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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

NACDL Report Demonstrates Impact of Tracking Police Misconduct and Urges Every Defender to Join The Movement –

Full Disclosure Project Report Marks Fifth Anniversary of the Police Killing of Anton Black

Washington, DC (Sept. 15) – A new National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) report demonstrates how defenders have transformed the legal system by tracking and exposing newly available police misconduct data. For decades, law enforcement misconduct has hidden behind a "blue wall of silence" that permits officers to operate with impunity. The blue wall allowed Officer Thomas Webster IV in Delaware, for example, to rack up over 30 use-of-force complaints at the Dover Police Department and leave with a payout after being banned from seeking employment there again, only to move across state lines to work at Maryland’s Greensboro Police Department. 
Five years ago, on September 15, 2018, only six months after joining the Greensboro Police Department, Webster IV kneeled on a handcuffed Anton Black until he lost consciousness and died. In 2021, Maryland passed Anton’s Law, categorizing certain police disciplinary records as public, and mirroring similar efforts in California, New York, and Massachusetts. 
While transparency laws are a crucial first step, their true impact lies in the hands of independent projects, such as the Full Disclosure Project of NACDL, which from 2020-2023 helped defenders build databases to track misconduct on over 150,000 law enforcement officers. One of those databases at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender sees daily use to get better outcomes for clients and improve disclosure practices, and identifies problematic units, like a Baltimore Police Department squad with 79 officers who have collectively been subject to 707 investigations, an average of nine investigations per officer.
This monumental report, "Dismantling the Blue Wall of Silence: Why Every Defender Should Track Law Enforcement Misconduct," analyzes the profound impact of these databases and provides valuable recommendations and resources for other defenders to join the movement. 

"We now have evidence from multiple states that defender databases of misconduct data create more just outcomes for clients, prevent wrongful convictions, and catalyze a cycle of accountability in the criminal legal system," stated lead author Julie Ciccolini, who led the Full Disclosure Project for the past three years. "It is imperative that every defender tracks this data as part of their practice."

"Tracking lawlessness by law enforcement officials is no longer an option, it’s a must, and every defender needs to get involved," stated NACDL President Michael "Mike" Heiskell of Fort Worth, Texas. "We applaud the coast-to-coast rise of independent police accountability projects that are spotlighting the kind of malfeasance and mayhem caused by repeat offenders who for decades have sheltered in the shadow of the blue wall of silence. As a criminal defense attorney and as a Black parent, we've seen too many senseless killings of our children, and we've marked too many anniversaries of police killings of our children. We've witnessed too much silence and complicity in both instances. Anton Black was 19 when three White police officers and a resident passerby chased and tased Anton and pinned him down on his mother Jennell’s porch. A civil lawsuit showed that police wrongfully killed Anton by positional asphyxiation. As she cried out his name, Anton’s last words were ‘Mommy, help!’ and ‘I love you.’ But we are not just here to memorialize the police killing of Anton Black, we’re calling on defenders to further the trend toward accountability for the law enforcement officials who step over the bodies of our children and loved ones with impunity."

This article was syndicated from the NACDL website and originally appeared on:

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NACDL - National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Founded in 1958, NACDL is the largest organization for criminal defense lawyers fighting to preserve fairness within America's criminal justice system. The organization has more than 10,000 direct members including criminal defense attorneys in private practice, public defenders in state or federal court, U.S. military defense counsel, law professors and judges.