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Rapists in uniform #5: on invasions of privacy

Trigger warning. The video of a local news story, below, may be triggering for experiences of sexual violence.

When anarchists suggest that a civilized society can do without government or its cops, we are always asked how people in an anarchistic society would be protected from violent criminals like murderers and rapists. If we suggest that people could handle their own protection through consensual private arrangements — individual self-defense, cooperative community defense, or hiring out help, if need be — we are constantly told that we need monopolistic government control in order to ensure that professional police go about their policing in a way that’s transparent and accountable to the people.

In northern Ohio, a woman named Hope Steffey is suing the Stark County sheriff’s office and several of the deputies and prison guards working for them. Here’s why.

So, a gang of uniformed women and men, violently exercising the power of the State, pinned a screaming woman down on the floor of a jail cell and tore off her clothes to search her, over her screams of protest, while male guards were not only still in the cell, but in fact wrenching her arms behind her back, and then left her naked in the freezing-cold cell for six hours, in full view, without even a blanket to cover her body or keep herself warm. This was, of course, justified by means of unilaterally declaring Hope Steffey crazy, so that they could officially record that they had to inflict that kind of extreme violence and sexual humiliation on an imprisoned woman, over a period of hours — for her own good. Afterwards, when a local news station interviewed Hope Steffey, and aired video of what the cops and prison guards did, they ended up facing a series of unkind words about their character and professionalism. And here is how the dedicated public servants of the Stark County sheriff’s office have transparently and accountably responded the strains resulting from public exposure of their treatment of Hope Steffey:

CANTON — Stark County sheriff's deputies who were vilified after a Cleveland television station aired video of them stripping a woman at the Stark County Jail have filed a lawsuit saying they are victims of one-sided reporting.

Last year, WKYC Channel 3 began airing reports on a lawsuit filed by a Salem woman who says she was strip-searched at the jail in October 2006. The reports included video of sheriff's deputies and corrections officers pinning Hope Steffey to the floor of a jail cell and removing her clothes.

This week, those deputies — Kristin Fenstemaker, Laura Rodgers, Tony Gayles, Richard T. Gurlea Jr., Andrea Mays and Brian Michaels — sued reporter Tom Meyer, WKYC and its parent company, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $25,000 and is assigned to Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr.

— CantonRep.com (2009-01-30): Deputies sue TV station over reports about woman stripped naked

The lawsuit may seem obviously retributive; it may indeed seem like a thuggish attempt to silence criticism by shooting the messenger. But the strip-searchers would like the press, and a judge, to consider how hard it’s been on them, having their privacy invaded like that.

When you write about politics — and the politics of policing, especially — the problem is that, if you try to write anything more articulate than just expressing how much the whole thing makes you want to spit nails, you’ll soon find that the usual tools of satire, or even simple sarcasm, end up useless: the facts themselves, just as they are, constantly outstrip any sort of ridicule, no matter how over-the-top, that you could possibly craft.

See also:

In Their Own Words: “Just following orders” edition

Trigger warning. The following video of a local news story may be triggering for experiences of sexual assault.

Stark County Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson:

Will a local television channel try to defame the Stark County Sheriff's Office over yet another story? Swanson said in a prepared statement Monday. Will the truth be told to the citizens or is there just a sensationalist aspect trying to be conveyed while creating another story?

With the media, there has been a lot of misinformation, Swanson said. We follow all guidelines by the Bureau of Adult Detention to avoid such actions and we following them to the tee.

… Swanson contends that his deputies followed procedures when handling Steffey.

Each individual knows how difficult it was getting into the profession and the difficulty meeting the requirements set forth day to day in their chosen careers, the release said. They constantly meet the required training, refresh themselves on changing laws, complete any and all mandated requirements placed on them by either the Federal, State or their own agency.

Swanson said there may have been 20 or 30 incidents like Steffey's in the last 16 months, with people in jail who appear to be unstable.

In those situations, they are people who are not taking care of themselves and in those instances we have to take action, he said.

(For those that watched) the video, (the deputies) acted in accordance to our policies and procedures, he said, and I'm sorry that they have to go through such (a hassle) with the media and be ridiculed for something that they did exactly the way that they are supposed to do it.

— Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson, quoted by Michael Freeze, for the Massillon, Ohio Independent (2008-03-07): Sheriff's department denies wrongdoing in strip-search case

Further reading:

Rapists in uniform #2: four more women come forward

(Via Google News.)

Four more women in northern Ohio have come forward about unnecessary and sexually humiliating strip searches by the Stark County sheriff’s office.

As I mentioned about a month ago, Hope Steffey is suing the sheriff and a gang of male and female cops and prison guards, because a year and a half ago, after she was assaulted and knocked unconscious by her cousin in a domestic dispute, her family called 911 for help, and the cop who arrived decided that the assault victim was giving him too much lip while he tried to Investigate, so he beat her up, arrested her on a bogus disorderly conduct charge, and sent her down to jail where, once handcuffed and locked in a cage, she was held down by a gang of seven cops, including at least two men, and strip searched, over her screams of protest, while the male guards wrenched her (still handcuffed) arms behind her back. After that she was left naked in her jail cell for six hours. Sheriff Tim Swanson maintains that his hired thugs are allowed to use reasonable force to make an arrest and protect prisoners in their custody, where reasonable force is cop speak for grabbing an assault victim who you were supposedly dispatched to help (the cop was there because Steffey had been knocked unconscious by her cousin during a domestic dispute) and then slamming her face-down on the hood of your car, then cuffing her, sending her to jail, gang-rape-searching her with two male officers in the cell, and then leaving her naked in her cell for six hours. The excuse for that last part is that they had to protect her by raping her because she was crazy, by which they mean that she was visibly upset, and if you can be labeled crazy then that means that cops and prison guards can do any damn thing at all to you, no matter how violent, no matter how painful, and no matter how sexually humiliating, in order to protect the hell out of you, whether you want that protection or not.

The strip search was caught on tape and it hit the news. Because of the local and national attention to the case in the news media, four more women in northern Ohio have decided to come forward about similar experiences at the hands of Sheriff Tim Swanson’s rape gang / prison suicide watch. One of them is Valentina Dyshko, who was handcuffed and locked in a cage after she voluntarily turned herself in on a misdemeanor warrant for a miscommunication with the state over which home-schooling text-books the government deems good enough for her own children. When they handcuffed her and threw her in jail, she got upset, and she couldn’t speak English, and by God, she’s obviously a dangerous home-schooling criminal, so she was declared crazy and forced to undergo a strip-search and to wear nothing but a flimsy prison-issued gown that kept falling off her chest. For three days.

Dyshko says video of Steffey’s treatment reminded her of what she experienced 2 years ago inside the same jail.

Dyshko came to North Canton nine years ago, she says, to escape the fear of KGB persecution in Ukraine. Her ordeal inside the Stark County Jail stemmed from a home schooling issue. She says there was some confusion over the use of certain textbooks. It was all a big mix-up, said her attorney Dennis Niermann.

Dyskho was educating 2 of her 8 children at home. She received a notice from the Stark County Sheriff about a warrant for her arrest from the Stark County Family Court. When Dyshko arrived at the Sheriff’s office, she says she was quickly handcuffed and thrown in jail on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

After this mother of 8 spent 3 days behind bars, a judge reviewed her case and quickly dismissed the case.

Lawyers for Dyhsko say she had to remove all her clothes because someone inside the jail determined she was suicidal. Dyshko says she’s never been suicidal. She complained to Channel 3 News that the gown she was given in the jail kept falling down, and at times, exposed her naked chest to male guards. She was asked to remove her clothes and her undergarments. What’s the purpose of that? It’s demeaning, said Niermann.

Since the Hope Steffey case made headlines, 4 more women, including Dyshko have come forward to report similar stories. Lawyer David Malik says we’re seeing a pattern where apparently every woman who cries or gets emotional is deemed suicidal.

— Tom Meyer, WKYC 3 News (2008-02-29/2008-03-06): Strip Search: Four more women come forward with similar stories

And remember, if you are deemed suicidal, government cops and government jailers will take it for granted that the best way for armed Trained Professionals to handle the situation is to hurt you, hold you down, strip you against your will, subject you to an invasive search, and lock you in a cage and leave you there, naked, for six hours at a stretch.

There is absolutely no conceivable excuse for treating anyone this way, ever. Whether man or woman, calm or belligerent, nice or nasty, crazy or sane. This is gang rape, professionalized and excused by Official Procedures. What is becoming clear is that Sheriff Tim Swanson and his goon squad, not only have convinced themselves that this kind of brutality is sometimes acceptable, but also that they have an especially broad understanding of the sort of situation that calls for it. They are a pack of dangerous predators, and their uniforms and badges don’t make them any better than any other gang of serial rapists.

Further reading:

Cops are here to protect you. (#2)

(This story via Hear Me Roar 2008-02-20 and a private correspondent.)

Trigger warning: The police surveillance video, news story, photos, and text comments from freelance thugs, which this story reports on, may be triggering for past experiences of violence. (Note added 2008-03-18.)

Here is something that I wrote a couple years ago about the State and its efforts to protect the hell out of us all whether we want it to or not:

The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women’s civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to the household of which he has proclaimed himself the head: by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his protection. The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamed national interest by the self-proclaimed representatives of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.

— GT 2006-05-11: Quidditative essence

I didn’t mean the analogy between government protection and domestic violence quite this literally, but, well, here we are.

This is how government cops protect you: by beating the shit out of a suspect woman after she’s already been handcuffed, turning off the camera so that they won’t be caught on tape doing it, and then claiming that the reason she ended up lying a pool of her own blood in the middle of the room, with two black eyes, a broken nose, and missing teeth, was that she tried to leave the room and fell and hurt herself in the process. He didn’t do it, and besides, even if he did, she was belligerent (which, since there’s no evidence of her trying to use physical force against the cop at any point, is cop-speak for mouthing off).

Here is a photo of the injuries to Angela Garbarino's face, including a broken nose, cuts on her cheek, two huge black eyes, and bruises around her mouth.

She fell.

Please note that the explicit reason for this violent creep handcuffing her, slamming her up against the wall, and then beating the hell out of her was that there are rules you have to follow (where there are is cop-speak for I make, and you have to means or else), which rules absolutely require that you keep her in a tiny room no matter what, by any means necessary, and don’t set aside your paperwork for even a moment so that she can call somebody to let them know where she is. No matter how easy it would be for you to do so, and no matter how quickly that would de-escalate an extremely stressful situation.

Please also note that, because Wiley Willis is a cop and his victim, Angela Garbarino, is not, so far the only consequences that this violent sociopath — who had already been named in at least two unrelated brutality complaints in the past two years — is that he was given a paid vacation for three months, and then finally lost his job after an administrative hearing. But in the view of other Shreveport cops, Willis deserves this proverbial walk around the block because After reviewing the evidence, we decided it was something that needed to be handled internally and that it was not enough to pursue criminal charges. Nowadays, thanks to the concerted struggle of our feminist foremothers to reform the police and courts’ handling of violence against women, if any man who didn’t sport a badge and a uniform had been alone in a closed room with a woman who ended up getting hurt so bad she needed to be hospitalized, with a video clearly showing him shoving her around, handcuffing her, slamming her against the wall, and then deliberately turning the tape off up until she ended up bruised and bleeding, that man would be in jail right now on charge of assault and battery. Even without such comprehensive evidence almost any court would long ago have issued a restraining order against the violent pig. I’ll bet that there are a lot of people in Shreveport who wish they could get one of those against Wiley Willis and the paramilitary force that employed him.

Meanwhile, the mainstream news media, while Very Disturbed, are still willing to call this videotaped brutality a classic case of he-said / she-said, and the Fraternal Order of Pigs and Willis’s lawyer are trying to get him put back on the force.

In the YouTube comments thread, you can find the usual sado-fascist bully brigade of police enablers, one of whom summarizes the situation as follows:

She was very cooperative when the officer was polite to her and did not yell or demand anything…Yah right! Saying the word Miss and Mam didnt do any good. She decided to get drunk and stupid, not follow directions, would jerk away,and thought she was in charge. When she got arrested she needed to shut her cock-holster! The officer cant make her take the test. All he had to do was state she refused to take the test and be done with it. She got the best of him because now she will get paid.

Another adds:

she’s a woman. act like a lady or get treated like a man. she got much better treatment than a man would even after she kept disobeying

His conclusion (and I am quoting): the b(((* was asking for it.

Back in Ohio, here’s how newspaper epistolator William McClelland, of Lake Township, responded to Bonnie Yagiela’s letter on the police’s beating and gang-rape of Hope Steffey, in which Yagiela stated that I was disgusted and appalled but not surprised. The behavior they displayed is typical of humans placed in a position of power and authority over others. McClelland replies:

I wasn’t there, nor have I ever been to Abu Ghraib; therefore, I am not qualified to offer expert analysis as to the events that occurred at either. However, I do know that making generalizations about humans placed in a position of power and authority over others is grossly unfair to the many who serve our nation.

… Maybe the handling of Ms. Steffey was not properly conducted; maybe it was. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I do know that Sheriff Swanson has requested outside assistance from the Ohio attorney general’s office in investigating the incident, and I am willing to await its findings before I make judgment.

Should the investigation prove that the deputies involved did abuse their authority, I will then consider them responsible individually. I will not hold every human being in a position of authority, or every deputy in the sheriff’s office, accountable for the actions of a few.

McClelland’s position on the particular case — which he fraudulently passes off as a critical suspension of judgment, when in fact it is nothing more than overt denialism toward obvious abuse captured on film — is objectionable enough by itself. But what’s even more foolish, and extremely dangerous in the long run, is the notion that a tightly-organized class of people, who exercise such a tremendous advantage over the rest of us in both physical force and legal power, ought to be given every benefit of the doubt when they’re accused of hurting people that they willingly chose to put under their legally-backed and heavily-armed power, and that the basic institutional structures which back up their power cannot be called into question without unfair generalization or stereotyping. When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be, it defies reason to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here. What you have is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people, or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

Further reading:

Rapists in uniform

Trigger warning. The following videos of two local news stories may be triggering for experiences of sexual assault.

(Via J.H. Huebert @ LewRockwell.com Blog 2008-02-03 and Balloon Juice 2008-02-03.)

Hope Steffey, 47, of Salem, Ohio, is suing for compensation from a gang of men and women who raped her.

In October 2006, in Salem, Ohio, Steffey, 47, was assaulted by one of her cousins in a domestic dispute and knocked unconscious. The family called 911 for help; a sheriff’s deputy named Officer Richard T. Gurlea came out to the house to do some serving and protecting. He asked Hope Steffey for ID, and she mistakenly gave him the wrong driver’s license — one of her late sister’s old licenses, which she kept in her wallet as a memento after her sister died. The cop noticed that it was the wrong license, and, after he got the right one, he refused to give Steffey back her sister’s old license. When she became distraught and pleaded with him to give back the license, Officer Richard T. Gurlea, sanctimoniously instructed her to calm down, ran a criminal check on her real license (which came back completely clean), demanded to search her car, still refused to give her back her keepsake, and finally, public servant that he is, snapped back Shut up about your dead sister. Now treating Steffey, the victim of a violent crime who had called for his help and protection, as if she were herself a criminal, he escalated the confrontation, and, when Hope Steffey dared to point at the pocket where he was holding her keepsake and to shout at him about how important it was to her, Officer Richard T. Gurlea courageously defended himself by grabbing the assault victim he had been dispatched to help, slamming her face-down on the hood of his car, and shouting are you going to stop? Then he threw her down, pinned her to the ground, and handcuffed her. Then he arrested her for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and took her to the Stark County jail. This is what happened after she was locked up in the jail:

While they were booking her, one of the guards asked her Have you thought about harming yourself? The purpose of this question is in order to give the jailers an opportunity to label you as crazy for legal purposes, which, in their minds, is reason enough to inflict on you absolutely any kind of cruelty, violence, or invasion of your privacy, and then, to crown all, to turn around and call your torture and humiliation a precaution taken For Your Own Safety. Bewildered and brutalized, Hope Steffey asked for clarification: Now or ever? In this case, apparently the jailers figured that that was close enough for government work, so what they did was get a gang of male and female guards to surround Hope Steffey and drag her to a cell, then have least two male officers pin her down and hold her arms (she was still handcuffed throughout the ordeal) while female officers stripped her naked and searched her over her screams of protest. After this sadistic sexual assault, they left her locked in her cell, totally naked, without even a blanket to cover herself. She eventually wrapped herself in toilet paper from her cell’s commode, in a desperate effort to keep herself warm and regain a little bit of privacy.

Hope Steffey has filed suit in federal court against the Gurlea, sheriff Tim Swanson, and fifteen unnamed jail guards. Here’s how the sheriff’s office has responded:

In a written response to the lawsuit, Swanson and his deputies deny wrongdoing and maintain the arresting deputy, Richard T. Gurlea Jr., and others at the jail are allowed to use reasonable force to make an arrest and protect prisoners in their custody.

The department does not deny that Steffey was stripped of her clothes and left naked in a cell for six hours.

The defense has asked a judge to dismiss the claims.

— Canton Repository (2008-02-02): Sheriff responds to strip-search video

Tim Swanson’s idea of reasonable force and protecting prisoners may be different from yours. If so, you can share your thoughts with him at his office phone number, (330) 430-3800.

There’s a lot more that I might say about this, if I were able to keep on typing. But honestly I can’t. I first learned about this case yesterday, but to write this post I watched the videos over again and I now am shaking so badly with anger and despair that I just can’t keep banging on with the usual stuff. If you want analysis, it’d be about what I said in Rapists on patrol, Law and Orders #6: Pigs at the trough, and Corrections officers; if you imagine this is Yet Another Isolated Incident, then compare it with the more or less identical treatment of Beryl Wilson, Michael Moran, and Ricardo Montalvo by the Kalamazoo City Police, or, Christ, just google around for a few minutes until you’re satisfied. But I’m not about to dignify the fucking pigs in Stark County, or their hordes of freelance sado-fascist police enablers — fouling any Internet or media outlet they can find with putrefying excuses like She gave him a fake ID! She went psycho! They did what they had to to carry out their policies! She’s just poisoning the well so she can shake them down in court! etc. — by pretending as if there were any need, or any room, for debating this. It’s obvious, and it’s caught on tape, and there is no possible excuse. Those who are willing to stand up, in the name of Law and Order and Official Procedures, for officially-sanctioned gang rape, have already done much more to reveal the absolute depravity of their position than anything I could ever say.

Further reading:

Update 2008-02-06: I made some minor revisions to one sentence for grammar and clarity.

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