LibertyFight.com POLICE ADMIT PLANTING GUNS AND DRUGS IN CARS, LAUGH ABOUT IT
POLICE ADMIT PLANTING GUNS AND DRUGS IN CARS, LAUGH ABOUT IT
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This is a series of older but noteworthy stories from Huntington Beach, CA. The story was originally broke by OC WEEKLY, and was then followed up by the mainstream LA TIMES and ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, which resulted in direct admissions by police. Here are the 3 articles in sequence, as well as some links to more recent admitted examples of cops planting evidence. This is why you should never, ever, consent to a warrantless search of yourself or your vehicle. Also, record all interactions with police if possible.
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Police admit they planted a gun at Huntington Beach crime scene
Source: OC WEEKLY
URL Source: www.ocweekly.com/news/news/training-day/26166/
Published: Nov 9, 2006
Author: R. SCOTT MOXLEY
http://www.ocweekly.com/news/news/training-day/26166/ Published: Nov 9, 2006 Author: R. SCOTT MOXLEY
Police admit they planted a gun at Huntington Beach crime scene
BY R. SCOTT MOXLEY
Thursday, November 9, 2006 - 3:20 pm
With a horrified suspect watching, Huntington Beach police planted evidence - a loaded revolver- in the man's car during a DUI accident investigation in January, the Weekly has learned. The controversial revelation is not now in dispute although cops, prosecutors and city bureaucrats attempted to keep the incident a secret by sealing records and stalling discovery of related documents.
Despite those efforts, the gun incident became an issue during an obscure misdemeanor trial last week at Orange County's West Court in Westminster. Police officers were forced to admit under oath that a snub-nosed handgun had been tossed like a Frisbee about four feet into the trunk of a Hyundai belonging to Tom Cox, the suspect. The loaded gun bounced twice and slammed up against the driver's side of the car's trunk. No bullets were discharged.
Brian Knorr, the uniformed officer who threw the weapon, lowered the trunk lid with the gun inside and stepped back, allegedly waiting for an unsuspecting fellow officer to find it during a search, according to testimony. The officer assigned to search the vehicle eventually located the gun and, startled, turned to Cox holding the revolver in both hands. This officer stared at Cox, who began to panic at the scenario of a weapons charge. Knorr walked over, "elbowed that cop and took the gun back," said Cox.
Deputy Public Defender Melani Bartholomew, who represented Cox, asked Officer Dave Wiederin on the witness stand if he and at least six other officers who were present at the crime scene had laughed in front of Cox when the gun was retrieved.
"Um . . . yes," said Wiederin.
Bartholomew then asked the officer if Cox had laughed about the handgun too.
"No," Wiederin replied.
"Do you still see it as a comical situation?" asked Bartholomew.
"Yeah, it was a little bit funny," he said.
But, he says, other cops- including Knorr- acted "like gang members," mocking him, calling him names like "loser" and "slick," and simultaneously yelling a battery of questions and commands at him after they retrieved the planted gun.
"I thought I was in for a butt whipping," Cox testified. "I just thought I was going to die that night. I realize now that they were making me look like a fool in front of everybody."
In August, Cox filed a formal complaint against the officers he says mistreated him. The move put the Huntington Beach Police Department in a quandary. They could no longer deny that a gun had been planted at a crime scene because Cox was able to specifically identify the gun Knorr tossed into his car.
By the time of the late October trial against Cox, however, four officers testified that the gun toss was no reason for public alarm. They admitted that none of them had mentioned the gun in official reports before Cox's complaint. And, though the officers professed amnesia on certain details, they all shared with jurors an identical excuse: the planted gun was merely a prop in a routine "training exercise" for a junior cop at the crime scene.
The explanation seemed suspicious if not farfetched to Bartholomew, who asked Knorr to describe the location of her client when he planted the gun.
"I was unaware of where he was at the time this happened, when the training exercise took place," he said.
Bartholomew followed up, "Isn't it imperative at least for officer safety reasons that you know where a suspect is when you're going to put a loaded gun in his car?"
"Yes," said Knorr.
When Knorr threw the gun, Cox had been standing just feet away and hadn't been handcuffed. "If I was a dangerous person, I could have easily grabbed the gun," Cox said. "Knorr had his back to me. Him claiming it was a training exercise is a bad joke. They made that up."
The public defender also got Knorr to admit that, "This is not the first time I've done it [planted a gun at a crime scene for training purposes]."
But Bartholomew's pursuit of additional facts was immediately blocked by Superior Court Judge Steve Bromberg, a Newport Beach politician elevated to the judiciary last year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bromberg told Knorr not to answer when Bartholomew asked, for example, if the gun toss had violated his department's policies or if he'd received advance permission from his superiors.
"How many times have you done it?" she asked. "Objection," said Deputy District Attorney Julie Butler.
"Sustained," said Bromberg, who said he worried that too much information about the questionable police conduct might "inflame the jury."
A police union ally during his past political campaigns for city council in Newport Beach, Bromberg also refused to give the public defender access to two key records in the case: a recorded statement made by a civilian who witnessed police behavior at the scene, and, incredibly, a copy of her own client's statement to a Huntington Beach internal affairs officer investigating the gun incident.
Under Bromberg's direction, officials redacted huge portions of the interviews. He then issued a protective order to prevent the public, the media or even Bartholomew and Cox from learning the contents.
Huntington Beach Police Lieutenant Craig Junginger said his department prohibits the use of loaded weapons in training exercises but declined further comment.
"We have conducted an administrative investigation into the incident," said Junginger. "However, because the investigations were personnel investigations, they are protected and information in them cannot be released."
Officials at other California police agencies say their officers are prohibited from tampering with active crime scenes, or planting evidence as a joke or for training. Bob Stresak- public information officer at POST, a state agency that certifies cops- said the Huntington Beach revelations surprise him.
"I'm not familiar with any training exercise where you're allowed to throw a loaded gun anywhere," said Stresak. "It doesn't sound like a good practice."
Stan Goldman, a law professor at Loyola Law School in LA, called the training exercise explanation "ridiculous, crazy, nuts." "Why would they throw a loaded gun if it was a training exercise?" Goldman said. "The whole thing strikes me as reckless cowboy cops with too much chutzpah. I've been in many, many trials and I've never heard of anything stranger than this."
Last year, Las Vegas police admitted that they'd planted illegal narcotics in a suspect's car as a "training exercise" for a police dog. Officers claim they forgot to retrieve the drugs, charged the suspect with possession of the planted narcotics, fabricated police reports and then testified in court without mentioning that the drugs had been planted. Later, a citizen review board recommended that one officer be fired and another suspended without pay for four months for their misconduct. Orange County cops routinely say they don't want civilian review boards because they adequately police themselves.
In the Huntington Beach case, Cox told jurors that the planted gun incident had rattled him so much that he had trouble easily passing the field sobriety tests. Blood evidence introduced at the trial showed low traces of alcohol and marijuana in his bloodstream that night. Cox, a former band member, told the jury that two and a half hours before police stopped him at Newland and Yorktown he'd consumed two shots of liquor as well as two hits of pot and then rehearsed on drums for about 90 minutes. (Because of back and hip injuries, he has a medical marijuana permit from a doctor.) A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's crime lab supervisor testified that the Huntington Beach cops had botched the DUI investigation by failing to perform necessary tests. This expert, who was a defense witness, also declared that Cox had an insignificant amount of intoxicants in his bloodstream when he was stopped.
The jury- some of whom snoozed during testimony, and one of whom stared endlessly at the court clock- sided with police after brief deliberations. They found Cox guilty of DUI and four other misdemeanors. He awaits a Dec. 15 punishment by Bromberg.
Whether Knorr or other cops faced any reprimand for the gun toss episode is likely to remain a closely guarded secret. Perhaps more disturbing is that the officers testified that planting guns allegedly for "training purposes" was not uncommon. The public may never know the truth. Current conventional wisdom- as expressed by Judge Bromberg- says that officer "privacy" in the performance of their powerful government jobs supersedes public accountability.
After the trial, the public defender shook her head in frustration. "How would you feel if you watched police officers throw a loaded gun in your car, laugh at you and then yell in your face?" said Bartholomew. "You'd be scared out of your mind."
POLICE ADMIT PLANTING EVIDENCE
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2006
Saturday, December 2, 2006
Police admit planting evidence
Huntington Beach chief says officers routinely employ tactic with civilian vehicles as part of training exercises.
By JENNIFER MUIR
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
HUNTINGTON BEACH – A Huntington Beach police officer's exoneration for planting a loaded gun in a suspect's car has led to the revelation that police routinely plant evidence in unsuspecting civilians' vehicles for training exercises.
Chief Kenneth Small said Friday that police plant contraband – including unloaded weapons, fake drugs and drug paraphernalia – in suspects' vehicles after they're arrested as a method of training new officers in searches.
The training practice came to light Friday after a Huntington Beach man said he learned that an officer who planted a handgun in his car during a traffic stop was exonerated of wrongdoing. Thomas Cox, who was later convicted of traffic and drug violations, said he watched in horror as another officer found the gun in the trunk of his Hyundai, igniting laughter among officers.
News of the training technique sparked surprise and criticism from police officials across the county, who said planting weapons in civilian vehicles is "inappropriate" and a "bad idea."
"I've never heard of anybody doing that," said George Wright, chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Santa Ana College. "You're using someone else's property, and that can lead to other problems. … What if someone forgets about the gun and just leaves it behind?"
Police in Las Vegas abandoned a similar training tactic for drug-sniffing police dogs last year, when a man was falsely charged with drug possession after a canine officer forgot to retrieve drugs planted in the man's car, according to published reports.
Still, Small said the exercises teach newer officers how to search vehicles in realistic situations.
But Cox said he was feet away from Officer Brian Knorr that January evening when Knorr flung the gun into the trunk.
"I was thinking, 'what the hell is this?'" said Cox, a 45-year-old construction superintendent. "I thought I was going to get a weapons charge. I thought I was going to get my ass kicked."
An officer found the gun minutes later, Cox said.
"That's not my gun!" Cox said he shouted.
Cox had been pulled over by police after a witness said he saw Cox hit another vehicle and flee the scene.
Cox said he was never told the officers were performing a training exercise.
He filed a complaint with the police department in August against Knorr and another officer, who he said barreled questions at him and called him names like "Slick.''
Several officers testified about the incident during Cox's October trial. Knorr testified that he planted the loaded gun because he "saw an opportunity to create a realistic search of a vehicle."
He said he and another officer "had a little chuckle" that night because the gun was found by a veteran police officer instead of the intended subject of the exercise.
Cox was convicted of hit and run, driving without a license, driving under the influence, reckless driving and possession of marijuana. He awaits sentencing Dec. 15.
Last month he received a letter from the police department saying the officers in his complaint had been "exonerated" of wrongdoing.
Small said Friday that using a loaded weapon during training – as Knorr testified he had done – is against department policy, and that performing the exercise in front of Cox "could have been done in a better way."
But he said Knorr was exonerated because the policy was not widely understood.
"I didn't feel comfortable holding one officer accountable for it when others were doing it as well," Small said. "I think the department did something wrong because we didn't make sure people understood what our policy really was."
The department doesn't have a formal protocol for using the public's vehicles in training exercises, department spokesman Lt. Craig Junginger said. However, vehicle owners typically aren't told their cars are being used for training because they're not usually present when the training occurs, Small said.
The training exercises are "designed to be very controlled situations, planned … and discussed with a supervisor in advance,'' Small said.
Ed Pecinovsky, bureau chief of training for the state's commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, said that no matter how careful officers are, using an arrestee's car in a training exercise is "asking for problems."
Cox said he's considering a lawsuit.
"This is police abuse," he said. "Huntington Beach used to be my dream home. Now, I'm moving away."
Police drop questionable training tactic
After a complaint, Huntington Beach officers no longer test rookies by hiding guns in cars they stop.
By H.G. Reza, Times Staff Writer December 6, 2006
Huntington Beach police have stopped hiding guns in cars of people they pull over — a way to test how rookie officers search a suspect's vehicle — because "it's probably not the way we should be operating," a department spokesman said Tuesday.
The training practice was revealed when a driver who was stopped Jan. 3 on suspicion of hit and run complained that an officer had tossed a loaded handgun into the trunk of his car. The pistol was discovered by a rookie officer who searched the car while the driver, Tom Cox, watched.
Cox, a construction superintendent, said he was standing about eight feet away when Officer Brian Knorr walked up, opened the trunk and tossed in a snub-nosed revolver with a rubber grip. "It bounced off the bottom, hit the back of the trunk, then the left side and came to rest toward the back," said Cox, 45.
"Knorr then closed the trunk, and this young kid comes along later and searches the trunk and finds the gun." Cox said he was terrified that the officers had planted the weapon. "I knew that wasn't proper procedure," he said. "They later said it was a training exercise, but I believe they were playing a prank on the young kid or me."
In November, he was convicted of reckless driving, DUI and hit and run. He will be sentenced next week.
Cox said his father was a San Diego reserve officer for 17 years, and he considered himself "pro-law enforcement." Police spokesman Lt. Craig Junginger said that in August, Cox filed a complaint with the department against Knorr and another officer. Using a loaded handgun in the exercise is against department policy. Knorr, a senior officer, was cleared because "training officers didn't fully understand the policy against using loaded weapons," Junginger said.
The OC Weekly first reported the incident last month.
Junginger said that although he had been a Huntington Beach officer for 20 years, he was unaware of that type of training exercise.
He said he learned that trainers typically used unloaded guns and that this was the only time a loaded pistol was used. Chief Ken Small put a stop to the practice last week, the spokesman said.
"It might just be a few officers doing this type of thing," Junginger said. "How long it's been going on, we don't know.
Obviously, it was brought to our attention by the complaint filed by Cox. We conducted an investigation and found it's probably not the way we should be operating."
Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, The Press Enterprise, LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, Economic Policy Journal, TargetLiberty.com, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, TMZ, Veterans Today, Jonathan Turley blog, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, National Motorists Association, AmericanFreePress.net, RomanCatholicReport.com, WorldNetDaily, HenryMakow.com, OverdriveOnline.com, Educate-Yourself.org, TexeMarrs.com, Dr. Kevin Barrett's Truth Jihad radio show, Strike-The-Root.com, Pasadena Weekly, ActivistPost.com, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640, IamtheWitness.com, Redlands Daily Facts, SaveTheMales.ca, BlackBoxVoting, The Michael Badnarik Show, The Wayne Madsen Report, Devvy.com, Rense.com, FromTheTrenchesWorldReport.com, BeforeItsNews.com, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze, CopBlock.org, DavidIcke.com, Whittier Daily News, KCLA FM Hollywood, The Fullerton Observer, Antiwar.com, From The Trenches World Report, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com and DontWakeMeUp.Org.
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