Clatskanie, Oregon Police Chief Marvin Hoover Resigns After Officers D. Alex Stone and Zack Gibson File Complaints of Racism.

Oregon Police Chief Resigns After Two Officers File Complaints of Racism

Officers say police chief Marvin Hoover responded to an arrestee’s accusations of police racism by dancing like a monkey and miming punching someone

Alan Yuhas in New York | @alanyuhas

Tuesday 8 September 2015 10.43 EDT

An Oregon police chief danced like a monkey and mimed punching someone to mock a black woman’s threat of a discrimination suit, according to complaints by two police officers about their now resigned boss.

The officers described how the Clatskanie police chief, Marvin Hoover, 56, responded to an arrestee’s accusations of police racism in an official complaint filed with the state department of public safety standards, first obtained by local station KOIN.

“As I began to inform Chief Hoover of the particulars of the incident,” officer D. Alex Stone wrote in the complaint, “I relayed several of the arrestee’s remarks such as, ‘When you look at me, my black skin and my nappy hair, all you see is an animal.’”

At this point, Stone continued, Hoover interrupted him “and said, ‘That’s what she is.’ Chief Hoover then began to act like a monkey. Chief Hoover placed his hands in his armpits and began scratching them.

“Chief Hoover also started making loud monkey sounds: Hooo … hooo … hooo …hahahaha … hooo … haaah.’ While Chief Hoover was scratching and chanting, he started to move around the room, in a dance or jumping fashion. While jumping and moving about the room Chief Hoover momentarily beat his chest like Tarzan.”

Another officer in the room, Zack Gibson, also wrote in the complaint that Hoover “started making sounds like a monkey and beating his chest while dancing around the floor pretending to be a monkey”.

As Gibson looked on “in disbelief”, Stone tried to continue his story, only for Hoover to fall to one knee and begin singing the song Dixie, long associated with blackface minstrel shows and nostalgia for the slave-holding Confederacy.

“I was in disbelief that the Chief of Police was acting in such a manner while an officer is concerned he may be accused of racism,” Gibson wrote.

As Hoover reached the chorus of “look away, look away, look away, Dixie land”, Gibson continued, the police chief “with his left hand acted like he had someone around the collar punching them with his right hand while looking around and singing the song”.

Finally, Stone wrote, Hoover “laughed and then left the room”.

A third officer, Sergeant Shaun McQuiddy, was also in the room, and “offered no guidance” to his colleagues when they said they wanted to make an official complaint. He told them “he would not lie” but warned Stone that “he didn’t believe anything would happen to Chief Hoover and that the City would make life hell for us for doing this”.

A request for records pertaining to Hoover’s alleged misconduct was denied because documents are “part of an active investigation” and exempt from disclosure, spokesperson Rebecca Hannon told the Guardian.

Chief of police since 2002, Hoover was placed on paid administrative leave on 5 August, about two weeks after the officers filed their complaint. He resigned in early September, after a law firm conducted an investigation into his conduct.

Stone, who is white, told KOIN that McQuiddy’s fears of retaliation were not unfounded. Since reporting the incident, “my wife’s been forced off the road twice”, he said. “I’ve had people in the community yelling the N-word at me.”

Clatskanie’s mayor, Diane Pohl, who worked with Hoover for more than eight years, described him in a letter to the local paper as “an honorable man and officer”.

In 2011 Hoover received the medal of valor from the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police as an award for his capture of a man accused of murdering the police chief of nearby Rainier.

Enjoy your retirement knowing we will miss you and wish you all the best,” Diane Pohl wrote, omitting any mention of the paid leave, investigation or complaint. “Just take it easy on the elk, bear and fish that you will have more time to pursue!


Baltimore to Pay Freddie Gray’s Family $6.4M in Wrongful Death Settlement. Gray died 12 April after suffering a spine injury while in police custody. Six police officers, including Lt. Brian Rice, still face criminal charges stemming from his death.

Baltimore to Pay Freddie Gray’s Family $6.4M in Wrongful Death Settlement

Gray died 12 April after suffering a spine injury while in police custody

Six police officers still face criminal charges stemming from his death

Jon Swaine in New York | @jonswaine

Tuesday 8 September 2015 11.27 EDT

The city of Baltimore has agreed to pay a $6.4m settlement to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody earlier this year sparked several nights of protests and rioting.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement on Tuesday she had proposed the payout in order to avoid “costly and protracted litigation” from the Gray family that she said “would only make it more difficult for our city to heal”.

“This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city,” said Rawlings-Blake.

The mayor stressed, however, that the settlement should not be seen as an admission of guilt by city authorities. Six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest in April are being criminally prosecuted over his death.

Attorneys for Gray’s family, who had been negotiating with city officials in advance of a potential civil lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the settlement. Rawlings-Blake said the settlement would “resolve all civil claims”.

Gray, who was 25, died on 19 April from a broken neck allegedly caused by a so-called “rough ride” without a seatbelt in the back of a police van following his arrest on 12 April. Gray was arrested after catching the eye of a patrolling officer and running away.

He was charged with the illegal possession of a knife that was found in his pocket. Prosecutors allege, however, that the arrest was illegal because the knife was in fact legal to carry.

Gray’s death was followed by the most serious civil unrest seen in the US since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August last year. Protesters in Baltimore clashed with police in riot gear and several buildings were burned.

The officer who was driving the police van, Caesar Goodson, has been charged with criminal counts as high as second-degree murder. Three other officers – lieutenant Brian Rice, sergeant Alicia White and officer William Porter – are charged with manslaughter. Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero are charged with assault.

All the officers have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.

A judge in Baltimore last week granted the six officers separate trials after their attorneys successfully argued that having them prosecuted in two groups, as state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby had proposed, was “not in the interest of justice”.

The judge rejected an attempt to have Mosby excluded from the case. Defense attorneys argued that remarks she made when announcing the criminal charges were prejudicial to a fair trial. They also unsuccessfully alleged that the fact her husband, a city councilman, represented an area affected by unrest, would make her biased.

Rawlings-Blake said in her statement that $2.8m of the settlement would be paid during this year and $3.6 million in 2016. The payout must be officially authorized on Wednesday by a panel of senior city officials that controls public spending.

Plaintiff, Bernard Perez, Wins $57,000 Settlement Over False Gravity Knife Arrest by the NYPD.

Plaintiff Wins $57,000 Settlement Over False Gravity Knife Arrest

By Jon Campbell

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 | 6 days ago

An electrician’s assistant arrested for possession of a “gravity knife” has reached a $57,000 settlement with the NYPD, after prosecutors admitted that the knife in question was not actually illegal.

Bernard Perez, 48, was arrested in September of 2014 after a traffic stop in East New York. After running his license, police claimed Perez had an active arrest warrant. It was only after he was hauled off to jail that police determined the warrant — which was twenty years old, according to Perez’s lawyer — belonged to another man. Unable to hold him on a faulty warrant, the officer named in the suit, Justin Delmonico, instead charged Perez with criminal possession of a weapon for the pocketknife Perez, an electrician, used for work.

The arrest is similar to the kind the Voice has been chronicling for nearly a year. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers over the past decade have been caught up in what many say is the unfair, racially disproportionate enforcement of a half-century-old state law that bans so-called gravity knives, or spring-activated knives that can open with a flick of the wrist. A Voice analysis of stop-and-frisk data showed that black and Hispanic suspects were nearly twice as likely to be arrested for carrying the knives as their white counterparts also caught with them. Despite pushback from the state judiciary, the public defender community, and Democratic lawmakers — and even a constitutional court challenge — the law remains unchanged.

The gravity knife statute makes it illegal to possess any knife that opens with the force of gravity or centrifugal force. As we detailed in a lengthy investigation last October, the definition is, in practice, quite subjective, as virtually any modern pocketknife can be made to open with a vigorous “wrist flick.” An officer with a little practice can therefore turn many legal knives into illegal weapons with a little effort. As Legal Aid Society attorney Hara Robrish explained to us last fall, “the police have become very adept at opening these knives.”

Perez insisted the knife he was carrying was not illegal, but still spent 48 hours in a jail cell. When the arresting officer was asked, at the insistence of Perez’s public defender, to demonstrate the knife’s ability to flick open, he was unable to do so. The Brooklyn district attorney prosecuting the case ultimately conceded that the knife was nothing more than a common utility knife, and dropped the case.

The NYPD consistently accounts for more settlement costs than any other municipal agency. Only days after Perez’s settlement was reached, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office released a tally of total settlement payouts by the city in 2014, which found settlements related to the NYPD at $216.9 million. That’s a dramatic increase from just one year earlier, when the figure was $138.1 million.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to reduce these settlement payouts. And according to Perez’s attorney, Joel Berger, the Law Department’s response to the suit indicates just how far the city will go to deny a claim, even in cases that involve obvious injustice.

“What we’ve been seeing for the past several years is that the city’s law department will say anything, just make up anything, to save the city a few bucks,” Berger says.

Even after Perez’s case was filed, and after the D.A. admitted that the knife Perez was carrying was not, in fact, a gravity knife, the department continued to argue that the arrest was proper. Acknowledging that the knife could not be “flicked open” when the case was being prosecuted — and was therefore not illegal — the city’s attorney in Perez’s civil case nonetheless maintained that it had been “flickable” when the arrest occurred. It had, in essence, become legal only after it was recovered and stored in an evidence locker.

Berger calls that argument “ridiculous.” “We’re talking about the physical properties of a physical object,” he said. To argue that the passage of time can somehow make an illegal knife legal seems a bit disingenuous, in his view. He also says this was the “worst example” he’d ever seen of the city’s refusal to compensate in reasonable cases.

Yet the notion that a knife’s legality might change over its lifespan is something numerous defense attorneys discussed with the Voice last year. A knife that isn’t flickable when it’s purchased can become so as the knife gets older — as wear and tear sets in and hinges loosen.

They say that puts New Yorkers who use knives at work, a contingent that includes many blue-collar workers, in the position of not knowing whether their knife becomes prohibited under law.

That uncertainly also figures into a constitutional challenge of the gravity knife statute that’s currently being litigated in Manhattan. The city argued in that case that the way to avoid arrest from, say, a loose hinge is to check and continuously recheck a knife’s “flickability.” In other cases, knives specifically designed to comply with laws like New York’s have still landed people in jail.

Ultimately, Berger says he was happy with the settlement agreement, but was disappointed that the Law Department pushed the case as far as it did; he believes the reticence to compensate people for bad police work can exacerbate tensions between the police and the community. And he thinks the gravity knife law is too subject to abuse.

“Most of the time they’re picking on working people; they’re honest, hardworking people who get caught up in this stuff. It’s just another form of harassment,” Berger says.

The Law Department declined to discuss the case in detail, saying in an emailed message only that “resolving the litigation was in the city’s best interest.”

Read Perez’s original complaint below.
Perez v. NYC – Gravity Knife Lawsuit

California Police Killings Database Reveals ‘Clear Racial Disparities’ – Black men have been killed at eight times the rate of others over past decade.

California Police Killings Database Reveals ‘Clear Racial Disparities’

Black men have been killed at eight times the rate of others over past decade

Initiative signals changing tides on disclosing data about use of deadly force

Ciara McCarthy and Nadja Popovich

Monday 7 September 2015 07.00 EDT

Black men have been killed by police in California at eight times the rate of other residents over the past decade, according to records released under the first in a series of new state initiatives to disclose data on the use of deadly force by law enforcement.

Statistics published by the California attorney general, Kamala Harris, stated that about 19% of almost 1,000 homicides by law enforcement recorded between 2005 and 2014 were against African American men, who made up only about 3% of the state’s population.

Harris said last week that “clear racial disparities” had emerged from the figures, which also showed African Americans were arrested and died in custody at disproportionately high rates.

“I’m deeply concerned with what the numbers show,” congresswoman Karen Bass said at a press conference, alongside Harris. “The disproportionality that the [attorney general] referred to is frightening.”

On Wednesday, Harris unveiled a new website containing what she called a “treasure trove of data” on interactions between police and the public. The Open Justice portal includes figures regarding arrest rates, deaths in custody and officers killed or assaulted. This year, several other states have taken action to release more information.

“Instead of designing systems based on some blind adherence to tradition, let’s apply metrics, let’s count what is happening,” Harris said. She later added: “The bottom line is, the people have a right to know what’s going on.”

Since 2005, police and law enforcement agencies in California have been required to submit to state authorities detailed reports about deaths in custody. But the information was made accessible and searchable for the first time last week.

“This is the first initiative of its kind across the US, to our knowledge,” said Kristin Ford, Harris’s press secretary.

California released its data as Texas also began to mandate the reporting of both fatal and non-fatal shootings by its own law enforcement agencies. A new state law went into effect on Tuesday, requiring local police departments to notify the Texas attorney general every time a law enforcement official injures or kills a civilian in a shooting.

State representative Eric Johnson collaborated with local law enforcement to create legislation focused on aggregating data, said Ana Rodriguez, Johnson’s deputy chief of staff.

“We really thought that if we wanted something to happen right now, states have to really take action to fill that data gap,” Rodriguez said.

The initiatives by America’s two most populous states represent the most significant moves by authorities to address the absence of a full national accounting of the use of deadly force by law enforcement.

At present the federal government does not publish a comprehensive record of people killed by police forces throughout the US. Instead, the FBI runs a voluntary program whereby law enforcement can choose to submit their count of “justifiable homicides” each year.

The lack of data has been sharply criticized by activist groups. President Barack Obama’s White House policing taskforce recommended that it be addressed.

The Guardian is publishing a project, The Counted, to document every person killed by law enforcement in 2015 and the details of how they died. The interactive database is collecting data such as the race and age of those killed, in addition to whether they were armed with a weapon.

In June, US senators Barbara Boxer and Cory Booker introduced legislation that would require states to report to the Justice Department every instance in which police use of force resulted in serious injury or death. The bill is currently in the committee stage.

Maryland and Colorado have passed laws this year requiring local departments to report police use of force. Maryland’s law tracks all fatalities at the hands of police, while Colorado’s monitors every time an officer shoots at a civilian.

These states join Maine, North Carolina and Oregon, which record every police killing. Minnesota police departments must report every time an officer shoots a gun, although the data is not available to the public.

According to California’s data, 984 homicides by law enforcement officers in the state were recorded between 2005 and 2014. A homicide by law enforcement staff was defined as “a death at the hands of a law enforcement officer”, including pre- and post-arrest killings.

Within this total, 196 or 19.9% of the people killed were black. According to the state, 5.8% of the population between 2005 and 2013 was black, giving African Americans a death rate – the percentage of homicides per percentage of population – of 3.4.

About 43.8% of people killed in police custody were Hispanic, a group that made up 37.1% of the state’s population during the last nine years, giving a death rate of 1.2.

White people were 30.2% of those killed by police and constituted 41.1% of California’s population, meaning a death rate of 0.7.

The figures mean black people were killed by law enforcement at almost five times the rate of white people and almost three times that of Hispanic people.

All but six of those black people killed were males, who made up 2.9% of the population between 2005 and 2013. The death rate for black males was 6.7 – eight times higher than the 0.8 rate recorded for homicides among everyone else.

Among men only, African Americans were killed at roughly twice the rate of Hispanics and more than four times the rate of white males.

Since 2005, the number of homicides by law enforcement officers has fluctuated. The deadliest years were 2012 and 2013, which recorded 136 and 132 deaths, respectively, according to the data.

Harris said the data also showed African Americans accounted for 17% of total arrests and 25% of all deaths in custody. She also said black boys were arrested at far higher rates than white boys.

Cost of Police-Misconduct Cases Soars in Big U.S. Cities – Data show rising payouts for police-misconduct settlements and court judgments.

Cost of Police-Misconduct Cases Soars in Big U.S. Cities

Data show rising payouts for police-misconduct settlements and court judgments

By Zusha Elinson and Dan Frosch

July 15, 2015 10:30 p.m. ET

The cost of resolving police-misconduct cases has surged for big U.S. cities in recent years, even before the current wave of scrutiny faced by law-enforcement over tactics.

The 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from $168.3 million in 2010, according to data gathered by The Wall Street Journal through public-records requests.

Those cities collectively paid out $1.02 billion over those five years in such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment. When claims related to car collisions, property damage and other police incidents are included, the total rose to more than $1.4 billion.

On Monday, New York City agreed to a $5.9 million settlement with the estate of Eric Garner, whose death after being put in a police chokehold last summer sparked widespread protests.

City officials and others say the large payouts stem not just from new cases, but from efforts to resolve decades-old police scandals. In 2013 and 2014, for example, Chicago paid more than $60 million in cases where people were wrongfully imprisoned decades ago because of alleged police misconduct.

For some cities, the data show that cases have gotten more expensive to resolve. Philadelphia police have faced criticism for numerous shootings in recent years. Last year, the city settled 10 shooting cases for an average of $536,500 each. In 2010, it settled eight for an average of $156,937. A city lawyer attributes the rise to a few large settlements, not a pattern of questionable shootings.

“The numbers are staggering, and they have huge consequences for taxpayers,” says Kami Chavis Simmons, a former assistant U.S. attorney who now directs the criminal-justice program at Wake Forest University School of Law. “Municipalities should take a hard look at the culture of police organizations and any structural reforms that might help alleviate the possibility of some of these huge civil suits.”

William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, which represents about 240,000 officers, says lawsuits and settlements aren’t necessarily an indication of problematic policing. “You could have Mother Teresa running a police department and you’re still going to have lawyers out there saying she’s not to be trusted and we’re going to sue,” he says.

For most of the police departments surveyed by the Journal, the costliest claims were allegations of civil-rights violations and other misconduct, followed by payouts on car collisions involving the police.

Misconduct cases were the costliest for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Baltimore. Car-crash cases were the most expensive for Houston, Phoenix and Miami-Dade, a county police department.

Video Effect

The data don’t indicate whether cities are settling such claims more quickly, but some recent cases suggest that might be happening, especially in cases involving video.

In April, less than two weeks after a news helicopter captured video of sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino County, Calif., kicking and beating Francis Pusok , the county reached a $650,000 settlement with him. Mr. Pusok had been trying to escape from the deputies on a horse he allegedly stole. He hadn’t filed a lawsuit at the time of the settlement and still faces charges.

“They wanted this to go away fast,” says Sharon Brunner, a lawyer for Mr. Pusok, who is fighting the charges. A spokesman for the county said the quick payout was made to avoid costly litigation.

Laquan McDonald was shot and killed by Chicago police last October after officers responded to reports of a man breaking into vehicles. A police account contained in the coroner’s report said the 17-year-old had lunged at the officers with a knife. Lawyers for his family say they obtained a video from a police dashboard camera that shows an officer shooting the teen 16 times as he walked away from the officer. In April, before his family filed a lawsuit, the city agreed to a $5 million settlement.

Michael Robbins, one of the family’s lawyers, says the video was “the factor” behind the city’s willingness to settle quickly, along with “what’s going on in the nation right now.”

Chicago Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton, who heads the city’s law department, characterized the $5 million payout as “comparable to other settlements in fatal shootings in which the evidence in support of liability weighed strongly in favor of the decedent.”

A lawyer for the officer who shot Mr. McDonald said his client was “protecting himself, his partners and others.”

Dallas paid out $3.4 million in misconduct cases in 2014, compared with just $200,550 in 2010. Chris Bowers, a lawyer for the city, said Dallas had moved more quickly to settle cases over the past two years “if we believed at the end of the day that the city will be liable.”

Dallas civil-rights lawyer Don Tittle says the increased availability of camera footage and shifting attitudes toward police are affecting cases.

“Up until recently, when it came to civil lawsuits, there were two groups that had a distinct advantage, where you had to knock them out to win. And that was doctors and cops,” he says. “But with the advent of video, and the changing perception of society, I don’t think police are held in the same regard.”

Last year, Mr. Tittle negotiated a $1.1 million settlement from the city in a case brought by Ronald Bernard Jones, who was arrested in 2009 on aggravated-assault charges after a confrontation with police officers. According to the lawsuit, camera footage didn’t back up police claims that Mr. Jones had attacked officers after they stopped him. Mr. Jones alleged he was beaten and falsely arrested. Charges against Mr. Jones eventually were dropped.

Mr. Bowers, the city lawyer, said the city council decided the settlement was in Dallas’s best interest. Neither the city nor the officers admitted liability.

Not all the departments surveyed showed an increase in misconduct payouts. Phoenix, Los Angeles and Baltimore, for example, showed declines. But insurers and lawyers who defend police say current scrutiny of law enforcement is broadly affecting the resolution of lawsuits.

“We’re there to protect our members,” says Joanne Rennie, general manager of Public Agency Risk Sharing Authority of California, a risk-sharing pool. “However, when there is such a level of attention to the—I’m hoping few and far between—bad actors, it makes it more difficult to pull a jury pool that’s willing to consider just the facts and not just the dramatic aspects.”

Robert Shannon, a former city lawyer who defended police in Long Beach, Calif., and Los Angeles, says that in the 1970s there was a public presumption “that the police officer was correct in what he was doing.” Now, he says, “things have changed substantially.” Cases like the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Mr. Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., he says, could influence juries.

Taxpayers foot the bill for settlements one way or another. Cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia are self-insured, meaning any payouts come out of city funds. Others have insurance that kicks in at a certain payment level in each case. Smaller municipalities often pool risk with others, but the cost of premiums can increase after incidents occur, much like car insurance. It is almost unheard of that officers pay out of their own pockets, according to a 2014 study on police liability by Joanna Schwartz, a UCLA law professor.

Old Cases

Cities are cutting more checks to people who were wrongfully imprisoned years ago because of police misconduct. As more wrongful convictions come to light, jury verdicts have risen, with some now exceeding $2 million a year behind bars.

New York City agreed last year to pay $41 million to five black and Hispanic men imprisoned for the 1989 beating and rape of a jogger in Central Park, then freed after another man confessed and DNA evidence confirmed his story. City lawyers under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had fought a lawsuit brought by the five men, which alleged that detectives coerced confessions from them as teens. Under current Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city agreed to a settlement equal to about $1 million for each year each man spent behind bars.

New York City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said the settlement “should not be construed as an acknowledgment that the convictions of these five plaintiffs were the result of law-enforcement misconduct.”

Chicago has been trying to resolve cases stemming from allegations that detectives, led by former commander Jon Burge, tortured black and Hispanic suspects with implements like electric cattle prods, coercing confessions from them and putting them behind bars from the 1970s to early 1990s for crimes they didn’t commit. Those cases have cost the city more than $60 million in payouts. In May, Chicago launched a $5.5 million reparations fund for some of the victims.

A Chicago police spokesman called Mr. Burge’s actions a “disgrace.” Mr. Burge was convicted of federal perjury and obstruction charges in 2010. Mr. Burge, who has been released from prison, declined to comment.

In New York, settlements and judgments in misconduct cases hit $165 million in fiscal 2014, up from $93.8 million in 2010. Both New York and Los Angeles, which paid out $10.7 million on such cases last year, now are tracking claims more closely and trying new approaches to risk management.

New York City’s government-run hospitals were for years the city’s leading source of liability payouts, primarily because of medical-malpractice settlements. But beginning in the 2010 fiscal year, the police department surpassed the city hospitals in total liability payouts.

The trend caught the attention of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who launched a program to track legal claims called ClaimStat. “Instead of accepting rising claims and settlements as the cost of doing business,” Mr. Stringer says, the city can use the data to identify underlying problems and make changes to prevent future suits.

The number of new claims filed against New York City police, including allegations of police misconduct and damage from car crashes, rose 71% between 2004 and 2013, according to the comptroller.

“While the filing of a lawsuit does not prove any misconduct on the part of an officer, the department is aware of the increasing number of actions filed against the NYPD,” a spokeswoman said, adding that the department is “addressing these very real concerns” with the creation of a risk-management bureau and police litigation unit.

The settlement with Mr. Garner’s estate came nearly a year after his confrontation with officers who accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes—a scene captured in a widely viewed video. Mr. Stringer said the settlement “acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death while balancing my office’s fiscal responsibility to the city.”

The impact on smaller cities can be more dramatic. According to Ms. Schwartz’s study, which tabulated civil-rights payouts in 44 large police and sheriff departments from 2006 through 2011, Albuquerque paid out the most per officer—more than $2,000 a year over that time.

The city of about 550,000 has had a high number of fatal police shootings and has spent more than $25 million on civil-rights and police-misconduct settlements over the past five years, with annual payouts nearly quadrupling over that period. Earlier this month, Albuquerque officials reached a $5 million settlement with the family of James Boyd, a mentally unstable homeless man who was shot by police in 2014 in an incident captured on video.

Last October, the city agreed to change how its officers use force in a settlement it reached with the Justice Department, which said it found a widespread pattern of excessive and sometimes lethal force by officers.

Albuquerque officials say the city has been bracing for more settlements and has had to allocate funding it could have spent on raises for employees, parks and other municipal projects to cover the payouts in police cases.

“Any time you are putting more money into a risk-management fund, you are taking away money from somewhere else,” said city councilor Ken Sanchez. “Having to put more money into that fund to pay for the lawsuits has really been challenging.”

Write to Zusha Elinson at and Dan Frosch at

Lawyers are Finding Rewarding Work in Police Brutality Cases, and also Money – Cash with a Conscience, by by Daniel Rivero.

Lawyers are Finding Rewarding Work in Police Brutality Cases, and also Money

Cash with a Conscience

by Daniel Rivero

September 01, 2015 7 a.m.

About two and a half years ago, Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci took note of a pattern in the news: national media outlets seemed to be covering more cases of alleged police misconduct.

It was 2013, and the cases were as shocking as they are today. A Miami teenager was killed by a Taser after police found him tagging an abandoned McDonald’s building. Three high school teens in Rochester, NY were arrested on a street corner for “obstruction” of a sidewalk while they waited for a school bus to take them to a basketball game. A man was given multiple enemas and forced to undergo a colonoscopy in a hospital after refusing to allow police to search his anus for drugs during a routine traffic stop. No drugs were ever found.

“So I thought: ‘Why not put together a group of lawyers who practice in this area?’” said Romanucci, who had long worked on police misconduct cases. “We can network and collaborate and strengthen the cases that we have against the municipalities and police departments where the police misconduct occurs.”

Shortly after, he founded a working group within the National Bar Association, the nation’s largest association of mostly black lawyers and judges, with a focus on police misconduct cases. The group will celebrate its second anniversary this month, at a time when more lawyers are being drawn to a field where there’s justice to be served, money to be made, and unfortunately, plenty of work.

“We have probably close to 80 members already, and that number keeps growing,” said Romanucci. “I actually have five applications to join us sitting on my desk right now.”

The Numbers Add Up

As far as business decisions go, the numbers were ripe for lawyers to start paying more attention to the field. Over the last ten years, Chicago has paid out over half a billion dollars in police misconduct settlements. New York City almost matched that amount between 2009 and 2014 alone. As a whole, the ten cities with the largest police departments paid out a total of $1.02 billion in police-misconduct cases over the last five years, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.

“That’s $300 million in legal fees. And the police are feeding you new cases every day,” an attorney speaking at the National Bar Association’s annual conference told attendees in July, citing similar settlement numbers. “So it’s a great avenue to make money.”

Potential windfalls vary. In Maryland, for example, there’s a $200,000 cap on the money a municipality can pay out in these cases, barring certain exceptions. As a result, even though “over 100” people have won police-misconduct cases against the Baltimore police department over the last few years, the Baltimore Sun reported that only $5.7 million had been paid out to the victims of those cases.

In contrast, New York City reached a $5.9 million settlement with the the estate of Eric Garner in July, totaling more than all the Baltimore cases combined between 2011 and late 2014. In Chicago earlier this year, the city agreed to a $5 million settlement for the death of LaQuan McDonald, a teenager who died after being shot by an officer a total of 16 times. In Los Angeles, the city recently paid a $5 million settlement to the family of a veteran who was shot and killed by an officer on live television, following a car chase.

It Helps If There’s a Video, and That’s Happening More Often

All of the specific incidents mentioned above were caught on video — a factor that contributes to more lawyers looking at police-involved cases, Romanucci said.

“Those videos then get turned over to the media, which then publicizes them,” he said. “So as a result, with video evidence you have a much bigger chance at either proving or disproving a case of police misconduct.”

It also means attorneys are increasingly able to “weed out the bad cases” and spend more time with the ones that legitimately deserve justice.

The rise in civilian recordings of police interactions “will cause many more cases to settle earlier,” he said, but it will also “disprove many people’s cases when they come in and say they were a victim of something, and the video doesn’t line up with their story.”

Video footage, like in the case of Sam DuBose, can help strengthen cases, Romanucci said.

Yet even with video evidence, which might make a case look cut and dry to the casual observer, the cases are not slam dunks. They still take a lot of work, Romanucci stressed, adding that some of the personal injury attorneys entering into the field aren’t used to the heavy casework of civil rights law.

“I’ve taken as many as 60 depositions for one case — you’re talking about 60 separate interviews,” he said.

“It’s a more specialized field than just your normal personal injury law, because you’re dealing with violations to the constitution, and these cases tend to be in federal court,” Dallas-area attorney Daryl Washington, who also specializes in police misconduct cases, told Fusion. “They’re very detailed cases.”

An additional burden in bringing these cases to court, Washington added, was the close relationship that many district attorneys have with the police departments they are sometimes charged with investigating. “Think about it: In the vast majority of cases, the district attorney’s primary witness is a police officer,” he said. “It would truly help out the process if you had an independent investigator and a special prosecutor to handle these cases.”

Even Lawyers Want to Do the Right Thing

Lawyers aren’t the only ones calling for states to appoint special prosecutors in cases where police have been involved in the death of a civilian. Activists have done so, too. In July, thanks in part to those demands, New York became the first state to do appoint one.

Doing good attracts many people into the field, group founder Romanucci said, as well the potential for a good payday at the end of a successful case. Many of these cases’ lawyers’ fees are paid by the municipalities after a victory, he clarified, and many of them are also based on the contingency method, where an attorney is paid by the funds received only if the money is won.

“The profession is reacting very, very cautiously to the growing attention [to cases of police misconduct], but also with a very open eye,” he said.

“Because at the end of the day if you’re doing this work, you want to do the right thing, and you want to help make our laws a little better,” he said.

And the money doesn’t hurt, either.

Police Chief Marvin Hoover, ‘Compared Black People To Monkeys’, After Racism Complaint.

Police Chief ‘Compared Black People To Monkeys’ After Racism Complaint

A police chief has resigned after reports stated that he compared black people to monkeys following the arrest of black woman.

Police Chief Marvin Hoover is said to have imitated a monkey when officers told him that the woman they arrested had threatened to sue them for discrimination.

An official report into the incident alleges that Hoover “beat his chest like Tarzan” after describing the woman as “an animal”.

The officers in Clatskanie, Oregon, filed a complaint that has resulted in Hoover, 56, resigning from his post.

Officer Dustin Stone said in his complaint, that was seen by U.S. station KOIN 6: “I relayed several of the arrestee’s remarks such as, ‘When you look at me, my black and my nappy hair, all you see is animal.’

“Chief Hoover interrupted me and said, ‘That’s what she is.’”

Hoover then apparently began acting like a monkey, placing his hands under his armpits and scratching them and making monkey noises, according to Officer Stone.

He added: “As Chief Hoover was comparing African-Americans to monkeys, I began to become extremely uncomfortable.

“I have never been in a work environment where a manager, especially an executive officer, is openly racist.”

After being placed on paid leave at the end of August, Hoover has now resigned – and Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl paid tribute to him in a public letter.

She wrote: “Thanks Chief Hoover for a job well done.

“You have this community’s gratitude, gratefulness and appreciation.

“Enjoy your retirement knowing we will miss you and wish you all the best.”

Officer Stone has since said that he and his wife have been harassed by residents since filing the report.

He told KOIN: “I’ve already faced a lot of retaliation, my wife’s been forced off the road twice.

“I’ve had people in the community yelling the N-word at me.”

My Doctor is a Crook, by Bill McColl, in Yahoo Finance.

My Doctor is a Crook

Yahoo Finance | By Bill McColl

September 4, 2015 9:53 AM

It seemed like an odd comment during a medical exam.

“I’m sorry, I have to take this call.”

Our doctor, Eugene DeSimone, was doing a routine checkup of my wife last summer at Hudson Primary Care in Secaucus, N.J., when his cellphone rang. But instead of ignoring it, he left the examining room to talk.

A few minutes later he returned, again apologizing, and finished the exam.

Later, my wife pointed out that wasn’t the first time the doctor was interrupted recently. She also noticed him looking at text messages during her visits. He seemed distracted. We soon learned why.

On Sept. 25, we were reading our local paper, The Record of Hackensack, when my wife said, “Uh-oh,” and showed me an article. It read:

“Two doctors with practices in Hawthorne and Secaucus admitted accepting bribes in exchange for test referrals as part of a scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. Douglas Bienstock, 48, of Wayne, who practiced in Hawthorne and Eugene DeSimone, 60, of Eatontown, who practices in Secaucus, admitted to accepting bribes as part of a ‘long-running and elaborate scheme’ operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, its president and numerous associates.”

Our doctor was a crook.

Huge insurance fraud scheme

After getting over the initial shock, I began doing some research on the case. It turned out Dr. DeSimone was part of an elaborate insurance fraud scheme that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark says led to the arrest of 38 people, including 26 doctors. Officials say the scam involved millions of dollars in bribes that doctors got to refer laboratory tests to BLS, which brought in more than $100 million in Medicare and insurance payments to the lab. The primary owner and president of BLS, David Nicoll, along with several others connected with the firm, had earlier pleaded guilty in federal court for their roles in the scheme. Now my doctor was caught in the net.

Fishman charged DeSimone with receiving $1,500 a month in cash each month for two-and-a-half years from BLS to funnel blood specimens to the lab. The prosecutor added that BLS made $980,000 from those referrals.

The hammer came down on DeSimone on May 5, when Newark Federal District Court Judge Stanley Chesler sentenced him to 37 months in prison, with an additional year of supervised release. He was also fined $5,000 and had to pay $260,500 in restitution.

Nothing to raise suspicions

It all seemed hard to believe our doctor was involved in this kind of fraud. There were no obvious signs he was spending his new-found money on bling or other toys typical of the rich and famous. According to tax records, he and his wife owned their five-bedroom, three-bath, 3,563-square-foot home in Eatontown, N.J., since 1988. Zillow appraised it at $669,000 — hardly a mansion. But the DeSimones will apparently own it no longer. It went on the market in July for $769,900 and was under contract a few weeks later.

Patients surprised

Along with us, other patients of DeSimone were also left scratching their heads over what happened.

“This all came as a complete surprise to me,” says Dave DeFerrari. “I had been going to Dr. DeSimone for years as he was my parents’ and grandparents’ doctor.  I thought Dr. DeSimone was a very good doctor.  Part of a good practice, he was professional, insightful and caring. He was accurate in his evaluations and always gave good advice. It’s a shame.”

But like my wife, another former patient who wishes to remain anonymous saw a difference with DeSimone as he was dealing with his legal issues. “Once this all started, I noticed a change in him,” according to the patient. “He was distracted and not himself, which is understandable.  Before that though, nothing seemed amiss and I never suspected any illegal activity.”

And like DeFerrari, this patient finds the whole affair disappointing. “It’s too bad, because he was a good and respected doctor.”

There was at least one indication things were amiss. In our visits to the office after he confessed, we noticed a sign on the desk informing patients DeSimone no longer accepted Medicare. The federal government’s health program apparently had already cut him off.

In practice more than 30 years

According to doctor referral websites, DeSimone received his medical degree from Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico in 1981, and did his residency in New Jersey. I first met him back in the early 1990s when I began going to Hudson Primary Care, where he was a partner.

Now, instead of treating patients at his old office, DeSimone will be spending the next three years with about 4,600 other inmates at the low-security federal correctional institution in Fort Dix, N.J. His sentence was scheduled to begin Aug. 1.

In the prison handbook, the warden provides a hint about those with whom he is living…and how he should behave.

“The population at FCI Fort Dix is culturally, geographically, and racially diverse. When people are living together in this type of setting, it becomes necessary to establish rules which preserve the rights and safety of everyone, maintain a clean environment, and enforce regulations for the well-being of all. Having respect for those around you, as well as for yourself, will help to maintain amicable relations and a tranquil environment…Your cooperation in making your stay at FCI Fort Dix a peaceful and productive experience is appreciated.”

Easy money?

So why did DeSimone do it?

James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a non-profit alliance of consumer groups, insurers and government agencies, says his group finds doctors who take part in this type of fraud simply believe they won’t get caught.

“Doctors feel a sense of empowerment that allows them to get away with it,” he says. “They think it’s an easy way to make money.”

Quiggle adds that the easy money aspect is what oftentimes allows the fraudsters to get caught. “They start getting greedy and sloppy. That starts the downfall of their scheme.”

Plus, Quiggle notes the government has really ratcheted up its enforcement efforts against insurance cheats in recent years. “Insurance programs for years underestimated many of the scammers, now they’re beginning to catch up,” he notes. “The heat is on more than it has been in decades.”

That was brought to light in a report by the Health and Human Services Department in March, which said the government’s increased pursuit of cheats recovered $3.3 billion from individuals and companies that attempted to defraud federal health programs last year.  Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell noted that nailing the crooks is a top priority of her department, and officials are using new and more sophisticated tools to get the job done. In June Burwell and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the arrest of 243 people charged with a $712 million false billing scheme, the largest sting since the creation of a special strike force aimed at stamping out medical fraud.

In addition — and unlucky for DeSimone — judges now are taking these cases more seriously, handing down harsher sentences to send a message that healthcare fraud comes with significant risks.

Along with being sentenced and fined, the state of New Jersey revoked DeSimone’s medical license.

When reached by Yahoo Finance, DeSimone’s attorney declined comment, and our other attempts to talk with him were unsuccessful. So while we can speculate, we really don’t know what motivated a successful physician to risk his career and freedom for a $1,500-a-month payout.

And I need a new doctor.

By the Numbers: How Many Cops Are There In the USA?

By the Numbers: How Many Cops Are There In the USA?

One question that has been confounding throughout my research on the relative dangers of police work is, quite simply, how many police are there in the United States? 

Like many of the issues raised by this series, this is not as simple as you might think, and it’s proven surprisingly hard to answer.

First, you need to define what counts as “law enforcement personnel.” Do we count everyone employed by law enforcement agencies? Or only patrol officers? Or officers, deputies, detectives, and supervisors? Or only “sworn” personnel? Do we count part-time or full-time? Are there confounding variables (like officers who work for multiple agencies)?

Then you need to decide if you’re looking at state, or local, or both, or federal, or all of the above. Then you need to decide which organization’s numbers you’re going to use — BLS? NLEOMF? FBI? BJS? — and trust. All of these organizations report conflicting numbers. What’s their methodology? What’s the margin of error? And how old are the numbers?

Headaches multiply. Simplicity is needed. Here’s the four sources I looked at when trying to establish the number of cops in the US.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

In my previous posts, I used the NLEOMF figure of “more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States…the highest figure ever.” I did this for several reasons.

  1. It was the most recent estimate that I could find, and it is the most widely cited.
  2. NLEOMF is dedicated full time to looking at these questions and is in touch with most law enforcement agencies in the country. “The Fund maintains the largest, most comprehensive database of line-of-duty officer deaths, which serves as a national information clearinghouse on the topic” (NLEOMF, via DOJ). If anyone would know, presumably, they would.
  3. It was consistent. I used the Fund’s data for officer fatalities, so I should use their data for officers, when possible, to keep definitions and data comparable.
  4. It was a conservative figure. I calculated my 2013 fatality rate per 100,000 officers using the estimate of 900,000 officers. Since NLEOMF estimated the true figure was actually more than 900,000, my rates would, if anything, overstate how high fatality rates were.
  5. Finally, the Fund counts only “sworn officers,” meaning personnel with general arrest powers, such as patrol officers, deputies, and detectives. This is the most useful and relevant category when we talk about police potentially in harm’s way.

But it is not the only figure available. (Note: I have asked the Fund to provide me more detailed numbers and methodology, but they have not responded. I will update this section if and when they do.)

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why didn’t I use BLS data for law enforcement deaths? After all, BLS maintains the largest general database of work injury and fatality rates for different professions.

The reason, bluntly, is that their data for law enforcement is a goddamn mess. I painstakingly compiled this chart from individual PDF files (for god’s sake!) for each year’s survey from the BLS website:

First, BLS relies on polling data that has an unacceptably high margin of error (for any given profession) if we want to explore trends or closely compare rates year to year. For instance, in 1997, BLS estimated a fatality rate for law enforcement of 14.0 per 100,000, +/- 3.4 per 100,000. This is a margin of error of 25%. It might be the best BLS could do given its resources, but it’s useless for our purposes. (They also stopped listing the relative standard error for their results in 2002.)

The next problem is that their law enforcement category definition changed in 2003, from “police and detectives, including supervisors” (whatever exactly that may mean), with an estimated 1.1 million workers, to “police and sheriff’s patrol officers” with estimates in the 600,000 range. Fatality rates jumped accordingly.

Then in 2008, BLS stopped offering employment-based estimates (that is, fatalities per 100,000 workers) and started using hour-based estimates (fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, equivalent to 2,000 hours/year per FTEW). In most cases, this is a methodological improvement, but coming in the middle of the data set, it makes it even harder to compare rates over time.

Trying to establish trends from this data is a fool’s errand.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports includes an annual report on law enforcement officers assaulted or killed, as well as rates of assault and injury. This data is very useful, but it has some key limitations.

The data on unlawful killings of police is virtually complete — almost all homicides of any kind are reported to the FBI — but the data set on assaults and injuries is not.

Police departments can voluntarily submit reports to the FBI on the number of assaults and injuries suffered by their personnel, as well as the number of officers in their organization. But not all in fact do so. The result is that the absolute or raw number of assaults can vary greatly from year to year simply because of the number of law enforcement agencies that participate in the survey also varies.

Fortunately, the FBI also collects information about the total population policed by the departments that reported, as well as information about the total number of officers employed by the surveyed organizations. As a result, you can get reliable and comparable yearly estimates of the rates of assault and injury, based on both the number of assaults per 100,000 residents, or the percent of officers assaulted.

Typically, the FBI figures for assaults on law enforcement include about 8,000-11,000 out of the 16,000-18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the US. The agencies generally cover between 70-80% of the US population, and, in the last 15 years for which data is available, included as many as 535,000 officers and as few as 441,000.

Their criteria and methodology for which officers to include is also clear and consistent:

  • They were working in an official capacity, whether on or off duty.
  • They had full arrest powers.
  • They ordinarily wore/carried a badge and a firearm.
  • They were paid from governmental funds set aside specifically for payment of sworn law enforcement representatives.
  • Their agency reported data for all 12 months of the calendar year.

This is a more than representative sample for getting annual rates per capita and rates per officer for assault and injury, and we’re lucky to have such a robust data set.

That being said, there are a few issues to note. First, at least potentially, there may be selection bias. If your agency is large, dependent on federal funding, or has high rates of assault and injury, you are probably more likely to take the time to fill out and submit this paperwork.

Most departments do, but between one third and one half do not. This could be for many different reasons, but if you are a small or understaffed agency — half of all police agencies in 2008 had fewer than 10 full-time staff — serving a relatively peaceful rural area, for instance, and had commensurately few assaults or injuries, you might not take the time. This could skew the rates upwards, as the agencies with the lowest rates of assault select themselves out of the pool.

But that is not pertinent to the question of how many police there are. The answer here is simply that the data is too incomplete. A third or more of police agencies do not report and are not counted, so FBI doesn’t have a full account of personnel employed, and we can’t extrapolate from the existing data because of potential selection issues raised above.

Bureau of Justice Statistics

The BJS is probably the best government data I’ve been able to find, but it is also quite limited. The last estimates they have come from 2008. (A law enforcement census for 2012 has been commissioned to NORC, but does not appear to have been completed yet.)

BJS estimates that in 2008, there were 17,895 law enforcement agencies employing 1.13 million full-time workers, including over 765,000 sworn officers, as well as about 100,000 part-time employees, including over 44,000 sworn officers. That gives a total of full- and part-time employees with general arrest powers of about 810,000 in 2008.

From 2004 to 2008, the number of law enforcement personnel increased 5.3 percent, and the number of sworn officers increased by about 4.6 percent. This rate was larger than the 3.4 percent increase in sworn officers that occurred in the last four year period, from 2000 to 2004. There are not only more officers than previously, the rate of increase was (and perhaps is still) accelerating.

Moreover, the number of cops per capita is also increasing. Another BJS report estimates that the number of sworn officers increased 25 percent between 1992 and 2008. Over the same time, the US population as a whole only grew by 18.5 percent.

Most of the increase in sworn officers per capita happened between 1992 and 1996, when the number of sworn personnel jumped 9.1 percent, but the number of civilian employees per capita has grown steadily and continuously. The number of total police personnel per capita rose from 332 per 100,000 residents in 1992 to 373 per 100,000 in 2008.

Additionally, these figures, including the rate of increase and rate of acceleration, make the current NLEOMF estimate of “over 900,000 sworn officers” seem quite plausible, if a bit high, assuming an average of 45,000 part-time sworn officers as in previous years.

The Bottom Line

In yet another way, the numbers show that police work is getting safer, not more dangerous. There are more officers and support staff than ever, and they are safer than ever, in every way we can measure.

While the absolute number of officer fatalities is decreasing, the absolute number of officers is increasing. While the rate of fatalities per capita is falling, the rate of police per capita is rising. Thus, the rate of fatalities per officer is very likely also falling.

BJS only conducts its law enforcement census every four years, so we are obliged to take an annual average of the change between each data point in order to get a figure for the intervening years. Interpolating the number of police officers for the missing years in this way, and using fatality data from NLEOMF and homicide data from FBI, gives us approximate fatality and homicide rates per 100,000 full-time equivalent sworn officers. (BJS calculates the total number of “full-time equivalent sworn officers” as “as the sum of the number of full-time sworn officers and half the number of part-time sworn officers.”)

Again, the trends all point the same way: down. Whether we look at fatalities per 100,000 residents being policed or per 100,000 sworn officers, or whether we look at felony killings per 100,000 residents or sworn officers, it tells the same story at every level: police work is getting safer.

Corrections and Errata

One potential issue this new data might raise with my previous posts is that my estimated rate of officer fatalities for 2013 may be either too high or too low.

The underestimation may come from the fact that I used a lower bound (900,000 sworn officers) when the true figure, according to NLEOMF, is “more than” that. If it is a lot more than that, it could substantially affect my estimate.

The underestimation could come from the fact that NLEOMF’s count of “sworn officers” might include part-time officers. Of course, BLS also used employment-based methodology for worker fatality rates, up until 2007, so there’s nothing wrong with this method per se. However, since then, BLS switched to the more useful hour-based “full-time equivalent workers.” The fatality rates for other professions, such as logging and fishing, against which I contrasted with my estimated fatality rate for police, used the modern method of FTEW. In order to make a more accurate comparison, one must use hour-based, not employment based, data.

If and when NLEOMF responds to my request and provides me with the more accurate data, I will re-check my numbers and make updates accordingly. Please do email me if you spot any errors or have any questions.

Scott Walker Couldn’t be More Wrong About the Threat to Police Officers, by Radley Balko, in the Washington Post.

Scott Walker Couldn’t be More Wrong About the Threat to Police Officers

By Radley Balko

September 3, 2015

Over at the Hot Air blog, Wisconsin governor and GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker put up a post about the killing of police officers. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the last week, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of police officers being murdered on the job. Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth was killed Friday, gunned down while pumping gas for no apparent reason other than the uniform on his back. And just yesterday, in my neighboring state of Illinois, police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was assassinated by three men, who are still on the run.

This isn’t the America I grew up in or that I want my children to grow up in. When the very people responsible for keeping us safe are targeted because they are law enforcement officials, we have a serious problem.

In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat. This kind of attitude has created a culture in which we all too often see demonstrations and chants where people describe police as “pigs” and call for them to be “fried like bacon.” This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line for us and hampers their ability to serve the communities that need their help.

Walker is right in one sense. The America in which police officers work today is quite a bit different from America when Scott Walker was growing up. But it’s different in that it’s much safer to be a cop today.

Walker was born in 1967. In a blog post a few months ago, my former intern Dan Wang looked at the fatality and homicide figures for police going back to the 1960s. Here are a few notable numbers he found:

  • “More officers were feloniously killed in the 11 years between 1970 and 1980 (1228 deaths) than in the 21 years between 1993 and 2013 (1182 deaths).” Walker would have been 3 in 1970 and 13 in 1980.
  • Between 1971 and 1975, when Walker would have been between age 4 and 8, an average of 125 police officers were feloniously killed per year. Between 2006 and 2010, the average was 50. In 2013, just 27 officers were feloniously killed. In 2014, it was 51. So far this year, the number of cops killed with firearms is down 16 percent from last year. Two of those officers were killed by other cops.
  • If you look at the rate at which cops are killed, the numbers are even more dramatic. There are quite a bit more police officers today than there were in the 1970s. So in 1975, for example, when Walker was 8, there were about 411,000 cops on the street, and 129 police officers were feloniously killed. That’s a rate of 31.38 murders per 100,000 officers. In 2013, the rate was about 5. Last year it was higher at 9.4, but that still means the rate was about 3.5 times higher than when Walker was growing up.*
  • To put those rates into perspective, consider the death rate for fishermen, the most dangerous job in America: 131 deaths per 100,000. Even if you factor in traffic fatalities and other accidents, policing isn’t among the 10 most dangerous jobs in America. Another way to look at these figures: The murder rate for police officers is about the same of the overall murder rate in cities such as Bakersfield, Calif.; Louisville; and Omaha.

The rate of assaults on police officers has been falling, too. So you can’t argue that cops are safer solely because they’re killing more criminals, or because they have better equipment (though there’s evidence that the latter has helped). People are just less likely to attack police today than they’ve been in the past. And that’s despite the increased public scrutiny. U.S. News & World Report just looked at how many of the 26 police officers feloniously killed this year were targeted specifically because they were cops. That figure is four — six if you look at the previous 12 months, which would include the ambush of two New York City officers last December. That’s six too many, but six deaths (four total incidents) out of 550,000 to 1.1 million cops in America (see the note below for an explanation of why this figure is a range), in a country of 320 million people, is a very small number. It’s certainly too small to claim a pattern or trend.

So far this year, The Washington Post has counted 666 people shot dead by U.S. police. The Guardian counts 786 people killed by police by any means. In August alone, the Guardian found that U.S. police killed 104 people, a figure four times higher than the number of cops who have been shot all year. Of course, many or most of those killed by police this year may have been justified killings. But of the 104 killed in August, 13 were unarmed. Because this is the first year that organizations have launched projects to collect these figures, we can’t say if the numbers are going up or down. But according to the FBI’s (admittedly flawed, almost certainly low) data, last year was the worst for killings by cops in 20 years.

Of course, the cold-blooded murder of Deputy Goforth is a terrible tragedy. And Walker is certainly correct that there is more scrutiny of policing today, particularly over the past year or two, than there has been in the past. The Obama administration has also been more aggressive about investigating police departments that have shown a pattern of abuse than the George W. Bush administration was. But Walker is simply wrong when he tries to use Goforth’s death to say that more oversight and scrutiny of cops have made the job more dangerous. There’s just no evidence of that. All the available evidence suggests precisely the opposite.

Moreover, you’d think that someone who professes to believe in limited government would welcome more oversight of a government institution. (And to be fair, Walker should get credit for signing a bill that requires police shootings to be investigated by an independent authority.) Yet for some reason, Republicans and conservatives from Donald Trump to Ted Cruz to Walker to Mike Huckabee think the government entity that has the power to detain, arrest and kill should get the least scrutiny of all. They’re, of course, free to argue that position. But they don’t get to make false claims to support it.

(*Note that rates can vary depending on your definition of “police officer” and other variables. See a good discussion of that here. But for these figures, Wang consistently used data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, which put the current total number of law enforcement personnel at about 540,000. Estimates from other agencies put the total as high as 1.1 million. But that would make the rate of killings even lower. For our purposes, the point is that the raw number of cops murdered on the job is in a general decline, even as the number of cops on the street has gone up.)