As recent protests suggest, 2014 could have been the year that tensions between law enforcement officers and the people who they are charged with protecting peaked.
Looking back over some of the disturbing Raw Story reports from the last year shows why the public has become more and more skeptical of the men and women behind the badge.
1. Free speech and photography are not crimes.
Even as body cameras are becoming more popular, some officers still have a problem with being recorded. Like North Carolina Deputy Natalie Barber. She detained a retired United States Marine combat instructor, claiming her “safety” was threatened when he was inside his home recording how she handled a dispute between him and his neighbor.
A police officer in Brooklyn didn’t like being filmed so he gave Will Paybarah a ticket in March, telling him that “iPhones are being used as guns.” Officer Adolphus Cannon of Waller, Texas pepper-sprayed a Prairie View A&M University student who was recording him, and then offered to let him go if he didn’t release the video.
Denver police officers attempted to erase video footage on a tablet after they abused a pregnant woman, but the video had already been backed up on cloud servers. And just in the last week, a Baton Rouge man said police beat, pepper-sprayed and arrested him for recording them with his cell phone.
St. Ann police Officer Ray Albers was forced to resign after he threatened to “f*cking kill” a reporter during the protests in Ferguson over the summer. Florida law student Cesar Baldelomar was given traffic citations over the Thanksgiving holiday this year because Officer Harold Garzon did not appreciate a song titled “F*ck tha Police.”
Even the man who filmed NYPD officers putting Eric Garner in a chokehold before he died was indicted. However, the officers did not face charges for Garner’s homicide.
2. Hurting the people who need help.
One of the more underreported phenomena is the trend of police being called to deal with mentally ill family members only to have those people end up dead at the hands of an officer. And other cops are so focused on following the rules that people seeking assistance don’t get the help they need in time.
Yanira Serrano’s family called 911 with the hopes that emergency responders would provide medial assistance for the special needs woman, but San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies showed up instead. Within minutes, the 18-year-old woman had been shot to death. West Virginia man Jerry Maynard said that he called 911 to report chest pains in November, and before he knew it Mingo County sheriff’s deputies had hit him so hard that he lost consciousness.
Florida resident Brian Dennison was rushing home to get an inhaler for his daughter’s asthma attack when Officer J.C. Garcia fired his weapon because he mistakenly thought the father was armed. And Samuel Taylor was also in a hurry to get home because his wife was in labor, and found himself with Cleveland Heights Police Officer William Robinson’s gun in his face.
3. Not even pets are safe.
Police officers are forced to deal with unfriendly animals during their daily interactions with the public. But all too often, pet owners say that officers are too quick to use deadly force on dogs without violent histories.
In January, officials declined to discipline a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy after he shot and killed a family dog named Brownie while a 2-year-old child was just feet away. The family accused the deputy of being the aggressor, not the dog. Baltimore resident Sandy Fleischer said that she called in a report about a stray dog over the summer, and was shocked when Officer Jeffrey Bolger decided to slit the animal’s throat in front of her.
Josie Garcia said that he was pulled over after he failing to use a turn signal in July. He said that a Houston officer forced him to leave the family’s pet Chihuahua on the road, and it later was found dead. The department eventually apologized. In a case that disturbed many, a Cleburne police officer in Texas was accused of luring a dog with “kissing noises” before he shot it to death.
But animals are resilient, and they often live despite the intentions of law enforcement. Gina Marie Stone said that officers in Berkeley, Illinois shot her dog in front of her two young children, and then gave her a citation for breaking leash laws. Stone said that the vet bills were high, but her dog lived. A pit bull named Precious also lived in April after officer tried to kill it while it was penned in the family’s yard. The Riverside County sheriff’s deputy ended up shooting himself in the leg instead. A local television station later spotted the dog playing with children. And Tim Theall of Dekalb County, Georgia said that officers threatened to arrest him if he took his dog to the vet after they shot it, but the dog lived.
4. Violence against women.
Of all the types of questionable behavior from police, violence against women may be the hardest to defend, particularly when it’s obvious that the conduct results in sexual gratification.
Texas Officer Oscar Araiza was charged earlier this year after he was accused of raping a woman who he had agreed to help sober up because she was too drunk to drive. Broward County sheriff’s Deputy Ted Arboleda was arrested in October on charges that he had kept women out of jail in exchange for oral sex.
Police officers in Austin accidentally recorded themselves on dashboard video joking that “they can’t un-rape you.” LAPD Officer Ryan Eric Galliher was charged in November with exposing himself to five women between the ages of 12 and 80. A correctional officer in Ferguson, Missouri faced a federal lawsuit this year for raping a pregnant woman.
A Dallas officer held his hand on his service weapon while he forced a woman to perform sex acts, officials said in December. Nashville police Officer Jonathan Mays was indicted in December for raping a prostitute while on duty.
And in some cases, the behavior spilled over into officers’ personal lives.
Authorities said that Officer Joshua Boren of Linden, Utah repeatedly videotaped himself raping his wife before killing his entire family and himself. Colwyn Borough Police Officer Stephen Rozniakowski was already facing 75 stalking and harassment charges when he killed his ex-girlfriend, and wounded her daughter.
The most disturbing case, however, might have been in Oklahoma City, where Officer Daniel Holtzclaw is facing 35 charges for raping 13 women while on duty.
5. A matter of race.
But more than anything, unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement drove new stories this year. An officer in Seattle punched a handcuffed black woman in the face, but faced no charges. A California Highway Patrolman was caught on video beating an unarmed black woman for no apparent reason in July.
In May, Dr. Ersula Ore of Arizona State University was body-slammed for jaywalking, and then charged with resisting arrest and refusing to provide identification. Jamal Jones wasn’t even driving the car earlier this year when officers in Hammond, Illinois broke out the passenger window so they could Taser him.
A Latino family in Colorado was shocked in October when officers broke down their door and shot one of the residents in the back. One Arizona officer told an immigrant that he would “kill you right here” during a traffic stop.
A 76-year-old Latino man was Tasered by a Texas police officer in December after he was stopped for an expired inspection.
Aaron McNamara was a volunteer officer with the Fairview Park Police Department until they discovered that he had written that black people should be “exterminated.” According to the FBI, a deputy chief and officer in Fruitland Park, Florida resigned after they were outed as active members of the KKK.
North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven was indicted in September for killing unarmed Earnest Satterwhite while he sat in his car at at DUI stop. The officer claimed the 68-year-old black man had tried to grab his gun.
But that’s not what drove protesters into the streets. From Michael Brown in Missouri to Eric Garner in New York, protesters saw a justice system that failed to punish officers for killing black Americans.
Tamir E. Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland officers at the age of 12 just seconds after they arrived on the scene, but the gun that he was holding ended up being a pellet gun. In Houston, a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Juventino Castro for fatally shooting 26-year-old Jordan Baker, who was unarmed when he was killed in January.
And it’s not clear that next year will be any different. After a grand jury decided not indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he told ABC News that he had a “clean conscience” and would do it again.