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Bad Cop Blotter

Californian Cops Stole a Suspects' Nude Photos as a 'Game'

US cops can be just as creepy as the dudes behind the Fappening?

California Highway Patrol officers are into the whole stealing-nude-photos thing, too. Photo via Flickr user Calvin Fleming

A California Highway Patrol officer has admitted to sending nude or semi-clad photos from suspects’ phones to other officers. It's OK, though, because Sean Harrington, 35, swears that everybody does it. He said this was a game between him and two other CHP officers, and there were apparently “leering texts” between the men in reference to this activity, one Harrington engaged in at least six times.


Several of the owners of these phones were DUI suspects. One was hospitalized when Harrington took bikini photos from her phone, and another gave permission to search her device after a DUI arrest, which was apparently interpreted as a green light for shady behavior.

Harrington is based in Dublin, CA, but reportedly claimed to have “learned” how to snag these photos during his time in Los Angeles. CHP Commissioner Joe Harrow says this is being taken very seriously, a sentiment that was echoed by district chief Avery Browne. This sordid stuff may be just isolated as Browne claims, but then again, if the National Security Agency is looking at your nudes, why wouldn’t cops do the same on occasion?

Journalist Matthias Gafni with the Contra Costa Times found similar incidents of cops forwarding and saving photos from private phones. In one incident, a woman received a $75,000 (£47,000) settlement after police uploaded a semi-nude photo of her to Facebook, and deleted a photo she had taken of an improperly parked patrol car. None of the incidents resulted in criminal charges, though severals officers were fired (one even later sued in protest).

At the very least, these invasions of privacy cannot be dismissed as legitimate police activity. At worst, they suggest cops are just as creepy as the internet denizens behind the Fappening.

For now, Harrington is on administrative duty, though he confessed to the crimes. Officer Robert Hazelwood, who was also playing “the game,” is not allowed to come back to work. No charges have been filed against either man, but if they are, let’s hope the police union doesn’t rally the usual troops to be outraged on their brave officers’ behalf. And let’s hope they never get work in law enforcement ever again.


On to the rest of this week’s bad cops:

–The Federal Bureau of Investigation claims that Joel Robinson, 32, was making PCP as a narcotics task force burst into his place on October 20. The thing is, the Columbia, South Carolina, raid took place at six in the morning. Is that a reasonable time to be making drugs? Probably not so much. What is not in dispute is that Robinson is in some serious trouble, since he allegedly shot Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Barry Wilson during the raid. It’s difficult to understane why someone would shoot wildly knowing law enforcement was at their door and then surrender after only one officer went down. But 6 AM raids just keep right on going, no matter the cost to police or homeowners.

–Speaking of early-morning raids, Shane Bauer at Mother Jones recently compared the cases of Marvin Guy and Henry Magee, both recipients of police wake-up calls in the last year—each resulting in dead cops. Magee, a white man, still has drug charges hanging over him, but a grand jury declined to indict him for causing the death of Deputy Adam Sowders last December. Meanwhile, Guy, a black man who endured a narcotics raid by Killeen, Texas police, has a potentially fatal capital murder charge waiting for him. There may well be other factors here, but Bauer correctly notes cops kicked in two different doors at about 5:30 AM, and it sure as hell seems like only the white guy got to successfully plead self defense after feeling threatened.


–At some point in October, deputies in Stettin, Wisconsin—population 2550—dispatched 24 heavily armed police in an armored military vehicle to enforce a fine owed by a 75-year-old man. According to Roger Hoeppner’s attorney, roadblocks were put up that prevented him from reaching his client. Hoeppner was cuffed and taken by Marathon County deputies to the bank, where he agreed to pay the $80,000 (£50,000) he owed to the city because of zoning and other nonsense fines. OK, so he was a cranky old man who was supposed to pay up. But this was overkill, right? No way, according to Sheriff's Captain Greg Bean. The 24 deputies were there to haul away some of the stuff Hoeppner was going to sell to pay his fines, and using the military vehicle is standard procedure. Best of all, Hoeppner was known to be “argumentative." Just another day at the office for American law enforcement.

–Police in Tracy, California, tried to take away Troy Stevenson's phone on October 17 when he filmed a SWAT training operation going on across the street. Officers Ramirez and Officer Sisneros also tried to pat down Stevenson, attempted to seize his pocketknife, and basically threatened him with arrest.

–The two-month-old manhunt in eastern Pennsylvania for accused cop-killer and survivalist Eric Frein is starting to annoy some people, even politicians. Reportedly, the roadblocks, evacuations, and other dramatics in response to the September 12 incident during which Frein allegedly killed one Pennsylvania state trooper and injured another is costing at least a million bucks a week. Halloween has been canceled for the kids of Barrett township. Worse still, Fox News reported on October 18 that Frein was probably spotted by a woman outside the road-block perimeter. Innocent people are being harassed, police are flipping out, and their man still slipped away. This could go on a while.

–According to a lawsuit filed last Monday, in October 2013 an Austin police officer fired four shots at a woman as she was being chased by a drunken crowd. Gwendolyn Daniels says she was just getting off late from her job as a waitress when a bunch of douchebags from another bar followed her to her car. She made enough noise that she attracted the attention of Austin Police Officer Robert Krummel, but instead of helping her, he decided to open fire. Daniels was then tackled by the APD, arrested and cuffed and interrogated for hours. Her car was impounded for 10 months. No charges were filed, and Daniels is—quite rightly, if these ridiculous allegations are true—suing Krummel, as well as the city of Austin.

–On October 15, a "conservative activist” was booted off of Broward College after she tried to talk to students about how “Big Government Sucks.” The security guard at Broward—which was hosting an awkward Florida gubernatorial debate— told 22-year-old Lauren Cooley she needed to go to the “free-speech zone” or else produce identification. Cooley, filming all the while, decided she would rather leave, but as she was doing so, two police officers showed up to demand that she show ID (which she claimed to have left in her car). The cops reiterated that she couldn’t talk to students. The off-limits youth had just been watching a political debate on their campus, yet security and police threatened this woman with arrest because she dared to talk politics.

–VICE’s good Cop of the Week is so very retro. Famed New York Police Department (NYPD) whistle-blower and guy who got shot by a drug dealer in real life Frank Serpico—portrayed by Al Pacino in the 1973 film—had an essay in last week’s Politico Magazine. His headline is “The Police Are Still Out of Control," which sounds about right. Since his own saga led to a commision on corruption in NYC law enforcement, Serpico says “too little has really changed." Given the wave of brutality we've seen these past few months and the lack of accountability for cops in New York and elsewhere, it's hard to argue with the guy.

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