By Rachel Levinson-Waldman for the Brennan Center for Justice – This history suggests that for body cameras — and any other surveillance technology — the right question to ask is not, “are we comfortable with this particular technology, used for the particular governmental purpose currently asserted, with the particular controls currently in place?” Rather, the more accurate and far-reaching question is, “what do we think of the other uses that might be spawned once this technology is introduced?” For body cameras, it is already evident that they will be introduced in many more contexts than simply law enforcement. If they are being placed on principals, they will eventually be placed on teachers. If they are placed on teachers, they will eventually be placed on child care providers, and then on youth ministers, and so on and so on. The normalization of one kind of surveillance technology will also help hasten the normalization of other types.
By Margaret Paulson for Chicagoist – The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Chicago Police Department have struck an agreement to have an independent monitor evaluate the controversial #8220;stop and frisk” policy. The agreement, announced Friday, appoints independent consultant Arlander Keys, a former U.S. magistrate, to issue twice-yearly public reports on “stop and frisk” and suggest policy changes to the Chicago Police Department. In addition, Chicago police will now be required to collect data on and track information on all street stops and to note when pat-downs (“frisks”) are employed, and why. Previously, the police were only required to collect data on street stops but were not required to report if they frisked the person. Additionally, if arrests were made, officers weren’t required to record that data.
By Staff for Popular Resistance – Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson one year ago the #BlackLivesMatter movement has swept the nation. Tomorrow, there will protests in many parts of the country to remember his death and the uprising that has followed. Michael Brown was not the first person to be killed by police, this is a long, historic reality of US policing of black and brown communities, nor was his death the first to be protested. Popular Resistance has reported on protests against police violence throughout its existence and in our earlier incarnation as the Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza. Historically, riots in urban areas have often been ignited by police violence. Something is different now, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has created an organized revolt against police violence. It is developing a broad base in communities of color with many Caucasin communities participating, standing with #BlackLivesMatter leaders. Postive changes have been made in the last year and we expect escalation of the #BlackLivesMatter over the next year and will do all we can to support it.
By Staff for Associated Press – Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public. The result: Twenty-four states have passed at least 40 new measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Despite all that action, far more proposals have stalled or failed, the AP review found. And few states have done anything to change their laws on when police are justified to use deadly force. National civil rights leaders praised the steps taken by states but said they aren’t enough to solve the racial tensions and economic disparities that have fueled protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere following instances in which people died in police custody or shootings.
By Marwa Eltagouri and Maggie Angst for the Chicago Tribune – Sandra Bland’s mother was the last to speak at her daughter’s funeral. Geneva Reed-Veal’s voice didn’t break as she addressed the hundreds before her; she didn’t shed any tears. She spoke clearly and decisively, determined to raise a call to action with each word. “I’m the mama, and I’m telling you that my baby did not take herself out,” she said. “The fact is, I’m the mama. And I still don’t know what happened. You think you’re mad? I’m mad too.” She recalled the last words her daughter spoke to her, in which Bland said, even before she received a job interview, that she wanted to go to the South and stop the injustices against blacks. “Sandy knew what her purpose was,” she said. “Some call it a tragedy. Some call it a travesty. But I’ve got to call it testimony.”
By DFH Local No 420 for Daily Kos. It began with a cop killing a man armed only with a metal pole. The people wanted justice. The local police union guy wasn’t about to have any of it. First, the offending Cop Statement Calling himself an “activist,” the head of Louisville’s police union defended a letter he wrote to the city’s citizens, threatening to bring the wrath of the law down on the “sensationalists, liars and race-baiters” who criticize the efforts of the police department. Protesters block Louisville police station after union letter threatening ‘race-baiters’ Dozens of demonstrators forced the temporary closure of the Louisville Metro Police headquarters on Monday afternoon in a protest that sought the firing of the local police union leader for his reaction to an officer-involved fatal shooting.
By Anne Meador in DCMediaGroup.us. Lusby, MD – The shoulders of Cove Point Road in Lusby, Maryland are looking pretty ragged these days. Recently, heavy trucks and construction vehicles have crumbled the pavement as they thunder down the narrow road. Not far up Cove Point Road from the main highway, just past the sometimes clogged intersection with H.G. Trueman Rd., they turn left and enter the gates of the LNG plant that’s been there for 40 years, but is now undergoing a major upgrade. The road also looks a little brownish from dirt spilled by dump trucks. Early in the morning on Sunday, May 31, there was no traffic to speak of when two cars with Pennsylvania license plates negotiated the gentle turns and hills of Cove Point Road. A police cruiser followed them.
By Heather Ann Thompson in TIME Magazine, It took more than 40 years, but Attica’s survivors and families of the deceased had finally convinced a judge to force the State of New York to release sealed records relating to deaths of some 39 inmates and staff following the 1971 prison uprising. But the documents released May 21 provide little information as to who was responsible for the dead and wounded when state officials decided to forcibly retake the prison, and why no one has been held accountable. This carnage took place at one of America’s most forbidding penal institutions—the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York—where, four days earlier, over 1,200 prisoners had begun a historic protest against abysmal conditions and abuses.
By Nick Wing in Huffington Post. In November 2014, a county judgeapproved a $3 million out-of-court settlement resulting from a wrongful death lawsuit, to be paid by the city of Cleveland to the victims’ families and their lawyers. That money, like the rest of the police department’s budget, comes from taxpayers. Some say this system of liability allows officers to do a difficult job without constant fear of being sued, while also ensuring that victims can seek damages. In many cases, however, it’s hard not to feel that we are subsidizing negligent police behavior and misconduct, at a time when city budgets are tight and calls for improved accountability in law enforcement are louder than ever. As the Washington Post’s Radley Balko noted in a 2014 blog post, these lawsuits are “supposed to inspire better oversight, better government and better policing.” When the Baltimore Sun reports that the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out to settle police misconduct cases between 2011 and 2014 could “cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds,” for example, citizens are supposed to respond by demanding political change that will help address the root causes of these lawsuits and ensure their money goes to building playgrounds instead. It hasn’t always played out like this at the voting booth, but maybe it’s time we begin applying political pressure on the issue of policing.
For decades, law enforcement has tried to intercept drug couriers on Amtrak trains. These efforts have utterly failed to stop the easy availability of marijuana, cocaine, and other narcotics. Meanwhile they’ve violated the rights of countless Americans. Earlier this week, I highlighted the story of Joseph Rivers, a 22-year old black man who left his hometown in hopes of becoming a music-video producer. En route to L.A., the DEA boarded his Amtrak and seized his life savings, $16,000 in cash, even though there was apparently no evidence he’d committed a crime or possessed any drugs. In a country in which police officers shoot and kill many more unarmed people than their analogues overseas, having the DEA hassle you and cost you $60 isn’t the biggest of law-enforcement abuses. It is, nevertheless, worth remembering that these sorts of incidents happen, because unlike misconduct that results in death or serious injury, relatively modest violations of rights like this often go unreported. Heuser didn’t complain to the DEA. “I’ve had my friends complain to the police before,” he explained, “and they basically said, you better watch yourself pal.”
On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a bomb froma helicopter onto the MOVE organization, comprised of the Africa family, killing 11 people including five children, wounding scores and destroying 65 homes. John Africa, the founder of MOVE, said it stood for getting active, change and revolution. They had constant conflicts with mass arrests, hunger strikes in jail and police attacks. Would the Philadelphia police have bombed a white neighborhood? Such action is hard to imagine, therefore the racism of the MOVE bombing is hard not to see. But, the MOVE bombing also showed what happens when you give military power to a police force, problems we continue to see today.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement that the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray were being charged brought cheers and celebratory honking of horns. On closer inspection, however, there are important questions as to whether the arresting officers who began the process that led to Gray’s death were charged with an adequately serious offense. Indeed, if it had not been for the illegal arrest and the damage they did to Gray before the van ride, Gray would not have died. Further, comparing how the police were treated with how protesters were treated shows further injustice and prompts questions about amnesty for all those arrested during the protests. If a country truly believed in freedom of speech and the right to assembly, there would be amnesty for all the protesters who were arrested. They should have their records cleansed, the arrests should never have occurred and there should be no record of them. There is a human right to resist injustice that should be respected. As for the case of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Mosby still has a chance to amend the charges against the officers involved in his arrest or bring the case before a grand jury and seek an additional charge of second degree murder against the three arresting officers.
Three retired judges will review around 3,000 arrests connected to 14 San Francisco Police Department officers who are under investigation for allegedly sending racist and anti-gay text messages, the city’s top prosecutor announced Thursday. The judges, who are not being paid, will also try to determine if there is a “deeper culture of bias at the SFPD, and what the impact of such bias may be on prosecutions made by the District Attorney’s Office,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said. “If just one individual was wrongly imprisoned because of bias on the part of these officers — that’s one too many,” Gascón said. The judges will look at the circumstances of the 3,000 arrests to examine whether biases influenced arrest decisions, the decisions of prosecutors and potentially resulted in wrongful convictions.
The U.S. Justice Department on Friday launched an investigation into the Baltimore police department’s use of force and whether there are patterns of discriminatory policing. The probe, announced by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, was requested by Baltimore’s mayor in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who sustained fatal injuries while in police custody, and the outrage it sparked in Maryland’s largest city. Though the Justice Department is already investigating Gray’s death and working with the Baltimore police on reform, Lynch said last week’s protests pointed to the need for an investigation. “It was clear to a number of people looking at this situation that the community’s rather frayed trust – to use an understatement – was even worse and has in effect been severed in terms of the relationship with the police department,” Lynch said on Friday.