Article

State Trooper’s Admissions Underscore Need for Citizens to Report Corruption

Posted In:News, Investigative Reporting, State | From Issue 825 | By: | 07th April, 2016 | 0

State Trooper’s Admissions Underscore Need for Citizens to Report Corruption

 

COR·RUP·TION

Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery, in its direct or less direct forms. Illegality; a vicious and fraudulent intention to evade the prohibitions of the law. The act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others. Influence peddling, conflict of interest, dishonesty, unscrupulousness, double-dealing, insider trading, fraud, electioneering. The process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased. synonyms: alteration, bastardization, debasement, adulteration "these figures have been subject to corruption"

 

Craig Tuer is a Michigan State Police trooper. He recently made some troubling admissions in an email to the Michigan State Department of Civil Rights, that MSP evaluation policies have led to civil rights violations. The whistleblower’s claims make State Police Troopers look like gangsters milking the public, and have drawn rapid fire from the MSP establishment.

While Trooper Tuer was not disciplined for making a complaint, his department-issued firearms, badge, and identification were secured pending a change in his leave status. MSP may try to kill the messenger - Tuer’s storied past makes it easy for the MSP to smear him – but the message itself is clear: Corruption exists and comes with serious costs.

We need to pay attention and know what is going on out there. Citizens need to know accurate facts about what is really going on at all levels of government. We need citizen whistleblowers, victims, and witnesses to come forward with the truth. For that, we need an easy smartphone tool that will allow whistleblower reporting of corrupt practices in a way that shields the whistleblower. We need to develop evidence to we can present a case for better government.

 

The Machine

Tuer disclosed that the State Police use a floating quota system for state troopers' performance evaluations, and that troopers game that system for money and advancement.  Commanders are getting bonus pay for their post's performance. "If I give too many breaks, if I fall below the 70 percent now my performance rating is lowered and now I have a post commander that's lowering his money he's got coming in," Tuer said. "Now I become a target."

Tuer indicated that state troopers search for drivers they can cite for multiple violations. Troopers call them "DAILY MAKERS.” "Stop one guy get five tickets, bonus," Tuer said. "Go to jail, got time on my run sheet, bonus. Daily makers versus stopping five individuals that are probably cutting people off, that type of thing. One of them makes a complaint against me? I have to worry because my post commander is mad at me because my numbers haven’t met the requirements."

Trooper Tuer also explains that troopers are getting overtime for court appearances or jail runs [especially at the end of a shift]. "If you write more tickets you're going to get more court time and you can raise your base salary and retirement from $56,000 to now you've brought it up to $80,000. And now you're going to fall into that 60 percent or 65 percent depending on what the contract's at for each individual. "What am I doing? I've incentivized writing tickets."

Tuer implies the policies nudge troopers to target minorities, because they may be under-insured, under-licensed and impoverished, so they're less likely to get a lawyer to fight a traffic stop in court.

MSP responds that troopers are not required to write a certain amount of traffic tickets. The areas subject to the 70% baseline evaluation are: fugitive arrests, investigative and patrol arrests, investigative and patrol complaints, traffic stops (not tickets), and OWI arrests. These are the core areas where troopers should be spending the majority of their time. Troopers are not required to write a certain amount of traffic tickets.

In fact, in 2015, the MSP conducted 405,270 traffic stops, of which only 171,219, or 42%, resulted in a traffic citation. The activity analysis is one tool to measure the activities of troopers and is used with other information to determine the overall performance of each trooper as part of their annual performance review.

If a trooper falls substantially below the 70% baseline, there are several avenues that may be used to improve performance. These include corrective action through affirmative assistance, which includes counseling, retraining, performance reviews, interim service ratings and discipline.

 

Not Much to Go On

The problem with this and other stories about government corruption is that it is being told to flawed human beings, by a flawed human being, and the MSP is being defended by other flawed human beings. Even the evidence of what the MSP polices are subject to vague interpretations that are seemingly prejudiced by self-interest.

It is not often that someone crosses over the so-called “Thin Blue Line,” and when Tuer does so we have to look for his agenda, and that of the MSP establishment, and to judge claims subjectively based on credibility because we lack reliable facts. This is more often seen when several parties to a police interaction walk away telling completely different versions of what happened.  Citizen accounts are usually discounted at best, and more often ignored, especially in the case of a suspect having a “reason to lie.”

We know anecdotally that some police lie, just as we know that people lie sometimes, but case by case we have very little reliable evidence of it. Many believe that all police lie all the time.  This may be a preposterous notion, but that is a matter of opinion, not fact. We don’t know, but we make important judgements based on untested beliefs.

We do not currently keep a citizen driven registry of corrupt activities of government personnel and contractors. There is no registry of liars [yet]. When a police officer tells a demonstrable lie there is seldom an official searchable record of that corrupt act. A police officer's disciplinary history is effectively confidential in almost half of US states. [http://project.wnyc.org/disciplinary-records/]

In some of these states, the law explicitly exempts these records from public view. In Michigan, Police disciplinary records are frequently withheld under Section 15.243.1(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, which exempts any "unwarranted invasion of privacy," and § 15.243.1(s), which exempts law enforcement personnel records unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

It is only because of old news accounts, preserved by a private blogger and revealed through a google keyword search that the Review was instantly drawn to the trooper’s controversial past in the Saginaw area. He served two months of house arrest after being convicted for assaulting a bartender in a Saginaw bar in 2004. [Google Keywords: MSP Trooper Craig Tuer behind the blue wall]

 

Fox Guarding the Hen House

Also problematic is the review of complaints about government agencies by those same government agencies. For instance, the Michigan State Police-Forensic Science Department has named its independent external investigating entity as MSP-Internal Affairs. The Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Association is accused of influencing, for the purpose of gaining a legal advantage in court, the policy of the MSP crime labs to misreport marijuana extracts, such as oils and edibles, as synthetic THC, a felony charge not subject to the voter approved Medical Marijuana Act defenses.

Theses derivative products are often developed specifically for medical patients who may not be able to smoke cannabis. The change seen on lab reports stems from a recent MSP-FSD policy change in the way THC is reported. Analysts are now required to write phrases such as “origin unknown” on crime lab reports when THC is tested when they believe they cannot determine the substance’s origin.

Extracts have not been reported in this way for decades before, as one analyst testified back in April. Internal MSP e-mails showed that some crime lab analysts and directors themselves protested a new THC reporting protocol change.

MSP-FSD Controlled Substance Unit Supervisor Bradley Choate said, “For the laboratory to contribute to this possible miscarriage of justice would be a huge black eye for the division and the department.” However, despite complaints being filed, the MSP has announced they are not investigating the matter.

 

Legislative Reform Package

Some conservative legislators have taken notice of the credibility gap in Michigan State Police evaluation policy. The law already prohibited ticket writing quotas per se, but not evaluation systems based on a certain number of traffic stops or other contact. Senate Bill 0861, introduced in the Michigan Senate last week, would amend section 750 (MCL 257.750), to prohibit quotas on traffic stops or other contacts.

If adopted, the law would be changed as follows [new language capitalized]: A police officer shall not MAKE OR be required to issue MAKE a predetermined or specified number of STOPS OR CONTACTS OR ISSUE A PREDETERMINED OR SPECIFIED NUMBER OF citations…. A police officer's performance evaluation system shall not require a predetermined or specified number of STOPS OR CONTACTS TO BE MADE OR citations to be issued.

Legislation, if passed, represents more than just a narrow solution to remove incentivized over-policing. Changing a mindset takes time, but the first step is acknowledgment that there is a problem out there on the roads and elsewhere in government.

The awareness of corruption is a healthy one, and it needs to be nurtured so that public watchdogs can continue to exert pressure against government overreach. Human nature, being what it is, will always find a way to game every system. Therefore, the only way to protect the system is to reduce the scope of the system so that the incentives for corruption are less. Evidence is needed to confirm or discount policy reforms, and so the call for a citizen based reporting mechanism to collect and disseminate data on police and other government interactions with individuals.

 

Free Speech is the Answer:

Citizen Reporting of Corrupt Practices in Government

As always, the cost of good government is eternal vigilance. Citizens from all walks of life need to participate in an informal network of information sharing with other citizens to keep each other informed about what is actually happening out there on the streets between citizens and police, and between citizens and government officials at all levels.

 

TOOLS FOR CITIZENS:

CITIZEN GATEWAY FOR FORMAL COMPLAINTS: Directory for official reporting of police & court misconduct, civil rights violations, influence peddling, conflict of interest, and other corrupt practices of state and local government officers, agents, and employees, or simply make a non-emergency police report. These are reports that you will file directly with the government, so they do require you to identify yourself.. 

 

 

Comments

Please Login to Comment

Events

Today's Events

Current Issue