A Bad Cop’s Best Friend?

One morning in late January 2019, Rhogena Nicholas texted a prayer to her mother, Jo Ann Nicholas, just as she did every day. A widow in her eighties, Jo Ann could no longer make the four-hour drive from Natchitoches, Louisiana, to visit her daughter and her son-in-law, Dennis Tuttle, at their bungalow in the Pecan Park neighborhood of southeast Houston, but the family remained close, texting and speaking on the phone regularly. Rhogena, 58, worked as a bookkeeper, among other jobs. That afternoon, on January 28, she called Jo Ann to warn her against venturing outside in the icy weather gripping central Louisiana. Then she said goodbye, telling her mother that she and Tuttle were going to take a nap.

Less than an hour later, eleven armed Houston Police Department officers broke down the door of 7815 Harding Street and killed Rhogena, Tuttle, and their dog in a fusillade of bullets; autopsies would reveal that police shot Rhogena three times and Tuttle nine times. Four officers were also shot, allegedly by Tuttle, a 59-year-old disabled Navy veteran.

At a press conference that evening, Houston police chief Art Acevedo said that a neighbor had tipped off officers that heroin was being sold at the Harding Street home, leading a judge to issue a search warrant. Then Joe Gamaldi, the 37-year-old president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, stepped up to the microphones.

A native of Long Island who started his career in the New York Police Department, Gamaldi has a slender build and short stature—his former NYPD partner affectionately calls him a “good little man”—that belie his street fighter instincts. And on this night, with four of his officers in the hospital, he was ready for a brawl.

“We are sick and tired of having dirtbags trying to take our lives,” Gamaldi announced in his reedy New York accent, jabbing his forefinger at the assembled reporters. “And if you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy—well, just know, we’ve all got your number now.” To Gamaldi, the deadly Harding Street raid was the latest skirmish in what he considers a war on cops being waged by a panoply of sinister left-wing groups.

Keep reading

California Police Unions Once Again Side With Bad Cops To Kill a Good Bill

California is one of only five states that does not have a formal process for decertifying bad cops to keep them from finding patrol work. And it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

In the middle of a massive push for policing reforms in America, law enforcement unions have defeated S.B. 731, a California bill that would have created a commission to hear cases of cops who have engaged in misconduct and determine whether they’d be stripped of their certifications.

Introduced for the first time in 2019 by state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), S.B. 731 passed the California Senate unanimously but didn’t make it to the California Assembly floor before the legislative session ended Tuesday.

The Associated Press notes that law enforcement unions scrambled to lobby lawmakers to stop Bradford’s bill from progressing without numerous changes. A representative from police unions in Los Angeles and San Francisco told the A.P. the bill was “deeply flawed.”

Several law enforcement unions in the state say they want a process in place to decertify bad cops. They even made a web page to insist that they support things like a database of officers who have been fired for misconduct, and “a fair, reasonable and workable decertification process.” But they object to Bradford’s commission because only three of the nine members would be police officers. Four of the other members would be members of nonprofit or academic institutions and community-based organizations that have experience on “issues related to police misconduct.” One member would be a citizen who has been a survivor of police misconduct (or a relative of somebody who did not survive misconduct). And one would be an attorney with “experience involving oversight of police officers.” Police unions determined that this newly created board would be, in the Associated Press’s words, “inherently biased against officers.”

Why would we assume that people with experience in issues related to police misconduct would be inherently biased against the police officers their commission reviews? Does that also mean the officers on the commission would be biased in favor of the cops?

Keep reading

WANT PROSECUTORIAL REFORM? START WITH CURTAILING THE INFLUENCE OF POLICE UNIONS.

As millions march, calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, the responsibility for holding their killers accountable lies squarely in the hands of prosecutors. The will of the people is to have accountability for all criminal acts, regardless of who the actor is or their profession. That is the duty of a prosecutor. But all too often, prosecutors have failed to fulfill that duty, often declining to pursue charges against law enforcement, let alone securing a conviction. Those failures have struck deep blows to public trust in the justice system. Rebuilding that trust will require not simply policing reform, but also greater confidence in prosecutorial independence and the integrity of investigating and charging of police misconduct. And that confidence, as well as independence, can only be achieved through an end to financial ties between prosecutors and police unions. 

Keep reading