artwork, he had at one point been placed in a Special Ed class. A misunderstood kid or a killer?

Police planted misleading and false information in the local newspapers to trip him up, brought in the FBI Behavioral Science Unit and engaged in an elaborate surveillance operation that attempted to elicit a suspicious reaction out of Masters on the one-year anniversary of Hettrick's death. It yielded nothing. Clearly the kid was a criminal mastermind.

Masters was finally convicted in '99 on the basis of those violent teenage drawings and an expert, who had never spoken to Masters, but nonetheless concluded that he fit the profile of a sexual predator (who are apparently known for committing one crime and remaining dormant for years after).

Under oath, Broderick denied having any contact with the case since 1987, conveniently forgetting the failed surveillance operation. Nor did he reveal any of the available contrary information (such as the surveillance failure) to the "expert." Broderick withheld, and later destroyed other evidence that may have connected the crime to a sexual deviant who also lived near the crime scene, and who committed suicide when arrested on other charges. (The suicide case had been a doctor, which would have gone a long way in explaining the surgical precision of the sexual mutilation of Hettrick's body.)

When the DNA of hairs found at the scene (alongside fingerprints on the victim's purse that didn't match Masters) were finally tested in 2008, Masters was cleared and finally freed. (The hairs pointed to one of Hettrick's ex-boyfriends, who was apparently quickly discounted as a suspect, because his date that night vouched for him.) The city and the county paid $10 million to settle civil lawsuits by Masters, and the prosecuting attorneys were censured. But Broderick was not charged or reprimanded.

That is, until District Attorney Ken Buck decided in October to run for a U.S. Senate seat. Suddenly, Buck, who had dismissed making charges against Broderick during a 2008 investigation, realized Broderick might've done something wrong. (Never discount the concientiousness of a would-be politician during election season.) Broderick's now facing an eight-count felony indictment for perjury.

Perhaps it's better late than never, but the whole case just makes you feel dirty. It's hard to find any redeeming message, like be careful who you move in next-to because you might be blamed, though perhaps there's something in the fact that an innocent man was eventually freed. It only took nine years. That's practically fifteen minutes in bureaucratic time.

Read last Thursday's Top 5 Police Blunders: Bruce Allen Tucker Caught With More Than 3,000 Child Porn Files.


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