Investigators in Largo, Florida tried to unlock the phone of a man shot and killed by police by pressing the dead man’s finger against the phone’s fingerprint reader, according to the ABA Journal. But should the police have sought a warrant first? Experts interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times said what police did might not seem appropriate, but it was probably legal. The reason? Dead people don’t have an expectation of privacy. Largo police shot and killed Linus Phillip on March 23 after he attempted to drive off before being searched. Investigators say they wanted information on Phillip’s phone as part of their investigation into his death, as well as for a separate drug investigation.
While the rest of the nation debates on how best to proceed on criminal justice reform, the city of Philadelphia isn’t waiting. The Washington Post reports that reforms that went into place two years ago are starting to produce results. For example, the city just closed its infamous House of Correction jail because the number of inmates being housed has fallen by one-third. Changes are being made to the city’s bail system, and police are taking more people to treatment instead of jail. Click here to read more about how Philadelphia is reforming criminal justice.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Japanese manufacturing company, Toyobo Co., Ltd., agreed to pay $66 million to settle allegations that it conspired to sell defective body armor to American police departments, federal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military. The settlement was reached as part of a False Claims Act initiated by a whistleblower, Aaron Westrick, Ph.D.
As required under the False Claims Act, Dr. Westrick will obtain a qui tam whistleblower reward of $5.77 million. This award is designed to compensate Dr. Westrick for the damages he suffered and to incentivize other whistleblowers with evidence of fraud to report these crimes.
A detailed discussion on the national importance of this case is posted on The Whistleblower Blog.
Dr. Westrick, now employed as a tenured professor at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and an active Michigan Deputy Sherriff, issued the following statement:
“I only wanted to stop the sale of unsafe Zylon vests to police officers, federal agents, and members of our Armed Services. I tried to convince my company to stop selling these vests. They refused. I lost my job and career. I have no regrets. I would blow the whistle again. The defective Zylon product was taken off the market and Toyobo (along with other companies) were held accountable.
“I am proud that the United States joined in my False Claims Act case, and aggressively sought justice in this matter.”
In a statement released today by the DOJ, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “Bulletproof vests are sometimes what stands between a police officer and death. Selling material for these vests that one knows to be defective is dishonest, and risks the lives of the men and women who serve to protect us. The Department of Justice is committed to the protection of our law enforcement officers, and today’s resolution sends another clear message that we will not tolerate those who put our first responders in harm’s way.”
Stephen M. Kohn, a partner in the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto – who served as Dr. Westrick’s lead counsel said: “Dr. Westrick is a true American hero. He lost his job and career in the body armor industry by exposing Zylon safety risks. He provided the crucial documents and testimony justifying the removal of Zylon from the market, and compensation to states and the federal government due to the immoral sale of Zylon vests.
“The False Claims Act is America’s most important tool to fight fraud in government contracting. It was enacted to protect and reward whistleblowers like Dr. Westrick, who sacrifice for the public interest, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and ensure that products sold to front-line responders are safe.”
Mr. Kohn also serves as the pro bono Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on July 7 that it’s legal for witnesses to shoot video of police doing their jobs in public. The ruling is from a case where two Philadelphia police officers retaliated against people shooting video of them. Read more about the the ruling at Slate.