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Monday, December 8, 2008

All Around The Blogs... And Some News Too

I'm mixing things up a bit for this edition of NewsWatch. There's been a lot going on that I wanted to cover, much of it already being covered in other blogs, so here we go.

...First we'll start out locally as always:

Is King County Executive Ron Sims' Head In The Clouds?
The Seattle Weekly asks if King County Executive Ron Sims already has his head somewhere other than in his own troubled county as rumors abound about him being offered a position in Obama's administration...

Well, given his abysmal record of civil rights abuses in King County in defunding the Sheriff's department's accountability efforts and for the deadly abuses still occurring at the King County Jail that he's personally defended by suggesting that detainees have no rights to protect, we can only hope that he'll be gone soon...

Of course, only given with the provision that he's not given a post with Obama that has anything whatsoever to do with civil rights.

Five Before Midnight Reports On Suit Against Riverside Police Filed By LAPD Officer
FBM at Five Before Midnight writes about the LAPD officer who is suing the city of Riverside, where he lives, after he was harassed in his own yard by Riverside police officers for, well, apparently for being black in the wrong neighborhood.

She posts some of the more disturbing details concerning how officers forced him to the ground and had him lay on hot pavement in 90+ degree heat while several other patrol cars arrived, despite the off-duty officer's plea to let him show officers he lived there and was a fellow officer.

Later in that same post, however, it gets more disturbing as FBM talks about how Riverside police officers have been harassing her over the years. Sadly, as citizens who report on police abuses and misconduct, we are expected to be harassed, at least according to lawyers I've talked with in the past about my own experiences with police writing me.

It's strange really, if any other public official were to use the threat of their own public office against a citizen it would be all over the news, but if it's a cop threatening civilians who report on police misconduct, it's looked at as a good thing by the public... which reminds me...

More Details Released About Maryland Cops Who Spied On Peace Activists
Apparently, the Maryland State Patrol had been spying on peace activists for years and had added many of them to federal terrorist watchlists and databases. Those accused of being terrorists include:
1 former congressional candidate, 1 registered lobbyist, and 2 catholic nuns...

The ACLU of Maryland has filed a lawsuit in the case, which led to the release of files which have now revealed the latest facts in this case and is working to have these people removed from the databases they were wrongfully added to and to prevent the police from doing this again.

Now, I'm pretty sure I've been spied on, I get several hits a month from the local police department here to the site. I'm also pretty sure I've been added to at least a TSA watchlist given the way I was treated the last time I flew... But the Washington State ACLU would never do what their counterparts in Maryland are doing to protect civil rights, judging by how they mishandled their obligation to monitor detainee treatment at the King County Jail. I guess the left coast isn't so left after all.

Will "KopBusters Cause More Harm Than Good?
Scott from Simple Justice wonders whether the sting operation performed by self-help video site "KopBusters" might turn into a shameless type of Running Man-type reality show, which would do more harm than good to the police accountability movement. I sort of wonder the same thing, actually...

but then I asked, if not that, what can we do to convince the public that addressing rampant police misconduct is in everyone's best interest? If all the news stories out there, all the video evidence, all the court trials and settlements, all the investigations, and even the shameless stunts by organizations like KopBusters can't convince the public that there is a systemic problem with police abuses that is affecting them... then what will?

We're all still looking for that answer, I'm afraid.

The Agitator: Policewoman's Home Surrounded By SWAT Teams...For Being Charitable
Radley Balko at The Agitator posts about Captain Christine Michalosky, a police officer long respected both inside and outside of the department, who prompted a SWAT team to surround her house and terrify her neighbors because the police thought she might be mentally ill...


...because she bought presents for underprivileged kids in her district.

The Latest On Mineo at Blue Must Be True
Karl at Blue Must Be True discusses the latest development in the Mineo Case where three NYPD officers that were accused of assaulting and sodomizing Michael Mineo with a collapsible baton have been indicted.

Karl thinks this case doesn't seem to rise to the same purposeful intent of torture that the infamous Abner Louima case in NY did... of course, I can't say much because it seemed too outrageous to be believable at first that the same department that went through so much negative press for officers sodomizing someone in the past would have officers brazen enough to dare and do it yet again...

Shows what I know.

More Details Released About That FBI Sting Operation In Chicago
The Chicago Tribune has released some of the text in the DOJ's case against 15 law enforcement officers in the Chicago area, including this pertinent passage that explains exactly what those corrupt officers were caught doing:

"A six-passenger, twin propeller engine aircraft flew on May 13 this year into west suburban DuPage Airport where three men awaited its arrival. Two of them—Ahyetoro A. Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both Cook County Sheriff's Office correctional officers—accompanied an individual whom they believed brokered large-scale drug transactions but, in fact, was an undercover FBI agent. They boarded the aircraft, which was operated by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages of what was purported to be at least 80 kilograms of cocaine stashed inside four duffel bags.

Taylor, Manuel and the undercover agent they accompanied removed the duffels from the plane and took them through the airport lobby to the trunk of the agent's car in the parking lot. Taylor and Manuel, in a separate car, followed the agent to a nearby retail parking lot, where the agent parked and got into the officers' vehicle. Together, the trio watched as yet another undercover agent arrived, removed the duffels from the trunk of the parked car, placed them in a Mercedes and drove away. The FBI agent posing as the drug broker then paid Taylor and Manuel $4,000 each—allegedly their most profitable payday in the corrupt relationship they began with the undercover agent at least a year earlier."

Again, apparently even a sting like this, run by our own government, isn't enough to convince people that police misconduct is a serious issue that affects us all. After all, as one busted Chicago officer said a while back, it all starts out small, then the next thing you know, you're doing all sorts of illegal stuff as an officer while convincing yourself that you're still one of the good guys.

The Innocence Project Blog: DNA Tests Could Exonerate Connecticut Man
The Innocence Project Blog talks about how their requests to have evidence tested in a 20 year old murder case has led police to a different suspect with a history of sexual assaults.

The interesting thing about this is the news article they point to which merely mentions the fact that a man has sat behind bars for 20 years for a crime he never committed, while a guilty man ran free and committed more assaults and murders, as an aside... missing the point that when police go after the wrong person they have also caused the public harm by letting a guilty man go scott-free... and showing that the media tends to be reluctant to talk about when our justice system fails us.

West Haven Connecticut PD Pays $400,000 Excessive Force Settlement
In September of 2002, 18 year old Gary Tyson was hiding in bushes along side Route I-95 when officers released a police dog to flush him out. Tyson ran and was killed by a truck as he crossed the highway. An autopsy later revealed that he had 24 separate puncture wounds from multiple bites, all stemming from an alleged fist fight.

Officers were cleared in an internal investigation and never faced criminal trial, but the city claimed it didn't know how a jury would look at police unleashing a dog on a misdemeanor suspect like that and would rather have insurance pay a settlement instead of risking having to pay for a full finding against them in court.

Sadly, this is the way governments look at the problem... Apparently it's cheaper for them to let their cops abuse citizens and let insurance providers soak up the costs in the aftermath... Meanwhile, Gary's family will never get their son back, and who knows what the next family will have to endure as well.

We reported on another settlement yesterday in Connecticut... how can one state so small have so much police misconduct?

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