The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island this week urged the Cranston City Council to look more deeply into city police department practices based on police officers' actions in a high-profile criminal case that were once described by a state judge as showing “an overall attitude of gross negligence, if not downright recklessness, in blatant disregard of the requirements of the law.”
In a letter to the city council, the ACLU of RI said that while the Cranston Police Department’s parking ticket scandal has garnered warranted attention, allegations of police misconduct in the case of Michael Patino, who was charged in 2010 with the murder of the young son of his girlfriend, also need to be investigated. Pointing to recent rulings by both the state Supreme Court and the lower court addressing claims of improper conduct by Cranston police during their investigation of that case, the ACLU said that the ticketing scandal was not necessarily an isolated incident and that a broader pattern of police misconduct needed to be investigated.
As examples, the ACLU noted that the R.I. Supreme Court last month found that Patino had “made a substantial preliminary showing” that the warrant affidavits filed by Cranston police in his case “contain certain false statements that were deliberate or made in reckless disregard for the truth.” The Court also upheld the suppression of evidence collected from Patino’s cell phones because police illegally failed to obtain a warrant until after they had already searched some of the phones.
The letter also cited various findings of R.I. Superior Court Judge Judith Savage in the case, including that officers kept cell phones collected as evidence in their pants pockets for the better part of a day and then stored them in unsealed brown paper lunch bags—a failure of procedure the judge called “unbelievable.” The court also found the court testimony of two of the officers “suspicious,” and raised concerns about “questionable interrogation practices” engaged in by the police when questioning Patino.
In the letter to the City Council, ACLU executive director Steven Brown stated: “While some people may find it easy to look the other way when police bend the rules in investigating heinous crimes, one does so only at the risk that it will promote a culture of indifference to basic civil rights that may show up in myriad other ways. The parking ticket scandal may be an outcome of that indifference.”
The ACLU letter asked the City Council, which had proposed an earlier resolution on the importance of investigating the parking ticket scandal, not to view that scandal as an isolated incident, but to instead consider whether “a more comprehensive resolution and more thorough investigation are warranted” in light of the Patino court rulings. A copy of the letter can be found at www.riaclu.org
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