By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A day after a protest over Albuquerque police shootings devolved into violence, the city's new police chief on Monday commended officers for showing restraint and said he is about to unveil reforms that include changes to the embattled department's recruiting process.
Richard Berry said one officer was injured, rocks were thrown and at one point protesters trapped police in a vehicle and tried to break the windows, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1i6XLC3 ). An Associated Press reporter saw gas canisters being thrown outside police headquarters and Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies charging at the protesters late Sunday, which mostly dispersed the crowds.
Berry didn't know of any arrests, and multiple messages left for the police department weren't immediately returned. Video by KRQE-TV shows people being led away in zip-tie restraints, but it's unclear if those people were arrested of if any protesters were injured.
"We respected their rights to protest obviously," Berry said, "but what it appears we have at this time is individuals who weren't connected necessarily with the original protest . they've taken it far beyond a normal protest."
Protesters took to the streets in the early afternoon and stayed out late Sunday after authorities declared an unlawful assembly. People are angry over Albuquerque police's involvement in 37 shootings, 23 of them fatal since 2010. Critics say that's far too many for a department serving a city of about 555,000.
The protesters repeatedly marched the 2 miles from downtown Albuquerque to the University of New Mexico, holding signs protesting recent police shootings and often snarling traffic. Motorists honked, and supporters took photos with smartphones. Activists called on various city officials to resign, yelling late Sunday for the police chief to resign.
Justin Elder, 24, followed the protest as a passenger in a car and held a sign that read, "APD: Dressed To Kill."
"That's what this police force is about," Elder said.
Albuquerque police in riot gear and New Mexico State Police followed the marchers, and protesters were seen shouting epithets at officers. At one point, a protester climbed a tall street sign on the city's historic Route 66 and unsuccessfully attempted to bring it down.
A different protester, Alexander Siderits, 23, said he was participating because he was "fed up" with how police treat citizens. "It has reached a boiling point," he said, "and people just can't take it anymore."
The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating the department for more than a year, looking into complaints of civil rights violations and allegations of excessive use of force.
The gathering came days after a YouTube video emerged threatening retaliation for a recent deadly police shooting.
The video, which bore the logo of the computer hacking collective Anonymous, warned of a cyberattack on city websites and called for the protest march. Albuquerque police said their site had been breached early Sunday afternoon, but it was visible late in the afternoon after being offline for hours.
Earlier Sunday, police spokesman Simon Drobik confirmed the disruption was due to a cyberattack and said investigators had not uncovered the source of the hack.
In the shooting on March 16 that led to the YouTube posting Tuesday, a homeless man was killed in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on the east side of Albuquerque. The shooting was captured on video and followed a long standoff. The FBI has opened an investigation into the shooting.
Last week, Albuquerque police fatally shot a man at a public housing complex. Authorities said he shot at officers before they returned fire.
Not a day goes by without news of another case of police brutality or the abuse of power by officers, which begs the question: is this the new norm? There was a time when it was not so common to hear about abuse by the police, let alone see actual footage of the abuse taking place. But now in this age of technology, camera phones, video cameras and even squad car dash cams have made it possible for the general public to have access to the rampant abuse of power by law enforcement. As police brutality becomes more commonplace one is left to wonder if the public can ever really feel safe and protected by the very ones supposedly charged with that duty.
It has been said that the supreme court indicated it was not an officers job to protect the public but only to enforce the laws. If this is in fact the case, then those false “To Protect and Serve” logos need to be immediately removed from every surface they exist on. If citizens cannot depend on those who are charged with the responsibility of peace keeping, who then will keep the peace? How scary is it that often times in situations that are initially harmless, if the police show up, that situation has an increased chance of possibly getting much worse by them becoming involved. An innocent person is more likely to end up with something life changing happening to them that will definitely be painful in one way or another. It is no secret that this scenario is especially true for minorities and has been for a very long time. When viewed from the point of view of minorities, police brutality and the abuse of power by the justice system is not a new norm at all, but has always been the case.
Presently, there has been a noticeable shift in the nature of this long standing abuse. There are now more cases of the police abusing any and everybody be they young, old, black, white, human or animal. They are bursting into homes (often the wrong ones) shooting and killing residents, but then claiming somebody had a weapon or made a sudden move causing them to fear for their lives. They are shooting people in the back then claiming the person again had a weapon or came at them threateningly. In many of these cases the police have been found to have falsified reports, planted evidence and flat out been the aggressor. There was a time when they could and did easily get away with this behavior. Even with incriminating video evidence they still are known to get off without so much as a reprimand. Why is this, and what can both the public and honest law enforcement personnel do about it? The answers may not be easy but the current vibe between average citizens and the police are troubling to say the least.
The rampant and heinous abuse of those officers who operate outside the perimeters of their sworn duties has become much more than just troubling. The problem is heating to a rapid boil as the recent events surrounding the homeless man who was killed by police in Albuquerque have shown. It is sadly not far fetched or extreme to think that it will come down to hand to hand combat in the event of say, marshal law. It is already happening all over the globe. When you can kill with impunity the balance becomes lopsided making a very dangerous recipe for disaster. It seems that with all the gun violence going on, both the police and the public have become jumpy and nervous and much more likely to shoot first and sort out the details later. Trust is rapidly dwindling and the “us” versus “them” syndrome is becoming ever more pronounced and noticeable. Interestingly, when officers are not actively on duty, they tend to lead normal lives just like the rest of us which makes it difficult to understand the animosity and division between them and the public when the uniform goes back on. It has been said that the police are a “gang” unto themselves and that many of them over time develop a genuine sense of superiority over citizens and view them as disposal collateral in the so called war against crime.
These days, people are just downright afraid and distrustful of the police. Even senior citizens are at risk of being killed by a nervous cop, as in the recent case of the elderly gentleman who was tragically shot after exiting his car as he reached over to retrieve his walking stick, which the officer mistook as a shotgun. There were two victims in that situation because the officer who mistakenly shot the man is said to have broken down with abject remorse soon after the shooting. It really shows that things are spiraling out of control when an armed officer has to feel that he can’t even trust the intentions of an elder. Yet it would seem that neither can the general public trust the intentions of an officer. You just never know if you’re going to have the awful luck of coming into contact with a cop who has an evil agenda. If police contact does occur even under mundane circumstances, the immediate reaction might be to panic and start thinking things like “maybe if I act this way or that way, or say this or say that I can avoid an altercation and not end up getting a bs ticket, going to jail or even worse, getting killed!” What an awful way to have to feel when dealing with the police in minor situations. The threat of police brutality and the abuse of power becoming the new norm is proving to be a deadly combination for both citizens and those charged with policing them.
Someone once shared a theory that the reason so many officers have abusive personalities is because frequently, the types of people who are attracted to law enforcement are usually types who were bullies to begin with. They went on to state that many of them harbor borderline psychotic and deviant personalities and are somehow able to get past the vetting process. It stands to reason that the promise of power and the lack of oversight is appealing to these types. Maybe the vetting process should be vetted! It appears that all too often many officers go well beyond what is required as far as violence is concerned. What ever happened to aiming for non lethal targets when firing on citizens? And why is it so common to see a large number of officers swarm on just one person? Understandably situations can and often do escalate quickly, which is why it is important for officers to get thorough and effective training in how to deal with the public. Because clearly there is a vital component lacking in the process.
It must also be said that obviously all officers are not corrupt or out to kill. Certainly the actions of bad police make it even harder on those who genuinely wish to do an honest job and be upstanding in their privileged positions. In all honesty, the actions of officers who are either corrupt, badly trained, trigger happy or just scared and or inept are making things bad for decent officers and everyone else as well. Something has to give and more dialogue has to start happening or we will simply be doomed to more of the same. If things ever get so bad that this country finds its citizens facing off against any branch of law enforcement, hopefully those in uniform will realize in time that, they are us, just as we are them. Here’s to hoping that true healing can begin and that the abuse and brutality will rapidly become a thing of the past.
Hawaii lawmakers took a critical step forward Friday to require police to cough up their misconduct records when the public asks for them.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, chaired by Sen. Clayton Hee, passed House Bill 1812 over the objections of the county police departments and the cops union.
The bill removes an exemption that limits what misconduct records must be made public. It also requires additional detail and updating for annual reports of police misconduct and forces the cops to keep the records for at least 18 months after reporting them to the Legislature.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for its approval.
Read past Civil Beat coverage of the issue here.
— Nathan Eagle
ST. LOUIS • An Occupy St. Louis protester, Scott O’Rourke, was acquitted Wednesday of assaulting a police officer after raising claims that it was in fact the officer who had beat him.
It is the third acquittal of an Occupy protester on assault charges. Two prior defendants — Ryan Macias, 25, and Ryan Seal, 27 — also alleged police brutality in their December 2012 trial, pointing to booking photos and hospital reports that showed their injuries.
O’Rourke, 24, on trial this week, was at a protest over police brutality regarding the two other claims when he became ensnared with law enforcement.
Police said that during the protest on May 24, 2012, O’Rourke was caught spray-painting the windows of a bank on Olive Street, and that he punched the owner of a business. Police also alleged that after being arrested, O’Rourke punched one of the officers after his handcuffs were removed at the central patrol station.
He was charged with two felony counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor counts of assault, property damage and resisting arrest. Jurors acquitted him of all.
Joseph Welch, the defense attorney on O’Rourke’s case and the case from 2012, said the separate verdicts bolstered the notion that there was “a pattern of police brutality and police misconduct at the Occupy events” that officials knew.
“Why are they even prosecuting these cases?” he asked.
A police spokesperson said the department was unaware of any complaints relative to the incident, but would encourage anyone with complaints to come forward and they would be investigated.
Lauren Trager, spokeswoman for Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office, said in a statement, “We hold the highest regard and respect for the process by which juries make difficult decisions. However, we stand by our decision to prosecute Mr. Scott O’Rourke.”
Welch pointed out in trial that O’Rourke was accused of delivering punches with just his right hand, even though he is left handed. The attorney also put his client on the witness stand and said he believed the jury’s confidence in his credibility was a key to winning the case.
Welch showed the jurors hospital records and a booking photo of the broken nose that O’Rourke sustained — he says from an officer’s punching him. The officer never denied delivering the blow but insisted it had been justified. Welch had to fight in court to get the booking photo of his client from prosecutors.
In court motions, Welch said that what prosecutors finally produced was a drivers license photo, and that it was only on the eve of the trial (when the case was first set back in February) that they turned over the actual booking photo showing the injuries. Welch unsuccessfully fought to have a judge dismiss the case as a result.
Seal and Macias had alleged that they received concussions and other injuries after their encounter with police on March 15, 2012. Police had alleged that one of the men spit at an officer and then resisted arrest, and that the other man jumped on the arresting officer’s back.
Jurors, after acquitting the two men of resisting arrest and assaulting police, said discrepancies between the police accounts gave them doubt, as well as a video that did not make it clear who had spit at the officers.
By Stephanie Casanova |
When Tim Decker heard people cheering out on University Boulevard after the Arizona men’s baskeball team lost on Saturday night, he left his dorm to see what was going on.
Decker, a biology freshman, stood on the corner of University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, observing the crowd chanting “U of A.” He said people began to get aggressive when the cops showed up.
Decker said he was alone when a cop approached him, asking him to back off the street. Decker asked, “Why?” because he believed he wasn’t doing anything wrong and was standing on public property by himself observing the scene.
“The next thing that I knew is I was hit in the face with a nightstick, and then I took off my hood and I put my hands up and I was like, ‘That’s assault — you’re not allowed to do that,’” Decker said. “And the next thing that I knew, I was being grabbed by police officers, and they all started hitting me and beating me and telling me I was resisting when I was screaming, ‘I’m not resisting,’ and it was all pretty scary. I was a little confused about why everything was happening.”
During Saturday night’s clash between crowds and officers of the Tucson Police Department 15 people were arrested, nine of them UA students.
Decker said about six officers grabbed him and hit him with their fists, and he was also hit with batons a few times, leaving a lump on his head, scrapes on his knees and marks all over his body, including one on the back of his neck.
Decker was taken to a van, where he stayed with about nine other students for two hours until the area was cleared. After being charged for unlawful assembly, Decker was released.
There are videos of Decker clashing with police on YouTube and other social media sites. One of the most popular videos circulating of the clash shows a woman being slammed into a bench by an TPD officer.
The woman in the video, Christina Gardilcic, is a senior studying psychology and Latin American studies at the UA. Gardilcic is currently in discussions with her lawyer regarding a potential lawsuit against TPD.
Unlawful assembly is defined in Arizona Revised Statutes as “1. Assembling with two or more other persons with the intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot … or 2. Being present at an assembly of two or more other persons who are engaged in or who have the readily apparent intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot … and knowingly remaining there and refusing to obey an official order to disperse.”
Sgt. Chris Widmer, a TPD public information officer, said everything was going OK until smoke bombs that had been set by a crowd member went off, causing people to take over the street.
Officers did what they were ordered to, which was to maintain control on University Boulevard to prevent such a gathering, he said.
Widmer said past incidents from 1997 and 2001, when riots broke out after championship games and people flipped cars over and damaged businesses, taught the department that violence can result from large gatherings.
“The only option they did not have was to stay in place or to move east past the line,” Widmer said. “When we allow crowds to mingle and we allow them to build up and to kind of feed on each other, historically, that’s when the disorderly conduct starts.”
Decker said the crowd of people seemed like a tailgate to him, where people were simply showing their pride for the university’s basketball team. Decker added that he didn’t think police were trained very well for what happened and were probably scared because they weren’t sure what to do.
“When they were going into it, just because of what’s happened in the past, they automatically thought whatever was going to happen — it was going to be a riot, and that’s how they were going to deal with it,” Decker said. “But I thought that was the wrong way of going about it.”
Ahva Sadeghi, a philosophy, politics, economics and law junior, said she was leaving Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company and trying to get to her car when she was stopped by a TPD officer. The officer told her she couldn’t go that way, so she turned around and tried walking toward Euclid Avenue, and an officer kept her from walking that direction as well.
An officer then dropped a pepper canister in front of Sadeghi, releasing pepper spray in her face and causing her to cough nonstop for about an hour and a half after the incident, she said. Sadeghi added that her throat still hasn’t cleared since Saturday’s incident.
She said police should have only interfered if fights broke out or if students were being harmed, which she didn’t see happening on Saturday after the game. Students were simply high-fiving each other in the crowds, she added.
“Students should be able to celebrate a win or to be sad as long as there is no one harmed,” Sadeghi said. “Here at U of A we’re a community. … I feel like a direct win when my basketball team wins, and I feel a direct loss even though I wasn’t at the stadium, even though I had nothing to do with the win. That’s how united our school is, and we’re very passionate, but passion shouldn’t be
confused with fury.”
Sadeghi said her parents were concerned because they don’t live in Tucson, and they rely on the local police force to protect her when she’s away for school.
“They don’t want the police to put us in harm’s direction,” Sadeghi said. “My parents were so nervous. I couldn’t carry a conversation with them because I couldn’t stop coughing.”
An in-depth look at the City of Chicago and Cook County suburbs finds thousands of lawsuits and hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to police-misconduct victims and attorneys.
By Andrew Schroedter
Better Government Association
The City of Chicago has spent more than a half-billion dollars on police-related legal claims over the past decade.
But the gut-wrenching payouts can’t all be blamed on notorious ex-Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, whose detectives elicited false confessions through torture.
Payments relating to the now-imprisoned Burge account for a fraction of the $521.3 million the city has spent on police-related settlements, judgments, legal fees and other costs since 2004, the Better Government Association has found.
The BGA also looked at what 132 Cook County suburbs paid for police misconduct-related claims and found a total of more than $42 million was spent over the last five years.
The true cost for both the city and suburbs, though, is even higher, as the BGA counted settlements and judgments, legal bills and other fees – but not less tangible expenses.
It’s important to note this isn’t just a financial issue.
Police misconduct has inflicted pain and suffering on numerous residents, and by the same token false allegations against officers also can exact a toll.
The numbers, however, speak for themselves.
In 2013 alone, the city shelled out $84.6 million – the largest annual payout in the decade analyzed by the BGA, and more than triple the $27.3 million the city had initially projected to spend last year.
A comparison to other major cities is difficult.
But the BGA found that New York City paid $151.9 million in the most recent fiscal year with figures available – more than Chicago has paid in any year since 2004. But New York’s population and police force is three times as large.
Los Angeles, which has a similar-sized police force as Chicago, paid nearly $20 million last year – the last time Chicago paid so little was $18.5 million in 2005.
Other BGA findings include:
+ More than 1,600 misconduct-related lawsuits had been filed against Chicago police from 2009 to 2013, a majority alleging excessive force. (An exact number for years 2004 to 2008 was not available.)
+ The city paid $391.5 million in settlements and judgments over the last decade. Nearly 15 percent, or $57 million, went to Burge victims.
+ Additionally, the city paid $49.8 million in plaintiff attorney fees and other costs related to all misconduct claims and an estimated $80 million for defense attorneys.
+ In the suburbs, more than a quarter of the misconduct lawsuits were concentrated in six towns: Berwyn, Calumet City, Cicero, Dolton, Harvey and Markham. Collectively, those suburbs have paid more than $23 million since 2008.
Political leaders in the city and suburbs say they’re working to address the problem.
But criminal justice experts tell the BGA that won’t happen, at least in Chicago, until police address a so-called “code of silence” – where officers refuse to tell on each other for misbehavior – and a flawed disciplinary system that together allow misconduct to prosper.
“Until that changes we’re going to continue to pay out money,” says University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, who has co-authored a report on Chicago police misconduct.
by Ned Berke
Diego Palacios, the police officer kicked off the force after his bogus arrest of a Sheepshead Bay man, may have been sentenced to four days in prison – but he served only one night.
New York Post picked up on our exclusive story last week – without giving credit to Sheepshead Bites – noting that Palacios pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of four days in prison and his resignation from the NYPD. The paper learned that Palacios had to spend only a single night behind bars, though.
Palacios was imprisoned after the Thursday afternoon hearing, in which he admitted to filing a false police report that claimed Sheepshead Bay resident John Hockenjos attempted to run the officer over with his car. That four-day sentence meant that Palacios would have been a free man again on Sunday.
But the sweetheart deal for a man who nearly put an innocent man in jail for seven years got even sweeter for Palacios: state law requires that inmates scheduled for discharge on a weekend should be freed on Friday.
Palacios spent the night in jail, and was freed the next day.
Hockenjos is fuming over the short prison sentence, and afraid for his safety.
“He’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites last week. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position.”
by Ned Berke
A Cardozo School of Law student is suing the city and two police officers from the 61st Precinct, claiming they wrongfully arrested him after he chewed them out for parking in a bus stop to grab some food.
Tzvi Richt, 22, was given two disorderly conduct summonses after he got fed up and mouthed off to two officers who he claims chased off a man for parking in a bus stop – and then took the spot for themselves.
The incident happened in December, when Richt was on his way home from final exams. He spotted two officers in their patrol car at Kings Highway and East 16th Street. The boys in blue were honking at a man using a nearby ATM to move his car from a bus zone. When that man hurriedly pulled away to avoid a ticket, the cops pulled into the bus stop, left their vehicle, and hit a nearby food truck for some chow, the suit alleges.
The New York Post details what happened next:
Richt approached NYPD officers Graham Braithwaite and Jason Pinero and quizzed them about the apparent double standard.
“Plaintiff asked the officers whether they thought what they had done was right,” the suit states. “Kicking a civilian’s car out of a bus stop so that they could park there just to get food.”
Richt claims that he asked the question in a respectful manner and was not “yelling or shouting,” according to court papers.
Braithwaite tried to shoo Richt away – but he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“Plaintiff responded by asking whether he wasn’t allowed to ask a question of a police officer,” the suit states.
Braithwaite then demanded Richt’s identification – but the student asked if they had the right to make the request.
That’s when Braithwaite put him in cuffs and threw him in the back of the cruiser, the suit claims. Pinero apparently attempted to urge his partner to forget about it and move on, but to no avail.
Richt spent an hour and a half behind bars before getting the disorderly conduct citations.
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