BY TRACE WILLIAM COWEN
I'd be happy to waste more of your time here: @TraceCowen
FEB 25, 2016
As the election spotlight remains firmly focused on the troubling state of police brutality in the United States for many voters, the issue is inspiring refreshingly direct responses from some candidates. Bernie Sanders, a very public proponent of drastic police reform, told theGuardian earlier this week that he not only supported such reform but also the implementation of a mandatory national database for allpolice-related deaths.
"When individuals die under police apprehension or police custody, should [reporting that] be mandatory?" Sanders posited during a press conference on Wednesday. "Yes. I do believe that." Sanders added, after being questioned by the Guardian, that he would also support any legislation seeking to make this a reality:
Of course, the Vermont Senator's stance on combating the prevalence of American police brutality has been a crucial component of his campaign platform since he first announced his White House intentions. "At the federal level we need to establish a new model police training program that reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country," Sanders said in August when revealing his own plan for reform. "With input from a broad segment of the community including activists and leaders from organizations like Black Lives Matter, we will reinvent how we police America."
Though this proposed national database has continued to garner a baffling number of opponents, publications like the Guardian have already implemented their own tracking method for police-related deaths in America. At the time of publication, the Guardian's The Counted project reports that 158 people have been killed by police in 2016 alone.
by: Sean Yoes Senior AFRO Contributor
We’re roughly a third of the way through the 2016 legislative session in Annapolis and there is growing dissension among activists and legislators who seek law enforcement reform in the state.
On Feb. 23, divergent groups including family members of people killed by police officers, heads of police unions, police chiefs and children protesters (draped in crime scene tape) descended upon the state capital, as debate began over 27 bills aimed at some measure of law enforcement reform. Even William Porter, the first officer to stand trial connected to the death of Freddie Gray attended the hearings.
The focus of many is on House Bill 1016, which was crafted to amend Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), the first and many argue, the strongest set of protections for law enforcement officers in the nation. The bill is the product of a legislative task force known as the Public Safety and Policing Work Group.
“The problem is that they got most of that information…from folks who are affiliated with law enforcement. A lot of folks did a lot of good work, came up with some okay ideas, but also came up with some problematic ideas,” said Lawrence Grandpre, director of research for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), a Baltimore-based grassroots think tank. Grandpre made his comments during, “First Edition,” Tuesday evening.
“The biggest example of this is a provision which basically means that if you have a police officer accused of doing something wrong when they go through…the internal trial board…and there is only police officers who serve on that trial board,” Grandpre added. “So, it’s literally the police policing the police.” As of now, HB 1016 has the full support of Speaker of the House Mike Bush.
LBS supports legislation that will be introduced by Del. Jill Carter (D-41st), which LBS said will include a provision that would require at least one civilian member of the internal trial board that would determine discipline for officers accused of misconduct.
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is wearing a couple of different lobbying hats during this legislative session. He is against pending legislation that would increase the influence of police unions in the disciplinary process. But, Davis is supporting legislation brought forward by Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-40th), which would require anybody caught with a loaded handgun to be locked up for at least a year.
Davis laid out his argument for the handgun legislation on First Edition, Feb. 23.
“The choice a person makes to arm himself with a firearm before he leaves his house, whether it’s sticking that gun in your waistband or sticking that gun under the front seat of your car is problematic for our community because young people whether it’s in Baltimore or any other major city or major county in the country really don’t possess the conflict resolution skills that we need them to possess in the first place,” said Davis, who characterized himself as one of the more progressive police chiefs in the nation during the interview.
“And the immediate availability of a firearm I think really takes some occasions that should, maybe in days gone by, should be a fist fight at most, it takes it to a gun battle,” Davis added. “And we have so many acts of violence in the city that are just spontaneous eruptions of emotion that without that immediate accessibility to a firearm, I think that conflict is otherwise resolved.”
Also during the show, Natasha Pratt Harris, associate professor and Criminal Justice Program coordinator at Morgan State University, argued the handgun legislation may be necessary, but preventative measures are more vital.
“I consistently say that we need to see this as an absolute emergency…saying, `How do we make sure children who are going back and forth to school, how to we make sure elderly siblings — like just happened yesterday, who were going to the bus stop– aren’t injured and really looking at that piece to protect our communities,” she added.
“Not so much focusing on punishing and punishing and punishing, when we know that hasn’t worked.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.
- See more at: http://www.afro.com/battle-for-police-reform-handgun-penalties-begins/#sthash.I0FeGyTj.dpuf
Tom JackmanThe Washington Post
It started with a reporter's attempt to learn whether problem police officers were moving from department to department. It resulted in legislation that is again bringing national scrutiny to the Virginia General Assembly: a bill that could keep all Virginia police officers' names secret.
In a climate where the actions of police nationwide are being watched as never before, supporters say the bill is needed to keep officers safe from people who may harass or harm them. But the effort has drawn the attention of civil rights groups and others who say police should be moving toward more transparency - not less - to ensure that troubled officers are found and removed.
If it is made law, experts say the restriction would be unprecedented nationwide.
The Virginia Senate has already approved Senate Bill 552, which would classify the names of all police officers and fire marshals as "personnel records," exempting them from mandatory disclosure under the state's freedom of information law. The Republican-dominated Virginia House will consider the bill in hearings starting Thursday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has not taken a position on the bill yet, his spokesman said.
State Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr., R-Chesapeake, - citing that he knew many police officers and their families - said: "The culture is not one of respect for law enforcement anymore. It's really, 'How, how can we get these guys? What can we do?' . . . Police officers are much more in jeopardy. There's no nefarious intent behind the bill."
Pushback has been strong. "To say every officer's name ought to be confidential," said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, "is just a step too far in government secrecy. We are dangerously close to a police state in some respects." She said shootings and attacks on police are rarely committed by anyone using public records.
Although other states have made moves to shield the identities of some officers, none would go as far as the proposal in Virginia.
In Oregon, the state House passed a bill last week allowing the name of an officer involved in a police shooting to be withheld for 90 days if a judge finds there is a credible threat to the officer. This followed the killing of a protester from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, held by armed occupiers for more than a month this year. And the Pennsylvania House passed a bill in November mandating the withholding the name of an officer involved in a shooting while the investigation is pending - which would be a change from the Philadelphia Police Department's policy of releasing the name within three days.
Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police union, said he knew of one instance when a citizen had taken an officer's name and committed financial fraud, adding that the potential existed in other cases for danger to an officer's family. "This is not about trying to keep information from the public, to have secret police," Carroll said."But it is about wanting to keep our officers safe."
Carroll said: "With the current trend across the country, law enforcement officers have been attacked and even assassinated because of issues being driven in the media. . . . With technology now, if you have a name, you could find out where they live. It puts them at risk."
Completely withholding officers' names from the public is a new step nationally, according to Dan Bevarly, interim executive director of the National Freedom of Information Council. "Usually legislation is related to a specific incident, but not as a preventive measure," he said. "To do such a blanket exemption for a high-profile government employee, what are you trying to accomplish?"
John Worrall, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas specializing in policing in legal issues, said that in his review of state freedom of information laws, "none that I've found have gone to this extreme. In fact, the opposite is occurring" in many states, Worrall said, with more governments and police agencies posting information promptly about police-involved shootings.
Although police supporters fear the use of publicly available records against them, "that's largely based on a total lack of data," Worrall said. "There's no data on retaliatory actions against police officers. And even if the problem exists, I'm not convinced that hiding their names is the solution."
Worrall and others noted that keeping officers' names secret seems to conflict with the idea of community policing and building trust with citizens. "I don't know how you have community policing," Gastañaga said, "when nobody knows your name."
Should the Virginia bill become law, the practical implications still aren't clear. Some worry it would allow an officer who pulls over a driver, or stops someone in the street, to refuse to provide his or her name. Officers' names would still appear on traffic tickets or court documents.
Police would still have the discretion to release any officer's name if they wanted, and police officials said they would not withhold names without specific reasons. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said he and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors remains "committed to increasing our transparency." He said that officers would never be removing their names from their uniforms, as some have suggested the bill would allow, and that he would withhold a name only to protect a particular officer's safety or the sanctity of an ongoing investigation. Fairfax police waited 16 months to release the name of the officer who shot an unarmed Springfield man, John Geer, in 2013. The release came only after a judge ordered it.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said police in the commonwealth already have the option to withhold names, and Cosgrove's bill merely codifies that discretion. She and Carroll, the police union president, both noted that 1,500 Virginia state employees had fraudulent tax returns filed last year, which officials think originated with an online database of employee names and salaries.
"We do not expect this to be abused," said Schrad, who sent an email to state police chiefs saying: "We caution all of our agencies to use discretion in exercising this exemption. In order to build a trust relationship with communities, agencies should make sure that the communities know who their officers are. This exemption should only be exercised when trying to protect the identity of an undercover officer or when protecting the integrity" of an internal affiars investigation.
Schrad and Carroll helped launch the bill after the Virginian-Pilot newspaper and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services reached an agreement last summer for the state to release the names, agencies and dates of employment of every law enforcement officer in Virginia. Schrad opposed the release because she said the database was old and inaccurate, saying that providing the mass data was her chief reason for pursuing the bill.
Virginian-Pilot reporter Gary Harki said he wanted to check tips he had received that officers who were fired from one department were simply rejoining a police force elsewhere, similar to the reporting done by the Boston Globe on reassignment of pedophilic Catholic priests in Massachusetts. The newspaper negotiated an agreement with the state to obtain the names of only current officers, not to publish the entire database or share it with anyone, and to indemnify the state from any legal claims.
After the agreement was signed, Schrad and Carroll objected, and the state changed its mind. No deal. But the state failed to cite a legal exemption for its refusal in the required time under the state Freedom of Information Act, and a Norfolk judge ruled that the data had to be given to Harki. The judge also ruled that police names are personnel records that can be exempt under FOIA, but he said the state had already agreed to release them. The ruling at the circuit-court level does not have the weight of legal precedent and so Schrad and Carroll sought to put it into law.
"The public has a right to know who their police officers are," Harki said. "To me, it's just a fundamental principle of democracy [to know] who our public officials are." He said that the database he got was "just a piece of a larger puzzle to a problem that may or may not exist" and that he hasn't published anything about it since the Virginian-Pilot won the court ruling in November.
When Harki worked as a reporter in West Virginia, a similar investigation of troubled officers moving between departments resulted in legislation adding oversight to the movement of officers.
Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government noted that many public servants take actions that could anger citizens - prosecutors, social service workers, judges - but their names remain public. She also said that withholding names would result in a lack of accountability for a variety of unsavory acts, such as profligate spending or hiring friends and family, actions that often are caught only when names are linked to illegal deeds.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon before a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee, chaired by Del. James M. LeMunyon, R-Fairfax. He declined to offer his views on the bill, but he said if it passed, it would be heard again next Thursday before the entire committee, then possibly sent to the full House.
February 27, 2016 by Thomas Nephew
Maryland Police Reform press conference on February 23
This post is a modification of the original post by Thomas Nephew at Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
MCCRC’s Thomas Nephew and over a hundred other advocates of police reform descended on Annapolis on Tuesday to press their case for real police reform andagainst measures like “Recommendation 23”— packing brutality hearing boards with members favorable to the accused — that would set back that cause.
It was a full day of education and advocacy, including a press conference, a hearing on the police reform measures, and meetings with legislators and their aides.
The hashtag for the day was #NoRec23.Activists demanded that any reform package should:
• Reduce the unfair advantage given to officers accused of brutality:
• Don’t let bad cops choose who reviews their own brutality cases.
• Allow trained civilians to sit on trial boards, ESPECIALLY in brutality cases.
• Provide local civilian review boards with subpoena power to question officers accused of misconduct.
• Eliminate the 5 day window that bad cops use to manufacture their story.
• Outlaw collusion between officers so they don’t lie to protect each other.
• Treat victims of brutality as well as all other victims fairly:
• Open up who can file brutality complaints.
• Eliminate the time restriction on when complaints can be filed.
A press conference before the hearing featured advocates bedecked in yellow “Caution” ribbons indicating the strong reservations about that element and others of the House and Senate leadership omnibus police reform bill HB1016 (now crossfiled as Senate bill SB1026).
Larry Stafford (Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, MCJPA) led off comments with a remembrance of Marshawn Carroll, a smart, committed young African American Ohio man who had worked with Larry and MCJPA here briefly before returning to Columbus, where he committed suicide earlier this month. “What has not been reported widely was that before he took his life, he had actually lost a friend to police violence in Ohio. And so recognizing the pain and the trauma that is inflicted on communities across this country when their loved ones lives are lost through police violence, or their freedom is infringed upon because of police misconduct and abuse of their authority, it’s because of that that we’re here today.” Other speakers included:
• William Rau (Caucus of African American Leaders): “…our elected officials are policymakers who are acting on our behalf. These walls, this carpet, this podium, the pomp and circumstance, the parliamentary procedure, that is all put into place to do our will. We must remember that…we are challenging a process that has run amuk. […] We must let them know we’re paying attention to every single word and every single comment.”
• Marion Gray-Hopkins (Coalition of Concerned Mothers): “…most importantly, I am a survivor. My son Gary Hopkins was murdered by the police November 27th 1999. I’m here with Greta Willis whose son Kevin Cooper was murdered in Baltimore City. I’m here with Darlene Cain whose son Dale Graham was murdered in Baltimore City in 2008. And… there are other mothers who are not here who I am representing: Dorothy Elliot – son: Archie Elliot, murdered – over 20+ bullets while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, and it was alleged that there was a gun. I’m here for Gina Best whose daughter India Kator was murdered in Virginia. This is not just about Maryland.”
• Rev. Jamila Woods Jones (Jabez Christian Community Church):“This is not a new issue, we’ve been coming here for years, with the same issues, the same concerns. And while we’re happy that we’re moving forward, we want to acknowledge that there are some fatal flaws that *must* be addressed if we’re going to make this a truly transparent effort that is beneficial to everyone. … Now we’re calling on our legislators, we’re demanding that our legislators hear the cry of the people. That’s all I have to say.”
• Sophia Marjanovic: “…during my divorce I met a county sheriff whose conduct concerned me about his neglect of duty and misconduct. I made a complaint of misconduct with the county sheriff’s department. The department did not advise me about whether they’d be investigating the case, and never advised me about whether there was an outcome of an investigation. […] I was later ordered to work with the same sheriff against whom I filed the complaint. […] I’m concerned about retaliation because the officer shouted at me that he didn’t want me filing a complaint against him again. […] I ask that the agency be required to inform the complainant of the outcome of an investigation.”
• Kirkland Hall (Somerset County NAACP): “I’m here speaking for a young lady who had been voiceless after what happened to her in 2009. … The Maryland State Police called her home looking for a young man who had escaped from a work release team. She wasn’t there. But he left a message. He said ‘My name is Sergeant Milo, Maryland State Police. We need for you to call us.’ When he thought he had hung up the phone, he made this statement: ‘I’m getting sick and tired of calling these n*****s on the telephone with these long voice messages.’ […] We could hear other police officers laughing on the phone. Which tells me there’s a culture of the police department. Which tells me that they are very familiar with the words of Chief Justice Taney many years ago, that a black man has no rights which a white man should respect.”
• Lawrence Grandpre (Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle):“Some people think this issue of police reform is complicated. I don’t think so. You can look at the words of the people who represent the establishment to see what the problem is. A few days ago [Delegate] Curt Anderson was on the radio. And he said ‘This trial board thing, it doesn’t matter. That’s internal, that’s kind of like a court martial. So we don’t need non-police officers on that board. Think about that. An elected official in Maryland just said that we should have military style justice for civilian police forces. It’s a small step when you isolate a community and produce a military style accountability system; soon enough you’ll get military style application of policing on the streets.”
A teenage boy has allegedly been shot by police while holding a broomstick in Salt Lake City, sparking angry protests. Witnesses told local media the incident happened at around 8.15pm on Saturday evening (3.15am GMT) near a homeless shelter in the US city’s downtown area. Selam Mohammad said his friend was 16 and had been shot in the chest and stomach after he got into a fight with another person.
Mohammad told the Salt Lake Tribune that the teenager was holding part of a broomstick at his side when officers ran up.
“They told him to put it down, once, and started shooting him as soon as he turned around,” he added, saying his friend was hit in the chest and stomach.
Authorities did not immediately confirm the boy’s condition or the circumstances of the reported shooting.
Detective Greg Wilking told the Tribune that ”shots were fired“ but not how many or who by, and police later said up to two officers were involved.
As the incident was discussed on social media, Salt Lake City Police Department’s official Twitter account said: “Officers on unrelated call in area, alerted to assault in progress, tried to engage altercation. Investigation cont.”
Within minutes of the shooting, local people had gathered at the scene and started a protest, shouting “f*** the police” and sporadically throwing rocks and other missiles at lines of riot officers.
A a light rail stop in the neighbourhood was temporarily closed and a security cordon put in place, with several people being detained.
The Unified Police Department has launched an investigation into the shooting, which may include evidence from officers’ body cameras.
Breaking news! Fairfax County Cops investigate Fairfax County cops and find Fairfax County Cops Innocent!!!!!!
WELL, I GUESS THAT'S NOT REALLY NEWS ANYMORE IS IT?
Why does the Washington Post report the name of the victim and not the cops name?
That's why the cops keep doing these things, they can rely on the media not to tell the public who they are...
Charge of assault dropped against man Tasered by police
By Justin Jouvenal
Fairfax County prosecutors have dropped a charge of assault on a police officer against an Alexandria man who was seen being Tasered by police on a video circulated on social media last year.
Elton Cansler, 39, was seen on the video being stunned as he stood with his back to a Fairfax County police officer and his hands apparently resting on the officer's cruiser.
Fairfax County police cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in the case, saying the use of force was appropriate because Cansler had been resisting arrest.
The incident began on Sept. 24, 2015, when Cansler allegedly stole a pair of sunglasses from a bank in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County and police were called. Police said Cansler had a knife.
Cansler pleaded no contest to a petit larceny charge related to the case this week.