POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

by Louis Korn

(Editors notes: Last month, Louis Korn submitted a letter to the editor that was published in The Eagle. The letter had to do with an organization he is involved with known as the Human Rights Monitoring Project. This is a local group that concerns itself with the need of citizens to keep a non-establishment eye on our local police and possible police misconduct in the area. After I read the letter I contacted him to talk about the organization and what it was attempting to accomplish. At that time we decided to run an article this month on the Monitoring Project.

I told Korn that I would run his article only if I could pose a question to his group for their answer and told him that I would also ask local police departments the same question. He agreed to this stipulation. The question was simply, "Is there a need to oversee Mendocino County's law enforcement agencies by an independent review board."

Next I contacted Captain Burle Murry of the Sheriffs Department and explained the situation to him. When asked "The Question" Captain Murry, while maintaining an air of cordiality, told me that he, as the information officer for the department, would not be interested in addressing the subject. The captain went on to say that he did not want to spar with the monitoring project in a newspaper and also felt that The Eagle was only promoting controversy not just informing the public. While he told me that he would talk to Sheriff Tuso about the upcoming article, as of this writing I have not heard from either Murry or Tuso.

I next contacted the Ukiah Police Department and was put in touch with it's Operation Officer, Captain John Williams. Williams while as friendly as Murry was more than willing to speak about his and the Ukiah Police Departments view of a citizens review board. He explained that the department had in the recent past been contacted by the project and The Ukiah Police Department had invited a representative to drive along with a patrol car as long as the "citizen" did not interfere with police work.

Captain Williams explained that there was no misconduct by the UPD. If there were they would want to know about it and would fix the problem. If a problem did arise the normal procedure would be to have the watch commander look into the problem and take appropriate action. He felt that Chief Fred Keplinger felt very strongly about resolving citizen complaints. Williams went on to say that only by feedback from our local citizen can the department know how they are perceived by the people who hire them.

Neither the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department nor the Ukiah Police Department submitted an article. Following is the article by Louis Korn of the Human Rights Monitoring Project. Russ Emal)

In the rhetoric of Democracy,

our elected officials serve the

will of the people; law enforcement serving the people's will by arresting its violators. In the reality of government, our elected officials who serve the will of their wealthy benefactors, will often be at variance with the will of most people. Consistent with reality, law enforcement often serves in opposition to the will of most people.

Contrary to the egalitarian rhetoric of Democracy, ours is a hierarchical society. Police are usually accountable to its upper level civilians; its lower level civilians are always accountable countable to police. Attempts to establish civilian oversight of police are a lower middle class phenomenon. Berkeley's Police Review Commission succeeded in removing a few brutal officers, before a majority of its commissioners was replaced by others who were more accepting of brutality's function in the hierarchy. Berkeley's was a brief exception to failed attempts in cities across the nation. That Commission is not to be confused with Berkeley Copwatch, a citizens organization monitoring police activity on the streets, checking out and publicizing verified complaints plaints, and building community solidarity with police victims. It is a model (adapted for our rural county) for the Human Rights Monitoring Project and similar Copwatches nationwide. To cope with lawless law enforcement, particularly marijuana search and destroy raiding parties that terrorize the countryside, the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project in Humboldt County developed surveilling strategies to support damage claims, strategies it has generously shared with HRMP.

The Reagan Administration's economic policies initiated a dramatic redistribution of wealth, redirecting tax benefits from the poor to the rich that successive administrations have accelerated . The policies reduce all public services: Libraries, school programs, community hospitals, mass transit, and welfare assistance. Concurrent and related to these reductions are ex expansion of the criminal justice system: more police, judges, probation and parole officers, more jails, prisons and correctional officers, more restrictive laws, but relaxing of restrictions on police powers, longer mandatory prison sentences, more offenses punishable by life and death sentences, fewer appeal opportunities, elimination of prison education and rehabilitation programs, re introduction of forced labor, chain gangs, and something new: privatized prisons, corporately owned and run for profit. Con current with these developments are reports of increasing police attacks on civilians, and cruel and sadistic treatment of prisoners.

Filling the widening abyss between rich and poor is a huge industry of conventional, hi-tech, and exotic weapons, a significant cant portion of it employed in the war on drugs. This war, waged to prevent us from abusing ourselves, is analogous to destroying villages in order to save them. Indeed, in Central and South America, U.S. trained and equipped security forces are still engaged gaged in such search and destroy missions and "pacifications" as they once were in Vietnam.

This Spring (1996) after the Board of Supervisors approved the State's annual gift of funds to the Sheriff to catch marijuana growers, the Army donated to the Sheriff an armored personnel carrier. The vehicle is designed to protect its personnel behind bullet-proof window slits while routing and killing the enemy. But Sheriff Tuso announced he will repaint it - change its camouflage spots - invite children and others to ride in it, use it for search and rescue, and expressed the hope he'll never have to use it to enforce the law. He said the Army promised him an additional, free armored personnel carrier.

The underclasses view the term "peace officer" with unamused irony. But it is the drug warriors, the undercover narcotics task forces, who display the most violent disregard for people's prop property, safety, and lives. Their raids are routinely conducted with guns pointed at the heads of all household members, including small children. Officers from all law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County rotate through the County Narcotics Task Force.

An alumnus of the Task Force, Peter Hoyle, is a former and present Ukiah policeman. After the City Manager approved its Police Chief's recommendation to dismiss Officer Hoyle, the Civil Service Commission reinstated him. In his nineteen years as a lawman, beginning as a Park Ranger in Oakland, Officer Hoyle has compiled an extraordinary record of violent arrests. Complaints of insults and excessive force may or may not be in his personnel file; that file is a well guarded secret, even from defense and plaintiff attorneys. Put on the street he is notorious as the bully with the badge, sending many to jail by way of the hospital.

Officer Hoyle's recent downfall and resurrection involved his responding to a complaint about a noisy party. In recent years such complaints have generated massive police responses where, typically, there is no violence or injuries until the police arrive and inflict them. Fresh in memory is the party at Big River Beach involving many of the community's families in mellow celebration suddenly turned bitter and violent upon arrival of Park Rangers and Sheriff's deputies. Days later, four hundred residents as assembled at the high school gym venting outrage over the false and painful arrest of one of their youths who had questioned the reason son for the order to disburse, and the pepper spraying of the celebration's young organizer when he asked why his friend was being arrested.

Last year in Los Angeles, six years after its deputies responded to a complaint about a noisy party (a bridal shower given by the father) the jury voted $15.9 million in damages that the club-wielding deputies had inflicted. Also last year, David Parrish published a factual book about police violently breaking up a peaceful party and their involvement in the reprisal murder of one of the injured youths who had complained.

During the trial of the young man charged with resisting arrest at the noisy party, articulate, credible witnesses contradicted Hoyle's testimony. After the trial, one witness requested a lie detector test to support her testimony that Officer Hoyle had used his club, which he had denied using. Her passing the test three times is believed to have been decisive in Chief Keplinger's commendation to dismiss the officer he had long defended as his most productive and exemplary lawman.

"Testifying" is how former Republican Congressman and practicing ing attorney Robert Bauman characterizes perjury such as Hoyle's, "the most widespread form of police wrongdoing...a routine exercise that occurs without sanction from prosecutors or judges," but which can have fateful consequences for people convicted because of it.

Powerful police lobbies in every state legislature have dictated laws impeding discovery of police crimes and protecting them from penalties such crimes impose on ordinary citizens. Police lie, falsify records, intimidate witnesses,

Continued from page/ 8

and even commit murder with impunity. My brother, whose professional career spans forty years, is one of a growing minority of criminologists exposing the rampancy of crime within the ranks. The purpose of these exposures is not to discredit law enforcement, already discredited by its festering "wall of silence." But to encourage honest, conscientious cops to take back law enforcement from its criminals.

Peter Hoyle's reinstatement undermines the Chief's authority, further encouraging the lawless element within his Department. The Human Rights Monitoring Project has letters and affidavits from victims and witnesses of this officer's crimes, which we will publicize after safely concealing their identities. (Police have immunity from libel when they falsely charge people. ~false as well as accurate charges are regularly published in local news papers, but rarely against police, because newspapers are not immune from libel. Peter Hoyle will not likely sue me, knowing that my witnesses can only substantiate crimes that already cloud his reputation.) The continued employment of Peter Hoyle in law enforcement is a growing liability to his Department and to the City of Ukiah. In furtherance of his permanent dismissal, I in invite persons with verifiable information about Officer Hoyle's misconduct to write to me: Louis Korn, Box 523, Willits CA 95490-0523.

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited


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Last Update: 5/21/96