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Posts tagged Las Vegas

The Police Beat

  • Last month AOL News ran an anecdotal Data-less Trend Story about city governments in small towns firing the city government police force in order to cope with budget crunches.[1] I’d like to know what the actual data here is; typically, cash-strapped city governments react by cutting everything except police and jails. If governments’ financing crises are finally leading them to reduce the number of police patrolling city streets, that’s surprisingly good news. Most of the towns mentioned are very small towns — with populations ranging from about 700 to 4,500. The outlier, Maywood, California, has about 30,000 people living in the town (with a whopping 4 murders in 2008! twice the national average!). Apparently part of the reason they fired the police department was because a lot of the city government’s $450,000 budget deficit, and its trouble securing insurance, came from lawsuits, many involving the police. Government employees and hangers-on are going nuts about all of this. After the vote in Maywood, ex-City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval told the city council You single-handedly destroyed the city, by which she means that they outsourced the city government. (You won’t find any burned-out buildings, torn-up streets, or dead bodies; the places and people in the city of Maywood, California are still right where they were, going on as happily as they were before; the only things destroyed were the government jobs of tax-eaters like City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval.) Jim Pasco, national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Pigs, said that decisions to fire local police were penny wise and pound foolish, because sheriff’s departments and state police will be spread thin patrolling larger areas, and no amount is too much to spend on city cops, because The absolute threshold responsibility of a government at any level is to ensure the safety of its citizens.

  • For example, consider local hero Officer Bryan Yant, liar and killer for the Las Vegas Metro police department, who by making up lies to obtain fraudulent search warrants and by violently breaking into citizens’ homes late at night, where he ensures the safety of Las Vegas’s citizens by kicking down doors and shooting unarmed black men with his AR-15 assault rifle, based on furtive motions and a glimmer or something shiny that nobody but Officer Bryan Yant ever saw, and which is plainly contradicted by forensic evidence related to the angle of the shot. Local government in Las Vegas has fulfilled is threshold responsibility by once again[2] ensuring the safety of Officer Bryan Yant from any legal consequences for shooting innocent, unarmed men in the head during a hyperviolent raid to investigate a completely nonviolent, victimless crime, all of it based on demonstrable falsehoods and mistaken identity — oops! my bad! All of which should free Officer Bryan Yant up for a fourth Internal Investigation, in which his government colleagues will once again either exonerate him or let him off without any criminal penalties, for lying and fabricating fictitious search and arrest warrants in at least one other drug investigation involving another hyperviolent late night home raid. The polite term in local media for Officer Bryan Yant’s work ensuring the safety of Las Vegas citizens is sloppy. A better term would be fraudulent and lethally violent. How much safer does it make you feel that this lying, killing 4-time winner is still a fully-paid member of the Las Vegas Metro police force?

  • Meanwhile, in El Reno, Oklahoma, government police officers are ensuring the safety of El Reno citizens by forcing their way into an 86-year-old bed-ridden grandmother’s home on a wellness check, and then, if she should object to 10 armed strangers busting into her house, by stepping on her oxygen hose and torturing her with electrical shocks in her own bed, until she passes out from the pain. El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown justified this use of extreme violence against an elderly woman who could not possibly have physically harmed anybody more than a couple feet away from her on the grounds that she was holding a kitchen knife, and she told officers She was in control of her life. Thus, Police were forced [sic!] to use a Taser on the woman until she could be forced into a hospital psychoprison — not because she was actually charged with any crime, of course, but so that she could be cured of her deranged and dangerous belief that she was in control of her own life.

  • Meanwhile, in New York, New York, Officer Patrick Pogan, a government police officer working for the New York city government, ensured the safety of New York citizens by body-slamming an unarmed bicyclist to the ground for trying to avoid hitting him, and then lying about it in his police reports, where he claimed that his victim was trying to ram into him, rather than swerving around him. His government colleague Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley, in turn, fulfilled his threshold obligation by ensuring that this lying violent thug would face absolutely no criminal consequences whatsoever for the crimes that he had been convicted of.

  • Also, in New York, New York, government cop Detective Louis J. Eppolito ensured the safety of New York citizens by taking a second job as an informant and hit-man for the Luchese crime family. He took a special interest in ensuring the safety of Brian Gibbs by framing him for murder — among other things, making up fictional witness statements, threatening witnesses in order to get testimony against Gibbs, withholding evidence that would have proven Gibbs’s evidence, and torturing Gibbs himself until he extracted a false confession. Brian Gibbs lost 19 years of his life locked in prison. The New York Police Department spent years fulfilling its threshold obligation to keep Detective Louis J. Eppolito safe from any consequences for his violent crimes, even though — years before he tortured and framed Brian Gibbs — they had direct evidence that he was working for the Mafia (including having his fingerprints on police reports he had handed off to a fellow gangster). The Incident was, of course, Internally Investigated, and Detective Eppolito was let off without even facing any administrative disciplinary actions. Which freed him up to go on murdering and imprisoning innocent people for the mob. The city government in New York still officially maintains that Brian Gibbs is guilty of murder. However, they’ve decided to sign a $9,900,000 settlement; dedicated public servants that they are, they will send the bill to innocent New York City taxpayers who had nothing to do with the crimes committed against Brian Gibbs.

  • Meanwhile, in Sebastian County, Arkansas, government drug investigators are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging heavily armed, late-night raids on citizens’ houses, where they threaten the lives of everyone in the house, including sleeping babies — without bothering to check the address on the mailbox to see whether they are actually even forcing their way into the right house. (Oops! My bad!) Then, after releasing their innocent victims from the shackles they had forced them into, the cops they went down the street to the right house, where they broke into somebody else’s home, threatened three other innocent people’s lives, and forced them into cages at gunpoint, for the completely nonviolent offense of having marijuana.

  • Meanwhile, in Universal City, Texas, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by surrounding innocent women and children in their cars, pointing guns at them and screaming at them to put their hands up, and then forcing their way into the car before they realize — oops! our bad! — that they had the wrong car and the wrong people, and were threatening the lives of a black woman with three children who had nothing to do with the white man they were trying to ambush. Since government police never face any consequences whatsoever for their fuck-ups, no matter how high-stakes, violent, reckless, traumatic or dangerous to the safety of innocent citizens, the police department is waving it off as an unfortunate coincidence. They refer to the use of such high-stakes, violent tactics in uncertain situations, with incomplete information, to terrify and overwhelm innocent women and children, as doing our jobs, and publicly state that We would not change what we did. Of course they wouldn’t; who’s going to make them?

  • Meanwhile, in Tavares, Florida, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by interrogating and then arresting Latina women who are not suspected of any crime, for not giving her name fast enough or producing identification papers on demand. The government police officer told his victim that she had to provide ID because he needed to put her name in a database. When she said she needed to go to the car to get it, the cop arrested her for resisting arrest and had her locked in a jail cell for 5 hours.

  • Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Ontario, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging hyperviolent drug raids, forcing their way into apartments at gunpoint, forcing the citizens in them to the floor, then slamming their faces into the floor and kicking them when they try to explain that the cops have the wrong address. Po Lo Hay’s safety was ensured so good and hard that he ended up with stitches above his eye, a bloody nose, welts, and a broken rib.

  • Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, England, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by threatening them with electrical torture devices and then accidentally hitting them with a 50,000 volt electric shock to their genitals, in the course of an unnecessary traffic stop intended to investigate whether or not they were committing the completely nonviolent offense of driving without government-mandated corporate car insurance. For accidentally inflicting the worst pain that this innocent man has ever been subjected to in his life, government cops are offering an Oops! Our bad!

I sure am glad that government cops are out there to ensure our safety, and local governments are there to extract tax dollars to force us all, on threat of prison, to pay for this threshold obligation. If government cops weren’t there to harass, threaten, torture, frame, jail or kill innocent citizens, all with complete legal impunity so long as they can shout an Oops! My bad! that some fellow cop or other government employee will believe, who would keep us all safe?

  1. [1]When city governments fire police forces, county sheriffs or state police forces generally take over the busting of heads and jailing of suspects. But the shift does mean that patrol cops are fewer and farther between, and local taxpayers are much less likely to get soaked with local tax increases to pay for salaries or benefits packages.
  2. [2]Yant has gunned down three people during his police career — killing two of them, including Trevon Cole — and has been exonerated by the police department and the Clark County government’s coroner’s inquest.

The Las Vegas Police Beat: Officer-Involved

  • Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Last weekend, at the Costco in Summerlin, Erik Scott got into an argument with some workers at the store. A Costco employee noticed that he was carrying a handgun in his waistband, so they freaked out and called the cops, then evacuated the store. Three Las Vegas Metro police officers — William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola — rolled up and waited outside the store. When they saw Scott walking out of the store, they came up behind him and grabbed him on the shoulder and screamed at him to get down. He turned around and obeyed less than instantaneously, so the cops opened fire and stone cold gunned him down in the parking lot. The cops claimed that before they lit him up with 7 shots, Scott had reached for his gun in his waistband. Then, later, they claimed that he refused orders [sic] and instead withdrew a handgun and pointed at them.. Most of the witnesses, including a friend who was standing right next to Scott when the police gunned him down, say that he never did. A few witnesses differ — they say they did see him take out his gun but that he never pointed it at the cops. Metro said that Scott was ripping merchandise apart, kind of going berserk, and that they had received numerous 911 calls for his erratic behavior and reporting he was carrying a gun. Turns out that what actually happened is that another customer saw Scott opening up a box of aluminum water bottles putting some in his cart and some on the floor, in order to find out how many would fit in his cooler; when store security tried to confront him about it, Scott’s voice got elevated. A number of later 911 calls, provoked by the store’s panicky evacuation, recorded parts of the cop’s confrontation with Scott; the police have refused to release the 911 tapes. The Costco has surveillance cameras on the parking lot; the police took the tapes, but claim that they haven’t looked at them yet because of technical issues. The investigation of this police shooting by Las Vegas Metro is, of course, being handled by more police from Las Vegas Metro. There will almost certainly never be any kind of public trial; a coroner’s inquest hasn’t been scheduled, but will probably happen sometime in September. (There has been only 1 Clark County coroner’s inquest in 34 years that ever found any Metro police shooting to be neither justified nor excusable.) Meanwhile, the three cops who gunned down Erik Scott have been given a paid vacation from their jobs. The local newsmedia has been all over this story, mainly because Scott shops in Summerlin and used to be a tank commander in the United States government’s Army. Bill Scott, Erik’s father, has said that he hopes this case will draw attention to how many people Metro has gunned down: There are a lot of people who have been killed in Las Vegas, a lot of them by the police. They didn’t have a voice. This time, quote me: they killed the wrong guy.

  • Officer Bryan Yant. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. For example, one of the people who has been killed in Las Vegas was Trevon Cole, an unarmed man who police shot in the face with an AR-15 assault rifle in the bathroom of his own apartment, while his 9-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce, was forced to get on the ground and watch. Metro was in his apartment because they had forced their way in in an extremely violent late-night raid to serve a drug search warrant. (Trevon Cole was violently seized and killed because he allegedly might have sold marijuana to an undercover narc, a crime which posed no threat at all to any identifiable victim’s rights.) So late at night while Pearce and Cole were relaxing in bed, a gang of police wearing camouflage and masks smashed in their windows and broke down their door, blitzed into the room holding assault rifles on their terrified victims. Trevon Cole was surrounded by a gang of heavily armed, masked men, was obeying their commands to get down, and had put his hands up in the air, but Yant decided he’d seen a furtive movement, so he stone cold shot Trevon Cole in the face at close range in front of his terrified fiancee. Officer Bryan Yant had already gunned down two other people in his career before he showed up to shoot an unarmed man in the face; An inquest jury into Yant’s 2002 fatal shooting found the officer justified in his actions despite a serious discrepancy between his story and evidence at the scene. The shooting will be considered by another Clark County Coroner’s Inquest on August 20. In the meantime, Bryan Yant, who is being investigated to determine whether or not he murdered an unarmed man, is being given a paid vacation from his government job. Meanwhile, his buddies on the force decided to show up at Sequoia Pearce’s mother’s house in order to mau-mau the only surviving witness and toss the house looking for guns and ammo that aren’t there.

  • Officer Luis Norris. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Another cop working for the local government in Las Vegas opened fire on an unarmed man this past Tuesday, for the crime of taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood while the cop was Investigatin’. The man appeared on the wall while the cop was talking to a local homeowner about a possible prowler. Of course, all kinds of people live in a residential neighborhood (by definition), and all kinds of people pass through, so a civilized person might take this as a reason to shout What are you doing here? but Officer Luis Norris was packing heat and startled so he whipped out his gun and opened fire on this innocent man, who was not the prowler, was unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed no threat to anything other than the cop’s composure and poise. Thankfully, Officer Luis Norris is a bad shot: he missed the man he was trying to gun down in a moment of irrational panic, so his intended target lived through the night long enough for Authorities to later determine he was not a threat. Since Luis Norris just recklessly endangered the life of an innocent man, but didn’t kill him in the process, there will not even be a coroner’s inquest. Instead, Officer Luis Norris’s has been given a paid vacation from his government job, and eventually, his actions will be reviewed by the department’s use of force board, which may hit him with such serious consequences as a written reprimand or even firing him from his job. In case you were wondering, the process is not open to the public.

Las Vegas Metro is full of heavily-armed, twitchy, terrified cops who are easily startled and ready to open fire on helpless or harmless people at even the most furtive motion. Whether you’re resting in bed with your fiancee on Eastern and Bonanza, or going shopping with your fiancee in Summerlin to celebrate your new life together, or just talking a quiet walk through the neighborhood out at Desert Inn and Sandhill, there is a heavily armed force, patrolling 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, constantly ready to come down on you and gun you down at even a moment’s hesitation to obey their bellowed commands, or the slightest twitch that they don’t understand, or just for startling them. If they shoot at you, or even if they kill you, they will almost certainly never be held accountable for their actions; the worst that’s likely to happen is that they might lose their job, and what’s more likely is that they will be put back onto the streets to continue a long and storied career of killing unarmed people. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force constantly in our lives and at our throats in order to stop our community from being overrun by small-time possible neighborhood prowlers, by erratic men who take aluminum water bottles out of their boxes at Costco, and from black men who might maybe be willing to sell a bit of pot to willing customers. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force in order to keep us safe. But who will keep us safe from them?

Support your local CopWatch.

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The Police Beat: Officer J. Smith, Las Vegas Metro, Las Vegas, Nevada

Officer J. Smith, Las Vegas Metro, responding with a handstrike to the face

According to a story printed in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Officer J. Smith, a police officer working for the local governments in Las Vegas and Clark County, beat a captive prisoner in the face while the man was handcuffed. I’ve scare-quoted the name because that’s the most that the R.-J. could glean from the police reports; the police department is officially refusing to release the name of the cops accused of beating the hell out of a handcuffed prisoner. The cops were there late at night because of a noisy party and reports of a fight. James Akins didn’t want to talk to the police, and when they arrested him for not coming out of his apartment, Akins tried to stand his ground, while a pair strangers forcibly dragged him away in handcuffs to be driven off to jail. (The dragging away is dignified as escorting Akins to the car by the Las Vegas Review Journal.) So James Akins spat at the armed strangers hauling him off in the middle of the night. Officer J. Smith was apparently in no physical danger at all, but he did get spit at, and this insult to his dignity was enough to for him to have responded with a handstrike to Akins’ face. The report in the R.-J. makes it seem as though Officer J. Smith just smacked James Akins once; what actually happened is that Officer J. Smith handcuffed Akins, repeatedly slammed him into a door, forced him downstairs, and then threw him to the ground and punched him in the face several times.

The Incident is being Internally Investigated by Officer J. Smith’s coworkers at Las Vegas Metro, but cop spokesman Officer Marcus Martin is helpfully explaining to the press that There is no department policy that prohibits officers from striking handcuffed suspects. (No doubt there isn’t. What does that say about the policy?) In the meantime, Officer J. Smith, whose full name and identity Las Vegas Metro refuses to release, is still out on patrol on the streets of Las Vegas while being Internally Investigated for beating handcuffed prisoners.

Men In Uniform (Cont’d). Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Trigger warning. Briefly describes the crimes of a male police officer working for the North Las Vegas city government, who, while in uniform, harassed and attempted to sexually assault several women that he forced to pull over.

Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada.

From Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Officer James Vernon Clayton, a three year veteran ex-cop formerly working for the North Las Vegas Police Department, repeatedly used the power of his badge and gun in order to pull women over, sexually harass the women he was holding captive, pull down his pants and show his dick off to them against their will, used threats of false arrest to grope at least one woman under the excuse of a pat search, and to try to extort sexual favors by threatening them with legal retaliation if they wouldn’t. He did this to at least five women that we know of, while on duty, in uniform, in his police cruiser, and heavily armed. So the boss cops with the North Las Vegas city government gave him a six month paid vacation; then the government prosecutor cut a deal with him so he could plead guilty to five misdemeanors — none of them sex offenses. The government prosecutors wanted this serial sexual predator to spend four months in jail; the government judge accepting this plea decided to give him three years’ probation instead, and told him to pay off the government to the tune of $5,000. The women he harassed, intimidated and coerced[1] will, of course, get nothing.

The government prosecutor had this to say, about the case:

From the onset of this case, what the state found most disturbing is here??s an individual charged with our public safety — we??ve blindly given him our trust to protect community, we??ve given him a badge, and he??s vitiated all of that, including blemishing his department, Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins said.

— Quoted by Cara McCoy, Las Vegas Sun (2010-05-18): Ex-officer who sought sexual favors during traffic stops sentenced

Well, sure, except that you ought to speak only for yourself — I never gave Officer James Vernon Clayton a badge or my trust, and neither did much of anyone else outside of the North Las Vegas city government. But that said, perhaps what you ought to learn is that it’s foolish to blindly give your trust to men with guns and uniforms, and dangerous to create an environment in which they wield incredible power over ordinary citizens, with a reliable expectation that even if they get caught, they will never face any serious personal consequences for their violent and abusive actions. Until you figure that out, expect your blind trust to keep getting vitiated, over and over again, by men who use those weapons and that unaccountable power to stalk, harass, and assault the women who they force under their power.

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

— GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

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  1. [1]Who chose not to speak out at the sentencing hearing, because they were afraid of retaliation from the would-be rapist who the judge then proceeded to turn loose.

Priorities

The government-installed administration at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas says that, what with the current round of massive state budget cuts, and the threat of future cuts one or two years down the line, they don’t have enough money to teach classes in unpopular majors. (Based on recent decisions from administrative committees, UNLV’s — excellent, but small — Women’s Studies program, among others, might just barely manage to escape the axe. For this round of budget cuts.)

But apparently they do have enough money to build a big memorial to dead government soldiers.

Of course they do; it’s a matter of priorities. When the allocation of money for the University is political, it’s always going to favor what’s politically popular over what’s educationally important. And there’s nothing more politically popular than Patriotically Correct monuments to dead government soldiers.

This is, of course, exactly why UNLV should be liberated entirely from government appointments of administration and from the government strings attached to government funding.

Supporters of the Women’s Studies department, and of academics at UNLV broadly, often view the prospect of privatization of the University with horror. I don’t–because if privatization just means turning UNLV over from governmental ownership to non-gvernmental ownership, that could mean a lot of different things. I understand the reaction, if they are thinking of the kind of legislative privateering where the University simply being sold off to the best-connected corporate bidder. What I think is that the University doesn’t belong to the state government in the first place, and so the state government has no right to sell it to anyone; it belongs to the students and the faculty who use it. And privatizing, or if you prefer socializing it, directly into the hands of the campus community is the only just way to dispose of the University.[1] It’s also the best thing that could possibly happen to education at UNLV. As long as a government-imposed administration is in charge of UNLV, UNLV will be about serving the priorities of administrators, and serving the priorities of the government. UNLV will be about learning and teaching when it’s controlled by learners and teachers; the sooner we end the government occupation of campus, the better.

NV out of UNLV!

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  1. [1]Of course, a plan like that — just handing the University for free over to those who work and study in it, with no political strings attached, instead of coming up with some scheme to create a subsidized sale to an bureaucratic efficiency-minded corporate management, with lots of lingering state control over what they can do — is almost certainly something that will never come out of a committee of the state legislature. Or rather, it’s something that will never come out of a legislative committee unless they are forced to it by events on the ground. If it’s going to come about, it’s something much more likely to come about by a strategy of campus organizing, concerted strikes by faculty, staff, and students, and student occupations of buildings and facilities, aimed not at legislative influence in Carson city, but at asserting effective physical and cultural control over the campus. But I see the need for people-power tactics, instead of bureaucratic gamesmanship and legislative lobbying, as an advantage of my proposal. Not a weakness.
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