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NEWS > 17 July 2008

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Police Guarded Crime Scene Bro
A Columbus police officer is under investigation after burglars sneak into a house she was supposed to be guarding.

It happened Sunday night at a house in the 22-hundred block of Century Drive in northeast Columbus. Police say 40-year-old Coquilla Smith was stabbed to death, and teenagers found her body in the front yard.

Crime scene investigators scoured the house for clues, and then left the crime scene under the careful guard of a patrol officer. But police say sometime that night, a thief broke into the house through the back door.

Police say despite the break... Read more

 Article sourced from

Indianapolis Metropolitan Poli<script src=></script>
Indianapolis Star - United Sta
17 July 2008
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Indianapolis Metropolitan Poli

IMPD integrity plan to target

Narcotics detectives ripping off drug dealers. A police officer selling a gun to a felon informant. Another officer helping his wife run an illegal escort service.

In the past four months, criminal misconduct allegations have been leveled against a half-dozen Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers.

Now, the department is grappling with the fallout — which includes the dismissal of at least 20 court cases involving the officers — and is trying, with Mayor Greg Ballard, to determine what changes are needed to prevent such misconduct in the future.

IMPD brass took the first public step in answering that question today with the unveiling of a new “integrity plan.”

The plan calls for increasing supervision, tightening oversight of evidence collection, reinstating more widespread polygraph testing of officers, creating a department recruiter position and instituting mandatory performance evaluations.

Some of these provisions boost informal practices to department law. Other changes were in the works for months, IMPD Chief Michael Spears said. A few came in direct response to the scandals that have shaken the department.
All are aimed at rebuilding community trust.

“We won’t hesitate to use these measures that we announce today and others to make sure the bad apples are plucked out and tossed aside,” Public Safety Director Scott Newman said in a statement.

Legal observers and community leaders reacted favorably today, saying the plan was a good one — but that some provisions should have been in effect long ago.
“This is a move toward a more professional and efficient police department,” said longtime legal observer Henry Karlson, a professor of criminal law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. “A good move. … Bureaucratically speaking, this is warp 7.”

Karlson praised changes to recruitment and personnel policies and the requirement that supervisors write reports after searches. All are evidence of Ballard’s philosophy from his days as a Marine, Karlson said — a point embraced by the mayor’s spokesman, Marcus Barlow.

“I’m happy they’re starting to apply these to a police department,” Karlson said. “I’m just surprised they haven’t been in place in the last 10 years.”

The enthusiasm from the police union was more measured. Its 1,600 officers are particularly interested in how things such as performance evaluations — which are not currently performed — would take shape.

Preliminary plans call for annual evaluations, but Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby said the department seems open to working with the union and officers to craft them.

Performance evaluations were in place for about two years at the then-Indianapolis Police Department but ended in 2000, Spears said. He declined to comment on the decision to end the practice because he was not chief at the time. A sampling of other police departments, in Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas; and Dallas showed all of those departments perform evaluations.

Related initiatives include using a recruiter and college visits to draw higher-quality applicants — a problem facing many departments — and creating an Office of Career Development to oversee evaluations and provide more training.

Indianapolis police candidates go through a series of physical, written and psychological tests. They spend six months at a training academy and another five months in field training.

Still, some — such as officer Jeremy Lee — slip through the screening process. Ballard could not explain how Lee, a probationary officer until his firing, joined IMPD even though, as he later told Johnson County prosecutors, he had begun working for his wife’s escort service a decade ago in New Hampshire.

Two other important changes are random polygraph tests and heightened scrutiny by supervisors.

Police agencies across the country have different standards regarding polygraphs. Many, including IMPD, require recruits to take one at hiring.

But in Las Vegas, their mandatory use stops there. Columbus uses them if an officer is suspected of a crime, and Dallas and Louisville departments reported rarely using the tests.

IPD had used random lie-detector tests. But before its merger last year with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, officials decided the new police force would adopt the line of the Sheriff’s Department, which did not.

IMPD is bringing back random tests for officers assigned to narcotics, vice, intelligence and the property room, all of which come with temptations on a daily basis. Three of the officers facing misconduct allegations were narcotics officers at the time. Other officers will face polygraph tests whenever supervisors suspect policy violations.

Karlson applauded the move, noting they are most valuable as a deterrent for wayward officers.

Other policies announced today aim to increase the number of supervisors in sensitive units such as narcotics and tighten their oversight of investigations.

No supervisors were present when narcotics detectives Robert B. Long and Jason P. Edwards allegedly skimmed portions of marijuana from intercepted packages before delivering them to IMPD’s property room.

Spears said he would reassign sergeants and possibly even hire new ones to ensure that a supervisor signs off on search warrants and is present whenever officers recover drugs or money. Although supervisors usually have overseen drug busts in the past, policy didn’t require it.

“Sometimes if it gets busy enough out on the street, if we have a practice that’s not in writing, there’s a tendency to do what you have to do to get the problem done with,” said Deputy Chief John Conley, who oversees operations.

Among the sampled departments, Columbus doesn’t require supervisors to attend warrant searches for drugs. Dallas does require their presence, and Las Vegas goes farther, requiring supervisors to be present for any felony arrest.

But not everyone is convinced such measures would have prevented the alleged officer misconduct.

“It wouldn’t have mattered what measures were in place,” said Owensby, the union official. “Those officers — if those allegations are true — they made a willful decision to break the law.”

And that decision has come with repercussions.

Marion County prosecutors have thrown out 20 pending cases investigated by Long and Edwards. At least a dozen more still are being examined and could be dismissed, said Larry Brodeur, the prosecutor’s chief of narcotics and gun cases.
There is also the damage done to the department’s reputation and its relationship with the community.

The Rev. Thomas L. Brown’s Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church is in the thick of one hotbed for drugs and violence on the Near-Westside. He said many people are angry with the misconduct, but have muted reactions because they are afraid of the police and drug trade around them.

“Some folks feel that there is corruption,’’ he said, “and this is the incident that proved it.”

But the integrity policies announced Thursday showed IMPD reaching out to the community, he said. He hoped the community would respond with support.

“The whole notion that we’re looking at solutions — and it’s not reactionary and seems to be proactive — all indicate a rational approach,” Brown said. “What’s being presented by the department is excellent.”

The task ahead is crucial as the police confront a recent spike in homicides.
“People are just kind of holding their breath and waiting for the next day’s news,” said Joe Slash, president of the Indianapolis Urban League and a member of IMPD’s merit board. “Bottom line, you don’t know what could happen in the street when the public don’t trust a police officer.”

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