Nothing happens in Berrien County without the secret hand of Whirlpool. Keep that in mind while reading this article about BHPD officers Hall and Collins who will go down in history as cops who cooperated with the effort to rid Benton Harbor of African-American citizens so Harbor Shores could be developed. This massive human and environmental rights disaster continues with barely a whisper from media. No organizing by midwest "peace" groups. Kalamazoo, the nearest city of size, is mostly quiet. Chicago has people involved in the struggle. From your computer you can read the Herald-Palladium and leave a comment - maybe you'd like to do it on a daily basis. Comments after this article are surprizing - the Palladium must be under pressure from citizens. Their policy used to disallow comments against the "power structure."
In an imaginary world where equality exists, Whirlpool would leave BH, restore the beach, and help repair homes - as a gift to residents. They would open a factory and offices and give every person a job. They owe BH, big time.
Prosecutor, police chief say Bernard Hall and Andrew Collins' actions will have lingering effects; pair were indicted on corruption charges involving dozens of drug arrests
By J. Swidwa - H-P
Fri., March 5, 2010
GRAND RAPIDS - Benton Harbor and Berrien County will suffer serious, long-term repercussions from the actions of two former police officers who violated the civil rights of residents, the city's police chief and the county prosecutor told a federal judge Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff called the victim impact statements read by Police Chief Roger Lange and Berrien County Prosecutor Arthur Cotter "very eloquent" and sentenced former Benton Harbor policeman Bernard Hall Jr. to 30 months in prison.
Hall, 34, along with former Benton Harbor policeman Andrew Collins, 27, were indicted in 2009 on corruption charges related to dozens of drug arrests in the city from 2006 to 2008.
The indictment charged that the two falsified search warrant affidavits, obtained search warrants without probable cause, embezzled money from the department, filed false police reports and unlawfully seized people's money and personal property for their own personal use.
The two fabricated controlled drug buys to secure illegal search warrants and to embezzle funds from the police department.
Collins is serving 37 months in a federal prison and was brought to court Thursday to testify in a sentencing hearing for Hall.
Hall pleaded guilty last September to conspiracy to violate civil rights. The statutory maximum sentence is 10 years, but based on a presentence investigation, the sentencing guideline range for Hall was 24 to 30 months.
Hall, through his lawyer Don Ferris of Ann Arbor, asked for a lighter sentence, saying he wasn't the ringleader, but was a follower.
As a corporal, Hall was Collins' supervisor when the two worked in the city's narcotics unit. Hall testified Thursday he had falsified just seven search warrant affidavits compared to Collin's 80 to 100, that he took money from Collins on one occasion and never kept drugs seized from alleged dealers or stole money from them as Collins did.
Collins was a one-man operation in the narcotics unit from November 2005 until Hall was transferred from the School Resource Officer division to narcotics in June 2006. Collins testified that he told Hall "early on" how they could falsify reports to obtain search warrants, and said he had been doing it to increase his arrest numbers "to, in my mind, do a better job."
Collins said he would keep drugs in his office to either plant on people during a search or to falsify drug buys to embezzle money from the department.
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Delaney, Collins said that if Hall claimed not to know about the drugs stashed in the office, "that would be a lie."
Shaking his head, Collins said, "No. We were together all the time. We ate lunch together. I went to his house with him several times. It was me and him. We were close friends."
Collins told the court he had falsified 80 to 90 search warrants and "(Hall) was aware of most of them. He assisted with them."
Under cross-examination by Ferris, Collins said, "I was the one who hatched the idea," but said Hall knew the extent of his actions.
Hall maintained throughout the hearing that he was less guilty than Collins.
"Collins told you about shortcuts and illegal acts, and that was fine with you, right?" Delaney asked Hall.
"Yes," Hall answered.
"But you're trying to get this court to think you're really not that involved," Delaney countered.
"Because I'm not," Hall said.
Former Benton Harbor Police captain Randel Pompey was called to testify about Hall's claims that he had come to Pompey early on with concerns about Collins.
"No. I would have stopped it," Pompey told the court. "I didn't work 25 years to go to Benton Harbor to have my career ended by two guys not doing what they were supposed to do."
Pompey, a state police veteran before working in Benton Harbor in 2007 and 2008, has since become chief of the Coloma Township Police Department.
Pompey said Hall came to him in February 2008 and said Collins had marijuana in the narcotics office that had not been inventoried and packaged within 24 hours as required by department regulations.
That led to a search of the narcotics unit office in which Pompey found a lock box under Collins' desk. The box was empty, but Collins told another officer that he had thrown drugs in a trash can.
Former Chief Al Mingo and Pompey subsequently found marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine, fired Collins and launched an investigation.
"I was mad. More than mad," Pompey told the court. "I was disappointed and thoroughly disgusted."
Pompey said he worked in Benton Harbor another year and, after Collins' arrest, spent most of his time responding to complaints about police officers.
"It became, and still is, hard to work in that city. I don't think either of them recognize what they've done," Pompey said of Collins and Hall.
Pompey left the department for his job in Coloma and Mingo retired.
The new chief, Roger Lange, said in his victim statement Thursday that the actions of Hall and Collins have had "a devastating impact" on the city of Benton Harbor.
The city, already with serious financial problems, faces several civil lawsuits stemming from arrests made by Collins and Hall.
"My officers and I on a daily basis must deal with citizens who can never forget the betrayal of these two officers ... ," Lange said.
He thanked the U.S. Attorney's office and FBI Special Agent Al Dibrito for their work on the case.
In his victim statement, Cotter said the prosecutor's office has suffered, too.
"I knew when I first learned of this, that it was going to be a mess. It's a total breach of fidelity to the people of Berrien County and the citizens of Benton Harbor, and it's taken months and months of work," Cotter told the judge. "The citizens of Benton Harbor may end up paying for this."
Cotter said the actions of Hall and Collins have resulted in the reversal of 43 drug cases so far, with dozens still to be reviewed. He said he is combing through every case and that Collins has cooperated, but Hall has not.
"Mingo said he put Hall there (in charge of narcotics) because he was older, more experienced, level-headed and trusted, to make sure this younger, maybe over-exuberant officer had supervision," Cotter told the judge. "Bernard Hall violated that trust. I've been waiting, hoping, that he would step forward and right his wrong, and he hasn't. I ask you to throw the proverbial book at him."
Neff told Hall the case is much bigger than him.
"This is a whole lot bigger than you, here, and that's the part that doesn't seem to have landed with you," she said.
Neff said she is familiar with Benton Harbor.
"You live and served in a community where that trust was already very fragile. I know just how fragile that trust was between police and citizens and now, if not totally broken, it's awfully close," the judge told Hall. "Frankly, I think that lands more at your feet. You were older, more experienced, you were in charge. That's what I'm not hearing from you. I don't think the numbers make any difference."
Hall, wearing black pants and a burgundy sweater with his hands clasped behind his back, fought back tears as he told the judge, "You're right. I'm wrong for what I did. I apologize."
Delaney told the judge that her sentence will be heard "all over homes in Benton Harbor and the police community."
Neff sentenced Hall to 30 months in federal prison, three years' supervised release and $10,000 restitution. She said that for his safety, the court will try to place him somewhere separate from people who are serving time for drug convictions in the Western District of Michigan.
"I hope some level of incarceration will provide you with deeper insight," she told him. "I don't think, listening to you, that you understand the greater implications of what you've done. You could have put a stop to this, and you didn't."
Hall agreed to surrender himself and was allowed to leave court on his own Thursday.
Delaney said Hall will be notified by the court where and when to begin his prison sentence.
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