By Doug Porter
Multiple controversies about the use of deadly force by law enforcement agencies are prompting calls for reform.
Since the first of the year, 396 people have been killed by police in the United States. The officer involved fatalities include two would-be terrorists who attacked a right wing “draw a picture of Mohammad” contest in Texas over the weekend.
By way of contrast, there have been 38 line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015.
These two statistics point to larger problems in society, where the use of deadly force is indicative of both the role police play and the way they are perceived by many of the communities they should be charged with protecting.
The Los Angeles Times reported on efforts in Sacramento to address these issues.
At least 20 proposals to regulate body cameras worn by cops, revamp the prosecution of deadly force cases and impose other measures were made in the wake of high-profile killings by police in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, Cleveland and elsewhere. Lawmakers are trying to capitalize on the heightened public interest in one of the country’s most vexing social and political problems.
“I’m tired of being shocked. I’m tired of prayer vigils. I’m tired of sit-ins and walks,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego). “I’m saying to my members that you tell me every day how horrible, how sad this is. What are you going to do about it?…”
…Weber and her backers, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, initially wanted to prevent officers from reviewing the video until after making an initial statement. But they hammered out a shaky compromise with law enforcement groups Thursday in which nearly all officers would be able to review their footage before making a report.
Limitations of an SDPD Body Cam
Body cam footage won’t be available for reports in last week’s shooting of 42-year-old Fridoon Zalberg Rawshannehad, who died in an alley outside an adult book store in the Midway area.
The incident happened at approximately 12:05 a.m. Thursday, when police received a 911 call of a man threatening people with a knife on the 3200 block of Hancock Street.
As the man “continued to advance” on officer Browder, he shot and killed him, police officials said.
On Friday, officials revealed Browder did not have his body camera on during the incident, investigators said, raising serious concerns about police accountability. None of the incident was caught on the body camera, despite the SDPD’s recent investment to outfit its officers with the body-worn devices. On Friday, SDPD investigators said they had not interviewed the officer involved.
Regular readers of this column might remember that I reported on this incident last Friday.
Over the weekend I learned about footage of the incident recorded by privately owned video cameras in the area. The SDPD reportedly has a copy. A source who claims to have viewed the videos claims the footage does not match up with what’s been reported by the media.
We’ll see where this goes….
Ending Guilt By Association
Lincoln Park residents Brandon Duncan and Aaron Harvey attended a downtown rally on Sunday aimed at challenging the processes being used by police and prosecutors against people of color in San Diego.
Duncan and Harvey spent months in jail after they were arrested and charged with conspiracy for gang shootings they knew nothing about. A judge threw out charges against them last month.
They say the charges stemmed from being wrongly documented by police as gang members because they grew up in Lincoln Park. Neither of the young men has a criminal record.
They were arrested under the provisions of Penal Code 182.5, which allows prosecutors to charge documented gang members for conspiracy for crimes other documented gang members commit, if they are believed to be in the same gang.
Now they are leading the charge to have Penal Code 182.5 axed, and change the way ‘gang members’ are identified and documented by police.
“[The gang documentation law] targets a select group of people, predominantly black and brown people. There’s 3700 Latinos who documented in San Diego County 1700 blacks in San Diego County but only 151 white,” Harvey said.
“You are charging people with crimes they know nothing about. It’s like, why not go charge the person who committed the crime with actual crime?” Duncan said.
Harvey said there are 28 young men in San Diego still charged with conspiracy crimes under PC 182.5.
From a statement distributed prior to the rally:
If the DA wins this case, it will set a precedent that will destroy communities of color across the state. What kind of justice allows entire communities to be liable for crimes they know nothing about simply based on association? Today, we are the targets but tomorrow it could be your son or daughter,” said Aaron Harvey.This case is part of an attack on men of color by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. There is a dangerous pattern of mass incarceration of men of color in this country and often times our racially biased system of justice including investigation, enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration work against people of color. The result is mass incarceration, which happens when we stop focusing on individuals and start targeting entire communities.
Some Hope in Richmond, California
The Los Angeles Times has a story about one California police official whose efforts to change the relationships between community and police are attracting national attention:
Many residents had long had contempt for the Richmond Police Department, with its decades-old reputation of racism and ruthlessness. The community rarely cooperated with officers, making even minor crimes hard to solve.
New to town, City Manager Bill Lindsay believed that change would come only with an overhaul of police practices. He turned to an unlikely reformer: Chris Magnus, the white, gay police chief of Fargo, N.D.
A decade later, this minority-majority city has recorded its lowest homicide rate in 33 years. Officer-involved shootings are now rare: There have been two since Magnus came on board, whereas outside police agencies killed five men inside city limits during the same period.
Community mistrust has gradually given way to collaboration, thanks to deepening bonds between officers and the neighborhoods they serve.
Guess Who’s Not Going to Be Prosecuted
Alleged gang members in Lincoln Park and inner city neighbourhoods around the country bear the brunt of law enforcement policies and practices. The United States has only 5 % of the world’s population, but 25 % of its prisoners, according to a recent study. The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. Thirty six states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.
From States of Incarceration: The Global Context, a study published by PrisonPolicy.org
Around the globe, governments respond to illegal activity and social unrest in many ways. Here in the United States, policymakers in the 1970s made the decision to start incarcerating Americans at globally unprecedented rates. The decades that followed have revealed that the growth in the U.S. prison population can be more closely attributed to ideological policy choices than actual crime rates. The record also shows that our country’s experiment with mass incarceration has not managed to significantly enhance public safety, but instead has consistently and disproportionately stunted the social and economic well being of poor communities and communities of color for generations.
According to the New York Times, black Americans are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though drug use rates between the two groups are roughly the same.
There are some groups that don’t have to worry about prosecution these days…
— Josh Stearns (@jcstearns) May 3, 2015
Not A Crime, But Should Be
And if you’re a sleazy operation loaning money to military families, don’t worry, Republicans have got your back. Or they tried, anyway.
Last week the GOP sponsored an amendment to the the National Defense Authorization Act postpone rules regarding predatory lending abuses targeting the military. Only a 4 am maneuver by Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) prevented its passage.
From Huffington Post:
Republicans had defended the vote by arguing that it would give the government time to conduct a study on the effects of payday loans and other short-term credit on military families. Two such studies have already been conducted. The most recent CFPB study concluded that the DOD rules would help curb abuses and help military families.
Hitting It Out of The Park
Management has finally stopped handing out nerf bats to the San Diego Padres, and lots of folks are taking notice.
From UT-San Diego:
The Padres’ National League-leading 131 runs are 62 more than they had through 26 games last year. Petco Park, once notorious for keeping long fly balls prisoner, somehow is second in Major League Baseball in homers.
This is what entertaining baseball looks like. This is a diamond experience once inconceivable in these parts. And this is why, after holding out for 11 years, Dave Almond finally crossed the turnstiles at Petco.
“It’s great to come out and see it again,” he said.
Now, if we could just get the quality of the televised versions of their games to come up…
Fighting Climate Change, La Mesa Style
The East County Magazine report on last week’s La Mesa City Council hearing on the city’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint includes a notable exchange:
Councilmember Kristine Alessio then stated, “The science has changed behind climate change in the last ten years. Maybe at some point we need to reconsider being part of the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Change Protection Agreement.” [Audio clip]
Likening the agreement to “religious dogma,” Alessio then then scoffed at the idea that “cutting greenhouse gas emissions in La Mesa is going to make one difference anywhere.”
Former Mayor Art Madrid signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agremeent on behalf of La Mesa, becoming the first mayor in San Diego County to do so. The Council adopted the agreement at the Mayor’s urging in 2007.
ECM asked Madrid for his response to Alessio’s proposal to undo his achievement. Madrid retorted, “Just consider the source of who is making those asinine remarks.” He noted that Alessio has also opposed regulation of electronic cigarettes or “vaping” devices. (The Councilwoman lit up and smoked from her Council seat as a protest to efforts to protect public health by restriction e-cigarettes.)
Fighting Climate Change, Washington Style
The flat-earthers in the Nation’s Capital are hard at work, saving your tax dollars.
Reinforcing the GOP’s reputation as anti-science, Republicans in the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday voted to slash NASA spending on the branch that studies climate change issues.
According to news reports, the NASA authorization proposal, passed along party lines, would cut between $300-500 million in funding to NASA’s Earth Sciences division, which researches the planet’s natural systems and processes—including climate change, severe weather, and glaciers. The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.
As Ars Technica notes, “This vote follows the committee’s decision to cut the [National Science Foundation]’s geoscience budget and comes after a prominent attack on NASA’s Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted campaign against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.”
On This Day: 1886 – The Haymarket massacre. A bomb is thrown as Chicago police start to break up a rally for strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. A riot erupts, 11 police and strikers die, mostly from gunfire, and scores more are injured. 1961 – Thirteen civil rights activists, dubbed “Freedom Riders,” began a bus trip through the South. 1970 – Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students during an anti-Vietnam war protest at Kent State University. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.
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