In Illinois and California, public servants skate in police abuse cases
posted at 9:21 pm on July 9, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham
In abuse cases, it’s not that hard out there for a public servant. Whether it’s the IRS, VA, DEA, or state police, the government’s agencies of immense power too often abuse that power and cover up their misdeeds. When found out, they either allow those who oversaw the abuse to investigate themselves or retaliate against those who had the temerity to report them. And, when it’s all said and done, we find they’re rarely subject to the same standards, scrutiny and treatment to which they subject the American people.
Take, for instance, the Inspector General report, released today, on a 2012 incident in which a 24-year-old San Diego man was arrested in a drug sweep by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA did not charge him, but left him in a cell without food or water for days:
On the morning of April 21, 2012, Chong was detained with six other suspects and transported to the DEA field office, where agents determined that he was not involved in the ecstasy ring that was under investigation.
A self-confessed pot smoker, Chong told investigators he had gone to the University City apartment that Friday night to celebrate April 20 — an important day for marijuana users — and spent the night.
After being interviewed at the DEA field office Saturday, agents told Chong he would be released without charges and driven home soon.
But agents forgot about him and Chong spent the next four and half days inside the five-by-10-foot cell without food, water or a toilet. He said his screams for help went unanswered.
Chong was discovered near death on Wednesday afternoon. Agents called 911 and he was rushed to a hospital. Chong spent four days in the hospital for multiple conditions but has since recovered.
Chong later won a $4.1 million settlement. The DEA put the officers connected to Chong’s detention in charge of the investigation of his neglect, for which the IG faulted the agency. The IG also recommended improved monitoring of prisoners, though it appears that several officers connected to Chong’s case did indeed see him during his detention and still did not provide him food or water, suggesting more than mere negligence that can be corrected with new processes:
An internal Justice Department review into the 2012 improper detention of a San Diego college student, who was held by the Drug Enforcement Administration for nearly five days without food or water, found that four agency employees had either seen or heard Daniel Chong during his confinement but did not act because they “assumed” that agents directly assigned to the case would tend to him.
There were no criminal charges filed against any of the agents, and the report declines to inform us whether any of them have been disciplined or fired, out of respect for their privacy. Radley Balko of the Washington Post notes that American citizens don’t get such courtesies from the DEA:
The DEA now claims to be “deeply troubled” by Chong’s treatment. But the agency refuses to say whether any agents were fired or disciplined. This is to protect the professional privacy of the agents involved.
When the federal government arrests you for drug crimes, they release your name to the media. Sometimes the federal prosecutor in charge of the investigation will hold a press conference, publicly besmirching your reputation before you’ve had your day in court. Here, federal drug cops nearly killed a man, then tried to cover it up. But we don’t get to know their names or whether they were disciplined — out of respect for their privacy.
Even the OIG, which is supposed to be the people’s watchdog, affords Chong’s captors more dignity than the federal government ever afforded Chong.
Meanwhile, in Illinois, a convicted felon and former police commander involved in police brutality cases for years will be getting his lavish taxpayer funded pension while behind bars:
On July 3, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of a decision by Chicago’s police pension board allowing disgraced former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge to continue receiving his approximately $3,000 per month pension.
That’s despite the fact that Burge is currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence in federal prison.
He was convicted for lying about the torture of police suspects who were later imprisoned for crimes they did not commit…
In 2010, after Burge’s conviction, he and his pension were judged by the city’s police pension board, an eight-person group that included four of Burge’s fellow Chicago policemen.
When the board held a vote on whether Burge should be allowed to receive his full pension, the four current or former Chicago police officers on the board voted for the criminal to keep receiving his payment, while the four civilian trustees voted against it, according to the Chicago Tribune.