We need government cops because private protection forces would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people.
A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. Grand juries nearly always decide to indict.
Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.
Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury toindict a ham sandwich.The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.
Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable. Unlike in federal court, most states, including Missouri, allow prosecutors to bring charges via a preliminary hearing in front of a judge instead of through a grand jury indictment. That means many routine cases never go before a grand jury. Still, legal experts agree that, at any level, it is extremely rare for prosecutors to fail to win an indictment.
If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries.It just doesn’t happen.
Cases involving police shootings, however, appear to be an exception. As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaper accounts suggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found thatpolice have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootingsin Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. . . .
–Ben Casselman, It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
FiveThirtyEight (November 24, 2014).
I’m not invested in indicting Darren Wilson though I understand its (symbolic) import to many people, most especially Mike Brown’s family and friends. Vincent Warren of the Center on Constitutional Rights speaks for many, I think, when he writes:
Without accountability, there can be no rule of law. If Wilson is not indicted, or is under-indicted, the clear message is that it is open season on people of color, that St. Louis has declared that Darren Wilson is not a criminal but that the people who live under the thumbs of the Darren Wilsons of this country are. It would say to the cry that “Black lives matter” that, no, in fact, they do not.
I understand the sentiment that Warren expresses. Yet I don’t believe that an indictment of Wilson would be evidence that black lives do in fact matter to anyone other than black people. Nor do I think his indictment would mean that it was no longer open season on people of color in this country. If we are to take seriously that oppressive policing is not a problem of individual “bad apple” cops then it must follow that a singular indictment will have little to no impact on ending police violence. As I type, I can already feel the impatience and frustration of some who will read these words.
? It feels blasphemous to suggest that one is disinvested from the outcome of the grand jury deliberations. “Don’t you care about accountability for harm caused?” some will ask. “What about justice?” others will accuse. My response is always the same: I am not against indicting killer cops. I just know that indictments won’t and can’t end oppressive policing which is rooted in anti-blackness, social control and containment. Policing is derivative of a broader social justice. It’s impossible for non-oppressive policing to exist in a fundamentally oppressive and unjust society.
The pattern after police killings is all too familiar. Person X is shot & killed. Person X is usually black (or less frequently brown). Community members (sometimes) take to the streets in protest. They are (sometimes) brutally suppressed. The press calls for investigations. Advocates call for reforms suggesting that the current practices and systems are ‘broken’ and/or unjust. There is a (racist) backlash by people who “support” the police. A very few people whisper that the essential nature of policing is oppressive and is not susceptible to any reforms, thus only abolition is realistic. These people are considered heretic by most. I’ve spent years participating in one way or another in this cycle.
–Mariame Kaba, Whether Darren Wilson Is Indicted or Not, the Entire System Is Guilty
In These Times (November 17, 2014).
So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively. Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there’s never an excuse for violence .
–President Barack Obama Remarks by the President After Announcement of the Decision by the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri
November 24, 2014
Barack Obama, President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most heavily armed military force in the world, got onto the television to tell us that
there’s never an excuse for violence just as heavily-armed police throughout Ferguson began launching teargas against everyone in sight on the streets. Of course, when he said
violence he meant violence by protesters. It is eerily reminiscent of Lyndon Banes Johnson in July 1967, going on national television to announce that
We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner, — saying this at the height of the Vietnam War, and on the specific occasion of his decision to send U.S. soldiers and tanks down Woodward Avenue.
The police are irresponsible and unaccountable. That is what makes them the police. Unless we hold them accountable. The law, for its part, will never curtail the racist violence of the law. Only social accountability for police officers, not legal processes, can do that.
Abolish the police.
- GT 2008-04-25: We need government cops because private protection forces… (killing of Sean Bell)
- GT 2008-06-23: We need government cops because private protection forces… (strip search of Hope Steffey — t/w sexual assault)
- GT 2009-10-13: We need government cops because private protection forces… (filmed police beating of three men in Philadelphia)
- GT 2001-04-25: Legal lynching (cont’d)
Cops are here to help you: Tacoma, Washington police Officer Ryan Koskovich and Officer Michael Young taser, handcuff and imprison a deaf assault victim for not obeying commands that she could not hear.
In Tacoma, a few months ago, a woman called 911 seeking protection when a fight with a guest turned violent. Unfortunately, when you call 911 they send the cops, and government police are not interested in protecting you; they are interested in controlling the situation. The victim in this case is a black woman who has been deaf since birth. The cops were told ahead of time that she was deaf, but what with a situation to control, when they showed up at the apartment they tortured her with a taser, handcuffed her, and hauled her off to jail for
running at the police in an assaultive manner. She was running outside to meet the police, so that they could protect her from the person that was beating her up. Instead, a white police officer, Ryan Koskovich, screamed at her, whipped out his taser to drive her to the ground with a painful electrical shock, and then handcuffed her and arrested her, all because she didn’t stop running immediately when they bellowed commands at her that she could not hear. The police claimed, in reports that they wrote up after the fact, that they had also held a hand out. Other people in the neighborhood were watching and nobody else says they saw the cops hold a hand up. Of course, it’s possible that nobody saw it because it was 11:30 at night and dark; but then, that might be a reason for the police to think that someone might not necessarily be able to see their hands, and might not necessarily be able to hear their bellowed commands, and perhaps they ought to adopt a different strategy from maximal confrontation and
Taser first, ask questions later. But that of course is only the sort of thing that you do if you give a damn about not torturing and imprisoning innocent people.
Officer Ryan Koskovich, Tacoma, Washington
Tasered, handcuffed and imprisoned deaf assault victim Lashonn White
Photo from NY Daily News
Police use Taser on deaf crime victim
TACOMA, Wash. — KIRO TV’s investigative unit has discovered Tacoma police used force to arrest and handcuff an innocent deaf woman after she called 911 for their help.
Instead of an apology, she ended up bloody and in jail for nearly three days without an interpreter before a prosecutor declined to press charges.
After months of digging, investigative reporter Chris Halsne found significant discrepancies in the official police version of events leading up to Lashonn White’s arrest.
Late in the evening on April 6, White said she called for police assistance after a guest reportedly attacked her in her own apartment.
Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) logs show Tacoma police officer Ryan Koskovich and his partner, Michael Young, were outside White’s apartment complex in about six minutes.
It also reflects that officers received texts along the way stating,Person doing the hitting is a SophiaandVict. is Lashonn White.
In addition, it appears from internal police records obtained by KIRO Team 7 Investigators, Koskovich and his partner were repeatedly given information that the victim could not hear a thing.
To her, what happened next defies common sense — especially, for a woman with no criminal record, no arrests and just one minor driving violation on her record.
Within seconds of running outside to meet police, Officer Koskovich pulled his Taser and fired a two-barbed electric wire into White’s ribs and stomach.
All I’m doing is waving my hands in the air, and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground and then handcuffed. It was almost like I blacked out. I was so dizzy and disoriented,White said.
Witnesses said White began bleeding heavily from her knuckles and the right side of her face swelled up immediately after she hit the pavement following the Taser jolt.
Pictures acquired by Team 7 Investigators also show injuries to her cheek, chin, ribs, neck and arms.
Worse yet to White was the incredible confusion that came with suddenly being handcuffed, under arrest and without the ability to communicate with Tacoma officers, who had no sign language skills.
The next thing I know, they took me to jail. Told me to stand up, you’re going to jail. I said,said White.What? What have I done?I couldn’t figure it out. I had no idea what was going on,
Margaret Sims’s apartment is right over the spot where White fell to the ground after being tased. She said it was around 11:30 at night and dark, but she heard Lashonn screaming in pain and ran to the balcony.
I hollered down and said,She’s deaf and can’t speak!
Sims says she went down to the street and spoke with officers while Lashonn was still in handcuffs. She told us during an on-camera interview that the police officers at the scene admitted there was a misunderstanding.
They had tased her because he thought she was coming at him, but what she was doing was running to him. But he said,replied Sims.stopand he didn’t put his hand up. He just said,stopand she couldn’t understand that,
Another apartment tenant, Geraldine Warren, said she also heard the commotion and talked to police.
They just told her to halt. She kept running, she can’t hear—she’s deaf. I said,asked Warren holding up her right hand.Aren’t you supposed to say halt like that?
Tacoma police arrested Lashonn on two criminal charges, simple assault and obstruction of a public servant (law enforcement officer). Then they carted her off to jail. She spent 60 hours there – also without an interpreter- before a city prosecutor reviewed her case and asked that charges not be filed at all. White said despite her repeated requests to police for a certified ASL interpreter, one was never provided.
The Incident Is Being Investigated. But Police Officer Naveed Benjamin has already said that the actions of the officers
do not appear to be outside of policy. Probably not. And what does that tell you about the policy?
This is of course not the first time this sort of thing has happened. See for example GT 2007-12-07: Law and Orders #4: Wichita cops take control by shocking a deaf man for not following orders he couldn’t hear, GT 2007-11-11: Taser first, ask questions later, AP 2005-03-22: Autistic Teenager is Beaten by Deputies After Being Mistaken for a Prowler, GT 2008-02-05: Rapists in uniform, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.
- [In other words, a crime victim was imprisoned for nearly three days, because police could not speak her language and chose to respond to her with escalating brutality before they knew what was going on. –CJ.]↩
The latest instalment in our ongoing monthly feature. You may be surprised to find that this month I am going to pass over the new fucking war that the Peace President has been kinetically pursuing against yet another Muslim country. Too obvious. Instead, we have….
In which Obama decides he’s in favor of the unitary theory of the executive — in order to save his Czars, natch.
There is no ambiguity in that vow: none at all. He explicitly promised not to use signing statements to nullify Congressional statutes he thought were invalid. Citing his credentials as a Constitutional Law professor, Obama explained that “Congress’ job is to pass legislation,” and when that happens, a President has only two options: “the President can veto it or sign it.” In contrast to Bush — who, Obama said, “has been saying ‘I can change what Congress passed by attaching a statement saying I don’t agree with this part, I’m going to choose to interpret it this way or that way'” — Obama said he, by contrast, believes “that’s not part of [the President’s] power.” He punctuated his answer as follows: “we’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.” It just doesn’t get any clearer than that.
But on Friday, Obama did exactly that which he vowed in that answer he would never do. When signing the budget bill into law, he attached a signing statement objecting to some provisions as an encroachment on executive power but still vowing to obey them (such as restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees), but then explicitly stated that he would ignore the provision of this new law that de-funds his so-called “czars” (which are really little more than glorified presidential advisers). Declaring that the Executive has the unfettered “authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch” — i.e., asserting another critical aspect of the “unitary theory of the Executive” — Obama declared that “the executive branch will construe [the de-funding provision] not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.” In other words, we’re going to ignore that mandate because we believe it’s unconstitutional: he’s going to use funds for exactly the purpose that Congress, in a bill he signed into law, flatly prohibited.
Hey, remember back when Obama stopped the Drug Enforcement Agency from raiding medical marijuana dispenaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana?
Here’s how Obama’s DEA stopped raiding medical marijuana dispensaries that this month in Spokane:
DEA agents raided at least four dispensaries around Spokane…. On Thursday evening Charles Wright said that “THC will be open and in full operation tomorrow.” His message less than a day later was much different.
“Effective immediately, THC Pharmacy is shutting down immediately and I recommend all pharmacies in Washington State follow suit,” he said.
DEA agents raided THC Pharmacy Thursday, confiscating all the marijuana and cash. But it wasn’t the raid that scared Wright into closing. He said his it was a conversation he said his attorney had with US Attorney Michael Ormsby Friday morning.
“I am being threatened with 20 years to life and I have no further political power to do anything. If I open the doors today they will put me in prison tomorrow,” he said.
… Charles Wright said that US Attorney Michael Ormsby has said that federal raids will continue until all dispensaries are in compliance with federal law, which states it is illegal to possess or sell marijuana.
Here’s how they stopped it in Rhode Island:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – The top federal prosecutor in Rhode Island has warned Gov. Lincoln Chafee that the state’s plan to license medical marijuana dispensaries violates federal law.
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha says in a letter delivered to Chafee on Friday that federal prosecutors have the right to investigate and prosecute those who grow and distribute marijuana, even if such activities are allowed by state law.
Here’s how they stopped it in San Marcos, California:
At least one medical marijuana dispensary in San Marcos was raided by law enforcement agents Thursday, authorities confirmed, and the homes of suspected medical marijuana providers in North County were hit, as well.
Authorities raided the Club One Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary at 1232 Los Vallecitos Blvd., a business park just north of Highway 78, said San Diego County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Barnett.
“It was raided today along with several other locations throughout North County and Riverside County,” said. “Evidence was seized and money was seized.”
… Also, residences in Vista, Oceanside and Temecula were raided Thursday by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the San Diego Narcotic Task Force…. The homes hit by the raids were the residences of medical marijuana patients, said Eugene Davidovich, the director of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
Here’s how they stopped it in Metro Detroit:
Drug agents executed search warrants at two medical marijuana facilities in Oakland County on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether it signaled a new federal crackdown against the state’s fledgling industry.
The raids were part of a wide-ranging operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which dispatched agents in eight coordinated raids of homes and businesses in Detroit, Novi, Commerce Township, Walled Lake and Romulus.
… [T]he raids were focused in Oakland County, ground zero in the battle between medical marijuana clinics and law enforcement officers.
A DEA official confirmed that agents executed search warrants at Casab’s home in Commerce Township and his Caregivers of America marijuana facility on 12 Mile in Novi.
The DEA raided another Caregivers facility on Decker Road in Walled Lake. The building is owned by 1020 Decker LLC, whose registered agent is lawyer Barry A. Steinway of Bingham Farms, state records indicate.
Walled Lake issued a medical marijuana dispensary license to 1020 Decker LLC on Aug. 31, 2010, under terms of a local ordinance.
“The feds say it’s illegal, but the city issued them a license,” Abel said.
It’s been two and a half years, but I’m sure that sometime real soon now our Progressive President is going to get his Drug Enforcement Agency to halt those raids. They probably just haven’t gotten around to it yet, because they’ve been so very busy in the past couple months.
War on the World
Finally, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention one of our Progressive Peace President’s real triumphs. During the long, dark night of the Bush administration, the United States government became notorious for its use of torture, its disregard for due process, and its endless, arbitrary detentions in legal black-holes like Guantanamo Bay, all in the name of a ever-shifting, never-ending War on Terror. Obama promised that he would rectify that. Nowadays, thanks to Obama, they only promise to hold people in Guantanamo forever without a trial after they try out a few options and can’t figure out any kangaroo court where it would be politically expedient to send them. Under the Bush administration, the CIA became notorious as one of the leading practitioners of indefinite detention and interrogation by torture, in black-hole secret prisons where prisoners — many of them innocent victims of mass sweeps and round-ups — had no legal recourse at all. The Obama administration has put an end to all that. Now:
“The CIA is out of the detention and interrogation business,” said a U.S. official who is familiar with intelligence operations but was not authorized to speak publicly.
Huzzah and kudos. Now, instead of indefinitely detaining people without trial and torturing them for years, the CIA just kills them instead:
Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At the same time, it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad….
In summary executions like this one:
WASHINGTON — C.I.A. drones fired two missiles at militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas on Wednesday…. The strikes drew a sharp rebuke from a Pakistani government that is increasingly public in its criticism of the C.I.A.’s covert role in its country.
… The drone attack was widely interpreted by Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, as a deliberate effort by Washington to embarrass the country. “If the message was that business will continue as usual, it was a crude way of sending it,” a senior Pakistani intelligence official said.
… The targets of the attack were militants commanded by Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban leader from South Waziristan…. The drones struck a double-cabin pickup truck and a motorcycle as they returned from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a Pakistani military official said. Seven fighters were killed and six others were wounded in the attack just south of the village of Angor Adda on the border between the two countries.
Pakistani officials have grown more alarmed at the frequency of the drone attacks — 117 last year, more than all previous years combined — and the fact that the targets are now largely low-level fighters and junior commanders, not top operatives. Wednesday’s strikes bring this year’s number of attacks to 20….
Plus ca change, mes amis. But President Bush must be careful to cover his political bases; I hear that he is planning to run for a fourth term next year.
Here’s a view of the Southwest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., in 1949, before government planners came along to Develop it. The buildings are mostly small rowhouses, some of them dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of the people living there were poor; most of them black folks or European immigrants. There were bustling commercial districts, grocery stores, a lot of little shops, and a movie theater.
Here’s a view of the Southwest neighborhood in 1963, after it got Urban Renewed. Every square inch on this map was claimed under eminent domain; this is what the award-winning urban planners and developers did with it.
Wikipedia describes what happened in between the Before and the After as the
Here’s another photo from 1979, when the highway construction was complete and the government had finished some brutalist office and residential buildings, new office complexes for HUD and the EPA, and some government housing projects. Some of these developments were widely praised; some even won an award.
Thank goodness government is around to develop these neighborhoods for us. Just think of all the blight and unlivable neighborhoods we’d have if they just left it up to the people who live and work in a neighborhood to determine the conditions under which they want to live and work.