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A ‘Kill-And-Cover-Up’ Police Culture?: Systemic And Institutional Problems That Extend Far Beyond One Allegedly Trigger-Happy Cop

When public officials refuse to release a video that shows alleged misconduct by a police officer, you should only expect the worst.

That’s particularly true in Chicago, where one “bad apple” too often has signaled a bushel of cover-ups and other problems underneath.

Such are the suspicions that haunt the city’s stalling for more than a year the release of a dashcam video that shows white police officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into the body of black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel denounced the behavior as a case of one allegedly bad apple. Yet the video and various actions taken before and after the shooting point to systemic and institutional problems that extend far beyond one allegedly trigger-happy cop.

Why, for example, did the city sit on the dash-cam video for more than a year before a judge ordered its release on open-records grounds?

Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have said the time was needed to conduct proper investigations. But compare that to the Cincinnati case last summer in which black driver Samuel DuBose was fatally shot on camera by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing during a routine traffic stop.

The video, which contradicted Tensing’s account of being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle, was released and Tensing was charged with murder and fired from the department in less than two weeks.

The Chicago video similarly refutes a police union spokesman’s allegation of McDonald lunging at police with a knife on the night of Oct. 20, 2014.

Instead it shows the teen, reportedly with PCP in his system, holding a small knife but moving away from police when Van Dyke opens fire — and inexplicably keeps firing at McDonald’s flinching body on the ground. Only Van Dyke fires his weapon and none of the estimated seven police officers on the scene moves to help McDonald. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder.

Then there’s the question of what happened to video from a security camera at a nearby Burger King. A district manager for the restaurant chain has said police visited shortly after the shooting and were given access to the surveillance equipment. The next day, he has said, a portion of the video was missing.

Witnesses to the shooting told Jamie Kalven, an independent journalist and human rights activist whose nonprofit called the Invisible Institute filed a FOIA request to have the dashcam video released, that police tried to shoo witnesses away from the scene after the shooting instead of collecting names and other information.

And why, many wonder, did the mayor persuade the City Council to authorize a $5 million settlement for McDonald’s family, which had not filed a lawsuit. Emanuel claimed a desire to avoid jeopardizing the case. But Chicagoans with long memories — like me — wonder whether the cash is reparations or a form of hush money.

The city fought to conceal the video, even after the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and a freelance journalist all filed FOIA requests for its release.

To Kalven, the most important issue here is not just the shooting but how governmental institutions — from the police to the mayor’s office — responded to it, he says.

“And at every level,” he told me in a telephone interview, “we can see they responded by circling the wagons and creating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”

Kalven’s institute worked seven years to open up police files and establish an online database of misconduct complaints against police officers — 97 percent of which resulted in absolutely no disciplinary action.

Among other issues, Chicago and other cities will have to determine, like the rest of us, how to adjust to the new video age, an age that exposes so much to public view that used to be swept under various rugs.

The McDonald video reveals the flipside of the so-called “Ferguson effect,” a widely alleged tendency by some police to hesitate before responding to crime scenes for fear of getting caught in a career-ending cellphone video. If fear of video can prevent atrocities like that revealed in the McDonald case, that’s not a bad thing.

 

By: Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency; The National Memo, November 30, 3015

December 1, 2015 Posted by | Police Abuse, Police Unions, Public Officials | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Time For Issa To Put Up Or Shut Up”: Proof That White House Was Not Involved In IRS Tea Party Targeting Finally Exposed

Appearing this morning on CNN’s “State of the Union” and “CBS Sunday Morning”, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, revealed that the manager responsible for the Cincinnati screening team involved in the 501(c)(4) investigations of conservative tea party groups—and the man that apparently first referred the issue to IRS technical office in Washington—has now weighed in on the controversy.

The Cincinnati based manager—a long-time employee of the IRS who self-identifies as a “conservative Republican”—was interviewed on Thursday by the staff of the Oversight Committee. What he had to say might well be the beginning of the end of Darrell Issa’s campaign to lay the blame for the IRS fiasco at the White House doorstep.

According to the transcript of the interview, the still unnamed supervisor was asked, “Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen tea party cases?”

The manager’s response? “I have no reason to believe that.”

The gentleman is in a unique position to know what actually happened as he was the supervisor who, in 2010, sent the matter to the IRS technical office in Washington for further guidance after an IRS screener under his supervision identified an applicant for 501 (c)(4) status as a “high profile’” conservative organization. According to the manager, he forwarded the case to the Washington based technical folks for their guidance so that the matter could be treated “with consistency”.

What this tells us is that this was not a case of Washington instructing the Cincinnati office to target Tea Party applicants but rather it was the Cincinnati office that first sought guidance from the IRS in Washington as to how to handle the matter. This is a far cry, indeed, from what Chairman Issa has been trying to sell to the American public through his constant—yet fully unsubstantiated—claims that the targeting originated in White House.

According to the transcripts, the manager is now on record saying that there was no political motivation or instruction originating in the White House or anywhere else in the nation’s capital, noting “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.”

In response to the interview with the Cincinnati supervisor, Representative Cummings suggested this morning that “Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved, and if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on to be frank with you.”

Of course, Cummings desire to put the matter to bed is unlikely to happen. Certainly, any hope that the tide can be turned on the full-scale GOP attack on the President will require that the public gets a look at the actual transcripts to see the full interview—a matter that has, in and of itself, been chock full of controversy.

While Chairman Issa made news last week by promising to release full transcripts in support of his still unsupported claims in this matter, he has failed to release a word of testimony despite numerous requests from various reporters and columnists, including myself.

It was during Issa’s  own “State of the Union” appearance last Sunday when he stated that interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office indicated that targeting Tea Party applicants was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it. My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election. I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”

Despite Issa’s indication that the transcripts of interviews with the Cincinnati employees would be forthcoming, the transcripts have not been released including the transcript with the manager providing the testimony that would appear to clear the White House.

Representative Cummings is now demanding that all of the transcripts be released for review.

Speaking to Candy Crowley on this morning’s edition of “State of The Union”, Cummings said:

“I wrote Chairman Issa on Thursday and I wrote to him this morning. I want those transcripts to be released,” Cummings said. “I’m willing to come on your show next week with the chairman with the transcripts if he agrees to do that. If he doesn’t, I’ll release them by the end of the week.”

Good.

It’s far past time for Issa to back up his over-the-top allegations with some evidence–evidence that even conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham acknowledges has not been forthcoming.

While there is no reason to imagine that the anti-Obama forces will actually allow the truth to get in the way of their political narrative—nor will there be any shortage of Americans who will be more than willing to ignore the testimony of the one man in the Cincinnati who actually knows what happened—the truth may serve to accomplish one real benefit for which we can all be grateful—

Just maybe, Darrell Issa’s fifteen minutes of truly illegitimate and undeserved fame may finally be over.

Hallelujah.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 9, 2013

June 10, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arrested Governance”: Do Everything You Can To Sabotage Government To Keep It From Operating Effectively

The Internal Revenue Service was closed today, as employees were furloughed due to sequestration’s budget cuts. Conservatives found this to be an occasion for side-splitting humor; Sarah Palin, for example, tweeted, “The IRS is closed today, feel free to use your phones.” Get it, because the IRS was tapping … um … well, never mind. In any case, today is a reminder that this scandal could be an opportunity for reform that clarifies the law on political and non-political groups, leads to a greater professionalization of the agency, and makes future misconduct less likely. Or it could wind up being just the opposite.

As Kevin Drum reminded us yesterday, one of the low moments of the Gingrich years in Congress was a series of hearings meant to expose IRS wrongdoing, in which horror stories of the agency’s abuse of taxpayers were told to lawmakers eager to hear them. In response, the IRS’s authority was curtailed and its budget slashed. The predictable consequence was less enforcement of tax laws (warming Republicans’ hearts, no doubt), but also an agency that had to do more with less.

If anyone was forced to do more with less, it was the office in Cincinnati, where a small number of poorly trained employees had to process thousands of new applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status after 2010. That isn’t to say there was no wrongdoing, but if you want an agency that does its job well and upholds the highest standards of professionalism, cutting its resources is not the way to get it.

But that could well happen again, and Republicans would be only too happy about it. It would be of a piece with the way they approach so much of what passes for their attempts at governing: Do everything you can to sabotage government and keep it from operating effectively, and then when it falls short, shout “See?!? We told you government can’t do anything right!”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 24, 2013

May 27, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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