Why “black-on-black crime” isn’t a valid argument against criticizing police brutality

VOX Policy & Politics

Harry Houck caused an uproar on Monday when he implied that black people were “prone to criminality” during a CNN panel.

“Facts have got to matter,” Houck said. “If we were going to make some changes to what’s going on here, the police have already recognized the fact that we’ve got some issues we’ve got to deal with. Now the black community has got to also understand that they have issues they have to deal with.”

But the facts Houck cited are telling. He mentioned the controversial “Ferguson effect”: that more crime is happening because officers are reluctant to do their jobs for fear of backlash from protesters and community members. He also said black people accounted for a much higher percentage of violent crimes than both the population they represent and their white counterparts.

For Houck, police brutality discussions too often turn into “a one-sided argument” where “racial demagogues out there turn [these facts] around that the blacks are being picked on.” While police officers are scrutinized, Houck suggests that black people take responsibility for their own crimes.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani issued a similarly inflammatory statement Monday. Not only did he call the Black Lives Matter movement “racist,” but he also chastised protesters for not protesting crime within their own communities.

“Black Lives Matter never protests when, every 14 hours, somebody is killed in Chicago, probably 70 to 80 percent of the time [by] a black person,” Giuliani said on Fox News. “Where are they then? Where are they when a young black child is killed?”

But the facts Houck and Giuliani left out are important too. Black people care just as much about racial disparities in policing as they do violence within their communities. And violence within their communities is too often tied to structural inequalities that racist policing perpetuates.

Black people care about crime within their communities and racism in the criminal justice system

A recent YouGov survey of 1,000 Americans underscored what many black Americans have long argued — that police brutality and crime are not mutually exclusive concerns.

While 64 percent of respondents believe intracommunal violence is a bigger problem for black Americans than racial justice in the criminal justice system, the results diverged when race factors in: 71 percent of white respondents share this belief, compared with 42 percent of black respondents.

A new survey finds that views on "black on black crime" diverge along racial lines.

A new survey finds that views on “black on black crime” diverge along racial lines.

But the degree to which black Americans diverge is also important: Black respondents in the YouGov survey are concerned more with violence within the community, but only slightly more so. Thirty-six percent do not feel intracommunal violence is more important than addressing racial injustice in the criminal justice system.

This suggests that black Americans may not prioritize the issues the same way, but it doesn’t mean they discount either of them. And maybe a better question to ask is why those like Houck presume that black people do and should choose between the two issues in the first place.

“Black-on-black crime” is a symptom of broader structural inequalities

Since the term emerged in the early 1980s, hysteria over “black-on-black crime,” which diagnoses the issue as a broader cultural failing, has obscured the economic and social inequalities that contribute to high crime rates in black neighborhoods.

“Supposedly we saw youth that were going astray and that was the problem,” University of Illinois geography professor David Wilson told the Root in 2010. “The media imposed this narrow [black-on-black] lens that looked at the category of culture. The culture was deemed as problematically different than the mainstream.”

Black people aren’t uniquely predisposed to commit crimes against each other; crime is generally just racially segregated, based on a number of factors, including that most people commit crimes against people they either know or live near. According to the FBI’s 2014 Uniform Crime Reports, close to 90 percent of African-American homicides were committed by other African Americans, while the majority (82 percent) of white American homicide victims were killed by other white people.

Another factor that contributes to crime is poverty. A 2014 special report by the Department of Justice found that black and white households that lived in poverty were much more likely to be victims of crime, and were victims of crimes at similar rates (51.3 per 1,000 compared with 56.4 per 1,000, respectively).

Black people are more likely to live in poverty without the resources necessary to get out of it. Redlining practices targeting black communities have deprived entire neighborhoods of their economic viability for generations. A 2015 report by the Century Foundation found that more than one in four African Americans lived in concentrated poverty, in comparison to one in 13 white people.

Meanwhile, white families have six times as much wealth as black families, and the poverty rate for black people (27.2 percent) is almost three times that of their white counterparts (9.6 percent).

Additionally, unemployment is far higher for black people, and always has been — by at least 60 percent since data collection started in 1972. At the end of 2015, the black unemployment rate was 9.5 percent — only slightly less than the national peak (9.9 percent) in 2009. The white unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

And yet politicians and government officials have advocated for community policing programs to curb crime, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating that it effectively does so. In September 2015, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Department of Justice would provide $12 million for these programs.

In fact, racist policing can exacerbate these issues. Some departments try to turn a profit by ticketing, which tends to exploit racially biased policing practices. The Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Missouri, showed high incarceration rates there, because residents often could not afford to pay the fines incurred from ticketing they disproportionately faced. And a panel of New York police officers recently admitted they often target the most vulnerable — poor people, people of color, and LGBTQ people — to meet quotas.

Violence within black communities and the overpolicing of black people are linked. But if an honest conversation is going to be had about either topic, especially in light of the latest officer-involved fatal shootings of black people, it needs to based on the fact that “black-on-black crime” is not simply black people’s making.

by

How the NRA Keeps Killer Guns on the Market

gettyguns.jpg

Getty Images

POLITICO

The Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol, which retails for about $300, is one of the cheapest American-made guns available on the civilian market. In used condition, these are junk guns, Saturday night specials. But last week, George Zimmerman listed his in an online auction with a starting bid of $5,000. This was the gun he used in 2012 to shoot and kill Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.

These macabre sales actually happen all the time in the United States. Most of the 116,000 Americans who are shot each year (32,000 fatally) receive barely a mention in local news—the perpetrators aren’t notorious, and their guns don’t become collector’s items. But neither are they removed from the market. In fact, thousands of Americans buy used guns every year—legally—with no idea those weapons were used to take someone’s life. A recent spate of laws, supported by the National Rifle Association, aims to keep it that way.

In the past eight years, 11 states have passed NRA-backed laws encouraging or requiring police to resell confiscated guns. The legislation is consistent with the guns-everywhere strategy the lobbying arm of the NRA has advanced at every level of government since the late 1990s—more guns in the hands of more people in more places. Dealers buy them in bulk from police departments and sell them to the public with no disclosure that such weapons were once used in robberies, assaults or homicides. In some notable cases, these guns are used to commit new crimes. Even so, efforts to expand these laws to other states are underway.

On television, cop dramas depict cavernous evidence rooms, where conscientious detectives might indulge their second thoughts about an old case and reexamine the murder weapon, still neatly tagged and boxed after for years. (Indeed, a few crime guns do sit forever in police custody, such as the .38-caliber revolver Mark David Chapman used to shoot John Lennon.) Generally, though, after guns have served their evidentiary purposes, they are either resold, destroyed or returned to the owners. (Immediately following his trial and a not-guilty verdict, Zimmerman’s lawyers announced that he was requesting the gun be returned to him, saying he feared for his safety and felt he needed to rearm himself.)

It’s never been a uniform or a perfect system. Law-enforcement agencies routinely sell seized property (such as automobiles) but destroy contraband (such as narcotics). What to do with weapons has always been a trickier issue. Back in 1992, Margaret Weigel’s gun was confiscated after her boyfriend used it to barricade himself in an apartment and threaten suicide. She demanded the gun back, and Baltimore police grudgingly obliged. Her boyfriend soon got hold of it again and killed her, then himself. After that, the weapon might still have made it back into civilian hands, depending on which law-enforcement agency seized it. At that time, Baltimore County Police routinely destroyed crime guns, whereas Maryland State Police resold them to dealers (a practice they discontinued a year later).

But this patchwork of inconsistent policies is something gun rights advocates have been trying to simplify of late—by prohibiting the destruction of crime guns.

Kentucky set an example in 1998, passing the first law prohibiting firearm destruction. This preceded the wave of 11 states that passed similar legislation between 2009 and 2014. The laws are particular to guns—other weapons, such as knives, don’t usually have enough value to make the resale effort cost-effective, and there’s no law mandating the preservation of knives or nunchucks or clubs or brass knuckles or baseball bats. In the Kentucky State Police Confiscated Weapons Sale, for example, the only weapons you’ll find on the auction spreadsheets are firearms.

This year, the Nebraska Legislature introduced a bill (now indefinitely postponed), that would have required the sale of forfeited guns in police custody, except in the rare circumstance that a firearm had an obvious defect that made it unsafe to fire. First to testify in support was Katie Spohn, a paid lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “The NRA supports LB769 because it eliminates the wasteful and expensive practice of destroying firearms that could be recirculated through licensed dealers to the retail market,” Spohn said. “The NRA further supports LB769 because the proceeds from these firearms auctions would go to support our local schools.”

It’s a curious model: The more crime there is in a community, the more guns the police can seize and resell, and the better the state can compensate public schoolteachers. But it’s becoming a reliable stream of municipal revenue around the country, Spohn explained. “Police departments and other public agencies routinely sell forfeited property to the law-abiding public, including firearms.”

So how’s that working out?

Through a contract with an online auction house, the Duluth Police Department in Minnesota sold three confiscated guns to Raymond Kmetz, a man with a long history of mental illness who had previously attacked a police officer with a bulldozer. Kmetz purchased the guns online, using his own name, but he knew he wouldn’t pass a background check. So he sent another man to pick them up. That straw buyer handed the guns over to Kmetz, who used them to attack New Hope City Hall, where he shot two police officers.

Meanwhile, guns released from the custody of Tennessee law enforcement agencies have also been used in multiple shootings—one at a Pentagon security checkpoint (leaving one dead, two injured), and another at a courthouse in Las Vegas (leaving two dead and one injured). Former Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. expressed reservations about the city’s practice of selling guns or trading them for other equipment, but said the program had saved the city millions of dollars. (That is, if you don’t factor in the economic impact of gun violence itself, which runs at least $580,000 per victim. Memphis has the fourth-highest rate of gun homicide in the U.S.)

In San Francisco, a former felon named Rudy Corpuz Jr. has an entirely different attitude about the aftermarket for guns. “If we get one gun off the street, we’re winning,” he said. “That one gun right there, potentially, can save a whole community.” Corpuz is now executive director of United Playaz, a violence-prevention group that has hosted several gun buyback events in San Francisco (in partnership with local police, who destroy guns surrendered by members of the community). To fund the buybacks, United Playaz solicited contributions from Silicon Valley tech magnates, and from medical marijuana dispensaries. People who voluntarily surrender a handgun get $100 cash, or $200 for a rifle—often less than the street value. “It’s about, honestly, just getting rid of a gun, so it won’t ever harm or hurt anybody no more,” Corpuz said. “I know some people are trying to get extra money, but more importantly, I think more people wanted to get it off the streets and out of the hands of anybody, period. Where it can be destroyed.”

“You’d be surprised who turns in guns,” Corpuz added. He related a story about one elderly woman who showed up at his buyback with nearly 30 guns—her late husband’s collection. “I used to break into people’s houses,” Corpuz said. “Imagine if I broke into her house. I would have had 30 guns. Me and my gang. Me and my crew.”

It’s hard to know exactly who participates in gun buybacks and what motivates them. Generally, it’s a “no questions asked” arrangement, to encourage people to turn in illegal guns without fear of arrest. “We’ve done voluntary surveys of people at gun buybacks,” explains Ian Johnstone, founder of GunXGun, a violence-prevention nonprofit that partnered with Corpuz. “What we’ve learned is that north of 20 percent of people that are participating in the buybacks never wanted the gun in the first place, and it just happened to be in their possession.” That set includes thousands of Americans who inherit guns every year that were used in a relative’s suicide. Those unwanted guns can sit around indefinitely as an unpleasant reminder. “That’s the unfortunate nature of guns. They don’t go bad. They just sit there. They last and they present this everlasting threat until they are taken out of circulation.”

Critics of gun buybacks have compared the effort to draining the ocean with a bucket. (Recent buyback events in San Francisco, for example, have taken in just a few hundred guns.) Lawmakers in Arizona reiterated doubts about the crime-prevention merits of gun buybacks when they passed a bill in 2013 requiring municipalities to resell any guns turned in through buyback programs, instead of melting them down. In a spectacular display of cognitive dissonance, sponsors of the bill argued that the guns being turned in were worthless, broken junk that could never be used in a crime and that the guns were too valuable to be destroyed and instead should be sold to generate revenue.

It’s true: In a nation with hundreds of millions of guns, we’ll never get rid of all of them. But with legislation like this, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to really get rid of even one.

An Officer Has Been Charged With The Murder Of Laquan McDonald. But What About The Cover-Up?

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLES REX ARBOGAST

THINK PROGRESS

After the first murder charge against an active-duty Chicago police officer in over three decades, the city’s political establishment is eager to move on.

But while Officer Jason Van Dyke could face 20 years or more in prison if convicted of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald over a year ago without apparent justification, the broader breakdown of the police department and city government’s responsibilities to McDonald and the broader Chicago community threatens to go unpunished.

The whole ugly thing would likely have gotten swept under the rug if journalists had not exposed an autopsy report and video footage that contradict the official narrative about what happened to McDonald. One of those journalists is Jamie Kalven, who emphasized the extensive and toxic cover-up of the killing to the Chicago Reporter on Tuesday.

Instead of taking statements from eyewitnesses, Kalven says, police moved people away from the scene of the killing. They did not take down contact information to ensure they could follow up later, witnesses told the journalist. Cops even went into a nearby fast food store and deleted nearly an hour and a half of security camera footage that may have captured the killing, the local NBC news affiliate reported back in the spring.

After neutralizing the potential for an alternative narrative based on civilian accounts and security camera footage, the police infrastructure offered its own version of events to the public. According to Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden, “none of the officers who responded had a Taser to use on the teen and were trying to detain him long enough for one to arrive.” Camden told the Chicago Tribune that McDonald lunged at the cops, who shot him in self-defense.

The video Kalven helped expose indicates Camden was lying, or at least relaying a story that bears little resemblance to the truth. McDonald is seen jogging and then walking in the middle of a street, roughly parallel to a line of cops and cop cars. He is starting to veer away from the officers when Van Dyke empties a 16-round clip into him in about 15 seconds. Charging documents indicate that 14 of Van Dyke’s shots came while McDonald was already on the ground, and that one of the two fired while the child was standing struck him in the back first.

Van Dyke opened fire just six seconds after exiting his car and just half a minute after his vehicle arrived at the scene, according to prosecutors. Less than a minute passed between Van Dyke’s arrival to a scene where fellow officers were working to contain McDonald and detain him, and when the accused murderer had to stop and reload his service pistol because he’d fired a full clip into McDonald.

Yet the department itself claimed that McDonald died of a single gunshot to the chest, not the 16 shots to the back, legs, arms, chest, and head that Van Dyke actually fired.

The documents also say that no other officers at the scene thought McDonald had done anything threatening toward Van Dyke, corroborating the appearance of events from the dashcam video. But the investigation that produced those statements from Van Dyke’s colleagues began only after reporters challenged the official story.

Today, even with the official story of McDonald’s death in tatters, city officials appear eager to limit the blame to Van Dyke. “One individual needs to be help accountable,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on a conference call with community leaders Monday.

Once Van Dyke is prosecuted, the mayor said, “we can go as a city and begin the process of healing.” That process seems unlikely to include accountability for Van Dyke’s colleagues who abetted the official story about why and how he killed McDonald.

It’s rare for police officers to face professional accountability over misconduct allegations, let alone to be prosecuted for a crime. But its rarer still to see prosecutors, supervisors, or city officials seek broader remedies for the offending officer’s co-conspirators even when video evidence indicates a cover-up. In part that’s because it’s tough to discern between an out-and-out cover-up and a more understandable degree of confusion in the immediate wake of a police killing.

Policework requires officers to arrive at a consistent narrative of events in general, PoliceMisconduct.net managing editor Jonathan Blanks said in an email. “Each case is different, but typically officers sign-off on one another’s official accounts for consistency in any case, whether or not there is misconduct or use of force. This isn’t necessarily malevolent on the part of the officers–consistent accounts build much stronger cases than cases that have conflicting accounts,” Blanks, who has studied policing for years, said.

That baseline dynamic of policework makes it hard for even the most aggressive prosecutor to discern between willful dishonesty and good-faith consensus between officers with different vantage points and recollections.

When a group of Fullerton, CA police officers beat Kelly Thomas to death as he cried out for his father and told his assailants he couldn’t breathe in 2011, city officials initially told reporters that Thomas had actually died of a drug overdose. They also said he’d been violently resisting arrest to such an extent that multiple officers had broken bones. Neither of those claims is true, and Thomas’ father has accused Fullerton officials of intentionally smearing his son’s character in the press to excuse an abuse of force. But the broken bones claim is partially supported by initial medical reports that the officers might have fractures, and an outside review commissioned by the city found officials did not intentionally deceive the public. Two of the officers were charged and later acquitted in Thomas’ death, and the city paid out a multimillion-dollar settlement to Thomas’s father.

After Officer Timothy Loehmann killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, he claimed he’d given the child multiple verbal warnings before shooting him in the chest. Loehmann said Rice, who was holding a toy gun rather than a real weapon, then reached into his waistband. “He gave me no choice, he reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do,” Loehmann told investigators. Prosecutors have commissioned reports from experts siding with Loehmann on the reasonableness of his decision to kill Rice. Video shows he in fact shot Rice less than two seconds after arriving on the scene, and is inconclusive on the claim that Rice reached for something. Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has accused Rice’s family of being out for money rather than justice and generally stalled on deciding whether or not to charge Loehmann in the killing, but investigations have revealed that other officers are not willing to corroborate Loehmann’s claims about yelling multiple warnings prior to shooting Rice.

Sometimes, though, the cover-up question is more clear-cut. Officer Michael Slager spent days telling the world that Walter Scott had tried to take his taser, forcing him to shoot Scott fatally in South Carolina last spring, before a cell phone video exposed that Slager had in fact shot a fleeing Scott repeatedly in the back. The video appears to show Slager dropping his taser near Scott’s body only after killing him. Slager’s police department backed up his story for a matter of days before the truth came out, leading prosecutors to charge the officer with murder.

Video similarly contradicted an initially-widespread narrative in the killing of Sam DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing and multiple other officers said DuBose’s car had begun to drag Tensing, causing the officer to shoot the driver in self-defense. The video shows the car didn’t start moving until after Tensing put a bullet through DuBose’s head at point-blank range.

Anecdotes don’t satisfy. But there’s almost zero hard data that can shed light on the divide between legitimate officer consensus and willful cover-up. The police misconduct tracking site that Blanks helps run has flagged a small percentage of overall misconduct cases as involving some form of dishonesty by officers, but that’s a broad category.

“Our data is very limited for a number of reasons,” Blanks said. “The so-called Blue Wall of Silence is an informal institutional norm that tends to place officers’ loyalty to one another over professional dedication to justice,” in part because honest officers are afraid of what their coworkers would do to them if they don’t back a colleague’s story. That undermines the quality of the data across the board, and even those incidents where the Blue Wall breaks down can remain out of public view thanks to records laws. “The public is left to trust the administrative mechanisms to mete out officer punishments for violations…without the public eye watching over that you would see in a criminal trial,” Blanks said.

ALAN PYKE

Cop Claims Brutal Assault On Indian Grandfather Was Justified Because ‘We Speak English Here’ (VIDEO)

ADDICTING INFO

Defense lawyers representing an Alabama police officer who stands accused of violating the rights of a 57-year-old man blamed the victim in court today. During opening statements, attorney Robert Tuten told jurors that the officer’s brutal attack on the man was on his own fault. He stated that Sureshbhai Patel, a native of India, had no business coming to the United States if he doesn’t know how to speak the language.

Mr. Patel was body-slammed by Madison, Alabama police officer, Eric Parker, in February. The assault left him partially paralyzed.

As Addicting Info reported in February, Officer Parker approached Patel after the a 911 caller racially profiled him. The caller reported seeing “a really skinny black guy,” with “a toboggan on.” Even though the caller said Mr. Patel was “just walking,” he also reported being “afraid to go to work and leave his wife at home alone.”

Mr. Patel came to the United States from India, where he worked as a farmer all of his life. He was brought to the country by his son, Chirag Patel, a U.S. citizen who is employed by a defense contractor, as a software engineer, in Huntsville. He brought his father to the United States after his baby was born prematurely, because he and his wife needed help caring for the child.

Video of Parker slamming the 57-year-old grandfather to the ground was published by al.com on YouTube, earlier this year.

According to Parker’s defense attorney, Mr. Patel had it coming. He’s not paralyzed today because the cop brutalized him without cause. In fact, the entire thing is his own fault.

The Associated Press reports that Tuten told the jury “anyone who comes to the United States is expected to follow the law and speak the dominant language.” He then added, “We speak English here.”

Prosecutors called Charles Spence to the stand. Spence is a 20 year veteran of the police force, with 15 years as a Field Training Officer.

WHNT reports:

“Spence said Parker used a standard takedown move, the “front leg sweep” taught in the police academy.  Spence said it’s used when a subject is being combative, but he didn’t observe Patel being combative.  He also said this type of takedown is “high risk” and he wouldn’t have handcuffed him in this circumstance.

Prosecutors asked Spence if he saw anything that would have caused him to lay hands on Mr. Patel.  “No sir, I didn’t,” Officer Spence replied.

The defense asked Spence about the language barrier officers encounter in the field. Spence said police come in contact with non-English speaking residents about once a month, usually Spanish speakers.”

YES, police are expected to know how to work with immigrants and visitors to the United States, and NO, those people are not required to “speak English here.”

The statements made by the Eric Parker’s defense attorney are appalling and infuriating.

Not knowing the language is not a crime. Not speaking English is not a reason for police to put you in the hospital for months on end.

But claiming in open court that this kind of brutality is the victim’s fault, simply because he doesn’t speak English, should be more than enough reason for a jury to find Parker guilty of a whole list of civil rights violations.

The Number of Cops Indicted for Murder Spikes Upward

WJLA – Baltimore

THE ATLANTIC

In the past five months, at least 14 police officers have been charged for on-duty killings—more than five times the normal rate.

At least 14 cops have been charged in recent months with committing murder, homicide, or manslaughter while on duty. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that two Albuquerque policemen must stand trial for killing a homeless man as he appeared to surrender. The same day, “tOn Monday, The Washington Post reported that “a former Fairfax County police officer was charged with second-degree murder, nearly two years after he shot an unarmed Springfield man who stood with his hands raised in the doorway of his home.”

At the end of July, prosecutor Joe Deters announced that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing will face murder charges for shooting an unarmed motorist during a traffic stop. In June, a South Carolina grand jury indicted former officer Michael T. Slager for shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the backas he ran away from a traffic stop.

In May, a Baltimore grand jury indicted six cops on homicide and assault charges in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. And a Tulsa deputy who grabbed his gun instead of his taser was charged with manslaughter in April.There are a couple of ways to contextualize these numbers.

Observers have noted the fact that American police officers kill orders of magnitude more people than their counterparts in other western democracies. Now, the number of U.S. cops arrested for killings in the last five months exceeds the total number of people shot and killed by cops in England going back five years. This is particularly extraordinary given how reluctant many U.S. prosecutors are to file charges against police, and how much deference police reports are given in the absence of video or forensic evidence, like a bullet in the back, that blatantly contradicts their story.

Are U.S. police now being charged at a higher rate than before? Maybe. Over a seven-year period ending in 2011, “41 officers in the U.S. were charged with either murder or manslaughter in connection with on-duty shootings,” The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014, citing research by Philip Stinson, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University. That figure works out to an average of 5.8 officers charged per year, but excludes officers charged in non-shooting deaths.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Professor Stinson told me that in a period stretching from May 2005 to April 2015, 54 officers were charged for on-duty killings where they shot someone, working out to 5.4 officers charged per year. But that figure excludes non-shooting incidents, like when cops kill someone with a Taser or car.

Stinson also has data in which cases are the unit of measure.Over that same seven-year period stretching from 2005 to 2011, there were 46 cases of cops being charged for on-duty killings of any kind––6.5 cases per year on average. The 14 officers charged over the past five months works out to an annualized rate of 33.6 cases per year, or more than five times the usual rate.

(The number of cases for on-duty and off-duty killings was much higher: 127 cases in that same time period, which works out to 18.1 cases per year.)

If prosecutors and grand juries are to be trusted, cops murder or unlawfully slaughter an extraordinary number of people. And while it may be that the five-month period we’re in now will look like just an unusual cluster, if the rate at which cops are indicted for killings continues at this pace, then we’re witnessing a sharp disjuncture with the recent past.

In yet another case, “a judge in Cleveland said that he believes there is probable cause to charge a police officer with murder for the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot while playing with a toy gun last year,” The Washington Post reported in June, but the ruling, “does not amount to formal charges being filed against the officers involved.” Regardless of how many officers are charged in coming months, the year-end number of cops charged will be scandalous, even though it almost certainly undercounts the number of unjust killings. Defenders of the status quo in policing should wake up to the need for reforms.

CONOR FRIEDERSDORF

This Photo Is Raising Questions About How Police Are Treating White Bikers After A Mass Murder

THINK PROGRESS

Today, a massive gunfight between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas left at least 9 people dead and 18 injured. “In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the worst crime scene, the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” Waco Police Sargent Patrick Swanton said.

The police have not named the gangs involved, but images taken after the massacre appear to show members of the Bandidos and the Cossacks, among other gangs, who have a history of violent confrontations in the area. The gang members reportedlyopened fire on the police when they arrived at the scene.

Many of the individuals involved appear to be white, including some with white supremacist tattoos and patches. One image, in particular, is raising question about whether the suspects would be treated differently if they were minorities:

Several commentators have noted that it’s a remarkably casual treatment of individuals who could be potential suspects for mass murder. No one is handcuffed and several people appear to have access to their cell phones.

It’s not known if any of the individuals in the photo played a direct role in the violence.

The image, of course, does not depict the full extent of the police response. The Los Angeles Times reported that, out of 150-200 bikers on the scene, “sheriff’s deputies were holding about 20 people wearing leather motorcycle vests — with their boots removed and in flex cuffs — in the parking lot.”

Many drew comparisons to Baltimore where police deployed tear gas against protesters and the National Gaurd was deployed. Although looting and vandalism occured, no one was killed during the Freddie Gray protests

~JUDD LEGUM

“I’m not your brother!”: Video reveals police’s stunning double-standard for black Americans

Screenshot of officer approaching Chris Lollie and mugshot of Chris Lollie
attribution: screenshot from video/Chris Lollie mughshot

Updated to include victim’s “mugshot”.

Salon

In a shocking video posted to YouTube, police tase and arrest a black man picking his kids up from preschool

The latest in police misconduct was captured in a cellphone video that surfaced earlier this week. The video depicts a black man, identified as 28-year-old Christopher Lollie, sitting in a public space waiting to pick up his young children from New Horizon Academy in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I want to know who you are and what the problem was back there,” a female cop says to Lollie at the start of the video.

“There is no problem, that’s the thing,” he replies.

“So talk to me and let me know who you are and you can be on your way.”

Lollie explains to the officer that he has been sitting in a public area for 10 minutes and protests that he doesn’t have to tell her his name because he had not broken any laws.

“The problem was –” the officer says.

“The problem is I’m black,” Lollie interrupts. “It really is, because I’m not sitting there with a group of people. I’m sitting there by myself, not causing a problem.”

A second officer then approaches the two and attempts to touch Lollie. “I’ve got to go get my kids,” Lollie says, growing upset. “Please don’t touch me.”

“You’re going to go to jail then,” the second officer replies.

“Come on, brother,” he says. “This is assault.”

“I’m not your brother. Put your hands behind your back, otherwise it’s going to get ugly.”

Shortly thereafter, the phone gets knocked out of Lollie’s hands as the cops cuff him. One can then hear the sound of a taser charging and Lollie’s screams as the cops tase him.

The police report states that two officers, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt, were called to the First National Bank Building “on a report of uncooperative male refusing to leave.” The female officer has not yet been identified.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet reports:

His children had been attending New Horizon for about 9 months at that time, he said, so many people at the school already knew who he was. Luckily, he said, his children weren’t there to witness the incident since the children’s mother still hadn’t arrived. But Lollie’s children’s classmates and teacher all witnessed the event, he said.

“The teacher actually gave me a witness statement, stating that ‘he was calm, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was talking to them, and they just started assaulting him,” he said.

Since then, Lollie said he fought the charges and because of the teacher’s statement and the footage from the building’s security cameras, all charges against him were dropped as of July 31.

Lollie said that he didn’t want to post the video until the charges were dropped. “It hurts, it really does,” he said. “Because no matter what — I could be the nicest guy in the world, talk with respect, I can be working, taking care of my kids, doing everything the model citizen is supposed to do — and I still get that type of treatment.”

Warning: The video below could be upsetting to viewers.

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest

NYPD drags a 48-year-old naked woman from her apartment as neighbors protest and tape arrest
NYPD outside of the United Nations General Assembly Building | AP

A friend emailed me today and asked me why hadn’t I reported some of the malicious treatment by police officers against alleged “perpetrators” in recent weeks.  I think I wrote back saying that I have in fact reported on police violence in the past but wanted to stick to the tagline of this blog: Sorting out the crazies.

The truth of the matter (and my friend touched on this in his email) I probably didn’t want to offend the readers of this political blog with stories of police misconduct across the nation.  Perhaps there’s even a deeper reason…

So, I have decided to include some of the police misconduct craziness going on across the country (especially in the northeast) perpetrated by poorly trained, unprofessional cops everywhere.   (H/t: LTL)

Hence, the following story:

Salon

Disturbing video captures the NYPD arresting a woman as she shouts that she needs her oxygen. The woman was dragged naked from her Brownsville, Brooklyn apartment by NYPD.

Denise Stewart, a 48-year-old Brooklyn woman was dragged by NYPD from her apartment and arrested in the late hours of July 13, New York Daily News reported. The grandmother had just taken a shower and was only wearing a towel and pair of underpants when NYPD pounded on her door.

The NYPD officers were responding to a domestic violence 911-call made from the Brownsville apartment building. However, according to the Daily News, they did not know the apartment number. After hearing shouts from Stewart’s apartment they banged on the door at 11:45 PM. According to the Daily News, Stewart told the police they had the wrong apartment and attempted to close the door. Denise Stewart was then dragged by the NYPD cops into the hallway.

Neighbors captured part of the arrest on video, which shows male officers struggling to subdue the woman, and Stewart calling for her oxygen.

“For approximately two minutes and 20 seconds, Stewart was bare-breasted in the hallway as additional police officers tramped up the stairs and through the hallway, glancing at her as they passed by,” the Daily News reported. Eventually a female officer covered her with a towel.

Shouts of “Oxygen, get my oxygen” can be heard int he video.

“Ok, ok,” a police officer says, and leaves the frame.

“Her asthma! Her asthma! Her asthma,” shouted bystanders.

Stewart, who has asthma, fainted during the arrest, according to the Daily News.

The NYPD arrested Denise Stewart and charged her with assaulting a police officer — she bit an officer’s finger during the scuffle. Denise Stewart’s 20-year-old daughter Diamond Stewart was arrested and charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon. Stewarts’s 24-year-old son Kirkland Stewart was charged with resisting arrest.

Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter was also taken into custody. According to the police, the 12-year-old had injuries on her face and claimed that her mother and sister hit her with a belt. The 12-year-old daughter later resisted arrest, and allegedly kicked out a police van window, cutting an officer’s chin. She was charged with criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

Denise Stewart’s lawyer, Amy Rameau, was told by a Legal Aid lawyer that the original 911 call came from a different apartment at the Kings Highway address. The NYPD allegedly arrived at Stewart’s apartment by mistake.

“They manhandled [Stewart] and behaved in a deplorable manner,” Rameau said. “She feels completely mortified. This is about human dignity.”

Rameau also explained that the Administration for Children’s Services investigated and found no evidence of neglect.

 

Related Stories:

HOMICIDE: Medical examiner says NYPD chokehold killed Staten Island dad Eric Garner

Video shows cop apparently putting arm around neck of seven-months pregnant Brooklyn woman

Dad Calls Cops on Son to Teach Him a Lesson, Cops Shoot Son Dead

This story is sad on so many levels…

Gawker

A father’s attempt to teach his son a lesson for taking his truck without permission ended in tragedy Monday after a local police officer shot the teenager dead.

James Comstock told the Des Moines Register he called the police on his son Tyler after the latter took the former’s truck in retaliation for refusing to buy him cigarettes.

Ames Police Officer Adam McPherson reportedly spotted the lawn care company vehicle and pursued it onto the Iowa State University campus, where a brief standoff ensued after Tyler allegedly refused orders to turn off the engine.

McPherson eventually fired six shots into the truck, two of which struck Tyler who was later pronounced dead.

The official report claims the action was necessary in order “to stop the ongoing threat to the public and the officers.”

Tyler’s dad says he was unarmed at the time.

“So he didn’t shut the damn truck off, so let’s fire six rounds at him?” exclaimed Gary Shepley, Tyler’s step-grandfather. “We’re confused, and we don’t understand.”

James said his son had his fair share of minor troubles with the law, and was distraught over a recent breakup with his girlfriend, but was in the process of turning his life around, and was working on obtaining his GED at Des Moines Area Community College.

“He was a smart kid. He made his own computers. He was interested in IT,” James told the Register.

The family’s demands for answers got even louder following the revelation that a member of the Ames police department suggested twice that officers call off the chase.

“He took off with my truck. I call the police, and they kill him,” James said. “”It was over a damn pack of cigarettes.”

McPherson is currently on paid leave pending the results of his department’s investigation.

Why ‘stop and frisk’ is worse than NSA surveillance

New York Police Department officers monitor a march against stop-and-frisk tactics used by police on February 23.If my boys, who are now in their 40’s had lived during these times in NYC there is an overwhelming chance that they would have been stopped and frisked several times.  Today my  sons and daughters are professionals in their chosen fields, but would they have had that chance in today’s NYPD environment?

The New York Civil Liberties Union has published data that show African Americans and Latinos are the prime targets of the Stop and frisk programs.

The Compass – Marc Ambinder

My black friends in New York, particularly those who don’t live in the fancier precincts of Manhattan, have been harassed by the NYPD in a way that I, as a white guy, will never experience.

They’ve been stopped and frisked, for reasons known only to the officers. Almost every young black male I know has a story to tell.

The news today that a federal judge found this deliberate policing policy to be unconstitutional is a welcome one.

If you have never been stopped and frisked by a cop, it might not seem like a big deal.

So you lose, what, a few minutes of your time. You get frisked, there’s nothing on you, and you get sent on your way. It’s like the TSA.

Except that it’s not. It’s an encounter between powerless citizens and highly empowered police officers. It is scary. The confrontations are often aggressive, which is entirely appropriate from the perspective of the police officer: The person might be carrying. You’ve been singled out for your proximity to a place where a crime might be committed and because of the way you look, the way you move, the route you take. Your attitude towards the police will harden.

I think the NYPD is by and large an incredible organization and that its policing strategies have made New York City immeasurably safer; the city’s minority residents live with much less fear than ever before. But I think the “stop and frisk” policy is overzealous and counter-productive. And I think, in a small but tangible way, the practice harms those who come into contact with it.

The NSA’s surveillance capabilities and even its bulk collection programs do not damage or degrade Americans’ rights; they do not harm our ability to participate in the political process. (I think the FBI’s policies are MUCH more worrisome on that end.) To me, the symbolic harm is enough. I want the bright line to exist to prevent potential abuses by unsavory politicians.

There are many, many important debates to have about civil rights and liberties. Because of the NSA’s size, scope, and reach, I would be very concerned if the potential for willful abuse, and by extension, the potential to do something tangibly bad to Americans (and other innocents) was more than negligible. But it is negligible. Figuring out how to make sure NSA does everything right is important, but there is not one iota of evidence that the over-collection, even if it was broad, was (a) willful (b) not immediately reported and (c) ever detected by the Americans whose data passed through computers it shouldn’t have.

Yes, it would make me feel weird if I knew that an analyst somewhere was able to read my email; yes, I am totally and resolutely in favor of strong oversight procedures that are recognized by everyone as legitimate; but all the same, I am not being stopped by the police, or tortured, or arrested, or asked not to write something, or harassed, or, really, impacted in any way by that over-collect.

We have to make distinctions between what gives us the willies and what hurts or harms us. We have to make distinctions, fine ones, within topics; the NSA is not the CIA is not the FBI is not the NYPD.

Torture is evil. False wars are evil. Companies manipulating the data they collect to make you buy things and vote for people — that’s pretty wicked, too. What NSA does is not remotely close to that. To circle back to the point that’s obvious: They’re the government. They personify executive power. Our skepticism ought to be higher. I totally agree. But at the same time, we should not invent a caricature of what NSA does in order to polarize the debate about it. The facts don’t warrant that, just in the same way that the facts about the history of intelligence collection should absolutely force us to be vigilant.

In the scheme of things, the stop and frisk policy is a greater threat to civil rights than the NSA’s bulk collection programs.