Posts tagged CNN

By the book

In Escambia County, Florida, a gang of unnamed sheriff’s deputies shot an unarmed, 60-year-old black man 15 times while he was standing in his own front yard trying to get a cigarette from his aged mother’s car, sending him to the hospital with a gunshot wound in his leg. The police lit him up because they barged onto his property at a quarter till three in the morning, came up behind him, drew down on him and shouted at him out of nowhere to get his hands up. When he didn’t react the right way, quickly enough, to bellowed commands of these belligerent, heavily armed strangers, they opened fire on him.

[Roy] Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home.

A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call.

Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, Get your hands where I can see them.

He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.

He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire.

It was like a firing squad, he said. Bullets were flying everywhere.

— Kevin Robinson, Deputies shoot man in his front yard
Pensacola News Journal (29 July 2013)

For shooting an unarmed man standing in his front lawn, who posed no threat to them, the unnamed police officers have been given a paid vacation from their government jobs.

Last Thursday, Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan gave an interview with CNN in which he defended the shooting and the deputies responsible for it, and that it is within standard protocols to open fire because Middleton did not comply with their commands.

According to Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan in a CNN interview Thursday, the police officers who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton in the driveway of his and his mother’s home acted entirely within their limits in response to a 911 call for a suspected car theft… . On Thursday, Morgan defended the officers’ actions as standard procedure because Middleton “did not comply.” Asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo how police could justify 15 shots at a 60-year-old man, Morgan said the officers saw a metallic object in Middleton’s hand as he made a “lunging movement” toward them. Middleton explained this in his account: He turned around because he thought the entire thing was a practical joke played by a neighbor.

“Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said.

— Rebecca Leber, Florida Sheriff: Officers Who Shot Unarmed Black Man In His Driveway Followed ‘Standard Protocols’
ThinkProgress (August 1, 2013).

Let’s suppose that all that is true, for the moment. (There is actually no reason at all to take the police at their word on this, but let’s assume for the sake of argument.) If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was something that leaves the police comfortable from a training perspective, then what does that tell you about the training? If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was strictly by the book, what does that tell you about the book?

Free Flow

From England, via CNN:

(CNN) — British Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he’s found some culprits to blame in the recent riots that have rocked London and other cities — Facebook and Twitter.

Saying the “free flow of information” can sometimes be a problem, Cameron’s government has summoned those two social-networking sites, as well as Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, for a meeting to discuss their roles during the violent outbreaks.

Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media, Cameron said Thursday during an address to Parliament. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.

Cameron said that government officials are working with authorities to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

… Cameron, a Conservative, seems to have support for a potential crackdown, even from members of the opposition Labor Party.

Free speech is central to our democracy, but so is public safety and security, said Ivan Lewis, the shadow secretary of culture in the House of Commons, according to London’s Guardian newspaper. We support the government’s decision to undertake a review of whether measures are necessary to prevent the abuse of social media by those who organize and participate in criminal activities.

— Doug Gross, CNN (2011-08-11): In wake of riots, British PM proposes social media ban

I’m sure it’s true that the free flow of information sometimes can be a problem for the project of social control that Mr. David Cameron and his organization represent.

But here’s the thing. If the free flow of information is a problem for your project or organization, the problem you have is a problem is with your project or organization — not a problem with the free flow of information.

If public safety and security is so bloody important, well, then the Metropolitan Police and the British government have obviously proven incapable of providing it. And now they have nothing to suggest but (1) scapegoating service providers and the basic facts of sociality for their manifest failure; and (2) doubling down on exactly the sort of violence, institutional opacity, and coercive control that sparked the protest and the riots to begin with. I suggest that, after all this, we need to look at whether it would be right to shut Mr. Cameron’s organization down.

The Police Beat

I recently mentioned a story that POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine ran a couple weeks ago, in which Dean Scoville was outraged by the outrage over an El Monte police kicking a prone Suspect Individual in the head after he’d already surrendered to police. (Scoville also openly praises extrajudicial punitive police beat-downs as an institutional practice, longing for a time when post pursuit ass-kickings were obligatory.)

Anyway, the week after they ran Scoville’s ill-tempered tirade in praise of police brutality, the POLICE magazine website decided to run this funny little web poll:

WEB POLL: Have you ever wanted to kick a suspect who was surrendering for endangering the public and being a total dirtbag?

a. Yes

b. No

c. To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him

Here are the final results as of Monday:

“Yes” received 45.4% of the votes. “No” reeived 22.7% of the votes. “To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him” received 31.9%.

You can see the results for yourself here. 45.4% of POLICE readers responding to the poll said that they have at some point wanted to kick suspect people after they’ve already surrendered to police. The cop editors of POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine thought they’d add a funny little joke option for their cop readers, To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him. 31.9% of POLICE readers responding to the poll went with that one.

Ho, ho, ho.

Speaking of which, in Oakland, Officer Johannes Mehserle is now on trial for murder in the execution-style shooting of Oscar Grant. Here’s some recent testimony from the trial:

(05-27) 17:00 PDT OAKLAND — A colleague of the former BART police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man early New Year’s Day testified Wednesday that the victim would still be alive if he and his friends had cooperated with police.

If they would have followed orders, this wouldn’t have happened, said Officer Marysol Domenici at a preliminary hearing in Oakland for former Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is charged with murder.

— Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle (2009-05-28): Cop: Had Grant cooperated, he would be alive

According to Officer Marysol Domenici, ordinary civilians like you and me are always under the command of the police, so that when a cop gives an order you’d damn well better follow, and if you don’t, well then, you’re resisting, and you have nobody to blame but yourself when they slam you into the wall, throw you to the ground and shoot you in the back while you’re prone and physically restrained.

Also:

Domenici said she did not see Mehserle shoot Grant because she had been facing the other direction. Immediately after the shot was fired, she said, some train riders were so angry that she started thinking about using her gun.

**I said to myself, Oh, Jesus Christ, if I have to, I’m going to have to kill somebody, Domenici said.

— Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle (2009-05-28): Cop: Had Grant cooperated, he would be alive

Note that when her buddy-cop shot a man who was prone on the ground and physically restrained by the police, her first thought was not that she might have to defend the public from this killer cop; it was that she might have to open fire on the crowd of bystanders.

In Metro Detroit, the Warren city government’s police chased down Robert Mitchell — an unarmed, 16 year old black boy, weighing in at about 110 pounds — and killed him with non-lethal force in an abandoned house of Eight Mile. This extrajudicial electrocution of an unarmed young man was carried out in the attempt to arrest him; the reason the cops were chasing him down and trying to force him to surrender himself to them is that he jumped out of the passenger side of his cousin’s car during a traffic stop for an expired license plate. For, that is, trying to leave the scene in a situation where he himself was not suspected of any crime. Boss cop William Dwyer believes that his forces had no alternative to blasting an unarmed 16 year old with a 50,000-volt electric shock in order to force him to surrender to arrest. Of course they did have an alternative; they could have let him leave, since they had no probable cause to suspect him of any particular crime. But government cops in America aren’t actually interested in dealing with crimes; they are interested in targeting suspects, and are willing to summarily declare you a suspect sort of guy based solely on your failure to follow their arbitrary bellowed commands, or your decision to try to leave the scene when they are present. They are quite willing to say that running away from cops, just as such, without any evidence of any specific crime, is considered good enough grounds for chasing you down, beating, shooting, or electrocuting you first and asking questions later, and arresting you on suspicion of resisting arrest. Presumably because the sheep are supposed to stay where they’ve been herded.

The commissioner called Mitchell’s death a tragedy, but said police who watch someone run from them can only assume he committed a crime or is wanted for a crime.

— Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein, CNN.com (2009-05-28): ‘No excuse’ for teen’s Taser death, mother says

Boss cop William Dwyer adds that, since the cops have been trained by a bunch of other cops to use 50,000-volt electric shocks to torture anyone resisting arrest until they surrender, regardless of the risks involved and even if their chosen target is unarmed and poses no physical threat to anyone present, as a form of pain compliance, well, that makes it O.K. for them to do so. Just following orders, you know:

The officers had been trained to use Tasers on people resisting arrest, so there was nothing wrong with using that Taser, Dwyer said.

— Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein, CNN.com (2009-05-28): ‘No excuse’ for teen’s Taser death, mother says

Renea Mitchell, the mother of the victim, says They are here to protect us. There’s no reason for what they’ve done…. There’s no reason, no excuse. She also calls what happened to her son a murder at the hands of police. And that’s about the size of it. Her son was not suspected of any crime; he was not even on the scene for anything more serious than an expired license plate. He tried to leave because he doesn’t feel safe around cops — and, given that cops are the ones who eventually killed him, why should he have? — and the cops took this as good enough reason to treat him as presumptively criminal, and therefore to use any level of violence necessary to stop him from leaving — whether or not they have any knowledge of his having been involved in any specific crime, or even whether or not any specific crime has been committed, and regardless of the fact that he was completely unarmed and posed no threat to absolutely anyone’s person or property. They had no reason to use force at all, let alone the potentially lethal force of a taser.

Meanwhile, back over at POLICE magazine, editor David Griffith believes that political correctness is killing a lot of Americans because cops in some major cities can’t use suspicion of immigration violation as [Probable Cause] to roust any gang member. Apparently suspicion of immigration violation means looking Latino. Griffith asks and answers a few clarifying questions: Would that be profiling? Absolutely. Would some American citizens get hassled? Surely. Would there be a lot less violent crime in our cities if we deported many gang members who are probably illegal aliens [sic]? You tell me.

In other words, in the name of controlling crime by controlling entire populations, Griffith wants for cops to have unilateral authority to roust absolutely anyone based solely on their ethnic status, without any evidence of having committed any crime whatsoever, and so to bring them under the control of the police unless and until they can prove, to the police’s own satisfaction, that they have a permission slip from the government for existing in this country. Griffith asks, rhetorically, What is our priority? Do we want to make Americans safer? But which Americans does he have in mind, and what does he hope to make them safer from? Apparently not the Americans he explicitly expects to be hassled, that is, terrorized, manhandled or, if necessary, killed in order to put them under, and to keep them under, the physical control of those cops who Griffith would like to grant unlimited discretionary authority to detain anybody that they want, for absolutely any reason or for no reason at all, based solely on their ethnic status, and without any connection to any known crime.

In the same article, Griffith mentions an Atlanta cop, Scott Kreher of the local Fraternal Order of Pigs, who is pissed off about inadequate bennies for Atlanta city cops; so he told the city council that the situation made him want to beat Mayor Shirley Franklin in the head with a baseball bat. (Griffith doesn’t have anything worse to say about this than a weak joke about how he hopes that Kreher does not command the APD’s crisis negotiation team.)

Does a police state, staffed by men who deal with stress like Sergeant Scott Kreher does, with the powers that David Griffith wants to give them, make you feel safer? Probably depends on what side of the taser, or the baseball bat, you expect to end up on.

See also:

U.S. Supreme Court grants reprieve to Troy Davis

The United States Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution to stop, at least for the time being, the State-mandated murder of Troy Davis.

The State of Georgia was planning to murder Troy Davis about an hour ago. They were planning to do so even though his conviction was based entirely on the testimony of nine eye-witnesses, seven of whom have since recanted their testimony and claimed that they were intimidated into giving false testimony by threats from the cops. Neither physical evidence nor a murder weapon was ever produced by the police. But the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons refused to give Davis a new evidentiary hearing, to investigate whether or not this man was about to be murdered based on nothing but lies, because a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of finality in the State’s criminal system. Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court refused to stay the execution because, in their view, U.S. Supreme Court properly has jurisdiction over Davis’ pending petition, and a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of due deference to another judge’s turf. Never mind that, under normal circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court would not even have been ready to hear Troy Davis’s plea for a new evidentiary hearing until after the State of Georgia killed Davis. Thankfully, after agreeing to an emergency hearing, the Supreme Court did the right thing and put a halt to the killing, at least until after Davis’s petition can be heard.

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer. Troy Anthony Davis, 39, has his execution stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.

He said he was thankful to God for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

Davis said everyone should pray for the slain officer’s family.

The 39-year-old also said that he is very grateful for everything that everyone is doing for him and that he would accept whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.

At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis’ supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when Sharpton announced the stay. Some shouted Hallelujah!

— Rusty Dornin, CNN (2008-09-23): U.S. Supreme Court stays Georgia execution

And Amen.

(Thanks to mi hermana for making my day better with this story.)

See also:

April Fools

Quick review.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, and several other senior government officials in the U.S. and U.K. told us that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. They told us that they were actively trying to find nuclear weapons. They told us that they had connections with the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and that therefore Iraq posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States. Therefore pre-emptive war was necessary, and nothing short of regime change would do.

photo: Dick Cheney

They lied. When Ambassador Joe Wilson told them that their evidence for claiming that Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire nuclear weapons was a forgery, they kept citing that completely spurious, forged evidence in public statements. When the U.S. intelligence apparatus was not giving the answers that they needed to justify their policy, they didn’t change the policy; they set up a new intelligence office to give them the answers they wanted. Questions were left unasked and intelligence was cherry-picked and sexed-up and those who offered cautious, qualified, or dissenting views were were marginalized by the
gang at the top and their political appointees at the top of the intelligence agencies
. Needless to say, the caveats and doubts were completely erased in the governments’ public declarations and policy statements. Mysteriously enough, somehow or another, the attitudes of the mad-dog bosses at the top created an environment where groupthink flourished and even though the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq (Washington Post 2005-03-31), not one word of this evidence made it past the policy gate-keepers in the President’s cabinet. In other words, they had a goal, they looked for evidence to support that goal, and when they did not find good evidence they repeated evidence that they were informed repeatedly ahead of time was questionable or completely spurious evidence, and they shamelessly bowdlerized the data to in order to hide these opportunities for doubt and hype their war.

And it turns out that what they claimed on nearly every point was false.

photo: Donald Rumsfeld

Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Iraq had no connections with al-Qaeda.

Iraq was not any threat to the United States whatsoever.

Or to put it another way: they lied through their fucking teeth and, as a result, some 10,000-100,000 Iraqi civilians were murdered, thousands more were brutalized and tortured, and over 1,500 British and American troops have died in a rudderless, pointless bloodbath.

Dead wrong indeed. You fucking assholes.

Now that the latest report on intelligence failures—even while piously avoiding unauthorized inquiries into questions concerning the political use of intelligence in driving war policy, of course—has reiterated these sorry facts yet again, it seems that our august media and government officials are finally turning to serious questions of responsibility and policy, to make sure that something like this never happens again.

For example, The New York Times’ Op-Ed page indignantly blasts the Administration for encouraging the credulous use of shaky testimony from unscrupulous interested parties.

Meanwhile, Kit Bond tells us it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault..

And the commission’s report and Bond and the rest of the blowhard brigade have got an answer. Here it is:

The commission’s report said the principal cause of the intelligence failures was the intelligence community’s inability to collect good information about Iraq’s WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions rather than good evidence.

The single most prominent recurring theme of its recommendations is stronger and more centralized management of the intelligence community, and, in general, the creation of a genuinely integrated community, instead of a loose confederation of independent agencies.

The panel urged Bush to give broad authority to John Negroponte when he is confirmed as the director of national intelligence.

— CNN 2005-04-01: Report: Iraq intelligence ‘dead wrong’

The problem, you see, is how decentralized intelligence-gathering in the United States is. We’ve got to make sure in the future that we can avoid the politically-driven manipulation of data, that we can prevent dissenting or cautious assessments from being filtered out by hard-charging bosses, that decision-makers get all the information and analysis that they need to make a balanced assessment. And the best way in the world to do this is to consolidate and centralize as much of the intelligence apparatus in the United States government as possible.

photo: George W. Bush

Because nothing ensures a wide range of opinion and the integrity of data like making sure that it’s all filtered through a single directorate before it reaches decision-makers.

A single directorate under the control of one all-powerful political appointee, who answers directly to the President.

And that one political appointee should be John Negroponte.

All of this would be really depressing. I’m just glad that it’s nothing more than one sick fucking April Fools’ joke.

Right?