mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Your Support For Brutality Or Your Life”: Plainly An Effort To Extort The Public For Support Of Police Brutality

In the latest and most open demonstration that some law enforcement officers are prone to go on strike if their tactics are challenged, two unnamed Baltimore cops blandly told CNN that citizens of the city had to choose between safety from criminals and safety from the police, per a report from Brooke Baldwin and Dana Ford:

Forty-two people were killed in Baltimore in May, making it the deadliest month there since 1972.

When asked what’s behind that number, a Baltimore police officer gave an alarming answer. Basically, he said, the good guys are letting the bad guys win.

“The criminal element feels as though that we’re not going to run the risk of chasing them if they are armed with a gun, and they’re using this opportunity to settle old beefs, or scores, with people that they have conflict with,” the officer said. “I think the public really, really sees that they asked for a softer, less aggressive police department, and we have given them that, and now they are realizing that their way of thinking does not work.”

In other words, prosecuting cops for killing Freddie Gray means criminals will run wild. Look in the other direction if some thugs wind up dead under murky circumstances, or you can kiss police protection good-bye.

I know we should not assume these two anonymous cops speak for their colleagues, but if so, they better speak up. This is pretty plainly an effort to extort support for brutality at the end of a gun–not a police service revolver, of course, but the gun hypothetically wielded by the “bad guys” because the “good guys” insist to do their job their way–laws be damned–or not at all.

Aside from the inherently poisonous nature of such demands, there’s not much question these officers are trying to stir up a public backlash against the elected officials, prosecutors and ultimately judges who are supposed to supervise their behavior. And there’s no question this is going to create a huge temptation for conservative politicians–maybe in Maryland, but more likely in far distance locations–to bring back the race-baiting law-n-order politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 10, 2015

June 11, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Abuse, Police Brutality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Helping To Serve As A Check On Abuse”: New ACLU Cellphone App Automatically Preserves Video Of Police Encounters

The ACLU in California today released a free smart-phone app that allows people to send cellphone videos of police encounters to the ACLU, automatically—and the ACLU will preserve the video footage, even if the cops seize the phone and delete the video or destroy the phone. The app, “Mobile Justice CA,” works for both iPhones and Android users. It’s available at Apple’s App Store and at Google Play.

The app features a large red “Record” button in the middle of the screen. When it’s pressed, the video is recorded on the phone and a duplicate copy is transmitted simultaneously to the ACLU server. When the “stop” button is pressed, a “Report” screen appears, where information about the location of the incident and the people involved can also be transmitted to the ACLU. The video and the information are treated as a request for legal assistance and reviewed by staff members. No action is taken by the ACLU, however, unless an explicit request is made, and the reports are treated as confidential and privileged legal communications. The videos, however, may be shared by the ACLU with the news media, community organizations or the general public to help call attention to police abuse.

The app is available in English and Spanish. It includes a “Know Your Rights” page.

The value of the Mobile Justice app was dramatized this month in the Los Angeles suburb of South Gate, where a bystander taped cops detaining people in her neighborhood. A second person was recording her, and in that video, a lawman rushes at the first woman, grabs her cell phone, and smashes it on the floor. The second video ended up on YouTube. (South Gate police later said the officer was not a local cop but rather a deputy US marshal.)

Meanwhile in Texas, a proposed law would make it a crime for ordinary people to videotape police actions—on the grounds that it was “interference” with police activity. In California, on the other hand, the state senate this month approved legislation providing clear legal protection to people who videotape police activity without interfering with investigations.

“People who historically have had very little power in the face of law enforcement now have this tool to reclaim their power and dignity,” said Patrisse Cullors, director of the Truth and Reinvestment Campaign at the Ella Baker Center, which is working with the ACLU of California to support the launch of the Mobile Justice CA app. “Our vision is that this app will ultimately help community members connect and organize to respond to incidents of law enforcement violence, and then share their experiences and knowledge with others.”

The Mobile Justice CA app complies with California law. ACLU affiliates in other states have developed other versions for use in those states: residents of New York should use the “Stop and Frisk Watch” app; in New Jersey, it’s the “Police Tape” app; in Oregon and Missouri it’s the “Mobile Justice” app. These work in different ways: with the New York app, shaking the phone stops the filming; the New Jersey app does not transmit the video automatically—the user must choose to send it to the ACLU-NJ for backup storage. Not all of them are available on all platforms and not all are available in Spanish, as the California app is. However, video submitted from anywhere via the California app will be stored and available to those who submitted it, an ACLU SoCal official said.

“This app will help serve as a check on abuse,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), where the app was developed. It will “allow ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement,” he said, including “police officers, sheriff’s deputies, border patrol, or other officials.”

 

By: Jon Wiener, The Nation, May 1, 2015

May 3, 2015 Posted by | ACLU, Cellphone Videos, Police Abuse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Baltimore Burned”: There Are Crucial Underlying Inequities That Demand Attention

Conservatives have sometimes been too quick to excuse police violence. And liberals have sometimes been too quick to excuse rioter violence.

It’s outrageous when officers use excessive force against young, unarmed African-American men, who are 21 times as likely to be shot dead by the police as young white men. It’s also outrageous when rioters loot shops or attack officers.

So bravo to Toya Graham, the Baltimore mom captured on video grabbing her teenage son from the streets and frog-marching him home. The boy wilted: It must be humiliating to be a “badass” rioter one moment and then to be savagely scolded in front of your peers and sent to your room.

“That’s my only son, and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,” Graham later told CBS News. It was of course Gray’s death, after an injury at the hands of the police, that set off the rioting.

On social media, there were plenty of people making excuses for rioters — a common refrain was “nothing else works to get attention.” But to their great credit, African-American leaders provided firm moral guidance and emphasized that street violence was unconscionable.

President Obama set just the right tone.

“When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot. They’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing,” Obama said. “When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities.”

Or as Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks basketball star who grew up in Baltimore and has invested in a youth center there, put it: “We need to protect our city, not destroy it.”

Yet as Obama, Anthony and other leaders also noted, there are crucial underlying inequities that demand attention. The rioting distracts from those inequities, which are the far larger burden on America’s cities.

That also represents a failure on our part in the American news media. We focus television cameras on the drama of a burning CVS store but ignore the systemic catastrophe of broken schools, joblessness, fatherless kids, heroin, oppressive policing — and, maybe the worst kind of poverty of all, hopelessness.

The injustices suffered by Freddie Gray began early. As a little boy he suffered lead poisoning (as do 535,000 American children ages 1 to 5), which has been linked to lifelong mental impairments and higher crime rates.

In Gray’s neighborhood, one-third of adults lack a high school degree. A majority of those aged 16 to 64 are unemployed.

And Baltimore’s African-American residents have often encountered not only crime and insecurity but also law enforcement that is unjust and racist. Michael A. Fletcher, an African-American reporter who lived for many years in the city, wrote in The Washington Post that when his wife’s car was stolen, a Baltimore policeman bluntly explained the department’s strategy for recovering vehicles: “If we see a group of young black guys in a car, we pull them over.”

Likewise, the Baltimore jail was notorious for corruption and gang rule. A federal investigation found that one gang leader in the jail fathered five children by four female guards.

Wretched conditions are found to some degree in parts of many cities, and Shirley Franklin, the former mayor of Atlanta, told me that when we tolerate them, we tolerate a combustible mix.

“It’s not just about the police use of force,” she said. “It’s about a system that is not addressing young people’s needs. They’re frankly lashing out, and the police force issue is just a catalyst for their expression of frustration at being left out.”

Whites sometimes comment snidely on a “culture of grievance” among blacks. Really? When tycoons like Stephen Schwarzman squawked that the elimination of tax loopholes was like Hitler’s invasion of Poland, now that’s a culture of grievance.

If wealthy white parents found their children damaged by lead poisoning, consigned to dismal schools, denied any opportunity to get ahead, more likely to end up in prison than college, harassed and occasionally killed by the police — why, then we’d hear roars of grievance. And they’d be right to roar: Parents of any color should protest, peacefully but loudly, about such injustices.

We’ve had months of police incidents touching on a delicate subtext of race, but it’s not clear that we’re learning lessons. Once again, I suggest that it’s time for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to step back and explore racial inequity in America.

The real crisis isn’t one night of young men in the street rioting. It’s something perhaps even more inexcusable — our own complacency at the systematic long-term denial of equal opportunity to people based on their skin color and ZIP code.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Police Abuse, Racial Justice | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Slow Rolling Crisis”: ‘Don’t Just Pay Attention To These Communities When A CVS Burns’

As violence erupted in Baltimore last night, President Obama spoke directly with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and the White House issued a statement stressing “the administration’s commitment to provide assistance as needed.”

Today, however, the president had quite a bit more to say on the subject.

President Obama said there was “no excuse” for the violent rioting Monday on the streets of Baltimore, which saw looting and fires break out after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a severe spinal injury while in police custody a little over a week ago. At the same time, the president put the crisis in Maryland’s largest city into a national context, focusing on unemployment, poverty and the education gap that plagues some communities of color.

“We can’t just leave this to the police,” Obama said Tuesday in a White House press conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “There are some police departments that have to do some searching. There are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But our country needs to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.”

Obama, speaking without prepared remarks on the subject, acknowledged that he feels “pretty strongly” about the subject. It showed.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the president’s remarks are worth reading in detail. Note, for example, the way in which the president focuses initially on specific developments in Baltimore before transitioning to a much broader context:

First, obviously, our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray. Understandably, they want answers.

And DOJ has opened an investigation. It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances. It underscores that that’s a tough job, and we have to keep that in mind. And my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement, they’re stealing.

When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction. That is not a protest, that is not a statement, it’s people – a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore led by clergy and community leaders, and they were constructive and they were thoughtful. And frankly, didn’t get that much attention. And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way, I think, have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore, I think, have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray and that accountability needs to exist.

I think we have to give them credit. My understanding is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of protesters – a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.

What they were doing – what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement. That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem. And they deserve credit for it and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five, and I’ve got six, because this is important. Since Ferguson and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now or once every couple of weeks.

And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations, but more importantly moms and dads across the country might start saying this is a crisis. What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new. And we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are – are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House had come up with very constructive, concrete proposals that if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference. Wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is is that we don’t run these police forces. I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain. But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves. And we – coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities. The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdiction that want to purchase body cameras. We are gonna be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference. And we’re gonna keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s gonna be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organizations to acknowledge that this is not good for police. We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are gonna be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.

There are – there are some bad politicians, who are corrupt. And there are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing. Well, there are some police who aren’t doing the right thing. And rather than close ranks, you know, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize, they’ve got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.

And we’re committed to facilitating that process. So the heads of our COPS (ph) agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore. Our head – assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.

But we’re gonna be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point – I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us – we can’t just leave this to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.

But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades. And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty. They’ve got parents, often, because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves, can’t do right by their kids.

If it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than that they go to college. In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men. Communities where there’s no investment and manufacturing’s been stripped away. And drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks.

In those environments, if we think that we’re just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not gonna solve this problem. And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do, the rest of us, to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons, so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a non-violent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.

That’s hard, that requires more than just the occasional news report or task force, and there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that. Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities and trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids and we think they’re important and they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel. I think they’re a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.

But that kind of political mobilization, I think we haven’t seen in quite some time. And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference, but I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough, because it’s too easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law-and-order issue as opposed to a broader social issue.

That was a really long answer, but I felt pretty strongly about it.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 28, 2015

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore, Police Abuse, President Obama | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Police Union Throws A Self-Pity Party In Baltimore”: Freddie Gray Protesters Are A “Lynch Mob”

It seemed as though police union leaders had gotten some PR training lately, and moved on from their strategy of pretending they’re the real victims in the awful spate of police killings involving unarmed black men. New York’s Pat Lynch has stopped shrieking that Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands” for the time being. We haven’t heard anything lately from loud-mouthed Cleveland police union chief Jeff Follmer, who defended the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by insisting “the nation needs to realize, when [police] tell you to do something, do it.”

Instead, we’ve seen more sensitivity to the outrage of the victim’s family and community in the wake of recent killings. North Charleston officials famously arrested officer Michael Slager for shooting Walter Scott, after it was captured on a chilling video. In Madison, Wisc., the police chief quickly released the name of the officer who killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson last month, expressed sympathy for his family, and the district attorney continues to investigate.

But it seems that in Baltimore, police union leaders didn’t get the PR memo. Wednesday night Gene Ryan, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, compared the peaceful protesters who’ve gathered nightly in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray to a “lynch mob.

Gray, 25, died of a severed spinal cord and a crushed larynx he suffered while in police custody, and authorities have given no details about exactly how it happened. But videos of Gray’s arrest, after a foot chase, have surfaced, and they are painful to watch. His mysterious death has understandably touched off a wave of local protest, angry at times but lawful and peaceful. In news coverage we see citizens exercising their right to assemble and to question authorities, legally and non-violently.

That’s not what Gene Ryan sees. “The images seen on television look and sound much like a lynch mob in that they care calling for the immediate imprisonment of these officers without them ever receiving the due process that is the Constitutional right of every citizen, including law enforcement officers,” the union head said in a statement.

A little history note for Ryan: “Lynch mobs” didn’t demand the “immediate imprisonment” of African Americans. They murdered them in cold blood – and those mobs often included police officers. Even when they weren’t aided and abetted – or led – by law enforcement, the mobs only succeeded because law enforcement routinely looked away.

The Gray family’s attorney attempted to educate Ryan. “We’ve been the victims of the lynching and now we’re the lynch mob?” William Murphy asked. “This level of ignorance of history needs to be remedied by an education by the real history of Black America, a history that he has evidently never been exposed to.”

Ryan then tried to walk back his ridiculous comparison. “Maybe I need to reword that,” he said in a press conference Wednesday night. But he continued to make his officers out to be victims in the aftermath of Gray’s killing.

It’s hard to know if this is a strategy, or the inborn reaction of police to any citizen complaints about their behavior: hysteria, combined with attempts to intimidate the public, and elected officials, into silence. There would be no police killings, their mentality holds, if the nation realized, in the illuminating words of Cleveland’s Jeff Follmer, that “when we tell you to do something, do it.”

Sadly, the recent outbreak of calm and clear thinking in North Charleston and Madison, not the outbursts of Lynch, Follmer and Ryan, are probably the aberration here. As U.S Attorney Loretta Lynch stands on the brink of confirmation as attorney general, finally, let us hope the Justice Department continues to school local law enforcement leaders that when their citizen employers tell them to obey the law, they should do it.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 23, 2015

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore Police Dept, Police Abuse, Police Unions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: