Posts tagged CopWatch

The Police Beat: Las Vegas Metro Edition

From Rikki Cheese and Spencer Lubitz at ABC 13 Action News:

Civil rights advocates want those treated unfairly by police to speak out

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) — A group of civil rights advocates want to hear from people who feel they’ve been mistreated by Metro police.

People have been shot, beaten and tasered by Metro officers across the department’s jurisdiction. Civil rights groups hope airing those stories in public forums could help change police behavior.

Mitchell Crooks was beaten by a cop for videotaping a burglary investigation across the street from his home near Desert Inn and Maryland Parkway. Erik Scott was shot and killed at a Costco in Summerlin. Both Caucasian men. Civil rights advocates say they’re not Metro’s usual suspects in officer-involved shootings, or accusations of excessive use of force.

I can’t say whether there’s a conscious racial bias, but certainly the evidence reveals a disproportionate impact on minority populations, and that’s just brought out by the data, Staci Pratt with the ACLU said.

Pratt says 2010 census data shows the largest proportion of officer-involved shooting occur in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in Clark County.

Advocacy groups also want to hear from people who feel they’ve been mistreated by law enforcement in all ways, and who feel their complaints have not been heard.

Pratt applauds Metro’s recent changes in their use of force policy and for accepting recommendations from the ACLU and NAACP but says officers need to be more sensitive to the people they police.

That may not be a conscious thing on Metro’s part, Pratt said. But it certainly is an issue that needs to be raised and addressed.

It is good that they are doing this. Legal reforms and use of force policies don’t do a damn thing, but here and elsewhere they may be reflections of, and concessions to, something much more poewrful. The only thing that is ever going to restrain police abuse is a culture of popular resistance, public exposure and social accountability for abusive cops, and hard driving community activism.

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“Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

From a recent submission to Reason’s Brickbats column:

Mark Chase got a federal court order allowing him to paint on Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk without a license. That didn’t impress Baltimore police, who arrested him for painting at the Inner Harbor without a permit. When Chase complained that the permit requirements violated his constitutional rights, and officer told him “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law.”

And of course the officer was right. So: to hell with the law. And to hell with paper constitutions that can do nothing effective to restrain it.

You can quote your constitutional rights all the way to the station-house, but it won’t stop you from getting good and due-processed whenever a cop feels that you’re on the wrong side of The Law. Which, of course, means nothing more or less than on the wrong side of Law Enforcement. Paper constitutions don’t do anything to hold back police abuse; only a culture of popular resistance, social accountability for abusive cops, and hard-driving community activism do that.

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner (1870). No Treason No. 6. The Constitution of No Authority

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Shameless Self-promotion Sunday

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day! (And happy birthday to my sister, Ms. L.E.J.!)

What better day than February 14th for Shamelessness? This week has been a week for catching up on old commitments and making new connections. You probably know by now about my letter to the Secretary of State of South Carolina; you may not know that I was briefly interviewed about the letter by Ernie Hancock on Declare Your Independence. Anyway, to turn back to local affairs, a crew of us from Food Not Bombs Las Vegas rolled out on Tuesday to help feed 200 FWs on the picket line at NV Energy corporate headquarters. I made it out for a somewhat productive FNB business meeting Saturday, and I’m heading out to Baker Park this morning for our weekly free picnic. On Thursday at Anarchist Cafe and then yesterday, we made our first steps towards organizing a local CopWatch network in Las Vegas. We’re beginning weekly meetings this Saturday; if you’re curious, contact me or follow us on Twitter for updates as they come out. Meanwhile, I’m still in the midst of preparations for the trip out to the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair.

Et tu? What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Don’t forget.

  • The world is awesome.

  • People are awesome. You don’t need plans, or politics, or power. Put them up against people, and people will win every time. People came up with that video. Also, other people came up with this.

  • Technological civilization is awesome. (In case you’re wondering, it’s awesome because it’s made of people.)

  • Books are awesome. Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times (2009-05-29): Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader

  • To-day is awesome. It’s an anniversary. My love and I were married three years ago today. If the normal online rounds are held up for a while, well, that’s why.

Solidarity.

  • In memory of George Tiller. feministe (2009-05-31): In honor of Dr. Tiller (if you would like to donate in memory and in honor of Dr. Tiller’s work). Among others, the National Network of Abortion Funds has established a George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.

  • IQSN, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-27): Solidarity with Queer Bulgaria on 27 June 2009. A day of international actions in solidarity with the LGBTQ Pride march in Sofia, Bulgaria. Last year’s march was attacked by neo-Nazi groups who decided to Keep Our Children Safe with a campaign of roving basher gangs and by slinging molotov cocktails and small explosives at the marchers. International Queer Solidarity Network calls for a European mobilization, with support from the United States, that will stand in solidarity with Queer Bulgaria for this year’s march.

News.

Comment.

Historicize.

Communications.

Law and Orders #7: Portland cops Erin Smith and Ron Hoesly find it “would be necessary” to pull Phil Sano down off his bike, beat him up, and taser him repeatedly, for biking without a headlight

(Story thanks to a private correspondent.)

Government cops are here to protect you by shouting orders at passing strangers on bicycles, For Their Own Good, and then, if the biker should fail to immediately obey arbitrary commands to stop, bellowed by complete strangers on the street at 9:30 pm, who don’t make any effort to identify or explain themselves, and who are dressed all in black so that you can hardly even see who the hell is hollering at you, they’ll make sure you’re biking safely by tackling you, slamming you against a nearby wall, wrestling you to the ground, and then, when you say No and ask to know what you did wrong, declaring that you’re combative and torturing you with repeated high-voltage electric shocks, before they finally, in a remarkable act of circular practical reasoning, arrest you for resisting arrest.

But first, let’s review.

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. They routinely shove their way into situations where they aren’t wanted, weren’t invited, and have no business being. They deliberately escalate confrontations in order to stay in control through superior belligerence. They commonly use force to end an argument and then blame it on their victim. They rewrite events using pliable terms like aggressive, combative, and belligerent to conflate unkind words, purely verbal confrontations, or weak attempts to escape a grip or ward off blow with actual threats or violence against the cops, to excuse the use of extreme violence as retaliation for mouthing off or not just laying down and taking it like an upstanding citizen. They invariably pass off even the most egregious abuses of power as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal.

Cops carry a small armory of weapons and restraints that they can freely use to hurt or immobilize harmless or helpless people, and have memorized a small library of incredibly vague laws (disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer) that they can use as excuses for hurting, restraining, and arresting their victims, with virtually no danger of ever being called to account for their actions as long as other cops, who already have a professional interest in minimizing or dismissing complaints about abusive pigs, can figure out some way to fit the use of these incredibly vague offenses into the police department’s incredibly vague Official Procedures for arrests and for the use of force.

The practical consequence of their training and the institutional culture of impunity within which they operate are squads of arrogant, unaccountable, irresponsible hired thugs with massive senses of entitlement, organized into a paramilitary chain of command, who contemptuously dismiss their neighbors as mere civilians, who treat anyone who dares to give them lip or who questions their bellowed commands as a presumptive criminal, who have no scruple against using an arrest or torturous physical pain to force you to comply with their arbitrary orders, and who excuse any sort of abuse by sanctimoniously informing you that it became necessary to stomp on you in order to protect you — whether or not you ever asked for the protection in the first place.

One increasingly popular means for out-of-control cops to force you to follow their bellowed orders is by using high-voltage electric shocks in order to inflict pain. Tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to the life and limb of the cops or of innocent third parties, without killing anybody in the process. But in practice, police culture being what it is, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their instructions, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. Among civilized people, deliberately inflicting severe pain in order to extort compliance from your victim is called torture; among cops it is called pain compliance and is considered business as usual. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as high-voltage human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity.

Thus, in the latest news from Occupied Cascadia, here’s how Portland cops Erin Smith and Ron Hoesly made sure that Phil Sano, who was suspected of the terrible crime of biking without a headlight, would get home safely:

The incident occurred around 9:30pm on SE 7th Street, just north of SE Morrison Ave. Phil Sano says he was riding along and felt cold, so he went to zip up his jacket. Then, in an email he sent me just hours after the incident, he wrote,

Across the street a man in all black shouted at me and started walking my way. I stopped pedaling, but didn’t stop because my hands were not on my brakes. He then sprinted, lunged and tackled me. I then scuffled to separate him and stood apart from him in a defensive position.

Then, Sano says, he was tasered several times.

I felt a sharp sting in my back and heard a repetitive clicking. I turned around to see that I was being tasered!

At that point, Sano maintains he still did not know what was going on and he repeatedly asked the officers to explain what he had done wrong. At that point, Sano says two officers were holding him down and he could still feel the taser charge flowing into his back.

I was still freaked out and yelled again, why are you shooting me?

Sano says the cops yelled for him to get down, but that he still had no idea who was accosting him. He wrote, It was pretty dark and they were wearing all black without any sort of shiny badge…. They looked kinda’ like cops, but generally cops do not tackle bikers unless it is Critical Mass.

According to Sano, he was tasered point blank in the chest and the lower back and that he began to spasm out of control as the surge of electricity involuntarily constricted his muscles.

…the cop took two steps after him, grabbed him by the shirt, yanked him off the bike, ran hum up the sidewalk and slammed him against the wall and then right away started tasing him.

—Diana Spartis (she witnessed the entire incident)

After pleading repeatedly for them to stop, Sano says they continued and that, without question, I could tell they enjoyed seeing me become so helpless, so weak. It was humiliating.

Once the tasering stopped, Sano said he laid in a small puddle of his own urine, breathing irregularly and seething with rage.

I can still feel their knee on my neck as I write this, but even then I knew they were in the wrong… really, really fucking wrong. He added, There was no cause for such violence; I was not harming anyone and I made sure that everyone within earshot knew it.

Sano says that all the while, a barb from the taser remained lodged in his chest. Luckily, he remembers, a passing ambulance heard him screaming, stopped on the scene, and removed the electrode from his chest. Sano says that the EMT, was very concerned that his speeding heart rate would not slow down.

Once everything calmed down, Sano says the cops told him that he was stopped because he didn’t have a front light.

— Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org (2008-06-11): Man on a bike is tackled, then tasered by Portland Police

According to Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org (2008-06-11), the Gangsters in Blue arrested Sano and laid five charges on him, one of which was a civil citation for not having the headlight, and all the rest of which were charges for crimes that consisted in nothing other than failing to let himself be arrested for something that he couldn’t have been rightfully arrested for to begin with. They later decided that they’d rather not discuss the detention-beating-torture-arrest in open court.

Hoesly and Smith initially charged Sano with Resisting Arrest, Attempted Escape III, and Disorderly Conduct. He was also cited for not having a front light (ORS 815.280) and Failure to Obey a Police Officer (ORS 811.535).

(UPDATED) At his arraignment at the Justice Center in downtown Portland a few hours ago, Sano says the clerk told him he had been given a no-charge. According to a source who is a lawyer that means (for whatever reason) the case is not going forward, but the charges can brought back to life at a later date. My source says this could be an indication that either the police or the DA’s office didn’t think they could prove, or didn’t want to try to prove, the charges.

— Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org (2008-06-11): Man on a bike is tackled, then tasered by Portland Police

Here is what spokespig Brian Schmautz, Public Information Officer for the Portland Police Bureau, had to say by way of after-the-fact justification for this vicious gang beat-down:

The officer, then reached out to stop Sano [sic!] and they began to struggle. Sano refused to comply with any of the officers orders and continued to resist until additional officers arrived. The officers attempted to Taser Sano, but it was ineffective because of Sano’s clothing.

Sano was eventually arrested and taken to jail. Sano apparently admitted he had been drinking, but was not given field sobriety tests because the officers were not arresting him for DUI. FYI, the officers checked Sano’s history and learned that the Police Bureau had given Sano a warning for a bike light and a free bike light in the past.

— Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz, quoted in Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org (2008-06-11): Man on a bike is tackled, then tasered by Portland Police

Since not one clause in them is even remotely pertinent to the cops’ charges against Sano or to anything that happened, or anything the cops would have known, the night of the beating, I have no idea what the last two statements have to do with anything, except for a clumsy attempt to smear the victim as a drunk, an ingrate and a scofflaw.

Meanwhile, here is how Sergeant Erin Smith justified the gang beating / torture to Sano, at the time:

Sano admits he didn’t have his front light on his bike, because someone had stolen the cradle it attaches to. He says the cops found his light in his fannypack a few minutes later.

According to Sano’s recollection of the incident, he heard Officer Smith say, You should have stopped when I told you to. Then none of this would be necessary.

— Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org (2008-06-11): Man on a bike is tackled, then tasered by Portland Police

Please note that Portland police Sergeant Erin Smith believes that it’s necessary to have a gang of cops beat the hell out of you and torture you on the side of the road if that’s what it takes to make you immediately follow their shouted orders about bike safety. Your ideas about what’s necessary may be different from hers. If you’d like to let Police Chief Rosanne Sizer know about your difference of opinion, you can contact her by e-mail at chiefsizer@portlandpolice.org, or by phone at 503-823-0000, or by fax at 503-823-0342.

If you are in the Portland area, Phil Sano’s attorney, Stu Sugarman, is looking for contact information for people who witnessed the beating. It went down Tuesday night, around 9:30 pm, in Southeast Portland near SE 7th and Morrison. If you saw it yourself, or know anyone who did, you can contact Stu Sugarman by e-mail at quixote516@yahoo.com, by phone at 503-228-6655, or at 838 SW 1st Ave., Ste. 500, Portland, OR 97204.

Remember that you cannot count on the cops to do a damn thing about this unless and until they are forced to by you and your friends and neighbors. The State will never police itself; the government will never make a serious effort to protect you from your supposed protectors.

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