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Friday, November 28, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-28-08

Judge Clears Way For Wrongful Death Suit Against Sandy Oregon Police
You may have read recently about a Sandy Oregon police officer who was indicted for giving drivers licenses he confiscated to his teen-aged female friends? Well, a judge gave a go-ahead for a lawsuit against that department for a shooting death of an unarmed man, Fouad Kaady, who had been in a car accident which involved that very same officer back in 2005.

Protest Planned Against Cuyahoga County Jail in Ohio
Several activist groups are planning a "Ring Around the Justice Center" protest over the mistreatment of detainees and the need for open discovery for the county's judicial system. The protest stems from the death of R&B singer Sean Levert who died at the jail from a sudden withdrawal of Xanax.

The coroner who reviewed the case and performed an autopsy said he suffered severe hallucinations and panic attacks for hours before finally dying of a heart attack because of the refusal of the jail to give him the medicine he was prescribed. That sure sounds like torture to me, I'm saddened to say.

Officer Arrested For Attempted Cover-Up Of Illegal Break-in and Wrongful Detention
A Macedon NY police officer has been indicted on charges of perjury, falsification of records, criminal trespass, official misconduct, coercion, and unlawful imprisonment stemming from a 2007 incident where the officer broke into a residence without a warrant and detained two people then attempted to cover up the incident by falsifying police records.

Officer Arrested For Coercing Woman Into Sex, DA Describes It As A "Transaction"

A Greece NY officer has been indicted for charges of bribery, coercion, and official misconduct stemming from a case in August where he allegedly coerced a woman into having sex with him in order to avoid criminal charges related to what was described as a "family dispute" he had been called to earlier that day.

The prosecutors describe what happened not as a case of a woman being forced into having sex through the use of intimidation or coercion, but as if "a transaction took place" between the two... I don't want to know what kind of bank they go to out there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sharing Thankfulness

Despite all that I’ve been through I have a lot to be thankful for and perhaps because of all I’ve been through I tend to be more mindful of those things I am thankful for than I would otherwise be. I am thankful for the simple things, the seemingly small things that most take for granted maybe, simply because many of those things were taken from me or nearly lost.

So I appreciate that I’m alive, that I’m free, that I can spend time with my family, that I still have a job (two actually), and many other things really… for me, every day is a thanksgiving filled with the laughter of my children and the loving warmth of my wife… I am truly blessed.

So, each thanksgiving I’ve made it a tradition to share our blessings and the warmth of our home with those who don’t have anyone else to share that with on this holiday that normally celebrates family as much as it celebrates thankfulness.

This year it’s been tight though, we barely had enough to pay for the food we’ve prepared for the dozen people that we’ve invited over, which is about the same number as last year. But we made do, emptied the coin jar, and went without with what we could sacrifice, and I know I’ll be thankful for that as well tomorrow when I get to share my holiday with the smiles and warmth of a full apartment.

But, I’m not alone in that, in fact what I do is rather small an insignificant, hardly worth mention really. Just down the street from where I live is a restaurant called Amore that also shares it’s bounty of thanks with those who would otherwise not have much to be thankful for.

It’s a place I’ve passed by on occasion to or from the bus stop, and I would see the owner and we would smile at each other or nod heads in passing and not really thinking much of it other than that the man seems like a nice guy who has been through his own share of trials that make him thankful for the small things too.

Well, what I didn’t know was that he also has a habit of sharing his holiday sharing his spirit of thanks with others… about 500 others in fact, and this year made it hard for him to do the same as well, by the tune of about $4,000 from his own pocket in fact.

I wish I had known… but now that I do, hopefully I can share my thanks for his work with him next time I see him when I walk down the street… and maybe add a few people to those whom I get the opportunity to share my thanks with next year by helping him out.

Maybe I'll see you there and share some thanks with you too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adding Insult To Injury

As some of you might remember, back in February of this year I broke down and finally went to a doctor after the problems I had ever since I was badly beaten and then denied medical care in November of 2006 just wouldn’t go away and was really affecting my work. As a result I was referred to specialists and they diagnosed me as having a Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The problem was that I work as a contract employee, so I don’t get medical coverage from work. I really didn’t want to go but my wife persisted in making me go get looked at… and of course this resulted in my trying to find “self-pay” medical coverage before I could get seen.

Well, I did that, but it appears as though the plan I got didn’t cover what I was going in so I was stuck with over $3,000 in medical bills while I’ve still been struggling to make payments on the nearly $10,000 in bills I was stuck with from that disaster.

I tried to work out a way to make payments, but talks of that seem to have dropped through the cracks and the next thing I knew I was sent to collections. For the last few months now I’ve had this debt collections agency, Merchants Credit, calling me three times or so a day and threatening to call my employers and freeze my bank account. It’s frustrating and frightening because if they did either of those things my family would end up without an apartment to live in and me without a job. They have me scared to the point that I refuse to answer my phone anymore.

It’s been tough since all this happened to me, my hours at work were reduced so much that I had to get a second job and even then my income never got back to what it was before that incident. Making matters more complicated is that my wife can’t work because of her own chronic medical condition, so my income supports my whole family… if I lose my income we’re all done for.

Doubly frustrating was that I wanted to pay and was working towards doing so but they just passed me off to these people who refuse to take payments. I just don’t get why they would rather threaten me and punish me for this and not get anything rather than just accept payments and get the money they’re demanding.

Some lawyers I talked to recommended trying to get assistance through the Washington State Office of Crime Victims Advocacy but since the police never considered the beating I suffered a crime that ended up being a dead end.

This whole thing is just so damn frustrating, that my family and I are still suffering from what happened two years ago, something that I didn’t do wrong, is just insane. I just feel like my back is up against the wall and I’m still being punished for what I thought was nothing more than doing what was right. I'm about to be financially ruined and left homeless just for trying to stop a fight, it really seems like the world is trying to tell me that I should have minded my own business and let that guy I saved get stabbed to death.

I just wish I knew when all this punishment I never deserved was going to end.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Detainee Abuses Continue A Year After DOJ Investigation

This month marked two anniversaries that, unfortunately, remind me of things that I would rather forget and that happen to be oddly coincidental.

First, in November of last year the US Department of Justice released the findings of an investigation they performed into the treatment of detainees at the King County Jail (KCCF) that found, what they termed as, egregious and potentially deadly civil rights violations occurring at that facility which included the denial of medical care, physical abuse, and sexual abuse against detainees.

It’s been a year since those findings were made public, and yet there has still been no actions taken against King County or any agreements between the US DOJ and King County about how they would address and correct these problems. Meanwhile, I still get reports from people who have been denied medical care at that jail, many of those I won’t print at the request of those senders, but for whom I try to help as much as I can.

That brings me to the second anniversary marked by the month of November, that being the 2nd anniversary of my own mistreatment that I suffered while I was held at the King County Jail for a crime I had not committed and for which I was later found innocent of by police investigators and the King County Prosecutor’s Office. I endured weeks of agony suffering from injuries that were left untreated while being refused even the simplest of medications like Tylenol or Aspirin.

So, it’s frustratingly personal for me to see no progress made in regards to detainee treatment at the KCCF in these last two years, all the while having to try and do what little I can to be there for the people who, even as recently as this month, are still being made to suffer there for no real reason at all who write me when it becomes clear that there are no other resources out there to help them.

I still do what I can, I’m still there for anyone who suffers needlessly there, but it’s not enough, something needs to be done to stop the abuse there… I just wish more people cared enough to speak out about it. My one voice just seems too small to make a difference sometimes, especially when other voices who are supposed to speak out against such abuses, like the ACLU, the press, and the US DOJ, still remain silent.

For now, all I can do is keep hoping that, next year; I won’t need to mark these anniversaries with the same message, begging for something to be done for those who are not able to speak for themselves by those who are supposedly entrusted to speak on their behalf.

After all, simply being accused of a crime should not result a potential death sentence through mistreatment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-23-08

Recruiting Video Stirs Controversy For Misconduct-Plagued Police Department
The San Jose Police Department is being taken to task over it's recruiting video that highlights militaristic police tactics due to recent concerns over that department's record of aggressive tactics, brutality, and racial profiling. The chief has said he plans on removing the video from the department's website... after it has been up for years and had succeeded in attracting the current batch of, well, aggressively militaristic officers they apparently have now.

Accusations of Police Brutality Against Obama Supporters Rise In Chicago
A third lawsuit has been filed against the Chicago Police Department over the alleged attacks by police on at least 27+ different African Americans in three separate incidents across Chicago on the night of Barack Obama's presidential election victory.

The first suit involves allegations by a family of 4 who claim to have been pepper-sprayed by officers who shouted racial epithets at them while they were riding in their car and cheering the Obama win. The second suit alleges that officer pepper-sprayed and shouted racial slurs at the residents of a West Side home. Now this latest suit alleges officers tasered and sprayed 22 residents of a West Side neighborhood while they celebrated the Obama victory in their yards and the street in front of their homes.

The president elect has had no comment about all the claims of violence and civil rights violations that occurred in his own home town against his own supporters who were celebrating his victory...

Also from Chicago, this time from Chicago Cop Watch
A former Chicago police officer has alleged in federal court that he once gave a judge money while attempting to obtain a search warrant. During the trial of his former partner, who is accused of stealing drugs and money from suspected drug dealers and then using the drugs to frame others when the pair's drug raids failed to turn up any drugs, he testified that they gave a judge a bribe after the judge asked for it... perhaps we should start a judicial misconduct watch soon?

Cop's Legal Defense Fund Helps Itself To Funds
Hartford Courant has an in-depth report on The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that raises funds for the legal defense of police accused of misconduct. The report concludes that only pennies on each dollar actually make it to officers who ask for help... or maybe the cops might want to start up a legal defense watch?

Florida Officer Wanted In Child Rape Case Captured In Texas
Palm Beach County Florida sheriff's deputy wanted on charges of child molestation and rape has been arrested in Corpus Christi Texas. He fled with his family's only vehicle and his service weapon after he was confronted about the allegations... I guess his fellow officers closed their eyes and counted to ten before yelling "ready or not, here we come."

Lorain Ohio Police Department Subject of US DOJ Investigation
The misconduct-plagued Lorain police department is about to be the subject of a US Department of Justice investigation into how they handle complaints of misconduct. The department's reputation has suffered a number of very public scandals lately, including several charges of sexual abuse and police brutality and it appears as though the investigation was requested by Lorain council members after they received complaints from citizens and from a former police officer.

Acclaimed Police Officer Now Facing Charges Of Misconduct
An Ogden police officer who was chosen for a national award for his actions that stopped a 2007 shooting spree in a Salt Lake City mall is now under investigation by the Weber County Attorney's Office over an unspecified 2005 misconduct complaint against him. Both the department and prosecutors are refusing to give any details about the complaint, which makes the case sound even more suspicious than if they would have had a more transparent process, don't you think?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-21-08 - Updated

Seattle's Infamous Aurora Bridge, home to the Fremont Troll and the most suicide attempts in the city

UPDATED: 17:50- 11/21/08

SPD Officer Investigated For Handling Of Aurora Bridge Suicide
A Seattle Police Department officer is under investigation over a suicide death. The suicide occurred off of the Aurora bridge which has been the matter of contentious debate over demands that a suicide prevention fence be built across the scenic span.

The investigation involves an officer's attempt to handcuff a man who was hanging off the bridge with his hands wedged in the railing and whether he had fell on his own or if the officer's attempt to stop him caused him to jump. Currently listed as a suicide the investigation may result to it being classified as an in-custody death.

The officer in question recently talked to reporters in his own defense and described the attempt to handcuff the suicidal man as an effort to save him after extended talks failed to get a verbal response from him and it became apparent that his grip on the fence was slipping. The handcuffs were apparently attached to a tether ahead of time for just such a reason.

Personally, and it's just my opinion, I think this one really was just a good faith effort by the officer in question to save a man's life when he didn't want to be saved, based on the information that has been made available so far. However, King County officials haven't ruled out the possibility of an inquest.

Man Tasered Four Times By Detective For Trying To Complain About Detective Wins Lawsuit
A Normandy Park, Washington Accountant won a $60,000 excessive force lawsuit against detective who tasered him four times in the back of the neck while he was being restrained by two officers for attempting to complain to the chief about the detective's rude behavior. The city is currently considering it's options for an appeal of the ruling.

Noted Police Misconduct Reporter Faces Questionable Charges For Photographing Police Chase
Diane Bukowski, a citizen journalist in Michigan known for her coverage of police brutality and detainee abuse issues, is facing charges that could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The charges, made by a Michigan State Trooper, stem from Bukowski's coverage of a police chase that ended in a double fatality on November 4th. She had appeared at the scene and started taking pictures when the trooper yelled "Who the fuck do you think you are?" at her from across the street and then arrested her after she displayed her press credentials.

Originally only charged with obstruction, the officer and prosecutors later added charges of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest three days after the original incident where she was released at the scene.

Her lawyer states that "Their case against Bukowsi is like swiss cheese, it has holes in it, and it stinks" and the community has shown signs of outrage at the charges. The ACLU of Michigan has pledged to support Bukowski in her fight.

Chicago Lawfirm Finds That Several Were Attacked In Chicago On The Eve Of Obama's Victory
Chicago lawfirm alleges that 22 african americans were attacked by police on the evening of Barack Obama's election victory. They claim video and photgraphic evidence, along with license plate matches to the CPD, indicate that officers tasered, pepper-sprayed, and physically assaulted several people who were celebrating Obama's win. In some cases officers arrested those they attacked, but any charges brought by those officers were dismissed.

Green Bay Wide Receiver Donald Driver's Dad Hospitalized In Suspected Case Of Police Brutality
Marvin Driver Jr of Houston Texas, and father of Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, appears to be yet another victim of police brutality after he was apparently arrested without incident for outstanding traffic violations but somehow suffered blunt force trauma to his head that was sufficient enough to render him unconscious with bleeding of the brain somewhere between the site where he was arrested and the jail.

His family claims officers stopped behind a local gas station and brutally beat him after arresting him and before taking him to jail where a jail doctor found him unresponsive and ordered officers to call for paramedics.

He is listed in stable condition currently, though originally in critical condition overnight. The officers who arrested him have been placed on administrative duty while the department investigates the incident.

Update: CNN reports that a third officer has given testimony that corroborates Mr. Driver's statements to investigators that he was beaten by the two Houston police officers who have been put on administrative duty.

A Record Settlement May Be Reached In The May Day LAPD Police Riot
LA may be paying out $12.85 million dollars over the attacks several suffered at the hands of LAPD's elite Metro Division during the May Day 2007 pro-immigration protest.

Many protesters and bystanders ranging from children to senior citizens filed lawsuits, alleging that they had been injured by police. One woman said she subsequently suffered a miscarriage. Some alleged physical and emotional distress from the incident. This settlement would not cover journalists who were also attacked by police during the protests.

Another Lawsuit Against LAPD Costs Los Angeles $2.25 Million More
Elsewhere in the LAPD, a female officer has won a $2.25 million dollar discrimination suit against the LAPD for the treatment she endured as the only female canine handler for the LAPD's canine bomb squad unit at LAX. She alleged that men in the unit took items from her desk and the women's locker room, used her shower and hygiene products, exposed their genitalia, made offensive and sexually explicit remarks, adn would blow cigar smoke in her face when she was barred from their "cigar meetings" held to discuss training and policy issues.

She finally decided to sue when supervisors told her to "stay out of the guys' business" when she complained and the harassment intensified.

NJ Trooper Found Guilty Of Theft And Drug Trafficking
A New Jersey state trooper has been convicted of stealing drugs seized during arrests and then selling those drugs for his own profit. The trooper, who allegedly had ties to a Columbian drug cartel, faces from 10 to 20 years in prison over charges that he would falsify police reports to cover for the thefts and use inside information to tip off dealers that he worked with so they could avoid raids in addition to the theft and dealing he did on his own.

Atlanta Adds Insult To Injury For Johnston's Family
The family of Kathryn Johnston, the 92 year old woman who was killed by Atlanta police in a mistaken drug raid that was then the subject of a police cover-up that resulted in the conviction of three different Atlana police officers is claiming that the city is dragging it's feet in settlement talks, adding even more insult to egregious injury.

NYPD Misconduct Report Isn't As Good As It's Been Spun
A report detailing the number of allegations against NYPD officers rose slightly last year is being described as proof that the 25% increase in misconduct problems was an aberation. However, consider that such a report actually means that the number of issues hasn't dropped back down to the levels they were before the jump in complaints but actually increased, thus showing that the problem is not getting better but actually getting worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-19-08

Picture taken outside of the US Federal Courthouse in Seattle Washington

Border Patrol Chief Insists They Have More Authority Than God
More news about those US Border Patrol roadblocks I posted about the other day that appear to be violating 4th amendment rights against illegal search and seizure in Washington State. It seems as though the Border Patrol won't let it go even though nobody is willing to prosecute the petty drug possession cases they forward to prosecutors. The Agitator has more to say about this one today as well.

Bad Guard, No Porn For You
The Multnomah County Sheriff has ordered that jail employees will no longer have access to the internet after an investigation revealed that employees have been using their work computers to visit porn sites. Only employees that must use the internet for work during investigations will be allowed continued access.

Roids Are All The Rage For Police Officers
A Canby Oregon police chief has been placed on paid leave after it was discovered that he purposefully ignored evidence that one of his officers was purchasing and abusing illegal steroids and relaying departmental information to his dealer to inform him about upcoming drug raids. The investigation, done by the FBI, revealed that the officer, a motorcycle cop, would regularly go to the dealers house in uniform to pick up the drugs.

Police Department Refuses To Identify Person They Shot
A Collier County Florida Sheriff's department is refusing to release the identity of a person three deputies shot four days ago. The person shot remains in intensive care at a Fort Myers hospital under guard and people are starting to question why the department is refusing to release more details. Some experts suggest this unusual secrecy may be the sign of a cover-up.

The Sheriff's department alleges that the person shot had pulled a BB gun out of his backpack after riding bicycle up to deputies that were dealing with an unrelated traffic stop and that he was shot multiple times after he did not respond to warnings, in english, to drop the weapon.

The hospital and one commenter claiming to know the victim referred to him by name and said he's an immigrant named Jose David Ciracca and is being denied access to legal representation.

Come On A Ride-Along And See What Being A Cop Is Really Like...
An Atwater Minnesota police officer facing trial for alleged sexual assault against a female ride-along participant. The victim claims he physically restrained her and then groped and kissed her when she participated in the department's public relations "ride-along" program that is designed to show civilians what police work is REALLY like.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Technical Difficulties

It appears as though the placeholder site is having some issues. While the blog itself is viewable, some links will not work, such as the HOME link to the right and the media contacts list since they are hosted at the .org domain instead of the blogger domain.

Sorry for any inconvenience, the problem has been resolved, thanks!

Remaining Charges Dropped in Sturgis Shooting Case

As predicted, the remaining weapons charges against two Seattle Police Department officers involved in a shooting during the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota have been dropped.

Per The Seattle Times, the judge in the case determined that the federal law allowing officers to carry weapons anywhere while off-duty took precedence over state law outlawing weapons in establishments that serve alcohol.

Also, as I said previously about this case, now that that judicial system has run it's course and found them innocent, it doesn't serve anyone any justice to insinuate that the officers were in the wrong... After all, we're all innocent until proven otherwise, even the police.

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-17-08

Is the King County NAACP Still Relevant?
Here in Seattle, the Seattle Post Intelligencer questioned the relevancy of the King County chapter of the NAACP in Seattle the other day... They seem to have come to the same conclusion I did, that they could be if they would just learn to communicate with the community better and actually work more with other groups to address common problems.

Heck, I tried to support their efforts when I posted what few details I knew about some public meetings they supposedly had about police misconduct and racial profiling issues, but I never could get a hold of the NAACP to find out where they were holding meetings. Only one was actually announced in the press, the day before the actual meeting, and supposedly there were going to be a dozen or so, all of which were never publicized.

Mind you, I still support their efforts as they at least seem to try and do something constructive about police misconduct here in Seattle, unlike the ACLU of Washington State who's headquarters are also here in the city.

Officer Arrested For Giving Kids Fake IDs
Not too far away from here, a Sandy Oregon police officer arrested for keeping suspended licenses he confiscated from drivers and then giving them to under-aged friends so that they could get into bars. The officer was involved in a well-publicized shooting of an unarmed man in 2005 that an internal investigation cleared him of.

Black Police Officer Subjected To Racial Profiling... In His Own Yard
Over at Five Before Midnight, FBM has been following the case of a black LAPD sergeant who was forced, at gunpoint, to lay on the ground in his own front yard by a Riverside California police officer, apparently based on the officer's opinion that he didn't belong in the upscale neighborhood that he lived in. FBM reports today that the officer has filed a complaint against the city of Riverside as a possible precursor to a lawsuit. I certainly wish him the best of luck.

Police Accused Of Attacking Obama Supporters Celebrating Election Victory
Reminiscent of the story about Chicago cops allegedly driving around and pepper spraying Obama supporters in their cars, it appears as though Arkansas State University students celebrating Obama's election were attacked by police, leaving one student hospitalized.

I have to say though, compared to elsewhere, the Seattle Police really showed a lot of professionalism during the celebrations over Obama's win here in Seattle when thousands took to the streets and not a single arrest or instance of harassment was reported. Thanks, SPD, I knew you guys had it in you to be real professionals when you really put your minds to it.

Female Prison Worker Accused Of Raping Inmates
A Carthage NY woman has been charged with 16 counts each of 3rd degree rape, 3rd degree criminal sexual acts, and official misconduct for allegedly having sex with inmates while working at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility.

Newspaper Speaks Out About Chief Accused Of Police Misconduct Getting A Pension
Op-ed piece about ex-Weymouth police chief who is accused of drinking on duty, driving a cruiser drunk, issuing traffic tickets while under the influence, sexually harassing several female officers and civilians, as well as damaging a cruiser in an accident and then attempting to cover-up the incident.

Officer Accused Of Raping A Woman He Pulled Over Late At Night
A Delcambre Louisiana officer has been arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted a female driver he pulled over late at night in February and it appears that this officer had a history as well. More details on this one are over at What Happened To Protect And Serve.

DARE Officer Found Guilty of Rape and Kidnapping
An ex-DARE officer with the Nogales Arizona Police Department has been found guilty of kidnapping, sexual assault, sexual abuse, obstruction of a criminal investigation and second-degree burglary after a long and contentious trial over charges that he violently raped at least two women in 2005.

Of the case, the Assistant Attorney General Kim Ortiz said: "At no time between the rape allegation and his consequent arrest eight months later, did Borbon tell investigators he returned to the girl’s apartment to have consensual sex. He waited until the DNA results came back, and then he changed his story.”

More Sexual Escapades In Gainsville Florida
Two Gainsville Florida police officers are facing criminal charges after one was accused of paying for sex while on duty and another was accused of forcing a woman to have sex by threatening to arrest her if she didn't.

These arrests follow another case of yet another officer who resigned after being taped by a woman who claimed the officer threatened her into having sex with him. However, no criminal charges were filed in that case.

Shouldn't Dish It Out If You Can't Take It...
The FBI has pressed charges against and is suing the maker of the "flash bang" concussion grenages used by the FBI and local law enforcement agencies saying that the company knowingly sold them defective grenades, citing the story of an FBI agent who's grenade exploded inside of his car while it was attached to his vest. The agent an the three other agents who were in the car at the time complain of headaches and other ongoing medical concerns...

It's odd to hear these tough-guy agents complain of the injuries a concussion grenade can cause while law enforcement agencies still lob these things into the middle of thick crowds of protesters, like at the RNC in St. Louis, and say there is nothing wrong with the practice. Too bad all those injured by concussion grenades can have the officers that lobbed them arrested like the FBI had the people who made them arrested when one went off on them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

US Border Patrol- More Authority Than God On Earth?

A couple days ago I commented on the US Border Patrol's "internal checkpoints" that have been set up all over Washington state to not only catch suspected illegal immigrants but also allow agents to search US citizens as well. Since the end of February the US Border Patrol has operated 53 roadblocks in distances up to 100 miles AWAY from the border...

And Washington residents haven't been happy about it...

The border patrol recently addressed a number of residents who were upset about the internal checkpoints by suggesting they have been successful, citing that they have captured 81 suspected illegal immigrants and detained 19 people for alleged crimes out of 41,912 people stopped at those checkpoints, (which actually gives the stops an dismal .2% success rate.)

Well, that supposed success rate might be even less successful now after the US Attorney's office appears to agree with a local civil rights lawyer's assertion that the checkpoints are a violation of the 4th Amendment safeguards against illegal search and seizure, which has caused them to drop charges in a number of cases that were brought by the US Border Patrol so far.

It appears as though this started after one of these "internal checkpoints" netted a medical marijuana patient, (medical use is legal in Washington) and detained him for petty possession charges.

The patient, a 55 year old veteran named Stephen Dixon, described his encounter with the border patrol to the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

"We were ordered out of the vehicle and they asked us to stand there," Dixon said. "Spread your legs, put your hands on the car. We were both patted down. Then we were asked to empty our pockets."

The agents had not found the marijuana yet when they ordered Dixon and his friend to sit on the curb. That was painful for Dixon, who has only one leg, a bad knee and a severely damaged spine.

When he finally stood after a few minutes to relieve his aching back, a Border Patrol officer threatened to put him in handcuffs, Dixon said.

The two men also complained when the Border Patrol dog was allowed to search inside their car without permission.

"I asked a couple of questions -- probably sarcastic -- like: 'Do you have more authority than God?' His answer was, 'Here on Earth we do.' "

"They said: 'You need to understand our authority' and gave me a pamphlet about the Patriot Act.'"

Dixon, upset about the charges, contacted several attorneys before getting a hold of a local, and outspoken, civil rights attorney named Paul Richmond who has given presentations and lectures around the state about civil rights issues and who has been active in taking on the US Border Patrol in another case of on-duty border patrol agents videotaping protests against the internal checkpoints and raids into the homes of US citizens.

Attorney Paul Richmond, ( and told us that he convinced US Attorney Jeff Sullivan to drop the charges on the grounds that they were based on an illegal search and seizure and thus violated Dixon's 4th Amendment protections.

Richmond states that a letter sent to Sullivan pointed out a ruling by the US Supreme Court, in fact it's the same ruling that the border patrol cites as their justification for these "internal roadblocks", which actually limits their authority. In the decision, US v Martinez-Fuerte, the court established that the US Government "has never approved a checkpoint program who's primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing."

In addition to the charges being dropped against the medical marijuana patient Richmond represented, charges were dropped against 4 others on the same basis, which means at least 5 of the 19 arrests made at the checkpoints have been invalidated because they are deemed to be violations of the 4th Amendment.

Apparently, despite the US Border Patrol's professed beliefs, they do not have more authority than god... or the US Constitution for that matter.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On The Web And In Seattle

California Blogger Stalked Over Article About Officer's Sexual Assault Charges

Five Before Midnight, a blogger in Riverside California who covers the inner-workings of the local government and police conduct issues, seems to be the target of a creepy stalker because of the in-depth coverage written about the Riverside officer who is facing trial over multiple charges of sexual abuse... It's disturbing, to say the least.

Bloggers who cover issues of police brutality and misconduct are often the target of police harassment and several have shut down in just this last year (as I wrote about here). Earlier this year I received death threats from officers in Chicago and a police officer in Iowa calls me "The Enemy" on his personal blog...

It's a disturbing trend and officers seem to be pretty free to harass critics in an attempt to silence stories of misconduct with impunity. So FBM definitely has our support and I hope the harassment stops soon.

Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata Seeks Alternatives To Spending Millions On A New Jail, Mayor Against The Idea

The city of Seattle has been in the process of determining where to build a new 7 acre jail in the face of the expiration of a contract between the city and King County over the use of the King County Jail to house detainees for the city. The renewal of the contract is under question as older King County projections stated that there would be insufficient room to house detainees by 2012, citing increases in jail populations as the cause.

Some of these projections have been called into doubt, but the push towards making it's own jail has Seattle set to spend 4.5 million next year to study site viability, $110 million estimated for construction, and $19 million a year to operate it's own jail. Surely a daunting set of numbers while facing an oncoming recession.

However, Councilmember Nick Licata has made a suggestion in his latest newsletter, Urban Politics, that might save the city the bulk of that money through the use of diversionary programs that offer non-violent offenders the choice between jail or rehabilitation... a program apparently based on an existing small-scale trial that has seen a very successful 82% success rate in keeping offenders from re-offending.

Licata, however, is facing opposition from the mayor in his attempts to get a proviso put on the budget for next year's jail assessments in order to give this idea a shot, even though the provisio wouldn't affect jail planning. The council is set to vote Monday on the budget action that appears to be in everyone's best interests.

Seattle Police Declare Open Season On Cyclists

Earlier this year the SPD refused to press charges against a motorist who ran over a Critical Mass bicyclist in what the riders described as a fit of road rage, but SPD officers did arrest several of the cyclists who chased down the motorist when he tried to flee the scene and started beating on his car and allegedly hit him once with a bike lock.

Well, seems that the cyclists might have had reason to be angry at the police for the apparent act of selective enforcement. The Stranger's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee has an article this week about cyclists who have been complaining of police harassment and officers who ticket them when they have been hit by cars pulling out of parking lots while they were on a stretcher being taken away.

That article apparently sparked other harassed riders to step forward and give even more accounts of SPD officers showing an aggressive bias against cyclists in a city that supposedly prides itself in being bike friendly.

The bulk of stories are seeming to suggest that the SPD is sending a message to motorists that cyclists are fair game for a hit and run when that road rage has got you down.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-12-08

Yet More Police Misconduct In The News
In Local News:

Ron Sims Just Says No To Civil Rights Again

The latest contract negotiated and agreed upon between the King County Deputy Sheriff's union and the infamous King County Executive Ron (I hate civil rights) Sims is getting the cold shoulder from the county council who say they may nix the deal because the contract doesn't contain the civilian oversight components they feel are needed.

A scathing expose of misconduct and abuses in local papers spurred the passage of oversight legislation that depends on the contract to be enacted and Sims has refused to allow the Sheriff herself to negotiate with the union to try and get those changes enacted...

It seems that Ron Sims isn't happy just making sure that his jail violates civil rights, but that his police have to be able to do it too.

Border Patrol Says It's Controversial Internal Non-Border Border Checkpoints Are Gee-Golly Great
So-called "interior border checkpoints" being set up across Washington state, miles away from the border with Canada by the US border patrol have been causing their share of outrage as people claim they violate their right to movement within the state and cause fear in immigrant communities.

The Border Patrol claim they are successful and efficient, though I wonder at their definition of the terms since, out of 24,524 cars and 41,912 passengers searched at these interior checkpoints, only 81 suspected undocumented immigrants have been detained and a scant 19 suspected criminals have been turned over to local police.

This gives the checkpoints a success rate of 0.2% in exchange for stopping legal citizens within our borders without just cause by a rate of 99.8% my calculations. Sounds like an very inefficient exchange to me.. our rights for a 0.2% success rate.

In National News:

Iraq War Veteran Victim Of Debate Day Police Brutality And Others Still Fighting Charges
At the final presidential debate Oct. 15 at Hofstra University, 15 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War peacefully marched to the university to ask to be admitted to the debate so they could ask two questions.

IVAW peacefully marched to the police lines, where Nassau County police used horses to push demonstrators onto a sidewalk before brutalizing them and arresting several, including Nick Morgan, a veteran of Iraq whose face was crushed by a police horse and now has steel plates in his skull.

In total, 10 veterans and five of their supporters were arrested and endured an evening of relentless harassment by Nassau County police, including reports of threats of rape and further brutality... (the rest is at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady NY).

Meanwhile... Again in Schenectady NY...
Three cops are trying to stop a brutality case against them on technicalities. They stand accused of beating and kicking a man in a McDonald's parking lot and then again a few blocks away... and now they are asking the court to drop the case with the claim that they are not required by law to fill out a use of force form for the beating they inflicted on their victim... since that's only departmental policy, not state law.

Victim Of Well-Documented Brutality Case Murdered By Unidentified Assailants
Duanna Johnson, the transgendered brutality victim of the videotaped beating in Memphis Tenn was found shot to death on November 9. Witnesses say that several men had surrounded Duanna before a gunshot went off, at which point the unidentified men left. No arrests have been made and lawyers for Duanna insist that the civil suit spurred by her beating will still move forward.
Update: still no news of the investigation, but The Stranger has an update along with information about a fundraiser being held to help with Duanna's funeral expenses. Truly a sad story.

Read On... If you Can Stomach It...
On New Year's Day, Michael Higgins lay on a Kensington Pennsylvania sidewalk, blood pouring down his face, after one Philadelphia cop had punched him in the head and another had clubbed him from behind with a nightstick and stomped him with his steel-tipped boot, according to Higgins.

When the cops yanked him up off the ground, Higgins said that he felt a "pop" and pressed his palms against his cheeks to touch what felt like a warm glob of sticky gelatin... It was his left eyeball, dangling from its socket, he said... (read the rest at the Philadelphia Daily News, it seems like sick sadistic cops are everywhere these days.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 11-10-08

Officers fired for misconduct merely enter a revolving door to another police department elsewhere.

In Local News:

Everett Washington police shoot homeowner while responding to alleged burglary
Questions over a Everett police shooting in response to an alleged home invasion first surfaced after friends of the person shot have come forward claiming that he was one of the homeowners and was not sufficiently warned by police before he was shot. They also claimed discrepancies in the police version of events which allege that the homeowner was shot in the front doorway when he failed to comply with repeated demands to drop a weapon he was alleged to be holding when police arrived in response to a supposed burglary call... but question why there was a large amount of blood near the back door as well.

However, now a nearby resident is also questioning police versions of events as he claims to have heard one shot about two minutes before he heard police make a single attempt to identify themselves before firing off a volley of at least 12 rounds into the house. The incident is being investigated by an outside police agency and the three officers involved in the shooting are on paid leave.

Snohomish County Jail leadership in turmoil
Snohomish County Jail director quits after control of facility transferred from county executive to the sheriff's department. The director cited pressure from the corrections officer union in reaction to increased oversight he implemented in response to several high profile investigations into the jail in the past as the reason for the change in management. However, even the union is getting skittish about the idea of the sheriff, with no corrections experience whatsoever, taking control of the jail without any oversight whatsoever.

National News:

Chicago Cops Accused Of Assaulting Obama Supporters
The Chicagoist is reporting that the Independent Police Review Authority in Chicago Illinois is investigating several complaints against Chicago Police officers who allegedly pepper-sprayed civilians in several different locations following Barack Obama's election victory Tuesday night.

One family driving home from celebrations around 10:30pm reported that their children were shouting "yay! Obama!" out the car window when an unmarked police car pulled alongside them and shouted "white power" and shouted racial slurs. The man, apparently a CPD officer, then sprayed pepper spray into the family's vehicle.

More Damning Testimony In That NYPD Sodomy Case
A grand jury has heard testimony from Michael Mineo, who has accused Brooklyn NY police officers of sodomizing him with a piece of police equipment, and a transit officer who appears to have corroborated his accusation. The transit officer's alleged testimony appears to indicate that the officers may have used a collapsible baton on Mineo, leaving him with both internal and external rectal injuries.

More Trouble For Scandal Plagued Oakland PD
Another civil rights lawsuit has been filed over the latest Oakland California police scandal which has left over 40 criminal cases in jeopardy of being overturned on illegally obtained search warrants. This one also alleges that officers may have lied about using informants to purchase drugs in order to obtain search warrants.

Police Review Board Member Alleges Racial Discrimination... From The Board Itself
The executive director of New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board has filed a complaint against board officials of racial discrimination and has alleged that she was referred to as "black bitch", accused of trying to "turn the agency black", and subjected to other discriminatory remarks.
If that's how they treat their own director because of her race, one wonders how they treat minority victims of police misconduct?

The Charges Keep Piling Up For This Officer
An NYPD officer has been indicted for sexual abuse, official misconduct, and attempted coercion after facing similar charges in April in another case of sexual assault... all crimes are merely misdemeanors though, so it's likely he could work as a police officer again even if he's convicted since only felonies disqualify you from being an officer in most states... in fact...

...It's Easy To Be Rehired After Being Found Guilty Of Misconduct
Lauderhill Florida police officer may be fired for repeated use of racial and sexist slurs, but it wouldn't be the first time. In 2001 the same officer was fired from a different department for insubordination and being disrespectful to superior officers. Police union officials insist he's been wrongfully accused and that previous misconduct issues were isolated incidents.

...And You Can Even Be Chief With A History Of Misconduct
Candidates for chief of police in Fort Myers Florida may have had a history of misconduct, but the media and city officials are finding that the way the city keeps track of misconduct complaints and findings leaves a lot to be desired.

...In Fact, This Guy Will Likely Be Your Police Officer Again Soon Too.
Galesburg police officer sentenced to 180 days in jail for stealing drugs from an evidence locker. The judge left open the possibility of vacating the judgment upon completion of a treatment program, which would leave the officer still eligible for his police pension as well as being eligible for rehiring as a cop.

Smile... You're on Candid Cop Camera! (yes, this guy too)
A Port Oglethorpe TN police officer has resigned after a surveillance camera video of him using a police cruiser to meet a woman for sex in an alleyway is made public. Its ok though, since he quit before any investigation was made, he'll find a law enforcement job elsewhere without a problem...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Are Bullies And Bad Cops Wired For Aggression?

fMRI images of brain activity found in teenagers diagnosed with aggressive
conduct disorder when they were shown videos of people being injured.

While most of our brains are wired to feel empathy when we witness suffering, it appears as though the same might not be true for bullies. Indeed, studies show that normally we humans are hardwired in a way that prompts activity in the areas of our brains associated with pain when we see others in pain, which is indicative of empathy.

However, a recent study out of the University of Chicago that appeared in the latest issue of Biological Psychology suggests that teenagers with a history of bullying and other aggressive activities associated with a disorder called "aggressive conduct disorder" appear to actually feel pleasure when seeing others suffer and lack activity in the area of the brain which is involved in self-regulation.

The study, co-authored by University of Chicago psychologist Benjamin Lahey, hooked up teenage bullies to a brain activity imaging device called an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and showed them various videos of people being hurt by others and being hurt incidentally to see how their brains reacted to seeing other people suffer. The results were somewhat of a surprise.

The researchers had generally expected to see evidence of apathy towards the suffering of others, an emotional coldness and detachment that allow them to victimize others without remorse. But instead they discovered something much more worrisome, that the teenagers did have a connection with their victims and others who suffer in that they actually experienced pleasure when they witnessed other people suffering.

Specifically, images taken from normal control subjects showed activity in areas of the brain associated with pain when they were shown the same videos, something that would indicate an empathetic response, the bullies brains showed activity in the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, called the amygdala and ventral striatum instead, which indicates that their brains are wired to get pleasure from causing others to suffer.

Another way to describe it would be that it's similar to how a junky's brain responds to drugs by sparking activity in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, encouraging the junky to get more drugs to feed an addiction. A bully's brain, it seems, similarly rewards the bully for acts of bullying and actively encourages aggressive and violent behavior on a biological level.

The study also found a striking amount of inactivity in the portions of the brain associated with self-regulation and emotional control, which means that not only might bullies get pleasure from the suffering of others, they might also have difficulties controlling their responses to seemingly minor affronts, like having a tendancy to react violently in response to someone accidentally bumping into them.

While this study only focused on individuals in their late teenage years who had histories of bullying, theft, and frequent lying, it seems possible that the same could be true for law enforcement officers who have a known history of abuses or misconduct. This wouldn't be a difficult link to make with the anecdotal evidence available which has always hinted at a link between officers who had tendencies towards aggressive behavior as children continuing that behavior as adults, almost in a way that would indicate that childhood bullies are drawn to the profession of law enforcement as an "safe" outlet for their aggressive tendencies.

This would also explain why many victims of police violence report that officers would seem to be euphoric while participating in beating suspects or why some victims of violent assaults, like domestic abuse victims, would report that some officers would joke about or make rude comments about how they were assaulted while investigating their reports.

While this study seems to be very bad news as it shows that bullies don't just have the same prohibitions towards violence that normal people do, but they have an active propensity towards violence and harm, it isn't all bad news. A finding like this may help find new ways to diagnose and treat this overly aggressive tendency in people who are predisposed to cause harm to others out of the sheer pleasure of causing harm.

While this might be good news down the road for childhood victims of bullying, there is no indication that any such study is being planned for adults, let alone a study of police officers who have a known history of aggressive behavior and abuse. So far to date, very few studies have been done to determine what causes some officers to be abusive while others are not, perhaps because of social stigmas that are supportive of such abusive behavior by law enforcement officers.

Hopefully, someday, researchers will investigate what causes some police officers to have a predisposition to react violently to seemingly minor affronts and why some officers appear to get pleasure from the suffering they witness or sometimes contribute to. Until then, there is little hope that people with such predispositions will be screened before they are allowed to work in jobs with such an opportunity to use one's authority over others in ways that only gratify the abnormal brain wiring that gives some pleasure at the suffering of others instead of empathy for those who suffer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

About That Election (and other stuff)

Seattle celebrates Obama's election on Nov. 4, 2008.
Photo courtesy of The Stranger Flicker Pool

First, I want to apologize for not posting over the last few days, I took Tuesday off to deal with some family health issues and to make sure I also had the chance to go vote. As a contract employee I don't get paid days off so I had to make up for it somehow and got buried with work at both my jobs as a result.

So, speaking of voting, I happen to be pretty happy with the results overall and was particularly pleased to see that Barack Obama will be our next president. I think that, overall, the general direction our nation has been heading in will shift back towards the center as a result, which is a good thing.

But... will it change anything in regards to police misconduct and prisoner abuses?

Well... I think an Obama presidency and majority count of Democrats in both houses may stop the trending we've been seeing of less transparency from federal authorities and local police departments that was a hallmark of the nation's move to the right, and it may well help level out the steady increase in cases of abuses that we've noticed over the last few years.

I don't see Obama nor the legislature doing anything to directly address either issue as cracking down on police brutality or civil rights abuses has never been a "sexy" political platform on anything but the local level, and even then it's usually not a significant factor that gets votes in an election.

However, a focus on restoring civil rights, increasing the transparency of government and law enforcement on a federal level, and reducing the trend of increased incarceration in the US may well have an impact on the level of abuses that have gone up in recent years as a side effect of such actions.

So, while I don't think it will solve all of our problems with abusive law enforcement in this country, the shifting of the political landscape may help halt the increased level of human rights abuses we've seen as an ancillary result of other policy shifts.

Of course, this may well be negated by the economic decline if it becomes significant or becomes long term. We've already seen the scrapping of police accountability programs on the local level here and in other places around the nation where local governments have had to cut costs to deal with budget shortfalls.

In addition to this, we've also seen programs that were planned to address civil rights abuses in jails halted and steps taken to cut costs that jeopardize detainee safety and health.

Furthermore, a declining economy may spark a reversal of the trend of lower crime that has occurred in recent years, which generally results in more aggressive police policies and legislation.

So, it may well be that any improvements that I can foresee as a result of the political shift in the US may be negated by a decline in the economic conditions here. In other words, if the number of cases of police brutality and detainee abuses increases under an Obama administration, it wouldn't surprise me, unfortunately.

Sure... The election of Barack Obama is historic, and I am proud that I could play a VERY small role in that history. I was just as elated at the result as were the people who took to the streets here in Seattle in spontaneous celebration at his election. Even my children, too young to vote, were excited to stand witness to the event.

But, even with my hope, I know I must temper that newfound optimism with realism that the people I advocate for, the victims of abuse and brutality, are often those who are overlooked as deserving less rights than the rest of us just for being accused. So, unfortunately, my work is not yet done... though I wish it were.

So, congratulations America... you took a big step this week, but don't forget that it's just one step in that long journey we still have ahead of us.

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