Indianapolis Implements Plan to Curb Police Misconduct

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has a plan to clean up its act. The plan is designed to make police officers obey the law. You wouldn't think that would be difficult, but this is what's been happening in the absence of meaningful oversight:

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.

Misconduct allegations against the officers have caused the dismissal of at least 20 criminal cases that the bad officers tainted. The question is how many other charges over the years have resulted from work done by officers who feel free to ignore the law. When police officers behave lawlessly, there's reason to wonder whether they have any qualms about planting evidence or committing perjury to advance their own careers.

Here's the plan, such as it is: [more ...]

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.
The value of polygraph testing is questionable. Mandatory performance evaluations should have been implemented long ago (despite the objections of the police union), but police "performance" is too often measured by the number of arrests made, not by honesty. A "requirement that supervisors write reports after searches" is useful, but many searches (stopping people on the street and patting them down, for instance) will never come to the attention of supervisors. The plan nonetheless has value by assuring that "a supervisor signs off on search warrants and is present whenever officers recover drugs or money."

Oversight is a key, but it's an easy word to use and a difficult concept to implement. Supervisors typically learn about bad officers only if other officers report them, an act often seen as a betrayal by their peers. The careful investigation of citizen complaints, coupled with strong, independent civilian oversight might be more productive in the long term.

If they aren't already there, putting security cameras in the property room might make it more difficult for property officers to steal money and drugs. Still, they wouldn't have prevented "narcotics detectives Robert B. Long and Jason P. Edwards [from] allegedly skimm[ing] portions of marijuana from intercepted packages before delivering them to IMPD’s property room."

Using "a recruiter and college visits to draw higher-quality applicants" is one of the best long-term solutions. Insisting that officers be well-educated and well-trained, coupled with psychological screening to weed out the authoritarians who want power in order to abuse it, will lead to a better breed of cop. That plan needs to be coupled with an attractive salary and rigorous training about the important role that police have in protecting civil rights.

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    by 1980Ford on Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 12:22:10 PM EST

    LAPD homicide detective in interrogation that led to slaying of witness is reassigned

    The department also has revised its training to emphasize the need to protect witnesses, especially those unwittingly involved in ruses to extract confessions.
    By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    July 18, 2008

    Los Angeles Police Department officials have reassigned a homicide detective and will train others to be more careful in protecting witnesses in light of the slaying of a teenage girl after officers disclosed her name as part of a ruse during an interrogation.

    The detective, Martin Pinner, was removed from working homicide cases by supervisors earlier this month after The Times reported the 2003 slaying of 16-year-old Martha Puebla, said LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. The article detailed how a member of a notorious San Fernando Valley gang had Puebla killed after Pinner and his partner lied and told him that the girl had identified him as the killer.


    Before interrogating him, the two detectives doctored a photo "six-pack" -- an array of mug shots police often show to witnesses and victims of crimes. They circled Ledesma's photo, writing "Those is the guy who killed my friends boyfriend," and signed Puebla's name. In fact, Puebla had told the detectives very little, saying that she had been expecting Ledesma to visit her the night of the murder but that he had never appeared.