Source: Richmond police investigating marijuana find at officer’s home
Please also read my related post entitled;
“Cops are using Police Dogs to violate citizens 4th Amendment rights to illegal search and then steal their cash”
RICHMOND — An officer with the Richmond Police Department has been placed on leave and is being investigated for “potential administrative and/or criminal consequences,” after police serving a search warrant found an unknown amount of an illegal drug in his Oakley residence last month.
Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan confirmed the officer is on paid leave and under investigation, but could not confirm his identity because of administrative laws. However, other sources inside and outside the department said the officer is Joe Avila, a veteran member of the department’s K-9 unit.
Those same sources said the drug involved is marijuana.
RENO — A rural Nevada county has settled lawsuits with two men who said a sheriff’s deputy violated their civil rights when they were stopped for speeding on Interstate 80, searched for drugs and forced to forfeit tens of thousands of dollars even though no drugs were found and no charges filed in either case.
Tan Nguyen of Newport, Calif., and Michael Lee of Denver said in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Reno they were stopped last year on U.S. Interstate 80 near Winnemucca about 165 miles east of Reno under the pretext of speeding. They said they were subjected to illegal searches and told they wouldn’t be released with their vehicles unless they forfeited their cash.
The suits accused the same veteran deputy, Lee Dove, of taking a briefcase full of $50,000 in cash from Nguyen after stopping him for exceeding the speed limit by 3 mph in September, and seizing $13,800 and a handgun from Lee during a similar stop in December.
Avila has been on leave since September. Gagan said Tuesday he first became aware of the case on Sept. 28. According to sources, police served a search warrant on the home last month after learning that marijuana was in the home. It could not be confirmed immediately how it came to their attention.
“We do have an officer on administrative leave, and we are investigating the potential administrative and/or criminal consequences involved,” Gagan said. “That’s really all I can say at this point.”
Gagan said Avila, 43, has been cooperating with the police investigation.
“He has been from the start,” Gagan said. “From our perspective, we want to be as up front as we can be, but this is still playing out.”
Calls to Avila’s attorney Thursday afternoon were not returned.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rderh.
A Richmond police officer is being investigated in a marijuana case after police say pot was found at the officer’s Oakley home.
A Richmond police officer is being investigated in a marijuana case after police say pot was found at the officer’s Oakley home.
A Richmond police officer is on paid administrative leave after authorities found marijuana at his Oakley home, police said Tuesday.
The department has launched an internal investigation of the officer, said Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan. “The case has employment and criminal implications, and the DA is reviewing our findings,” Gagan said.
Gagan declined to identify the officer. A source close to the investigation, however, identified him as K-9 Officer Joe Avila, 43, who has been with the department for about 15 years.
The source said a “large amount of marijuana” was found at Avila’s home when police served a search warrant last month. The officer is cooperating, police said.
An attorney for Avila was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.
Unfortunately for Richmond Police Captain Manjit Sappal, former Officer Joe Avila’s immediate superior, the reductions in the crime rate that Richmond is experiencing is happening despite his “Officer’s” contributing to it. Can you imagine that?
The Richmond Police are actually INCREASING THE CRIME RATE BY CUTTING OUT THE CRIMINALS AND COMMITTING THE CRIMES THEMSELVES!
Interesting that Officer Joe Avila was the beat Officer for the Nevin Plaza Tenant Council, with policing leadership like his, no wonder the Public Housing Project is such a dangerous Hell-Hole.
In stark contrast to the living conditions of the citizens of Richmond that “Officer” Joe Avila was supposed to serve and protect, he lived in the bucolic paradise of Oakley California that you see below…
Worst public housing complex in Richmond, Calif., to be emptied
The Richmond City Council voted Wednesday night to give residents of the 150-unit Hacienda complex vouchers to move to private housing, allowing them to escape a building that the Richmond Housing Authority’s own executive director called uninhabitable.
“Clearly, we’ve failed in some of our public housing,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. “We have to move on Hacienda. Our residents can wait no longer.”
There’s still no actual plan for how to relocate residents or how to pay for it. In two weeks, City Manager Bill Lindsay is supposed to return to the City Council with those details.
The Off/Page Project presents its latest short film, “This is Home,” produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting’s new report on failures of Richmond, Calif.’s housing authority. Off/Page recruited three Richmond poets — Deandre Evans, William Hartfield-Peoples and Donte Clark — to work with CIR reporter Amy Julia Harris in the Hacienda and Nevin Plaza housing projects, interviewing sources and walking through dilapidated, mold-infested buildings during her investigation.
The planned evacuation of Hacienda comes weeks after The Center for Investigative Reporting found widespread problems in Richmond’s public housing, including deplorable conditions for residents and mismanagement and financial abuse at the housing authority.
Richmond has been labeled on one of the worst housing authorities in the country since 2009, and the federal government has threatened to take it over this year if key benchmarks aren’t met.
Tim Jones, the housing authority’s executive director, estimated it would cost $489,000 to relocate all the Hacienda residents and at least $19 million to fix the maintenance problems at the complex.
Jones said the agency would ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for money for about 130 vouchers to move residents from Hacienda, a six-story high-rise in central Richmond. But if HUD doesn’t provide the money, Lindsay said the city would foot the bill and “make it work.”
If residents are moved, they will need to find housing on the private market with Section 8 vouchers. Jones said the agency would work with tenants to help them find new places to live.
The city still is considering bulldozing Hacienda, whose top floor is all but vacant because of chronic roof leaks, or selling it to a developer to make renovations.
The housing authority is currently about $7 million in debt and would need to borrow money for the resident relocation from the city’s day-to-day budget.
Before the vote, the City Council heard more details about infestation and maintenance breakdowns at Richmond’s two largest housing complexes, Hacienda and Nevin Plaza.
In response to the CIR investigation, the city manager ordered a private contractor to inspect Richmond’s five public housing complexes.
“Infestation is prominent, whether it be cockroaches, mice or rodents,” said Michael Petragallo, an inspector with Sterling Co. Inc. “Infestation is a serious and persistent problem.”
LISTEN TO KQED’S FORUM
He said the most serious concerns were at Hacienda, where the elevators weren’t working, there are plumbing problems and old windows pose serious risks. Most residents are elderly or disabled.
The inspectors also found that nearly half of residents said their problems weren’t being fixed by paid contractors.
Jones said the inspectors surveyed 471 residents about their experience with the maintenance department. Forty-five percent said contractors didn’t resolve the maintenance problems when they showed up, and 26 percent said the contractors did a sloppy job. Jones said those numbers needed to go up, otherwise “we’re not doing our job.”
Public housing residents continued to stream forward to complain about serious health problems from mold, with many pleading with the city to move them out of their apartments. More than 30 residents signed up to speak.
“I still got black mold in my place,” said Larry Joe Washington, a Hacienda resident. “They ain’t done nothing. I’m not going to die in that place waiting for someone to do something.”
Petragallo said he couldn’t say how much mold there is at all the properties, but “it exists and is something to be considered.” He said there was discoloration that could be mold, mildew or water damage “throughout 70 percent of the property at Hacienda.”
Other residents like Lisa Fishman said the problems aren’t confined to Hacienda.
Fishman, who lives in Nevin Plaza, said she is struggling from years of black mold exposure. She had a doctor’s note from August saying the housing authority should do a test for mold, which posed an immediate health hazard.
“The housing authority refused to do a test. They refused to admit there was black mold in the building, and they refused to move me,” Fishman said. “Kathleen Jones pointed at my cat litter box and said I should tell my doctor about that.”
Kathleen Jones is the asset operations manager and is responsible for collecting rent and enforcing leases. She is not related to Tim Jones. She continued to be the focus of resident frustration.
At Wednesday’s meeting, residents described how Kathleen Jones had cursed them out, made demeaning comments about their personal lives and had a general nasty attitude. Earlier this week, CIR found that Kathleen Jones’ nephew, a resident manager for the housing authority, more than doubled his salary for the last two yearswith overtime and other pay perks.
On Wednesday night, officials announced that she was on leave from the housing authority.
In a previous interview, Kathleen Jones has said she’s the victim of a “witch hunt.”
At the meeting, the housing authority’s board – made up of the seven City Council members and two tenant representatives – discussed whether to issue a vote of no confidence for Kathleen Jones and Tim Jones.
“The Richmond Housing Authority is a dysfunctional organization, and if they were a private business, they’d be out of business,” said Councilman Nathaniel Bates, who brought forward the no-confidence motion. “Until we get a clean administrative staff in that organization, it’s going to be business as usual.”
The motion did not pass.
Auditors have blamed many of the housing authority’s troubles on a breakdown in leadership and oversight. They called Tim Jones ineffective, saying he was not disciplining staff and had failed to improve the agency’s financial troubles.
Tim Jones came to Richmond in 2005 to rescue the housing authority from many of the same problems it faces today. But under his watch, the housing authority plunged further into debt and has had a series of contracting and personnel scandals.
He’s blamed the problems on a lack of HUD funding. He’s continued to have the support of his boss, the city manager. Lindsay has said he has faith Tim Jones can turn the agency around.
This story was edited by Andrew Donohue. It was copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee.
How Asset Forfeiture Allows Cops to Steal from Citizens
It probably seemed like a bright idea at the time: Let the police seize the ill-gotten gains of alleged drug dealers and other suspected criminals and sell it, using the proceeds to buy much-needed crime-fighting gear.
Unfortunately, the process—civil asset forfeiture—did not require convicting anybody of a crime. In fact, it didn’t even require charging anybody with a crime. Not surprisingly, this led to rampant abuse, which has been abundantly documented for many years. Various reform efforts, including a 2000 federal law, have been unable to stop what’s become known as policing for profit.
But Virginia lawmaker Mark Cole is going to give it another shot. That’s as good a sign as any that civil asset forfeiture has jumped the shark.
You can’t get much more conservative than Cole, a Republican who represents Spotsylvania in the General Assembly, without falling off the edge of the political spectrum. Cole supports “traditional family values” — so much so that he voted against appointing a Richmond prosecutor and former Navy pilot to a judgeship because he was gay. Cole has sponsored legislation to deny government benefits to illegal immigrants. And to strip state funding for abortions even in cases where the fetus has “gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency.” And to rewrite a state prohibition against guns in schools so private schools could set their own rules. Four years ago, he sponsored a bill to protect people from having microchips implanted in their bodies, in part because such microchips might be used as the “mark of the beast” described in Revelations.
On his website, Cole boasts of supporting law enforcement. “Public safety and emergency services are Mark Cole’s top priorities,” reads a quote from Stafford County Sheriff Charlie Jett. “He helped ensure that funding was available for pay raises for deputies and state troopers. He has been a strong voice for us in Richmond.”
But policing for profit has gone too far, even for Cole. In anticipation of the 2015 legislative session, he already has filed a bill (HB 1287) that would forbid asset forfeiture without a conviction—and even then only after all appeals have been exhausted.
That would have saved a lot of misery for people such as Mandrel Stuart, who couldn’t afford to keep his Staunton barbecue business going after police seized more than $17,000 from him in a minor traffic stop. Unlike many in such straits, Stuart did not agree to settle for half his money back and a promise not to sue. He won in court, but still lost his business.
Taking property from people who haven’t been charged with any crime is “fundamentally un-American,” Cole told the online news organ Watchdog.org. His stance puts him on the same page as the ACLU, which also strongly opposes civil asset forfeiture. Two years ago it settled a class-action case out of East Texas in which “police officers routinely pulled over motorists in the vicinity of Tenaha without any legal justification, asked if they were carrying cash and, if they were, ordered them to sign over the cash to the city or face charges of money laundering or other serious crimes. Almost all of the stops involved Black and Latino drivers. None of the plaintiffs in the case were ever arrested or charged with a crime.” The police seized about $3 million this way.
Cole says he has heard from some commonwealth’s attorneys who think his bill would make their job harder. That seems highly unlikely—if they view their job as protecting the innocent and prosecuting the guilty. In that case, a statutory guarantee that only the guilty can have their assets seized would only reinforce their job description. If, on the other hand, prosecutors see their job as simply racking up “wins,” as measured by the raw volume of money and property seized regardless of whom it came from, then Cole’s bill would indeed make their jobs harder—and thank heaven for that.
Still, Cole’s bill probably goes too far for some who think civil asset forfeiture is an unalloyed good. So how about a different reform based on the same principle as the practice they defend? In cases where a citizen can show that his money or property was improperly seized, the courts shall return it to him—along with an equivalent sum from the personal property of every individual responsible for the seizure.
That still wouldn’t balance the scales: Unlike the police, the citizen would have to prove something. But you gotta start somewhere, right?
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