As he moves into his new position at Teneo Holdings, Bratton will go from enforcing ‘broken windows’ to rubbing elbows with those gathered at the nexus between law enforcement, the national security state, the military-industrial complex, and U.S.-U.K.-NATO foreign policy.
Former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Speaks at The First National Personal Security Conference in Israel, 2014. (Photo: Israeli Ministry of Public Security)
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton formally announced his resignation on Tuesday, marking the end of a tumultuous second term as the NYPD’s top cop.
Bratton, largely seen as the architect of the “broken windows” law enforcement strategy that targets low-level offenses in order to stop larger offenses, has been heavily criticized by social justice advocates, who have charged that Bratton’s tactics amount to a targeting of people of color who are then saddled with criminal records, promoting further problems for themselves and their families.
While Bratton touts his record on crime – NYC has seen crime, especially violent crime, continue to drop to record lows under Bratton – he has a much more dubious record when it comes to police-community engagement. If anything, Bratton has become a lightning rod for criticism, especially in the wake of the 2014 murder of Eric Garner by NYPD officers, none of whom faced any criminal repercussions. Bratton faced similar criticisms in his other positions, including in Los Angeles and Boston, where he was sharply criticized for many of the same policies.
His resignation provides yet another scandalous example of how Bratton represents the very worst of the political establishment in the United States. While some will be celebrating his retreat from public office, it is critical to note that Bratton has accepted a job with Teneo Holdings, a consulting group closely linked to the Clinton political machine, as well as Israel and its lobby.
And it is here, at the crossroads of the national security state and the political ruling class, that Bratton will continue to protect and serve — the interests of the elite, that is.
Behind the curtain at Teneo Holdings
Teneo Holdings may ring a bell for political junkies, mainly because of the controversy that erupted in 2013 after it was revealed that Huma Abedin, the top aide to Hillary Clinton and wife of disgraced New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, had failed to disclose that she was simultaneously employed by the State Department and as a consultant for Teneo.
Of course, it wasn’t simply the lack of transparency that was of concern, but rather the obvious conflict of interest for a State Department employee with access to top level cabinet officials in the Obama administration to be representing outside interests. Indeed, this sort of highly unethical move by a close Clinton confidante is really par for the course for Hillary (and Bill) whose unethical dealings include overseeing arms deals to Clinton Foundation donors, appointing Clinton Foundation donors to key State Department positions, and raising money from individuals closely connected to foreign governments, among others.
However, it is the relationship between the Clintons and Teneo that is of particular interest.
Teneo Holdings was founded by Douglas Band, a close adviser to former President Bill Clinton, and Declan Kelly, a major Clinton fundraiser and special envoy to Northern Ireland for Hillary when she was Secretary of State. Writing for Politico, Rachael Bade, reported in April:
“While serving as Clinton’s special envoy, reaching out to global corporations for those investments, [Kelly] was also working for two of them as a private consultant — earning about $2.4 million from Dow Chemical, a longtime client of his and one of the firms that participated in Clinton’s Ireland initiative.”
Once again, highly improper conflicts of interest seem to be as instinctive as breathing when it comes to the Clintons. But it is precisely these connections between political elites, major financial and corporate players, and the people behind Teneo, that is of most interest. Again, Bade explains:
“With Bill Clinton serving in the paid position of honorary chairman, and Hillary as secretary of state, Teneo [became] a blend of public relations advice for CEOs and more technical investor relations work. Corporate executives paid $250,000 a month — sometimes more — for consulting and assistance. They also, in some cases, got to hobnob with a former president. The firm forged a mutually beneficial relationship with the Clinton Global Initiative, the fancy annual Clinton Foundation event starring the former president and other world leaders. The New York Times and The New Republic first reported three years ago how the philanthropic gathering provided an ideal nexus for Teneo to both recruit new clients and enhance the visibility of existing clients by getting them speaking roles.”
It’s not difficult to see just what Teneo was doing: using connections and influence peddling to become one of the world’s premier consulting firms, one which could guarantee corporate interests and foreign states access to the most influential individuals in the uppermost echelons of power in the U.S. It’s not exactly the sort of product that just any run-of-the-mill consultancy could deliver.
And so, former NYPD Commissioner Bratton is heading to Teneo to serve as the head of the new risk management division where, according to the Wall Street Journal, he will “advise CEOs on how to deal with issues ranging from terrorism to cybercrime.” And Bratton is not alone; he joins former Clinton and Obama envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, as well as former British foreign secretary William Hague, as Teneo’s latest high-profile hire.
Again, the influence peddling and access is what is critical here. Bratton, Mitchell, and Hague represent the nexus between law enforcement, the national security state, the military-industrial complex, and U.S.-U.K.-NATO foreign policy.
Teneo, Israel, and the U.S. Empire
The connections between key figures in the Teneo/Clinton orbit and Israel abound. Take for instance the fact that Mitchell, one of the most well-connected political operators in the Middle East, is a senior advisor for Teneo while he has maintained working relationships with many members of the Israeli government and state. Crispin Hawes, managing director of Teneo Intelligence, is also closely connected to the region, having been Eurasia Group’s leading expert on the Middle East and North Africa.
Bratton, himself, has cultivated extremely close and friendly ties with the Israeli state. In May 2014, Bratton gave the keynote address at Israel’s National Conference on Personal Security in Jerusalem, a conclave of some of the leading figures in Israel’s (and the United States’) national security apparatus. The conference included influential attendees from around the world.
Bratton poses with Israeli officials at the First National Personal Security Conference in Israel. (Photo: Israeli Ministry of Public Security)
But this was certainly not the only time that Bratton had direct dealings with, and praise for, the security state of apartheid Israel. In fact, as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bratton nurtured cooperative relations between the LAPD and Israeli security forces. As The Jewish Journal reported in 2014:
“The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who made official trips to Israel to learn about the country’s advanced counter-terrorism tactics during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: ‘They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world, and that close relationship has been one of growing strength and importance.’”
In fact, those close ties between Bratton’s LAPD and Israel have endured long since his tenure in Los Angeles was over. The LAPD routinely sends officers and other officials to Israel for training and other initiatives, as do members of other police forces, including Boston and New York, both of which saw Bratton as police chief.
It’s no wonder then that the violent and brutal repression practiced by Israeli security forces against Palestinians has become a staple of U.S. law enforcement. Shoot first and lie about what happened. Shoot first and blame the victim. It works in the West Bank just as it does in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge. And, in both cases, the guilty are exonerated while being held up as heroes by the media and political establishment. All the while, the body count keeps rising.
Bratton, of course, has no qualms with this, just as he’ll relish the opportunity to rub elbows with the world’s most influential people as he transitions to his new job with Teneo.
One evening soon Bratton will be sitting with the likes of Doug Band, Declan Kelly, and maybe even Bill and Hillary Clinton. They will toast to each others’ success as they laugh about the Crime Bill of 1994, the mass incarceration state, the prison-industrial complex, and the danger of “superpredators.” They’ll share stories about how their heroic policies, widely perceived as unabashedly racist, changed the American social fabric, making America safe again, to borrow a nauseating line from Donald Trump. They may even lament that they didn’t do more to expand the draconian policies for which they’ve come to be known.
They’ll also be cashing their checks. Big ones. Courtesy of the City of New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. And it goes almost without saying that at no point will Bratton and his Teneo cronies ever remember just how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of lives they’ve ruined, families they’ve destroyed, and children their policies killed.
Such is the sociopathy of power in the Empire.
Police Nationwide Are Secretly Exploiting Intrusive Technologies With the Feds’ Complicity
Can’t you see the writing on the touchscreen? A techno-utopia is upon us. We’ve gone from smartphones at the turn of the twenty-first century to smart fridges and smart cars. The revolutionary changes to our everyday life will no doubt keep barreling along. By 2018, so predicts Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, more than three million employees will work for “robo-bosses” and soon enough we — or at least the wealthiest among us — will be shopping in fully automated supermarkets and sleeping in robotic hotels.
With all this techno-triumphalism permeating our digitally saturated world, it’s hardly surprising that law enforcement would look to technology — “smart policing,” anyone? — to help reestablish public trust after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the long list of other unarmed black men killed by cops in Anytown, USA. The idea that technology has a decisive role to play in improving policing was, in fact, a central plank of President Obama’s policing reform task force.
In its report, released last May, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing emphasized the crucial role of technology in promoting better law enforcement, highlighting the use of police body cameras in creating greater openness. “Implementing new technologies,” it claimed, “can give police departments an opportunity to fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency, accountability, and privacy.”
Indeed, the report emphasized ways in which the police could engage communities, work collaboratively, and practice transparency in the use of those new technologies. Perhaps it won’t shock you to learn, however, that the on-the-ground reality of twenty-first-century policing looks nothing like what the task force was promoting. Police departments nationwide have been adopting powerful new technologies that are remarkably capable of intruding on people’s privacy, and much of the time these are being deployed in secret, without public notice or discussion, let alone permission.
And while the task force’s report says all the right things, a little digging reveals that the feds not only aren’t putting the brakes on improper police use of technology, but are encouraging it — even subsidizing the misuse of the very technology the task force believes will keep cops honest. To put it bluntly, a techno-utopia isn’t remotely on the horizon, but its flipside may be.
Getting Stung and Not Even Knowing It
Shemar Taylor was charged with robbing a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint. The police got a warrant to search his home and arrested him after learning that the cell phone used to order the pizza was located in his house. How the police tracked down the location of that cell phone is what Taylor’s attorney wanted to know.
The Baltimore police detective called to the stand in Taylor’s trial was evasive. “There’s equipment we would use that I’m not going to discuss,” he said. When Judge Barry Williams ordered him to discuss it, he still refused, insisting that his department had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI.
“You don’t have a nondisclosure agreement with the court,” replied the judge, threatening to hold the detective in contempt if he did not answer. And yet he refused again. In the end, rather than reveal the technology that had located Taylor’s cell phone to the court, prosecutors decided to withdraw the evidence, jeopardizing their case.
And don’t imagine that this courtroom scene was unique or even out of the ordinary these days. In fact, it was just one sign of a striking nationwide attempt to keep an invasive, constitutionally questionable technology from being scrutinized, whether by courts or communities.
The technology at issue is known as a “Stingray,” a brand name for what’s generically called a cell site simulator or IMSI catcher. By mimicking a cell phone tower, this device, developed for overseas battlefields, gets nearby cell phones to connect to it. It operates a bit like the children’s game Marco Polo. “Marco,” the cell-site simulator shouts out and every cell phone on that network in the vicinity replies, “Polo, and here’s my ID!”
Thanks to this call-and-response process, the Stingray knows both what cell phones are in the area and where they are. In other words, it gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well. While the police may indeed use this technology to pinpoint a suspect’s location, by casting such a wide net there is also the potential for many kinds of constitutional abuses — for instance, sweeping up the identities of every person attending a demonstration or a political meeting. Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations. In other words, the Stingray is a technology that potentially opens the door for law enforcement to sweep up information that not so long ago wouldn’t have been available to them.
All of this raises the sorts of constitutional issues that might normally be settled through the courts and public debate… unless, of course, the technology is kept largely secret, which is exactly what’s been happening.
After the use of Stingrays was first reported in 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other activist groups attempted to find out more about how the technology was being used, only to quickly run into heavy resistance from police departments nationwide. Served with “open-records requests” under Freedom of Information Act-like state laws, they almost uniformly resisted disclosing information about the devices and their uses. In doing so, they regularly cited nondisclosure agreements they had signed with the Harris Corporation, maker of the Stingray, and with the FBI, prohibiting them from telling anyone (including other government outfits) about how — or even that — they use the devices.
Sometimes such evasiveness reaches near-comical levels. For example, police in the city of Sunrise, Florida, served with an open-records request, refused to confirm or deny that they had any Stingray records at all. Under cover of a controversial national security court ruling, the CIA and the NSA sometimes resort to just this evasive tactic (known as a “Glomar response“). The Sunrise Police Department, however, is not the CIA, and no provision in Florida law would allow it to take such a tack. When the ACLU pointed out that the department had already posted purchase records for Stingrays on its public website, it generously provided duplicate copies of those very documents and then tried to charge the ACLU $20,000 for additional records.
In a no-less-bizarre incident, the Sarasota Police Department was about to turn some Stingray records over to the ACLU in accordance with Florida’s open-records law, when the U.S. Marshals Service swooped in and seized the records first, claiming ownership because it had deputized one local officer. And excessive efforts at secrecy are not unique to Florida, as those charged with enforcing the law commit themselves to Stingray secrecy in a way that makes them lawbreakers.
And it’s not just the public that’s being denied information about the devices and their uses; so are judges. Often, the police get a judge’s sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray. In fact, officers regularly avoid describing the technology to judges, claiming that they simply can’t violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements.
More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it. Appellate judges in Tallahassee, Florida, for instance, revealed that local police had used the tool more than 200 times without a warrant. In Sacramento, California, police admitted in court that they had, in more than 500 investigations, used Stingrays without telling judges or prosecutors. That was “an estimated guess,” since they had no way of knowing the exact number because they had conveniently deleted records of Stingray use after passing evidence discovered by the devices on to detectives.
Much of this blanket of secrecy, spreading nationwide, has indeed been orchestrated by the FBI, which has required local departments eager for the hottest new technology around to sign those nondisclosure agreements. One agreement, unearthed in Oklahoma, explicitly instructs the local police to find “additional and independent investigative means” to corroborate Stingray evidence. In short, they are to cover up the use of Stingrays by pretending their information was obtained some other way — the sort of dangerous constitutional runaround that is known euphemistically in law enforcement circles as a “parallel construction.” Now that information about the widespread use of this new technology is coming out — as in the Shemar Taylor trial in Baltimore — judges are beginning to rule that Stingray use does indeed require a warrant. They are also insisting that police must accurately inform judges when they intend to use a Stingray and disclose its privacy implications.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
And it’s not just the Stingray that’s taking local police forces into new and unknown realms of constitutionally questionable but deeply seductive technology. Consider the hot new trend of “predictive policing.” Its products couldn’t be high-techier. They go by a variety of names like PredPol (yep, short for predictive policing) and HunchLab (and there’s nothing wrong with a hunch, is there?). What they all promise, however, is the same thing: supposedly bias-free policing built on the latest in computer software and capable of leveraging big data in ways that — so their salesmen will tell you — can coolly determine where crime is most likely to occur next.
Such technology holds out the promise of allowing law enforcement agencies to deploy their resources to areas that need them most without that nasty element of human prejudice getting involved. “Predictive methods allow police to work more proactively with limited resources,” reports the RAND Corporation. But the new software offers something just as potentially alluring as efficient policing — exactly what the president’s task force called for. According to market leader PredPol, its technology “provides officers an opportunity to interact with residents, aiding in relationship building and strengthening community ties.”
How idyllic! In post-Ferguson America, that’s a winning sales pitch for decision-makers in blue. Not so surprisingly, then, PredPol is now used by nearly 60 law enforcement agencies in the United States, and investment capital just keeps pouring into the company. In 2013, SF Weekly reported that over 150 departments across the nation were already using predictive policing software, and those numbers can only have risen as the potential for cashing in on the craze has attracted tech heavy hitters like IBM, Microsoft, and Palantir, the co-creation of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Like the Stingray, the software for predictive policing is yet another spillover from the country’s distant wars. PredPol was, according to SF Weekly, initially designed for “tracking insurgents and forecasting casualties in Iraq,” and was financed by the Pentagon. One of the company’s advisors, Harsh Patel, used to work for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm.
Civil libertarians and civil rights activists, however, are less than impressed with what’s being hailed as breakthrough police technology. We tend to view it instead as a set of potential new ways for the police to continue a long history of profiling and pre-convicting poor and minority youth. We also question whether the technology even performs as advertised. As we see it, the old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is likely to best describe how the new software will operate, or as the RAND Corporation puts it, “predictions are only as good as the underlying data used to make them.”
If, for instance, the software depends on historical crime data from a racially biased police force, then it’s just going to send a flood of officers into the very same neighborhoods they’ve always over-policed. And if that happens, of course, more personnel will find more crime — and presto, you have the potential for a perfect feedback loop of prejudice, arrests, and high-tech “success.” To understand what that means, keep in mind that, without a computer in sight, nearly four times as many blacks as whites are arrested for marijuana possession, even though usage among the two groups is about the same.
If you leave aside issues of bias, there’s still a fundamental question to answer about the new technology: Does the software actually work or, for that matter, reduce crime? Of course, the companies peddling such products insist that it does, but no independent analyses or reviews had yet verified its effectiveness until last year — or so it seemed at first.
In December 2015, the Journal of the American Statistical Association published a study that brought joy to the predictive crime-fighting industry. The study’s researchers concluded that a predictive policing algorithm outperformed human analysts in indicating where crime would occur, which in turn led to real crime reductions after officers were dispatched to the flagged areas. Only one problem: five of the seven authors held PredPol stock, and two were co-founders of the company. On its website, PredPol identifies the research as a “UCLA study,” but only because PredPol co-founder Jeffery Brantingham is an anthropology professor there.
Predictive policing is a brand new area where question marks abound. Transparency should be vital in assessing this technology, but the companies generally won’t allow communities targeted by it to examine the code behind it. “We wanted a greater explanation for how this all worked, and we were told it was all proprietary,” Kim Harris, a spokeswoman for Bellingham, Washington’s Racial Justice Coalition, told the Marshall Project after the city purchased such software last August. “We haven’t been comforted by the process.”
The Bellingham Police Department, which bought predictive software made by Bair Analytics with a $21,200 Justice Department grant, didn’t need to go to the city council for approval and didn’t hold community meetings to discuss the development or explain how the software worked. Because the code is proprietary, the public is unable to independently verify that it doesn’t have serious problems.
Even if the data underlying most predictive policing software accurately anticipates where crime will indeed occur — and that’s a gigantic if — questions of fundamental fairness still arise. Innocent people living in or passing through identified high crime areas will have to deal with an increased police presence, which, given recent history, will likely mean more questioning or stopping and frisking — and arrests for things like marijuana possession for which more affluent citizens are rarely brought in. Moreover, the potential inequality of all this may only worsen as police departments bring online other new technologies like facial recognition.
We’re on the verge of “big data policing,” suggests law professor Andrew Ferguson, which will “turn any unknown suspect into a known suspect,” allowing an officer to “search for information that might justify reasonable suspicion” and lead to stop-and-frisk incidents and aggressive questioning. Just imagine having a decades-old criminal record and facing police armed with such powerful, invasive technology.
This could lead to “the tyranny of the algorithm” and a Faustian bargain in which the public increasingly forfeits its freedoms in certain areas out of fears for its safety. “The Soviet Union had remarkably little street crime when they were at their worst of their totalitarian, authoritarian controls,” MIT sociologist Gary Marx observed. “But, my god, at what price?”
To Record and Serve… Those in Blue
On a June night in 2013, Augustin Reynoso discovered that his bicycle had been stolen from a CVS in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena. A store security guard called the police while Reynoso’s brother Ricardo Diaz Zeferino and two friends tried to find the missing bike in the neighborhood. When the police arrived, they promptly ordered his two friends to put their hands up. Zeferino ran over, protesting that the police had the wrong men. At that point, they told him to raise his hands, too. He then lowered and raised his hands as the police yelled at him. When he removed his baseball hat, lowered his hands, and began to raise them again, he was shot to death.
The police insisted that Zeferino’s actions were “threatening” and so their shooting justified. They had two videos of it taken by police car cameras — but refused to release them.
Although police departments nationwide have been fighting any spirit of new openness, car and body cameras have at least offered the promise of bringing new transparency to the actions of officers on the beat. That’s why the ACLU and many civil rights groups, as well as President Obama, have spoken out in favor of the technology’s potential to improve police-community relations — but only, of course, if the police are obliged to release videos in situations involving allegations of abuse. And many departments are fighting that fiercely.
In Chicago, for instance, the police notoriously opposed the release of dashcam video in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, citing the supposed imperative of an “ongoing investigation.” After more than a year of such resistance, a judge finally ordered the video made public. Only then did the scandal of seeing Officer Jason Van Dyke unnecessarily pump 16 bullets into the 17-year-old’s body explode into national consciousness.
In Zeferino’s case, the police settled a lawsuit with his family for $4.7 million and yet continued to refuse to release the videos. It took two years before a judge finally ordered their release, allowing the public to see the shooting for itself.
Despite this, in April 2015 the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners approved a body-camera policy that failed to ensure future transparency, while protecting and serving the needs of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). In doing so, it ignored the sort of best practices advocated by the White House, the president’s task force on policing, and even the Police Executive Research Forum, one of the profession’s most respected think tanks.
On the possibility of releasing videos of alleged police misconduct and abuse, the new policy remained silent, but LAPD officials, including Chief Charlie Beck, didn’t. They made it clear that such videos would generally be exempt from California’s public records law and wouldn’t be released without a judge’s orders. Essentially, the police reserved the right to release video when and how they saw fit. This self-serving policy comes from the most lethal large police department in the country, whose officers shot and killed 21 people last year.
Other departments around the country have made similar moves to ensure control over body camera videos. Texas and South Carolina, among other states, have even changed their open-records laws to give the police power over when such footage should (or should not) be released. In other words, when a heroic cop saves a drowning child, you’ll see the video; when that same cop guns down a fleeing suspect, don’t count on it.
Curiously, given the stated positions of the president and his task force, the federal government seems to have no fundamental problem with that. In May 2015, for example, the Justice Department announced competitive grants for the purchase of police body cameras, officially tying funding to good body-cam-use policies. The LAPD applied. Despite letters from groups like the ACLU pointing out just how poor its version of body-cam policy was, the Justice Department awarded it $1 million to purchase approximately 700 cameras — accountability and transparency be damned.
To receive public money for a tool theoretically meant for transparency and accountability and turn it into one of secrecy and impunity, with the feds’ complicity and financial backing, sends an unmistakable message on how new technology is likely to affect America’s future policing practices. Think of it as a door slowly opening onto a potential policing dystopia.
Hello Darkness, Power’s Old Friend
Keep in mind that this article barely scratches the surface when it comes to the increasing numbers of ways in which the police’s use of technology has infiltrated our everyday lives.
In states and cities across America, some public bus and train systems have begun to add to video surveillance, the surreptitious recording of the conversations of passengers, a potential body blow to the concept of a private conversation in public space. And whether or not the earliest versions of predictive policing actually work, the law enforcement community is already moving to technology that will try to predict who will commit crimes in the future. In Chicago, the police are using social networking analysis and prediction technology to draw up “heat lists” of those who might perpetuate violent crimes someday and pay them visits now. You won’t be shocked to learn which side of the tracks such future perpetrators live on. The rationale behind all this, as always, is “public safety.”
Nor can anyone begin to predict how law enforcement will avail itself of science-fiction-like technology in the decade to come, much less decades from now, though cops on patrol may very soon know a lot about you and your past. They will be able to cull such information from a multitude of databases at their fingertips, while you will know little or nothing about them — a striking power imbalance in a situation in which one person can deprive the other of liberty or even life itself.
With little public debate, often in almost total secrecy, increasing numbers of police departments are wielding technology to empower themselves rather than the communities they protect and serve. At a time when trust in law enforcement is dangerously low, police departments should be embracing technology’s democratizing potential rather than its ability to give them almost superhuman powers at the expense of the public trust.
Unfortunately, power loves the dark.
Matthew Harwood is senior writer/editor with the American Civil Liberties Union. His work has appeared at Al Jazeera America, the American Conservative, the Guardian, Guernica, Salon, War is Boring, and the Washington Monthly.
Jay Stanley is senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberty Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. He is the editor of the ACLU’s Free Future blog and has authored and co-authored a variety of ACLU reports on privacy and technology topics.
Copyright 2016 Matthew Harwood and Jay Stanley
Next week the Department of Justice will likely decide whether to issue a grant to the Los Angeles Police Department to purchase 700 body-worn video cameras. Because LAPD’s body camera policy fails to ensure accountability and transparency and would, in fact, hide almost all camera footage from the public, we are urging the DOJ to deny funding.
LAPD applied for the grant to fund its body-worn camera program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program earlier this year. After the shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and other places around the country created a national discourse about the need for police accountability, President Obama announced plans to “strengthen community policing,” including contributing $75 million over three years to provide a 50 percent match grant to states and localities that purchase body worn cameras. LAPD could be the first law enforcement agency to receive funds under the grant.
Los Angeles could also become the largest city in the country to use body cameras on a wide scale. LAPD has already purchased 860 cameras using private donations and plans to purchase 7,000 cameras total. The city has a goal of outfitting every LAPD officer with a body camera.
But amid these ambitious plans, LAPD has enacted a body camera use policy that runs completely counter to every reason to employ body cameras in the first place. At its heart, the policy appears designed to protect law enforcement officers rather than members of the public who they have sworn to serve.
The policy fails for four main reasons:
- It does not provide for any public access to body camera video—even in cases of shootings or alleged misconduct. In fact, LAPD has made clear that it will not release video footage unless required to do so in court—or unless the chief, in his discretion, believes it would be “beneficial.”
- It not only permits but requires officers to review body camera footage before they write up their reports—even before they provide an initial statement to investigators when they are involved in critical uses of force or accused of grave misconduct.
- It has no consequences for officers who fail to turn on their cameras during use-of-force incidents.
- It provides no clear rules to prevent LAPD from using body cameras as a tool to surveil the public at large. It doesn’t address the use of back-end analysis tools such as facial recognition on footage; nor does it provide guidelines for use of the cameras during First Amendment-protected activity.
Given LAPD’s notorious history of police misconduct, secrecy, unlawful surveillance, and resistance to outside review stretching back to at least the 1930s, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the agency has enacted a policy to protect its own rather than ensure accountability and transparency. The policy is also consistent with the hard-line stance LAPD has taken with respect to releasing automated license plate camera (ALPR) data. However, the DOJ should not add insult to injury by funding this program.
LAPD’s policy not only runs counter to recommendations from the ACLU, but also to recommendations from law enforcement organizations like the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), an “independent research organization” whose board of directors is made up of police chiefs from agencies around the country. PERF has recommended that
with certain limited exceptions . . . , body-worn camera video footage should be made available to the public upon request—not only because the videos are public records but also because doing so enables police departments to demonstrate transparency and openness in their interactions with members of the community.
Even one of Los Angeles’ own police commissioners—who cast the lone dissenting vote against the policy—criticized it for its failure to address release of footage to the public and for allowing officers to review footage before writing reports. He said that LAPD’s process for adopting the policy “undermines the goal here of accountability and trust.”
LAPD’s policy also runs counter the BJA grant program’s requirements. The program requires recipients to enact policies for body camera use that, “at a minimum increase transparency and accessibility, provide appropriate access to information, allow for public posting of policy and procedures, and encourage community interaction and relationship building.” LAPD’s policy fails to meet even these baseline goals.
The President intended DOJ’s body camera program to “build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.” But if the DOJ is really serious about doing so, this is not the way. The DOJ must send a message to other grant applicants by denying LAPD’s funding request. Police-worn body cameras are fraught with enough potential threats to civil liberties; we don’t need harmful policies designed to shield police action from public scrutiny reinforcing these threats.
Read our letter to the Department of Justice here.
In another case of mistaken identity that could have turned deadly, Los Angeles police held a pregnant woman at gunpoint while ordering her out of her pickup truck, making her walk to the middle of street with her hands in the air and yelling at her to get down on her knees.
LAPD said they were in fear for their lives because the woman, who is due to give birth next week, was driving a truck matching the description of a truck driven by a murder suspect.
They said that because the woman’s truck had dark, tinted windows, they were unable to determine if it was being driven by the man they were seeking or if it just happened to be one of almost six million registered vehicles in Los Angeles County that were not connected to the suspect.
The incident, which took place Thursday, was captured on video from an NBC L.A. news helicopter hovering overhead.
The video shows about a dozen cops training their guns on the woman as well as another female passenger who was also ordered out while they all remained behind their patrol cars in the name of “officer safety.”
The video also shows both the driver side and passenger side windows either open or without tints, but we don’t see the initial stop, which may have shown the windows closed – not that dark tints should excuse them for violating the woman’s rights like that.
However, they’ve already learned that they can shoot up a truck in a case of mistaken identity and not face charges.
After all, it was only in 2013 that LAPD cops shot up a truck driven by two women after claiming it matched the description of a truck being driven by a whistleblower cop turned cop killer named Chris Dorner.
Dorner had been driving a gray Nissan Titan. The women had been driving a blue Toyota Tacoma.
So naturally police began fearing for their lives, which is why they opened fire on the Tacoma, driven by a 47-year-old daughter, accompanied by her 71-year-old mother, both of them delivering newspapers in a residential neighborhood.
Margie Carranza and her mother, Emma Hernandez, ended up receiving a $4.2 million settlement. The cops ended up on paid desk duty for a while before returning to the streets.
Moments after that shooting, a Torrance police officer shot up another pickup truck thinking it was Dorner’s truck, but that was also a different make and color and driven by a man named David Perdue who looked nothing like Dorner. He ended up receiving a $1.8 million
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck determined the eight cops who left Carranza’s truck with more than 102 bullets violated department policy, but said he was not allowed to disclose what, if any, discipline they may receive because a state law protects cops’ personnel files from public eyes.
So with that type of job security, it is no wonder LAPD officers tend to shoot first and ask questions later.
LAPD have not released the name of the murder suspect they were seeking, who they say is also responsible for several burglaries in the area, nor the make and model of his truck, not that it would make a difference to them as we saw in the Dorner incidents.
The women, who also had two kids in the back seat of the truck, were released after police determined they were not the murder suspect. They are probably also eligible for a settlement.
Activists from across the US state of California gathered in the city of Los Angeles to protest police brutality amid ongoing anger over police violence and racial profiling in the country.
The activists marched in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday to protest hundreds of police killings of minorities since 2000, the latest in a series of demonstrations across the United States, Press TV reported.
Protesters marched from four different directions before converging on the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
The march featured more than 600 coffins to represent more than 600 people killed by Los Angeles law enforcement since 2000.
The activists marched the coffins by Los Angeles City Hall. They also led a procession by the federal court building as well as the office of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“Los Angeles leads the nation in killing of community members by law enforcement and that has to end,” said Mark Anthony Johnson, a member of Dignity and Power Now, a grassroots organization based in Los Angeles that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people.
About 28 percent of the people killed by police are African-American, and 54 percent killed are Latino, Johnson told Press TV. He said residents are tired of being targeted by Los Angeles police officers.
Activists say Los Angeles county leaders have failed to hold law enforcement accountable.
“The persecution of people of color, of poor people, of homeless people, the indiscriminate killing, the injustice of it all and the lack of response by the institutions [must stop],” said David Feurtadot, a member of Los Angeles Community Action Network.
Marchers also delivered public records act requests to the LAPD and to the office of the sheriff. They want to see data on the LAPD’s use of force that law enforcement has yet to make available.
The activists later marched by the office of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, calling for charges against the police officers responsible for the killings.
Los Angeles, CA — Following the shooting of a homeless man in LA’s Skid Row last week, controversy arose over why the three LAPD officers pulled their triggers.
Chief Charlie Beck said that the video showed ‘Africa,’ the man killed by police, reach for a rookie officers gun. The rookie, who was just short of completing his probationary period, can be heard yelling out, “He has my gun. He Has my gun.”
The reason that a human life was ended that day by the LAPD had everything to do with the rookie yelling out those fateful words.
But did Africa really have this rookie’s gun? Were the officers’ lives ever at risk? Or, did these officers gun down a man in cold blood over this rookie’s fearful mistake?
According to the LAPD, the officer’s gun was found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon.
Seems believable, right?
However, the holster that this rookie officer had on makes it nearly impossible to rack the slide while it is holstered.
From the LAPD’s images, we can see that the type of holster that the rookie was wearing, and that the majority of police officers wear, is a Dual Retention Hooded Holster, with optional hood guard.
The Free Thought Project spoke to former LAPD officer Alex Salazar, and he confirmed that most, if not all of the LAPD officers use these holsters.
This holster is specially made to prevent the exact scenario that the LAPD are claiming happened.
The “hood,” or the strap that holds the weapon in the hard plastic holster must be pushed down from a particular angle and then pushed forward, prior to exposing the back of the weapon.
During a struggle, it is entirely possible that the hood could have been pushed down, leaving the rear of the slide exposed.
However, this officer’s holster appears to be equipped with a hood guard. The hood guard adds another entirely new level of pistol retention as it is specially designed to prevent an assailant from pushing down the hood.
But we will give LAPD the benefit of the doubt here and say that this man was somehow able to get past the hood guard and push down the hood while being beaten and tasered.
However, these holsters have yet another line of retention. The third line of retention in this officer’s holster does not allow for the pistol to be removed, nor the slide pulled back, without knowing exactly how to lift it out of the holster.
This holster and holsters similar in design have a tension screw in place that allows for its users to set the desired level of friction needed to remove the pistol. However, if someone tries to pull the pistol out of the holster in any direction other than the officer’s set preference, the slide will not rack, nor will the pistol come out.
Knowing the specific functions of this rookie officer’s holster makes believing the official narrative on the shooting of this man hard to believe.
It is highly unlikely, if not completely impossible for a man, who is being aggressed against by multiple police officers, to do what police say he did.
The LAPD would like the public to believe that Africa supposedly maintained his composure and bypassed the hood guard on the officer’s pistol. After somehow bypassing the guard, he was then able to push down the hood and slide it forward. After this, he then was able to pull the slide back, and jam a round in the chamber, while laying on his back, fighting for his life, with tens of thousands of volts pumping through his body, while multiple officers beat him with batons.
Police accountability activist and friend to the Free Thought Project, Tom Zebra, conducted a similar investigation into the officer’s holster. Below is the well-made video by Zebra illustrating the holster’s retention properties.
Los Angeles, Calif. – In a brutal display, Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man in front of Union Rescue Mission today, after he scuffled with officers.
A video of the event, posted on Facebook, shows numerous officers fighting with the man and eventually wrestling him to the ground where he continues to struggle against the officers.
The footage shows officers violently attacking the man with blows and then throwing him to the ground as four officers attempt to subdue him as he continues to resist the officers’ aggression.
At this point in the video, an officer can be heard yelling, “Get off my gun. Get off my gun.”
While possible that the victim went for the officer’s weapon, it must be noted that one of the tactics utilized by police, as a means of conditioning witnesses, is to yell out phrases such as “stop resisting” even if the person is doing no such thing.
Similarly, saying that someone went for the officers weapon is an accepted justification to use deadly force, and has become the default justification in many encounters where officers have killed unarmed citizens.
Suddenly a barrage of 5-6 gunshots ring out. Witnesses can be heard yelling, “Ain’t nobody got no guns!,” after the gunfire subsides.
No gun was reportedly found at the scene by police.
Witnesses on the scene named Dennis Horne, 29, the victim was a man that went by the name “Africa.”
Horne said that Africa had been arguing with someone in a tent when police arrived, reported the LA Times.
After refusing to come out of the tent after being commanded to do so by officers, cops tasered him and dragged him out, according to Horne.
“It’s sad,” Horne said. “There’s no justification to take somebody’s life.”
Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, told the Times that Africa had arrived in the area about four or five months ago. He reportedly told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a mental facility.
The LA Times reported that Witness Lonnie Frank, 53, said five to six officers pulled up in three to four cars as Africa was lying face down on the sidewalk. The officers approached with guns drawn yelling, ”down, down.”
When Africa got up and started fighting, the officers “went straight to lethal force,” Franklin said.
Protests are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in front of the LAPD Headquarters at 100 W. First, Los Angeles.
An emergency call to action has been issued on Facebook.
The video speaks for itself. Tragically another life has been lost at the hands of law enforcement continuing the pace of one citizen killed by a cop every eight hours so far this year.
Man Killed by LAPD said to be Street Performer with Plastic Prop Knife; Cops Accused of Planting Real Knife
Los Angeles police gunned down a man at a busy Hollywood intersection Friday night, claiming he had been trying to attack them with a knife, causing them to fear for their lives, which is why they fired several rounds, leaving his body laying on a corner as shocked witnesses looked on.
But some locals are saying the man was merely a street performer known as “J” who would pose with tourists holding a prop knife made of plastic.
The area of Hollywood Blvd where he was killed is near the famous Walk of Fame and is renowned for its street performers who dress up in costumes and play roles to the amusement of tourists. Many of the performers dress up as characters from Hollywood movies, who pose with tourists for photos in exchange for tips.
The man shot was said to be impersonating the character from Scream, a 1996 horror movie, about a masked man with a knife who murders teenagers with a knife as pictured below.
LAPD is not releasing any information on the shooting, except for tweeting a picture of a folding knife laying near the body, perhaps a Swiss Army Knife, carried by boy scouts everywhere.
But some skeptics are saying the knife was planted because it is not clearly visible in the video recorded in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and posted to Facebook.
I’ve watched the video several times and cannot make out a knife, but I cannot say with certainty it is not there.
However, the first several minutes of the video, which is posted below, show police clamoring all over the area where the knife was eventually photographed.
And at 4:44, a man dressed in blue wearing gloves bends down and appears to lay something on the ground.
Jordan White, the man who recorded the video, said the man was unarmed.
So this could potentially be a huge scandal for the scandal-ridden LAPD.
What do you think? Do you see a knife in the first few minutes of the video? If you are a witness or know the man killed, please message me here.
Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old black man described by his family as having “mental problems,” was shot and killed by a Los Angeles, California police officer Monday evening, barely 48 hours after an unarmed black man in Missouri suffered the same fate.
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement on Tuesday that officers had conducted an “investigative stop” the night prior, during which the suspect — later identified as Ford — reportedly engaged in an altercation with the cops, according to the LAPD.
“During the stop a struggle ensued, which resulted in an officer-involved-shooting,” the LAPD said in Tuesday’s statement. “The suspect was transported to a local hospital and after lifesaving efforts he succumbed to his injuries.”
According to the victim’s family, Ford was complying with officers at the time of the shooting, and was killed while facedown before the police. USA Today reported that Ford was unarmed.
“They laid him out and for whatever reason, they shot him in the back, knowing mentally, he has complications,” an unnamed man who identified himself as the victim’s cousin told local station KTLA News. “Every officer in this area, from the Newton Division, knows that — that this child has mental problems,” he said. “The excessive force … there was no purpose for it. The multiple shootings in the back while he’s laying down? No.”
According to the cousin, the victim’s mother was met with police brandishing nightsticks when she arrived on the scene.
“Then when the mom comes, they don’t try to console her … they pull the billy clubs out,” he said.
“My heart is so heavy,” the mother, Tritobia Ford, told KTLA News. “My son was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did.”
“All we want to know is why they did it,” Ezell Ford Sr. added.
KTLA reported that police were initially behaving “tight-lipped” with regards to disclosing further details, because of a “gathering” at the scene in the wake of the shooting. On Sunday, an event advertised as being a “protest against the murder” of Ford is scheduled to occur outside of LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
Ford’s death occurred barely 48 hours after police in the small town of Ferguson, Missouri opened fire and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager who was reportedly unarmed at the time of the incident. Massive protests — and at times, violent ones — have occurred in the days since, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has since opened up a probe into the incident.
In California, the LAPD said that a thorough investigation will be conducted internally, then reviewed by the chief of police, the Office of the Inspector General and Board of Police Commissioners. Additionally, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division will conduct a comprehensive investigation of its own, the LAPD reported.
The Homicide Report, an online database maintained by the Los Angeles Times, suggests that at least 303 people have died as a result of officer-involved shootings in the area since 2007. Meanwhile, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was appointed on Tuesday this week to his second, five-year stint at the helm of that agency. The decision to keep Beck in charge of one of the nation’s largest police forces was made just one day after the LAPD’s civilian watchdog told the Los Angeles Times that he’d be launching an investigation into the accuracy of the agency’s crime statistics after a report by the paper revealed that that police in LA misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses during a one-year span ending in September 2013.
Defending the decision to pursue unmanned drones to assist in police work, the LAPD – who say they will cooperate with privacy groups on the matter – said the devices are being purchased by citizens, so why not allow law enforcement to use it as well?
At a news conference Thursday at LAPD headquarters, Chief Charlie Beck revealed the unmanned drones could assist police forces in “standoffs, perimeters, suspects hiding…and other tactical events.”
“We’re interested in those applications,” he said.
Beck responded to criticism of the plans by human rights and privacy groups by explaining that the technology is already “in the hands of private citizens” and corporations, so why shouldn’t law enforcement experiment with the devices as well?
“When retailers start talking about using them to deliver packages, we would be silly not to at least have a discussion of whether we want to use them in law enforcement,” the police chief said.
In December, Amazon and UPS announced ambitious plans to start testing UAVs for making home deliveries.
Late last month, the LAPD received two Draganflyer X6 unmanned drones as a ‘gift’ from the Seattle Police Department, in what seems to have been an effort by the latter to avoid public uproar.
Seattle authorities purchased the UAVs for $82,000 in 2010, funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security. However, neither the city council nor the public was aware of the police drone program until a 2012 lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation over the department’s application for operation certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The resulting public outcry over the drones forced the mayor to terminate the program in February 2013.
“These vehicles were purchased by the Seattle Police Department using federal grants. There was no cost to the city of Los Angeles,” police said.
Each remote-controlled vehicle is 3 feet (90cm) wide, has three rotors and can carry a video camera.
In order to calm public suspicion that the drones will infringe upon privacy rights, Beck said the LAPD would work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union during the “vetting process” of the UAVs.
“I will not sacrifice public support for a piece of police equipment,” Beck said, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “We’re going to thoroughly vet the public’s opinion on the use of the aerial surveillance platforms.”
The LAPD added it would seek approval from the Police Commission before unleashing the drones above Los Angeles.
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, issued a statement: “The Los Angeles Police Department asked the ACLU of Southern California to meet and articulate our concerns about the privacy issues raised by the use of drones. We agreed to do so… However, at this point the ACLU SoCal has no plans to participate in any process to craft policies for LAPD’s use of drones, nor have we been formally invited to lead a team of advocates to help craft such policies.”
“As the ACLU has previously said, we question whether any marginal benefits of drones programs justify the serious threat to privacy they pose.”
Let’s not be too quick to dismiss the “ranting” of renegade LAPD officer Chris Dorner.
Dorner, a three-year police veteran and former Lieutenant in the US Navy who went rogue after being fired by the LAPD, has accused Los Angeles Police of systematically using excessive force, of corruption, of being racist, and of firing him for raising those issues through official channels.
By all media accounts, Dorner “snapped” after his firing, and has vowed to kill police in retaliation. He allegedly has already done so, with several people, including police officers and family members of police already shot dead.
Now there’s a “manhunt” involving police departments across California, focusing on the mountains around Big Bear, featuring cops dressed in full military gear and armed with semi-automatic weapons.
Nobody would argue that randomly killing police officers and their family members or friends is justified, but I think that there is good reason to suspect that the things that Dorner claims set him off, such as being fired for reporting police brutality, and then going through a rigged hearing, deserve serious consideration and investigation.
The LAPD has a long history of abuse of minorities (actually the majority in Los Angeles, where whites are now a minority). It has long been a kind of paramilitary force — one which pioneered the military-style Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) approach to “policing.”
If you wanted a good example to prove that nothing has changed over the years, just look at the outrageous incident involving LAPD cops tasked with capturing Dorner, who instead shot up two innocent women who were delivering newspapers in a residential area of Los Angeles. The women, Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71 (now in serious condition in the hospital), were not issued any warning. Police just opened fire from behind them, destroying their truck with heavy semi-automatic fire to the point that it will have to be scrapped and replaced. The two women are lucky to be alive (check out the pattern of bullet holes in the rear window behind the driver’s position in the accompanying photo). What they experienced was the tactics used by US troops on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, not the tactics that one expects of police. Their truck wasn’t even the right make or color, but LAPD’s “finest” decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so instead of acting like cops, they followed Pentagon “rules of engagement”: They attempted to waste the target.
LAPD officers fired on this car with clear intent to kill (check out the bullet holes behind the driver-seat position). Trouble was, it was the wrong make and wrong color, and instead of Dorner, it was two Latino women, one of whom is now in serious condition from her wounds. No warning was given before the barrage.
Local residents say that after that shooting, which involved seven LAPD officers and over 70 bullets expended, with nobody returning fire, the street and surrounding houses were pockmarked with bullet holes. The Los Angeles Times reports that in the area, there are “bullet holes in cars, trees, garage doors and roofs.”
What we had here was an example of a controversial tactic that the military employed in the Iraq War, and still employs in Afghanistan, called “spray and pray” — a tactic that led directly to the massive civilian casualties during that US war.
We shouldn’t be surprised that two brown-skinned women were almost mowed down by the LAPD–only that they somehow survived all that deadly firing directed at them with clear intent to kill.
The approach taken by those cop-hunting-cops of shooting first and asking questions later suggests that the LAPD in this “manhunt” for one of their own has no intention of capturing Dorner alive and letting him talk about what he knows about the evils rampant in the 10,000-member department. They want him dead.
When I lived in Los Angeles back in the 1970s, it was common for LAPD cops to bust into homes, gestapo-like, at 5 in the morning, guns out, to arrest people for minor things like outstanding court warrants for unpaid parking tickets, bald tires, or jaywalking.
Police helicopters also used to tail me — then an editor of an alternative news weekly — and my wife, a music graduate student, as we drove home at night. Sometimes, they would follow us from our car to front door with a brilliant spotlight, when we’d come home at night to our house in Echo Park. It was an act of deliberate intimidation. (They also infiltrated our newspaper with an undercover cop posing as a wannabe journalist. Her job, we later learned, was to learn who our sources were inside the LAPD — sources who had disclosed such things as that the LAPD had, and probably still has, a “shoot-to-kill” policy for police who fire their weapons.)
Friends in Los Angeles tell me nothing has changed, though of course the police weaponry has gotten heavier and their surveillance capabilities have gotten more sophisticated and invasive.
It is clear from the LAPD’s paramilitary response to the Occupy movement in Los Angeles, which included planting undercover cops among the occupiers, some of whom reportedly were agents provocateur who tried to encourage protesters to commit acts of violence, and which ended with police violence and gratuitous arrests, as in New York, that nothing has changed.
In other words, Dorner may be irrational, but he ain’t crazy.
A black military veteran, Dorner joined the police because he reportedly believed in service. Unable to go along with the militarist policing he saw on the job, he protested through channels and was apparently rewarded by being fired. Now, in his own violent way, he is trying to warn us all that something is rotten in the LAPD, and by extension, in the whole police system in the US. Police departments almost everywhere in the US, have morphed, particularly since 9/11/2001, from a role of providing public safety and law enforcement into agencies of brutal fascist control.
As Dorner says in his lengthy manifesto (actually quite explicit and literate, but described as “ranting” in corporate media accounts), in which he explains his actions and indicts the LAPD, “The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.”
That could be said of many US police departments, I’m afraid.
Example: Last fall, I had the experience of trying to hitchhike in my little suburban town. A young cop drove up and informed me (incorrectly, it turns out) that it was illegal to hitchhike in Pennsylvania. When I expressed surprise at this and told him I was a journalist working on an article on hitchhiking, he then threatened me directly, saying that if I continued to try and thumb a ride, he would “take you in and lock you up.”
When I called a lawyer friend and said I was inclined to take the officer up on that threat, since I was within my rights under the law hitchhiking as long as I was standing off the road, he warned me against it, saying, “You don’t know what could happen to you if you got arrested.”
And of course he’s right. An arrest, even a wrongful arrest, in the US these days can lead to an added charge — much more serious — of resisting arrest, with a court basing its judgement on the word of the officer in the absence of any other witnesses. It can also lead to physical injury or worse, if the officer wants to lie and claim that the arrested person threatened him or her.
If I had been in Los Angeles, I would most likely have been locked up for an incident like that. Forget about any warning. You aren’t supposed to talk back to cops in L.A. And if you are black or Latino, the results of such an arrest could be much worse.
I remember once witnessing LAPD cops stopping a few Latino youths who had been joyriding in what might have been a stolen car. There was a helicopter overhead, and perhaps a dozen patrol cars that had converged on the scene, outside a shopping mall in Silverlake. I ran over to see what was happening and watched as the cops grabbed the kids, none of whom was armed, out of the vehicle and slammed them against the car brutally. It was looking pretty ugly, but by then neighbors from the surrounding homes, most of them Latino, who had poured out onto their lawns because of the commotion, began yelling at the cops. One man shouted, “We see what you’re doing. These boys are all healthy. If anything happens to any of them after you arrest them we will report you!”
The cops grudgingly backed off in their attack on the boys, and took them away in a squad car. I don’t know what happened to them after that, but they were most certainly saved, by quick community response, from an on-the-spot Rodney King-style beating that could have seriously injured them, or worse.
As things stand right now, with the LAPD gunning for Dorner, and wanting him dead and silenced, not captured, the public has to worry that it has more to fear from the LAPD than it has to fear from Dorner himself. At least Dorner, in his own twisted way, has specific targets in mind. The LAPD is in “spray and pray” mode.
Chris Dorner, in happier days, now a fugitive on the run from the LAPD “manhunters”
Hopefully, Dorner will realize he can do more by figuring out a safe way to “come in from the cold” so he can try to testify about LAPD crimes, than by killing more cops. If he does manage to surrender, he’d better have a lot of support lined up to keep him safe while in custody.
It’s already clear that a lot of people in the LAPD want him dead.
- Light on the Dark Side of Dorner’s Rampage (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Violent LAPD Shoots First at Anything Resembling Suspect’s Car (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Almost proving the ex-cop Chris Dorner’s point in his manifesto of cops using excessive force, LAPD are the ones who appear to be on a rampage against anyone who’s driving a car even remotely similar to the suspect’s.
The video below tells of how cops have opened fire on yet another innocent vehicle “generally” fitting the description of Dorner’s car. Luckily the innocent driver was uninjured.
Previously, two women were hospitalized after being attacked by police for driving a blue Toyota Tacoma while they were delivering newspapers in a quiet neighborhood. Police were looking for a pickup truck of a different color, make, and model with a supposed connection to Dorner.
Upon seeing this truck drive down a residential neighborhood, police began unloading their weapons on sight. There are almost 40 bullet holes visible in this picture.
Dorner’s original complaint against the corrupt cops in the LAPD stems from their use of excessive force against civilians. And during their crazed man-hunt for Dorner, they seem to be proving his point. Whether or not Dorner is found guilty of these shootings, the LAPD and surrounding precincts are not doing their reputation any justice in their handling of this situation.
Americans will rarely witness the kind of full-scale manhunt now going on throughout Southern California and the San Bernardino mountains as hundreds of heavily armed police and federal agents hunt down Christopher Dorner, a 33-year-old former Los Angeles cop and former Naval officer suspected of three murders.
Homicides are routine in Southern California, but this one is different. As Reuters reported, Dorner is “a fugitive former police officer accused of declaring war on law enforcement in an Internet manifesto.” He allegedly shot two officers in Riverside, killing one of them, and also allegedly murdered the daughter of the former police captain who unsuccessfully represented him in the disciplinary proceedings that led to his firing.
This isn’t about police protecting the public, but police protecting themselves. When one of “theirs” is threatened or killed, police act like invaders. And like any invading army, the public can expect collateral damage. While the national media focused on the basics of the manhunt, there have been too-few reports on the casualties of the ramped-up police presence.
“Emma Hernandez, 71, was delivering the Los Angeles Times with her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue in Torrance on Thursday morning when Los Angeles police detectives apparently mistook their pickup for that of Christopher Dorner, the 33-year-old fugitive suspected of killing three people and injuring two others,” according to a Los Angeles Times blog. “Hernandez, who attorney Glen T. Jonas said was shot twice in the back, was in stable condition late Thursday. Carranza received stitches on her finger.”
The quotation from Jonas was priceless: “The problem with the situation is it looked like the police had the goal of administering street justice and in so doing, didn’t take the time to notice that these two older, small Latina women don’t look like a large black man.”
According to reports, Dorner was driving a different color and different make of Japanese truck from Hernandez and Carranza, but whatever. If I were in Southern California this week, I’d keep the Toyota or Nissan truck in the garage given the number of police eager to mete out “street justice.” Police defenders will no doubt argue that this was a fluke, a case of a poorly trained cop overreacting (because he certainly believed his life to be in danger).
But apologists for police brutality will have a hard time with this case. As the Times blog also reported: “About 25 minutes after the shooting, Torrance police opened fire after spotting another truck similar to Dorner’s at Flagler Lane and Beryl Street.” Fortunately, no one was hurt at that one. If there were injuries, the cops would just shrug it off. The second shooting reminds us that this is how police will routinely behave. Police officials will then adamantly defend this behavior even in the federal court system.
For instance, a case that just recently headed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal highlights the disturbing attitude of police officials toward innocent bystanders. The following are details from plaintiffs, in their lawsuit against the city of Sacramento and two of its “finest”:
On April 10, 2009, California Highway Patrol officers stopped a Honda Civic for having illegal taillights. As the officers approached the car, the driver, Manual Prasad, drove away and eventually crashed his car into a wall and started running in a residential neighborhood. Sacramento city police were called and used their helicopter to pinpoint the fleeing man who climbed a tree in a backyard.
James Paul Garcia and six of his friends had the misfortune of being in the yard where Prassad was hiding out. Without any apparent warning and without checking to see if there were innocent bystanders, the officer released a police dog into the yard. Police dogs are trained to attack and hold suspects, but they are not trained to distinguish between suspects and bystanders.
So “Bandit” headed into the yard, spotted the first person he saw (Garcia) and did what vicious police dogs do to people: bit the heck out of him and held him at the ground, as its teeth punctured Garcia’s leg in several places.
The police and the city of Sacramento argue that this behavior did not violate Garcia’s rights and of course sought every type of immunity to delay the case and keep its officers from facing discipline. The city argued that giving an adequate warning could – let’s repeat it now in unison, given that this is the trump card police always use – “jeopardize officer safety.”
In Anaheim a few years ago, police were tracking a burglary suspect through a neighborhood. A young newlywed came out of his house with a wooden dowel to see what the ruckus was about. The officer shot the bystander to death, then handcuffed him as he lay dying. Police officers reportedly were angry at the chief for apologizing to the family.
That case epitomizes the “us vs. them” mentality common among our highly militarized police forces. I wasn’t surprised, then, when years later the Anaheim Police Department acted like an invading army after residents protested some deadly shootings by police (including, apparently, the shooting of an unarmed man in the back).
When police pursue suspects, it is official, acceptable policy for officers to do anything they need to do to protect their own safety, even if it endangers the public’s safety. My advice – if you see police anywhere near you, stay very far away. And hope they don’t mistake your car for a suspect’s car. In their view, we are only potential collateral damage.