Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dallas PD internal affairs can't bust through cops' No Snitching code

The "stop snitching" street code apparently applies to police officers, as well.

The Dallas News yesterday published on page one a story about the Dallas PD's dysfunctional internal affairs investigation against three Dallas police officers. Reported the News ("Ticket writing inquiry shows flaws in policing police," Dec. 26):

At key points during nearly a year of investigations, questions were not asked and witnesses were not interviewed.

The investigation may also have been hampered by officers' fear of reprisal for not reporting possible misconduct sooner and an early belief among high-ranking officials that the three officers – Senior Cpls. Jeffrey Nelson, Al Schoelen and Timothy Stecker – were simply gruff, old-school cops who didn't mesh well with younger officers.

Officials said they now realize that belief wasn't entirely correct.

Cpls. Nelson and Schoelen face discipline after investigators found that they engaged in a pattern of unacceptable enforcement activity. One activity included arresting vagrants, prostitutes and other habitual offenders and adding citations that are mailed, even though many of these people did not have stable addresses. The officers were also issuing tickets to people under more than one name at the same time.

Investigators also concluded that Cpl. Nelson used inappropriate force in an incident involving a handcuffed woman. They also later concluded that Cpls. Nelson and Stecker made homeless people, prostitutes and others sign blank citations so the officers could fill out the tickets later.

But it took about 10 months and investigations at several levels within the department to get there.

Not only did IAD fail to investigate thoroughly, many officers refused to cooperate with Internal Affairs, the News reported, because they feared they'd be disciplined themselves for failing to report the offense earlier. (I'm not sure I buy that excuse; since when has the Dallas PD ever fired officers for failing to report misconduct? I've never heard of it.)

In any event, if the Dallas News hadn't pursued this case it would never have come to fruition - IAD had already cleared the officers and likely would have dropped the matter if the News hadn't researched the allegations independently, located citizen victims, and published their stories.

Police chief David Kunkle understatedly said that, "Everybody mistrusts IAD – from the public to the officers." I can understand why; from this account they sound like a pretty worthless bunch.