Tag Archives: police

The surveillance state comes home

Mark Flakne of Keep Columbia Free discusses, among other things, how the Columbia, Missouri police department is surveilling bars known as hangouts for political activists who oppose police overreach. The bar in question, the Blue Fugue, is a place where I’ve held numerous meetings with other people involved in politics; we used the space to work on my friend Mitch Richard’s campaign for city council, as an organizing venue for protests against SWAT raids following the Kinloch Court raid, and a place where I meet attorneys, political consultants, and other professionals for politically-oriented work.

 

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My Complaint to the Columbia Citizens Police Review Board

Dear Citizens Police Review Board,

During my remarks to the CPRB on August 11th, 2010, as an appellant to the Viets complaint filed in the Kinloch affair, I asked CPRB member Susan Smith a series of questions, to wit:

1)      Were any of the officers implicated in the complaint former students of yours?

2)      How many current Columbia Police officers were formerly students of yours?

3)      Do you think that this represents a potential conflict of interest?

To my questions, Ms. Smith replied, and I paraphrase 1) I don’t know, 2) I don’t know, and 3) I refuse to answer the question. Additionally, I note that in her answers to 1 & 2, Ms. Smith noted that it was impossible for her to know, since she teaches classes of 400 people and cannot be expected to remember all of her students. You may watch video of this interaction here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRRQHvmiMis).

The direction of my questions is clear; I think that the true answers to these questions might indicate a conflict of interest. However, I wish to begin by arguing that whether or not Mrs. Smith might face a conflict of interest in these proceedings, she is in clear violation of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) Code of Ethics, which is the binding legal code governing her participation on this board. Specifically, Mrs. Smith’s lack of clarity and refusal to answer implicates the standards NACOLE has created for Personal Integrity (emphasis mine):

Demonstrate the highest standards of personal integrity, commitment, truthfulness, and fortitude in order to inspire trust among your stakeholders, and to set an example for others. Avoid conflicts of interest. Conduct yourself in a fair and impartial manner and recuse yourself or personnel within your agency when a significant conflict of interest arises…

I should also highlight the NACOLE stipulation for Transparency & Confidentiality:

Conduct oversight activities openly and transparently providing regular reports and analysis of your activities, and explanations of your procedures and practices to as wide an audience as possible…

And additionally, the clause titled Outreach and Relationships with Stakeholders:

Disseminate information and conduct outreach activity in the communities that you serve. Pursue open, candid, and non-defensive dialog with your stakeholders…

I argue that Ms. Smith’s answers during the board meeting fail at meeting any of these ethical codes. It is clear that her answers do not meet the highest standards of personal integrity or truthfulness, and it is not clear that Ms. Smith has been forthright in avoiding the conflicts posed by her dual roles as an educator for law enforcement and an adjudicator for complaints made against law enforcement. Finally, it is abundantly clear that Ms. Smith has engaged me and other members of the public in a defensive and obfuscatory manner.

Specifically, Ms. Smith is a criminal justice instructor at Columbia College, and hence, an educator for students who may later be employed by the Columbia Police Department. A conflict of interest may not necessarily exist between a teacher and a former student, but the existence of any such relationships should be forthrightly declared to meet the NACOLE ethical standards. Moreover, even without the existence of any relationship that may compromise Ms. Smith’s ability to serve as a board member, Ms. Smith does have significant investment in her reputation as a criminal justice educator that may compromise her decisions on this board, especially if she is facing a decision that implicates her current, former, or future students with public disciplinary action.

Let me also note it is implausible that Ms. Smith should not be able to answer 1 & 2 in the affirmative; though she may teach large lecture classes, I do not find it plausible that she only teaches large lecture classes, or that she has never developed relationships with students. I ask that the board clarify Ms. Smith’s response to these points and discern if her answer during the board meeting is factually representative of the whole truth (that she only teaches large lecture classes, and that she does not know if former students currently serve on the police agency she sits in judgment on). I am also including an email (following page) from a former student of Ms. Smith indicating that she does teach smaller classes and does remember students as far as 3 years back as a further indicator that I do not believe Ms. Smith’s statements were plausible or in line with  NACOLE disclosure standards.

Most importantly, it is clear to me that Ms. Smith has done very little to engage citizens and build trust. The NACOLE ethical code is designed with that highest aspiration in mind and it is my judgment that Ms. Smith does not meet this standard.

For these reasons, I ask the Citizens Police Review Board to evaluate the fitness of Mrs. Smith to serve as a voting member of the board and to consider her removal under Ord. (Ord. No. 20331, § 1, 7-20-09), particularly:

(e)    The board may recommend to the city council that a board member be removed from the board if the member persistently fails to perform the duties of office.

Sincerely,
Eapen Thampy

Policy Analyst
Americans for Forfeiture Reform
www.forfeiturereform.com
573-673-6951

from CoMo Citizens <comocitizens@live.com>
to Eapen <eapen.thampy@gmail.com>
date Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 1:39 PM
subject RE: Request for Susan Smith’s removal from the CPRB
mailed-by live.com
hide details 1:39 PM (27 minutes ago)

I think that this letter is great, and if you have not sent it out please sign CoMoCitizens to it as well. I know for a fact that she does not teach large classes of 400. The classes at Columbia College only allow for 25 to 30, maybe a few more, students in a class at one time.  As a recent graduate of Columbia College, I have experienced the small class sizes that Columbia College has to offer, and it is almost impossible to not get to know your instructor.  As a matter of fact, Susan Smith remembered my wife who she had met 3 years ago only once.  I think that it would be in the best interest of all Columbia citizens if we did not have such a biased individual on the CITIZENS Police Review Board.  She has clearly shown her biases in previous Police Review Board meetings.

Donnie

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On the Columbia Police Department and the “silent majority”

Brennan David reports about the Columbia police department’s new customer surveys in today’s Columbia Tribune:

“I think the chief recognizes that most of the department supplies excellent customer service,” said police spokeswoman Officer Jessie Haden. “If someone has a bad experience, they are vocal about that. The people that are happy with service can be the silent majority. This is another way to get feedback.”

The charitable interpretation here is that the police department is delusional about precisely how to measure customer satisfaction and fail to recognize that citizen interactions with police often happen in the context of overwhelming displays of force. It is not disputed over the last several years there have been numerous incidents of police brutality and misconduct in Columbia that have only been publicized through a serious of fortuitous accidents and the emergence of modern video recording technology that can be deployed through cellphones. Often members of poor and politically weak groups, particularly black people, are the victims of police brutality and misconduct, and find their complaints stymied by police bureaucracy and the tendency of law enforcement to protect its own.

When citizens are the victims of substantial and forceful rights violations they are left with the belief that the system does not exist to protect them and that they are best served by dropping out and not participating. It is hard to convince people that after their doors have been kicked in by SWAT teams dressed in paramilitary gear for non-violent misdemeanor offenses that their complaints of rights violations will be met by a receptive officer at the desk or even by the Internal Affairs department. Moreover there is evidence that rights violations are systemic and underreported by the Columbia Police department. Check out this particularly egregious case where the Columbia police department is on video outright lying to an attorney waiting in their lobby to speak to his client; officers told his client, who was in the holding cell, that her attorney had gone home, and told the attorney that his client had not asked to see him yet.

So no. Officer Haden is wrong in saying that there is a “silent majority” that is happy with their “customer service”. People are silent because they have been silenced and fear reprisal, not because they are happy with their law enforcement.

Welcome to Soviet America.

Addendum: here is the link to the CPD’s customer survey, which can be presumably filled anonymously.

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You can’t make this up: Missouri police officer caught in drug sting, was “replacing evidence”

From the Lincoln County Journal (Lincoln County is 60 miles northwest of St. Louis):

The fallout following the arrest of a Winfield Police officer on a drug charge continues with the suspension of a police chief and investigation into cases involving the officer.

On May 21, 2010, investigators with the Lincoln County Narcotics Enforcement Team took a Winfield police officer into custody for attempting to purchase two grams of powder cocaine.

Net Team Investigators learned that officer, Bud Chrum and his brother, Tony Chrum, were attempting to purchase the cocaine in Troy city limits.  According to the information they received, the cocaine was being purchased to replace some cocaine Bud Chrum had apparently removed from police evidence.  According to the person providing the information, Tony Chrum would be the one to actually make the purchase.

the story continues:

Tony Chrum made arrangements with his brother over the telephone for them to meet at a Troy area apartment complex under the close supervision of the narcotics investigators.  When Bud Chrum arrived at the pre-determined location to accept the cocaine from his brother, the narcotics investigators quickly moved in.  Bud Chrum, who was in his police officer uniform at the time, immediately recognized one of the investigators and told him that he was only purchasing the cocaine to replace evidence he accidentally destroyed.  He was taken into custody without incident.

Don’t they have SWAT teams for this kind of thing?

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