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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 01-18-09

A Photograph of the Olympia Washington Anti-Police Brutality march on 01/16/09.

Police Brutality Protesters Violently March Against Police Violence
A small protest in Olympia, Washington Friday, against police brutality and the shooting death of Jose Ramirez-Jiminez last year, took a violent turn after protesters were herded towards a police substation by Olympia police. The group of about 40 protesters began lobbing torches and road flares at the police station.

Police say about 20 of the protesters were detained and 3 were brought up on misdemeanor charges that may be changed to charges of felony attempted arson.

Jose Ramirez-Jimenez was shot several times in the back while in his car after a police chase that ended with his car blocked in. That shooting was declared justified last year by an investigation by police agencies from the surrounding area but some police accountability groups in Olympia claim the investigation was biased.

I know this won't endear me to anyone who reads this blog, whether they are for or against police brutality, but I have an opinion on this...

Now, I'm not going to go into whether or not I think the shooting or the protest were valid, that's up to the people in Olympia to decide as they should know better than I do whether their police can be trusted to investigate such incidents. But, I do want to address whether or not I think using violence as a means to protest acts of police violence is productive or not.

First, it seems counter-intuitive to me for people to declare that they are against police brutality but do so by resorting to violent acts themselves. After all, how can you suggest that one group should not break the law while you do?

Next, I think it causes more harm than good. Confidence and trust in the police among the US population in general is still incredibly high, last suggested at 73% in fact. So if you want popular support, which is what you need in order to enact police accountability changes, you first need to change some minds with information and persuasion. Resorting to violence only plays into the hands of police and police-friendly media by making police accountability a fringe issue instead of a mainstream one.

Ultimately. all the rioting and death threats do is give the police an excuse to use violence again and gives them leverage to enact new laws that increase secrecy in the name of protecting police from a "violent public". It ultimately makes it harder to fight police brutality by allowing police departments to keep it secret from the public by law instead of by underhanded tactics.

The fight against police misconduct is a battle of public perception, and so far the police have been winning by being able to convince politicians and the public that the rights of police officers outweigh the rights of citizens, and they use the actions of violent protesters as an effective weapon in that fight.

So, when you organize a protest or a march against police brutality, make sure you do it in a way that doesn't give the police any more weapons than they already have to use against us in the process.

That's my opinion at least...

Is The Oakland PD Reaching For Accountability Or Resorting To Scapegoating?
The Oakland PD in California is looking into the possibility of firing 11 of their officers who are in the midst of a search warrant scandal in which 18 officers were accused of lying on warrant requests by stating that substances purchased in buy-bust operations had been tested when they weren't.

That scandal resulted in 12 cases being dismissed in several others being re-investigated, two federal civil rights suits, and may result in the department being found in violation of the settlement reached involving the legendary Riders scandal.

Lawyers representing the cops say they were trained to do this and are being used as scapegoats to deflect the legal threats resulting in the warrant flap and the department initially stood by the officers by saying that the mistakes were a result of insufficient training.

Both parties are likely right, while the officers should have known better than to commit material falsehoods on police reports and warrant requests, their commanders probably encouraged the practice until they got caught doing it.

Canada Allows Accused To Review Police Disciplinary Records, The US Still Keeps Records Secret
The Canadian Supreme Court decided that defendants facing criminal charges have the right to access police disciplinary records. This is, of course, not the same as the court saying these records should be public information, but it's more than the US allows currently where putting officers on a "Brady list" which is distributed to defense lawyers to indicate problems with misconduct is a voluntary action by police departments and local prosecutors.

But no, I still don't want to go to Canada since they've been having just as much a problem with misconduct as we've got down here... They still do try hard to be like us up there these days.

Cops Found To Have Used Excessive Force Despite "Broken" Cameras
From The Agitator, Prince George's County police officers in Maryland were found to have used excessive force when they detained a reporter who was investigating improper use of government resources. The reporter won $5,000 in the case for shoulder injuries that occurred when she was ordered out of her car at gunpoint and her arm was yanked behind her back.

Unsurprisingly, all of the officers who responded reported that their dashboard cameras weren't working that day... yeah, riiiight.

Kansas Prosecutor Insists He Was Right To Distribute Photos Of Naked Teens
An Anderson County prosecutor in Kansas thought it was a good idea to show pictures of local teenagers having sex at a party to area parents in order to raise awareness about teen drinking...

The prosecutor announced his plan to show the photos from a party where teens were caught drinking to parents of the teens who were there in a local paper. In response to the article the mother of one teenager called Campbell and told him not to share the photos with anyone because she claimed her daughter, depicted half-naked while having sex in one photo, was the victim of sexual assault that night, not consensual sex.

According to the court ruling, the prosecutor challenged the mother, saying he did not need her permission. He then sent letters to parents of 12 teens, inviting them to observe the photos and five families showed up to view the pictures with the prosecutor.

Ultimately the prosecutor was re-elected despite being suspended by a disciplinary board over the incident and now the Kansas Supreme Court has decided that the suspension was insufficient and doubled it, but the prosecutor will still continue on since he can't be removed from office and still defends his tactics.

I guess government officials are the only ones allowed to distribute child pornography...

Colorado Officer Faces Trial For Stalking Ex-Girlfriend
A Lafayette Colorado police officer has plead not-guilty to charges of stalking his ex girlfriend, harassment, official misconduct, and criminal mischief domestic violence.

The officer is currently on unpaid leave and faces charges over accusations that he kept following his ex and her new boyfriend, sent her text messages saying she was being watched, text-messaged her when he pulled her boyfriend over and ticketed him, attempted to have her fired from work, and damaged her car during an argument.

Georgia Officer Commits Suicide After Being Accused Of Sexual Assault
Sadly, a Dalton police officer decided to take his own life shortly after the Dalton police department began investigating accusations, made via a 911 call, that Sparks had sexually assaulted a woman while responding to a "disturbance call".

The report, while not revealing whether the officer left behind any family, does describe that fateful 911 call:
"He said a girl was “picked up at the Oyster Pub and brought to (the Guest Inn) by a Dalton cop, and she was molested by that cop.” He asked for an officer to be sent to Room 128. When the dispatcher asked for a name or badge number of the officer, the caller said, “No, ma’am, but she said she could recognize him.” A female is heard sobbing during the call."
The department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are still investigating the allegations and the officer's resultant suicide. Yes, what the officer was accused of doing is a really bad thing, but it was his response to being caught by taking the easy way out that multiplied the harm done by his misconduct.

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