With the recent demise of a major Seattle news outlet and reports of similar incidents in cities across the US, it's disconcerting that our sources for information about what happens around us are being consolidated and reduced to television-friendly soundbites that are filtered as to not offend advertisers or the editorial bias empowered by limited competition in local markets.
Still, there is some hope in the form of community-based media... but, when other news outlets are dying off from a lack of revenue, can non-profit news outlets like community-based radio keep itself afloat in this difficult economic climate?
My own favorite local community-based radio station, KBCS 91.3, recently held their spring fund drive and fell $50,000 short of their modest goal of getting $177,000 in donations that they need to stay on the air and keep providing invaluable programming that includes the production of in-depth news reporting and investigative reports that discuss important stories that just aren't covered in the mainstream media or even in our local alternative print press.
Now, with the number of sources for news and information decreasing, it's more important than ever to keep these independent and invaluable sources of news reporting alive. Sure, blogs and other sites like this one are here to report on things that most other outlets only report on sporadically, if at all, as a specialized and focused repository of information. And yes, from time to time we do produce exclusive stories that wouldn't be found in any other local media outlet.
But, in large part, bloggers and independent journalists just don't have access to the same resources, the same audience base, and the same sources of inside information that media outlets, including community-based media, has access to. We depend on them just as much as you do as sources of information on which to base many of our stories that we bring to you.
We need them to stick around, you need them to stick around. I can't replace what they do, just as I can not hope to cover the stories that the Seattle Post Intelligencer was able to cover thanks to their immense resources and access to public records that I just cannot afford to buy.
Now, I've often toyed with the idea of asking for donations to help build this site, produce better stories, and gain access to public records that I couldn't afford otherwise... but instead I'm going to ask that our readers consider donating to KBCS in order to keep them around and help them produce the kind of stories that we depend on.
Please visit their membership page and donate what you can to keep them on the air and keep them producing the great content that they've been giving to us with programs like One World Report that is produced locally and focuses on the issues that are important to our community like Seattle Police accountability and local civil rights issues.
If you won't do it for me, at least do it for yourself. We need all the voices that we can get who are willing to speak about important news stories. One major one has already been silenced, let's not risk losing another.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
With the recent demise of a major Seattle news outlet and reports of similar incidents in cities across the US, it's disconcerting that our sources for information about what happens around us are being consolidated and reduced to television-friendly soundbites that are filtered as to not offend advertisers or the editorial bias empowered by limited competition in local markets.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I wanted to take some time and explain some things to readers who may wonder about my previous article. I realize that, at first glance, it might have sounded pretty defeatist.
So, let me start by saying that I didn't write it to suggest that people fighting police misconduct should give up, quite the opposite. I wrote it to explain how and why these efforts need to step it up. I wrote it to help focus on the tactics people who defend police misconduct use to bypass local police accountability efforts.
I wrote it to explain that, without addressing the federal and state laws that make it impossible for cities to rid themselves of bad cops, what does it matter if we identify all the bad cops and detail their abuses, or hold protests against them, or even convince city officials that something must be done?
The problem we face is that organizations and individuals dedicated to address police misconduct and brutality just can't bring ourselves to cooperate with each other on a local level, let alone work with similar efforts in other cities to put pressure on state government and federal lawmakers to change the current laws that encourage police abuses.
Many put pressure and blame on police chiefs and leaders without understanding how they are often denied the tools they need to address the problems they are blamed for... Sure, those groups might force one chief to be fired, but it helps little if the next one in still isn't allowed to fire troublemakers just like the last one.
We need to realize that the police have many resources; they have their unions, their 'benevolent' organizations, their memorial groups, their own lobbyists, armies of lawyers on retainer, and countless other support groups, that all work together to pass laws that protect officers from discipline and accountability on a local, state, and national level...
How can any of us, we who dedicate ourselves to fighting abuses of authority, police brutality, and systemic abuses of civil and human rights, hope to fight that power without understanding how effective it is and working together to counterbalance it on the same level?
After all, what good is it if we devote all our resources in divided efforts to force changes at a local level while all those police organizations have the ears and pocketbooks of state and federal lawmakers all to themselves without any opposing viewpoint being heard?
That's the uphill fight we face... and we can't keep pretending that a tiny rally of a dozen people in Seattle, or that a small website written by one guy, or any of these things we do individually are going to accomplish anything lasting on their own. We have to understand the united front we all face when we try to confront police misconduct and how they use that unity to defeat our individual efforts.
But, if we could just get it together and use each others strengths and focus on meaningful goals instead of just being reactive to each individual case of misconduct... maybe we would stand a chance against the daily onslaught of police misconduct and those who seek to perpetuate it.
It's time to face facts. The people opposed to police misconduct cannot hope to make progress unless they can become just as united in that cause as police organizations are in their efforts to help problematic officers avoid discipline for their abuses.
We must accept that, while we remain divided, we will be destined to continue to fail if we keep trying the same failed tactics over and over again…
…and I have to accept that it’s going to take a lot more effort on my part than what I’ve put forward so far in order to have any chance of addressing the seemingly ever-worsening problem of police misconduct.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
What I'm about to tell you might be hard to swallow, but it is entirely truth. The problem of police misconduct in Seattle, and most cities in fact, cannot be solved at a local level alone.
Specifically, no matter how much pressure you put on local politicians and officials. No matter how bad a reputation the city develops through damning story after story of egregious abuse landing on the front page of local papers. No matter how many videos of cops beating on innocent citizens make the rounds across the nation to draw condemnation from the world...
In fact, even if all the politicians and officials in the city wanted to fix the problem of police misconduct, even if we could make them want to change the way officers are investigated and disciplined... They are utterly powerless to do anything substantive about it.
First, we have to understand the currently flawed system that allows officer after officer to avoid discipline, even when the city does try to fire them.
Complaints are received and investigated by the Seattle Police Department Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). Once a complaint is received the OPA has 180 days to investigate or it's an automatic exoneration.
During that process the complainant is asked to make a recorded statement about the complaint and from there the accused officer is interviewed and has a right to present their side of the case during the investigation.
OPA investigators are rank and file officers who are pulled off the streets to serve in the OPA for a limited period of time, so often the complainant is interviewed in an aggressive manner while the accused officer is asked questions in a more favorable manner.
After all officers who may have witnessed an incident are interviewed, any other witnesses are interrogated, and any evidence is reviewed, the OPA investigators will issue a preliminary finding.
Once a finding has been reached, that result is reviewed by the civilian auditor who either approves the finding and disciplinary action that is recommended by the OPA or makes her own recommendation that is registered along side the recommendation made by the OPA investigation.
The Chief of Police:
After the OPA and auditor present their findings and recommendations, the chief of police reviews the file and makes his own tentative conclusion as to whether the allegations and findings are sustained or not and, if sustained, what disciplinary action will be pursued.
Ultimately, regardless of what the OPA, auditor, or anyone else suggests, the chief has final word and authority on what the findings will be and what disciplinary action will or won't occur. But, chiefs of police in Seattle quickly find that no matter what, they still don't have much control over departmental discipline, and that's because of all the protections officers find upon the multiple levels of appeal available to them.
The First Level of Appeal:
If the chief of police finds that the allegations were sustained the accused officer is provided a chance to appeal that finding with the chief during what is called a Loudermill hearing.
During the Loudermill hearing the accused officer can dispute any of the findings during his meeting with the chief with the assistance of a police guild representative. This is a one-sided appeal, the accusing party is not given a chance after the initial complaint and investigation to rebut any claims made by the officer.
If, after a Loudermill, the chief still finds that the complaint was sustained he can impose a disciplinary action of his own choosing, based on recommendations presented or he can change his mind and decide a different level of discipline.
This Loudermill hearing is actually a first level of appeal since the disciplinary finding had already been made and this is the officer's chance to challenge that finding directly to the chief without the complainant being represented in that hearing to offer a counter-argument or explanation.
Once the disciplinary action is decided upon, the officer and the police guild have at least 4 more additional layers of appeal they can proceed with to either appeal the sustained finding or appeal the disciplinary action.
The Second Appeal Level:
The next appeal layer is the police department's own Disciplinary Review Board which appears to utilize arbiters to determine who wins the appeal, but is otherwise not detailed in any way that the public can scrutinize.
The latest case overturned by the Seattle Police Department's Disciplinary Review Board involved officer Don George who won in arbitration with an arbiter who normally represents employees in labor rights cases, that hearing was binding for the city and resulted in his being rehired after he was fired. Again, only the officer gets to present his case, not the person filing the complaint.
The Third Appeal Level:
The third layer of appeal is the city's Public Safety Civil Service Commission which is comprised of four people. One appointed by the mayor, one by council, one by the union, and one by the other three members. Currently there are more police supporters on the board than anyone else, so appeals here generally rule in favor of the police. Again, while the city is represented, only the officer gets to present his or her side of events, not the actual complainant if that complainant is not the city itself.
The last publicized case to be overturned by Seattle's Public Safety Civil Service Commission was that of Felton Miles who was fired after being indicted for felony harassment of his ex-wife and her then boyfriend. A jury deadlocked on convicting Miles for the felony charge and, before another trial started, he was allowed to plea bargain the charges down misdemeanor harassment.
The commission then reviewed the case and decided that the department would not have been able to fire Felton for a misdemeanor and shouldn't have fired him for being indicted for a felony. That ruling forced the city to rehire him and pay his back wages, benefits, and other penalties.
The Fourth Level of Appeal:
The fourth layer is the state of Washington's Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC). This commission consists of labor rights attorneys who generally favor employees and unions in disputes against government entities like the city of Seattle. Yet again, the person who filed the complaint is not represented here, just the officer and the city.
I'm not aware of any appeal that made it this far without already being overturned by an appeal to the department or city commission. However, union complaints about bargaining rights and civilian oversight are heard on this level as well and all of those complaints have gone against the city, forcing Seattle to keep police misconduct investigation records confidential from it's own civilian review board.
The Fifth Level of Appeal
Finally, the officer can file a civil suit against the city in federal court. Yet, even in these proceedings, the actual complainant is never represented or present to rebut any claims made by the accused officer, it's just the officer's word against the city's investigative findings and history of disciplinary actions in similar cases. So if the investigation was flawed, didn't ask the complainant the right questions, or the discipline doesn't fit with how the department disciplined other officers in such cases, the city will lose that suit.
When cities in Washington lose on a federal level it's commonly referred to as a matter of discrimination in that the officer will claim that they were singled out for termination when other officers guilty of similar or worse abuses were not disciplined in a similar manner, if at all. Given the lax history of discipline, this is a very easy case to make unfortunately. When officers win at this level they often win more than victims of police brutality win in civil rights violations cases brought before the federal court. (think millions for "wrongfully" fired officers vs the highest paid civil rights violation / police brutality case out of Seattle in the last decade was only $280,000)
As you might be able to figure out by now, even if the city had a very well thought out complaint process and disciplinary guidelines that excluded personal bias in favor of the officer that the current process is laced with, they still face the task of defending their findings through several layers of appeal through which an officer and their hired defense lawyers can hone their defense and get their story just right.
In the end, it is exceptionally rare that an officer is found guilty of misconduct that results in termination by the time the preliminary investigation is complete.
Even more rare is it that the recommended findings aren't overturned by the chief after a Loudermill hearing.
Exceedingly more rare is it that the disciplinary action isn't overturned by the department's own Disciplinary board.
Even more rare is it that a case making it to the city's board isn't overturned by the biased committee members there.
If, by some odd chance, the case makes it to the state's PERC appeal level, I've not heard of a case that wasn't overturned there by the labor rights activists who dominate that committee.
Finally, on the federal level, unless the city has consistently dealt with the same action with the exact same disciplinary action each and every time, the city stands to lose their case and may be forced to pay the officer's back pay and a punitive award in the millions.
During all these appeals the city has to pay for lawyers to represent the city and the union pays for the officer's lawyers in nearly every case, and when the city loses they have to pay costs for both sides, plus any punitive damages awarded to the officer upon successful appeal.
Obviously, this makes disciplining officers a losing proposition for the city, and makes covering up abuses a much more cost-effective choice.
After all, most civil rights cases against the city for police brutality only result in low-six figure settlements in the rare case that they win against a city motivated to hide evidence of abuse, often making a lost civil rights case far less expensive than it costs to try and discipline an officer and lose on appeal.
So, in the end, the problem of police misconduct in Seattle cannot be solved on the local level. There is no incentive for city officials to enact a real effective disciplinary process and ample incentive for the police department and city to work together to hide cases of abuse and leave the abused victims out to dry... It's just cheaper that way.
If Seattle Can't Fix It, Who Can?
The problem of police misconduct in Seattle must be solved at the state and/or federal level first by reducing the number of appeal options available to officers with sustained findings of misconduct and to make that appeal process more fair and balanced by offering the accused a way to present their case without fear of intimidation and false counter suits.
For the civil employment appeal system to be fair to victims of police misconduct, the victim must be represented at these appeals with lawyers of the same caliber as those hired by the union and must have the same access to evidence and witnesses that the police officers and the union have available to them... and the whole process must be transparent to the public to avoid any corruptible influence or bias that is currently embedded throughout all layers of appeal.
Only then is it possible for the city to create a real effective system that investigate complaints in a non-biased manner which gives the victim a chance to challenge testimony provided by officers who were involved in harming the victim and their accomplices.
Only then will the city have real incentive to do that, until then we're just spinning our wheels and will never see a true system of police accountability... police accountability in Seattle must start from the top, at the state level, before a local grass-roots effort can affect any real change.
Until then, police officers have no incentive whatsoever to not abuse the citizens of Seattle aside from their own consciences... and we've seen how ineffective relying on that can be.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Normally, I respect and agree with most of what ex-Seattle Police Chief, and current member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Norm Stamper has to say about the issue of police misconduct and brutality. He has a pretty firm grasp, as an insider, of many of the issues involved in the complex issue of how American policy and culture itself enables and encourages police brutality.
However, in his latest piece over at The Huffington Post, I found some fault with what he had to say about the shooting deaths of four Oakland police officers earlier this week and how he believes we should react to it.
Mind you, I agree that we shouldn't seek to connect too closely the deaths of those officers and the hardship it brings to their families with the severe problems with police brutality and misconduct in Oakland. I also agree that we should treat their deaths as we would any other regrettable and senseless loss of life done intentionally to another human being...
After all, we don't know what kind of police officers they were, whether they were good or bad... and it doesn't matter anyway because no matter what they didn't deserve to be killed. They deserve all the respect that any other person should get when they die. However, it's clear that we never do treat police officers like we do other people, and Norm doesn't want us to.
Just consider the response to their deaths so far... consider, for how much coverage we might think the shooting death of Oscar Grant in Oakland at the hands of a police officer received, the coverage of the shooting deaths of four Oakland Police officers was 10 times as prominent in the mainstream media than was the highly publicized death of Oscar Grant. (yes, I counted)
Sadly, Norm pushes that this is how it should be and advocates that we should enshrine them just for being police officers, just because they died performing what he feels is the most harrowing job in the US...
But it's not the most harrowing job in the US...
Sure, Norm does acknowledge that more people die on the job in other fields than police officers do, that's something I made clear a few months ago when I researched the latest statistics available to us from the US government.
In per capita death rates per occupation in 2007 (the latest stats available), law enforcement doesn't even crack the top four:
1. Fishing and Fishery Workers (111.8 per 100,000)
2. Logging Workers (86.4 per 100,000)
3. Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers (66.7 per 100,000)
4. Structural Iron and Steel Workers (45.5 per 100,000)
Law Enforcement (20.2 per 100,000)
Law Enforcement deaths barely inches into the top ten in total deaths per occupation in 2007:
But, as I said, Norm acknowledges this... what he is mistaken about is this:
"It doesn't occur as often as most are led to believe, certainly not as frequently as it does on TV. There are a good number of riskier occupations--mining and construction, farming and firefighting come to mind, as does fishing on the Bering Sea in the dead of winter. But there is no job, other than soldiering, where one's life can so quickly be cut short--at the hands of another. Sudden, violent death is an occupational hazard for police officers."Here, Norm is quite mistaken in his argument that we should automatically honor police more than any other person in their deaths because they are more likely to be murdered on the job than anyone else...
Here, he's clearly wrong:
You are more likely to be murdered working as a retail clerk or manager than you are to be murdered while working as a cop. Since this is the case, I wonder why I don't see Norm arguing that we should be erecting shrines, dedicating moments of silence, and creating hundreds of Retail Clerk Memorial Funds like law enforcement officers have?
Indeed, in those numbers we see that murder isn't even the top cause of death for all law enforcement fatalities... that would be automobile accidents.
So, Norm's argument that officers who die on duty should be memorialized as heroes just for being police officers due to the risks they take by becoming police officers seems hypocritical, sadly. As I said, they should be given no less respect than any other person in their deaths...
But, part of the whole problem with police misconduct is that we raise police officers up to the level of heroes in our society, we are told to trust and respect them just for being police officers, we give their testimony more sway in courts of law and courts of public opinion just for being cops, and we are told that we should memorialize them more than any other person when they die...
...even though they are just as human and fallible as the rest of us.
The problem, you see, is as Norm says it is, that insular police culture of "Us vs Them", that culture that makes officers believe that they are better than the rest of us, that we are less human and less worthy of respect than they are...
It is that culture which enables and encourages police brutality... and by telling us we should respect those four officers who died in Oakland more than we respect Oscar Grant or any other person who dies at the hands of another simply feeds into that culture of superiority and abuse... it only serves to grow that notion of "Us vs Them".
Especially when the argument used to convince us that we should treat police officers differently than ordinary people is flawed in it's own right.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
but I still want people to consider what would happen if it wasn't a football star who was stopped... if there wasn't a video... and if the police department didn't care to investigate it... Such a thing happened here in Seattle recently.
I received a letter a few days ago about an incident this year here in Seattle that involved two women, one of them who was viciously beaten and almost raped, only to be further victimized by a Seattle Police Officer.
One of the women, let’s call her M, wrote about how she was assaulted by a man who demanded money. When she said she didn’t have any he backhanded her and began beating her and ripping off her clothes.
It was then that her friend, let’s call her J, jumped out of their nearby car to help when she was also attacked, but after hitting her friend the attacker ran off, perhaps thinking two women were more than he wanted to deal with..
But, the damage was done, M realized that she could no longer see out of her right eye. J looked at M’s eye and realized it was bleeding and damaged, so they got into their car and rushed to the nearest hospital.
As J was driving, M kept blacking out so J, rightly concerned, went against a one-way only turn sign after pausing to make sure nobody was coming, and was immediately stopped by a Seattle Police officer.
J explained to the officer that she was driving her friend to the ER and asked for an escort. But the officer replied. “I can’t do that”. And began to demand J’s license and registration. J became upset: “Look at her, her face, her eye! We need serious medical attention!” she exclaimed, explaining that her friend was just beaten up and almost raped.
When the officer refused to look, M leaned over and looked at the officer, forcing him to see her developing black eyes and damaged right eye… The officer replied with a chuckle and smiled when he turned away to go back to his motorcycle to write the ticket.
When he returned he wrote two tickets, one for the traffic infraction and the other for failure to provide proof of insurance (which was later dropped when J showed the same form to the court that she provided the officer).
J, still in shock from the disbelief she felt at the officer’s reaction to her friend’s injuries, asked the officer “How would you feel if it was your mother, sister, or daughter who was just physically and almost sexually assaulted and a police officer thought it was humorous?”
The officer got irate and shoved his hand in her face, exclaiming “I don’t want to hear it! Move!” and then he shoved her back forcefully, got on his bike and, in her own words:
He laughed, and flippantly said, “Good Luck,” driving off on his motorcycle as if he had done nothing wrong. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I and my friend had already been victimized and this SPD officer had just left both of us feeling degraded, small, used, harassed, assaulted and highly humiliated by someone whose duty it is “to serve and protect.”----------
It takes a certain kind of sadism for officers to have such disregard for the suffering of others, let alone to intentionally act in ways that would make that suffering worse… especially for the victims of crimes whom they are duty-bound to help and protect instead of harm and prosecute.
When they think of their role as officers as a divide between us and them and begin to think of the “them” as less than human, this is ultimately the result…
While it’s good that the Moats case has been aired in the press… J and M’s case will never be heard or read… just another couple of innocent people who have learned that there are officers out there who have become so jaded and rooted in the culture of police isolationism that they treat victim and suspect with equal disregard…
Regretfully, to those officers, we’re all animals... victim and suspect alike.
Some information and details have been removed and altered to protect the victims in this case from retaliation by the police for telling their stories.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Hey folks, sorry it's been a while since I posted anything substantive, been busy at work and just now caught a break to give you some updates and newer news...
Speaking of news, catch us on Twitter and get all the latest police misconduct news stories as we see them. Just follow Injust_Seattle and keep up on all the bad stuff going down.
On to it then...
First, there’s been a lot of response to an article I published about how different it is when police officers threaten police accountability activists and writers as opposed to when they reportedly receive threats in response to highly publicized stories of abuse that those police officers committed.
One officer took the time to write in response to that piece after it appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, it was a really positive response and I appreciated it so much that I put it up as a post, if you haven’t yet, go read it… it’ll make you feel better after reading all the other bad stories I have to post here.
Over at Five Before Midnight, the author of that blog responds to the article by going through a brief history detailing some of her more persistent harassers who attack her simply for writing about some of the same issues I write about… Some disturbing incidents there.
But, I wanted to post an addendum to that article I did. I’d like to draw people’s attention to a more recent related development down in Arizona. Apparently the owner of a site devoted to covering corruption and misconduct in the Phoenix Police Department suffered some serious civil rights violations when the police raided his home and confiscated all of his computer equipment and several files related to a civil lawsuit he was filing against the city.
Not only that, but the police also took computers belonging to their children and detained them and a guest who was visiting for three hours while refusing to allow them access to their lawyers while the politically motivated raid was taking place.
Now, I read his site, badphoenixcops.com, and it is peppered with some pretty strong language and strong allegations, but it’s still protected speech and it’s incredibly disturbing if this kind of activity is allowed to stand without any legal recourse. It jeopardizes anyone who writes or speaks out about police misconduct if what’s going on down there isn’t stopped.
About that new chief…
Seattle Mayor Nickels’ appointment of John Diaz as interim police chief raised some serious hackles within the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, but nobody can figure out exactly why this is. The rumors and innuendos continue to fly out from anonymous sources within the police department about his supposed nickname, “Shotgun Johnny”, as if this was connected to some alleged act of misconduct, but nothing can be substantiated… (so persistent and secretive were these rumors that even local news outlets were reduced to searching this site for info on these allegations, and I know they hate this site with a passion.)
Interestingly, those disgruntled sources can’t reveal why they oppose Diaz because of the union’s own efforts in forcing the city to keep misconduct records secret. So, to reveal why they oppose Diaz, they would need those records to be public, which puts them in the bind of opposing their own opposition to allowing such records to be accessible to the public… so the guild itself yielded and chose to support Diaz instead of fighting against their own fight for secrecy... Funny, isn’t it?
Better Later Than Never…
There was an incredible post put up a few days ago by Karl Mansoor over at Blue Must Be True about how systemic and pervasive police misconduct might really be based on disciplinary statistics already available to us. I really suggest that people go read it and think about exactly what those statistics might really mean when we look at how many people are employed in the law enforcement, corrections, and justice departments in the country. It’s pretty thought provoking.
Also local community radio station KBCS FM is holding their annual fund drive which started a few days ago. They are behind right now and really need everyone’s support to keep delivering their great content to the area. They were the only news outlet in the Seattle area that ever bothered mentioning us (on their news program called One World Report last year in response to the contract between the city and the police guild)… ever. So their commitment to deliver important news about civil rights issues in this area can’t be understated. Go and give what you can, they have some neat gifts too!
And Some Local News too…
Malika Calhoun Arrested Again
The now well-known victim of police brutality at the hands of King County Deputy Paul Schene, 15-year-old Malika Calhoun, was arrested and charged with felonious harassment and trespassing for an altercation she got into with another teenage girl at a local mall. Apparently Malika threatened to come back with a gun and shot the girl in the face for an alleged slight against one of her friends.
Apparently Malika and her friend were banned from that mall the day previous to this encounter, hence the trespassing charge in addition to the felony harassment charge filed against her by the Tukwilla Washington Police. The incident apparently occurred on February 2 of this year, three months after her arrest for allegations of auto theft in November where she was attacked in a holding cell by Deputy Schene and about 10 days before the details about the beating started to go public.
We never said she was an angel, but it does go to show that two wrongs don't make a right and if Deputy Schene thought that beating the snot out of her for kicking off a tennis shoe in his direction was going to teach her a lesson, he was horribly mistaken. However, we should keep in mind that the local PDs have a history of filing retaliatory charges against people who report misconduct as well, so we'll see how this develops.
SPD Officer Arrested for Alleged DV
A Seattle Police Department officer was arrested over the weekend over an alleged early-morning domestic violence incident where he supposedly grabbed his spouse’s arms during an argument and cut her hand with a knife. That officer, Scott Moss, was arrested on Saturday and charged with 2nd degree felonious assault.
Officer Moss is a 15 year veteran of the SPD and previously served as a spokesperson for the department and was most currently assigned to the department’s internal investigation division, the Office of Professional Accountability. This, however, isn’t the first time Moss has been in trouble as he was arrested previously in 2005 for a DUI.
Seattle PD Forced To Rehire Officer Accused of Excessive Force
Ex-SPD officer Don “Diamond Don” George will soon be current SPD officer Don George again after he appealed his termination from the SPD to the department’s Disciplinary Review Board, where it was promptly overturned and the city was forced to hire him back and pay his back-pay, benefits, etc… even though the arbiter in the case found Officer George’s testimony in response to allegations that he bounced the head of a 17-year-old suspect’s head off of a police cruiser’s partition when the boy asked for an attorney.
As you might have guessed, this isn’t the first time officer George has been in trouble, he has a long history of misconduct allegations that include one that earned him the nickname of Diamond Don where he was alleged to have stolen a diamond ring from a suicide victim’s body over 20 years ago. The chief at the time intervened and protected him from disciplinary action in that case, over 20 years ago.
Gig Harbor Police Department Sued In Perjury Case
A convicted drug dealer whose case was overturned when the officer involved in the case, Sgt Matthew Dougil, was accused of perjury for falsifying police reports and now faces trial himself is now suing Gig Harbor because the informant used in his case to buy drugs from him already had drugs on her before she bought anything from him.
The failure of Dougil to account for the drugs the informant already had meant that the suspect served an extra year for selling drugs he never sold. Another man involved in the case has already settled with the city for $45,000 in a similar suit related to Dougil’s perjury allegations.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Well, folks... sorry about not having time to put anything new up. At least any new posts since I have been throwing twitter newsflash pieces out there. Still buried at work but I figured I had time to share a nice piece of mail I received yesterday with everyone.
I like getting mail like this, it reaffirms that there are decent police officers out there who got into that line of work for all the right reasons and never lost sight of why they do this. I believe that there are officers like this out there and I do want to support them and encourage them to keep up the great work.
Ultimately, my job at this site is to put myself out of business, it's to solve the problems I write about... so that I never have to write another story about bad cops who got away with harming people needlessly or departments that encourage that kind of behavior...
and that the kind of officer that I admire would take the time to write puts a smile on my face and makes me think that there's still hope. So, to the officer who took the time to write, thank you for writing and I hope my readers appreciate your letter as much as I did.
I stumbled upon one of your blog posts when I was following another news story. There are a lot of us (Police Officers) who are embarrassed by the actions of the cops you describe.
I, for one, know I will never be the subject of one of your blogs because I believe in the oath I took. I have never been in a job that paid enough to make me greedy, or corrupt, but that’s a fact of life when one prefers to live in a rural area and work small towns.
The Constitution is the closest thing to a bible I have, and it gives citizens the right to express their views and concerns. I am also a retired Soldier so my duty to the Constitution began when I was 17 years old. My son came home in a flag-covered box while serving his oath to it.
Please keep in mind there are a lot of us that will NEVER put those we are sworn to protect in fear of us. That is a fascist trademark and I will never be a part of that! And I really don’t care what other cops think of that. My honor will remain intact so I can join my boy in the hereafter.
My previous job was in a small town, and one of my biggest joys was to have children run to the street when I cruised by so they could shout and wave to me. And the older kids knew if they got caught doing the things kids will do, that I wouldn’t make a federal case of it and send them to juvenile court.
By working with parents and victims I administered “homework” assignments that would make even the hardest, toughest history teacher feel inadequate. And even in my current job, a lot of the students think of me as “the old grumpy cop”, but ask any of them who is the first to help them with a problem.
So please remember those of us that do what we do because we believe in it, not because having a stripe down our legs leads us to believe we are king shit.
This message was republished with permission from the author, with all identifying information removed to protect the identity of the sender. To send us a letter, just email us at email@example.com
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
As you may have noticed, I've decided to see if Twitter can enhance the site and so far it seems to be somewhat useful. It allows me to send out brief updates on articles I notice during the day or let people interested in the site know what I might be working on without having to throw out a whole post about it.
It's going to be fairly useful now as I probably won't have time to put out a full article for a few days due to work, I've just been slammed with new projects unfortunately... and the work I do on this site isn't meant to pay the bills. (in fact, I actually pay to do this.)
So, until work settles down a bit I'll have to resort to putting out more tweets about any important stories I see. So follow us there or here through the twit-feed.
Until next time, folks, stay safe out there!
UPDATE 03/22/09: Sorry folks, still putting in about 18 hours a day at work... no, I don't get overtime, but with the threats of layoffs hovering overhead, I do what I can to keep food on the table... hopefully I'll be able to get things back to normal here soon.
Did have time to write up one story based on a reader's letter, but it's waiting that person's permission to publish. Keep checking the Twitter feeds in the meantime, bunch of stories linked there.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, March 16, 2009
News has just been leaked late last night that Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has picked Seattle Deputy Police Chief John Diaz as the temporary replacement for Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske who has been picked by President Obama to be the next drug Czar.
However, there appears to be a catch. According to the Seattle Times, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild that represents Seattle Police Department's rank and file officers isn't happy with that pick and appears to have launched a behind-the-scenes mudslinging campaign against Diaz in an attempt to undermine the mayor's choice for the chief's replacement.
Upon looking at Diaz's 29 year history with the SPD though, I don't see any outward indication that he's done anything but toe the line in regards to the public relations front that Seattle and it's police department put forward during any police misconduct incident. In fact, he's often been the public face towards the press when questionable incidents occur and has always urged the media to defer to the department's internal investigations findings, even when those findings were called into question.
So, for the guild to put forward such an aggressive offensive against Diaz means there must be something different that happens internally that's quite different than the deferential demeanor that Diaz has displayed to the press in the past. That could be because, as assistant chief under Kerlikowske, Diaz had an important role in officer discipline.
But, given Kerlikowske's tendencies to overturn findings of misconduct given to him by his own internal affairs department, the Office of Professional Accountability, on a regular basis, it's hard to see how Diaz would have had much disciplinary contact with the rank and file officers in the first place, given that so few ever actually got disciplined.
None the less, the police union's efforts behind the scenes to undermine Diaz's character must be quite intense as Diaz has asked the mayor if he still wants him to accept the post in light of the guild's efforts. Indeed, the Times quotes an unnamed city official as saying that Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, has privately told Nickels the Guild has serious problems with Diaz.
One thing is clear though, I've not uncovered any indication of misconduct or corruption in Diaz's history with the Seattle Police Department. So, if the guild has a beef with Diaz, it doesn't appear to be because he's a dirty cop.
Whatever the case, this is one we'll have to keep an eye on, especially if the guild offers up their own choice as candidate to replace Kerlikowske and the mayor backs off from his choice of Diaz as interim chief.
Tonight the newspaper's site, seattlepi.nwsource.com, which is hosted from the same domain as the other Seattle newspaper, The Seattle Times, redirected to a failover site with limited availability for a brief time as part of a split that put the Seattle PI in it's own www.seattlepi.com domain, which subsequently broke just about every link that anyone ever put up to an article that was published on the Seattle Post Intelligencer's site.
(I'm currently looking into fixing the links on this site, if possible, so bear with me if a link to any given story isn't working for a while. I just hope that these stories don't end up gone for good if the whole paper and site go down completely.)
Hopefully, instead of shutting down completely the Seattle PI will be going to an online-only format at least, even though that would mean that they likely won't have some of the really hard-hitting investigative pieces that Seattle desperately needs to read about... like police misconduct stories for example. (and yes, police officers have been gloating and cheering about the shutdown at the newspaper's site since the announcement was made) But it would be better than nothing as rumors are that the The Seattle Times may not survive through this year either, leaving Seattle a newspaperless town.
The sudden splitting of the domain tonight may be a sign that the paper's demise is imminent though... and if so the temporary domain left up during the switch was an unintentionally prescient "http://disaster.seattlepi.nwsource.com".
Sunday, March 15, 2009
While much has been said elsewhere about how Obama's plan is giving $36 million to police departments across the US and how this influx of money could have done a lot more good if it had been tied to mandatory police accountability reforms... which it doesn't. It seems that there was yet another twist that none of us foresaw until the plan went into motion.
For example, last year the King County Sheriff's Department had to choose between cutting more staff or completely cutting the funds for their police accountability reforms and civilian oversight program. Guess what got gutted? That's right, last year all police accountability reforms died in King County for the foreseeable future.
Now that the King County Sheriff's Department stands to gain $4.8 million from the stimulus plan you would think they could implement the needed reforms, especially in the face of worldwide condemnation over the videotaped beating of Malika Calhoun and other recent cases...
You would be wrong... the federal stimulus funds may only be used to fund more hires, more drug and gang task forces, and other SPECIFIED enforcement activities. They cannot be used for police accountability programs.
So while King County can hire a bunch of new cops and give existing cops promotions to violent proactive task force groups like the Anti-Crime Task Force... It can't do anything with that money to keep those officers accountable or they would lose those funds.
So, ultimately, not only does Obama's stimulus plan ignore police brutality and racial profiling, it actually encourages more of it since departments can't use it to fund accountability reforms and civilian oversight programs that were the first to be cut when funding dried up like it was in King County.
So, in addition to forcing police departments all over the US to keep any accountability reforms that they were forced to cut off the table while hiring more recruits, Obama's plan will only bring us...
Many more stories of a failed justice system like this...
In February 2007 Spokane Police officer Jay Olsen, who had been drinking at a bar, shot Sacred Heart Medical Center nurse Shonto Pete in the back of the head.
While Olsen claimed that Pete had stolen his truck and that he feared for his life when he shot Pete, the evidence said otherwise and in a battle of conflicting testimonies Pete, who lived despite having a hollow point bullet lodged in his skull, was cleared of theft charges as prosecutors could not prove he was ever in Olsen's truck...
But on Friday a jury also found Jay Olsen not guilty of first degree assault and reckless endangerment charges despite the evidence contradicting nearly every part of Olsen's testimony and backing up every part of Pete's testimony, and speculation that police investigators coached Olsen when they interviewed him about the shooting incident.
Olsen is still suspended pending the completion of the internal investigation into the shooting, but given the acquittal, it's likely he'll be back on the job soon.
Like I said, yet more stories of a failed justice system like this...
A jury in the criminal trial against a Denver police officer accused of stomping on a teenager's back so hard that he suffered from a ruptured liver, kidney damage, and broken ribs found that, even though there was clearly evidence of police brutality, that they could imagine a scenario where the officer in question might not have been the one who did it... even though two other officers testified that he did. Sound familiar? Seems lawyers specializing in defense of police in criminal trials have hit upon an ultimate defense strategy and it's catching.
More police chiefs covering for sexual predators like this...
Ex-Creston Police Chief Jamie Christensen one of the officers he was in charge of, John Sickels, have been found guilty of sexual abuse in the second degree in a case where the chief walked in on Sickles while he was having sex with a bartender in a local bar but when the bartender reported it as sexual abuse the chief refused to investigate it and said that what he saw that night wasn't sex in order to cover for his officer.
The cross-examination of the chief is telling when he starts to vacillate between admitting that what he saw was a sexual act and then switching back to saying he didn't report or investigate it because he didn't think it was an act of sex that he walked in on that night.
More innocent families attacked and their dogs killed like this...
Imagine finding out that you accidentally locked yourself out of your own home. So, you and your son climb through a window to get in, no problem. Later there's a knock on the door, you open it and are met by police who start shouting at you and beating you and your son in your own home and then they shoot your dog too.
That's what two Washington DC men are charging DC police officers did to them and their pet dog in this disturbing case of being assaulted by the police for doing nothing wrong. This case takes an incriminating twist though. While officers did report that they shot the family dog, they never documented their use of force that night even though the two clearly have numerous bruises and cuts from the beating they allegedly received that night.
More steroid junkies like this
Seems that Brooklyn NY police officer Vaughan Ettienne, who also doubles as a body builder and was also briefly suspended for steroid use, likes to spend his time offering his "sage opinions" on police brutality videos online.
Such insider opinions that included nuggets of wisdom like "If he wanted to tune him up some, he should have delayed cuffing him." came back to haunt him in court when those remarks and others cost prosecutors a case against man who claims that he was framed by Ettienne as a cover for the officer when Ettienne beat him so badly that he broke three ribs. Ettienne faces no disciplinary action for sharing his opinions on how to better commit police brutality with the world on MySpace or costing prosecutors their case.
More corrupt sheriffs like this...
Seems that 74-year-old Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul only spent 16 days at the office this year... and only 74 days last year... and only 46 days the year before... but still rakes in his $110,000 a year salary despite not having a computer at home to telecommute with.
The sheriff's work pattern came to light recently as he was being investigated for hiring and promoting friends and relatives and for instructing a witness on how to avoid a subpoena so she wouldn't testify against him in a sexual-harassment case.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Yesterday, a King County jury found King County Sheriff's Deputy Don Griffee not guilty of assault in the fourth degree for allegedly punching Johnny Bradford in the face while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a cruiser. Bradford was being question for allegations that were later found to be untrue and officers noticed that, when he was being released, that he had blood on his face when he didn't prior to being placed in the cruiser with Griffee.
During the trial, officers testified that they confronted Griffee after they asked Bradford why he was bleeding and Bradford told them that Griffee had punched him. One officer stated that he believed he heard Griffee say "Back in the old days, when someone called a cop a (expletive), that deserved some dental work."
Griffee, in his defense, testified that he never punched Bradford, but that he just "grabbed his chin to get his attention" and the jury cited that as sufficient reasonable doubt to not convict him of punching a handcuffed detainee, even though the jury said the other testimony and evidence, which included photographs of Griffee's hand with blood on it, as credible. Though, it's certainly true that if a civilian tried that defense that it probably wouldn't work as well as it did for the deputy.
This outcome was similar to the federal criminal deprivation of civil rights trial against King County Deputy Brian Bonnar that ended in acquittal in December. During that trial deputies testified that, when detaining Irene Damon after a car chase, Bonnar looked around and twice dropped his knee on Damon's face after she was handcuffed and that he lifted her up by her hair and slammed her face against the patrol car.
After reading the verdict in that case, the judge addressed the jury:
“What happened here was not what we expect of our law enforcement officers. There was a substantial amount of evidence that he (Bonnar) did not meet the standard of law enforcement in our community... There was substantial evidence his conduct wasn’t appropriate.”
But it still wasn't enough to win a conviction and Bonnar still serves as a deputy in King County, as it is likely now that Griffee will as well with his acquittal yesterday... and may well be with the case against King County Deputy Paul Schene in his upcoming trial for Assault in the fourth degree on 15-year-old Malika Calhoun.
Will video of Schene assaulting a 15-year-old girl be enough to convince a jury in that case? Or will Schene take a page out of the defense book for other officers and convince jurors that there's enough reasonable doubt in this case as well insofar as Schene felt the small girl was a sufficient threat, after she kicked off a soft-soled shoe that hit the deputy in the shin, to justify kicking her in the stomach, throwing her against a wall, and then punching her twice when she was on the ground?
I wouldn't put it past an overly-trusting King County jury to buy it or for prosecutors to drop the ball again, especially after these last two cases.
Why is it so hard to prosecute a cop?
Some even suggest that it's because cops know better than even the criminals they arrest how to skirt the law without being caught, that their knowledge of the system makes them ideal crooks.
Some say it's because prosecutors are unwilling to go full out against a cop like they do against criminals because the police might stop helping them with cases. After all, a prosecutor's conviction rate depends on close cooperation with law enforcement.
Some say it's because of the cultural biases we have drilled into us from an early age that forces us to accept the story of a cop even when that same story from a citizen wouldn't protect them from a guilty verdict. This is certainly plausible given that 76% of the US population feels that the police are very trustworthy, ranking them fourth out of all occupations in trustworthiness. This would explain why juries accept a cop's word as true when used against a suspect except when that suspect is another police officer.
Nobody knows for sure what the reason is, but it's clear that the justice system doesn't work the same against cops like it does against us... and it's likely because of a combination of the above.
Ultimately, these failures of our dualistic justice system don't just harm the people that were hurt by police officers, it harms us all because it merely serves to perpetuate the believe by police officers that they are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us are... that they are above the law and may act as they please.
It only proves to them that they are free to brutalize someone else... and next time, that victim of a failed justice system that cannot hold police officers accountable to the law could be you.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Lately, though, it's been hard to keep some of these to myself because the allegations I hear from some people are very disturbing and, if true, really do need to be released to the public... but, I still keep them to myself out of principle, I do that in order to protect victims of police misconduct from retaliation and to protect them from further abuse that can be caused by public scruitiny. (the favorite tactic of the police when a misconduct case goes public is to do a character assassination on the person alleging abuse, it's not pleasant to go through that, trust me.)
So, I'm sort of at a crux because, when I reply to emails people send me and explain what I can and can't do to help and what our policies are about publishing stories, I don't get a response. I have reason to believe that it's partially because the site's email address has been put on spam blacklists by some of the more tech-savvy law enforcement department employees in the area as the emails I send from here end up in the spam folder of a few of the accounts I've tested.
Anyway... the point is... Should I change the site's confidentiality policy to default to sharing any information sent unless the sender explicitly states that they don't want the information shared like a regular reporter would do? Or should I keep the policy as it is and only share information when the person who reported it gives permission to make it public?
It's a tough call for me... I want to go under the assumption that people want their stories told when they write me and that the public really needs to hear about some of these more serious cases, but I also want to make certain that I don't do more harm than good by sharing anyone's story with the public.
So, why don't you tell me what you think I should do?
Mind you, I won't necessarily abide by the poll results, but I may take into consideration any convincing arguments for one side or the other.
In the meantime... my lips are sealed.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It was a weird day yesterday... Now, I'm not sure about this so I'll leave it up to the readers, but it almost seemed like the King County Sheriff's Office used one of my posts and comments as a basis for a press release.
Take a look at this press release given to local news outlets late in the morning yesterday, but only got posted to the Seattle Post Intelligencer's 911 blog and local TV station Q13Fox. Make note of everything after the released timeline...
Then take a look at what I posted yesterday about a proposed protest against the King County Sheriff along with my comments in response to a reader's question...
Is it just me, or did the King County Sheriff's Department just use a post from my site, a site opposed to police misconduct and detainee abuse, as a basis for their press release yesterday that defended their actions in response to one of their deputies being accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl? After all, they both make the same points, just worded differently, and it came out just a bit after a barrage of visits from the King County Government's network.
Anyway, I honestly don't know what to think about that... because, well, it would be quite ironic if it were the case. Don't you think?
PS: Oh, and as for that protest, I don't even know if they went through with it because, as I unfortunately predicted, absolutely nobody in the local media covered it. Hopefully there's a bit more notice if they do something like that again.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I received the above press release via email last night, apparently around the same time anyone else did. I thought about not posting it, but decided that I'm obliged to... but with some caveats.
First, let me be clear that I was not one of the supposed "other groups and activists" mentioned in this press release. I had no part in this, was not talked to or consulted about it, nor was I informed of it prior to the official press release, which was all I received about it from the October 22nd Coalition who appears to be working in conjunction with the National Action Network.
Second, I don't support it. To be specific, since I know so little about it and based on the content of the release, I'm not able to support it. Heck, I can't even go to it because of the short notice.
I really can't support it because calling for a rally at the very last minute, a full 12 days after the release of the video showing Malika Calhoun being assaulted by King County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Schene and almost a full month after the initial story broke about Schene being charged with assault over the attack, seems a bit late to the game, especially since neither sponsoring group had anything at all to say about it up to this point.
In fact, it appears ill-planned and ill-conceived to on give everyone not even a full day's notice of such a rally. It appears doomed to offer only a token show of support which will only give the appearance that nobody in King County cares about police brutality. If it were properly planned we would have heard about a planned protest well in advance so word could have gotten out and it could have been better attended.
Third, I can't support the aim of the protest, which is to hold King County Sheriff Sue Rahr solely accountable for what Paul Schene did.
If you think the sheriff should have done more than just put him on paid leave then protest against the county that negotiated the current contract with the police union that determines how she can discipline officers in cases like this.
While you're at it, lobby the state legislature to reform the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) that always sides with the police unions against local governments when they try to enact accountability reforms but are turned back at the bargaining table by aggressive police unions. Tell them to give local governments the power to enact the police accountability reforms that their citizens have demanded instead of kow-towing to powerful police unions and their political endorsements.
Have a problem with Schene only being charged with a misdemeanor that caries a MAXIMUM one year sentence? Don't blame the sheriff, she doesn't choose what he is charged with. Don't blame King County Prosecutors either for only being able to charge him with the laws that exist. Protest the state government to pressure them into enacting a law against official misconduct and make it a felony offense for officers to abuse detainees like Schene did to Calhoun.
Don't like it that Schene likely can't be fired even if he's convicted for a misdemeanor in this case? Lobby the state government to give local departments the discretion to fire officers for misdemeanors like this and reform the PERC so it stops overruling departments that do fire officers for similar offenses and penalizes them for doing so on top of giving officers back pay and forcing them to rehire bad cops.
But... since these two groups apparently don't understand the situation here and didn't bother to ask around, they are over-simplifying the problem by going after Sue Rahr, who has actually been amenable to accountability reforms... and who has not come to the defense of Schene like Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske would have.
Instead, these groups seek to punish her for trying to do what we, as police accountability activists, would hope most police leaders would do in a case like this, which is to be open about what happened and press charges against an officer who did something wrong without being shamed into doing so in the press first.
Instead, these two groups who refused to include other police brutality activists in their plans are going to put up a half-hearted and poorly planned protest based on an ill-informed premise that will ultimately do more harm to everyone's efforts to improve police accountability than anything. Especially by over-simplifying a very complex problem that needs reforms imposed from far higher up than they are targeting.
Let me be honest here... I loathe having to say all this, I have few allies in Seattle and there aren't many people who support improved police accountability here, so it's important to cultivate relationships with anyone who wants to stop police misconduct. I wish I could support this, I wish I could be there... but I wasn't given enough information to support it and the information I see doesn't address the issues that need to be addressed to help reduce cases of police misconduct in this area.
But, I don't do this to make friends, I do this for the people who suffer from police misconduct and I owe it to them to make sure my efforts are directed towards reducing police misconduct, so I cannot betray that and support efforts that appear, to me, to potentially do more harm than good to that effort.
So, my apologies to the October 22nd Coalition and the National Action Network, but I cannot support your planned rally tomorrow in good conscience. I wish you luck in the future and hope that, next time, you work harder to reach out to other groups and plan your efforts better. I hope I'm wrong about your rally today, but based on what I received I can't support it.
Monday, March 9, 2009
While many people all over the world are now familiar with the case of Malika Calhoun thanks to the video (at top) that showed a King County Sheriff's Deputy assaulting the 15-year-old girl in a holding cell, some people still mistakenly assume that this video came from a Seattle holding cell.
(If you did, don't feel bad. Even one of Seattle's alternative news weeklies The Stranger made that mistake too).
It didn't, the video came from cameras set up in a SeaTac holding cell that is used by King County Sheriff Deputies, not a Seattle Police Department holding cell.
In fact, it would be impossible for you to see such a video if it showed Seattle Police officers abusing a detainee in a Seattle holding cell.
The reason you would never see a video of a Seattle Police officer assaulting a detainee isn't because a Seattle Police officer would never do such a thing. Nor is it because of privacy laws and contractual agreements that keep such records and recordings out of the public view. And no, it's not because the city's lawyers are so much better at convincing judges to keep such evidence out of the public view.
Quite simply, it's because there are no cameras in any Seattle Police Department precinct holding cells. In fact, as far as we know, there aren't any cameras anywhere inside any Seattle Police Department precinct.
So, if Malika Calhoun had been arrested by a Seattle Police officer and the same thing occurred, nobody would ever know and Malika would be facing charges of assaulting an officer for the beating she received. She would simply become another one of the nameless victims of police misconduct that never have their case make it to the light of day.
The city of Seattle has been trying to get cameras put into areas of Seattle police precincts where detainees might be held, interviewed, or transported for years now. But, progress has been slow due to opposition by the Seattle Police Officers Guild that has opposed the idea of cameras in precincts due to "privacy concerns". This has left the city and the Seattle Police Department struggling to figure out how to implement a policy governing the use of cameras in holding areas that the police union would agree to.
Unfortunately, as best we can currently tell, the current negotiations only cover cameras in holding cells themselves and do not apply to areas where detainees might be interrogated or moved... and the establishment of a policy that governs the use of cameras is still not finalized, which means the installation of such cameras may still be questionable given the current state of the economy even if there ever is a finalized agreement between the city and the police union.
In the meantime, rest assured that you'll never see a video of Seattle's finest beating on a teenage girl in a holding cell any time soon...
Not only will that bill, Senate bill 5131, establish a way for officers to confidentially get therapy for stress-related disorders like alcoholism, domestic violence, or anger management issues, it also gives off-duty officers a chance at more supplementary income as the hot-line it establishes for officers to call will be staffed by off-duty officers trained in crisis management.
I've mentioned this bill before when it was first proposed and in committee and I stated that I'm not really opposed to this program. After all, I think it has some hope of possibly reducing incidents of police brutality that are caused by officers who have difficulties controlling themselves due to their inabilities to properly deal with stress.
But... I still can't help but wonder, with all these great taxpayer funded programs to help traumatized cops, where are the state-funded programs that help people that they traumatized? Heck, where are the privately run or charity-based programs for victims of police misconduct?
Victims of police misconduct have no hot-line, no support group, no advocate groups, no nothing... So, while the police have numerous, and free, options for them to turn to, their victims are just left with the pain and debt incurred by the irresponsible actions of those same police officers that get immunity from legal action, taxpayer sponsored support groups, hot-lines, charities, government assistance, and soon... complete confidentiality.
Heck, victims of police misconduct aren't even considered victims of crime that qualify for support from government sponsored crime victims support programs to help pay for medical bills and therapy stemming from that misconduct.
Sure, I'm not opposed to getting police officers who have difficulty coping with stress the help they need but, up to now, have often refused to seek. But, if we're paying to help stressed out officers, why aren't we also paying to help the people that they harm as well?
Saturday, March 7, 2009
In my previous post I talked about why it would be wrong for people to make threats or take revenge on police officers who have been accused of wrongdoing since it would make that person no different than that police officer if someone did that.
Well, now I want to follow that up by explaining exactly why I make that point and how it is that, while I would do what I could to ensure an accused officer isn't subjected to illegal retaliation, police officers and the government would never, ever, do the same for us.
Threats and retaliation against police misconduct activists happens regularly, in fact I only know one person who writes about police misconduct who hasn't been threatened, and that person was a police officer himself.
Trust me, the threats often work. Many sites that covered police misconduct have gone silent as a result. But even for those of us who refuse to be intimidated, the threats alter our lives and the lives of our families forever.
For example, because of the harassment I received after starting this site my wife tells me she has anxiety attacks anytime I leave our home for work or anything... and frankly I don't like to leave my home either out of fear of being recognized by police officers.
But, even staying at home is no respite since I jump at any unexpected knock or noise outside my door and my pulse races whenever I hear sirens or even when my phone rings... It's a nightmare of a life, thanks to these officers who are encouraged to harass and threaten us by the same system that protects them from the supposed threats made by others.
Indeed, threats and retaliation by police officers against anti-police brutality activists has been a fairly common practice for ages because it's so tolerated and encouraged in the US... especially since it's completely ignored by the press, the police, the people, and the government. Of course, this is in stark contrast to the sympathetic response police officers who are caught brutalizing others receive when they claim to be the target of a death threat.
For example of how this is tolerated, let's look at a few recent stories:
Activist Larry Hales Raided And Arrested In Denver
Denver Colorado anti-police brutality activist Larry Hales had his home raided and was arrested for "suspicion of interfering with police authority" in December of 2007. He claimed officers threw him around like a rag doll and refused his demands that they give him their identification. When Hales complained the officers just smiled at told him "we could do a lot more".
Only one smaller local paper carried the story of Hales' arrest and mistreatment and there was never word of what became of the charges afterward.
Minneapolis Cop-watch Activist Subjected To Beatings And Harassment
On July 20, 2008 police brutality activist and copwatcher Darryl Robinson was brutally beaten when arrested for allegedly "obstructing a sidewalk" while he was documenting police activity outside of a homeless shelter in Minneapolis were several complaints of brutality and harassment had occurred.
That charge was just one of at least 15 that Robinson had been charged with, and had been mostly dismissed in court, in a form of retaliation for his filing and wining a brutality lawsuit in 2003. No word on what became of this latest round of abuse he's endured.
Minneapolis Activist Harassed And Pulbicly Humiliated By Police
On August 29th last year, Michelle Gross of the CUAPD in Minneapolis claims she was strip searched in front of several other men during a raid where anti-police brutality activists were preparing for the Republican National Convention. She felt that she was specifically targetted for humiliation for her activities as a police brutality activist and while she was detained she claims her garage was broken into and documents of police misconduct were rifled through but nothing of value was taken.
She filed suit, one of several stemming from the week of abuse doled out by Minneapolis and St. Paul area police that was bankrolled by a $10,000,000 insurance policy that promised to pay for any civil rights abuses carried out by police during the convention.
Police-Involved Domestic Violence Activist Threatened By Cop With History Of Making Threats
A Washington state-based Officer-Involved Domestic Violence activist and writer of the Behind the Blue Wall blog received harassing messages and death threats from an officer who had a history of abusive behavior so severe that even other cops felt compelled to get restraining orders against him. Even so, authorities and the media ignored it when she revealed the email threats she received where he kept telling her that he knew where she lived and was coming for her.
California Police Accountability Activist Repeatedly Sexually Harassed By Police
The author of the Riverside California-based Five Before Midnight blog, which covers issues of police accountability and misconduct in the Riverside area, has had to endure years of harassment by Riverside police officers who make sexually-suggestive and intimidating comments to her because of what she writes about. Also, not so subtly, the keep letting her know that they've been watching her. These abusive tactics have been going on so long that she no longer does anything about them, apparently knowing full well it won't do any good.
Do you think legislators stumble over themselves to enact laws to protect us from threatening officers like they do to enact secrecy laws to protect cops from unsubstantiated threats?
Do you think the media bothers to report on the threats made on us like they do when an abusive officer's lawyers whine about unsupported claims of death threats made against them and their clients?
... nothing happens, in fact, when we become the target of threats from well-armed police officers who could easily, and have shown a propensity, of carying out those threats. Nothing happens even in when such a clear pattern of retaliation by police organizations is evident.
Actually, we get told that this is what we should expect as people who write about police misconduct, that we should be threatened, that it's only right that we suffer for telling the truth about what happens in our society... that we deserve it for speaking out.
So, frankly, I have a difficult time drumming up sympathy for the cops and their lawyers who claim to be the target of supposed death threats but who don't back those claims up with evidence.
I also have difficulty summoning up pity for the police union lawyers who cry about those supposed threats when they don't shed a tear over the abuse their clients put us through when they threaten and terrorize us.
So make no mistake, when I say it's wrong for anyone to threaten someone else, especially a cop, for being accused of wrongdoing I don't do so out of sympathy... Because I know they have no sympathy for us and I doubt they truly feel as afraid as we do when they level death threats at us.
But, I do say it's wrong out of principle and because that kind of behavior only makes it more difficult to change the system that allows police officers to abuse their authority and harm others.
Meanwhile, people like me still live in terror, our families still fear for us whenever we walk out the door. And I give way to no hope that anyone will defend us from them like they defend the police by trying to keep misconduct a secret from the rest of society in the supposed name of officer safety.
This is what becoming an activist does, this is how America treats those who exercise their first amendment rights to free speech... even while we use that speech to speak out against wrongs done to police just as much as we do when police do wrong to others.
...but, like I said, I'm told that this is what we should expect for speaking out against police misconduct. That we deserve to be threatened, beaten, and jailed for trying to stop it.
But that still doesn't change the fact that acting outside the law to threaten or attack someone you believe has done wrong is wrong in it's own right... whether it's done by an abusive cop against us or by a civilian against an abusive cop.
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