Browsing: Police Bungling

donaldrobertsonLeif Reigstad

Donald Robertson was blindsided. He was stopped at a red light on the North Sam Houston Parkway East frontage road on June 24, 2006, his patrol car next to a big white van sitting in the inside lane. The light turned green. As Robertson entered the intersection, a blue 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix sped through the stoplight — then brakes squealed and screeched as the Pontiac slammed into the patrol car’s front passenger side, throwing Robertson and his white Chevrolet Impala into a concrete barrier 15 yards away.

It was the worst jolt Robertson had ever felt in his life, and the first accident he’d ever had while on patrol in his 17 years working as a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy. His neck hurt like hell; his right leg was pinned by a toppled computer console. A plume of smoke rose from his battered car. He wanted to turn his head, but his body wasn’t responding to what his brain was telling it to do. He tried to lift himself, gripping the steering wheel and hoisting himself up using his upper-body strength, but every time he tried, he could feel his torso separating from his head, causing him to lose his breath and slip in and out of consciousness. It didn’t take him long to realize his neck was badly broken.

The crash gave Robertson a type II Odontoid fracture, left a four-inch laceration on his right knee and temporarily blurred his vision with floaters. Doctors at the hospital told him he needed emergency surgery to realign his neck with the rest of his body. It was a dangerous procedure. Paraplegia or quadriplegia: Those were two possible outcomes. A third was death. Robertson had no choice. Miraculously, he survived the surgery. But he was hardly made whole again.

Hurt and unable to work, Robertson was immediately placed on worker’s compensation. His supervisors repeatedly assured him he would have a place one day again with the sheriff’s office. His time working as a patrol deputy — his dream job — was almost certainly over, but many injured deputies return to work simple desk jobs. Whenever Robertson would call the county or the sheriff’s office, worried he would lose his job while he recovered, he was always told not to worry, to just focus on getting better. Law enforcement takes care of its own.

In 2012, Robertson was blindsided again. Two weeks before Christmas, he received a letter from the sheriff’s office in the mail. “An administrative review reveals you have been absent from duty since June 24, 2006, after having been placed on Worker’s Compensation due to an injury,” the letter said. “As of the date of this letter, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has not received any correspondence from you or Worker’s Compensation concerning your ability to return to active duty at this time. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office is left with no other recourse but to grant you an administrative dismissal, effective the date of this letter.” The letter instructed Robertson to turn in his badge. After more than two decades of serving in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and nearly losing his life on the job, Robertson was suddenly kicked to the curb.

Sheriff Scott IsraelPhoto via Broward Sheriff's Office

Sheriff Scott Israel

In May 2014,  Deerfield Beach resident Louis Hilaire, 25, was contacted by his ex-girlfriend out of the blue.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she allegedly said via Facebook message. She then called him on the phone, and the pair went out drinking the next night and, according to court documents, ended up having sex.

A few hours later, she revealed why she’d reached out to him: One of her friends, she said, worked as a housekeeper at the nearby Budgetel Inn in Pompano Beach, near the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and the Coconut Creek Parkway. She went on: There was a safe in room 125 at the hotel, she said, which contained cash, jewelry, and a gun. And there was a housekeeper willing to give her and Hilaire a key to go steal the items inside, as long as the housekeeper got a cut of the loot. Hilaire, who had pleaded guilty in the past to charges of marijuana possession, attempted robbery, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, initially declined. But, according to court records, his ex pleaded with him to “please help her out,” and eventually, he agreed.

Turns out, the woman was acting as a confidential informant for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Kevin Kulik, who represents Hilaire, says his client’s case had been part of a repeated, unconstitutional sting operation by BSO’s VIPER Unit. Kulik alleges the VIPER Unit is using “amorous” women to illegally entrap young, black offenders into committing crimes.

featimg_10_29It is 1:33 p.m. on November 21, 2011, and Lawrence Chapa has a few more minutes left to live. The burly truck driver is sitting in the cluttered cabin of his red Kenworth T600, an 18-wheeler parked at the dead end of Hollister Street in suburban northwest Houston. There is a newspaper propped open before his worn and wrinkled face, a pair of cell phones tucked in his jeans, and 31 black bags stuffed with marijuana stacked in the sleeper compartment behind him. It has been a long trip for Chapa, to the Mexican border and back. Now he is near the end.

A speed trap is typically defined as a hidden stretch of road that police equipped with radar guns use to catch people speeding.

The website CheapCarInsurance states that it recently “analyzed 15 years of driver-reported National Speed Trap Exchange data” to come up with a list of the American cities with the most reported speed traps.

The site’s California list was dominated by SoCal cities.

dui-checkpoints-minority-neighborhoodsEddie Maloney/Flickr

Motorists in South Los Angeles appear to bear the brunt of the Los Angeles Police Department’s crackdowns on drunk driving, according to an L.A. Weekly analysis of LAPD checkpoint information for 2015.

Fine, many will say: Those who put our lives in danger need to see more black-and-whites in their rear-view mirrors, wherever they might be.

But many of these communities are impoverished, minority enclaves, raising questions of racial and socioeconomic justice.

police-public-records-californiaChris Thornock for L.A. Weekly

Mark Arner didn’t know what he was getting into. A veteran reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, he was working the police beat when an editor told him to check out a case at the county Civil Service Commission.

“It wasn’t something I covered normally,” he says. “We stumbled across it.”

The case involved a rape allegation against Antonio Lee Smith, a Sheriff’s deputy. Smith had been called out on an assault case. The suspect, a 37-year-old woman, was drunk. She later told authorities Smith forced her to have sex and that she was too drunk to stop him.

houston-press-feat_img3_31John Domingues rushed to the corner of Francis and Sampson, in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward, as soon as he heard the call for “shots fired” crackle over his police radio. It was just after midnight when Domingues pulled up near the row of shotgun houses and saw Jason Rosemon, a fellow Houston Police Department officer, standing at the north end of the street. When Domingues stepped out of his cruiser, he could see what Rosemon was staring at: Kenny Releford, 38, was on the ground bleeding from two gunshot wounds.

img_7447Marco Torres

Prosecutors say Shannon Miles walked up to Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth as he gassed up his cruiser, put a pistol to the back of the deputy’s head, and pulled the trigger. When Goforth hit the ground, police say Miles emptied his semi-automatic pistol into the deputy’s back. While officials first blamed the Black Lives Matter movement and its “rhetoric” for encouraging the public assassination of a cop, here’s what we’ve learned since: Miles has a long history of serious mental illness, the murdered deputy was at the scene with his mistress, two other deputies have been fired for sexual relations with that witness, and a third has since been terminated for trying to spark an “inappropriate relationship” with the woman. How the high-profile murder of a sheriff’s deputy morphed into a telenovela.

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