Police Corruption

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Tennessee sheriff's head narc is under investigation for stealing stuff at a drug bust, cops in Georgia and Vermont go to prison for stealing from the evidence locker, and more. Let's get to it:

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a Rutherford County sheriff's lieutenant was placed under investigation Monday after being accused of stealing property seized during a drug bust. Lt. Jason Mathis, a 20-year veteran, is the head of the department's narcotics unit. He does not yet face any criminal charges, but an investigation is underway and he could be hit with a count of official misconduct. Dozens of criminal drug cases could be in jeopardy if he is charged.

In Bernice, Louisiana, a former Bernice police officer was arrested last Wednesday for unspecified misdeeds and allegedly threatening people who knew about them. Christopher Kevin Henry was fired after an investigation began in May and arrested by the narcotics unit after testing positive for methamphetamine last week.

In Burlington, Vermont, a former Royalton police officer was sentenced last Thursday to six months in prison after admitting stealing drugs from the department's evidence locker. John Breault confessed that he stole the drugs for a friend and for a woman with whom he had a relationship last year. He pleaded guilty in March to federal heroin distribution charges.

In Dalton, Georgia, a former Tunnel Hill police officer was sentenced last Thursday to five years in prison for stealing weapons and seized drug money from the police department. Scott Reneau had pleaded guilty to six counts each of theft and violation of office by a public official. Reneau went down after county officials ordered an audit into missing forfeiture money and weapons in 2016.

Mexico's President-Elect Looks for Ways to End the Drug Wars [FEATURE]

Last Sunday, leftist politician Andres Manuel López Obrador -- often referred to with the acronymic AMLO -- won the Mexican presidency in a landslide. When he takes office in December, with his party in control of both houses of the Mexican Congress, Mexico's drug policies are likely to see some radical changes.

AMLO in front of picture of his favorite Mexican president, Benito Juarez (Creative Commons)
Just what AMLO does will have significant consequences on both sides of the border. His policies will impact how much heroin and cocaine make it to the streets of America, as well as how many Mexicans flee north to escape prohibition-related violence, and how much drug money flows back into Mexico, corrupting politicians, police, and the military.

That AMLO -- and Mexico -- want change is no surprise. A vigorous campaign against the country's powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- unleashed by rightist president Felipe Calderon in 2006 brought the Mexican military into the fight, but instead of defeating the cartels, the campaign, still ongoing under President Enrique Pena Nieto, has instead led to record levels of corruption and violence.

In 2012, when both the U.S. and Mexico had presidential elections and the drug war death toll was around 15,000, Mexico's drug prohibition-related violence was big news north of the border. But in the years since then, as US attention to Mexico's drug wars wavered, it's only gotten worse. Last year, Mexico saw more than 30,000 murders, and the cumulative drug war toll in the past dozen years is more than 200,000 dead and tens of thousands of "disappeared."

But the toll runs deeper than just a count of the casualties. The relentless drug war violence and the endemic corruption of police forces, politicians, and even sectors of the military by cartels have had a deeply corrosive effect on the citizenry and its belief in the ability of the country's political institutions to address the problem.

López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, campaigned heavily on the need for change, especially around drug policy, corruption, and public safety. "Abrazos, no balazos" ("hugs, not gunfights") was one of his favorite campaign slogans. AMLO campaigned cautiously, hammering away at crime, corruption, and violence and mentioning different drug policy-related changes, but not coming out with specific policy proposals. Still, from his own remarks and those of people who will be assuming key positions in his administration, we can begin to sketch an outline of what those policies may look like.

Marijuana Legalization

Mexico is one of the world's largest marijuana producers (although the local industry has been taking a hit in recent years from completion north of the border), it has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the herb, and it has legalized medical marijuana.

AMLO's pick for interior minister, former Supreme Court official Olga Sánchez Cordero has made no secret of her plans to seek full legalization and said this week that AMLO may seek a public referendum to gauge popular support for it. "Why maintain pot prohibition when Canada and US states are legalizing it, she said. "What are we thinking? Tell me. Killing ourselves. Really, keep on killing when... North America is decriminalizing?"

Drug Legalization

The possession of personal use amounts of all drugs has been decriminalized in Mexico since 2009, but that hasn't stopped the violence. AMLO and his advisors say he is open to considering taking the next step and legalizing all drugs.

"We'll analyze everything and explore all the avenues that will let us achieve peace. I don't rule out anything, not even legalization -- nothing," AMLO told the New Yorker during the campaign.

"The war on drugs has failed," wrote Sánchez Cordero. "Nothing contributes to peace by legislating on the basis of more criminal punishment and permanent confrontation. Violence is not fought with violence, as López Obrador rightly points out."

Drug legalization would be a radical step, indeed. It probably isn't going to happen under AMLO, since that would pit Mexico not only against the US, but also against the international anti-drug treaties that serve as the legal backbone of global drug prohibition. But he is putting the idea squarely on the table.

Amnesty

As a candidate, AMLO floated the idea of amnesty for those involved in the drug trade, a notion that created huge controversy and forced his campaign to clarify that it did not mean cutting deals with bloody-handed cartel leaders or their henchmen. Instead, his campaign clarified, he was referring to peasants growing drug crops and other low-level, nonviolent workers in the illicit business.

"Kidnappers? No," said Sánchez Cordero about possible amnesty recipients. "Who? The people working in rural areas, who are criminals because they work in the illegal drug business, but haven't committed crimes such as murder or kidnapping."

Mexican soldiers have been enlisted to fight the drug war. AMLO wants them to return to the barracks. (Creative Commons)
Demilitarization and Policing Reforms

For the past 12 years, the Mexican military has been called on to fight the cartels and suppress the drug trade. But the level of violence has only increased, the military is implicated in massive human rights violations (as can only be expected when a government resorts to soldiers to do police work), and finds itself subject to the same corrupting influences that have turned state and local police forces into virtual arms of the competing cartels.

With regard to cartel violence, AMLO repeatedly said on the campaign trail that "you don't fight fire with fire" and that what was needed was not soldiers on the streets, but social and economic assistance for the country's poor and unemployed -- to give them options other than going to work for drug gangs. Just this week, AMLO announced a $5 billion package of scholarships and job training support for the young.

Still, AMLO isn't going to send the soldiers back to the barracks immediately. Instead, says one of his security advisors, his goal is to do it over the next three years. He has also proposed replacing the military presence in the drug war with a 300,000-person National Guard, composed of both military and police, a notion that has been bruited by earlier administrations as a means of effectively replacing tainted state and local police participation.

Here, AMLO is not nearly as radical as with some of his other drug policy proposals. He as much as concedes that the bloody drug wars will continue.

"I'm not overwhelmed by any of it," Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexico and security at the Wilson Center in Washington, told the Washington Post. "It falls well within the norm for what other politicians have been saying."

The US-Mexico Relationship

Over the past couple of Mexican administrations, Mexican security agencies have cooperated closely with their U.S. counterparts in the DEA and FBI. It's not clear whether that level of cooperation will be sustained under AMLO. When he was running for president in 2012, he called for blocking US intelligence work in Mexico, but during this campaign, he insisted he wanted a strong relationship with the US on security and trade issues.

While Mexico may chafe under the continued threats and insults of President Trump, it benefits from security cooperation with the US and would like to see the US do more, especially about the flow of guns south across the border.

"We are going to ask for the cooperation of the United States" on gun trafficking, said Alfonso Durazo, one of AMLO's security advisers, repeating an ongoing refrain from Mexican politicians.

Mexico has also benefited from DEA intelligence that allowed it to kill or capture numerous cartel figures. But AMLO is a much pricklier personality than his predecessor, and between Trump's racist Mexico- and immigrant-bashing and his imposition of tariffs on Mexican exports, US-Mexico relations could be in for a bumpy few years. AMLO's moves on changing drug policies at home are also likely to sustain fire from the White House, further inflaming tensions.

"The bottom line is he's not going to fight the drug war in the way that it's been fought in the last few decades," David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego who is an expert on security issues in Mexico told the Post. "That is potentially a huge change."

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Paterson, New Jersey, cop gets ready to pay for going buck wild, a New Mexico state trooper uses stolen drugs to woo women (and girls), a Florida deputy gets nailed for falsely busting people for drugs, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bunker Hill, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday after she got caught smuggling suboxone and methamphetamine into the Miami Correctional Facility. Officer Talleigha Titus went down after being tripped up by surveillance of inmate phone and payment records. She is charged with attempting to traffic, possession of methamphetamine and possession of a controlled substance.

In Farmington, New Mexico, a state trooper was arrested last Saturday for stealing drugs during arrests and giving them to women with whom he was romantically interested, including a 16-year-old girl. Officer Daniel Capehart went down after a meth user told investigators Capehart had been texting her for months and they set up a sting where he offered to split drugs with her from any bust she set up. In the case of the teen, Capehart sent numerous texts to set up deliveries of marijuana, but the teen had handed her phone over to the cops, and he was actually communicating with a San Juan County sheriff's detective. He is charged with distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana.

In Fernandina Beach, Florida, a Nassau County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Saturday for not testing drugs found in the field and making false claims that some drugs were illegal. Deputy Kyle Tholl, 38, is now a former deputy. Tholl repeatedly pulled people over for traffic violations and charged them with drug possession when the drugs were either prescribed over the counter medications. He is charged with perjury and filing a false police report. Some 30 of his drug cases have now been dropped.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a former Paterson police officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to stealing drugs, dealing drugs from his squad car, and beating up a wheelchair-bound hospital patient. Ruben McAusland, 26, went down in April in a federal probe. He admitted in federal court to dealing heroin, cocaine, crack, and marijuana from his squad car while in uniform, as well as the unprovoked attack on the hospital patient, which he and his partner videotaped. He copped to drug possession with an intent to distribute and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. McAusland will be facing up to 50 years in prison when he gets sentenced on Oct. 9. The ex-cop must also forfeit $13,650 -- the amount of money he made on drug deals.

In Great Falls, Montana, a Fort Peck tribal police officer was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in prison for stealing drugs and money from the tribe's drug investigation office. Mikkel Shields, 33, had previously pleaded guilty to burglary in the case, which compromised more than two dozen drug cases. In September, he broke into the Fort Peck Tribal Law and Justice Building and used a crowbar to get into the drug investigations office, where he took opiates, methamphetamine and cash. He had been diagnosed with PTSD after serving in the military and had undergone substance abuse treatment, but relapsed in August.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a special Northeast edition of corrupt cops this week, with bad apples being harvested from the Big Apple, Albany, and upstate, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut. Let's get to it:

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested Monday for not turning in all the cash he seized from a drug suspect, returning the suspect's cell phone, accepting a $250 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch as a thank-you gift, and offering to fix the man's pending court case for $20,000. Officer Johnny Diaz, a 23-year veteran, also helped transport a kilo of cocaine from the Bronx to upper Manhattan in exchange for $4,000. He is initially charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, but more charges are pending, officials said.

In Geneseo, New York, a Livingston County correctional officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly smuggling synthetic cannabinoids into the jail. Raul Santiago, 38, went down after an internal investigation and is now charged with bribery, promoting prison contraband, and official misconduct.

In Hamden, Connecticut, a state prison guard was sentenced last Wednesday to three years' probation for using and peddling steroids. Police serving a search warrant found 25,000 steroid pills and 530 steroid vials. Nicholas Aurora, 34, was using the drugs and selling them to some of his co-workers, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute anabolic steroids.

In Albany, New York, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison for coordinating the delivery of 120 pounds of marijuana back in 2011. Brad Rushford, 35, Rushford admitted to providing a driver and scout cell phones to be used in delivering the marijuana. He went down after the shipment got busted en route.

In Toms Rivers, New Jersey, a former Ocean County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Friday to three years in prison for stealing cocaine that was intended to be used training drug dogs. John C. Adams, 41, admitted using the cocaine himself and falsely reporting that it had been accidentally thrown away with other dog training supplies. He pleaded guilty in November to official misconduct and theft. Adams must serve two years before his eligible for parole.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

One of the biggest police corruption cases in recent history ends with the head of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force headed for prison, deputies get in trouble for drugs in the jails, an Atlanta cop gets caught up in a drug raid, and more.

In Franklinton, Louisiana, a Washington Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for allegedly helping inmates smuggle drugs into the parish jail. Deputy Joe Wayne Sandifer is accused of knowing about drug use by inmate trusties and hiding drugs for them in his department-issued vehicle. Police found drugs when they searched his vehicle. He is charged with possession of marijuana, activities regarding contraband in a penal institution and malfeasance in office.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, an El Paso County sheriff's deputy was arrested Sunday for trying to bring drugs into the county jail during his shift. Deputy Steven D'Agustino faces charges of introducing contraband in the first degree and official misconduct. The five-year veteran now resides at his former place of employment.

In College Park, Georgia, an Atlanta police officer was arrested Monday during a raid on a home where people were suspected of dealing drugs. Officer Iris Rowe was in the home when College Park Special Operations Teams hit the apartment looking for two named suspects. Police arrested all three and attempted to question Rowe about involvement in drug activity, but she declined to answer questions. Police seized drugs valued at about $30,000 and $8,000 in cash in the house and found more drugs and an AR-15 in the trunk of Rowe's car. She faces three drug charges, including possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and possession of illegal drugs in a drug-free zone. She was placed on leave from the Atlanta Police Department pending the investigation.

In Baltimore, the former head of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force was sentenced last Thursday to 25 years in federal prison for using the task force, which was supposed to take guns off the street, to steal and resell guns, rob drug dealers, and plant false evidence. Sergeant Wayne Jenkins was among six of his colleagues who pleaded guilty in the case.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Whoa! It's prison and jail guards gone wild, plus some New York state cops get themselves in trouble. Let's get to it:

In Wewahitchka, Florida, a state prison guard was arrested last Monday after being caught smuggling drugs in her bra and tampon. Officer Julia Eagerton voluntarily surrendered nine bundles of synthetic cannabinoids weighing 334 grams when confronted by security staff at the prison. She is charged with introducing contraband into a state correctional institution, possession of narcotics and unlawful compensation.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a county jail guard was arrested last Tuesday after being caught with drug contraband on him when he reported to work. Guard Joshua Myers faces a misdemeanor charge of trafficking with an inmate and a felony charge of official misconduct.

In Jonesborough, Tennessee, a Washington County jail guard was arrested last Friday after officers intercepted a package he carried with him as he went to work. Randy Burke was carrying methamphetamine, suboxone, and subutec. It's not clear what charges he faces.

In Snow Hill, North Carolina, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday on multiple drug charges after he was found with drug contraband on him. Antwan Hamilton, 23, is charged with six counts of Possession of Schedule III Controlled Substance, one count of Possession with Intent to Sell/Deliver Controlled Substance, and one count of Possession of Controlled Substance on Prison Premises.

In Mineola, New York, two Nassau County police officers were arrested Tuesday on unspecified drug charges. Officers Erik Skoglund and Karen Ernst were among nine people arrested on drug charges following a grand jury investigation. They were given desk appearance tickets and released.

In Buffalo, New York, a former Niagara Falls police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to three years' probation for letting her boyfriend stash cocaine at her home and accompanying him as he went about his cocaine selling business. Former Officer Stephanie Costanzo, 29. She pleaded guilty in February to managing a drug-involved premise. Her maximum recommended sentence was six months in prison.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent goes to prison for helping pot smugglers, an NYPD cop gets nailed for agreeing to transport drugs for cash, a Florida crime scene tech gets busted stealing drugs from dead people, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lawrenceville, Georgia, a Gwinnett County sheriff's deputy resigned last Friday as investigators began questioning him about two kilograms of cocaine that were seized but never showed up as evidence. Deputy Antoine Riggins is a 14-year veteran and had been a member of a federal drug task force. In one case, three kilos of cocaine were seized, but only one was checked into evidence. He is also a suspect in two other cases of seized drugs that vanished. Criminal charges are expected in coming days.

In Pensacola, Florida, an Escambia County sheriff's crime scene technician was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing drugs from dead people. Tech Christine Rollins, 41, went down after an internal investigation. She was charged with trafficking hydrocodone, trafficking oxycodone, petty theft, and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was convicted last Thursday of transporting marijuana and cocaine for someone she thought was a drug dealer, but was actually an undercover officer. Nysia Stroud, 30, was assigned to the NYPD Fleet Services Division. She went down after agreeing to transport the contraband and was paid $1,000 each time she did so. She was found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance and official misconduct. Sentencing is set for June 4.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former Border Patrol officer was sentenced Monday to seven and a half years in federal prison for helping to smuggle marijuana into the country. Former agent Alberto Michel, 41, a nine-year veteran, admitted providing counter-surveillance assistance to smugglers, using the information he obtained as a member of the Intelligence Unit. In return, he would be paid $40 per pound of marijuana. He admitted receiving payments totaling $12,000. Michel was originally charged with six counts but ended up copping a plea to just two: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and a public official accepting a bribe.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have a pill-peddling former deputy, a Baton Rouge cop who made a joint mysteriously disappear, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bolivia, North Carolina, a former Brunswick County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Thursday on multiple drug and embezzlement charges. John Christian Blasingame, 42, had been fired in 2016, but was still in possession of state property, including a sheriff's office identification card, a sheriff's office badge, a sheriff's office tie with pin, a sheriff's office lapel pin, and sheriff's office plastic junior deputy badges. Oh, and various drugs. He is charged with selling a Schedule II controlled substance, possession with intent to sell a Schedule II controlled substance, felony possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and embezzlement of state property, among other charges.

In Gretna, Louisiana, a Jefferson Parish jail guard was arrested Monday on charges he smuggled weed into the jail. Correctional deputy Lyndon Hawkins, 25, admitted to smuggling weed when confronted by narcotics detectives. He is charged with transporting drugs into a correctional facility.

In Baton Rouge, a Baton Rouge police officer was fired last Friday after spending seven months on paid administrative leave for failing to report a marijuana joint she seized from a suspect. Michelle Patterson rewrote her incident report to remove any mention of the weed. A criminal investigation is now ended.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week brings a full hand of cops arrested on various drug charges, including a South Carolina police chief with a pill habit and a New Jersey cop with a drug-dealing habit. Let's get to it:

In Dothan, Alabama, a Dothan police officer was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly possessing stolen drugs. Sergeant Jonathan Whaley went down after he began behaving erratically during a training class, was then drug tested, and placed on paid leave. Police then searched his vehicle and found Xanax and codeine that are believed to have been stolen from a home where Whaley answered a medical call. He is charged with two counts of illegally possessing controlled substances and two counts of theft.

In Walhalla, South Carolina, the former Walhalla police chief was arrested last Friday, just days after he was forced to resign, for allegedly illegally obtaining prescription drugs from officers, their families, and private citizens over a seven-year period. A three-count indictment says he cadged spare pain pills that had been obtained legitimately by officers under his command. He faces three counts of misconduct in office. He's looking at up to three years in prison.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a Paterson police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he dealt heroin and cocaine to a wired-up informant. Officer Ruben McAusland, 26, is accused of repeatedly selling heroin, crack, and powder cocaine to local drug dealers. He faces unspecified drug distribution charges and is now out on $100,000 bail.

In Waxhaw, North Carolina, a Gaston County assistant district attorney was arrested Sunday after he was caught in possession of heroin and methamphetamine. Assistant DA James Brandon Graham was carrying 11 syringes, six of which contained heroin and three of which tested positive for meth. Two were empty. He charged with felony counts of heroin and methamphetamine possession and a misdemeanor count of possessing drug paraphernalia. His workload included drug cases. There is no word yet on how those cases may be effected.

In Newport News, Virginia, a Poquoson police officer was arrested Monday for allegedly taking a bribe from a drug dealing suspect "in exchange for impeding prosecution." Officer Dearyl Anderson, 56, faces a single count of bribery. He is now on administrative leave.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There must be something in the water in Memphis, a Massachusetts dope squad is under investigation for thuggery, more prison guards go down, and more. Let's get to it:

In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Springfield Narcotics Unit is under investigation. City leaders and representatives of the US Attorney's Civil Rights Division met last Friday to discuss opening a federal investigation into the department's former narcotics unit. The investigation is prompted by public reports and will look into whether the former unit engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Constitution.

In Bismarck, North Dakota, a Burleigh County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Tuesday on drug and theft charges while on the job. Deputy Kerry Komrosky, 31, allegedly stole a pound of methamphetamine and 13 cell phones from the Metro Area Task Force. Komrosky went down after he failed to return from a lunch break and his sergeant went to his home to look for him. There he found evidence linking Komrosky to the missing drugs and phones. He ischarged with three felonies and a misdemeanor -- possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, two charges of theft of property and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In St. John, US Virgin Islands, a USVI prison guard was arrested last Thursday on charges he smuggled drugs into the Golden Grove Correctional Facility. Darren Giddings is charged with promoting prison contraband and introduction of narcotics or an addictive drug into the prison. He's currently out on bail.

In Memphis, Tennessee, two Memphis police officers were arrested last Thursday after getting ensnared in an undercover drug sting. Officers Terrion Bryson and Kevin Coleman went down after an investigation that begin in February into reports the two were stealing money and drug during traffic stops. Memphis Police deployed an undercover agent, who was stopped twice by the pair. Both times they stole money from him. Later, Bryson contacted the undercover agent to tell him he could help ensure his drug shipments made it safely through the city, while Coleman threatened to harm his family if the deal was a set-up. Last Thursday, the pair agreed to guard a shipment of what they thought was heroin, and were arrested on the scene. They are both charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, delivery and sell, along with criminal attempt felony and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a former Shelby County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Wednesday to 63 months in federal prison for stealing money from a drug dealer and tampering with a witness. Jeremy Drewery, a 17-year veteran, arrested a drug dealer and tried to convince him to become an informant, but when the dealer refused, Drewery demanded a cash payment to let him go free. The dealer then contacted a lawyer, who turned to the FBI, which then recorded interactions between Drewery and the dealer. After Drewery was arrested for that, he then offered another confidential informant $2,000 to kill the dealer.

In Fall River, Massachusetts, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to 3 ½ years in state prison for dealing heroin. Stephen Lebreaux, 43, had copped to a multi-count indictment for trafficking and distributing heroin. The prison guard went down after selling heroin four times to an undercover officer.

In Bicknell, Indiana, a Bicknell police officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he gave a heads-up to a drug suspect, jeopardizing an undercover drug operation. Officer Kevin Carroll, 47, is charged with official misconduct and criminal recklessness. He's now out on bail.

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