BY COLIN DAILEDA
The city of Chicago released another long-buried video on Thursday that shows another police officer fatally shooting yet another black teenager after officials there officially dropped their objection to its release.
Protests have wracked Chicago and officials have scrambled to appear transparent ever since the November release of a similar video in which an officer shot a black teenager named Laquan McDonald 16 times.
This latest video shows an officer gunning down 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman, who was unarmed and fleeing police when he was shot and killed.
Officer Kevin Fry, who was not reprimanded for the fatal shooting, said Chatman turned and pointed a "black object" at him as Chatman fled, an action not seen in the video.
Fry has been the subject of 30 complaints throughout his career, according toDNAInfo, and yet he has never once been disciplined.
Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden attempted to justify the fatal shooting and said Fry had been in fear of his life.
Camden has lied about police shootings in the past, and is often among the first officials to try to establish a narrative after an officer kills someone, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune showed.
Chatman and two friends had robbed a man of $400 earlier that day, and Chatman had taken off in the man's car. Fry and another officer recognized the car and approached Chatman, at which point he got out of the vehicle and fled.
Police initially charged Chatman's two collaborators with his murder, though they were not at the scene when Fry fatally shot the teenager.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after the release of the McDonald video, and has desperately tried to appear transparent and dedicated to police reform in its aftermath.
Protesters, however, are calling for his resignation, fed up with years of violence at the hands of police and what they say is an ongoing attempt to cover up the killings.
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San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed’s call this week for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate last month’s fatal police shooting of Mario Woods and the San Francisco Police Department’s use-of-force policies is a sensible move that The City as a whole should welcome.
Unfortunately, in the political climate of this city, where our leaders seem content to turn a blind eye to what happened on the Bayview sidewalk on Dec. 2, such a request is seen as “bold.” Mayor Ed Lee’s office gave tepid support, observing The City is already conducting many investigations into the shooting, but “the mayor welcomes independent review.”
The San Francisco Police Officers Association, which has defended the officers in the shooting, didn’t bother with such pleasantries, with consultant Gary Delagnes telling the San Francisco Examiner that Breed’s request was “political posturing” and “grandstanding.”
There should be no tolerance for this kind of heartless obstructionism. A man died, fatally shot by police officers on a San Francisco sidewalk. We would like to think we live in a city where those whose job is to care about how law enforcement is practiced would go to the ends of the earth to ensure police work is done ethically and professionally, for the benefit of the department and to give full dignity to those who wear the badge. We recognize that is not the city we live in, but the realization is painful.
Breed wants San Francisco to follow Chicago’s example: That city called on the DOJ to investigate the October 2014 shooting by Chicago police of Laquan McDonald, an investigation that grew to include examining the police department’s operations.
Breed’s resolution, introduced with the support of Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview, requests the Department of Justice “undertake an independent investigation” into the shooting of Woods, which “raised serious questions about the actions of the officers involved, as well as SFPD’s training and use of force protocols and its treatment of African Americans.”
We urge the full board, which could vote on the resolution by the end of the month, to stand together with a unanimous approval calling for the investigation.
Several supervisors on Tuesday also publicly apologized to the victim’s mother, Gwen Woods, who was at the meeting. Even though it was a gesture, it was overdue. The board should also back Supervisor David Campos’ resolution to officially apologize to Gwen Woods for treatment over the death of her son.
Those officers who surrounded Woods, who was holding a kitchen knife on the sidewalk that afternoon six weeks ago, appeared to show a blatant disregard for human life. When we talk about the need for police reform in this country and in this city, the real problem is that in the decisive moment, our police officers seemed to care less about a man losing his life than about getting a cut on their hand by trying to disarm him of a knife. If that proves to be the case, the officers let The City down, they let the department down and they let the Woods family down.
Yes, the family deserves an apology, and The City deserves one as well. Police officers are trained to allow us to feel safe and protected on our streets, and in this instance they produced the opposite effect.
We need the most thorough and independent investigations possible, and that includes calling on the federal government to be involved.
“We do not have at this point the Police Department that the city and county of San Francisco deserves to have,” Campos said this week.
We sadly agree. And we concur that a federal investigation is needed for a true independent review to see that justice is done.
Before long, police officers in the city of Rochester will be wearing body cameras. That is quickly becoming the norm across the nation, yet each city is on its own when it comes to developing rules for the use of those cameras and the videos they record.
That isn't going so well, according to a report from a coalition of major civil rights organizations. It came up with a list of recommended rules, and then checked to see how 25 cities stacked up. None made the honor roll.
The city of Rochester should be the first.
The city is negotiating a policy with the union representing its police officers. This follows months of work on the proposed rules, as well as significant input from the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform — which had been pressing for the cameras even before the fatal police shooting that set off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
Before selecting a vendor this week, the city showed coalition members cameras from four companies.
Unlike some cities, Rochester appears to be taking a thoughtful, relatively transparent and community-based approach to outfitting officers with cameras. It is unfortunate the policy was not ready when the city picked its vendor, but as soon as union negotiations conclude, we expect the city to make its policy public.
We believe the policy should largely reflect the recommendations of the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform. In addition to being well-researched and sound, the group's buy-in is critical to building trust between police and the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.
To gain a perfect score with leading civil rights organizations, the city will have to: make its policy easy for the public to see; limit the amount of discretion police officers have over when to record; address privacy issues for both police and citizens; prevent officers from seeing the videos before they file their reports; delete "unflagged" footage in six months; make sure videos can't be tampered with; allow people who complain of police misconduct to see relevant footage; and sharply limit the use of technology, like facial recognition, to identify people in videos.
Yes, there is a lot to think about before putting a body camera on a police officer.
The city of Rochester should be commended for taking the time to do that. But, as they say, it's not over till it's over. We urge the union and the city to get it right before they emerge from talks, and then make sure everyone understands and follows the rules.
In addition, our congressional delegation should be pushing for a specific national policy and review system to ensure these cameras are doing what they are ultimately supposed to do: provide a tool to help improve police-community relations across America.
A team of 15 experts from around the country will oversee the Cleveland police department's compliance a consent decree negotiated with the U.S. Department of Justice. A Los Angeles-based police consulting firm, Police Assessment Resource Center, will be paid $4.9 million by the city. Here are the backgrounds of the team members.
Ryllie Danylko, cleveland.com
By Eric Heisig, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The team monitoring the city of Cleveland's agreement with the U.S. Justice Department regarding police reform has created a website and social-media accounts.
Within the past week, the website www.clevelandpolicemonitor.net went live, team leader Matthew Barge said. The team also sent out its first dispatch via Twitter on Friday.
The team also created a Facebook page.
The web presence is a way to keep Cleveland residents informed as the monitoring team tracks the city's progress in reforming its police department. The settlement with the Justice Department was reached in May, and is expected to cost the city millions over at least five years.
The monitoring team began its work in October. It now has two offices: one at the Cleveland police department's downtown headquarters on Ontario Street and one at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, 4515 Superior Ave.
It is now taking public input for a first-year plan, which will be filed Feb. 1 for Chief U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.'s approval. The plan (a draft can be seen below) will set deadlines for when the city will have to accomplish certain tasks.
The judge, city and Justice Department are expected to discuss the first-year plan at a Jan. 28 status conference.
Those who want to weigh in can do so here.
"What we've been telling people is 'the sooner, the better,'" Barge said.
The fact that the state hired a disgraced cop against the recommendations of the police agency that fired him cries out for a statewide police oversight board.
JANUARY 14, 2016 · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board
When the Honolulu Police Department fired Officer Ethan Ferguson four years ago, one might have thought the disgraced policeman would be done as a lawman. Falsifying reports and lying to investigators regarding his transportation of an underage runaway aren’t the sort of offenses a police officer’s career can typically survive.
But as we know now, that’s not the way things turned out. Ferguson shockingly went to work within a year for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources as a law enforcement officer on the Big Island, with the same authority, power and weaponry entrusted to HPD cops.
Cut to last Thursday, when Ferguson was busted in another case involving a minor and charged with five counts of sexual assault. The arrest was based on allegations by a teen that she’d been assaulted in Hilo by a man in a DLNR law enforcement uniform.
What’s wrong with this picture? How could a cop fired for serious problems with integrity be hired by another law enforcement agency in the same state?
The outrageousness of the situation makes an emphatic case for what’s lacking in Hawaii. We remain the only state without a statewide standards and training board and one of only six states that doesn’t give a statewide oversight agency the power to revoke a peace officer’s license for misconduct.
The facts of this case, still emerging, border on the ridiculous.
James Nishimoto, director of Hawaii’s Department of Human Resources Development, confirmed Wednesday in an e-mail to Sen. Will Espero that both HPD and Ferguson himself acknowledged prior to his hire by DLNR that he had been fired from his previous job.
“Details regarding the termination were not provided” by HPD, Nishimoto told Espero.
But HPD now says that’s not exactly the case. In fact, Honolulu police officials said late Wednesday they recommended DLNR not hire Ferguson. Still, HPD did not disclose the circumstances that led to Ferguson’s discharge, even to a brother law enforcement agency.
But DLNR recruiters didn’t need to look far to find out about Ferguson’s troubled past. A simple Google search would have told them the story.
Civil Beat’s Nick Grube reported Ferguson’s firing in 2014 and the offenses for which he lost his job. The story was part of our ongoing coverage of the lack of transparency when it comes to police misconduct and discipline in Hawaii. Grube’s piece focused in part on how quick police agencies are to destroy disciplinary records after an officer has been terminated, as HPD did in Ferguson’s case.
Police officers have extraordinary power over the lives of ordinary citizens, and the hiring of any cop who is going to carry a badge and a gun warrants careful scrutiny of an applicant’s background. It’s one thing for police officials, encouraged by the politically powerful police union, toshut the public out when it comes to being able to check up on the actions of police officers.
But to not disclose to another law enforcement agency bad behavior that led to termination? Come on.
That point is not lost on Sen. Espero, who practically breathed fire in an e-mail exchange Wednesday with Nishimiro and DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.
“Without knowing the discussions between the applicant and DLNR, I am outraged that DLNR would hire this individual in a law enforcement capacity. The state needs to err on the side of caution and public safety when it comes to hiring practices, and from what I know, this did not happen,” Espero wrote. “There was a red flag on this individual, and the state disregarded it.”
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Espero suggests a “zero-tolerance policy” in considering police officers fired from other departments. “We don’t need second rate law enforcement officers working in state government,” he declared.
Espero has been the loudest voice at the Legislature for the creation of a statewide board that would facilitate training and set professional standards for law enforcement.
Establishment of such a board and greater transparency in the disclosure of information related to police misconduct are two of four main reform proposals Civil Beat supports for the coming legislative session. Were those proposals already law, DLNR at minimum would have had the facts regarding Ferguson’s past offenses easily at its fingertips when considering his hire.
Espero is leading a coalition that promises to introduce these and other reform measures this year, though as he told Civil Beat in an Editorial Board meeting last month, he is leaning against language that would give a police standards board power to take away an officer’s certification.
He should reconsider throwing that political bone to the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, which has successfully opposed reform measures for years. The Ferguson case proves beyond a reasonable doubt the reasons a standards board should have the authority to certify and decertify officers.
In the session that begins in one week, legislators must take seriously reform of a law enforcement environment that, at minimum, allows problem cops to move from agency to agency without their history being fully disclosed to potential employers or to the taxpayers who fund their salaries. One girl has allegedly paid a steep price for that lack of reform.
Her case and numerous others in a law enforcement system that virtually stands alone nationally in its lack of adequate oversight cry out for justice. This year, we must not ignore the cries.
About the Author
The Civil Beat Editorial Board
The members of Civil Beat's editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Bob Ortega, Richard Wiens, Chloe Fox and Todd Simmons. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group's consensus view. Contact Opinion Editor Todd Simmons at email@example.com or 808-377-0247.
By Vivian Ho
Demonstrators chalked up the ground outside Hall of Justice in protest of alleged police brutality and those killed by police officers, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in San Francisco, Calif. Mario Woods was shot an ... more
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee responded Wednesday to the outcry over the police killing of Mario Woods with an outline of proposed and pending reforms and a directive to Police Chief Greg Suhr and the city’s Police Commission to submit any additional policy and budget proposals by next month.
In a memo to the Board of Supervisors, the mayor added to the Police Commission’s ongoing discussion about the department’s training, use-of-force policies and weaponry by including a directive for the department to enroll in President Obama’s Police Data Initiative, with a goal of creating more transparency and accountability.
Lee’s working plan for police use of force, which commits the city and the Police Department to “a primary goal of preventing unnecessary officer-involved shootings,” also includes the creation of a new cultural competency course for officers as well as an expansion of training on how to avoid or limit subconscious bias.
Lee said in an interview that he wanted the memo to send a message that he is “very serious about these changes.” The mayor’s office had prepared the memo for a Wednesday meeting with the city’s African American Advisory Forum.
“It is really a key element of our ability to be a successful city, to make sure we speak to our African American community in a way that breeds even more trust,” he said. “For us to get to a point where we really have a practice and a policy that lethal force is the last resort, we have to get more dialogue, we have to get more African Americans involved in the Police Department, we have to make sure that they can go to other agencies and they know what we’re doing, and I need to be out there making sure beyond all this that everything I’m doing is transparent as well.”
Lee’s memo is the latest promise of reform following the Dec. 2 killing of Woods, which drew outrage when video of the black man’s death surfaced showing that he was shot several times while not appearing to directly threaten a group of officers surrounding him. Some critics have called for Lee to dismiss Suhr.
Police officials said Woods was a suspect in a stabbing and was allegedly armed with the same knife when five officers came upon him in the Bayview neighborhood. They said the officers had no choice but to use lethal force after attempts to disarm Woods with beanbag rounds and pepper spray were unsuccessful.
Since the shooting, the Police Commission has opened up discussion regarding the department’s use-of-force policy for the first time in decades, and Suhr reignited his push to arm officers with stun guns.
The commission had set a Feb. 3 deadline for a new draft proposal for the use-of-force policy — a proposal that would include the decision regarding new weaponry — and Lee asked that the commission and Suhr have any new plans to him by Feb. 15.
“I’m a fan of ambitious deadline,” said Police Commission President Suzy Loftus. “I definitely agree here that there is an urgency of now and a lot of folks with good ideas and solutions that want to understand our direction.”
In addition to the policy talks, the Police Department issued a bulletin requiring officers to file a use-of-force report whenever they point their gun at a person, and some patrol cars are getting equipped with riot shields. Suhr said the department has also changed firearms training to put more of an emphasis on de-escalation and less-lethal options.
Lee highlighted those initiatives in his memo and said he hopes the city’s efforts can help repair trust with the black community. He said he planned to meet with community leaders often.
“My goal is to do as much as I can to restore strong trust,” he said. “For this community, there’s a lot of pain. There are a lot of murders, homicides and fatigue and a lot of stress. I think I need to do work in additional ways to signify that we want to ease that stress out. Because of history and because of perceptions, we need to do a lot more.”
As for calls from some community members that he fire his police chief, Lee said, “We’re not there. We’re in disagreement.
“What we’re doing now goes beyond this chief,” he said. “It goes to how we view public safety, how we operate as a city. This cannot just be a demand about this chief.”
Next week, Suhr, Loftus and Joyce Hicks, executive director of the Office of Citizen Complaints, will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with a Police Executive Research Forum studying the United Kingdom’s de-escalation techniques. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is also reviewing the department’s policies, at the chief’s behest.
With the February deadline looming, Loftus said at Wednesday’s meeting that the commissioners will be holding a series of informal community meetings across the city to hear from the public regarding any policy changes.
While some commissioners expressed concern over the deadline — “I want to do it right,” said Commissioner Joe Marshall —they agreed it was necessary to move quickly.
“The problem is not new,” said L. Julius Turman, police commission vice president. “We have a base line of information to begin with. Let’s take that information out and start refining that policy and let’s move.”
Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @VivianHo