You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 14.

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Shocking Truth About Law Enforcement’s Most Self-Serving Myth

December 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Jane Chong, Joseph Pomianowski, Salon

The reason it's so hard to prosecute cops who use deadly force is the same reason minorities are so often targeted.

That “split second” before police officers killed Michael BrownEric Garner and John Crawford was shaped by decades of judicial decision-making.

In the wake of these killings, we have been told, over and over again, that police officers must have the flexibility to make “split-second decisions” to protect the public and themselves. This language has become so commonplace that we would be forgiven for assuming that we have always used it to explain why law enforcement has killed scores of unarmed minorities over the years. After all, the underlying claim rings true: In the line of duty, police officers unquestionably face abrupt dangers that require rapid response.

Law enforcement agencies rely heavily and indiscriminately on this idea, that officers must act with split-second timing, to explain police conduct in an enormous range of circumstances. But as it turns out, this may have little to do with the facts on the ground and everything to do with covering their legal bases.

The split-second rationale gained traction among the lower courts in the 1960s and vaulted into the public discourse with the landmark 1989 Supreme Court decision, Graham v. Connor, which remains the bedrock of state and federal use-of-force laws. In that case, with these important words, the court justified the onerous “objective reasonableness” standard that makes it almost impossible to hold officers liable for their conduct:

“The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

For the last two and a half decades, state and federal courts have relied on that sentence in dismissing countless civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive use of force.

Graham did not mark the first time members of the Supreme Court expressly cited the split-second nature of police decision-making to justify questionable police conduct. The phrase actually made a racially charged appearance over 20 years earlier in …read more


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PHOTOS: 30,000 Take Over New York City to Demand End to Racist, Violent Policing

December 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Aaron Cantú, AlterNet

Some protesters were mocked by groups of drunken white hecklers in Santa outfits.

On Saturday, about 30,000 people poured into the streets of Manhattan to protest unaccountable, racist police violence. The march was organized by a group called Millions March. Prominent figures like the rapper Nas, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, showed up to a rally organized by grassroots activists, making it the scrappy counterpart to a glossier march happening the same day in Washington, DC, which was organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

By 2pm there were already thousands of people in Washington Square Park, including college students, families from the outer boroughs, old-school peace activists, black-clad anarchists, even busloads of students from high schools and middle schools from across the Northeast. At about 2:10, members of the Justice League, a nonprofit organization with deep connections to City Hall, made their arrival known with a banner and a loud proclamation of “No justice, no peace.” As thousands prepared to march down 5th Avenue, two members of Justice League spoke through a PA system, leading the crowd with chants of “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “Black lives matter.”

Middle school students from New Jersey.

There were so many people that even an hour after the first few waves began marching, hundreds were still in the park.

“The streets have not been given to us,” one Justice League member said. “We have taken it from them. Shut it down!”

The streets had in fact been given to marchers: The route through Manhattan was planned in advance with the city in order for people of various ability and ages to show up, according to the organizers. While people began to swarm the streets, which were barricaded on the sides, Nicholas Hayward Sr. stood stone-faced in sunglasses and a black baseball cap near the arches. On his shirt and cap were buttons with images of his young son, Nicholas Hayward Jr. 

Hayward said his son had been shot and killed by an NYPD officer in 1994 after the officer saw him playing with a toy …read more


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Scene at Botched Oklahoma Execution of Clayton Lockett Was 'Bloody Mess'

December 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Katie Fretland, The Guardian

Lockett died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered.

A doctor tried to set a new intravenous line in the groin area of Clayton Lockett during the condemned Oklahoma inmate’s botched execution, but blood squirted on to his clothing.

The prison warden described the scene as “a bloody mess”, according to a court document lawyers filed on Friday night on behalf of a group of Oklahoma death row inmates. The lawyers are asking a federal court judge to stop their executions, arguing their killings would be unconstitutionally cruel.

Oklahoma plans to execute Charles Warner on 15 January, Richard Glossip on 29 January, John Grant on 19 February and Benjamin Cole on 5 March.

Lockett died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered on 29 April, at the Oklahoma state penitentiary. He groaned, writhed, lifted his head and shoulders off the gurney and said “man”. Blinds were then drawn, blocking the killing from the view of journalists and his attorneys.

Lockett, 38, was convicted of the killing of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman in 1999. She was shot and buried alive. Lockett was also convicted of raping her friend.

The court filing on Friday revealed new information about what happened to Lockett.

The doctor ran back and forth to check Lockett, according to the document. Lockett “raised up a little bit a couple of times and the phlebotomist told him to take deep breaths, you know, kind of out loud”, a witness said.

The witness, whose name was redacted, said he held Lockett down. Lockett’s movement “was a little bit more aggressive” than when the blinds were open, the witness said.

A paramedic involved in the execution described the doctor’s efforts to introduce another IV.

“I said [redacted] you’ve hit the artery,” the paramedic said. “Well, it’ll be alright [sic]. We’ll go ahead and get the drugs. No. We can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way and then I wasn’t telling him that. I mean I wasn’t trying to countermand his authority but he was a little anxious … I don’t think he realized that he hit …read more


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Why Are We Obsessed With Declaring that America Is 'Awesome'?

December 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

A Fox News host faces ridicule for refuting the torture report and saying the U.S. is “awesome.” She's not the only one making that claim.

Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is facing some well-deserved ridicule for refuting the stomach-turning Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture by declaring that “The United States is awesome. We are awesome” and claiming that the Democrats and President Barack Obama released the report because they want “to show us how we’re not awesome.”

Tantaros’s rant did have the feel of a Saturday Night Live satire, but her upbeat jingoism was only a slight exaggeration of what Americans have been hearing from much of their media and politicians for decades. At least since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, any substantive criticism of the United States has been treated as unpatriotic.

Indeed, a journalist or a politician who dares point out any fundamental flaws in the country or even its actual history can expect to have his or her patriotism challenged. That is how debate over “how we’re not awesome” is silenced.

Fox News may be the poster child of this infantile anti-intellectualism but the same sentiments can be found on the Washington Post’s neocon editorial pages or in the higher-brow New Republic. If you dare point out that America or one of its favored “allies” has done some wrong around the world, you’re an enemy “apologist.” If you regularly adopt a critical stance, you will be marginalized.

That’s why so many serious national problems have lingered or gotten worse. If we don’t kill the messenger, we denounce him or her as un-American.

For instance, the data on racial disparities in police killings and prison incarcerations have long been available, but the vast majority of whites seem oblivious to these continued injustices. To point out that the United States has still not done the necessary hard work to correct these history-based imbalances makes you seem out of step amid the happy-face belief that whatever racism there was is now gone. We have a black president, you know.

So, when white police shoot or otherwise apply excessive violence against blacks at a …read more


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Woman Tapes Police Arresting Someone and Ends Up Being Tasered and Called 'a Dumb B!†@h' on Video

December 14, 2014 in Blogs

By weinenkel, The Daily Kos

Police allegedly tried to delete the video but the woman's phone had stored it in a cloud service.



As places like Illinois try to make it illegal to tape record police officers doing their “work”, video of police “working” has emerged. Kianga Mwamba says she was heading home from family gathering when she stopped her car to film Baltimore police allegedly beating up a man they had in custody.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

Mwamba, 36, flicked on the video recorder on her cell phone, telling officers she was allowed to record. But the situation quickly devolved into Mwamba's being hauled from her Toyota, tasered and charged with assaulting two police officers.

The police said Mwamba tried to run over officers with her car. Mwamba showed them the video.

Also according to the Baltimore Sun:

And when Mwamba was bailed out of jail that Monday morning, she said the video she made appeared to have been deleted from her phone. It was only when she checked another app that backed up her images and videos to the cloud that she found she still had a copy, she said.

Prosecutors dropped all the charges against Mwamba in September, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to move forward, and last week she filed a $7 million lawsuit against a number of officers she says were involved in her arrest and what she says was an attempt by police to destroy the footage.

The police department, having now “officially” seen the video had this to say:

The video does not capture enough information to draw definitive conclusions about what transpired before, during, and after the arrest,” the department said. “What is clear is that the language used is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Also, Kianga Mwamba's dad? He's a veteran of the Maryland Capitol police.


…read more