By Milen Mehari for Other Worlds – When the police pulled their guns on my mother, I reached for my phone and told her to be calm and do as they say. My parents and I had just been swarmed by police cars, sirens blaring, as we drove on I-64 through Virginia. Shock and fear consumed my family as we came to a stop and were ordered out of the vehicle at gun point. A third car even showed up to stop traffic.
By Larry Greenemeier for Scientific American. At a time when police across the U.S. are being watched warily by the citizens they serve, many departments are embracing wearable cameras to document their interactions with the public. Police and rights activists alike had hoped recording incidents on patrol would help discourage violence against officers as well as increase transparency in how police treat citizens. But a report released this week questions how much law enforcement agencies are telling the public about the use of the cameras—and the footage they collect. The latest body-worn camera scorecard from the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, working with technology and policy consulting firm Upturn, examined 50 U.S. police departments and pronounced them lacking in most of the study’s eight criteria. These benchmarks include how well police protect the privacy of those they record, whether officers are allowed to review footage before filing their reports, how long the footage is retained and whether civilians can view footage in which they appear.
By Sebastian Murdock for Huffington Post. Chicago police on Friday released video that shows the moments right before they fatally shot an unarmed black teen last week. Paul O’Neal, 18, was shot in the back while fleeing from officers last Thursday night after allegedly stealing a Jaguar in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook. Body camera footage released Friday shows an officer firing rounds into the vehicle as it swiped cop cars. Officers can be seen then giving chase to O’Neal on foot. The teen hopped a fence into a residential back yard, where he was shot multiple times in the back. Police said the officer who killed O’Neal did not have a working body camera, according to ABC 7. “Bitch-ass motherfucker,” an officer can be heard saying as he delivers a kick to O’Neal, who lies motionless on the ground. Other officers yell at the teen to put his hands behind his back. “They shot at us too, right?” an officer can be heard asking. O’Neal did not have a gun on him.
By Elizabeth Preza for AlterNet – Officials in Texas are investigating two Austin police officers after video surfaced of a brutal arrest of an African-American elementary school teacher during a traffic stop that culminated in one officer telling her police are wary of black people because of their “violent tendencies.” The Austin American-Statesman obtained video of the June 2015 incident, which shows a routine traffic stop develop into a violent altercation as Officer Bryan Richter pulls 26-year-old Breaion King from the driver’s seat and throws her onto the ground.
By William N. Grigg for the Free Thought Project. Yanez underwent a 20-hour seminar on “Street Survival” taught by Illinois-based Calibre Press, which teaches courses on the subject to police officers nationwide. The company’s “Street Survival Seminar” overview displays a monomaniacal focus on that most important of all policy considerations, “officer safety.” It treats every police encounter as a combat situation in which only one life truly matters – that of the government’s armed emissary, not that of the citizen who is supposedly being protected and served by him. A brief video excerpt from a “Street Survival” course shows a presenter lecturing officers about the need to visualize shooting someone as part of the “Psychological Game” necessary to “win” encounters with what trainees are told is an implacably hostile public. “That’s winning, ladies and gentlemen,” he declares.
By Samuel Sinyangwe for Medium. This week, a new study reported by the New York Times made waves in the ongoing national discourse on race and policing. “Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings,” the headline read. The study’s most striking — and most reported — finding was that officers were about 24% less likely to shoot at black people compared to whites in what the researcher defined as similar situations. Upon further inspection, there are a number of issues that call this finding into question. First, this headline-grabbing result is based on data from one police department — Houston. That means that the most audacious conclusion this study can hope to offer is that racial bias may not explain shootings by Houston police. But even that conclusion is suspect. First, it’s clear in looking at the data that Houston police department uses deadly force against black people at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. For example, since 2013, 57% of people killed by Houston police have been black despite black people comprising only 25% of Houston’s population.
By Mercy Yang for Reader Supported News. As the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers stir up national debate on law enforcement practices, a new database unveils hundreds of Chicago Police Department misconduct lawsuit settlements between 2012 and 2015 ― costing a whopping $210 million in total and revealing yet another financial burden on taxpayers. “Settling for Misconduct,” an extensive database from The Chicago Reporter published this week, highlights allegations of Chicago’s excessive policing methods, ranging from false arrest to unwarranted killing, particularly in Latino and black communities, leading to 655 settlements in four years. Multimillion-dollar police misconduct settlements, such as the one stemming from the killing of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald, tend to garner national attention. But the database reveals that the City of Chicago pays much smaller sums of money to plaintiffs on an average of every other day. The average payment was just $36,000.
By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. The Afromation protest in Baltimore stood up for black life and the importance of black culutre in the face of ongoing killings. To understand the reasons for protests in Baltimore and across the nation, we must look at the “race-based trauma” caused by police killings. As we prepared to march, I was talking with two of our colleagues. They described how it felt to be an African American man and see video of people who look like them being killed by police for no reason. It creates a trauma that requires them to act in order to stop it. The demands of the Afromation protests are reasonable: 1. An all-elected civilain complaint review board to give communities control of the police and self-determination; 2. A ten percent cut in the police budget away from militarization of the police and surveillance of the community with the funds used for community programming.
By Jonah Newman for The Chicago Reporter – Most of these cases conclude as they occurred – outside of the public glare. People know about the high-profile police shootings of civilians and the multimillion-dollar settlements that result. But most cases are lesser known and settle for far less. Half of all cases paid out $36,000 or less, but they also contribute to a mounting taxpayer bill that goes largely unchecked by the mayor or City Council. The City of Chicago spent more than $210 million for police misconduct lawsuits from 2012 to 2015, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis.
By Redditt Hudson for Vox. On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with. That’s a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, “I can’t believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!” He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.
By Emily Hoerner for Injustice Watch – Chicago’s announcement that it agreed on Tuesday to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging police misconduct barely tells the story. The settlement still must be approved by City Council, which already this year has approved $12.3 million to settle police misconduct cases, including $3.2 million to settle two cases in May. But the cash-strapped city repeatedly borrows the money to pay verdicts and settlements, leaving taxpayers on the hook for far more money than that approved by City Council for years and years into the future.
By Seed Coalition for SEED. Heather and another activist with Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction (SEED) climbed a crane on a site being used for the construction of a massive fracked gas export terminal in the community of Cove Point, Maryland. They hung a banner from the top of the crane that read “Dominion, go home. No gas exports. Don’t frack Maryland. Save Cove Point.” The climbers’ lives were jeopardized when law enforcement officers tried to remove them from the crane in an unsafe way — an allegation that the state’s attorney didn’t challenge in court. The complaint Heather filed that is central to this case stems from her being assaulted during the extraction by a 6’4”, 285 lb. cop while surrounded by numerous officers, Dominion employees, and contractors. A statement about the assault and endangerment was released after the court process from that action ended, in order to not incriminate the defendants when they had open legal cases.
By Kit O’Connell for Truthout – At a protest in downtown Denver, on April 29, 2015, a police officer stole Jessica Benn’s smartphone. Benn had been filming her husband, Jesse, from the safety of the sidewalk as police arrested him. That was enough for her to be targeted and to have her property illegally seized. “An officer just stepped up to me and grabbed it right out of my hand,” she told Truthout. “Right behind him was an officer in SWAT gear who then took me and pushed me up against a bus with a baton across my neck and held me there.”
By Baynard Woods for The Guardian. Feb. 27, 2016, Baltimore, MD – For the more than 240 days since Keith Davis was shot in the face by Baltimore police, he has nursed his wounds from a jail cell, facing a barrage of charges on allegations that he robbed an unlicensed cab driver and fled. Davis was the first police-involved shooting since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody set off citywide protests in April. And while Gray became a household name as representative of the more than 1,000 people who are killed by police each year, activists have held up Davis as an example of how Gray and others like him might have been treated by the law enforcement system if they had lived. On Thursday, a jury found Davis not guilty on all the charges but one.
By Brian Bowling and Andrew Conte for Trib Live – Federal prosecutors declined to pursue civil rights allegations against law enforcement officers 96 percent of the time since 1995, a Tribune-Review investigation found. The Trib spent six months analyzing nearly 3 million federal records on how the Justice Department and its 94 U.S. Attorney offices handled criminal complaints against law enforcement officers from 1995 through 2015. The records include matters referred to Justice by the FBI and other agencies and those it opened on its own.