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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Larry Chidester SWAT Raid: Boots in the Wrong House

     At ten on the night of May 25, 2005, the Utah County Metro SWAT team was about to break into a house on South State Street in Springville to confiscate methamphetamine, guns, and other contraband they might find in the dwelling. The Sierra Team, one of the four Utah County SWAT groups involved in the raid, pulled into the neighborhood first. The six snipers in the unit took up positions 50 yards from the target house. The Sierra snipers were in place to watch the house and report any activity at or near the dwelling to the other SWAT units as they moved into their attack positions. From this point on, any bystander who happened onto the surveillance are would be viewed through the cross-hairs of rifle scopes.

     The remaining 24 SWAT officers arrived at the scene. Alpha Team members, taking up positions 70 yards from the house, would break into the dwelling through the front entrance. Team Charlie had the side door. The Bravo squad, setting up behind a wooden fence in the back, 500 yards from the target, would enter the  house through the rear door.

     At 10:30, the Alpha, Charlie, and Bravo teams were supposed to reach the target at the same time, tossing flashbang grenades into the front, side, and rear of the  house. Because of some kind of miscommunication, the Bravo team entered the back door ahead of the other two units, which were moving toward the dwelling from 65 yards away.

     Forty-year-old Larry Chidester lived in the basement quarters of his parents' place next door to the SWAT target. Awakened by the flashbang explosions coming from the other side of his house, Larry came out his side door to investigate what he thought was a car accident. Instead, he saw a group of SWAT officers charging toward his neighbor's house. Before he got back inside, Larry heard one of the officers yell, "There's one?" Alpha Team member Jason Parker, a reserve sheriff's deputy, ran up to Larry and ordered him to the ground. Each time Larry lowered his arms to help himself down, Deputy Parker, his rifle pointed at Chidester's head, yelled, "Keep you hands up!"

     "I'm not resisting! I'm not resisting!" Larry pleaded as Deputy Parker tackled him to the ground and kept him there for a minute or so with his knee pressed into the middle of his back. Although not seriously injured, Chidester had the wind knocked out of him, and suffered abrasions to his forehead, nose, shoulder, back, and knees.

    As Larry Chidester lay pinned to the ground under reserve deputy Parker's knee, Sergeant Deke Taylor and another Alpha Team officer stormed into the Chidester house. Deputy Taylor encountered Larry's mother, Emily, in the kitchen, and at gunpoint, ordered her to the floor. The other officer found Lawrence Chidester in the bedroom sitting on the edge of his bed putting on his trousers. This deputy grabbed Mr. Chidester by the shirt and threw him to the floor, ripping the garment off his back. Shortly after the two Alpha Team officers left the Chidesters shaking and bruised, a third deputy entered the house and apologized for the armed intrusion.

     Sheriff Jim Tracy insisted that the Chidester incident did not fall into the category of a wrong-house raid. His men were merely protecting themselves by taking control of the target area. From a law enforcement point of view, the only mistake involved the deputy's on-site apology, which suggested police wrongdoing.

     The Chidesters filed suit against the Utah County Sheriff's Office and deputies Jason Parker and Deke Taylor individually for violating their Fourth Amendment rights of privacy. The deputies raised the issue of qualified police immunity, arguing that they had acted in good faith. A federal district court judge, in August 2006, ruled that the Chidesters had grounds to sue the officers as individuals. The deputies appealed this decision, and in March 2008, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Deputy Parker's actions did protect him from personal liability under the immunity doctrine. However, the appeals court judges did not bar the plaintiffs from suing Utah County and Deputy Taylor as an individual. The lawsuit is pending. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The High Cost of Cops Shooting People in Wheelchairs

     On January 4, 2011, Randal Dunkin, a 55-year-old mentally ill man who had been born with polio and was confined to a wheelchair, was creating a disturbance in the street outside San Francisco's Department of Public Health building. That morning at ten o'clock, Dunkin started slashing tires with a knife, and throwing pieces of concrete at passersby. Someone called 911.

     An officer in plainclothes arrived at the scene first, and when he approached the agitated subject to disarm him, Dunkin, from his wheelchair, slashed the officer in the arm with the knife. (The wound, which was not life-threatening, required 21 stitches.) Following the assault, uniformed officers squirted Dunkin with pepper spray, and shot him with a bean bag gun. These nonlethal modes of force did not calm the subject down. As the erratic behaving Dunkin tossed the knife onto the street, Sergeant Noah Mallinger, from range of ten feet, shot him twice in the groin as he sat in his wheelchair.

     Following Dunkin's discharge from the hospital, the police transferred him to the city jail on charges of police assault, resisting arrest, vandalism, and brandishing a knife. San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon, in speaking to the media about the incident, said, "I believe from a legal stance, this shooting will be deemed an appropriate, lawful shooting."

     In reaction to public outrage over the shooting of a crazy man armed with a knife in a wheelchair, the police chief, a few weeks later, announced the proposed formation of a specialized crisis intervention team to deal with mentally ill subjects. (Cops have to be trained not to shoot people in wheelchairs?)

     On March 2011, Randal Dunkin filed a civil rights suit against the city of San Francisco and its police department. Two months later, the department announced that following an internal investigation of the shooting, officer Noah Mallinger had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In other words, the shooting, in the eyes of the police, was justified.

     Randal Dunkin, in November 2011, went on trial for his alleged police assault and the lesser charges. Although convicted of vandalism and brandishing a knife, the jury inexplicably acquitted Dunkin of slashing the officer. (The defendant had claimed self-defense, that the officer in plainclothes had not identified himself.) The jurors split on the resisting arrest charge.

     Use of force experts who studied this case were critical of the shooting. A man in a wheelchair should not have been given the opportunity to inflict a knife wound on an officer. Once Dunkin had tossed the knife, he was no longer a deadly threat to the police. And even if he hadn't dropped the weapon, the police could have prevented, without the use of deadly force, a man in a wheelchair from hurting anyone. (In downtown Pittsburgh recently, police negotiators talked a mentally ill man, who was in possession of a knife and holding a hostage, into surrendering. The stand-off lasted five hours and no one was hurt. In Pittsburgh last year, the police shot three people, killing one. In San Francisco, officers in 2011 shot eight, killing three.)

     In Houston, Texas, at two in the morning on September 22, 2012, Brian Claunch, a resident of the Healing Hands group home, created a disturbance when a caregiver refused to give him a cigarette and a can of soda. In his mid-40s, and diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Claunch was confided to a wheelchair after having lost an arm and a leg in a train accident.

     Officer Matt Marin, a 5-year-veteran of the Houston Police Department, arrived at the group home with another officer. Shortly after responding to the call, officer Marin shot Brian Claunch in the head as he sat in his wheelchair, killing him instantly. According to a police spokesperson, "He [Claunch] was approaching them [the officers] aggressively. He was attempting to stab them with what is now found to be a felt-tip pen." This statement begs the question: just how aggressive can a pen-wielding man in a wheelchair be?

     In October 2009, officer Matt Marin had shot and killed a knife-wielding man who had stabbed his girlfriend and a neighbor. In 2011, officers with the Houston Police Department shot ten people, killing three.

     For the city of Houston, the police killing of an unarmed man in a wheelchair is going to be costly. For example, a jury in Los Angeles just awarded a known gang member who was shot by the police in September 2005, $5.7 million. In 2009, 24-year-old Robert Contreras pleaded no contest to his role in the drive-by shooting that led to the police wounding and paralyzing him. After being released from prison in 2011, Contreras filed the excessive force suit against the city and the police department. In Los Angeles, police officers put a violent criminal into a wheelchair, and the taxpayers of that city will foot the bill. In Houston, where the officer killed an unarmed man in a wheelchair, taxpayers can expect a lawsuit, and a forthcoming multi-million dollar court settlement. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Downgrading Crime in New York City: How the Police Control Crime Rates

     Crime statistics have always been unreliable indicators of crime rates because a substantial percentage of felonies are not reported to the police. This is particularly true in cases of spousal abuse, child molestation, and rape. Even criminal homicides are underreported. And of the crimes that do get reported to the authorities, not all of them become part of the official record. Crime statistics do, however, reveal trends, and for that reason they are important.

     Politicians and police administrators hate high crime rates because they are afraid the public will blame increases in crime on them. Because mayors and police chiefs take credit for low crime rates, they are held responsible when the numbers go the other direction. This is a problem politicians and police administrators have brought upon themselves. If politicians were honest (an odd thought), they would inform the public that the police have little control over the rate of crime in their jurisdictions. That's because law enforcement is not about preventing crime as much as reacting to it after the fact. The level of crime in a particular city has little bearing on the quality of that municipality's law enforcement services. While there are many ways to judge a police department, the local crime rate is not one of them.

     Because politicians and police administrators have misled the public into believing they are protecting us from criminals, they try to control crime statistics the only way they can, by manipulating the reporting process. This kind of bureaucratic skullduggery has been going on forever.

     In New York City during police commissioner Raymond Kelly's tenure, he has taken credit for the city's declining crime rates. But in 2011, New York's crime statistics revealed a slight increase over 2010, and so far in 2012, this trend has continued. So it's not surprising that when researchers with The New York Times reviewed 100 police reports submitted over the past four months, they found that the police were falsely downgrading felony offenses to misdemeanor crimes (that are not counted) to manipulate crime stats and mislead the public.

     In an article published on September 16, 2012, The New York Times published examples of several cases that feature obvious felonies reported by the police as misdemeanors. (A friend of mine who worked 20 years as a patrolman in New York City, has said the first thing you learn as a NYC cop is that nothing is on the level.) What follows are examples of how the NYC police control crime statistics by mischaracterizing felonies as misdemeanors.

     In 2010 a 17-year-old gunman fired several shots into a group of young men on the street in the Bronx. Nearby, two teenage girls were hit by the shooter's stray bullets. Because their injuries were minor, police officers, in their reports, didn't mention that two girls had been shot in the shooting spree.

     In Brooklyn, the police characterized an attempted rape as "forcible touching," a misdemeanor. When a prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney's office learned of the facts of this case, he charged the subject with attempted rape, a felony. After a man in a domestic violence case choked his wife to the point of unconsciousness, the police wrote up the crime as a misdemeanor offense even though the attack clearly fell within the legal guidelines of a felonious assault.

     Numerous New York City police officers admitted to the reporters reviewing these cases that they are encouraged, whenever possible, to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors in order to keep the city's crime rates low, and the politicians happy. Sometimes police supervisors will actually show up at a crime scene to make sure officers are following this program of crime statistics manipulation. Sergeants and lieutenants have been known to modify police reports to achieve this result.

     Crime rates fluctuate but what never changes is the fact that in law enforcement, nothing is on the level. My ex-cop friend was right.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Azerbaijan Lieutenant Ramil Safarov and the International Politics of Murder

     In February 2004, Azerbaijan Army Lieutenant Ramil Safarov was in Budapest, Hungary enrolled in an English class under the auspices of a program called  Partners for Peace. This NATO sponsored event was designed to build ties between former Soviet allies in Eastern Europe. While attending the class, participants were housed in a campus dormitory. This co-mingling of military personnel, some of whom were from countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia that decades earlier had been at war, was intended to promote goodwill and understanding among the attendees. (Azerbaijan and Armenia are currently involved in a dispute over territory.)

     Just before dawn on February 19, 2004, Lieutenant Ramil Safarov entered the dormitory room occupied by Gurgen Markarian, a 26-year-old engineer and Armenian Army officer. Lieutenant Markarian and his Hungarian roommate were asleep when Safarov slipped into the room carrying an ax. While Markarian lay in his bed, the 27-year-old Azerbaijan officer hacked him to death with the weapon, then threw a lit cigarette onto the remains of his chopped and bloodied victim.

     According to the Hungarian forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the Armenian lieutenant, the officer had been struck by the ax 16 times in the face. This ferocious attack had nearly severed the dead man's head. Safarov had also stabbed the victim several times in the chest.

     The Budapest police took Lieutenant Ramil Safarov into custody later that morning. In confessing to the brutal murder, Safarov, who said he had lost relatives in the Azerbaijan-Armenian war, claimed he had become increasingly angry over repeated insults from the Armenian officers enrolled in the English class. But as the interrogation proceeded, it became obvious that the butchering of Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian constituted a premeditated revenge murder motivated by Safarov's general hatred of Armenians.

     When an interrogator asked Lieutenant Safarov why he had tossed his lit cigarette on his victim's corpse, he said, "Since I hate Armenians so much and I [had] prepared for revenge so long, it was a relieve [sic] for me. As long as I didn't care about him it didn't [matter] whether I threw the cigarette onto the ground or on his bed or into his eyes."

     Ramil Safarov went on trial in the spring of 2006. Found guilty of premeditated murder, the Hungarian judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole until he had served 30 years behind bars.

     Politicians in Azerbaijan pandering to the hatred of Armenians, began lobbying for Safarov's extradition to his homeland. On August 31, 2012, after serving eight years in a Hungarian prison, during which time Safarov translated several Hungarian novels into Azeri, he stepped off a plane in his hometown of Baku, Azerbaijan. His extradition had been predicated on assurances from Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev to the Hungarians that the 35-year-old convicted ax murderer would serve 25 years in an Azerbaijan prison.

     Lieutenant Ramil Safarov not only received a hero's welcome in Baku, President Aliyev issued him an immediate pardon, awarded him with eight years of military back pay, provided him with a new apartment, and promoted him to the rank of major.

     Major Safarov's brief public relations tour came to an abrupt end as a result of an intense international backlash from citizens and diplomats in Armenia, Hungary, Russia, and the United States. Even in Azerbaijan, President Aliyev's political opponents accused him of using the Safarov affair to help him in his upcoming bid for re-election.     

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Charles Hammer and Carl Ericsson: Grumpy Old Killers

     In January 2011, in Madison, South Dakota, Carl Ericsson, the supposed victim of a 53-year-old locker room prank, murdered one of his imagined high school tormentors. A decades old grudge had turned this life-long misfit and loser into a cold-blooded killer.

     Pretty much everyone's life is full of petty humiliations, slights, and insults. However, it seems that some people don't move on, and mellow-out with age. These codgers, instead of sitting around McDonald's drinking coffee and telling lies, sit in darkened rooms brooding about the past, and fantasizing about inflicting revenge on former spouses, girlfriends, neighbors, relatives, bosses, and fellow employees. As the population grows older, more and more of these ticking time-bombs might be walking among us. Grumpy old men could be turning into grumpy old killers

     In the South Dakota murder case involving the long-simmering resentment over something that happened decades ago in high school, Carl Ericsson, the killer, was an unhappy, unpopular loser living on the fringes of society. The man he murdered in cold-blood, a popular high school football coach, was a winner and a pillar of the community.

     In Tompkinsville, Kentucky, a town of 2,600 in the south central part of the state near the Tennessee state line, an elderly misfit harboring a long-festering grudge, recently murdered a man who was his exact opposite. Herbert Proffitt, the winner, lived with his wife of 53 years in the small Kentucky town situated in the Appalachian foothills. His son served as mayor of Tompkinsville. After serving in the Army, Proffitt returned to his hometown where he was elected sheriff of Monroe County. He later became chief of the Tompkinsville Police Department, and before retiring in 2009, worked at the county courthouse as a bailiff. After enforcing the law for fifty years in this community, people liked and respected him.

     In the 1980s and 90s, Herbert Proffitt arrested Charles Hammer several times for relatively minor offenses. One of these arrests resulted in a short stretch in a Kentucky state prison. In 2002, Chief Profitt arrested Hammer for harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. A judge dismissed the disorderly conduct charge, and a jury acquitted the defendant of resisting arrest. Hammer was, however, convicted of harassment, and received a probated sentence. Charles Hammer, over the years, made no secret of the fact he felt persecuted by Proffitt, a man he resented and did not like.

     In 2012, Charles Hammer, divorced from his wife, was living on a small farm outside of town. He had two daughters, a school teacher, and an employee of a local bank. In the community, Hammer was considered to be an unfriendly man who kept to himself. Even people who knew him weren't sure what he did to support himself.

     Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 28, 2012, as 82-year-old Herbert Proffitt stood at the end of his driveway picking up his mail, Charles Hammer allegedly drove up and gunned the former cop down in what was the town's first drive-by shooting. Mr. Proffitt died that day at the local hospital.

     Not long after the murder, a Monroe County prosecutor charged 81-year-old Charles Hammer with first-degree murder. Revenge was the only motive that made sense in this homicide.

     On the day after her husband was shot to death outside his home, Bernice Proffitt fell ill. On September 2, five days after the murder, she died while being treated at the nearby hospital.

     At his arraignment on September 11, 2012, Charles Hammer pleaded not guilty to murdering Herbert Proffitt. The judge denied him bail.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Made Cage Fighter Jarrod Wyatt Mutilate and Murder Taylor Powell?

     On the morning of March 21, 2010, in a house in Requa, California, a small town in the northwestern corner of the state at the mouth of the Klamath River, Del Norte County sheriff's deputies and officers with the Yurok Tribal Police responded to a murder scene reminiscent of of Hannibal Lector movie. The officer discovered, lying naked on the living room sofa, the blood-drenched and mutilated corpse of 21-year-old Taylor Powell. The victim's chest had been sliced open and his heart torn out of his body. An officer found the charred organ in a wood-burning stove. Powell's attacker had cut off the dead man's tongue, and had stripped all the skin off his face. Signs of a struggle included the presence of blood around the room as well as breakage, and knocked-over furniture.

     Jarrod Wyatt, a 29-year-old mixed martial arts fighter, told officers that he had killed and mutilated his friend and sparring partner, Taylor Powell. According to Wyatt, before the murder, he and Powell, along with two of their acquaintances, had been drinking hallucinogenic mushroom tea. Under the influence of this psychedelic drug, he had murdered and dismembered Powell in what he called a battle between God and the Devil.

     According to Dr. Neil Kushner, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, the victim's organs had been removed while he was alive. (I presume this means that his heart was taken out last. If there are toxicological results supporting the ingestion of mushroom tea, this information, or any other drug-related findings, have not been made public.)

     Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander charged Jarrod Wyatt with first degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture, and a special circumstances count of extreme cruelty and depravity. If convicted of all three charges, the defendant could face up to three consecutive life sentences which means no possibility of parole.

     While the northern California cage fighter had confessed to a drug-induced homicide, his attorney, James Fallman, entered a double plea of not guilty, and not guilty by virtue of insanity. (In other words, I didn't do it, but if you find that I did, while I'm not mentally ill now, I was when I committed the murder I am denying.)

     In May 2012, a Del Norte County judge, after hearing from a battery of psychiatrists, ruled that Jarrod Wyatt was mentally competent to be tried for murder and the accompanying charges. The judge scheduled his trial for September 3, 2012.

     Just four days before the Crescent City trial was to get underway, the district attorney and the defense agreed to a plea deal. Under the judge-approved plea bargain, Jarrod Wyatt would be sentenced to 50 years to life. Pursuant to the sentencing agreement, the prisoner would not be eligible for parole until 2062. If he lived to be 79-years-old, he might have a chance for freedom. The cage fighter would probably die inside a large, state run cage.

     Following the announcement of the plea arrangement, prosecutor Jon Alexander said, "We saved Taylor Powell's family the agony from reliving the incident at the trial." The district attorney said he believed the murder was in fact premeditated, and not the product of a drug-induced delusion. Because there will be no trial, the public will not be informed of the prosecution's theory of the murder. (At least not for awhile. If Jarrod Wyatt had been even a minor entertainment celebrity, we'd know a lot more about this case.)

     James Fallman, Wyatt's attorney, reportedly said, "We looked for an agreement that would at least give him the opportunity to be paroled someday." Insisting the murder had not been premeditated, the defense attorney told reporters that his client had been "too damn high on drugs to premeditate it."

     Left to speculate on what drove Jerrod Wyatt to such a gruesome and violent act against his friend and sparring partner, I suspect the combined use of steroids and designer drugs like meth or bath salts. (It would be helpful to know if Wyatt, at the time of the murder, was also nude.) This murder doesn't look premeditated, and I don't buy the mushroom tea causation. Maybe some day the truth regarding the cause of this bizarre and grisly homicide will surface.  


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Detroit: What Do You Have To Do To Get Arrested in This City?

     At one-thirty in the morning of Saturday, September 1, 2012, an argument broke out at a backyard house party in Detroit involving an ex-felon named Adris McCullough and some other men. The 36-year-old left the house, returned a short time later in possession of a rifle, and opened fire into a cluster of partygoers. Before McCullough fled the scene, he shot four men, killing 37-year-old Leshawn Glover and 23-year-old Chad Berry.

     Two hours after McCullough shot the four men at the house party, he walked into Engine House 40 on Dexter Avenue and informed firefighters on duty that he was the shooter the police were looking for. Someone at the fire station called the Detroit Police Department and reported that Adris McCullough wanted to surrender to the authorities.

     The Detroit firefighters and the man who had just shot four people, waited around for a police officer to come by the station and take the double murder suspect into custody. When no one from the Detroit Police Department responded to the call, McCullough decided that if the police wouldn't come to him, he would go to them. So he walked to the 10th Precinct station on Livernois Street where the police had no choice but to arrest him. (Let's hope Mr. McCullough didn't have to interrogate himself, write-up his own statement, then sign the confession.)

     As one can imagine, the local media jumped all over this story. Last month there were news stories about how murderers in the city regularly dump their victims in empty buildings, abandoned vehicles, trash-littered alleyways, and in over-grown vacant lots. Because these sections of the inner city aren't regularly patrolled by the police, these corpses lay around for days and weeks stinking up these decaying neighborhoods. In June 2012, more than a dozen murder victim's had been dumped in this city of rotting corpses.

     At a press conference regarding the Adris McCullough matter, Police Chief Ralph Godbee confirmed that fire department personnel had called the police department's central communications bureau regarding a man who wanted to turn himself in for murder. According to the chief, the dispatcher had been unable to send an officer to the fire station "due to area patrol units being busy handling high priority runs." The chief promised an internal investigation into this embarrassing matter.

     Apparently crime is so heavy in Detroit that the arrest of a suspect of a double murder doesn't qualify as a "high priority run." Motor-Town has turned into Murder-Town, and there aren't enough police officers to handle the cases.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Suzanne Barr Resigns Amid Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Suit

     When President Obama named former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano head of the Department of Homeland Security, a lot of law enforcement professionals saw the appointment for what it was--a political pay-off to a loyal party supporter. (Obama pulled an even bigger political stunt when he made Eric Holder, a political partisan devoted to defending criminals and terrorists rather than prosecuting them, U.S. Attorney General. While attorney general picks are always political, this appointment was even more ideological and unfortunate than President Johnson's selection of Ramsey Clark in the late 1960s.) The Department of Homeland Security itself represents a massive bureaucratic mess created as a feel-good measure following 9-11. When something bad happens that politicians have no idea how to prevent, they simply create more government that ends up making things worse. Because the Department of Homeland Security is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy over ICE, the FBI, ATF, the U.S. Border Control, the DEA, and other federal law enforcement agencies, the head of this useless mountain of paper shufflers is, according to the federal organizational chart, the nation's top law enforcement officer. Good heavens.  

     Shortly taking office as head of homeland security in 2009, Janet Napolitano rewarded a pair of women who had served under her as governor of Arizona, with plumb administrative positions in the agency. Neither of these women were even remotely qualified for their jobs. (That's assuming, of course, that their jobs had anything to do with law enforcement. If their jobs were irrelevant to homeland security, they shouldn't have been hired in the first place.) Napolitano made Dora Schriro, the former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, her "Special Advisor." It's hard to imagine what useful advice a corrections administrator could offer the head of homeland security. Special advisor, indeed.

     In another of her first appointments as head of homeland security, Napolitano named Suzanne Barr, her former chief of legislative affairs, to the position of chief of staff to John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Barr, a 1995 graduate of the University of Arizona, and one time political aide to Arizona's U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, was even less fit for her new job than Schriro was for hers.

     Entry level law enforcement personnel have to pass intelligence tests, psychological and physical exams, background investigations, and survive the rigors of training before they are allowed to enforce the law. Their immediate supervisors, and the middle management officers, have been tested on the job. But the closer you get to the top layers of the federal law enforcement bureaucracy, the less qualified, and more political the personnel. That's because the political hacks appointed by the president in turn hire political sycophants to remind them of their greatness. This is an employment phenomenon worse than the so-called Peter Principal where employees are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. In the federal government, there is no room of the top for these upwardly mobile employees because politicians fill these spots with appointees who begin their jobs as incompetent employees of the agency. Perhaps we could call this the political hack effect, or trickle down incompetence.

     In May 2012, James T. Hayes, Jr., the special agent in charge of the ICE office in New York City, filed a discrimination and retaliation suit against Janet Napolitano. According the the $4 million federal action, the head of homeland security had pushed Hayes aside in 2009 to make room for the less qualified Dora Schriro. Hayes was transferred from ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. to New York after he threatened to file a lawsuit against Napolitano. (Schriro left her special advisor position at homeland security in 2010. She is currently the head of New York City's Department of Corrections.)

      Hayes, who started out in 1995 as a border patrol agent in Texas, and worked his way up to the position of director of ICE Detention and Removal, an operation with a staff of 8,500 and a $2.5 billion budget, claims in his lawsuit that Napolitano's appointee Suzanne Barr had created a "frat house" work environment at ICE designed to intimidate and humiliate male employees.  

      In mid-August 2012, shortly after The New York Post broke the story of the discrimination and retaliation suit against Janet Napolitano which includes the salacious allegations against Suzanne Barr, the ICE director's chief of staff took a two week leave of absence. In the lawsuit, plaintiff Hayes, in great detail, accuses Suzanne Barr of vulgar, lewd, and highly inappropriate workplace behavior. According to the suit, Barr once called a colleague's hotel room and said, in crude language, that she wanted to give him oral sex. She has also been accused of telling a male subordinate that he was "sexy" before asking him a personal question about a particular part of his anatomy. Barr allegedly stole a male staffer's BlackBerry and sent a message to his female supervisor indicating he had a crush on her, and engaged in sexual fantasies involving the two of them. On another occasion, Barr had "removed the entire contents of the offices of three male employees including nameplates, computer and telephones, to the men's bathroom at ICE headquarters."

     On Saturday, September 1, 2012, Suzanne Barr resigned her high-level position at ICE. In her resignation letter to Director John Morton, she called James Hayes' allegations "unfounded." She was leaving ICE, she said, to spare the agency further embarrassment.

     On the day of Barr's resignation, Congressman Peter King, the chairman of the House of Representative's Homeland Security Committee, said that James Hayes' legal action "raises the most serious questions about management practices and personnel policies at the Department of Homeland Security." No kidding. What else is new?