Transparency Promotes Accountability

At the Pittsfield police station, suspects are charged and booked behind closed doors. When questions of propriety arise, regarding specific procedures or behavior, answers boil down to the word of law enforcement versus the word of an arrestee.  Such a covert and collusive environment invites Pittsfield police to place personal agendas and career goals ahead of law and policy.

On the evening of February 23, 2005, I was taken into custody and booked on misdemeanor charges.  While cloistered in the bowels of 39 Allen Street I fell victim to the antics of booking officer David Granger.  Just moments before I was to be fingerprinted Granger launched into a not so convincing act, announcing that the station’s Live Scan fingerprint machine had suddenly malfunctioned.  He claimed that as a result he had no option but to ink roll my fingerprint card.

Less than an hour later someone grabbed the fingerprint card and created a digital copy without my knowledge.  This was achieved by running the original ink rolled prints through the very scanner that Granger had declared out of service.  He’d merely feigned having technical difficulties in order to obtain preparatory fingerprints, from which an ancillary copy could be made.  At that point Pittsfield police depicted my scanned prints as not only being the official fingerprints of record, but also the only prints in existence.  We know this because the ink rolled prints were withheld from the district attorney’s office who, in turn, unknowingly withheld them from defense counsel by proxy.

Two questions: (1) How does such flagrant activity transpire – within a police station no less – yet remain concealed?  (2) How often are cases resolved through illicit booking proceedings or via retooling of booking evidence?  The problem boils down to a lack of transparency.  Conveniently for the Pittsfield Police Department there is no booking videotape, or so we were told, to visually corroborate the fingerprint sleight-of-hand.  But comparison of my arrest report to the electronically scanned fingerprint card reveals the following discrepancy:

date/time recorded on my arrest report:          02/23/2005      @2041
date/time recorded on my fingerprint card:   02/23/2005       @2128

There is a 47-minute time lapse between my booking record and the actual creation of my digital fingerprint card.  How is this possible?  An individual’s fingerprints are processed in the midst of being booked, not 47 minutes later when they’re no longer present to witness ancillary copies being made.  It’s impossible for me to have been fingerprinted at 2128.  By that time I’d already been booked and had long since been escorted to a jail cell to await arrival of the clerk magistrate.  During this 47-minute interim my ink rolled fingerprint card was scanned by an electronic device that was purportedly inoperative.

In a gross act of malfeasance, Pittsfield police crime scene investigator Mark Trapani subsequently wielded my ink rolled prints in such a manner as to appear as though he’d wrapped up one of his unsolved sexual assault cases.  Lying under oath, he claimed to have personally created my ink rolled fingerprint card on March 1st during booking.  He was going out of his way to make it appear as if the two fingerprint cards were completely unrelated, processed independently and on different days.

Trapani never stopped to think, if the Live Scan fingerprint machine had malfunctioned on February 23rd as Granger claims then my ink rolled fingerprint card would have also been created on February 23rd.  No one ever claimed the scanner went out of service, again, on March 1st.  Therefore, with the scanner working fine on March 1st, any fingerprints processed on that date would have been electronically scanned…not ink rolled.  In addition, why on earth would Trapani have bothered to ink roll my prints on March 1st – a method that is outdated and deviates from departmental protocol – if a purportedly legitimate set of electronically scanned prints were already in existence from February 23rd?

How convenient.  With no booking video tapes I was precluded from showing the jury what actually transpired.  In such an unmonitored police environment, devoid of video transparency and accountability, it’s no wonder that abuse of power ranges anywhere from insertion of undue influence to flagrant corruption.

 

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