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Friday, August 8, 2008

A Tapestry Of Police Abuse Tales

Some sad and frightening stories of police brutality and misconduct from across the nation to thread together this week... While not all from the same place, they still weave the same pattern...

Let's start with the terrifying tale of Mr. Andre Thomas:

...She saw Andre Thomas standing with the prongs of the Taser still attached to him when four officers forced him to the ground and handcuffed him. "I saw them shove him to the ground, and they handcuffed him... They killed that man. They killed him. They killed him," she added, her hands trembling.

The woman said she saw one officer stomp on Mr. Thomas's upper back, holding his foot there while the subject lay on the sidewalk with his head hanging over the curb. Another officer "reared back and punched him in the head with all his might," she said.

Mr. Thomas vomited. Then, for several minutes, he lay motionless before an ambulance was called. The rescue truck stayed on the scene for several minutes more before Mr. Thomas was taken away...

...declared dead shortly thereafter.

-paraphrased from Simple Justice
, JonathanTurley, and The Post Gazette

Residents say Andre was scared, knocking on doors trying to find help and yelling that he was afraid someone was going to shoot him... Sadly the very people who were supposed to come and help him appear to have beat him to death instead.

While it's encouraging that citizens there have started protests over the killing, which is more than what they do here in Seattle and means there is a bit of hope for pressure on public officials to investigate. Unfortunately the department is investigating itself, which rarely ever ends well.

Sadly, this frightened woman's story of a man who was handcuffed and then had his life taken from him by a cowardly blow may very well change once police get a hold of her because they take a dim view on people who stand up and tell the truth or expose misconduct, like they did to this man and his family...
...he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns. “They beat the shit out of him,” he said. “The guy’s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff’s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.”

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, “They were wolf-packing my customers,” he said. “They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.” Conover struck back by suing them and won an undisclosed settlement.
But the story didn't stop there...
On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family spotted a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

“The lady who was driving doesn’t drink,” he said. “Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.” So Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

“Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.”

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud - who has been on the force only 18 months - told him that photographing him was illegal.

Conver asked, "what planet are you from?”

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy. The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car. Conver threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover as Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest. “He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, ‘You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems’,” he said.

McCloud then decided against arresting the daughter.

Later at the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment. “He then turned to me and said, ‘I’m charging you with disorderly conduct’.”

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail - and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with - he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer. The problem is, the IPhone does not even emit a laser.

Conver's case is currently pending...

- Paraphrased from MagicCityMania via The Agitator
Making up false charges for an arrest in order to cover up for misconduct and to get a hold of the photographic evidence that proves it is nothing new, but lately it's been taking on a disturbingly brazen tone as officers don't even seem to be concerned about doing it right in front of multiple cameras...

-video linked by an anonymous poster who encourages us to bring cameras to the next Seattle Critical Mass ride.

Of course, for some reason even video evidence of misconduct fails to bring about any changes or discipline... so we wonder what would happen if a prominent political figure became the victim of police misconduct?

Mayor Cheye Calvo got home from work, saw a package addressed to his wife on the front porch and brought it inside, putting it on a table. Suddenly, police with guns drawn kicked in the door and stormed in, shooting to death the couple's two dogs and seizing the unopened package.

The mayor, who was changing his clothes when police burst in, also complained that he was handcuffed in his boxer shorts for about two hours along with his mother-in-law in the same room where his dogs lay dead on the floor in a pool of their blood. He said the officers didn't believe him when he told them he was the mayor. "They didn't believe me when I told them I was the mayor, they told a detective I was crazy."

"Our dogs were our children," said the 37-year-old Calvo. "They were the reason we bought this house because it had a big yard for them to run in." Calvo insisted the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures and said police apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away.
Well, we'll wait to see what happens, but the FBI is currently conducting an investigation that, well, would never have occurred so quickly if it were one of our own homes. Still, it's not something that should happen to anyone, being innocent and dragged though something like this, I definitely feel sorry for the family and hope they see justice done and can change things for the better.

The crime these two committed? Seems they were the unwitting victims of a scheme to ship pot to random addresses and have deliverymen in place to intercept them. County sheriff's officers say they didn't investigate the family enough to know the man was the mayor, but did know the layout of the house and that they had dogs.

Sadly, the police were reluctant to clear the mayor and his wife until today, when the police chief finally called the family... but not to apologize for how officers gunned down their dogs as soon as they entered. The sheriff says he's angry that the feds are investigating his officers now, he doesn't think it's fair that his department is being investigated, guess he doesn't like being in the other person's shoes now.

So... what do these kinds of events do to the public's trust in their government, in their system of laws and the people whom they entrusted to enforce them? The mayor's wife gives us a hint...
His wife spoke through tears as she described an encounter with a girl who used to see the couple walking their dogs.

"She gave me a big hug and she said, `If the police shot your dogs dead and did this to you, how can I trust them?'" Tomsic said. "I don't want people to feel like that. I just want them to be proud of our police and proud to live in Prince George's County."
We all want to feel that way, but sadly we cannot... and we cannot lie to the children to trust those people that we, unfortunately, have been shown that we can no longer trust. There are too many stories like this for us to accept that it's "just one bad apple" anymore.

It's a systemic problem, and the more ubiquitous cameras with wireless capabilities become the more we will see images of abuse, and things will likely grow worse before they get better as police unions and other law enforcement organizations continue to gain more political clout while officers find new ways to stop people from filming them and discredit those who would dare to testify against them.

...more on that later.

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