Thursday, March 18, 2010

KopBusting Ex-Narc Plans To Sue Police for Millions

Jeremiah Vandermeer
Cannabis Culture
March 11, 2010

CANNABIS CULTURE - Ex-narcotics officer Barry Cooper is fuming over a police raid on his home and plans to sue the officers and officials involved for $30 million, calling their conduct "obvious retaliation" for a sting operation he pulled on Texas police for his show KopBusters.

"We are going to sue every Williamson County officer involved in the raid, the judges who signed my warrants, the sheriffs department, and the jail for false imprisonment," Cooper told Cannabis Culture. "According to my lawyers, it will be about $30 million."

Cooper, who served almost a decade as a drug enforcement officer before renouncing his past and becoming a marijuana activist, was arrested last week by Williamson County officers who claimed he filed a false police report during the setup for an episode of his Internet show that targets corrupt cops.

After arresting Cooper for the misdemeanor, 10 or more officers raided his home with guns pointed at his wife and seven-year-old son, and eventually found less than a gram of marijuana in the form of a few roaches.

Cooper, who is running for Texas Attorney General, has successfully busted police with a sting he calls "Finders Keepers" where a bag containing $45, some unused glass pipes, a fake drug-debt list, and a hidden GPS locator is placed in a public place and reported to police as suspicious. In a successful sting on a Liberty Hill police office he recorded for KopBusters, the officer took the money and ditched the bag.

When the KopBusters team attempted the sting again in Florence Texas, police didn't take the bait and retrieved the "suspicious package" in the legal manner. Later, police reviewed a recording of the phone call reporting the package by a caller identifying himself as "Ted Smith". Officers claim they could hear Cooper talking in the background, and filed for the arrest warrant.

Sergeant Gary Haston writes in the affidavit for Cooper's arrest warrant, "Upon review of the recorded telephone call made to the communication center at the Williamson County Sheriff's Office for this event, [Haston] was immediately able to discern the second, unidentified voice on the call as belonging to...Barry Neal Cooper. [Haston] is familiar with Cooper's voice from having heard him speak on numerous occasions in videos posted by Cooper on the internet website "YouTube," as well as Cooper's own website ""

"Our lawyers are laughing at that affidavit," Cooper said. "First of all, it wasn't a false report. According to the affidavit for the warrant, the caller said there was a suspicious bag at the school. Well, there was a suspicious bag at the school, so that's not a false report. But even is there was a valid case of a false report, it would be for the person who made the call, not someone talking in the background."

Cooper says police raids for misdemeanors are unheard of, and points to the presence of narcotics officers who kept asking "what do you have in your garage?" during his arrest as proof that a lot more was going on behind the scenes.

"In my entire law enforcement career and since I've been out I've never heard of a raid being conducted on a home for a misdemeanor," Cooper said." They knew that the arrest warrant affidavit would not pass the smell test with a real judge, so they took it to a Justice of the Peace."

He says police probably expected to find a large marijuana growing operation at his house, which would have overshadow their shady methods. When they didn't find any pot plants, police scoured the house and came up with only a few roaches - not much, but enough for a pair of arrest warrants for Cooper and his wife Candi. Though they have both been charged with possession, Cooper says after pleading guilty, the courts would probably knock the charges down to a Class C misdemeanor and a fine.

He says his family has been turned upside down in the raid - a terrifying four-hour experience where shouting police came through the front door with guns drawn, and eventually seized computers, electronic equipment and even his wife's iPod.

The Williamson County Sheriff's office did not return phone calls to Cannabis Culture.

The lawsuit will be filed in the next couple weeks he says, and he will continue fighting corrupt cops for those who can't.

"This is proof that if you do fight back against corruption, you will get raided and go to jail," Cooper said. "It is not a fair system and it is intimidating for people out there who want to change things. That's why we will keep fighting."

UPDATE: Big props to one of my favorite reporters, Stephen C. Webster from True/Slant (pictured standing behind Barry in the photo above) for his diligent reporting on the KopBusters (and for mentioning Cannabis Culture in his latest piece).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Acevedo Finalist to Lead Dallas Police

Acevedo says he sought opportunity after it was presented

Tony Plohetski
Austin American-Statesman
March 8, 2010

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, within hours of applying for the job, was named one of six finalists Monday to become the next leader of the Dallas police force.

Panels of Dallas residents, city officials and police union representatives will interview Acevedo later this month, but it was unclear Monday when the city would name its new chief .

Acevedo, who has been in Austin since July 2007, said he applied after the position "was presented to me." He had privately informed several top city officials in recent days that he was considering applying for the job but had not told them he'd formally entered the process.

"I want to assure the men and women of the Austin Police Department that I very much enjoy my work with this great department," Acevedo said in a statement. "The decision to respond to this opportunity is not an indication of my dissatisfaction, in any way, with this outstanding police department."

The announcement comes at a time when Acevedo's prominence in Austin — and the law enforcement community nationally — continues to grow.

Some City Hall insiders Monday night questioned whether Acevedo might attempt to use the possibility of becoming Dallas' chief to bolster his Austin salary, which was about $180,000 last year, or to obtain other perks such as an employment contract with the city.

In his statement, Acevedo mentioned that the average tenure of a major city chief is three to five years and that he has no contract with the City of Austin — only City Manager Marc Ott does.

Ott said he thinks any discussion about a counteroffer is premature.

"I don't want to presuppose what is going to happen in that regard," he said.

However, Acevedo, who oversees about 1,600 officers, said he would probably accept an offer in Dallas if he and the city agree on the salary and other terms. Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle , who plans to leave in April, earned about $177,000 last year.

The Dallas opening comes during a time of mounting strain between Acevedo and some city leaders, who have raised concerns, in particular, about his decisions to bypass some officers for promotions.

Acevedo has lost two recent appeals by officers who were bypassed, and hearings for a third began this week.

Some City Council members earlier this year expressed frustration at having to create a high-ranking position for an officer who won his appeal. Acevedo had not left a slot vacant while the matter was being resolved.

Acevedo also has increasingly garnered the spotlight at community events, including a recent anti-hate rally downtown, during which he received thunderous applause and cheers while City Council members looked on.

City officials offered mixed reactions Monday night to Acevedo's possible departure. Several talked as if Acevedo would probably be hired.

"He will be hard to replace," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. "In a way, I hope he doesn't get it, but I wish him well. He has a career to think about, and his career is ahead of him."

Acevedo, 45, moved to Austin after spending more than two decades with the California Highway Patrol. He found a department that was under U.S. Department of Justice scrutiny for how it uses force against minorities and has worked in recent years to improve police and community relations.

Council Member Laura Morrison said, "I wish him well and good luck if he's looking to a new future."

However, Council Member Mike Martinez said he has no indication that Acevedo would leave. "I think it is premature to sound any alarms right now," Martinez said.

But Martinez said he isn't surprised that Dallas encouraged Acevedo to apply.

According to a City of Dallas memo, other contenders for the job include the San Jose, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., police chiefs. The city's job posting said the next chief would oversee about 3,600 officers and a $410 million budget.

"The next Chief will be expected to continue growing the sworn component of the department while confronted with budget challenges," the posting said.

Among the rank-and-file, Austin officers said Monday night that they were surprised by the announcement, said Sgt. Wayne Vincent, the police union president.

Relations between the union and Acevedo also have grown increasingly frayed, culminating last month with the chief's decision to take to court an arbitrator's opinion to reinstate a fired officer.

"I wish him luck if (Dallas) is what he wants to pursue," Vincent said.