Sunday, May 03, 2009

The testilying 'Bushmen'

At the Dallas News, Tanya Eiserer had an excellent story this week ("Dallas police officer's testimony may taint dozens of cases," May 2) about Sgt. Randy Sundquist, a Dallas police officer officially branded a liar and banned from testifying in court after an administrative judge overturned his firing in the mid-'90s. But over time, apparently, everyone forgot, and he was promoted to supervise a unit responding to drug complaints - an unimaginably poor judgment to put a known liar in charge of such a unit. Now, dozens of cases in which he participated may be tainted.

Eiserer's story concludes with an especially fascinating account that suggests Sundquist's lying wasn't just malfeasance by a single officer but actually part of a pattern attributed to his entire unit:

In the mid-1990s, Sundquist and other patrol officers were known among prosecutors as the "Bushmen," a reference to the group's fondness for hiding in bushes when conducting surveillance on suspected drug houses in South Dallas.

Colleen Murphy, a prosecutor, testified in Sundquist's 1995 appeal of his firing that some prosecutors didn't want to work with the "Bushmen" because their cases "were just totally unbelievable."

"They'd see amazing things in the middle of the night with no lights, from far distances," she testified.

Internal police investigators found that Sundquist had conducted an illegal search. They also concluded that Sundquist lied to them, finding among other things that he couldn't have seen what he claimed to have seen when he said that a man was standing in a doorway with a bag of cocaine.

"I found numerous flaws in their testimony and very shoddy arrest reports," Sgt. Jose Losoya told internal investigators. "These omissions or flaws could prove disastrous in a court case. As it was, it gave the impression that the officers were falsifying their reports to get drug dealers at all costs."

After he was fired, prosecutors issued the first letter barring him from further court testimony. An administrative law judge subsequently reinstated Sundquist and reduced the punishment to a 40-day suspension. ...

Sundquist then worked in the communications division for about three years, receiving high marks. He eventually returned to patrol duties and was promoted to sergeant in 2002.

Senior police officials say that over time, the squad Sundquist supervised morphed into a de facto narcotics unit, frequently tasked with working drug activity complaints. Commanders instructed them to no longer work such cases earlier this year.

My question: How could anybody with a brain put this guy in charge of a unit working narcotics in 2002, which is the year AFTER the "fake drug" scandal broke at the Dallas PD?

In that egregious case, Dallas' official narcotics unit was caught collaborating with crooked informants who packaged pool chalk faked to look like cocaine in order to to set up illegal immigrants on felony charges. Combined with this tale about the testilying "Bushmen," history is beginning to cast an especially ugly light on Dallas drug enforcement during the mid to late '90s, and Sundquist's advancement in the department provides little evidence they've appointed leaders capable of changing the culture that led to that ugly scandal.

Dallas has released 19 innocent men so far based on DNA evidence, but 24 innocent people were set up in the Dallas "fake drug" scandal, and God knows how many innocent people the "Bushmen" put away.


Anonymous said...

Damn. DPD corruption apparently knows no bounds.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Yeah, and one of the reasons this all came to light was that this officer was involved in a case where a guy was accused of having drugs--cops said they observed him walking out of a building carrying a bag that was later found to contain drugs. His attorney got surveillance tapes from the building that clearly showed that some other dude who was walking near this guy was carrying the bag that was referred to. So, the guy and his unit are still lying.

To be fair to the current DPD chief, he keeps trying to fire officers for misconduct, and, it seems that, more often than not, just asn in Sundquist's case, some administrative law judge overturns the firing and gives the guy a slap on the wrist.

I mean, this officer was found to have broken the law, falsified his report, and lied to internal investigators. Prosecutors were saying that they couldn't use him in court because they didn't believe him! And some ALJ decided that a 40-day suspension was enough.

There was an interesting follow-up somewhere in the DMN about the reporter trying to track down who the hell decided that this guy should be promoted to head this unit, and, whether they bothered to look at his disciplinary history before doing so. Pretty much got the run-around and no satisfactory answer.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Oh, and by the way, that guy falsely accused of carrying the drugs sat in jail for something like 10 months, waiting for his trial on that case before the prosecutors finally dropped it.

kaptinemo said...

Symptoms of the disease. The disease remains. Namely, drug prohibition. Although it's possible the cops would have lied about other things, the existence of drug prohibition makes that mendacity much more likely, given the incentives. (How much dealer cash and dope actually makes it into the evidence locker?) much will the inevitable lawsuits cost the taxpayers...on top of the gouging they already get in order to 'fight drugs'? It won't be cheap, I betcha...

TxBluesMan said...

Just out of curiosity, if the Dallas DA said that he shouldn't testify and put him on their 'list' - don't they have some responsibility here?

It is their 'list' after all, yet they kept putting him on the stand...