Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Infamous Police Scandals

Among many things, police and law enforcement officials are put in our communities to ensure the safety of its citizens and to provide a system for offenders of the law to be punished accordingly. Sometimes, we are shocked by police officers or law enforcement officials making headline news with them being on the other side of the law. The following scandals involving law enforcement officials have rocked the headlines:


1. Operation Tow Scam-
Eight people including Chicago area police and ex-police officers have been arrested in connection with a scam involving receiving bribes from tow truck companies and operators. The arrests and charges come after lengthy investigation by several law enforcement agencies uncovered police officers taking money from tow truck drivers to send those tow truck drivers to the scenes of accidents when cars needed to be towed. The officers and tow truck drivers were also working to collect thousands of dollars in insurance money by claiming inaccurate reports and falsifying stolen car reports. The people involved have been charged with extortion, attempted extortion and making false reports respectively, among other charges.


2. Rampart scandal
The Rampart scandal refers to widespread corruption by more than 70 police officers working with the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 90’s. Making it one of the most widespread cases of police misconduct in US history, the police officers were involved with drug dealers and gangs and took part in shootings, beatings, framing suspects, dealing drugs, bank robberies and a laundry list of other criminal activities. As of now, the full extent of the scandal is not known, but only 24 of the officers were actually found to have committed any wrongdoing. Following the scandal 140 civil lawsuits were filed against the city of Los Angeles and an estimated 125 million was paid out in settlements.


3. The beating of Abner Louima
In 1997 several police officers were called to a popular nightclub in Brooklyn due to a fight, in which a scuffle between bystanders and police erupted. Officer Justin Volpe, was struck by a punch and named Abner Louima as his attacker. After arresting Louima, he was taken to the police station, where Volpe beat, sexually assaulted and sodomized him with a broken broomstick in the bathroom. Volpe had identified the wrong guy and Louima spent 2 months in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Volpe and several other officers were arrested for being involved or attempting to cover up the assaults. In the end, Volpe was sentenced to 30 years in prison and in a subsequent civil suit, Louima was awarded $8.75 million- the largest police brutality settlement in New York history.


4. Wisconsin party beating
In October of 2004, Frank Jude and his friend Lovell Harris were invited to a party at an off-duty police officer’s home. Several of the persons attending the party were off-duty police officers and when one of them reported that his wallet and badge had been stolen they immediately shot slurs and accusations at Jude and Harris, who were black. The off-duty police officers severely beat and assaulted the men, but Harris was able to escape. Jude suffered various injuries and was taken to the emergency room. The officers involved were charged with felony assaults and charges with respect to their roles in the beating and were sentenced to between 15 and 18 years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution for Jude’s medical bills.


5. The Kathryn Johnson shooting
In 2006, police raided a house in a crime and drug ridden neighborhood in Atlanta. 92 year old Kathryn Johnston, who was home at the time, was startled by the forced invasion and shot once at police officers, not hitting anyone. Officers retaliated and fired 39 shots, hitting Johnson at least 5 times. After searching the home and not finding drugs, the officers planted drugs in the home and convinced a drug informant of theirs to lie to police and tell them that he had bought drugs at Johnson’s home earlier that day. It was later determined that they had the wrong address on the warrant and the police officers involved were charged with making false statements, violating oaths of public officers, false imprisonment, and conspiracy to violate rights in result of death.


6. Chicago bar attack
In 2007, this attack skyrocketed to attention everywhere when a video released showed a 250 pound male Chicago police officer repeatedly kicking and punching a 125 pound female bartender. The bartender, Karolina Obrycka refused to serve intoxicated off-duty police officer Anthony Abbate any more alcohol. The tape, caught on video surveillance from the bar, then shows Abbate confronting Obrycka behind the bar, and Obrycka asking him several times to leave. Abbate then threw her to the floor and kicked and punched her several times. Abbate was arrested and pled not guilty to the 15 charges against him and was only convicted on aggravated battery, he avoided jail time, received a 2 year probation sentence, and was fired from the Chicago Police Department.


7.Quadriplegic epidsode in Florida
In 2008, a surveillance video in a Florida Sheriff’s office shows a deputy dumping a quadriplegic man from his wheelchair onto the floor. Brian Sterner, 32, was paralyzed from the chest down after a wrestling incident when he was 18 years old and confined to a wheelchair, had been picked up on a warrant charge. Officer Charlette Marshall-Jones who told Sterner that she didn’t believe he was really paralyzed grabbed the handles behind the wheelchair and forcibly dumped Sterner to the ground. Sterner later said that he couldn’t feel below his chest but said the impact caused him to believe his ribs were broken- jail x-rays showed they were not.


8. Beating in a cell
In 2009, a video surfaced of a Washington State police officer beating a 15 year old girl in a holding cell. The girl, who had been brought in for questioning for an auto theft investigation is seen kicking off her shoe toward the officer. The officer then enters the cell and slams the girl against the wall, throws her down by her hair, and while holding her hands, punches her. The officer and department received extensive backlash when the video surfaced, as the officer clearly used excessive force on the girl.


9. New Year’s Day shooting in California
In the early morning hours of New Years Day 2009, officers in Oakland were called to reports of a fight on a crowded transit train. Officers Tony Pirone and Johannes Mehserle responded amongst others and detained some of the people believed to have been involved in the fight. Twenty-two-year-old Oscar Grant was on the floor detained for questioning when he got up and tried to leave but then voluntarily returned and was lying on the floor. Onlookers who caught the incident on camera, watched as Grant was punched in the face twice and then shot in the back by Officer Mehserle. Grant died later that day from his injuries and a subsequent investigation revealed Grant was neither handcuffed or armed when he was shot.


10. Jaywalking in Seattle
In June 2010, a video surfaced of Seattle police officer Ian P. Walsh attempting to cite several pedestrians for jaywalking. In the video, a 19 year-old girl is seen and became combative with the officer and Walsh tried to arrest her. Her 17 year-old friend came to her aid, and pushed the officer attempting to free her from the officer’s grip. The officer then turned to the 17 year-old and punched her in the face. The crowd, seen in the video, yelled and shouted at Walsh stating he was using excessive force. The video, which surfaced on YouTube and was played on news outlets everywhere, received major criticism and a large public outcry, with the community believing that Walsh used excessive and unnecessary force on the girl.