*What do current, retired, fired and former officers Michael Slager (SC) ; Tim Loehmann (OH), Darren Wilson (Mo), Michael Rapiejko, (Az); Anthony Pantaleo (NY) and Gregory Kwiatkowski all have in common? Each of these officers were involved in excessive uses of force; some of which resulted in million dollar civil settlements before they became involved in a serious bodily injury or deadly force incidents. Each lived to offend again.
Some of these errant officers have ended up costing tax payers thousands – and in some cases millions in civil litigation. And amazingly enough, a few of these rogue cops continue to work as a police officers on other police departments. How does this happen? Bad cops are sometimes allowed to resign in lieu of termination (or retire) and then they simply move on to another police department.
How and why would a police department knowingly accept for hire a police officer who has demonstrated a proclivity toward aggressive behavior, potential emotional/mental instability and a wanton disregard for adhering to organizational policy and procedure.
Recently, the North Charleston Police Chief, upon review of a cellphone recording obtained by a citizen, acted appropriately by firing and charging ( the former officer) Slager with murder- in the death of Walter Scott. However, this had not been Slager’s first mis-step. We now know that, allegedly, prior to Scott, Slager unnecessarily tasered and arrested two other black men; Mario Givens and Julius Garnett Wilson.
Then we have the jaw dropping, police car dash-cam video of Marana, Arizona Officer Michael Rapiejko who decided to use his police vehicle as a battering ram against Mario Valencia.
Prior to being hired by Marana, Rapiejko had worked as an officer on the New York Police Department for approximately three years. There Rapiejko had been the subject of a $20k civil suit which the city settled. Documents reported that Rapiejko allegedly threatened to shoot, handcuffed and then choked a man. Rapiejko “left” NYPD. In 2008, Rapiejko joined the Tuscon Police Department; he “left” Tuscon for reasons unknown. Rapiejko has been a Marana officer for a year-and- a- half.
Who moves around like that? Police officers don’t typically change departments like NBA players change teams. Officers who hop around like that are usually running from bad behavior. And if that is even remotely plausible, why aren’t these police departments doing a more thorough background check before their hire an individual with record of instability in their employment?
On Wednesday, Inkster Police Department quietly fired Police Officer William Melendez . Melendez’ in car dash cam captured the unjustified January 2015 beating of Floyd Dent during a traffic stop. Like his comrades, Melendez had been involved in multiple lawsuits while on the Detroit Police Department ;before Inskter hired him. The Detroit Police Department settled $1.2 million civil suit which involved Melendez; he had been indicted but was later acquitted.
These factoids have done little to disuade potential employers with regard to potential Melendez liability.
It would appear that the Highland Park Police Department in Illinois, has joined the ranks of those police agencies which seem to have more money in the civil suit coffers than time to properly investigate officers for hire.
Officer Melendez is currently working part-time for the Highland Park Police Department. Which black man will have to die in Highland Park, Il, before Officer William Melendez goes away for good.
Unless and until police chiefs, commissioners and sheriffs stop minimizing and mitigating the bad behavior of police officers under their command; we will continue to find the need to record and report on police officers who abuse their authority with impunity.
Let’s create that paper trail and document a pattern of practice (abuses/civil rights violations) for the Department of Justice Civil Right’s Division so that IF one of these bad cops is fired – an arrest/indictment, prosecution and conviction won’t be far behind.
Let’s put an end to the perennial black eye these bad apples are giving to the thousands of men and women who became police officers for the right reasons; who put their lives on the line daily and are dedicated and committed to serving their communities with compassion and professionalism.
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, speaker, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert and commentator on the Dr. Phil Show , CNN, HLN, MSNBC and KPCC. She writes and provides commentary on police culture and surviving police encounters. She is the author of The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue; an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes. Visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryldorsey.net., listen to her on Soundcloud follow on Twitter @retLAPDsgt and BlackandBlueNews