Tag: police brutality
Gun ownership, police and white privilege in a post racial America
Hypocrisy in power is an amazing thing; not everyone can see it. Police and armed citizens are a good start and a toxic mix. As shown here constantly police who confront armed white citizens usually take a more professional and more restrained approach than they do when confronted with citizens of color, armed or not. This is a decent collage of experiences that have occurred lately in America
Police Actually Do Show Restraint—When They’re Facing Armed White Guys
What is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed African-American men?
As a ceaseless flat line of tragedies snuffs out the lives of young brothers, one peculiar parallel trend emerges: For every unarmed black man who dies at the hands of white police officers, it seems as if there’s one armed white man who survives such an encounter.
In a way, that flies in the face of a popular national narrative that police officers are having some trouble restraining their trigger-happy selves. The excessive use of force by police is at the core of that discussion: Recently, for example, the Justice Department applauded the Seattle Police Department’s implementation of mandatory “de-escalation training” program for new officers. The force used “must be both reasonable and necessary,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement last week. “[T]his training will provide valuable guidance to officers when they make split-second decisions about when and how to use force.”
The problem, however, is that we assume that cops have a restraint problem. But judging from a growing number of confrontations between police and armed white guys, it’s reasonable to conclude the killings of African-American men and women may have another cause. And in the rush to a future full of body cameras, training, diversity hiring and other essential tools for modern law enforcement, we should probably find out what it takes to change that.
Going viral recently is a body-cam-captured video of rookie New Richmond, Ohio, cop Jesse Kidder talking down a young, armed and white 27-year old Michael Wilcox, who is accused of killing his fiancee and best friend hours before. Wilcox challenged Kidder to “shoot me!”
Kidder did not. He reasoned Wilcox into a peaceful arrest, earning himself all sorts of national props for showing “great restraint and maturity.” And who knows? Maybe policing in the post-Ferguson world made Kidder rethink the situation.
And maybe it didn’t. Instead, Wilcox ended up joining the pantheon of armed and dangerous white dudes who stayed alive even after police have identified them as homicidal suspects on killing rampages. One unfortunate week might find us gripped in national outrage over the untimely and unjustified deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore or Eric Harris in Tulsa; but, highlighted less are numerous confrontations between cops and rather dangerous white guys with guns who have already massacred people or are about to commit domestic terrorism.
This raises deeply disturbing but necessary questions that hint at a need for more than just a “de-escalation” program. What exactly is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed black men?
Take Eric Fein, for example, a white 31-year old sitting comfortably in jail on charges of killing one Pennsylvania state trooper in September and wounding another before forcing state police into a 48-day manhunt. Or still-alive 41-year old Ryan Giroux, a white supremacist who is accused of killing one person and injuring five in March during a shooting rampage in Mesa, Ariz. Cops finally caught up with him and took him into custody after Tasing him. And let’s not even get started on the jaw-dropping actions of Adam Kokesh, a gun-rights activist who not only loaded a shotgun across the street from White House grounds, but also videotaped and posted the whole thing online.
Perhaps one of the more notorious armed white guys involved in mass murder is James Holmes of Aurora, Colo., who, even after allegedly slaughtering a dozen people and injuring 70 in a movie theater shooting in 2012, managed to survive the police response and is on trial.
In almost half of all active-shooter situations, police didn’t even kill the shooter. According to aSeptember 2013 FBI briefing on a study of 160 mass-casualty, “active shooter” incidents between 2000 and 2013, most ended once the perpetrator stopped shooting, either because he fled or took his own life.
Curiously, the FBI details every demographic, geographic and casualty-type of data in its compelling 47-page study, even telling us that only six of the shooters were female, but fails to disclose one critical shooter characteristic: race.
The Congressional Research Service, however, did some leg work for its own March 2013 paper“Public Mass Shootings in the United States.” Despite an annoying lack of data, that study did conclude that the “the gunmen generally acted alone, were usually white and male.” Of the 81 shooters in this report, 41 died by suicide and 10 at the hands of law enforcement.
Police restraint is employed frequently when officers run up against gun-carrying white dudes engaged in all forms of villainy. Yet, we’ve seen unarmed and ultimately innocent black men and black women find themselves either badly hurt or dead just for looking suspicious or being in the wrong place at a particular wrong time.
Most frightening is the issue of why. There’s never really a clear answer for that beyond our 400-year knowledge of state-sanctioned violence against African Americans. White officers, in particular, would never admit to any subconscious bias pegging black men as subhuman.
What recent studies do show is that public perceptions of black people do not help. When white people aren’t generally associating black people with criminal activity, they are viewing people of a darker hue as otherworldly. The Sentencing Project’s 2014 “Race and Punishment” study shows that most whites support criminal punishment for blacks and Latinos because they perceive people of color as most likely to commit crimes.
Meanwhile, the Religion News Service’s “2012American National Election Study” and Associated Press polling showed that most whites still harbor a view of blacks as less hardworking and less intelligent.
But an even more recent and troubling study, published in November 2014 in the journal Social, Psychological & Personality Science, appears to offer some insight. Researchers determined that white attitudes have shifted dramatically over generations, from once perceiving blacks as “three fifths of a human” to now being “superhuman.”
Respondents in surveys were more likely to link terms such as “ghost, paranormal, spirit, wizard, supernatural, magic, mystical” to pictures of black people than they were to ascribe those qualities to whites, who were linked to more “human words” such as “person, individual, humanity, people, civilian, mankind, citizen.” The authors of the study worried that “[p]erhaps people assume that Blacks possess extra (i.e., superhuman) strength which enables them to endure violence more easily than other humans.”
Perhaps, for reasons still unknown, there are white police officers who think that brothers are faster than bullets and speeding trains. Maybe—and we don’t know—an armed white guy receives more lenience because there’s a chance he could be exercising his rights as a “citizen.” For now, all we have is instinct, polls and a growing list of sad stories.
We’re not getting better at dealing with our differences, we’re getting worse and it’s hurting us as a civilization, as a country. The inability to deal with this problem could lead to the destruction of America in the ways we experienced during the days preceding the Civil War. Do we really wanna’ go there America?
The flip side of police and citizens-this is how it’s done in the ‘hood
Well written, timely, prescient piece which appeared in the Baltimore Sun last year before Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore’s police, the article below chronicles the difficulty Baltimore Police have put it’s citizens and government through as it persecutes its black citizens. Well worth the time to read
The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police.
On a cold January afternoon, Jerriel Lyles parked his car in front of the P&J Carry Out on East Monument Street and darted inside to buy some food. After paying for a box of chicken, he noticed a big guy in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap.
“What’s up?” the man said to Lyles. Others, also dressed in jeans and hoodies, blocked the door to the street — making Lyles fear that he would be robbed. Instead, the man identified himself a police officer, frisked Lyles and demanded he sit on the greasy floor. Lyles objected.
“The officer hit me so hard it felt like his radio was in his hand,” Lyles testified about the 2009 incident, after suing Detective David Greene. “The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”
The Baltimore detective offered a different version of events in court, saying that Lyles’ injuries might have resulted from poking himself in the face. He also couldn’t say why officers stopped Lyles, who was not charged with any crime.
But jurors didn’t buy the officer’s explanation. They ruled in Lyles’ favor, and the court ultimately ordered the city to pay him $200,000, the statutory limit in Maryland for most lawsuits against a municipality.
The beating Lyles received from Baltimore police officers — along with the resulting payout from city funds — is part of a disturbing pattern, a six-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun has found.
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.
And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”
Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say. They also divert money in the city budget — the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police.
“These officers taint the whole department when they create these kinds of issues for the city,” said City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “I’m tired of the lawsuits that cost the city millions of dollars by some of these police officers.”
City policies help to shield the scope and impact of beatings from the public, even though Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledges that police brutality was one of the main issues broached by residents in nine recent forums across Baltimore.
The city’s settlement agreements contain a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statement — or talking to the news media — about the incidents. And when settlements are placed on the agenda at public meetings involving the mayor and other top officials, the cases are described using excerpts from police reports, with allegations of brutality routinely omitted. State law also helps to shield the details, by barring city officials from discussing internal disciplinary actions against the officers — even when a court has found them at fault.
The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, a local pastor who has railed against police brutality, was surprised to hear that the city has spent millions to settle police misconduct allegations.
“I am absolutely stunned,” said Bryant, who leads a Northwest Baltimore mega-church. “I had no idea it was this bad. I had no idea we had this volume in this city.”
Among the findings of The Sun’s investigation, which included a review of thousands of court records and interviews with victims, along with audio and video recordings of trials:
Since 2011, the city has been involved in 102 court judgments and settlements related to allegations of civil rights and constitutional violations such as assault, false arrest and false imprisonment, making payouts that ranged up to $500,000. (The statutory cap can be exceeded when there are multiple claims in a lawsuit, and if there is malice the cap may not apply.) In 43 of the lawsuits, taxpayers paid $30,000 or more. In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.
Many of the lawsuits stemmed from the now-disbanded Violent Crimes Impact Section, which used plainclothes officers to target high-crime areas. Officers frequently wrote in charging documents that they feared for their safety and that residents received the injuries when resisting arrest.
Department officials said some officers were exonerated in internal force investigations, even though jurors and the city awarded thousands of dollars to battered residents in those incidents.
For years, leaders in Baltimore’s Police Department, the nation’s eighth-largest, didn’t track or monitor the number of lawsuits filed against each officer. As a result, city officials were unaware that some officers were the target of as many as five lawsuits.
The Sun’s findings include only lawsuits that have been settled or decided in court; dozens of similar cases are still pending. The city has faced 317 lawsuits over police conduct since 2011 — and recently budgeted an additional $4.2 million for legal fees, judgments and lawsuits, a $2.5 million increase from fiscal 2014.
“This is not something I take lightly,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I’ve worked hard, very hard, to have a dialogue with the community about how do we build trust and send the message that law enforcement that acts outside of the law will not be tolerated.”
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who took over in late 2012, has publicly vowed to eliminate misconduct among the city’s 2,800 officers. Other police officials say the department has begun to track such allegations more closely to punish officers in the wrong.
“I can’t speak to what was done before, but I can certainly tell you that’s what’s being done now, and we won’t deviate from that,” said Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, who joined the agency in January 2013 to lead the new Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau.
Rodriguez, who once worked in Internal Affairs at the Los Angeles Police Department, said the mandate is to provide policing in a professional manner that doesn’t violate constitutional rights.
“We will not let officers get away with any wrongdoing,” Rodriguez said. “It will not be tolerated.”
The department would not allow The Sun to interview officers named in the lawsuits, saying that would violate department policy. Annual base salaries for the officers ranged from $61,000 and $67,000.
But Robert F. Cherry, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, cautioned that some people file frivolous lawsuits against officers who work to keep the city safe.
“Our officers are not brutal,” he said. “The trial attorneys and criminal elements want to take advantage of the courts.”
Eighty-seven-year-old Venus Green heard the scream while rocking on her porch on Poplar Grove Street in West Baltimore’s Walbrook neighborhood.
“Grandma, call the ambulance. I been shot,” she thought she heard her grandson say on that morning in July 2007. As he lumbered closer, she spotted blood from a wound in his leg and called 911.
The retired teacher was used to helping others. Green had moved to Baltimore decades earlier from South Carolina after working at R.J. Reynolds and Westinghouse. Once here, she worked at Fort Meade and earned two degrees at Coppin State University.
The mother of two and grandmother of seven dedicated her career to teaching special-education students, but couldn’t sit still in her retirement years. She had two hobbies: going to church and raising foster kids. Dozens of children funneled through her home. They, like her own grandchildren, called her “Grandma Green.”
Paramedics and police responded to the emergency call, but the white officer became hostile.
“What happened? Who shot you?” Green recalled the officer saying to her grandson, according to an 11-page letter in which she detailed the incident for her lawyer. Excerpts from the letter were included in her lawsuit. “You’re lying. You know you were shot inside that house. We ain’t going to help you because you are lying.”
“Mister, he isn’t lying,” replied Green, who had no criminal record. “He came from down that way running, calling me to call the ambulance.”
The officer, who is not identified in the lawsuit, wanted to go into the basement, but Green demanded a warrant. Her grandson kept two dogs downstairs and she feared they would attack. The officer unhooked the lock, but Green latched it.
He shoved Green against the wall. She hit the wooden floor.
“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up,” Green recalled the officer saying as he stood over her. “He pulled me up, pushed me in the dining room over the couch, put his knees in my back, twisted my arms and wrist and put handcuffs on my hands and threw me face down on the couch.”
After pulling Green to her feet, the officer told her she was under arrest. Green complained of pain.
“My neck and shoulder are hurting,” Green told him. “Please take these handcuffs off.”
An African-American officer then walked in the house, saw her sobbing and asked that the handcuffs be removed since Green wasn’t violent.
The cuffs came off, and Green didn’t face any charges. But a broken shoulder tormented her for months.
“I am here because of injuries received to my body by a police officer,” Green wrote on stationery stamped with “wish on a star” at the bottom of each page. “I am suffering with pain and at night I can hardly sleep since this incident occurred.”
In June 2010, she sued the officers; an April 2012 settlement required the city to pay her $95,000.
Green died six weeks later of natural causes
Many Baltimoreans who reached similar settlements declined to be interviewed about the alleged police misconduct — with good reason.
A clause in the city’s agreements prohibits any public statement about the incident that triggered the lawsuit. Limitations on “public statements shall include a prohibition in discussing any facts or allegations … with the news media” except to say the lawsuit has been settled, it states.The penalty for talking? City lawyers could sue to get back as much as half or more of the settlement.
That amount is negotiated in each case, depending on the severity of the allegations, said David Ralph, deputy city solicitor. The amount of money involved is shielded from the public because the clause might never be triggered, he said, adding that in “99.9 percent of the cases it’s never an issue.”
Such “non-disparagement” clauses are common in legal settlements, he noted. “We don’t want to pay taxpayers’ money and then have people saying things that they couldn’t say in court. Some facts are hotly disputed.”
In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.
Starr Brown, an East Baltimore woman who reached a settlement agreement, wanted to talk about her arrest — an encounter with police that left the pregnant accountant face down, bleeding and bruised, on the sidewalk. (Her baby was unhurt.)
But Brown, a Morgan State University graduate, said the clause prevented her from sharing details, so the events of Sept. 18, 2009, can only be reconstructed from court transcripts.
Returning home with her young daughter as the sun set, Brown was on the front steps of her brick house when she spotted two girls walking along North Luzerne Avenue.
Suddenly, a group of about 20 girls came from the other direction and attacked the two girls.
Brown, who went into her house to avoid the fighting, watched the beating through a window. Other neighbors called 911, but by the time officers Karen Crisafulli and Andrew Galletti arrived, the attackers had fled.
Brown, who was then 26, could hear the officers yelling at the victims and came outside to urge the officers to chase the girls who had fled. An argument started, and Galletti lunged at her, she later testified in court.
She grabbed the iron railing, but Galletti wrapped his arm around her neck. She said she screamed that she was pregnant, but Galletti responded, “[We] hear it all the time.”
“He comes and grabs my arms,” Brown, who had no criminal record, testified. “He’s like, ‘You’re getting arrested. You’re coming with me.’”
“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face. …
“I was tossed like a rag doll. He had his knee on my back and neck. She had her knee on my back trying to put handcuffs on me.”
The officers arrested her for obstruction, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault. She fought the charges in District Court in March 2010.
The officers minimized the incident and Brown’s injuries, telling the judge that her screams drew a crowd and she refused to go back in her house. Crisafulli said Brown hit the ground after letting go of the railing.
“It was like a sling shot,” Crisafulli testified. “The resistance stopped. We all fell off the porch.”
Brown then kicked and flailed, Crisafulli added, noting that bystanders told the officers that Brown was pregnant. Crisafulli said Brown scratched her with fingernails; Galletti said Brown bit his arm and knuckle.
But the testimony of two witnesses confirmed Brown’s version of events.
“Mrs. Brown was standing up in her doorway,” said neighbor Ruby Lee. “They threw her to the ground, and [Galletti] put his knee in her back.”
The judge acquitted Brown of all criminal charges. She sued in April 2010 and settled the case in March 2011 for $125,000.
Scandals have plagued Baltimore’s Police Department in recent years. Sixteen officers were convicted in a kickback scheme with a towing company, and another was convicted of selling heroin from the Northwest District police station’s parking lot.
When Rawlings-Blake hired Batts in 2012, the mayor talked about Baltimore becoming “the safest big city in America.” Batts earned a reputation of building community engagement during his 30 years of leading departments on the West Coast.
But ridding the Baltimore agency of misconduct may not be easy. The agency’s strategic plan, released late last year, said discipline “has not always been a priority for the Baltimore Police Department,” and it has been common “for cases in this department to take as many as three years to resolve.” A more recent consultant’s report on the Internal Affairs Division said detectives lack training and often take shortcuts when investigating officers suspected of misconduct.
Many complaints have focused on the Violent Crimes Impact Section, which had more than 260 officers in 2012. City Council members and community activists said those officers used heavy-handed tactics and had no accountability.
In addition to the allegations of excessive force, officers in the unit were accused by prosecutors of lying on a search warrant and working to protect a drug dealer in order to make arrests. One received six months of home detention; the other went to prison for eight years for protecting the drug dealer.
Three other members were charged in 2010 with kidnapping two city teens and leaving one in a Howard County state park without shoes, socks or his cellphone. A jury acquitted two officers of assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment but convicted them of misconduct.
In September 2012, the unit sparked outrage when a detective threw Anthony Anderson, 46, to the ground during a drug arrest. Anderson’s spleen ruptured, and he died a short time later.
The state medical examiner’s office said the death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. But Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein declined to bring charges, ruling that the officers did not use excessive force and followed police guidelines. The family filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that three detectives kicked Anderson for several minutes; the case is ongoing.
Batts disbanded the Violent Crimes Impact Section in December 2012 in response to complaints and created the Special Enforcement Section to address spikes in serious crimes. The unit has about 130 officers.
The name change brought a new direction, Rodriguez said. New leaders have been appointed and officers are wearing uniforms that identify them as police.
“It’s not just a philosophical and name change,” he said. “What is acceptable has changed.”
Still, misconduct persists.
This year, other officers have been accused of killing a dog while off-duty in February and of an attempted homicide in April. An officer went to jail in April for 45 days for beating a drug suspect who had broken into his girlfriend’s home. Another officer was arrested in June and charged with slitting a Shar-Pei’s throat while on duty; he has pleaded not guilty.
The Violent Crimes Impact Section detectives who testified in Lyles’ lawsuit — which accused police of hitting him at the P&J Carry Out in East Baltimore — appeared confident on the witness stand as Domenic Iamele, Lyles’ attorney, pressed for answers on the injuries.
Detective Greene told jurors Lyles became hostile in the carryout and tried walking away. Lyles lifted his hands up as Greene tried to stop him, the officer said.
“Did Mr. Lyles touch his face?” Iamele asked.
“I don’t know if Mr. Lyles touched his face,” Greene replied, noting that he blinked and could have missed it. He suggested Lyles injured himself. “That’s the only thing that could’ve happened. I don’t know how he broke the bridge of his nose.”
“You didn’t punch him in the nose?”
Sgt. Michael Guzman told jurors he didn’t recall being in the store or seeing anything suspicious.
Lyles then told jurors about another incident: Three weeks after his nose was broken, Lt. Christopher Nyberg and Detective Paul Southard stopped him near his apartment on Moravia Park Road.
The officers ordered Lyles to drop his pants and underwear. He did. They told him to squat and cough. He did — out of fear. Lyles testified that an officer then searched his genitals for drugs and rammed a gloved finger in his rectum.
He told jurors the incident wasn’t a “coincidence.” He believed the officers were retaliating because he had complained about his broken nose.
Jurors awarded Lyles $500,000 for the incident at the carryout, but the judge reduced it to $200,000 to comply with a state law that caps damages in suits against municipalities.
The city also paid Lyles $24,000 to settle a separate lawsuit related to the street search.
Today, Lyles, who served probation for credit card theft in 1999, is reluctant to talk about the civil trial.
“I’m afraid of the police,” he said. “I want to speak out, but it could be dangerous. These people are dangerous. Internal Affairs is not like they say they are. I complained. They said it was unsustained.”
Rodney Hill, who took over the Internal Affairs Division in May 2013, confirmed that Lyles’ complaint was not sustained — meaning investigators could not prove it was true. Police said Southard left the force in May 2012, but would not say whether it was related to Lyles’ case, noting that state law prohibits the disclosure of personnel matters. Police would not say whether the other officers were disciplined.
Civil rights abuses can tarnish a police department’s image in any city, experts say. Strained relationships make it difficult for officers to gain trust on the streets — from getting tips to solving crimes to winning taxpayer support to hire more officers.
“All of those things are put in jeopardy,” said David A. Harris, an expert at the University of Pittsburgh Law School on police misconduct and accountability. “People will tend to view [police] as illegitimate. This is a real problem for police departments.”
Good, solid policing requires mutual respect between officers and residents, he added.
Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the importance of that relationship in an interview about the costly settlements. “It is a sacred covenant that each officer makes with members of the community, and when it’s broken, it’s devastating for not just the victim, but it’s devastating for our ability to move forward as a city.”
She said the relationship between the community and police has improved since Batts was hired, noting that residents are providing more tips to Crime Stoppers and making fewer complaints about discourteous officers.
But more than a dozen bystanders who were named in court records or who testified in court declined to talk to The Sun about the arrests and altercations that they witnessed — saying, like Lyles, that they feared retaliation from police.
City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said police leaders need to cleanse the force of bad officers.
“We have to expedite the process,” Scott said. “We have to fire them. We can’t afford to keep paying these settlements. These folks that are beating people have to go.”
The Sun’s findings come as the nation’s attention has been focused on a white officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. — an incident that triggered days of violent protests. The officer said he acted in self-defense, but many area residents saw the shooting as a symptom of racially biased policing.
The shooting triggered a nationwide debate on the use of force by police, and U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced an investigation of the town’s police department. Published reports noted that five current and one former member of the 53-officer agency faced pending federal lawsuits that claimed they used excessive force.
Such broad inquiries by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division examine whether officers have a history of discrimination or using force beyond standard guidelines. They typically lead to consent decrees and years of court monitoring. Twenty federal probes have started in the past six years, in cities that include Cleveland, New Orleans and Portland.
Attorney A. Dwight Pettit questions why the Department of Justice hasn’t opened an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.
He has filed scores of lawsuits against officers, and his office gets dozens of calls each week from people alleging police abuse. He says he only takes the cases in which injuries are visible.
“It’s absolutely called for,” Pettit said, noting the long list of settlements and court judgments involving city police. “Baltimore City is so much out of control, the Police Department, in my opinion, warrants federal intervention and investigation.”
Five years after an incident that left her injured, Barbara Floyd still wonders what happened to the officer she said attacked her.
“I believe in justice,” Floyd said, recounting a confrontation with undercover officers who were making a drug sweep in her McElderry Park neighborhood. “That’s what I believe in. I don’t think people should be treated like animals — even guilty ones. But I was an innocent one.”
On a Tuesday afternoon in March 2009, Floyd spotted a crowd of officers and bystanders up the street, her lawsuit stated. She then heard a detective threaten to fire a stun gun at her 20-year-old grandson.
Floyd, who was 58 at the time and without a criminal record, climbed down the four steps of her gray brick rowhouse to usher her grandson away from the drug operation.
After being told to leave, she said she walked home and leaned on a tree. Someone suddenly wrapped an arm around her neck and threw her to the ground.
“I was struggling ’cause I didn’t know who it was,” Floyd recalled in an interview that mirrored her descriptions in court records. “He was trying to grab my arms. He put his knee on my neck. He put another leg in the small of my back. He was grinding my face to the pavement.”
Though she was face down on the sidewalk, she heard Detective Joseph Grossman, a member of the Violent Crimes Impact Section, scream at her to lie down.
Floyd, who is 4-foot-11 and 107 pounds, couldn’t breathe with Grossman on her back. A struggle ensued and Floyd tried standing, but Grossman kept her down while handcuffing her.
Her vision faded.
“After that I thought I was gonna die because I had tunnel vision,” she said in the interview, fighting back tears. “Everything had gotten dark, dark and black.”
When the altercation ended, Floyd had gashes on her forehead, face and knees. Paramedics treated her before she was taken to jail.
But because her blood pressure topped 200, jailers declined to admit her to the Central Booking and Intake Facility, according to court records. Medics rushed her to Mercy Hospital.
After she was released from the hospital, Grossman charged her with resisting arrest and obstruction.
In charging documents, he gave a different account of the incident, accusing Floyd of stepping between officers and her grandson. When officers ordered the grandson to leave, he refused. Floyd then “adopted a hostile and aggressive posture” and tried to pull him away, Grossman wrote. Officers then tried to arrest her, but she tried breaking away and fell face-first to the ground. When officers handcuffed Floyd, she scraped “her forehead on the sidewalk, causing a minor laceration.”
Floyd soon received a letter from Internal Affairs stating that Grossman and another officer were being investigated for misconduct.
Still, Floyd was ashamed to go outside after the melee.
“My face was a mess,” she recalled, her voice dropping as she stared at the street from a kitchen chair. “My hair was gone on that side. I was bruised up. Not only my face, my arms, my legs. My whole body was sore.”
She is still upset that officers ignored her questions that day. “All they do is tell you to shut the hell up.”
Floyd, who reached a $30,000 settlement in 2011, initially declined to discuss her case when The Sun contacted her in May. The next day, she changed her mind and agreed to an interview, even though she fears retaliation from police and city lawyers for speaking out, and has moved out of the city.
Hill, the Internal Affairs chief, said her complaint against Grossman was not sustained. Grossman left the force in July 2012, but officials declined to say why, noting the legal restrictions on releasing personnel records to the public. He joined the Baltimore County Police Department the same month; that agency would not make him available for comment.
Although the city’s settlements and judgments have totaled $5.7 million since 2011, a state law may have saved Baltimore taxpayers millions of dollars. The Local Government Tort Claims Act caps damages against local governments at $200,000 per claim.
Taxpayers in other cities aren’t as lucky. Cleveland and Dallas have paid between $500,000 and more than $1 million to settle individual police misconduct cases.
The Dallas Police Department has paid $6.6 million in 26 settlements and judgments since 2011; the Miami-Dade County department paid $1.8 million over that period in an unspecified number of cases. Both agencies are similar in size to Baltimore’s.
In addition to the settlements and jury awards, Baltimore has paid $5.8 million to outside law firms to defend those lawsuits and others since July 2010.
According to city policy, officials are bound to defend officers as long as they follow departmental guidelines when using force to make arrests. An agreement between the city and police union guarantees that taxpayers will pay court damages in such cases.
Although police officials declined to release individual personnel records, they did discuss the issue in broad terms, saying that from 2012 through July, the department received 3,048 misconduct complaints against officers. Of those, officials sustained 1,203 complaints — 39 percent — meaning investigators could prove the claims were true.
That led to 61 resignations and discipline for more than 850 officers, measures ranging from written reprimands to suspensions.
But in some cases that resulted in settlements or judgments, officers were not disciplined even after they were found liable in court.
Cherry, the union president, said it would be unfair to discipline officers if they were cleared in internal investigations. He stressed that nobody can predict how a jury will decide cases.
“The [officers] who get the most complaints are the ones who are doing their work,” he said. “These may be some of the best officers.”
Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz was awarded $170,000 in 2011 by a Baltimore jury as compensation for a beating by police in West Baltimore’s Upton area. But he remains haunted by the incident and fears the police.
The nightmare began on a warm day in September 2009 as he walked out of a corner store and headed toward Westwood Street, sipping on a cold soda and munching on potato chips.
Abdul-Aziz, then 24, was hurrying back to his aunt’s air-conditioned home. On the way, he joined up with a neighborhood acquaintance.
Officers Robert Stokes and Marvin Gross spotted them leave an alley in a well-known drug area, according to charging documents. As the officers neared, the man with Abdul-Aziz tossed a glass vial with white powder.
Abdul-Aziz was questioned, handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser as officers quizzed the other man on the curb. As Abdul-Aziz wriggled his hands, trying to adjust his wristwatch, he was yanked out of the car.
The officers slammed him onto the ground and started punching him in the face, two witnesses testified at a 2011 civil trial over police misconduct allegations. One witness said the officers switched positions “probably six times” during the beating, as Gross “hit him five or six times with his fist.”
Abdul-Aziz was helpless. “I was unable to do anything. I was handcuffed,” he testified.
He described a broken nose and facial fracture, along with severe swelling and a hemorrhage in his right eye — injuries that took more than three weeks to heal.
“What was your state of mind that day?” his lawyer asked.
Abdul-Aziz replied, “I thought I was gonna die that day.”
Gross’ account of the incident was different. He said he saw Abdul-Aziz, hands cuffed behind his back, wiggle around in the cruiser. Gross thought Abdul-Aziz was hiding drugs, so he pulled him from the car and told him to open his hands. But Abdul-Aziz tried to head-butt Gross and run, the officer testified.
The officers said they feared for their safety and tackled Abdul-Aziz.
Abdul-Aziz tried getting up, but the officers ordered him to stop. Gross placed a forearm across Abdul-Aziz’s chest and Stokes pinned his legs to the ground, Gross said, adding: “He just refused to stay still.”
“What was Mr. Abdul-Aziz doing that was illegal?” Abdul-Aziz’s lawyer asked.
“He wasn’t doing anything,” Gross replied. “That’s why I conducted a field interview.”
Stokes told jurors he didn’t hit Abdul-Aziz. “I didn’t really do anything except hold his legs down,” Stokes said, adding he didn’t see Abdul-Aziz do anything illegal before the stop.
Abdul-Aziz was vindicated by the court system. After a two-day civil trial in February 2011, jurors awarded him damages. And a judge dismissed criminal charges of resisting arrest, assault, drug possession and disorderly conduct.
Still, Abdul-Aziz, who was found guilty of carrying a firearm in 2005, is upset that despite his complaint, police officials said the two officers were cleared by an internal investigation.
“If I fight on any other job or beat up anybody, I’m terminated,” Abdul-Aziz, 29, said recently in his Baltimore home.
“You beat up a citizen for no reason and had no real probable cause, and you still have your jobs. That’s crazy. These cops still have jobs.”
Police officials say a host of department reforms are underway to address misconduct.
For example, months after taking over, Batts created the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau, which oversees training, policies and all internal issues, and pushed to eliminate a backlog of more than 130 disciplinary cases.
He moved to toughen trial boards, which hear disciplinary cases after complaints are investigated internally, by changing their makeup. They now consist of two command staff members and a lieutenant instead of a command staff member, a lieutenant and a person of the same rank as the accused. As a result, the rate at which officers are held responsible has jumped from 57 percent to 88 percent, officials say.
A computer system implemented five months ago tracks lawsuits filed against officers, Rodriguez said.
The information is combined with another tracking system in use since 2010. That system tracks matters such as injuries from arrests, citizen complaints and use-of-force reports. It is designed to enable police leaders to intervene with counseling, better supervision, training and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.
“We’re monitoring them where it was not done before,” Rodriguez said, adding that “bugs” are being worked out as the department studies the best national standards to measure officers. Other police agencies, including the Maryland State Police, already use the same system.
Still, the tracking system has shortcomings. For example, police officials acknowledge that it does not include lawsuits that concluded before the agency started tracking them this year.
Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, isn’t surprised that Baltimore lacked a system to track lawsuits. “It has a national reputation of not being a professional and effective department.”
Former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who retired from the department in 2012, declined to be interviewed about the issue, but said through a spokesman that he had worked to eliminate misconduct and improve the agency’s relationship with residents.
“Commissioner Bealefeld was committed to making Baltimore a safer city while building a professional, community-focused and accountable police department,” said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.
Asked about investigations into allegations of police brutality, Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said his office has prosecuted 10 officers for assault and 10 others for less serious offenses since 2011. In some high-profile deaths, officers were not prosecuted because they had only seconds to make decisions, Bernstein said. That’s very different from cases where officers are more deliberate and assault handcuffed suspects, he added.
He said that improved training and recruitment, a better discipline process, and greater transparency would enhance the Police Department’s trust with the community.
“It’s a real issue for us in Baltimore,” Bernstein said.
Young, the City Council president, says many African-American residents have an uneasy relationship with the police force.
“Every black male or every African-American in this city are not criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such,” Young said. “I was stopped myself a couple times, and I am the president of City Council.”
He wants officers trained to communicate better with residents. He’s heard too many complaints about them not allowing people to talk to defend themselves.
“They violate your civil rights and tell you you can’t talk,” Young said.
He added: “[Residents] fear the police more than they fear the drug dealers on the corner.”
Another black motorist killed by police
It happens with too much regularity in today’s America and it has to stop. Walter Scott was killed, some say assassinated, I say executed by a white North Charleston, SC police officer…shot at 8 times with nothing in his hands and no weapons on his person while he was running away from the officer. That it sounds like what happened to Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri who too was shot at while running from police, is eery at best and horrible that it happens so close. Scott’s murderer seems to have a history of using force in his encounters with motorists and officer Michael Slager is now in jail, charged with manslaughter in Scott’s death. All of this wouldn’t have come to light were it not for the video that was captured by a passerby who said at the point he began videoing the killing the police officer had the situation under control and was in no threat from Scott. To the State of South Carolina’s credit they have charged Slager with a felony and this is the third time law enforcement officers in that state have been disciplined for excessive force when dealing with black motorists but this is the deadliest. Last year 2014 more African-Americans were killed by police than were killed in the 911 attacks over a decade ago! When will it stop America?
Where are American congress men and women with this kind of courage?
The Ferguson Report: It’s Never About Race
By Charles Pierce
This may not be a reign of terror, but it damn sure is a reign of unaccountable authoritarian power
Dear Ferguson — While clearing out his office, Attorney General Eric Holder found something that belongs to you. If you don’t mind, he’d like to hand you your ass.
Among the findings, reviewed by CNN: from 2012 to 2014, 85% of people subject to vehicle stops by Ferguson police were African-American; 90% of those who received citations were black; and 93% of people arrested were black. This while 67% of the Ferguson population is black. In 88% of the cases in which the Ferguson police reported using force, it was against African-Americans. During the period 2012-2014 black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during traffic stops, but 26% less likely to be found in possession of contraband. Blacks were disproportionately more likely to be cited for minor infractions: 95% of tickets for “manner of walking in roadway,” essentially jaywalking, were against African-Americans. Also, 94% of all “failure to comply” charges were filed against black people.
The investigators found evidence of racist jokes being sent around by Ferguson police and court officials. One November 2008 email read in part that President Barack Obama wouldn’t likely be President for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another joke that made the rounds on Ferguson government email in May 2011 said: “An African American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $3,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said: ‘Crimestoppers.'”
(Before we go on, we should note that this humorous anecdote has a proud history in the polite precincts of the conservative intelligentsia. Here, for example, we see it in the comedy stylings of Bill “Sportin’ Life” Bennett.)
Let’s leave aside for a moment the obvious racial profiling inherent in these findings, the statistics on traffic-stop searches, for example. Imagine, for a moment, your daily life. Do you jaywalk? Do you walk in the street? Ever? Imagine that, two or three times a week, an armed police officer decides to involve himself in your life just because you jaywalk, or because you’re walking in the street. Imagine this happening, over and over again, for a decade. Or two. Or five. Imagine that the simple act of asking, “What’s the problem, officer?” is 94 percent more likely to wind up with you in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car. Imagine that the simple act of then asking, “Can you tell me what the problem is, officer?” is 88 percent more likely to get your head cracked, or worse? Imagine this happening in front of your kids, three or four times. Imagine this happening in front of your mother, your preacher, your girlfriend, your wife. Is this a life? Are you free? This may not be a reign of terror, but it damn sure is a reign of unaccountable authoritarian power.
Of course, there are the voices explaining that the facts in the Justice Department’s report are not About Race, because it’s never About Race.
“This is not the full report, and we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as we saw
in August,” said Jeff Roorda, a former Missouri state representative and a spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. “We owe it, not just to law enforcement, but to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner to figure out what’s really going on here so it can be addressed,” he said, referring to others killed by police officers in Cleveland and New York. “Reaching conclusions from statistics about traffic stops I don’t think draws the whole picture.”
Yeah, that’s the same Roorda who became famous as Darren Wilson’s most conspicuous knight errant after Wilson shot Michael Brown to death last summer. He’s a real sweetheart. And he has his own problems right now. But he’s not alone. Over at Breitbart’s Mausoleum For Sad Unemployables, they got a quote off Fox News out of extremely credible Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Eric Holder is using traffic stops, Megyn, simply because he can exploit that data. That’s the first thing that race hustlers jump to, is looking at traffic stops to make some sort of determination that some sort of racial impropriety’s going on here. If you’re a cop and you’re working in an area that is predominantly black, most of your field interview stops, most of your police contacts, your calls for service, and most of your traffic stops are going to involve black individuals. Officers don’t target, they don’t racially profile, they criminally profile.”
And the Wall Street Journal‘s Jason Riley stops by to explain that Holder wants to hamstring honest cops who are just trying to do the right thing, and maybe make Al Sharpton some money, and to placate the angry black people of the NAACP who can’t understand that black people who encounter Ferguson’s men in blue are 88 percent more likely to deserve to be roughed up. He calls on an expert on how things are never About Race for some learned counsel.
“This is about expanding federal power in the police departments,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney, in an interview. “The lawyers at Justice believe they are the ones who should be promulgating national standards of how cops should behave. And police departments are so afraid of bad publicity that they agree to settle the case with all kinds of rules that Justice wants to impose.”
Mr. von Spakovsky’s usual field of expertise in how things are never About Race concerns his expertise in developing voter-suppression techniques to suit the new Jim Crow in conjunction with John Roberts’ declaration of the Day Of Jubilee. Maybe Hans is branching out into criminal justice. In any case, “former Justice Department attorney” hardly suffices as a description of his career in the burgeoning field of how things are never About Race.
And, inevitably, there is the longtime white-supremacist journal, National Review, the pioneer in explaining how things are never About Race, not even racism.
The New York Times also notes that black drivers in Ferguson were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband. Again, such a statistic is meaningless unless one knows the underlying rate at which black and white drivers had outstanding warrants – which will trigger a search – and what their behavior was upon being stopped.
Black people are basically de facto criminals, and the police are simply doing the best they can. And, dammit, that joke about abortions being Crimestoppers is funny, amirite?
There is a growing industry in explaining to America how nothing ever is About Race. People get wealthy doing it. People get famous doing it. There are entire news channels and publications dedicating a great deal of time and effort in proving the case that it’s never About Race. And, somewhere in the country, someone is crossing against the light, and the odds that this person will wind up dead on the street are not anywhere near equal. If that’s not About Race, then it’s about an ungovernable country.
America and its burgeoning police state
It’s pathetic how the bully always gets to make himself out to be the victim. In the case of the city of Cleveland it tried that tactic but it didn’t work. After killing 12 year old Tamer Rice Cleveland in an effort to defend itself against an impending lawsuit went on the offensive claiming “that Rice and his family bear responsibility for any damages, injuries, and losses that resulted from the boy’s shooting death at the hands of the police.” It didn’t seem to matter to Cleveland that Rice was killed by an officer, Tim Loehmann who was unable, demonstrably so, to carry out the duties in his previous department that notations to that effect were entered into his personnel record. The city of Cleveland either failed to check or ignored Loehmann’s previous employment and let the inept officer represent Cleveland on its streets. The city had to deflect that disaster but pointing fingers at a 12 year old boy.
Thankfully, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson realized what a mistake that was and promptly apologized, saying “This is not the character or personality of the city of Cleveland to be that insensitive to the family or even the victim”. Sadly there are still too many people who think that black boys/men are by the nature of their being black responsible for their deaths at the hands of police. Mike Brown, unarmed and 18 years old took an intimidating stance towards Darren Wilson and was shot at a considerable distance away; Eric Garner was assaulted by several police and was strangled to death and now Rice who a police union official said was a 12 year old in an adult body was shot one time within seconds after encountering police. This tactic seems to work in today’s America. Glad to see someone in Cleveland thinks it’s not appropriate and I hope a jury will see that too.
But I’m not encouraged by this bit of news coming from Arizona where a police officer who slammed a university professor on the ground because she didn’t react quickly enough to his demands resigned. His resignation comes after his employer placed him on administrative leave while it looked into whether he acted according to policy. Arizona State University intimated there were other behaviors or inappropriate conduct it was investigating regarding the officer. It’s not clear but some reports say termination proceedings were in the works for him. What’s troublesome is officer Stewart Ferrin’s statement he
resigned because of “great financial stress and emotional anguish….(t)he lack of support, cooperation, and downright bias, coupled with an agenda to ruin my career, has become unbearable and I will not subject my family to this any longer”. Ferrin certainly got support from members of the law enforcement community which said it was ‘concerned there’s a bias against the officer and the officer was pretty much tried and convicted’; but once again there’s the claim by a person in power that he was victimized by the woman he assaulted and arrested and to many it’s a plausible excuse. A brief summary of this case
How unfortunate it is that people in power can so easily appear powerless to so many Americans. Police are not victims and by the way the latest regarding police brutality comes from LosAngeles. “He’s got a gun”, “Drop the gun” or some variation of that is probably a part of police training these days; shout that in an effort to justify use of force will be enough to make up for the absence of a firearm to some.
Police and their abuse of power
I saw a title, referring to the story that appears below, that said ‘Never, Never Call the Cops For “Help” Unless You’re Willing to Risk Someone Being Shot and Killed’ and that’s what happened in this story. It is a travesty of justice that an American was arrested for being at his own home, as was the case for Henry Louis Gates but being shot and killed by police in your home because relatives wanted the police to perform a ‘welfare check’ is incomprehensible.
When James Howard Allen’s family members asked police to stop by his home for a welfare check on Saturday, they were hoping authorities could help ensure he was safe.
Instead, their request set in motion a series of unlikely events that resulted in the 74-year-old North Carolina man’s death.
Allen was killed by an officer’s bullet, the result of a confrontation that occurred when officers from the Gastonia Police Department entered his home and found Allen, an Army veteran, pointing a handgun at them.
Now, relatives want answers, and two official investigations are underway.
“I am so hurt that he had to die like this,” Allen’s sister, Mary Battle, told ABC affiliate WSOC. “Maybe the police were frightened. Maybe they were. I don’t know. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said at a news conference that police were initially dispatched to the home around 10:20 p.m. on Saturday,according to the Charlotte Observer. When nobody answered the door, the officers left and were asked to perform a check of local hospitals in search of Allen.
At 11:30 p.m., after officers failed to locate him, police returned to Allen’s residence with local fire officials, according to the Observer.
“A decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance,” said Helton, the police chief.
Before entering through the back door, Officer Josh Lefevers announced his presence, Helton said. Once inside, Lefevers encountered Allen, who was pointing a handgun at him.
“He was challenged to lower the gun down,” Helton said at a news conference. “The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him.”
Why did police feel the need to enter?
Authorities had been made aware that Allen recently underwent heart surgery, Helton said, according to the Gaston Gazette, and were “concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance.”
Lefevers was placed on administrative leave while police conduct their own investigation, according to the Observer. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is conducting a separate investigation into the shooting.
Allen’s family members are demanding more information. His brother-in-law, Robert Battle, told WSOC that Allen “probably woke up, someone’s breaking in on me, so when you’re by yourself you try to protect yourself.
A friend, Otis Thompson, said he can understand why Allen a gun in his hand.
“You kicked the man’s door in,” he told the station. “He’s disoriented and he’s in his own house, privacy of his own home; my first reaction would be to grab a gun, too.”
I have more than a few questions swirling in my head, like why did the police enter from the back and not the front of the house, how many times did officer Lefevers identify himself to Allen upon entering the home…….waking someone up from their sleep in the middle of the night is disorienting for anyone, least of all someone living alone and recovering from major surgery; was the officer’s gun drawn when he encountered Mr. Allen, was he in uniform, plainclothes or wearing the military style police uniform we’ve all become so used to seeing police wearing; what duty did the officer have to retreat versus the legal occupant of the home? I could perhaps come up with a few more. Bottom line, the welfare check involving the police had a predictable outcome. The welfare of Mr. Allen is he is deceased at the hands of the police. Take note America and don’t call the police if you don’t want anyone killed.
This article is for all of us who think cops shouldn’t kill civilians-turns out that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do if it means protecting the wealthy and capitalism
The True History of the Origins of Police — Protecting and Serving the Masters of Society
The liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police.
In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.
This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid- to late-19th century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.
Before the 19th century, there were no police forces that we would recognize as such anywhere in the world. In the northern United States, there was a system of elected constables and sheriffs, much more responsible to the population in a very direct way than the police are today. In the South, the closest thing to a police force was the slave patrols. Then, as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working-class neighborhoods.
Class conflict roiled late-19th century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886 and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology has been reproduced ever since — except that today, poor black and Latino people rather than immigrant workers are the main threat.
Of course, the ruling class did not get everything it wanted. It had to yield on many points to the immigrant workers it sought to control — this is why, for instance, municipal governments backed away from trying to stop Sunday drinking and why they hired so many immigrant police officers, especially the Irish. But despite these concessions, businessmen organized themselves to make sure the police were increasingly isolated from democratic control. The police, meanwhile, increasingly set themselves off from the population by donning uniforms; establishing their own rules for hiring, promotion and firing; working to build a unique esprit de corps; and identifying themselves with order. And despite complaints about corruption and inefficiency, they gained more and more support from the ruling class, to the extent that in Chicago, for instance, businessmen donated money to buy the police rifles, artillery, Gatling guns and buildings and to establish a police pension out of their own pockets.
There was a never a time when the big city police neutrally enforced “the law” — nor, for that matter, a time when the law itself was neutral. Throughout the 19th century in the North, the police mostly arrested people for the vaguely defined “crimes” of disorderly conduct and vagrancy, which meant that they could target anyone they saw as a threat to “order.” In the post-bellum South, they enforced white supremacy and largely arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.
The violence the police carried out and their moral separation from those they patrolled were not the consequences of the brutality of individual officers, but of policies carefully designed to mold the police into a force that could use violence to deal with the social problems that accompanied the development of a wage-labor economy. For instance, in the short, sharp depression of the mid-1880s, Chicago was filled with prostitutes who worked the streets. Many policemen recognized that these prostitutes were generally impoverished women seeking a way to survive and initially tolerated their behavior. But the police hierarchy insisted that the patrolmen arrest these women, impose fines and drive them off the streets and into brothels, where they could be ignored by some members of the elite and controlled by others. Similarly, in 1885, when Chicago began to experience a wave of strikes, some policemen sympathized with strikers. But once the police hierarchy and the mayor decided to break the strikes, policemen who refused to comply were fired.
Though some patrolmen tried to be kind and others were openly brutal, police violence in the 1880s was not a case of a few bad apples — and neither is it today.
Much has changed since the creation of the police — most importantly, the influx of black people into Northern cities, the mid-20th century civil rights movement and the creation of the current system of mass incarceration in part as a response to that movement. But these changes did not lead to a fundamental shift in policing. They led to new policies designed to preserve fundamental continuities. The police were created to use violence to reconcile electoral democracy with industrial capitalism. Today, they are just one part of the “criminal justice” system that plays the same role. Their basic job is to enforce order among those with the most reason to resent the system — in our society today, disproportionately among poor black people.
If there is one positive lesson from the history of policing’s origins, it is that when workers organized, refused to submit or cooperate and caused problems for the city governments, they could force the police to curb the most galling of their activities. The murders of individual police officers, as happened in Chicago on May 3, 1886, and more recently in New York on December 20, 2014, only reinforced calls for harsh repression. But resistance on a mass scale could force the police to hesitate. This happened in Chicago during the early 1880s, when the police pulled back from breaking strikes, hired immigrant officers and tried to re-establish some credibility among the working class after their role in brutally crushing the 1877 upheaval.
The police might back off again if the widespread reaction against the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and countless others continues. If they do, it will be a victory for those mobilizing today, and will save lives. But as long as this policing system endures, any change in policy will be aimed at keeping the poor in line more effectively.
A democratic police system in which police are elected by and accountable to the people they patrol is imaginable. But as long as we have an economic and political system that rests on the exploitation of workers and pushes millions of people into poverty, we are unlikely to see policing become any more democratic than the rest of society.
The NYPD in action
If you want to know why some people in New York City don’t like police look no farther.
A true civil servant
The man holding that sign is Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay and he caught a lot of flack for holding it in a Pittsburgh establishment on New Year’s eve because as the police union president for the PPD claims the chief is saying all Pittsburgh Police are racists. This was the police chief’s reply
It appears my having been photographed with a sign supporting racial justice at work and “white silence” has offended some. If any of my PBP family was offended, I apologize. You are very important to me and I would never hurt you purposefully. Let me explain the back story:
I stopped at a coffee shop at First Night, and ran into the group seeking people of all races to join the discussion about racial inequality and injustice. We spoke for a few minutes about how implicit, or unconscious bias results in misunderstanding on all sides, and how the need is for dialogue to clear up misunderstanding. They asked for me to take a picture holding a sign.
The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace. I am so committed. If there are problems in the PBP related to racial injustice, I will take action to fix them.
To me, the term “white silence” simply means that we must be willing to speak up to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, etc. In my heart, I believe we all must come together as community to address real world problems; and I am willing to be a voice to bring community together.
I saw no indictment of police or anyone else in this sign, but I do apologize to any of you who felt I was not supporting you; that was not my intent.
The reality of U.S. policing is that our enforcement efforts have a disparate impact on communities of color. This is a statistical fact. You know, as well as I, the social factors driving this reality. The gross disparity in wealth and opportunity is evident in our city. Frustration and disorder are certain to follow. The predominant patterns of our city’s increased violence involves black victims as well as actors. If we are to address this violence, we must work together with our communities of color.
We, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, need to acknowledge how this reality feels to those impacted communities. Crime and disorder take us to the disadvantaged communities, which are predominantly those of color. The disparities in police arrest and incarceration rates that follow are not by design, but they can feel that way to some people in those communities.
I know, because I have been there too. My own street drug enforcement efforts were well intended but had an impact I would not have consciously chosen. In retrospect, we should have been far more engaged with those in the communities where we were doing our high-impact, zero tolerance type policing; to obtain the consent of those we were policing.
We will be engaging in training to refine our policing efforts in the near future. In the mean time, simply approach your job mindfully, with a continued motivation to protect and serve.
Please beware also, race impacts how we view one another, and unconscious bias applies to how we deal with the public. It can also impact how we judge one another; I intend we will confront both through training.
I support your efforts to keep our communities safe, and will back your best efforts to do so. I trust and have faith in you. I also support efforts to improve and restore the communities’ perceptions of justice. The next time you see me engaging in discussions supporting social justice, please remember, we all all guardians of the constitution. This is the mission we all took an oath to uphold.
Please forgive me if I have offended, as that was not my intent. I will be visiting all of the Zones and work units in the coming couple weeks to allow opportunity for open discussion, and look forward to being able to talk these tough issues through.
In the mean time, thank you for your service!
I salute police chief McLay and assert police departments all over America need chiefs who are as dedicated to insuring proper policing for all citizens of a town or city. I also applaud McLay for making himself available to the rank and file….not hiding in his office or ivory tower, to answer questions and concerns they may have! I’d be happy to see my tax dollars go towards the salary of such a police officer; he appears to understand the meaning of being a civil servant.
Desperation and despair all rolled up into one black male’s pain
I have witnessed far too many times the pain and despair black males have at the realization their lives have no value in America and it’s no more apparent than in this exchange Eric Garner’s step father had with a black citizen of New York city after the announcement by the grand jury there would be no charges against the officer who strangled Garner. ‘What kind of future do I have’ he asks through his tears whose presence the question is answered. It’s a powerful video of hope and despair and gives insight into what drives African-American males
The Verdict is in
This is why African-Americans in Ferguson are upset
The video below shows how a white suspect is dealt with during a potentially life threatening situation as opposed to what would have happened had he been black. The police didn’t just tase this man once, they tased him four times, fought with him and called for back up and fought with him some more outside before he was subdued. He died in the hospital, but not because he was shot six times…in fact he wasn’t shot at all. I kept asking myself during this video why wasn’t the man shot?
America’s summer of white supremacy: A postmortem
From Salon.com, by Bridgett Davis
The summer of 2014 was a summer of protest: African-Americans took to the streets with a simple but ambitious demand: “Treat us like human beings.”
In Ferguson, Missouri, marchers held placards that reprised the 1960s slogan, “I AM a MAN” (now with the addition of “I AM a WOMAN”). In this town where police fired 10 shots at unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and struck him six times, apparently while his hands were up, a homemade sign said, “Don’t shoot! Black men are people, too!” Others carried signs insisting that “Black life matters.”
On Staten Island, those protesting the chokehold-killing of Eric Garner by a white cop voiced the same theme. “The reason I’m marching is because it’s time for people of color to be recognized as human beings,” 63-year-old Shirley Evans told the Daily News. “For years and years, we’ve been fighting for our rights. It’s time we’re seen as equals.”
A human being has the right to not be gunned down by the police for “blocking traffic,” and then be left rotting in the sun for four hours. A human being has the right to not be choked to death for “resisting arrest” for allegedly selling loose cigarettes – despite repeated pleas that he can’t breathe.
But other basic rights are also required to sustain human life – like access to water. When Detroit’s Dept. of Water and Sewage systematically shut off the water of more than 125,000 of its poorest residents – some of whom owed as little as $150 on their bills – the UN found that the shutoffs were a basic violation of human rights.
“These are my fellow human beings,” Detroiter Renla Session told the Detroit News. “If they threatened to cut off water to an animal shelter, you would see thousands of people out here. It’s senseless…. They just treat people like their lives mean nothing here in Detroit, and I’m tired of it.”
The denial of black humanity takes many forms. A police officer in a nearby town declared that the Ferguson protesters “should be put down like a rabid dog.” Anothersuburban cop, on duty in Ferguson during the protests, pointed his rifle in protesters’ faces and yelled, “I will fucking kill you.” After both incidents received news coverage, the two men were obliged to leave their jobs — but these and similar incidents raise questions about the institutional culture they reflect.
Certainly in Ferguson, those protesting Brown’s killing were treated by the police as an inhuman entity, en masse. The use of armored vehicles, tear gas, plastic bullets, threatening tactics and unconstitutional arrests sent a clear message: If you express your anger and your grief, you put your freedom – and maybe your life – at risk. The freedom of speech that the Supreme Court has guaranteed to corporations and the wealthy was not extended to the protesters in Ferguson.
Ferguson’s black residents live in fear of the police in part because the police force has 50 white officers and three black ones, patrolling a community where 67 percent of the residents are black. Not surprisingly, blacks make up 86 percent of police stops, according to a racial profiling report from Missouri’s attorney general.
These inequalities highlight the fact that the Mike Brown or Eric Garner killings aren’t just caused by the individual bigotry or hot temper of one “bad apple” cop. They reflect structural inequities that run deep throughout U.S. society and history.
Four miles south of Ferguson is the burial place of Dred Scott, the slave who in 1857 sued for his freedom and lost. He lies in Calvary Cemetery on West Florissant Avenue – the same street that, up in Ferguson, has been the center of protests since Mike Brown was killed. In rejecting Scott’s claim to freedom, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice wrote, “A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.” Lest we forget, African-Americans’ slave ancestors were described in the U.S. Constitution as “three-fifths” of a person.
One hundred fifty-seven years after Dred Scott lost his case, and 156 years after his death, the bruising effects of the country’s racist history are evident throughout the structures of American society. That history has shaped institutions that deprive black Americans of the political power to shape their future, or the resources they need to do so.
Ferguson and Detroit are both places where a largely black community is run by a white power structure. In Detroit, Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to replace elected officials; a new white mayor, Mike Duggan, now runs the city with an emphasis on what sociologist Thomas Sugrue calls “trickle-down urbanism,” a focus on selective gentrification that excludes jobs for working-class residents.
In Ferguson, the police chief is white, the mayor is white, and five of the six city council members are white. Moreover, the district where Michael Brown attended high school, in which almost all students are black, is controlled by a white, out-of-state Republican.
Unequal political power perpetuates unequal access to resources. The largely poor and black residents of Ferguson and Detroit both contend with shrinking city services that impede daily life, abysmal job prospects, punitive social-welfare policies, and underfunded school systems. An acute example of this phenomenon is seen in the high school from which Michael Brown graduated, which had only two cap-and-gown sets for its graduates, who had to take turns wearing them to pose for graduation pictures.
Detroit has been subject to public disinvestment for decades. The water shutoff this summer was the culmination of years of statewide cuts in public spending, a consequence of anti-tax politics that were significantly fueled by racial animus. From Reagan’s fables about “welfare queens” and Cadillacs to Lee Atwater’s infamous “Willie Horton” ad, white resentments and fear have been used for decades to consolidate a policy of shrinking the public budget. As was dramatically clear when Katrina hit New Orleans, it’s a policy that hurts African-Americans the most, even as it injures the public as a whole.
As Missouri’s public budget shrinks, the black majority in Ferguson has been obliged to pay for its own oppression. Newsweek has reported that despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, the town’s second-largest revenue source is fines and court fees. Its court issued 24,532 warrants last year, or about three warrants per household. Essentially, the town has been bankrolling itself vis-à-vis racial profiling and harassing black residents with costly tickets, warrants and court fees for such crimes as “driving while black,” so-called jaywalking (what Michael Brown was stopped for) and other trumped-up violations.
The reason communities like Ferguson or Detroit lack the funds to pay for basic needs is not because there is no money. Millions of dollars in federal resources have been allocated to equip local police forces across the country with military combat gear, often to police largely black communities. That reality was on ugly display during Ferguson’s street protests. Yet Detroit’s 688,000 residents have received no federal aid to avert or recover from its historic bankruptcy filing. As one man on Twitter, who identifies as@YoungMelanin95, tweeted: “They have the money to bring military-grade weapons to a civilian protest, but not enough money to give Detroit access to clean water.”
The attacks on unions in Detroit, public and private, have attacked the ability of black workers to maintain a middle-class income. When I grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s, the UAW was still a vigorous union whose strength insured robust wages and benefits for its members. As a result, my father and cousins and uncles made salaries that enabled them to live well – to own homes, support their families, send their children to college, retire without worry. Concessions demanded of the autoworkers’ union disproportionately hurt Detroit’s black residents, and more recent attacks on the wages and pensions of public workers have their own racial edge.
Nationally, black workers are 30 percent more likely to hold public-sector jobs. In majority-black Detroit, the figure is much higher. This year Detroit teachers faced a 10 percent pay cut until public outcry prompted its emergency manager to reverse course days before the start of the school year.
And so the basic rights of more than 10 million underprivileged African-Americans are undermined by the limited resources allocated to them: those deemed worthy by a racist society receive the most, those deemed unworthy receive the least – and have the most exacted from them.
That is the backdrop against which, just this summer, water was withheld in one place, and lives gunned down in many others. No wonder that out of frustration and necessity, people in both Detroit and Ferguson – and in solidarity protests across the country – have taken to the streets to demand that their humanity be recognized.
Denial of common humanity has always been fundamental to white supremacy throughout history. We can draw a direct line from the 19th-century anti-slavery slogan — “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” — to this summer’s protests: “I AM a Man.” The pattern is clear as day.
A life can be taken by the fast, brutal violence of a police bullet or a chokehold. But there is also the slower violence that can kill you just as dead, more gradually and in pieces – through poor health care, unemployment and bad housing, through denying you the resources you need to live.
From Ferguson to Detroit to Staten Island — and now to Beavercreek – this summer’s protests have been a source of hope. But protesters know that if we are to ultimately succeed, we must attack the systemic racism that has been the feeding ground for dehumanizing black life, or we will be here again. And so, local residents in each city are fighting to challenge structural racist practices, and are inviting those who live elsewhere to act in solidarity with them.
In Ferguson, activists are building sustained campaigns on many fronts. Hundreds have packed city and county council meetings and “town hall” sessions, demanding the immediate arrest of Michael Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, and replacement of the biased county attorney with a special prosecutor. Street protests have continued, in the face of continuing police arrests. (A local activist’s Twitter profile notes: “I spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson.”) With a voter registration drive working to empower Ferguson’s black majority, elected officials in St. Louis County have formed the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition, a new political group putting politicians on notice: If you don’t support the African-American community, we won’t support you. Broadening the struggle further, activist groups are hosting a weekend of resistance Oct. 10-13, aiming to build momentum for a national movement against police violence.
In Detroit, mass protests and direct action this summer were followed by intervention in court; over objections from the emergency financial manager, activists told the judge in Detroit’s bankruptcy case why he should consider blocking the water shutoffs. As testimony got underway, members of the Detroit Water Brigade rallied Sept. 22 on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, demanding that the court intercede. Organizers alsoannounced the start of “a citywide, escalating direct action campaign,” pledging to “defend our neighbors and our families from water shutoff trucks and water tax lien foreclosures.” A minister who spoke at the rally found water to his church shut off the next day – but grassroots pressure quickly forced the city to turn it back on.
These efforts and others are part of a new wave of activism to end inhumane treatment of the nation’s black citizens. Here’s how you can make an impact, from anywhere in the world: Join the efforts @detroitwaterbrigade.org and fergusonoctober.com.
Another one of those driving while black posts that has a surprising ending
Police misconduct against ANY citizen of America usually gets swept under the rug…….and even when its recorded for all the world to see it gets ignored, given the proverbial blind eye. In the case of Marcus Jeter who thought all was well after he left from his first encounter with police…..left with their permission, he’s lucky to be alive while the police have been charged with official misconduct and related charges. The police abuse was captured by the police’s own dashboard cameras yet the same police in preparation for their court case want to dismiss their own evidence!!
Jeter is lucky to be alive….and his case is one of those rare examples where police are being held accountable for their egregious behavior.
Walking while black
There’s a lot to say about being a minority in today’s America and from where Miscellany101 sits none of it is good. We haven’t talked about the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri although at some point we will, nor have we really dealt with Eric Gardner’s brutal publicly recorded execution by New York City police although we should.
If one really wants to know the depths of American racism, however, and with out ambiguity attached….you only need to look here, where Raymond Wilford was pepper sprayed because he was walking down the street minding his own business and ran across a security guard who thought it was his time to dispense some street justice to the first black person he saw.
Twenty-five-year-old Raymond Wilford, who is black, was walking by on his way to meet a friend at the Westlake Center mall. The shirtless man spit at him, Wilford said, and the two squared off but didn’t throw any punches at each other. Then a Westlake security guard appeared.
“The security guard was like, ‘Stop,'” Wilford said in an interview. “The white guy was still yelling and walking towards the security guard. I was like, ‘Why are you pointing your Mace at me? He’s the one being aggressive.’ And then he [the mall cop] pepper-sprayed me.” According to witnesses and a police report, the spray blew into other people’s faces and left them with red eyes.
Even shaking hands and greeting one another on the street can get black men in trouble with the law even when they ARE the law in today’s America.
Today in Ferguson, Mo., news, The Washington Post takes on the assertion that Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has been photographed flashing gang signs with members of the community.
He has not.
To reiterate: Capt. Johnson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity that was formed in 1911 at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the hand sign you see in the pictures below is a Kappa greeting.
Driving While Black in America
It’s a common place phenomenon for Africa-American males in America; they automatically come under suspicion by members of the law enforcement community, but sometimes that unwanted and unwarranted attention comes at rather extreme measures
Jessie Thornton sleeps during the day and runs errands and works out during the night.
“My wife, she’s an ER nurse and works three 12-hour shifts, so I adjusted my schedule to be like her schedule,” said Thornton.
The 64-year-old retired firefighter moved to a Surprise retirement community from Ohio.
Jessie says his late hours have put him in the police spotlight.
“I’ve been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it’s amazing,” said Thornton.
His latest incident with Surprise police officers prompted Thornton to hire a lawyer with plans to sue the department.
Around 11 p.m. Thornton, according to Surprise Police Department paperwork, was pulled over for crossing the white line in his lane.
“He (the officer) walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'” said Thornton.
The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.
“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,'” said Thornton. “He (the officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'”
Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident.
According to the police report, the officer notes that Thornton does have a hip and knee problem.
Thornton said two other officers arrived and he conducted the sobriety test.
“At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,'” said Thornton.
Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb.
“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” said Thornton.
According to documents provided to ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.
The test, according to the police documents came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000.
“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.
While in custody, a “DRE” or drug recognition expert is called to test Thornton.
“After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,'” said Thornton.
The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s blood.
Jessie’s car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge.
“I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something,” said Thornton.
According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his wife.
“She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday..”
Thornton now claims this wasn’t DUI.
“It was driving while black,” said Thornton.
“This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black,” said Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor.
Victor’s office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.
“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.
“This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.
To be clear, ABC15 provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to talk about Thornton’s incident, however, due to standard policy, the Department was unable to comment due to pending legal action.
The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor’s office claims it’s not enough.
“Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin,” said Attorney Charity Clark. “It’s frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing.”
Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official complaint with the City of Surprise.
“Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn’t right.”
As for Jessie’s hip, medical documents show he did have hip replacement surgery days after the arrest.
“I just don’t want any of this to happen to somebody else,” said Thornton.
Fix this America!