Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Badcopping, pretrial diversion for profit, getting around Miranda, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Corruption, thy name is 'pretrial diversion'. A Texas DA in the Panhandle charged illegal pretrial diversion fees to criminal defendants then gave huge donations to local charities, the Houston Chronicle's Eric Dexheimer reported recently. He also maxxed out charges to defendants who won't play ball. E.g., they charged drivers coming back from Colorado with a few marijuana gummies with first degree felony charges, comparable to if they'd murdered someone. Local defense lawyers and his election opponents cried "foul," but couldn't stop it.

Aggressive cop resigns in lieu of discipline. In New Braunfels, a black driver was pulled over for a "dirty license plate" and tazed twice by a super-aggressive police officer who was later allowed to resign in lieu of discipline. N.b., how the driver's tone changed when the second officer arrived and began addressing him respectfully. This cop escalated the conflict needlessly and deserves blame. But it's also likely he was trained to do exactly what he did. It tells us that the terms of debate over these topics are changing that a cop would lose his job over this in Texas: I've seen far worse cases where officers go right back on the force. This recent episode in Schertz comes to mind.

New civil rights litigation. A civil rights suit alleging excessive force has been filed against Harris County Constable Precinct 7 over an episode last December when a black driver was beaten, tazed, and falsely accused of assaulting a peace officer. Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, police have been sued over Atatiana Jefferson's shooting, an episode which remains a raw, open nerve in that community.

Getting around Miranda. Recently on Twitter, I'd argued that the US hadn't had significant, systemic police reforms since the progressive movements of the 1930s, and a lawyer chimed in to ask, what about Miranda and 4th Amendment jurisprudence? Well, that jurisprudence is mostly about creating exceptions. For example, here's a recent Texas Court of Criminal Appeals case in which a defendant was questioned without a Miranda warning but none of the evidence was suppressed. That's the problem with policing reforms from the second half of the 20th century. Nobody was willing to impose a true, hard stop on bad practices.

TDCJ loses contract over not paying inmates. Earlier this year, the Texas prison system came in as the low bidder on a contract being considered by the city of Houston. The city council rejected them because they don't pay inmates, and put the contract out for a rebid insisting that workers must be compensated. TDCJ did not bid the second time around.

Hundreds of death in custody reports delayed. A review of Texas' death-in-custody records by KXAN-TV found examples of hundreds of agencies filing late or incomplete reports. This data isn't great; agencies routinely fudge some of the inputs to imply reduced accountability (see this example out of Austin). But Texas' law on this is light years ahead of many other states. It'd be an even stronger resource if the Attorney General cracked down on agencies that didn't comply.

Joe Gamaldi: A bad cop's best friend. That's how this Texas Monthly story referred to the president of the Houston Police Officers Union. This is a good backgrounder as Houston prepares for a big fight in the coming year over its police-union contract.

You're wrong about gangs. Over the weekend, I listened to the episode of the You're Wrong About podcast regarding gangs and found it interesting and useful. Here's the show notes page including links to all their sources. Some of the biker groups are interested in legislation reining in Texas' gang database next year, and this discussion was a good primer for that debate.

Private company makes police policy. Check out this article from Mother Jones on Lexipol, a private company that writes generally regressive policies for police departments.


Gadfly said...

BREAKING BREAKING BREAKING and Texas-based because of two people.

Fox et al, including Ed Butowsky (lawyered by Ty Clevenger) have SETTLED SETTLED SETTLED the Aaron Rich/family lawsuit! https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2020/09/the-latest-on-ed-butowsky-ty-clevenger.html

Anonymous said...

"As citizens we deserve a better police force, but police officers deserve better citizens." unknown ?