Maryland Law Enforcement: Parody or Oxymoron? Is Atlanta Any Better? New Jersey?

From Courthouse News:

Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Police Overkill

BALTIMORE (CN) – When an architect crashed his car while suffering a diabetic reaction on the way home from Bible study class, state and county police pepper sprayed him in the face and clubbed and Tasered him to death, his wife claims in court.

Linda Johnson sued the Maryland State Police, Baltimore County Police, their top commanders and six officers who allegedly beat and Tasered to death Carl D. Johnson on May 27, 2010.

[snip]

The widow claims Johnson was Tasered at least three times, while he was lying on his back, helpless, surrounded by police. He became “motionless and speechless” and was pronounced dead within an hour of cardiac arrest.

He was the 10th person to die since 2004 after being subjected to police electroshock in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reported in a story about Johnson’s death.

Linda Johnson seeks more than $10 million in punitive damages for wrongful death, loss of consortium, false imprisonment, false arrest, battery, gross negligence and other charges. She is represented by Mark Millstein and David Silbiger, both of Baltimore.

Hat Tip to Remus on that. . .and the one at the end.

Lest you think this story is naught but bullshit, recall the Maryland mayor who’s house was raided in a set-up drug bust and both the mayor’s dogs were shot to death:

SWAT Gone Wild in Maryland
A botched raid on a small-town Maryland mayor exposes widespread abuse by the state’s SWAT teams.
Radley Balko | July 13, 2009

Late last month, Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo took the unusual step of filing a civil rights lawsuit against the police department of his own county. The suit stems from a 2008 SWAT team raid on Calvo’s house that resulted in the shooting deaths of his two black Labrador retrievers. In pushing back against the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Prince George’s County police department, the mayor is helping expose a more widespread pattern of law enforcement carelessness and callousness throughout the state of Maryland.

Also interesting is the move up by one of the officers associated with that raid, as reported here by the Washington Post:

Baker taps Magaw for police chief; names six others to top posts
By Miranda S. Spivack and Matt Zapotosky
Published: May 13, 2011

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III on Friday nominated Acting Police Chief Mark Magaw and six others to head key departments in his fledgling administration, turning to several county government veterans to fill top positions.

[snip]

Magaw is not without baggage. He was commander of the police department’s narcotics enforcement division when a sheriff’s office SWAT team, serving a county police warrant, broke down the door of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home in 2008 and shot and killed his two dogs.

Must be how one advances in Prince George’s County law enforcement. Perhaps that’s the reason for such little improvement over the past three years in the professionalism of  Maryland’s “finest.” Has the situation in Atlanta fared better?

Recall the tragedy of an elderly woman’s death at the hand of an Atlanta police swat team during a botched drug raid in November of 2006 :

Kathryn Johnston: A Year Later
92-year-old woman’s death has done little to curb the use of paramilitary police tactics around the country.
Radley Balko | November 23, 2007

It was one year ago this week that narcotics officers in Atlanta, Georgia broke into the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston.

They had earlier arrested a man with a long rap sheet on drug charges. That man told the police officers that they’d find a large stash of cocaine in Johnston’s home. When police forced their way into Johnston’s home, she met them holding a rusty old revolver, fearing she was about to be robbed. The police opened fire, and killed her.

Shortly after the shooting, the police alleged that they had paid an informant to buy drugs from Ms. Johnston’s home. They said she fired at them first, and wounded two officers. And they alleged they found marijuana in her home.

We now know that these were all lies. In fact, everything about the Kathryn Johnston murder was corrupt. The initial arrest of the ex-con came via trumped-up charges. The police then invented an informant for the search warrant, and lied about overseeing a drug buy from Johnston’s home.

Ms. Johnston didn’t actually wound any of the officers. They were wounded by fragments of ricochet from their own storm of bullets. And there was no marijuana. Once they realized their mistake, the officers handcuffed Ms. Johnston and left her to bleed and die on the floor of her own home while they planted marijuana in her basement.

We now know that it was routine for Atlanta’s narcotics officers to lie on drug warrants. We know that judges in the city rather systematically approved those warrants with no scrutiny at all (the judge in the Johnston case literally rubber-stamped the warrant), abrogating their oaths as guardians of the Fourth Amendment.

As a result, the good Citizens of Atlanta demanded the establishment of a civilian police oversight board. How’s that been working out? Well. . .

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Metro Atlanta / State News
5:00 a.m. Sunday, May 27, 2012
Atlanta Citizen Review Board under scrutiny
Police resistance, internal politics put effectiveness in doubt
By Rhonda Cook

Outrage over a botched raid built on lies from informants followed by cover-ups by cops who killed a frightened, innocent 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in her home — and then planted drugs in the house — led to the birth the Atlanta Citizen Review Board.

The board was given investigators, subpoena power and a mandate to provide a credible, independent and “safe and welcoming place” to bring complaints and accusations of misconduct and abuse by public safety officials.

More than five years later, the oversight board’s existence is threatened by resistance from the police force, an apparent lack of interest from city government, internal board politics and a damaged public image.

[snip]

“It had the capability of having effectiveness but the city of Atlanta is a huge political machine and I don’t think it was ever strong enough to be effective,” said Joy Morrissey, who had been on the board since its inception until May 10, when her replacement was announced. “I don’t know if anyone is going to allow it to be effective.”

[snip]

Only one member of the board has a law enforcement background. Some critics of police oversight said laypeople do not understand or appreciate that officers deal with difficult, untrustworthy, dangerous people every day and it’s common for some to claim brutality or false arrest to deflect from the charges against them.

But various neighborhood safety groups say APD cannot police itself and that is evidenced in just a few cases that came after officers shot and killed Johnston. Even as top police officials insisted officers acted appropriately in the cases below, the ACRB was saying otherwise and the city’s lawyers were settling lawsuits — $2.6 million in the past year.

not very well, apparently.

On New Jersey school grounds you’ll now be safe from attack by irate BB gun toters:

June 7, 2012
CheaperThanDirt.com
BB Gun Possession Could Come with Prison Sentence

Little Timmy Moore, you are hereby convicted to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for the possession of a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. That is what some people could hear from a New Jersey judge if a new piece of legislation passes at 2:00 p.m. June 7, 2012. With the passing of A1216, possession of all BB guns and air guns on school property would carry 7-10 year prison sentences with no possibility of leniency. Parents picking up their children at school after hunting or going to the range would also be at risk.

Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

The legislation aims to increase the penalty for possession of a firearm on school grounds, or any educational institution from a third to second degree crime. Typically, second-degree crimes carry a prison sentence of 7-10 years and up to a $150,000 fine, with very limited sentencing discretion from the judge. In New Jersey, law enforcement considers BB guns and air rifles legally firearms. Many consider them toys in other parts of the country.

But then, New Jersey isn’t Maryland or Atlanta so there’s no need to concern yourself with inappropriate police actions, is there?

“Land of the Free”? IMHO politics is a distraction from more serious problems. That’s probably why establishment politicians and pundits always keep it on the front burner.

As Mark Stevens says, “It’s war!”

Ciao,
Dennis

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