Thursday Reads: Who Will Police the Police?

police brutality2

Good Morning!!

At least it’s a good morning for those of us who don’t have to live in fear of being murdered or having a loved one murdered for no good reason by policemen who will not be held accountable.

Yesterday it was Eric Garner’s family that had to deal with the decision of a grand jury in Staten Island not to indict the man who killed their husband, son, father. Will Tamir Rice’s family soon suffer the same fate?

From The New York Daily News, Protests, marches and ‘die-ins’ erupt after grand jury’s decision not to indict chokehold cop Daniel Pantaleo in death of Eric Garner.

Although stark video failed to sway a grand jury to indict a cop in the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, it captured the shock and rage Wednesday on the Staten Island street where he was killed….

“He got away with a homicide!” one irate woman screamed into her cell phone. “Who gets away with a homicide? Who? Name one person, and it’s on video! Oh my God! What more do you want?”

Chants of “Justice for who? Eric Garner!” broke out in front of 202 Bay St., the beauty supply shop where Garner was placed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo and taken to the ground with the help of other cops as he pleaded “I can’t breathe!”

Jamillah Rivera, 25, of Staten Island said it was hard to fathom that anyone could watch the sickening video of Garner’s takedown — first published by NYDailyNews.com — and not see anything illegal.

“I was there, I saw the whole thing,” said Rivera. “The cop (Pantaleo) stuck up his middle finger to all of us. He thought it was a big joke. How does someone like that go free?”

Good question.

Daniel Pantaleo chokes Eric Garner on video.

Daniel Pantaleo chokes Eric Garner on video.

Daniel Pantaleo already had a troubled history when he choked Eric Garner to death in July. From the AP via Huffington Post:

Court records show that within the past two years, three men sued Daniel Pantaleo — the officer seen wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck — over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests. Garner was black.

In the first lawsuit, settled by the city in January, two black men accused Pantaleo and other officers of arresting them without cause and subjecting them to a “humiliating and unlawful strip search” on the street in which they were ordered to “pull their pants and underwear down, squat and cough.” The men said they were held overnight on charges that were ultimately dismissed.

In a second lawsuit, a man accused Pantaleo and other officers of misrepresenting facts in a police report and other documents to substantiate charges that also were dismissed.

The first lawsuit cost the city $30,000.

The suit, which was settled in January…alleges that Pantaleo and several other officers — Joseph Torres, Ignazio Conca, and Steven Lopez — “unlawfully stopped” a vehicle on Jersey Street in New Brighton. Another officer, Christian Cataldo, arrived at the scene later.

Two of the car’s passengers, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — a federally convicted gun felon who had been released from prison five months prior — wound up suing in Brooklyn federal court.

According to the lawsuit, after getting license and registration information from both the car’s driver, Morris Wilson, and Collins, the officers ordered Collins and Rice out of the vehicle for a search.

After they were handcuffed, “Pantaleo and/or Conca pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence,” the lawsuit alleged.

Pantaleo then took the two men to the 120th Precinct stationhouse, where Pantaleo and Torres strip-searched them again, forcing them “to remove all of their clothing, squat, cough and lift their genitals.”

The men were charged with drug crimes, but the cases were later dismissed. Pantaleo had lied about seeing drugs in plain sight in the car in order to justify the stop and search.

Garner protests

In August, Tommy Rice reacted to the killing of Eric Garner by Pantaleo:

One of the men who filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after Officer Daniel Pantaleo falsely arrested him two years ago said he was “shocked and disappointed” the cop had been let back on the streets.

“I was kind of stunned,” said Tommy Rice, 43, of the moment he saw video of Pantaleo putting a deadly chokehold on Eric Garner.

“I went to Internal Affairs two years (ago) and they did nothing to this cop,” he said. “They let him back on the streets.”

In the second lawsuit, which is still active, Rylawn Walker accused Pantaleo of falsely arrest him in February 2012. Marijuana charges against Walker were dismissed and the records sealed shortly after the arrest. While White label cbd oil and similar oils have been used for their health benefits going back to the dawn of civilization (even before the Great Wall of China was built!), people are just recently rediscovering the profound positive impact these oils can have on treating ailments.

The Daily Beast has a good piece on an earlier case similar to Eric Garner’s–it’s the story of the real life “Radio Raheem” from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

In Do the Right Thing, as the policeman squeezes the life out of Raheem, one of the onlookers can be heard shouting, “They did it again… just like Michael Stewart.” That’s because the death of Raheem was inspired by the tragic story of Stewart who, like Garner, was cut down by New York law enforcement and whose case ran into problems with the grand jury. Jonathan Moore, a famed civil rights attorney who represented the Stewart family in a subsequent suit against the city, is representing Garner’s family.

At 2:50 a.m. on September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart was spray-painting a wall at the L train’s First Avenue subway station. He was a black, 135-pound art student at Pratt Institute, as well as an aspiring model. New York City Transit cop John Kostick observed Stewart graffiti “RQS” on the wall, and after approaching him, said he surrendered without conflict. “Hey man, you got me,” Stewart said, according to Kostick. The 25-year-old was on his way home to the Clinton Hill neighborhood where he resided with his parents, and his father was a retired MTA maintenance worker.

chokehold-protestAccording to Kostick, while awaiting a van to transport Stewart to the nearest police station, his mood changed. He sprinted from him, and fell to the ground. Once inside the van, several officers allege they subdued him en route to the District 4 transit police station in Union Square. Stewart allegedly tried to run again when they arrived at Union Square. Twenty-three Parsons students later claimed to have observed a struggle between Stewart and the transit police outside the District 4 station, with student Rebecca Reiss alleging she heard him shriek, “Oh my God, someone help me… What did I do? What did I do?” Stewart was eventually booked at the station for resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana (a single joint), and was then hogtied with an elastic strap, and transported to Bellevue for psychiatric evaluation. By the time he arrived there at 3:22 a.m., with a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit, he was comatose. He died 13 days later.

Read much more about it at The Daily Beast link.

Isn’t it interesting that the police officers involved in two recent police-involved shootings also had questionable backgrounds?

Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August, had previously worked for a police force that had to be disbanded because of racial problems and corruption. From The Washington Post on August 23:

After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”

Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach….

The Jennings department also had a corruption problem. A joint federal and local investigation discovered that a lieutenant had been accepting federal funds for drunken-driving checks that never happened….

All the problems became too much for the city council to bear, and in March 2011 the council voted 6-to-1 to shut down the department and hire St. Louis County to run its police services, putting Lt. Jeff Fuesting in charge as commander.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

According to the WaPo, a fellow officer described Wilson as “average,” someone who “didn’t go above and beyond” but “didn’t get in trouble” either.

Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland on November 22, had also previously worked for a smaller police force before getting his job at the Cleveland PD.

From The Guardian US: Officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice judged unfit for duty by police in 2012.

Officer Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice on 22 November, was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun. During a training episode at a firing range, Loehmann was reported to be “distracted and weepy” and incommunicative. “His handgun performance was dismal,” deputy chief Jim Polak of the Independence, Ohio, police department wrote in an internal memo.

The memo concludes with a recommendation that Loehmann be “released from the employment of the City of Independence”. Less than a week later, on 3 December 2012, Loehmann resigned.

So why the hell was he hired in Cleveland in March 2014?

On a Saturday afternoon last month, Loehmann and a partner, Frank Garmack, were dispatched to Cleveland’s Cudell Commons Park after a 911 caller reported “a guy” in the park was pointing a “probably fake” gun at people. Surveillance video recovered after the incident showed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old, handling a pistol-sized pellet gun.

Loehmann shot the boy dead within two seconds of a police car driven by Garmack arriving to the park and pulling to a stop within feet of the child. In the video, released by Cleveland police a week ago, Loehmann appears to fire his gun as he opens the door to leave the police car.

Loehmann has been taken off patrol duties in Cleveland and the shooting is under internal review.

Read more at the link.

Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice

A few more details about Loehmann’s problems from The Washington Post:

Two years ago, when he was working for a police department in a Cleveland suburb, Tim Loehmann participated in firearms qualification training.

Loehmann struggled with the exercise, according to a memo penned Nov. 29, 2012, by Jim Polak, deputy chief of the Independence Police Department and obtained Wednesday by Northeast Ohio Media Group. He was “distracted” and “weepy,” Polak wrote, and did not seem “mentally prepared” for the task.

“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Polak wrote.

The letter recommended that the department split with Loehmann, who later resigned and went on to graduate from the city of Cleveland’s police academy. A Cleveland police spokesman told the media group that officers didn’t look at the file before hiring Loehmann.

“Unfortunately in law enforcement there are times when instructions need be followed to the letter, and I am under the impression Ptl. Loehmann, under certain circumstances, will not react in the way instructed,” the letter reads.

police-brutality

The US Department of Justice is currently looking into civil rights violations in the Michael Brown case, and yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder announced there would be a similar investigation into Eric Garner’s death.

It seems to me that a nationwide investigation of police practices is called for at this point. There have been numerous cases of white police officers killing unarmed black men and boys. When will it end? This is a shocking and serious issue that must be dealt with as a systemic problem.

What do you think? What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and hug the people you love today.

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30 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Who Will Police the Police?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    CNN:

    Rand Paul blames Eric Garner’s death on high NYC cigarette tax

    “I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes,” Paul said. “So they’ve driven cigarettes underground so as not to make them so expensive.”

    The likely Republican presidential hopeful continued, “But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.’ And for someone to die over you know breaking that law — there really is no excuse for it.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    An open letter to President Obama from Tef Po, a rapper and artist from St. Louis.

  3. It is truly sickening that so many people are getting away with murdering innocent men, women, and children. What happened to right to life? Right to a fair trial? Liberty?
    We’re back in the 1950s.
    I can’t breathe.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yeah, I can’t breathe either. I’m finding it so depressing and discouraging. I grew up in the Civil Rights era and then got involved in the women’s movement. It seemed as if thing were changing, but the changes were mostly cosmetic, based on what’s happening now 50 years later!

      • Wow! I honestly don’t even know how we can call ourselves a “free” country when blacks can’t even walk out into the street without being killed for no reason. I don’t want live in a country where I get special treatment for the DNA in my skin cells.

  4. janicen says:

    I was initially encouraged when I read that some police departments were investing in body cams for its police officers but I have to agree with what some of the protesters have said, that the Eric Garner murder was caught on film in its entirety and yet there was no indictment so what good would body cams do?

    • NW Luna says:

      At least a video record would reduce the amount of lies the police could get away with.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Some dash cam videos have helped in the past. The cameras would probably make cops more conscious of what they’re doing.

      • dakinikat says:

        And they lie and lie and lie … I don’t trust anything the police say. I’ve had way too much experience with that.

        • Ali says:

          I am a 71 year old white great grandmother. I have seen 2 instances within the past 5 years where the police officer lied on two traffic citations. Both times the police officer threatened to charge me with disorderly conduct for merely making a very benign statement . He said he was just following the law in stopping me, I had allowed my car registration to lapse by 4 days. I had a new car, it was inspected and insured. I had assumed the registration and my inspection expired the same time, as they did in my prior car. I merely answered that he had discretion in what laws he had to enforce. I felt that just a warning was called for with a 10 day limit. The fine was $133.00. I think that is a lot of money for a small infraction. He lied when he said he was just enforcing the law as if he had no other options. Another instance was when an officer lied to the magistrate saying I had not come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Where the police was sitting, he could not have had a line of sight to see whether I had stopped or not. I stated to him when he pulled me over, the day before Xmas I might add, that, “this was just what I needed”. He like went ballistic! When I fought the ticket the officer lied and said that I refused to give him my license and registration. I was shocked at the out and out lie! I told the judge that he was a menace to the town and would cause some major problems. The next time it might not be an old lady but a young guy with a short fuse. I know the judge believed me but he sided with the officer in the case. He did resign the force shortly but it was a real eye opener. The police are out of control, and not just with young black males. I didn’t get shot but the officer was so nasty that I could have seen it escalate to that if I had pushed it. This is not every time, but 2 separate occasions it did. I haven’t been pulled over that many times. Having this occur twice is shocking.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’m glad you stood up for yourself and that you didn’t get hurt. Thanks for stopping by. Take care.

    • bostonboomer says:

      CNN: After Eric Garner: What’s point of police body cameras?

      When it was announced Pantaleo wouldn’t be indicted, people took to Twitter to question the usefulness of body cameras if a grand jury won’t indict an officer who was caught on video using a maneuver banned by his own police department?

      This is an even more pointed question when you consider a statistic from the department’s own Civilian Complaint Review Board: Despite the NYPD banning chokeholds in the 1990s, a New York officer was accused of putting someone in a chokehold, on average, every other day from 2009 through the first half of 2014 (you can see the numbers for yourself on page 55 of this report).

      Of those 1,048 complaints, the review board substantiated only 10, and at the time of the board’s report, only one officer had been charged and only one had been disciplined, with a “loss of up to 10 days of vacation” (three of the 10 were still “pending disposition” at the time of the report).

  5. ANonOMouse says:

    I like the idea of a special prosecutor, not appointed by or affiliated with the local DA’s office tasked with investigating these cop on black citizen murders or any other cop on citizen crime. It’s not as unusual for cops to abuse or misuse their power as some folks think.

    I had an incident back a few years ago where a cop almost rear ended me then blamed it on me. He was out of jurisdiction, but he pulled me over anyway and chewed me out. He wasn’t even in uniform so I called his bluff and asked “why” he thought he had the right to stop me out of his jurisdiction, He threatened to call the Local Magistrate and have me arrested. I said “Please Do, I’d love to see you in court”. Fortunately I had a passenger who was also a witness. I don’t think he realized that when he first stopped me. He backed down so quick it made my head spin. I asked for his name and badge # and he refused both so I got his car # and his tag # and reported him. If I had been a person of color I likely would have ended up in jail that day.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Good for you. I think a special prosecutor should be appointed any time there is police misconduct. Someone on MSNBC last night suggested that there should be one appointed to deal with these cases in every district.

    • janicen says:

      I agree with the idea of appointing a special prosecutor when it comes to indicting police officers. DA’s and police are coworkers and colleagues. How can there not be a conflict of interest? I suggested it in a NYT discussion on the topic a week or so ago and noticed lots and lots of people agreed. Now if we can only get the judicial system to reflect the attitudes, values, and assumptions of the people it serves, we’ll be all set.

      Your experience with that bully cop doesn’t surprise me, but it’s really frightening at the same time.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    NPR:

    Justice Department Finds Cleveland Police Uses Excessive Force

    After a long investigation, the Department of Justice has found that Cleveland’s Division of Police has “engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force” because of inadequate training and a lack of accountability, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday.

    In a press conference in Cleveland, Holder added that the city and the federal government had reached some understanding on ways they could curb the deficiencies.

    Holder acknowledged that this news was coming after high-profile cases of officer-involved deaths in New York and Missouri. As the investigation was ongoing, a 12-year-old boy playing with an air gun was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer.

    Holder said the Obama administration had come to the conclusion that the “time has come to do even more.”

    During its investigation of Cleveland Police, the Justice Department reviewed some 600 use-of-force incidents between 2010 and 2013.

    Specific examples at the link.

    • Sima says:

      The Seattle Police Department is under investigation, or supervision, by the feds for excessive force and other complaints. However, the supervision is patently corrupt, the police are as well… it’s endemic. Anyway, I don’t think it’s ‘insufficient training’. I think it’s the wrong training. And the wrong people serving as police.

      My husband is a middle aged white guy with a bald head and a white beard. We drive an old beater car because that’s all we can afford. He has been stopped at least three times in the last two years, for nothing. Every time the cop comes up all blustery, then sees sweet little old me sitting next to the ‘skinhead redneck guy’ and redoes his tone. The irony is my husband is more a hippie than anything else and the cops always look like skinhead rednecks to me!

    • janicen says:

      OMG. Well there you go. What else can be said about people’s insensitivity and inability to empathize with others’ experiences? What disgusting behavior.

  7. RalphB says:

    The world’s third richest man makes his first-ever donation to an independent political group aligned with a candidate.

    Warren Buffett, Reluctant PAC Man, Is Ready for Hillary

    Warren Buffett has said he’s willing to “put money” on Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 presidential race. Turns out, he really meant it.

    The Oracle of Omaha gave the maximum donation allowed to Ready for Hillary last quarter, his first-ever check to the sort of independent political groups that he’s scorned in the past. …

    A short respite from bad news.