Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Video contradicted Garland cop's story of deadly police chase, led to manslaughter charges

For the second time in recent months, a Dallas-area police officer shot someone then filed a false police report about the incident. In October it was a Dallas cop who shot a mentally ill man, then along with his partner filed a false report declaring he'd approached them menacingly with a raised knife. Now, a Garland officer has been charged with manslaughter after an August 31st incident in which he plowed his car into a suspect's at the end of a high-speed chase, falsely claiming the man had rammed his police vehicle. Officer Patrick Tuter fired 41 rounds hitting the man three times, emptying his clip and reloading twice during the barrage.

The DA's office asked for a $10,000 bond, well short of the standard $25,000 bail typical of manslaughter charges in Dallas County. But the judge raised it to $100K, declaring “I’m not concerned about whether he is going to return to court or not. I’m concerned about public safety.” According to the judge, "the only other officer on scene did not fire, and also sought refuge from the bullets behind his patrol car," reported the Dallas News.

According to Mint Press News, "Since 9/11, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is almost equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty in Iraq." Nearly all of these are deemed justified by Internal Affairs investigators, but for the most part the press and the public must take the word of police flacks in determining what happened.

These episodes to me demonstrate the need for police departments to quickly move to body cams worn by officers that can corroborate police accounts or dispel lies when they dissemble after the fact. "Trust us, we're the government" just isn't good enough in an era when the fact of police "testilying" is well established and video is ubiquitous and cheap. The blog Simple Justice has a running series titled "But for Video" describing episodes where video documented police misconduct that would otherwise have gone undetected.

Dashcams have improved the situation and helped debunk the officer's false report in this case. (There was also a woman in the car with the deceased suspect who likely contradicted his story; press reports so far haven't revealed whether the second officer backed up Tuter's false report.)  But too often the tech malfunctions at just the wrong moment, or the right one from the perspective of officers covering up misconduct. In Cincinnati recently, an officer's dashcam reportedly malfunctioned seconds before he ran over an innocent bystander during a high speed chase. This was the second recent episode where the same officer's dashcam malfunctioned at a critical moment; the first in 2012 involved a high-profile shooting. There are also many instances when dashcams are functioning but simply pointed in the wrong direction.

Body cams and mics for police would provide evidence of misconduct when it happens, protect officers from false accusations, and provide better evidence for prosecutors to use in court. There's little excuse in the 21st century for not deploying such technology as rapidly as budgets will allow. Certainly you could probably outfit the entire Garland Police Department with them for the amount the lawsuit in this case by the victim's family will ultimately cost the taxpayers.


Anonymous said...

It should also be noted that the deceased was unarmed, and that the officer had crashed his cruiser into the pickup driven by the deceased so he was likely too injured to present any type of threat to the officer.

Anonymous said...

Houston PD had a trial program that was written about in the Chronicle October a year ago. They were to test the body cams on 100 of their officers. I have not been able to find a follow up story on this, though I have seen comments on a few blogs indicating that the police union was opposed to them. It says a lot about the rank and file police officers when they oppose the use of technology that can help them prove their cases and protect them from false claims of misconduct. But the sword cuts the other way too and would provide proof of misconduct when it occurs. Any good reason that a good cop would oppose this tool? I can't think of one; and yet their union presumably with the support of most of them have managed to avoid this trial run of this equipment. HPD also has video in only a small percentage of their patrol cars. For the fourth largest city in the country not to have this technology speaks volumes about one of the most violent and deadly police forces in the country.

Brad Walters

Anonymous said...

I just have the feeling that these body cams will malfunction at every important moment. They will be lost. They will be edited. The officers will do things holding people to their bodies so it won't be visible from the bodycams.

To Brad, I can think of one reason good cops would oppose them and that is they really do malfunction and maybe it'd be all hassle and no benefit.

Anonymous said...

I have had three officers in a row get on the stand and testify that their dashcam malfunctioned and yet there was no mention of malfunction in their report, nor was there any record of repair or replacement the dashcam, no mention of a defective DVD, or any effort to retrieve the video from the dashcam hardrive. Yes they are mechanical and they do break, but the frequency with which they do so when their testimony is the only thing holding their case together is just too much. Three malfunctions in a row on contested issues is possible, but strains credulity of everyone. The judges and the DAs see these testilying cops so often that they have to know which ones routinely pull these shenanigans yet they keep putting them up there. Even when I have a video that shows the officer made up PC facts to get a blood warrant I have DAs turning a blind eye to the officer's felony in order to pursue conviction of my client for a misdemeanor. Judges (former prosecutors) and DAs really don't like the exclusionary rule and don't mind cheating to avoid its proper application when they "know" they have a guilty defendant. This attitude is how innocent people get convicted rather than the proverbial 9 guilty going free to prevent the conviction of one innocent. The times are a changing. Prosecutorial and judicial absolute immunity is becoming an intolerable barrier to achieving justice. The people are seeing too many life wrecking judges and prosecutors flaunting their ethical breaches and thumbing their noses at defense attorneys who call them on their lawlessness. They are challenging the people to stop them if they can. So many people are making national news after being exonerated due to state misconduct after serving decades in prison that the people are finally starting to catch on that people representing the state don't alway wear the white hats.
Brad Walters

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Folks, I was deleting comment spam this morning and accidentally deleted a real comment on this thread. If it was yours, I apologize. It was unintentional.

albeed said...

To 4:58 PM:

"To Brad, I can think of one reason good cops would oppose them and that is they really do malfunction and maybe it'd be all hassle and no benefit."

I agree that "is" possible. But I would be willing to bet that these devices malfunction a lot less than GPS units which can return an "absconder" to jail. Technology works both ways and should not always work in the governments (prosecutors) favor. One way "hassles" are the rule and not the exception. I fail to see the benefit of returning someone to jail who was really following all requirements.

Ryan Paige said...

Was it this case or a different Dallas-area police shooting in which a bystander video was seized and destroyed by police?

Anonymous said...

It is absurd that police forces in the United States don't have RELIABLE video systems on their body and in their patrol cars. It is obvious as to why they don' would end up causing the conviction of so many officers for their own actions. HOenstly, the best thing for a citizen to do is to invest in home and car video cameras of their own. I have one in my car and around my house.....