Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dallas PD snitch reforms don't do enough

Talk about too little, too late. The "reforms" to confidential informant practices at Dallas PD after the Dallas fake drug scandal strike me as a half-assed response to one of the worst drug war scandals in Texas history.

Last year auditors said the Dallas PD narcotics division
hadn't fixed problems with handling confidential informants identified after the infamous 2001 fake drug scandal. They now say some but not all of their recommendations have been implemented, reported the Dallas Morning News ("DPD makes strides," March 4), but the details in the article don't inspire confidence. The paper said:

In its original report, the city panel criticized police supervisors for failing to oversee sloppy work performed by narcotics detectives and "glaring absences" in paperwork.

The panel also found that documents in the fake-drug cases were so incomplete or illegible that there are still questions about what happened to more than $400,000 in cash payments that fired narcotics Detective Mark Delapaz said he paid to his informants in late 2001.

In the follow-up audit, the panel found some inconsistencies in paperwork, and the majority of those proved to be "merely clerical errors." Still, the panel recommended that supervisors be required to read all investigative reports, including arrest reports, to ensure that they are consistent with one another.

Many of the panel's recommendations had been implemented, the report found, including keeping a set of fingerprints for each confidential informant, checking the legal status of informants, keeping a running tab on payments to informants, doing a better job of documenting signatures, conducting regular audits of paperwork and ensuring that conversations with confidential informants are taped when possible.

In some cases, the department implemented an alternative version of the panel's recommendations. The panel, for example, had called for issuing debit cards and personal identification numbers to informants to help improve oversight. Money would be transferred into the informant's account when a drug buy was made.

The department instead implemented a policy mandating that informants receiving $1,000 or more for a drug buy be paid at the narcotics division office with a supervisor present.

Those are minimalist fixes that might keep officers from stealing large amounts of money like Officer Mark Delapaz allegedly did, but do nothing to stop lying informants from falsely accusing innocent people. Recording conversations with snitches "when possible," for example, means inevitably when something improper is discussed those conversations won't be recorded. It's a loophole you could drive a truck through. What's more, the department failed to implement all the recommendations, and continues to use officers who helped convict innocent people in the first place:

The panel did not agree with how the department implemented a new rotation policy for the narcotics division. The panel had recommended that the department rotate officers below the rank of sergeant out of street squads after five years and that they not be allowed to return for at least two years.

The department instituted the five-year rotation but allowed officers to return after one year. The panel also warned the department not to circumvent its own policy by allowing officers to be on special assignment in the narcotics division.

The panel also criticized Chief Kunkle for allowing a detective who had been connected to the fake-drug cases to transfer back into the narcotics division on special assignment.

That detective had been investigated for possibly making inconsistent or misleading statements in court testimony. Chief Kunkle allowed the detective to transfer back after finding that the allegations could not be proved.

The panel, however, concluded that "strong evidence exists to support the allegation that [the officer] gave conflicting or misleading testimony," the report said.

Unbelievable - eight DPD narcotics officers signed documents claiming field tests were postive for drugs when they turned out later to be fake, but only two of them were ever fired and indicted. Now they're apparently cycling those guys back into the city's narcotics unit. That's an outrageous breach of trust to allow officers who were involved in the fake drug scandal to continue to work narcotics. It's evidence that the Dallas PD isn't serious about cleaning up narcotics enforcement despite these minimalist reforms.


Anonymous said...

This is making things into a much bigger deal than it really is. The field tests for narcotics are not very reliable and are only meant to create probable cause for the initial arrest. A simple solution would be to have all drugs tested by a chem lab within several days of the arrest.

Currently, drugs are only tested further if a case is going to trail. This means that if someone pleads out, the dope never gets tested. Simply test in all cases.

As for getting a debit card for the snitches, that is ridiculous. A snitch would be afraid that someone would see their DPD Visa card and figure out they are snitching. Gotta love the naive liberal ideas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No evidence these auditors are "liberals," but I'm surprised you think it's no big deal to send an officer into drug enforcement when "strong evidence exists to support the allegation that [the officer] gave conflicting or misleading testimony."

Or then, maybe I'm not so surprised.

Anonymous said...

Cops can't have it both ways. If the field tests are so unreliable, they shouldn't serve as probable cause. If they are reliable, these cops were lying.

Anonymous said...

"...only meant to create probable cause for the initial arrest."

If those test kits aren't reliable, and we know they aren't reliable, why are we buying them with public funds? Oh...I forgot. Creating probable cause for arrest.

Squandering tax money on "unreliable" testing equipment and chemicals is bad enough. Arresting people on unreliable evidence? But, actually "creating" probable cause to arrest a citizen sounds like a serious threat to freedom and liberty from excess government any way you look at it.

"Create" probable cause? I knew they "created" probable cause...but I didn't think they were supposed to admit it.

That just doesn't sound right to me.

Why in the world, in a "free" country, would police, of any sort, need to "create" probable cause?

They want someone. They are looking for an excuse to arrest someone. But..."creating" it?

Any means to a desirable end is not right.

It really smacks of some sort of severe governmental "thugginess".

It sounds illegal. If it isn't, it ought to be.


Anonymous said...

Hope, I think you are getting hung up on semantics. Maybe I should have stated "prove" probable cause as opposed to "create".

These test kits are the best solution to the current situation. If they aren't used, officers would have to arrest everyone that has the alleged drugs on them or let everyone go until they are tested in a lab and issue a warrant. While I know that Hope would applaud this solution, it's not possible. Most drug users/dealers would be in the wind if the cops cut them loose pending a lab test.

Back to the field tests...there are occasional false positives but as I said, the simple requirement that all drugs be tested in a chem lab as soon as possible after an arrest would solve this issue.

Anonymous said...

The issue here is not the value of the field test but the integrity surrounding it's use.

Field tests are presumptive but I have never seen one not come back positive, or at least close to positive. After awhile, some cops don't do them but say they do and a field test is only one part of the probable cause requirement.

Field tests are only used in drug cases, but so are buys, informants, and all of the other tools that like the field test lack day to day verification.

If there was a field test for drug cases like there were for drugs, what do you think the test would show alone at the probable cause level.

Right now, today, every drug enforcement component accross the country has as it's model a way it operates separate and apart from the way the public thinks they operate. Until someone gets into those drug units and looks at them carefully, this bandaid approach will only help them change their method.

From now on, a supervisor will verify a field test for every drug that's field tested. Do you really believe that a false positive will keep a department from raiding a house that they believe has a lot of cash but let's say not too much drugs.

Anonymous said...

Thought I'd make a point about our "alleged LEO" friend.

Field tests are presumptive but I have never seen one not come back positive, or at least close to positive.

Then you, my friend, ain't seen too many field tests, if any at all.

Field tests are only used in drug cases, but so are buys, informants, and all of the other tools that like the field test lack day to day verification.

Really?!? And you've been an LEO for how long?

What about traffic violations, stolen property cases, organized crime unrelated to drugs, murder for hire and even terrorism? Ever see one of these cases use one of your "tools"? No?

Stop pretending to be what you're not. You are intentionally misleading folks for your personal agenda, and that's dispicable.