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Three of the most visible leaders of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement have been sentenced to jail time for their roles in the series of massive pro-democracy protests in 2014. The sentences announced Thursday, which range from six months to eight months, revise previous, lighter penalties handed down last year and effectively bar the men from holding office for the next five years. Joshua Wong, the young man — just 17 at the time of the protests — who became the face of the movement, remained defiant as he was transported from the courtroom by law enforcement. Joshua Wong, seen in the prison bus after his sentencing in Hong Kong on Thursday. "They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers," Wong tweeted. "You can lock up our bodies, but not our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up." "See you soon," he added. Wong, now 20, and fellow activist Nathan Law, 24, had been sentenced last year to community service for breaking into and occupying a space barred from public gatherings. That illegal act, "unlawful assembly," helped spark more than two months of protests against what many Hong Kongers saw as Beijing's encroachment on the semiautonomous city's politics. Now, Wong and Law have been sentenced to six and eight months in prison, respectively. For his role in the 2014 protests, Alex Chow, whose age has been reported as 26 and 27, initially received a suspended prison sentence, which was revised upward on Thursday to seven months. They plan to appeal the verdict. Officers try to clear the way for a prison bus carrying Joshua Wong outside Hong Kong's high court on Thursday. The judges who sentenced the trio of activists said the case demonstrates "an unhealthy trend in Hong Kong society," which was returned by the British to Chinese sovereignty two decades ago. "Some people use the pursuit of ideals ... as an excuse to take illegal action," Judge Wally Yeung wrote, according to Reuters. "This case is a prime example of the aforementioned unhealthy trend." But critics see the new sentences as an indication of China's undue influence over the Hong Kong judiciary — and as examples of another kind of unhealthy trend in the financial hub: Beijing's "vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly." "The relentless and vindictive pursuit of student leaders using vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities," Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said in a statement Thursday. "The real danger to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong is the authorities' continued persecution of prominent democracy activists." And many supporters of Wong and his two fellow activists agree. As the prison vans carried them away, a throng of people crowded around, jostling officials and chanting slogans in their defense. "We're all Nathan Law! We're all Joshua Wong! We're all Alex Chow!" they shouted, according to a reporter with the South China Morning Post. "We want genuine universal suffrage!" source

August 13, 2017 by
Charlottesville police refrained from intervening as violence escalated in city streets during the white nationalist ‘Unite the Right’ rally on Saturday, emerging evidence suggests. Writing for ProPublica, reporter A.C. Thompson said he and others “repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.” “The police did little to stop the bloodshed,” Thompson wrote. “Several times, a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State, wearing body armor and desert camo, played a more active role in breaking up fights.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia tweeted a video on Saturday of clashes between Confederate flag-bearing militiamen and counter-protesters, with the following caption: “Police says ‘We’ll not intervene until given command to do so.'” The lack of police intervention is notable given that prominent right-wing media had called on attendees to bring weapons and battle armor to the rally. The Virginia state police and Charlottesville law enforcement have previously been criticized by the ACLU of Virginia for their conduct during protests against the far right. In July, the ACLU of Virginia, along with other legal organizations, submitted a letter to the Charlottesville City Council and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe criticizing the “outsized and militaristic” response to a July 8th protest in opposition to a Klu Klux Klan rally in the city of Charlottesville. This isn’t the first time journalists have noted the passivity of law enforcement during violent confrontations between the right-wing and anti-fascists. Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer, who reported on a far-right rally that took place in April on the streets of Berkeley, California, wrote that “riot police [were] conspicuously absent” despite hours of street fights: A block away, police stand near their cars. I approach an officer and ask why they haven’t intervened more during the last couple of hours of mayhem. He shrugs. “That would be a good question for the chief of police.” 1 person was killed and 19 injured after 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly drove his car into anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville. Photographs have since emerged of Fields marching with a racist right-wing organization during the rally. source Read More: A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing The ugly history of racist policing in America Blood On Their Hands: The Racist History of Modern Police Unions    

August 13, 2017 by
United States law enforcement has killed nearly 800 people already in 2017, and there are still four months left with no end to police brutality in sight. Despite the many anti-police brutality efforts of Black Lives Matter and other social justice crusaders, police killings are only becoming more prevalent. So far in 2017, police have killed 746 people in the United States, according to Killed By Police data obtained by Mint Press News. With four more months still left, this year is reportedly on track to become the deadliest year on record. Comparatively, in the first seven months of 2016 police killed 714 people which was actually down from 725 in 2015. However, the amount of people killed by police in the last two years around the same time increased significantly from 2014 which had 663 and just 353 in 2013. Although people of color have been most often targeted with mistreatment by police, the tables were turned in the highly publicized shooting of Justine Damond — a 40-year-old white Australian woman living in Minneapolis — who was killed after she called 911 to report a neighborhood disturbance. Following her death, race relations became even more strained as much of America became outraged by that incident, but have repeatedly turned a blind eye each time a person of color was wrongfully killed by law enforcement. And even with this troubling data circulating, and the devastating effects police brutality has on our society, our own President Donald Trump expressed support for cops who are "rough" on suspects.   source

August 12, 2017 by
The driver of a car that plowed into a crowd of demonstrators after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday has been arrested, as city officials report that one person has died and 19 are injured following the incident. White nationalist and other attendees clashed with those who arrived to oppose the demonstration, which began with a torch-wielding group marching through the city Friday evening and was intended to culminate in an event entitled "Unite the Right," set to begin at noon on Saturday. People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. However, the event was shut down by authorities in the early afternoon. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the city and police ordered the crowds to disperse. Video taken in the afternoon after the demonstration was shut down shows crowds walking down a downtown Charlottesville street as several cars move slowly along the same avenue. Abruptly, a gray Dodge Challenger rams into the back of another vehicle, slamming one or more cars ahead of it amid the crowd of protesters. The driver then rapidly reverses away from the scene. Warning: The video contains graphic images. It was not immediately clear whether the driver of the vehicle acted intentionally. Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer tweeted Saturday afternoon that "a life has been lost," a fact that was later confirmed by the University of Virginia Health System, which reported that 20 patients were brought to UVA Medical Center and that 19 were being "assessed and treated." Charlottesville has become a flashpoint for white nationalists following a City Council vote in February to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park formerly called Lee Park. The park was renamed Emancipation Park in June. President Donald Trump addressed the situation during remarks Saturday afternoon. He did not specifically address that a death had occurred amid the demonstrations, but denounced the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides." source Read More: James Alex Fields, Jr. : 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know After one person killed at white nationalist rally in Virginia, Trump blames 'many sides' 1 dead, 19 injured as car hits crowd after a 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville; driver in custody White Nationalist Rally Picked Charlottesville For a Reason, Virginia Town Has Long History KKK Activity And Racism Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina are locked in a battle over which party inherits the shame of Jim Crow  

August 12, 2017 by
The home of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, has become a particularly quiet and progressive college town in recent years. In fact, 80 percent of the voters in the small city voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. So why would the left-leaning town, where roughly 47,000 people currently live, be chosen for white nationalist rally headed by the alt-right? Charlottesville city council in April voted to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, one of the last standing Confederate monuments in the state. The statue stands in a park that was also recently renamed from Lee Park to Emancipation Park. Although the removal of the statue is still pending litigation, white nationalists are opposing the decision in an effort to cling on to their white history. White rights activist Jason Kessler, a Charlottesville resident who organized Saturday’s “Unite the Right” protest, blamed all "the anti-white hatred that's coming out of the city" as the reason for the rally, CNN reported. White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. “This entire community is a very far left community that has absorbed these cultural Marxist principles advocated in college towns across the country, about blaming white people for everything," Kessler told CNN on Friday. However, the tearing down of the monument may not be the only reason why Charlottesville became a prime location for alt-right leaders to hold a rally. The small city’s history is muddled in racism. The town, considered a community of the Jim Crow South back in the early 1900s, was the last in America to desegregate schools following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, which allowed black children to attend historically white-only schools. Despite ordering desegregation with “all deliberate speed,” in 1955, Virginia strongly resisted the ruling. Some schools even shut down in Charlottesville before finally allowing integration in 1958. In 2015, Charlottesville was under fire for racist behavior following the violent arrest of Martese Johnson, a third-year student at the University. Johnson, a black man, was confronted by three white police officers who, after asking for identification, assumed he was holding a fake I.D.. and beat him before throwing him in cuffs. A video of the altercation went viral, sparking a nationally trending hashtag #JusticeForMartese on Twitter and bringing attention to the aggressive force law enforcement enacted on blacks in the community. Virginia overall also has longstanding ties to the Ku Klux Klan. In a study released in 2015, researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University discovered there had been more than 2,000 KKK klaverns established in the U.S. between 1915 and 1940, 132 of which had been spread across the state of Virginia. Just in July, Klansmen held a rally of their own at Emancipation Park, similarly protesting the removal of the statue. About 30 Klansmen attended that particular rally and were met by nearly 1,000 counter protesters. The rally on Saturday, however, is expected to see a much bigger turnout. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors “hate groups and other extremists,” estimated as many as 2,000 to 6,000 people may show up at the protest. source Read More: Car mows down at least a dozen protesters in Virginia at tumultuous white supremacist rally White nationalist rally in Virginia sparks violent clashes, emergency declaration State of Emergency Declared in Charlottesville After Protests Turn Violent Torch-wielding white nationalists march at U.Va.  

August 12, 2017 by
Surveillance footage of a May 5 incident on London's Putney Bridge went viral earlier this month after it was released by London authorities. In it, we see a man jogging on the side of the bridge when he suddenly pushes a passing woman to the ground, putting her in the path of a coming bus. Fortunately, the bus swerved and narrowly avoided the woman. According to CBS News, the woman encountered the man again about 15 minutes later, after people had rushed to check on her wellbeing. She said that she saw the same man jogging back across the bridge, but he ignored her calls and jogged away. On Thursday, London's Metropolitan Police announced on Facebook that a "man was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm following police enquiries at an address in the Chelsea area on the morning of Thursday, 10 August." That person was later determined to be 41-year-old Eric Bellquist, who NY Daily News describes as a San Diego native who's been working as an investment baker with London's Hutton Collins Partners since 2002. The Guardian reports that he'd also worked for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. Bellquist, who was later released on bail, has not been charged with a crime in connection with the incident. The investigation is ongoing. The law firm representing Bellquist later confirmed on Friday that he was the man arrested, adding that he wasn't the person who'd attacked the woman on Putney Bridge. They made the announcement on Twitter: Bellquist's profile on Hutton Collins Partners's website is still up. It says he currently represents Hutton Collins for the restaurant chains Byron Hamburgers and Wagamama, and had helmed the firm's investment in Caffè Nero. source

August 11, 2017 by
Chokehold: policing black men and women in America. Chokehold: a maneuver in which a person’s neck is tightly gripped in a way that restrains breathing. A person left in a chokehold for more than a few seconds can die. The former police chief of Los Angeles Daryl Gates once suggested that there is something about the anatomy of African Americans that makes them especially susceptible to serious injury from chokeholds, because their arteries do not open as fast as arteries do on “normal people.” A police officer holds his weapon as a protester is detained in Ferguson, Missouri. The truth is any human being will suffer distress when pressure on the carotid arteries interrupts the supply of blood from the heart to the brain. Many police departments in the United States have banned chokeholds, but this does not stop some officers from using them when they perceive a threat. The United States supreme court decided a case about chokeholds that tells you everything you need to know about how criminal “justice” works for African American men. In 1976, Adolph Lyons, a 24-year-old black man, was pulled over by four Los Angeles police officers for driving with a broken taillight. The cops exited their squad cars with their guns drawn, ordering Lyons to spread his legs and put his hands on top of his head. After Lyons was frisked, he put his hands down, causing one cop to grab Lyons’s hands and slam them against his head. Lyons had been holding his keys and he complained that he was in pain. The police officer tackled Lyons and placed him in a chokehold until he blacked out. When Lyons regained consciousness, he was lying facedown on the ground, had soiled his pants, and was spitting up blood and dirt. The cops gave him a traffic citation and sent him on his way. The author of the acclaimed Chokehold: Policing Black Men writes on how the system treats African Americans with contempt: ‘If police patrolled white areas as they do poor black neighborhoods, there would be a revolution’ Lyons sued to make the LAPD stop putting people in chokeholds. He presented evidence that in recent years 16 people – including 12 black men – had died in LAPD custody after being placed in chokeholds. In City of Los Angeles v Lyons, the US supreme court denied his claim, holding that because Lyons could not prove that he would be subject to a chokehold in the future, he had no “personal stake in the outcome”. Dissenting from the court’s opinion, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the supreme court, wrote: “It is undisputed that chokeholds pose a high and unpredictable risk of serious injury or death. Chokeholds are intended to bring a subject under control by causing pain and rendering him unconscious. Depending on the position of the officer’s arm and the force applied, the victim’s voluntary or involuntary reaction, and his state of health, an officer may inadvertently crush the victim’s larynx, trachea, or hyoid. The result may be death caused by either cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. An LAPD officer described the reaction of a person to being choked as “do[ing] the chicken”, in reference apparently to the reactions of a chicken when its neck is wrung.” The work of police is to preserve law and order, including the racial order. Hillary Clinton once asked a room full of white people to imagine how they would feel if police and judges treated them the way African Americans are treated. If the police patrolled white communities with the same violence that they patrol poor black neighborhoods, there would be a revolution. Two white Oklahoma City officers subdue a black suspect in 2002. Both officers faced a disciplinary investigation. The purpose of my book, Chokehold, is to inspire the same outrage about what the police do to African Americans, and the same revolution in response. A chokehold is a process of coercing submission that is self-reinforcing. A chokehold justifies additional pressure on the body because the body does not come into compliance, but the body cannot come into compliance because of the vise grip that is on it. This is the black experience in the United States. This is how the process of law and order pushes African American men into the criminal system. This is how the system is broke on purpose. There has never, not for one minute in American history, been peace between black people and the police. And nothing since slavery – not Jim Crow segregation, not lynching, not restrictive covenants in housing, not being shut out of New Deal programs like social security and the GI bill, not massive white resistance to school desegregation, not the ceaseless efforts to prevent blacks from voting – nothing has sparked the level of outrage among African Americans as when they have felt under violent attack by the police. Most of the times that African Americans have set aside traditional civil rights strategies like bringing court cases and marching peacefully and instead have rioted in the streets and attacked symbols of the state have been because of something the police have done. Watts in 1965, Newark in 1967, Miami in 1980, Los Angeles in 1992, Ferguson in 2015, Baltimore in 2016, Charlotte in 2016 – each of these cities went up in flames sparked by the police killing a black man. Every black man in America faces a symbolic chokehold every time he leaves his home The problem is the criminal process itself. Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a US law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt. In New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Francisco, and many other cities, the US justice department and federal courts have stated that the official practices of police departments include violating the rights of African Americans. The police kill, wound, pepper spray, beat up, detain, frisk, handcuff, and use dogs against blacks in circumstances in which they do not do the same to white people. It is the moral responsibility of every American, when armed agents of the state are harming people in our names, to ask why. Every black man in America faces a symbolic chokehold every time he leaves his home. The sight of an unknown black man scares people, and the law responds with a set of harsh practices of surveillance, control and punishment designed to put down the threat. The people who carry out the chokehold include cops, judges, and politicians. But it’s not just about the government. It’s also about you. People of all races and ethnicities make the most consequential and the most mundane decisions based on the chokehold. It impacts everything from the neighborhood you choose to live in and who you marry to where you look when you get on an elevator. I like hoodies, but I won’t wear one, and it’s not mainly because of the police. It’s because when I put on a hoodie everybody turns into a neighborhood watch person. When the sight of a black man makes you walk quicker or check to see if your car door is locked, you are enforcing the chokehold. You are not alone. As an African American man, I’m not only the target of the chokehold. I’ve also been one of its perpetrators. I’ve done so officially – as a prosecutor who sent a lot of black men to prison. I represented the government in criminal court and defended cops who had racially pro-led or used excessive force. Many of those prosecutions I now regret. I can’t turn back time, but I can expose a morally bankrupt system. That’s one reason I wrote this book. ‘Any human being will suffer distress when pressure on the carotid arteries interrupts the supply of blood from the heart to the brain.’ But before I get too high and mighty, you should know that I’ve also enforced the chokehold outside my work as a prosecutor. I am a black man who at times is afraid of other black men. And then I get mad when people act afraid of me. Other times I have been more disgusted or angry with some of my brothers than scared. I read the news articles about “black-on-black” homicide in places like Chicago and Los Angeles. I listen to some hip-hop music that seems to celebrate thug life. And as a kid I got bullied by other black males. Sometimes I think if brothers would just do right, we would not have to worry about people being afraid of us. I have wondered if we have brought the chokehold on ourselves. In my years as a prosecutor, I learned some inside information that I am now willing to share. Some of it will blow your mind, but I don’t feel bad for telling tales out of school. I was on the front lines in carrying out the chokehold. Now I want to be on the front lines in helping to crush it. My creds to write this book don’t come just from my experience as a law enforcement officer, my legal training at Harvard, or the more than 20 years I have spent researching criminal justice. I learned as much as an African American man who got arrested for a crime I did not commit – during the time that I served as a federal prosecutor. I didn’t beat my case because I was innocent, even though I was. I beat my case because I knew how to work the system. The chokehold does not stem from hate of African Americans. Its anti-blackness is instrumental rather than emotional. As slaves built the White House, the chokehold builds the wealth of white elites. Discriminatory law enforcement practices such as stop and frisk, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs are key components of the political economy of the United States. After the civil rights movement of the 1960s stigmatized overt racism, the national economy, which from the founding has been premised on a racialized form of capitalism, still required black bodies to exploit. The chokehold evolved as a “color-blind” method of keeping African Americans down, and then blaming them for their own degradation. The rap group Public Enemy said: “It takes a nation of millions to hold us back.” Actually all it takes is the chokehold. It is the invisible fist of the law. When I put on a hoodie, everybody turns into a neighborhood watch person The chokehold means that what happens in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland – where the police routinely harass and discriminate against African American – is not a flaw in the criminal justice system. Ferguson and Baltimore are examples of how the system is supposed to work. The problem is not bad-apple cops. The problem is police work itself. American cops are the enforcers of a criminal justice regime that targets black men and sets them up to fail. The chokehold is how the police get away with shooting unarmed black people. Cops are rarely prosecuted because they are, literally, doing their jobs. This is why efforts to fix “problems” such as excessive force and racial profiling are doomed to fail. If it’s not broke, you can’t fix it. Police violence and selective enforcement are not so much flaws in American criminal justice as they are integral features of it. The chokehold is why, legally speaking, black lives don’t matter as much as white lives. The whole world knows that the United States faces a crisis in racial justice, but the focus on police and mass incarceration is too narrow. We might be able to fix those problems the way that we “ fixed” slavery and segregation, but the chokehold’s genius is its mutability. Throughout the existence of America, there have always been legal ways to keep black people down. Slavery bled into the old Jim Crow; the old Jim Crew bled into the new Jim Crow. In order to halt this wretched cycle we must not think of reform – we must think of transformation. The United States of America must be disrupted, and made anew. This book uses the experience of African American men to explain why. One of the consequences of the chokehold is mass incarceration, famously described by Michelle Alexander as “the new Jim Crow”. The chokehold also brings us police tactics such as stop and frisk, which are designed to humiliate African American males – to bring them into submission. The chokehold demands a certain kind of performance from a black man every time he leaves his home. He must affirmatively demonstrate – to the police and the public at large –that he is not a threat. Most African American men follow the script. Black men who are noncompliant suffer the consequences. The chokehold is perfectly legal. Like all law, it promotes the interests of the rich and powerful. In any system marked by inequality, there are winners and losers. Because the chokehold imposes racial order, who wins and who loses is based on race. White people are the winners. What they win is not only material, like the cash money that arresting African Americans brings to cities all over the country in fines and court costs. The criminalizing of blackness also brings psychic rewards. American criminal justice enhances the property value of whiteness. As the chokehold subordinates black men, it improves the status of white people. It works as an enforcement mechanism for keeping the black man in his place literally as well as figuratively. Oh the places African American men don’t go because of the chokehold. It frees up urban space for coffeehouses and beer gardens. But it’s not just the five-dollar latte crowd that wins. The chokehold is something like an employment stimulus plan for working-class white people, who don’t have to compete for jobs with all the black men who are locked up, or who are underground because they have outstanding arrest warrants, or who have criminal records that make obtaining legal employment exceedingly difficult. Poor white people are simply not locked up at rates similar to African Americans. These benefits make crushing the chokehold more difficult because if it ends, white people lose – at least in the short term. There are more African Americans in the US criminal justice system than there were slaves in 1850 Progressives often lambast poor white people for voting for conservative Republicans like Donald Trump, suggesting that those votes are not in their best interests. But low-income white folks might have better sense than pundits give them credit for. A vote for a conservative is an investment in the property value of one’s whiteness. The criminal process makes white privilege more than just a status symbol, and more than just a partial shield from the criminal process (as compared to African Americans). Black men are locked up at five times the rate of white men. There are more African Americans in the US criminal justice system than there were slaves in 1850. By reducing competition for jobs, and by generating employment in law enforcement and corrections, especially in the mainly white rural areas where prisons are often located, the chokehold delivers cash money to many working-class white people. The chokehold relegates black men to an inferior status of citizenship. We might care about that as a moral issue, or as an issue of racial justice. But honestly, many people will not give a damn for those reasons. African Americans have been second-class citizens since we were allowed – after the bloodiest war in US history and an amendment to the constitution – to become citizens at all. The political scientist Lisa Miller has described the United States as a “failed state” for African Americans. Indeed some activists involved in the movement for black lives speak of their work as creating a “Black Spring”, similar to the Arab Spring movements that attempted to bring democracy to some Middle Eastern countries. We face a crucial choice. Do we allow the chokehold to continue to strangle our democracy and risk the rebellion that always comes to police states? Or do we transform the United States of America into the true multiracial democracy that, at our best, we aspire to be? My book is about the urgency of transformation. All of the people will be free, or none of them will. “All the way down, this time.” source

August 10, 2017 by
Public defenders in Baltimore say hundreds of criminal cases could be tossed out after two incidents discovered on police body cameras this summer show officers allegedly planting drug evidence. So far some 40 criminal cases have been dropped, mostly involving drug and weapons-related felonies. But lawyers there say that's just the beginning. "I would say there are hundreds and hundreds of cases directly affected between the two cases," Debbie Katz Levi, director of special litigation for Baltimore's Office of the Public Defender tells NPR. "I think it's safe to say if you included all of the officers, you're probably at around 500 cases." Body camera footage of a Baltimore police operation released by the public defender's office appears to show an officer hiding drugs and later discovering them while two other officers watched. The Baltimore police internal affairs office is investigating. The Baltimore City State's Attorney's office says "we are currently reviewing numbers." "These officers are employed by the Baltimore Police Department. Therefore, it is a problem that BPD must solve," says Caron A. Brace, chief of staff for Marilyn Mosby, the State's Attorney for Baltimore City. "The Office of the State's Attorney believes that this represents a small percentage of officers, and will support the Baltimore Police Department as it works to rectify the issue," Brace says. Baltimore is already under federal scrutiny after seven officers were arrested earlier this year for racketeering offenses, including robbery, extortion, and overtime fraud. When is it recording? When a Baltimore police officer hits record on his body camera the device saves the preceding thirty seconds but without audio. So it's possible the officer in the first video didn't realize he was being recorded when he appears to place a small baggie filled white capsules in a narrow alley's trash-strewn lot. The officer then appears to turn the already recording device "on" and returns to get the drugs allegedly linked to a suspect already in police custody. The audio then kicks in. "I'm gonna go check here," the officer says while one of this two police colleagues appears to laugh. He then easily finds a baggie of drugs in an old soda can. The police department's Media Relations Chief T.J. Smith says the officer whose body camera was recording in the alleyway, Officer Richard Pinheiro, has been "suspended on admin duties," while the two others present in the video are now on "non-contact with the public" administrative duties pending the department's probe. A second video from a traffic stop appears to show Baltimore officers searching a car a second time and finding baggies of drugs that didn't seem to be there during the first search. But public defenders discovered the videos, not the State's Attorney's unit devoted solely to reviewing and disseminating body camera footage. And the police unit charged with reviewing hours and hours of body cam footage also apparently missed the videos. "Who's policing the police and how are these incidents getting past the review unit and the State's Attorney for this many months, only to be brought to light by the Office of the Public Defender?" asks Katz Levi, of the Public Defender's Office. "There's no excuse for it." She says these cases raise deeply troubling questions about what state prosecutors are doing with police body camera evidence before they bring a case to a grand jury. "Are they leaving this out when they go to the grand jury? Those proceedings are secret; we don't know. These two camera footage incidents show us with certainty that incidents of misconduct or alleged misconduct are being missed, so what is the State's Attorney's Office going to do to fix it? What is the police department going to do to fix it?" Mosby's office has also come under criticism because Officer Pinheiro was allowed to testify in a separate case after the video surfaced, which her office chalked up to a timing mishap. "At the end of the day we were in the process of pulling these cases at the same time this case came in," Mosby told a press conference in July. Body cam guidelines A central issue nationally is when officers turn on and off their cameras. Most departments have clear rules — as Baltimore does — that say body cameras should stay on while they're still at the scene of an incident and only turned off if a member of the public requests it. "We believe that body cameras are a net positive because they show things that we otherwise would not see," says Andrew Northrup chief of the felony trial division in Baltimore's Public Defenders Office. "But at the same time they can't be manipulated. You will need to leave the tape on at all times so that there's no question about what's going on." Nationally, there's a troubling lack of accountability when officers don't follow department body cam guidelines, says Jay Stanley, a Senior Policy Analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. "Around the country we're seeing big issues in body cameras around access to footage and we're seeing widespread cases of officers not complying with policies," Stanley says. "Not turning their cameras on when they're supposed to be, turning them off too soon, or turning them off in the middle of encounters and not facing any consequences from police management." The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers agrees it's a growing issue. "We've seen many moments where at the critical moments that body cameras were rolled out to address and to capture are not ending up on the video," says Jumana Musa, a senior attorney with the NACDL. The group's research, she says, shows that in police departments that have had a troubled history and may be under a consent decree, body cameras have done little to foster reform. "Oftentimes those cameras are only used when they're supposed to be used about one to three times, so 30 percent of the time. So just putting a camera on an officer by itself is not going to be a measure of accountability and is not gonna cure the problems that run deep in the department," she says. "The question of police accountability still is and always will come down to the leadership, the training, the types of people hired, and then the way they're addressed when they're found to be acting outside the bounds of what are their rules, what are the laws, and what are the policies of the department," attorney Musa says. But Baltimore's Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says it's wrong to assume the worst before his investigators are done. Davis says it's all part of the "growing pains" of introducing a new technology just over one year ago. "When those gaps in video footage exists, it's ugly," Davis says. "What was there? I don't know I didn't see it. The camera was on, now it's off. Does that mean when the camera was off there was some kind of criminal misconduct was taking place by police officers? I think that's a conclusion we just can't jump to," he told reporters recently. Trust and discretion But the problem has cropped up in cities across the country in police arrests, drug cases and fatal shootings. In Minneapolis this summer, for example, an Australian woman was shot and killed by an officer as she approached a squad car after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home. The officer's body camera in that case was not turned on, as required by the department. Then there's the critical issue of who gets access to the video and when. Musa says her criminal defense lawyers association is calling on cities to create neutral arbiters – a separate body or panel — to review body cam footage. This potentially key evidence, she says, "should be equally available to both, and I think it removes some questions if it's held by an outside party." "The lesson out of all this is that officers should not have discretion to turn their cameras on and off," Katz Levi with the public defenders office says. "Body cameras, particularly in Baltimore, were instituted to try to reestablish trust with the community, and giving officers discretion to manipulate the body cameras is doing just the opposite." source

August 10, 2017 by
Media commentator and retired NYPD detective, Tom Verni, is suing a local LGBT organization for allegedly creating a Twitter page with his images with tweets that suggest that he sexually molests underage boys. “There are a number of Twitter posts and then a blog page that popped up with my name and picture on it stating that I was using my police ID to lure underage kids off the internet to have sex with them,” Verni said. The page has since been taken off Twitter, but Verni has printouts with tweets that say things like “kids, I could touch them” and “I love children.” Then, there's a website claiming "not Tom Verni" has been engaging in sexual molestation of underage boys. Verni alleges these even made their way to his husband’s boss. The alleged smear campaign began after his relationship soured with some at the LGBT Network—where he was a volunteer—after he came forward with accusations of wrongdoing. “There was a number of EEO type of situations taking place with the mistreatment of employees. There were some allegations of some financial misgivings and some other false reporting of grant applications, grant work and what not,” Verni said. Verni's attorney Anthony Colleuluori says what it comes down to is fraud. He is now suing the Woodbury-based LGBT Network, its CEO David Kilmnick, and others for $5 million. Verni says things first went south at the end of 2014 when Kilmnick and Verni had a disagreement on Facebook over police turning their backs on the mayor at a slain officer's funeral and Verni was unfriended. “As a result of that Facebook dust up that we had, that's when people started coming forward and messaging me saying, ‘hey, do you know what's going on over there at the LGBT Network?’” Verni said. He and his attorney did not go into detail about the alleged mishandling of money but the lawsuit alleges that under the direction of Kilmnick, someone created the internet pages as an act of retaliation against Verni. A spokesperson for the LGBT Network says the allegations against the organization are completely false, baseless, and frivolous. source

August 10, 2017 by
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams joined Senator Kevin S. Parker, Assembly Member Nick Perry, and community leaders in calling for an investigation into the shooting death of 32-year-old Dwayne Jeune. Jeune was killed on July 31 by a police officer after authorities were called to his residence by his mother, who had reported he was behaving erratically. Officers initially attempted to subdue Jeune by tasing him after he allegedly charged at them with a knife. Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, center, alongside State Senator Kevin S. Parker, and Assembly Member Nick Perry, right, with community leaders. Photo Credit: Ernest Skinner, NYC Council. "We have now seen too many deaths with the same description," Williams said. "Officers are often times put in harrowing situations and in this case it appears decisions had to be made in a matter of seconds. This is why it is important that responders to emotionally disturbed persons are equipped to handle the situation. A specific set of skills and sensitivity is needed when dealing with people who are some of the people in need the most." Williams is calling for an independent investigation by the district attorney and attorney general, as well as a response within 60 days explaining the protocol for calls dealing with EDPs. Concerns regarding police officers' capabilities in dealing with EDPs have been called into question. In October last year, 66-year-old Deborah Danner was killed by a New York police sergeant in her Bronx apartment after neighbors called 911 to report she was acting erratically. According to a 2014 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center, "at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems." "There was a failure yesterday," Parker said. "We are asking Governor Cuomo to assign a special prosecutor. People who are living in my district are not nails, they should not be pounded into the ground." "On behalf of myself and the people of the ninth congressional district of New York, I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dwayne Jeune," U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke said, in a statement. "We must remain vigilant as we wait for a full accounting of how a call for help from the New York City police department took such a tragic turn. Based on the information now available, I have very serious concerns about the adherence to NYPD protocols when encountering mentally disturbed persons in our community. Such important protocols have been instituted so that this tragedy could have been avoided." "We have a systemic and institutional problem," Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Regional Director for the National Action Network, said: "We can no longer afford to take things at face value.We are calling on the district attorney to investigate.We are calling on Eric Schneiderman who has been empowered by an executive order by Governor Cuomo to look into these police killings." "We do a lot in our community to build the relationships with the community and NYPD," said Monique Waterman, Founder of East Flatbush Village Inc. "Incidents like this set us back. There needs to be a more proactive approach when it comes to mental health. We need more funding to go into training NYPD to deal with mental health and or align an agency with NYPD to respond to 911 calls that involving a emotional disturb person." source Read More: NYC Cop Who Killed Dwayne Jeune Shot Another Mentally Ill Man Last Year: Report Pol Demands To Know Why Mentally Ill 'Keep Ending Up Dead' On NYPD's Watch