Friday, November 13, 2015

CLERB, Schilling and Darrius

Officer Connor Schilling called in sick today, but it wasn't the first time Schilling has failed to make the scene. Schilling was cited for "leaving the scene" of an accident in 2009, and according to DeSoto County Justice Court, he apparently did not appear for his court date as the record shows the case "open/pending."

On the same day (Nov. 3) when Memphis City Council finally passed the updated CLERB ordinance, 9-2, District Attorney Amy Weirich announced that the grand jury had failed to indict Officer Schilling.  Weirich said she had requested an indictment of voluntary manslaughter in Schilling's shooting to death of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart on July 17.

The DOJ is monitoring the case, and Stewart's family is determined to keep his death and the secret Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report from slipping out of the public consciousness as his mother and others spoke out at a rally Tuesday Nov. 10 at the criminal justice center.

Schilling was scheduled for a Memphis police administrative hearing Friday Nov. 13, but he called in sick, according to local news reports.  Police internal affairs seeks to review Schilling's actions on the night of Stewart's death in the context of police policy and procedures.  The hearing, which is not open to the public and at which Schilling will be represented by counsel, will be rescheduled.

After Stewart's death, local media reviewed Schilling's personnel file.  It showed he had been internally disciplined for a DUI, which was dismissed in Mississippi when the arresting officer failed to show up for court, and an excessive force complaint against him by a local citizen, Cyneitha Campbell, had been found without merit by internal affairs.

Memphis United activists, who have worked more than two years to bring the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board out of an exile illegally imposed by the city administration, point to   Campbell's complaint as something that could have been brought before CLERB -- had it not been disbanded -- and could potentially have helped curb future uses of force by this officer.  CLERB last reviewed a citizen complaint in August, 2011, before being reconvened early this year.  However, the reconstituted CLERB board has yet to hear a case.
Case 9201454 Shows Connor Schilling fined for leaving the scene; screenshot from November 2015

The "leaving the scene" citation was issued Jan. 3, 2009, more than three years before Schilling became a Memphis police officer.  The charge, "710 Leaving the Scene" on case number 9201454, shows an "open/pending" status in DeSoto County Justice Court.  The file shows a fine of $190.50, and the clerk's office says a collection agency has been assigned to attempt to collect.

A Justice Court deputy clerk, however, says the case had "no disposition."  Another clerk in the Justice Court office said there is "no time limit" on an open case.  They could not say whether the defendant Schilling ever appeared in court.  Since there was "no disposition," it seems unlikely there was a hearing -- although that seems to contradict the collection attempt and fails to explain why there has been no disposition or follow up.  The deputy clerk explained they have many cases, so is this just one that fell through the cracks?

Leaving the scene is a misdemeanor, per Mississippi Code Annotated 63-3-403.

DeSoto County records also show Schilling received a ticket for running a red light Nov. 9, 2008, and paid a fine of $150.

Although running a red light is a common violation which many drivers have committed at one time or another, whether cited or not, "leaving the scene" sounds more serious and is the kind of thing a police officer would be expected to deal with in his line of duty.  Why does one "leave the scene?"  This occurred before Schilling was hired to be a Memphis officer, and we are not privy to any particulars other than the dry record.

The "leaving the scene" citation apparently has escaped local media's radar, and perhaps it was not revealed to MPD prior to their hiring of Schilling.  Private companies nowadays scrutinize public records, including arrests, and credit reports, and get mouth swabs or urine specimens, before hiring employees. Fairly or not, in some cases even a traffic ticket may disqualify someone from a job.  Not pre-judging this case without more details, but could "leaving the scene" generally be the basis for disqualifying or further scrutinizing an application to become a police officer?

UPDATE on Nov. 29, 2017: These URLs are now connected to other cases. AND, just days after we spoke with DeSoto County Justice Court in mid-November, 2015, Schilling's "leaving the scene" case was changed to "not guilty." How does that happen?

See screenshot:

Weeks later, this same case almost six years old, suddenly showed "not guilty"

DeSoto County Justice Court website showing Case 9201454:

new link as of dec. 3 2015:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Who Matters Most: Kindergarten Teachers, or Hedge Fund Operators?

Is America turned upside-down, or what?   From Jim Hightower's recent post:

Get ready to swallow your "Statistic of the Day!"

But first, to help you absorb the big one, here's a preliminary statistic for you: 158,000. That's the number of kindergarten teachers in America, and their combined income in 2013 was $8 billion. Now, here's your Big Stat of the Day (even though it seems smaller): Four. That's the number of America's highest-paid hedge fund operators whose combined income in 2013 was $10 billion. Yes, just four Wall Street greedmeisters hauled off $2 billion more in pay than was received by all of our Kindergarten teachers.