Tag Archive: Police Militarization

Dec 29 2014

The NYPD Gets on My Last Nerve

First let me say this: Supporting the police while calling for reform and justice are not mutually exclusive. Lives matter, all of them. This is not a zero sum game. That said, some of the members of the NYC Police Department and the bigots that support the institutionalized racism of the agency have gotten on my last nerve.

The vast majority of police officers are good people, just as the vast majority of people who are protesting in the streets across this country are good people. But some of the leadership, politicians and talking heads in the mainstream media need to shut up and listen. The people of this country deserve to be heard. The heads of the police unions in NYC seem to have forgotten that they are the employees of the people of NYC. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected by 74% of those who voted in November, is their boss. He was elected to reform an increasing out of control and militarized police department. He’s doing a good job. You can tell by the squealing of the racists who can’t see beyond their own hatred of people who just want to live in peace, make a decent living and raise their children in a safe city. People should not have to fear the police.

For the last 20 years under two Republican corporate administrations, the NYPD was expanded and given unprecedented powers. The commissioners that were appointed by Mayors Rudolph Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg, that includes the current commissioner William Bratton, ran the department like it was an army and felt that they were not accountable to its citizens. The policies of “Broken Glass” and its offshoot “Stop and Frisk” were inherently racist and have led to the feeling of distrust in the minority communities of the city. It has led to the abuse and deaths of mostly young men of color and, now, two good men, NYC police officers, have been assassinated by a deranged man seeking vengeance. The union heads, especially NYC Police Benevolence Association President Patrick Lynch, decided to make the death of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui a political football for their hurt feelings.

What is Lynch so fired up about? He is vilifying Mayor De Blasio because the mayor, as the parent of mixed race children, spoke the truth about what every parent of a child of color must tell them about the police:

“This is profoundly personal to me,” de Blasio said. “I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, ‘I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens.’ And I said to him, I did.”

De Blasio went on to note that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, “have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face.”

The mayor described his son as “a good young man, [a] law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong” — but he noted that “because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [..]

he mayor described “that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there’s a history we have to overcome.”

“For so many of our young people, there’s a fear,” de Blasio said. “And for so many of our families, there’s a fear.”

It has been bad enough that since the mayor made that statement that Mr. Lynch went tirade in an attempt to make the police the victims and not the innocent people they have abused and killed. He and other members of the NYPD have only exposed their racism.

Besides the incredibly insulting act of turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he was leaving Woodhull Hospital after the deaths of the two officers, what got me really angry with these bigots were two incidents that showed just how completely ignorant some of the police really are. The first was this stupid and, very likely expensive stunt by an anonymous “group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, and Supervisors”

Friday morning, a small plane flew over New York City with a banner attached that read: “De Blasio, Our Backs Have Turned to You.” The sign, a reference to some NYPD officers protesting against Mayor de Blasio following the shooting deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last weekend, was the work of a “large and unified group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, & Supervisors,” according to blogger and former cop John Cardillo. [..]

Ashley Chalmers, the owner of the plane, told the New York Daily News that the people who rented it “wish to remain anonymous,” though Cardillo said he was contacted by the NYPD group on Friday and asked to release a statement.

Stay classy, guys, exposing, not only your bigotry, but the need to learn to write a sentence.

Then while attending the funeral of Police Officer Rafael Ramos, some of the police officers decided it was the place to throw a temper tantrum insulting the memory of a fallen officer and his grieving family:

Thousands of police officers from across the nation packed a church and spilled onto streets Saturday to honor Officer Rafael Ramos as a devoted family man, aspiring chaplain and hero, though an air of unrest surrounding his ambush shooting was not completely pushed aside.

While mourners inside the church applauded politely as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers outside turned their backs on him to protest what they see as his support for demonstrators angry over killings by police.

The rush of officers far and wide to New York for Ramos’ funeral reminded some of the bond after the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy. Vice President Joe Biden promised that the “incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide.”

Still, tensions were evident when officers turned away from giant screens showing de Blasio, who has been harshly criticized by New York Police Department union officials as a contributor to a climate of mistrust that preceded the killings of Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu.

All this poutrage by Mr. Lynch, former Mayor Guiliani and company directed at Mayor de Blasio is because he spoke to the terrible fact that police departments throughout this country treat people of color differently and minority children, especially the boys, must be given “the talk.

“If you are stopped by a cop, do what he says, even if he’s harassing you, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Let him arrest you, memorize his badge number, and call me as soon as you get to the precinct. Keep your hands where he can see them. Do not reach for your wallet. Do not grab your phone. Do not raise your voice. Do not talk back. Do you understand me?”

The mayor gave the talk to his biracial teenage son so this wouldn’t happen to him.

And as John Cole at Balloon Juice noted

And let’s remember what is so particularly ugly about this- this is motivated as much by the desire to not reform and to maintain the current institutional racism as it is the current contract talks and union elections. Fuck Patrick Lynch and his goons.

If some members of the NYPD don’t like the reforms that Mayor de Blasio was elected to enact, they can go find other jobs. There are plenty of qualified people, who are working two and three underpaying jobs,  to replace them. Either that or learn to listen.

Dec 08 2014

The United Police States of America

If you don’t think you aren’t living in one, you aren’t paying attention.

Shot in the chest by Cleveland police – then handcuffed and fined $100

John Swaine, The Guardian

Last year, Gregory Love was shot by a police officer through the window of his Range Rover. The only person prosecuted was Love himself – but now he’s suing a Cleveland force ordered by the government to change its ways

When a man pointing a Glock pistol approached Gregory Love’s car in downtown Cleveland late one night, Love did the only sensible thing possible, he says: he put up his hands and decided to let the man have what he wanted.

But Vincent Montague shot him in the chest anyway, according to Love, before having the 29-year-old forcibly removed from his silver Range Rover and his hands fastened together behind his back.

Blood from the bullet wound seeped through Love’s white T-shirt. He grew colder, despite the warm June air. “I actually thought I was going to die,” Love told the Guardian. “I felt faint. I saw blood coming from my chest. I thought he was just going to kill me right there.”

Eighteen months later, Love recalls his alleged assailant clearly: he was wearing the uniform of the Cleveland Division of Police. The only person prosecuted following the altercation was Love, who was fined $100 for a traffic violation. Montague was suspended from work for a day.

‘Chaotic and dangerous’ Cleveland police shamed in withering government report

Paul Lewis, The Guardian

Cleveland force accused of using excessive and unreasonable force in hundreds of cases as DoJ appoint independent monitor to oversee reforms

The Cleveland police department under fire over the recent fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy has engaged in “excessive and unreasonable force” in hundreds of other cases, according to a withering report by the Justice Department that lists examples of officers firing at people who pose no threat and striking them on the head with their weapons.

The cases documented in the report include that of a semi-naked hostage victim who was twice fired at by a police sergeant as he tried to escape his captors, and a 13-year-old who was repeatedly punched in the face while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

Another incident involved a man shot with a Taser while he was was strapped to an ambulance gurney after suffering from seizures. [..]

The report reviewed almost 600 incidents of use of force by Cleveland division of police over three years up to 2013. It detailed incidents of Cleveland police “firing their guns at people who do not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury” and “hitting people on the head with their guns in circumstances where deadly force is not justified”.

The Justice Department said there were several incidents in which Cleveland police fired at suspects fleeing on foot or in vehicles when they who posed no danger to the officers or anyone else.

No Charges For Cop Who Broke Face Of Handcuffed Woman In Patrol Car

Ahiza Garcia, TPM Livewire

A local prosecutor announced on Friday he would not seek criminal charges against a Seattle police officer who was shown on video throwing a bone-breaking punch at a woman who was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg (pictured above), whose office handles felony cases in the area, said he would not seek a felony charge against officer Adley Shepherd, 38, according to the Seattle Times newspaper. [..]

Despite the prosecutor’s decision on Friday, the case is set to be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department for any possible civil rights violations, according to the Times.

St. Louis Police Pursue Assault Charge Against Youngest Member Of Ferguson Commission

Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department this week convinced the local prosecutor’s office to charge a prominent young Ferguson protester with misdemeanor assault because he allegedly made fleeting physical contact with a law enforcement official blocking access to St. Louis City Hall during a demonstration last month.

Rasheen Aldridge, a 20-year-old community activist, has been protesting in and around the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on a regular basis ever since then-police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Last month, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) named him to the Ferguson Commission, a task force intended to address problems in the St. Louis region that were highlighted in the wake of Brown’s death. On Dec. 1, Aldridge was at the White House to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the relationship between law enforcement and local communities. (He later said he left the meeting “disappointed” with Obama, whom he used to consider his “idol.”) [..]

One video of the alleged misdemeanor assault appears to show Aldridge, in a gray cap, attempting to gain access to St. Louis City Hall along with a number of other demonstrators on Nov. 26, less than 48 hours after the grand jury decision was announced. At the time, the public building was on lockdown because authorities thought someone in the crowd may have had spray paint.

Aldridge — who is just 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds, according to court documents — seems to be trying to open a City Hall door as a much larger city marshal stands guard. The marshal then appears to shove Aldridge, and the protester’s hand touches and perhaps pushes the official.

Soon after the incident, police in riot gear wielding pepper spray would break up the demonstration around City Hall, claiming that the entire daytime assembly was unlawful because a few demonstrators “made contact” with law enforcement.

And if you think the the special task force created by President Barack Obama is anything but another farce, take a look at the history of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey who Obama has selected to co-chair the committee

Obama Appoints Notoriously Corrupt Police Commissioner To Improve Cops’ Credibility

By Carey Wedler, AntiMedia

The task force has 90 days to prepare a report and recommendations for the “21st century” problems of policing. But if Obama’s appointment to the task force cannot curb corruption and excessive violence within his own department, it is unlikely he will inspire change at the national level.

This week, President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to deal with police brutality and militarization (which he helped to enable over the course of his presidency). He has ordered $263 million for 50,000 body cameras and called for restrictions and oversight on military equipment.

Though on its face the plan has good intentions, it has already been criticized by activists and the media.

One of the most disingenuous elements of Obama’s master plan is his appointment of Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey, to chair the “Task Force on 21st Cenutry Policing.” Ramsey is co-chairing the task force with Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general and professor at George Mason University. The force is allegedly responsible for restoring trust and good relations between police officers and communities. [//]

While body cameras and restrictions on military equipment are easy to spin as positive (though the practice of militarization will not be stopped, only “curbed”), it is not as easy to fake credibility for Ramsey. The officer, who is also the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, runs one of the most corrupt police departments in the nation.

He was once the police chief of Washington, D.C. and has presided over Philadelphia’s department since 2008. Ramsey worked for the Chicago police department for thirty years and is currently a member of the “United States Homeland Security Advisory Council.”

On his watch, a federal investigation into corruption was launched over conspiracy, robbery, extortion, kidnapping and drug dealing. The Philadelphia police were caught ignoring thousands of rape cases to keep their crime numbers low. Before marijuana was decriminalized, Philly police arrested African-Americans for marijuana at an even higher rate than the rest of the country (which is already grossly high). Even after a decriminalization bill was passed this June, Ramsey vowed to continue arrests pursuant to Pennsylvania law. Other cops stole half a million dollars of drug money from suspects.

Philadelphia police are also no strangers to harassment and murder on the job, which is what Obama allegedly seeks to diminish in appointing Ramsey. Ramsey’s cops threaten to beat teenagers. They actually beat all kinds of people – over and over and over. They also indulge in shootings, which occur all too often and shirk accountability.

Most telling, during the initial waves of protest in Ferguson this summer, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar sought frequent advice from Ramsey on how to handle the situation.

Could Obama have found anyone worse?  

Dec 03 2014

Abusive Cop Co-Chairs Obama’s Reform Commission

By appointing a police chief with a history of overseeing an abusive police force, President Barack Obama has crested another farce of a commission much like his Cat Food Commission that was chaired by a corporate shill and a right wing curmudgeon.

Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, one of two co-chairs apppointed by President Obama to head a commission on ways to demilitarize local police, is known for leading repeated bloody and abusive crackdowns on protesters when he was Washington, D.C.’s chief a decade ago, according to a civil rights attorney who won millions in damages for 100s of citizens attacked by D.C. police.  

“If the president’s idea of reforming policing practices includes mass false arrests, brutality, and the eviscerating of civil rights, then Ramsey’s his man. That’s Charles Ramsey’s legacy in D.C.,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), speaking of the ex-D.C. chief and current Philadelphia Police Commissioner. “Obama should immediately rescind his appointment of Commissioner Ramsey, who is a mass violator of civil rights and civil liberties.”  [..]

More than a decade ago, when Ramsey was the D.C. police chief, he lead numerous crackdowns and mass arrests of protesters-starting in 2000. His most high-profile assault was in September 2002 at Pershing Park, where demonstrators protested World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. The police locked down the park and arrested everyone there-400 people-including journalists, legal observers and bystanders.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund sued and won millions for protesters. The April 2000 protest settlements totalled $13.7 million and Pershing Park/2002 settlement was $8.25 million. Verheyden-Hilliard said the settlements highlight a larger and especially bloody pattern of police crackdowns on protesters ordered by Ramsey. She listed the following six events in an e-mail that “are demonstrative of his leadership and the force under his command.” The first example is an earlier three-day World Bank/IMF protest from spring 2000 in downtown Washington.

If this is Obama’s idea finding credible and transparent solutions to the militarization of civilian police forces, his thinking is warped, sick joke and a slap in the face to the Americans who expect the police to serve and protect not violate their civil rights.