- Across America, daily incidents occur, one of many the
cold-blooded January 1, 2009 murder of Oscar Grant - unarmed, offering
no resistance, thrust face-down on the ground, shot in the back, and killed,
videotaped on at least four cameras for irrefutable proof. USA Today said
five bystanders taped it.
- His killer: Oakland, CA transit officer, Johannes Mehserle,
tried for the killing, the jury told to consider four possible verdicts
- innocent, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary
manslaughter, jurors deciding the latter.
- The Legal Dictionary defines it as "The act of unlawfully
killing another human being unintentionally," the absence of intent
distinguishing it from voluntary manslaughter. Many states don't define
it or do it vaguely. Wallin & Klarich Violent Crime Attorneys say in
California it carries a two - four year sentence. However, since a gun
was used, Judge Robert Perry can add three to 10 additional years.
- Because minority victims seldom get justice, especially
against police, Mehserle may serve minimal time, then be paroled quietly
when the current furor subsides.
- After the verdict, it erupted on Oakland streets, hundreds
turning out to protest, Bay Area indymedia.org saying:
- "The actions of the Police in Oakland tonight (including
dozens of arrests) show their disrespect for justice in General. Their
heavy handed violence towards protestors just reinforces their total disconnect
with the people of Oakland." It's as true everywhere across America,
police acting like Gestapo, usually unaccountably.
- Grant's family will appeal the verdict and is suing the
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) for $25 million, his mother Wanda Johnson
saying "My son was murdered (and) the law has not held the officer
accountable." It rarely does for Black, Latino, or other minorities,
no matter the injustice, civil rights lawyer John Burris, representing
Grant's family in the civil suit, saying:
- "The system is rarely fair when a police officer
shoots an African-American male." Police brutality against them and
other minorites is systemic, including beatings, torture, and cold-blooded
murder, usually with impunity, justice nearly always denied.
- While far from certain, the Obama administration may
charge Mehserle with civil rights or hate crime violations, DOJ spokesman
Alejandro Miyar saying:
- "The Justice Department has been closely monitoring
the state's investigation and prosecution. The Civil Rights Division, the
US Attorney's Office, and the FBI have an open investigation into the fatal
shooting and, at the conclusion of the state prosecution, will conduct
an independent review of the facts and circumstances to determine whether
the evidence warrants federal prosecution."
- Systemic Police Brutality
- An earlier Jones Report.com text and video account headlined,
"Epidemic of Police Brutality Sweeps America," showing footage
of police repeatedly tasering a student with 50,000 volts of electricity
for questioning the 2004 election results at a campus meeting.
- Other videotaped incidents showed:
- -- a man victimized by police violence;
- -- a former sheriff's deputy acquitted of voluntary manslaughter
for shooting an unarmed man;
- -- police repeatedly beating an old man on the head,
"for the crime of intoxication;"
- -- officers violently using assault rifles, tear gas,
dogs, and at least one helicopter in an alleged narcotics sweep;
- -- a woman tasered to death by police; and
- -- a man in shock, bleeding and burned over much of his
body, ordered to lie on the pavement, then tasered and shot to death while
he sat dazed, the Report highlighting systemic police violence "repeated
almost every day in (America), the police (getting) away with murder,"
beatings, and other lawless acts - poor Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims for
their faith and ethnicity their usual victims.
- Amnesty International (AI) on American Police Brutality
- On its web site, AI says "Police brutality and use
of excessive force has been one of the central themes of (AI's) campaign
on human rights violations in the USA," launched in October 1998.
In its "United States of America: Rights for All Index," it documented
systematic patterns of abuse across America, including "police beatings,
unjustified shootings and the use of dangerous restraint techniques to
- Yet little is done to monitor or constrain it, evidence
showing that "racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately"
harmed by harassment, verbal and physical abuse, false arrests, and in
the case of West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, shot at 41 times by
four New York policemen, struck 19 times and killed while he stood in the
vestibule of his apartment building, unarmed and nonviolent, victimized
by police brutality.
- Nationwide, driving while black has been criminalized,
racial profiling used for traffic stops and searches for suspected drugs
or other reasons, the practice especially common in California, Colorado,
Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma,
Rhode Island, and Texas.
- AI cited numerous incidents, including beatings and "questionable"
shootings, usually found to be unjustified, yet cops most often absolved.
Although most US police departments stipulate that officers should only
use deadly force when their lives, or others, are endangered, dozens of
cases show they do it indiscriminately, at most being "mildly disciplined"
even if guilty of serious misconduct.
- "Police shooting(s) resulting in death or injury
are routinely reviewed (internally or) by local prosecutors....to see whether
criminal laws (were) violated. However, few officers are criminally charged
and little public information is given out if a case does not go to trial."
As a result, systemic abuse stays hidden, police brutality allowed to persist
- Despite Congress passing the 1994 Police Accountability
Act, incorporated into the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement
Act to require the Attorney General to compile national data on excessive
police force, Congress has consistently failed to fund it. Further, the
legislation doesn't require local police agencies to keep records or submit
data to the Justice Department. Nor does it criminalize police violence
and excessive force as human rights violations.
- ACLU Report on Racial and Ethnic Profiling
- In August 2009, the report titled, "The Persistence
of Racial Profiling in the United States" quoted Rep. John Conyers
(D. MI) saying "Since (9/11), our nation has engaged in a policy of
institutionalized racial and ethnic profiling," although, as an African-American,
he knows the problem goes back generations, most recently in the "war
on terrorism" against Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims for their faith,
ethnicity, activism, prominence, and at times charity, a topic this writer
addresses often - arrests, some violently, bogus charges, prosecutions,
and imprisonments often compounding the injustice.
- Post-9/11 under Bush and Obama, federal, state and local
law enforcement agencies have engaged in virulent racial/ethnic profiling,
what the ACLU calls "a widespread and pervasive problem throughout
the United States, impacting the lives of millions of people in African
American, Asian, Latino, South Asian, and Arab communities."
- Evidence shows that racial minorities are systematically
victimized, without cause, in public, when driving, at work, at home, in
places of worship, and traveling, often violently.
- A "major impediment to (prohibiting it) remains
the continued unwillingness or inability of the US government to pass federal
legislation (banning the practice) with binding effect on federal, state
or local law enforcement."
- Nor do authorities comply with the provisions of the
1994 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
(ICERD) that obligates all levels of government.
- In addition, the Justice Department's 2003 Guidance Regarding
the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies designed to ban federal
officers from engaging in racial profiling is, in fact, flawed and does
little to end it, because it doesn't cover "profiling based on religion,
religious appearance, or national origin."
- Nor does it apply to state and local law enforcement
where police brutality is systemic. In addition, it specifies no enforcement
mechanisms or punishments for violators, and contains a "blanket exception
for national security and border integrity cases," besides being advisory
and not legally binding.
- As a result, it actually promotes profiling and abuse,
including false arrests, beatings and killings. It's not surprising how
minorities have been systematically mistreated by federal, state and local
authorities, or that congressional legislation introduced to stop it never
- On December 13, 2007, the House and Senate introduced
their versions of the End Racial Profiling Act (HR 4611 and S. 2481). Both
bills were referred to committee and never enacted - making it extremely
hard to nearly impossible for victims to successfully challenge abuses
- As a candidate, Obama promised a "Blueprint for
Change" to ban racial profiling and related mistreatment, criminalizing
them, but so far, no measures have been introduced or passed, showing another
promise made, another broken, a systematic pattern under his leadership,
across the board against the constituencies that elected him. Hopefully
they'll remember next election and choose another way, a third way, both
parties equally corrupted in deference to big money and systemic police
brutality that serves it.
- National Police Misconduct Statistics
- The Injustice Everywhere.com (IE) web site compiles them,
publishing them in regular reports, some for individual cities, including
daily accounts. One on July 10 covers King County, WA deputy Paul Schene,
captured on videotape assaulting a 15-year old girl in jail. He was tried
twice, hung juries resulting each time.
- On July 9, the County Prosecutor's Office dropped the
charges, and won't pursue a third trial. As a result, the sheriff's department
may rehire Schene, though he still faces possible disciplinary action.
It's currently in arbitration, IE saying decisions nearly always favor
officers, in which case he'll likely be reinstated to abuse other detainees,
off camera to avoid being charged.
- In early 2010, IE published an April - mid-December 2009
(8.5 months) Police Misconduct Report, from figures compiled in its National
Police Misconduct Statistics Reporting Project (NPMSRP), begun earlier
in March 2009, analyzing data:
- "by utilizing news media reports of police misconduct
to generate statistical information (to) approximate how prevalent (it)
may be in the United States."
- Police departments don't usually provide them, nor do
courts, except for successful prosecutions, omitting confidential settlements
and cases resulting in disciplinary action only, not trials. Media reports,
though imperfect, are more complete because laws limit or filter information
released. As a result, IE's data "should be considered as a low-end
estimate of the current rate of police misconduct," as well as in
individual cities covered..
- Statistics compiled follow the same DOJ/FBI Uniform Crime
Reporting (UCR) methodology, recording only the most serious allegation
(not conviction) when multiple ones are associated with a particular incident.
The findings were as follows:
- -- 3,445 police misconduct reports;
- -- 4,012 officers charged;
- -- 261 law enforcement officials (police chiefs or sheriffs)
- -- 4,778 alleged victims;
- -- 258 fatalities reported;
- -- an average of 15.05 daily incidents or one every 96
- -- nearly $200 million in related civil litigation expense,
excluding legal fees and court costs;
- -- 980.64 per 100,000 officers charged;
- -- one of every 266 officers accused of a violent crime;
- -- one of every 1,875 charged with homocide;
- -- one of every 947 accused of sexual assault;
- -- 33% of police officers charged were convicted, not
necessarily justly for the offense committed;
- -- 64% of officers convicted were imprisoned, not necessarily
as long as justified;
- -- those sentenced served an average 14 months, far less
than citizens for the same crime;
- -- misconduct by category included 18.1% for non-firearm
related excessive force; 11.9% for sexual misconduct; and 8.9% for fraud
- -- analyzing reports by last reported status showed 45.9%
affected officers adversely, including 14% internally disciplined and 31.9%
criminally charged; of the latter, 32.5% were convicted "for a 10.4%
total criminal conviction rate for alleged misconduct incidents; and
- -- 27% resulted in civil lawsuits, 34.3% favoring victims.
- In addition, data were compiled for states, cities and
counties, excluding unavailable federal statistics as well as local omissions,
especially in some states. Various offenses included:
- -- accountability: evidence of coverups, lax discipline,
and other failures to adhere to official policies or processes;
- -- animal cruelty, harming them by unnecessary shooting,
inappropriate KP unit training, or other mistreatment;
- -- assault: "unwarranted violence" off-duty,
- -- auto incidents involving recklessness, negligence,
and other violations of official policies;
- -- brutality, involving excessive physical force on-duty,
excluding firearms or tasers;
- -- civil rights, including unconstitutional civil liberties
violations such as lawless peaceful protest disruptions;
- -- sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault,
sexual battery, wrongfully eliciting sex, harassment, coercion, prostitution,
sex on duty, incest, and molestation;
- -- theft or fraud, including robbery, shoplifting, extortion
- -- shooting: gun-related incidents both on and off-duty,
- -- taser: excessive force, including usage not according
to guidelines, resulting in excessive injury or death; also, improper taser
use may be recorded as "brutality;"
- -- color of law, including incidents involving misuse
of authority such as bribery, soliciting favors, extortion by threat of
arrest, or using badges to avoid arrest;
- -- perjury, including false testimony, dishonesty during
investigations, and falsifying charging papers or warrants; and
- -- raids, including misconduct during warranted or warrantless
operations or searches, wrong address raids, mistaken ones, use of no-knock
ones when warrants require notification, or mistreatment during executions.
- Misconduct status stages go from allegations to investigations,
lawsuits, charges, trials, judgments, disciplinary measures, terminations,
convictions, and sentences.
- IE compiles data regularly, prepares daily and quarterly
reports, and henceforth an annual one each January the following year.
It explains that its statistics:
- "should only be used (as) a very basic and general
view of the extent of police misconduct. It is by no means an accurate
gauge that truly represents the exact extent (of its extensiveness) since
it relies on the information voluntarily gathered and/or released to the
media, not (first-hand) by independent monitors who investigate complaints.....because
no such agency exists for any law enforcement agency...."
- Detailed quarterly and annual reports are produced, not
monthly ones considered a less accurate "depiction of the overall
extent of police misconduct...." Daily reports cover a sampling of
individual incidents. Overall, IE provides a valuable reading of systemic
police misconduct, though capturing only a snapshot of the full problem
- widespread, abusive, violent, often with impunity, and when officers
are held accountable, imposed discipline is usually mild, prison sentences
rare and short-term, victims cheated by a criminally unjust system, favoring
power over people, no matter the offense.
- Final Comments
- In December 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination published a report titled, "In the Shadows
of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of
Color in the United States," saying:
- "Since this Committee's 2001 review of the US, during
which it expressed concern regarding incidents of police brutality and
deaths in custody at the hands of US law enforcement officers, there have
been dramatic increases in law enforcement powers in the name of waging
the "war on terror (resulting in) the use of excessive force against
people of color....(It's not only continued post-9/11), but has worsened
in both practice and severity" - a NAACP representative saying it's
"the worst I've seen in 50 years."
- On April 4, 2007, Ryan Gallagher, writing for Medill
Reports, produced by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism,
headlined, "Study: Police abuse goes unpunished," saying:
- From 2002 - 2004, over "10,000 complaints of police
abuse were filed with Chicago police....but only 19 resulted in meaningful
disciplinary action, a new study asserts." According to Gerald Frazier,
president of Citizens Alert, it reflects "not only the appearance
of influence and cover-up," but clear evidence that city residents
are being abused, not protected, despite the department's official motto
being "We Serve and Protect."
- Most disturbing is that the Chicago pattern reflects
what's happening across America, people of color like Oscar Grant systematically
abused, in his case murdered in cold blood, what no criminal or civil actions
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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