January 23, 2020 | Criminal Law
The term “police misconduct” can be used to describe a wide range of improper or illegal actions on the part of law enforcement officers. These actions may involve police brutality, malicious prosecution, or witness tampering.
Some of the most famous police misconduct cases on record include:
Officers Eddie Martins and Richard Hall – Rape and Sexual Assault
There are few more egregious examples of police harassment than the act of sexual assault and rape committed by Officers Martins and Hall of the New York City Police Department.
Having arrested a young woman for possession of marijuana, they loaded her into their police van. There, they forced her to perform oral sex on them and raped her. They carried out these heinous acts by threatening to charge her with a crime if she did not follow their orders.
For this instance of police harassment, the officers have, themselves, been charged with a slew of criminal offenses. Their charges include coercion, kidnapping, rape, and sexual assault.
The Walter Scott Case – Police Brutality and Planted Evidence
During most traffic stops, the police officer speaks to the driver, hands them a ticket, and sends them on their way. When Officer Michael Slager pulled Walter Scott over for an allegedly broken taillight, this did not happen. Instead, the two men became involved in a physical altercation.
When an unarmed Scott attempted to flee from the scene, Officer Slager fired multiple shots in his direction – eventually killing him. To justify his actions, Officer Slager then placed his taser next to Scott’s body.
Officer Slager is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in this case.
Officer Kevin McDonald – Drunk on Duty
Just about every police department in the United States has strict rules about drinking or being drunk while on duty. When Officer Kevin McDonald of the Grovetown Police Department filed paperwork with a .087 BAC, he broke those rules.
Officer McDonald was not arrested for his actions. However, Police Chief Scott Wheatley did terminate his position two days after the incident occurred.
The Philando Castile Case – Police Brutality
The Philando Castile case is arguably one of the most egregious examples of police misconduct on record.
As Castile was driving through Falcon Heights, MN, with his girlfriend and her daughter, he was pulled over by Officer Jeronimo Yanez. When the officer reached his car, Castile informed him that he had a legal firearm in the vehicle. Officer Yanez told him not to reach for his gun, and Castile agreed.
Castile then informed the officer that he was going to reach for his ID. Officer Yanez was not listening to this statement and when Castile went to grab his ID, he fired seven shots into the vehicle. Castile was killed in front of his girlfriend and her daughter.
For his role in one of the nation’s most famous police brutality cases, Officer Yanez was charged with manslaughter. He was later acquitted but was removed from his position as a law enforcement officer.
Officer Anthony Maldonado – Witness Tampering
When Officer Anthony Maldonado pulled over a driver in Maui, HI, he spotted a large amount of cash in their car and decided to steal it. When the driver reported the theft to the police department, Officer Maldonado attempted to convince him to drop the charges by offering a bribe.
For committing theft and attempting to tamper with a witness, Officer Maldonado was relieved of his duties as a law enforcement officer and sentenced to 24 months in prison.
The John Spencer Case – Fabricating Evidence
When discussing police negligence examples, it is impossible to ignore the John Spencer case.
Spencer was a suspect in a homicide case being investigated by the New York State Police. However, the officer in charge of the case – Craig D. Harvey – felt that they did not have enough evidence to prosecute him.
To rectify this, Harvey and another trooper decided to lift Spencer’s fingerprints from items he had touched while being booked. The pair then added the fingerprints to evidence cards which they later claimed to have pulled from the scene of the murder.
In 1993, Trooper Harvey pleaded guilty to fabricating evidence and was sentenced to 30-84 months in prison.
The Eric Garner Case – Police Brutality
The killing of Eric Garner is perhaps the most well-known of the police misconduct cases on this list.
When attempting to arrest Eric Garner for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes, NYPD officers tackled him to the ground. Officer Daniel Pantaleo then placed Garner in a chokehold – an illegal maneuver.
While being restrained, Garner repeatedly stated, “I can’t breathe.” Despite this, Officer Pantaleo did not release him from the chokehold and Garner died.
For his role in the death of Eric Garner, Officer Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD.
Officer Richard Pinheiro – Planted Evidence
In January 2017, Officer Richard Pinheiro investigated and subsequently arrested a Baltimore man on drug charges. The man spent several months in jail as a result of the arrest.
There was a problem, though. The evidence used in the case against the Baltimore man was planted by Officer Pinheiro. The incident was captured by the officer’s body cam.
For his actions, Officer Pinheiro was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence. He was not fired from the Baltimore Police Department.
The Rodney King Case – Police Brutality
No list of examples of police brutality would be complete without mentioning the Rodney King case.
In March of 1991, King was driving through Los Angeles with his friends, when Officers Tim and Melanie Singer of the California Highway Patrol attempted to pull him over for speeding. King had been drinking earlier in the night and refused to stop – fearing that a DUI conviction would violate his parole.
After an eight-mile chase, King was cornered by the CHP officers. Within a couple of minutes, Officers Koon, Powell, Briseno, Solano, and Wind of the LAPD arrived on the scene. The collection of law enforcement officials attempted to place King and his friends under arrest, but King resisted.
In response to King’s resistance, Officer Koon tasered him twice, causing King to fall to the ground. When King attempted to stand up and move toward Officer Powell, he was struck with a baton and sent to the ground once more. Officers Wind, Briseno, and Powell continued striking King with batons until they were able to handcuff him.
In total, King received 33 baton blows from the officers. He was also kicked seven times.
The LAPD officers involved in the incident were charged with assault and the use of excessive force. However, they were all acquitted at trial.
The Rachelle Jackson Case – False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution
When Rachelle Jackson saw a car accident involving two Chicago police officers, she bravely sprung into action. Putting her own life into danger, she ran toward the burning car and pulled one of the officers out.
While Jackson was assisting the injured individual, more CPD officers arrived on the scene. Instead of thanking Jackson for her help, they instead began to question her about stealing the injured officer’s weapon. They eventually arrested her.
Jackson was held in jail for 10 months awaiting trial. During that time, she was repeatedly threatened and pressured into signing a written statement.
When her case finally went in front of a judge, it was dismissed. Jackson subsequently sued the officers and the city of Chicago for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and coercive questioning and was awarded $7.7 million.