Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dallas PD Family Violence Unit shelved hundreds of cases without investigation

One lazy or apathetic cop can cause a lot of woe; an entire unit of them can wreak havoc. In Dallas, reported the Morning News (Aug. 19), an investigation into the Family Violence Unit discovered:
hundreds of unworked offenses, mostly from the latter part of the last decade through 2011, ranged from dozens of simple misdemeanor assaults to stalking cases and felony child abuse or sexual assault cases.

The unworked cases represent additional evidence of widespread problems with the Police Department’s family violence unit. Since an embarrassing incident in late 2009 where thousands of cases were discovered in another detective’s garage, the department has improved supervision of investigators, implemented an automated case-tracking system last year and increased the number of detectives.

Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place Shelter, said she’s confident that police now have the right leadership and reforms in place to prevent something similar from occurring again. But the discovery that hundreds more pleas for help from victims went unheeded because of the two detectives is disheartening, she said.

“I’m almost speechless that people who thought the police were going to help them didn’t get help,” Flink said.

After more than a year, internal affairs investigations into [Shawn] Wash and [Durman] Johnson were recently completed. It is unclear what discipline, if any, they will receive. Wash is assigned to the property room and did not return a request for comment. Johnson declined to comment. He is answering phones in the crimes against persons division.

Many of Wash and Johnson’s mishandled cases are from the same era in which Detective Mickey East failed to properly pursue thousands of cases. East retired in February 2012 after a 2½-year investigation. He said he took the cases home when he was overwhelmed by the workload.

Police officials say Wash and Johnson exhibited many of the same tendencies as East, such as repeatedly failing to properly document what they did and did not do on their cases.

“There’s not a whole lot that they can do that we can’t catch them on now,” said Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. “It’s all about making sure that our domestic violence victims are getting the service that they need from our detectives.”
What a gross failure of supervision! That one cop could defraud the unit's supervisors might be viewed as an isolated incident. That three did so (at least) means the unit essentially was unsupervised and if any investigations were performed, it was only due to the diligence of the individual detective assigned the case. The supervisor clearly wasn't keeping tabs and the culture of the unit apparently encouraged such behavior.

Grits must also object to the practice of assigning bad cops to the evidence room, as was done with Officer Wash, instead of firing them.  Historically police department considered the property room essentially unimportant, a notion that the era of DNA exonerations and property-room thefts should have by now dispelled, especially in Dallas which leads the state in exonerations. That the department still uses the property room as punishment instead of staffing it with committed professionals indicates the agency has not learned all the lessons it should from Dallas-area innocence cases.

MORE: From the Dallas News (Aug. 20):
Dallas Police Chief David Brown fired five police officers Tuesday, including two former family violence detectives who failed to work hundreds of cases.

One of the fired officers, Bryan Burgess, was booked into Dallas County Jail on Tuesday night on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of a bicyclist who collided with his squad car in April.

Police officials said they are referring another criminal case against Burgess to a grand jury to consider whether he tampered with evidence at the scene of the accident.


Anonymous said...

Houston Police does the same thang. They close cases out because they couldn't contact the victim. They couldn't contact the victim because she fled to a women's shelter in order to hide from a the asshole that was beating her.

HPD does some of the most piss poor criminal investigations.

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is a breakdown of the criminal justice system in Dallas County - both with the evidence gathering portion and appropriate referral of cases to the courts for disposition and then again with the supervision of offenders who have been placed on probation. It is not clear what has happened in Dallas county, but it is very clear that both the police department and the CSCD lack sufficient internal controls to monitor the work of their employees. There is not an excuse for this that is acceptable.

The Police department has the responsibility to ensure that cases are followed up on that victims are protected as much as possible. The CSCD has the responsibility to ensure that offenders, once placed on supervision, are held accountable for their actions and that the community is made safer by addressing violations of Community Supervision appropriately and swiftly.

Anonymous said...

What the heck?! Don't they know that there's lawyers out there that need to feed their families?!

Anonymous said...

Most of the time these crimes aren't reported.