Senior Cpl. Jeffrey Nelson and Senior Cpl. Al Schoelen entered "inaccurate, false or improper information on citations" and engaged in an unacceptable "pattern of enforcement activity," according to police. Cpl. Nelson also used "inappropriate force" on a handcuffed woman and had people sign blank citations.
Chief Kunkle said the officers weren't fired for specific incidents, but for a pattern of "activity that we as a department think is inappropriate." He declined to comment further.
A third patrol officer, Senior Cpl. Timothy Stecker, was suspended for 10 days after investigators concluded that he had also had people sign blank citations. A supervisor was suspended for five days.
In general, there are two types of police corruption, both of which undermine police ethics and the rule of law and cannot be tolerated in a free society. Some corruption cases involve straight up bribe taking or officers making personal profit collaborating with crooks. But the more common brand of police corruption involves officers, like these three, who come to believe that the "end justifies the means." To me, that's almost a more dangerous brand of misconduct because it's more frequently tolerated or even encouraged. Eiserer quoted me in her story on this topic, declaring:
I also added, though the comments didn't make it into the story, that Kunkle's actions won't be enough on their own to stop this behavior. Such activities are tolerated because of a departmental culture that develops over many years. Chief Kunkle can only do so much. We mustn't forget that the commanders, captains, and field supervisors under him have been operating for a long time in an arena where this kind of policing was not just tolerated but rewarded.
"That's just megalomaniacal," Mr. Henson said of having someone sign blank citations. "That's police officers who think they're just in charge of these people's lives and can decide at their leisure down the line what they will accuse them of."
Mr. Henson, who now writes Grits for Breakfast, a blog that focuses on Texas criminal issues, said the chief's decision to discipline the officers was a "good start because it lets officers know that the chief takes" that type of conduct seriously.
Robert Guest rightly asks why no criminal charges are being pursued.
The victims of these officers' unlawful ticketing are among the most disadvantaged and defenseless folks in society - mostly homeless people and street prostitutes. That makes sense; I imagine they wouldn't get away with treating middle class folks that way for five minutes, though aimed at street people this apparently has gone on for years. Since Dallas PD policy won't allow the department to take action based on anonymous complaints (in this case other officers came forward after anonymous complainants were ignored), people like that who are vulnerable to retaliation by police are highly unlikely to come forward.
This case reinforces to me why the "Rate My Cop" website is such a good idea, and really should be a government operated function, with many different avenues (not just the web) available for complainants. The ability to receive anonymous tips about police misconduct might have clued in these officers' supervisors years ago, and prevented a lot of abusive behavior committed in the department's name. When I'd earlier discussed the Rate My Cop site, a police supervisor added this positive response in the comments.
As a police supervisor, I agree. The cities should have a place (easy to find) on their PD's website where citizens can file anonymous tips and complaints. In my experience, people are reluctant to come face to face or even call on the phone even for the most minor perceived officer misconduct. And yes, I know why. But anyway, what I like is that it would give me the heads up on officer behavior that will not be seen with his sergeant standing there. I can follow up on the anon tip and see where it goes. If it's unfounded, no harm no foul, but if not...This supervisor is absolutely right about police unions fighting the idea. Hell, they're bitterly opposing the firing of these cops, though IMO they shouldn't just be fired but also prosecuted.
Watch the giant turd the police unions will have over that one!
However, in an era where technology and changing attitudes have made customer feedback easier than ever and more commonly integrated into all types of management systems, union opposition is no reason to avoid creating easier and more accessible means for the public to provide feedback - positive and negative - about the officers with whom they interact.