Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

San Francisco police beat up and detain Good Samaritans who call 911 and perform first aid on accident victim


Peretz Partensky and her his friend had just had a dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco's SOMA district when they happened on an injured woman who had fallen off her bicycle. They called 911 and performed first aid while they waited for emergency services. When the police got there, they beat up Partensky's friend and detained him, and when Partensky objected, they cuffed, brutalized and arrested him. Injured and in an holding cell, she asked to see a doctor, and the SFPD deputies on duty at the jail stripped him naked and threw him in solitary confinement and marked him as a candidate for psychiatric evaluation.

Partensky complained to the SF Office of Citizen Complaints, documenting him plight in eye-watering detail (Partensky works for a company that supplies software to the restaurant on whose doorstep the entire incident took place, and they were happy to hand him CCTV footage of the incident). The entire procedure then went dark, because in San Francisco, you aren't allowed to know what happens to police officers who beat you up, thanks to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights.

One of the officers who harassed, beat, and wrongfully arrested Partensky, Paramjit Kaur, is already the subject of a civil rights suit. The other SFPD personnel who attacked and arrested the Good Samaritans are Officers Gerrans and Andreott.

For Partensky, the take-away message is clear: if you see someone who needs medical assistance, don't call 911, because the police might come and beat you up. Instead, help that person get to the hospital in a taxi.

Read the rest

"A reason to hang him": how mass surveillance, secret courts, confirmation bias and the FBI can ruin your life


Brandon Mayfield was a US Army veteran and an attorney in Portland, OR. After the 2004 Madrid train bombing, his fingerprint was partially matched to one belonging to one of the suspected bombers, but the match was a poor one. But by this point, the FBI was already convinced they had their man, so they rationalized away the non-matching elements of the print, and set in motion a train of events that led to Mayfield being jailed without charge; his home and office burgled by the FBI; his client-attorney privilege violated; his life upended.

At every turn, the FBI treated evidence that contradicted their theory as evidence that confirmed it. Mayfield's passport had expired and he couldn't possibly have been in Madrid? Proof that he was a terrorist: he must be using his connections with Al Qaeda to get false papers so that his own passport isn't recorded as crossing any borders. Mayfield starts to freak out once he realizes he's under surveillance? Aha! Only the guilty worry about having their homes burgled by G-men!

The FBI was so sure of their theory that they lied to a judge during their campaign against him. His story is the perfect embodiment of "confirmation bias" -- the tendency of human beings to give undue weight to evidence that confirms their existing belief and to discount evidence that rebuts it. Confirmation bias is one of the underappreciated problems of mass surveillance: gather enough facts about anyone's life and you can find facts that confirm whatever theory you have about them.

Or, as Cardinal De Richelieu said: "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." This line is the epitaph in my story Scroogled (here's Wil Wheaton's reading of it), about the risks of automated, unaccountable attributions of guilt based on algorithms that are not subject to scrutiny. But as bad as the automated attribution as guilt can be, it's nothing compared to the directed attribution of guilt from cops who are absolutely sure that they have their man.

Read the rest

Seattle cop fired for harassing photographer

King County deputy Patrick "KC" Saulet has been fired for ordering Dominic Holden, a reporter for the Seattle newspaper "The Stranger," to stop taking pictures of an arrest from a public street; for lying to Holden about which part of the public scene was and was not public property; and for lying to his boss later about the incident. Saulet's boss, King County sheriff John Urquhart, explained that he'd fired his officer because "You have a constitutional right to photograph the police," and "[threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops] is a constitutional violation."

The fired deputy had a long history of civil rights abuses, and the police force had spent a lot of money and time on retraining and counselling for him.

It's extremely refreshing to see senior police officials taking the law seriously when it comes to the officers they command, and to understand the corrosive effect on trust between the public and the police created by impunity for abuses such as these.

Read the rest

Omaha cop, fired for beating suspect, then raiding house of citizen who recorded him, is back on the job

Omaha police officer Bradley D Canterbury was fired after he beat up a suspect and then participated in a brutal, illegal retaliatory raid on the home of a citizen who'd video-recorded the incident. Canterbury was one of over 30 Omaha police officers who broke into a family home without a warrant intending to destroy mobile phone video evidence of his violent actions, and was one of six officers from that cohort who were fired for the beating.

Now he's got his job back.

Read the rest

Arrested for "stealing" food that grocery chain threw away

In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service is pressing criminal charges against three men who dumpster-dived discarded food from the skip behind an Iceland grocery store in London. They've charged under "an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act." The CPS is going ahead with the charges because "we feel there is significant public interest in prosecuting these three individuals". Pirate Cinema is not an instruction manual, gang. Cory 52

Ukrainian riot police strip protester naked in sub-zero weather

In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.

Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7 this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing bulletproof vest."

Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."

Stay safe, Daniel.

berkut, polonenuy

$1.6M for man who repeatedly anal-probed by NM cops who thought he had drugs

Remember David Eckert, the New Mexico man who got multiple anal probes after a cop decided he must be hiding drugs because a dog "alerted" on him? Well, he's gotten $1.3 million out of the city and county. He's still suing the hospital for its role in his nonconsensual, warrantless enemas, colonoscopy, X-ray, and forced public defecation. If they won't settle, he's prepared to go to a jury trial. You get the impression that Eckert is out to make a point here: if your town cops and/or doctors participate in illegal, sadistic war-on-drugs torture, the victims will take all your money and destroy you, so cut it the fuck out. Techdirt's Tim Cushing has more:

Read the rest

Petition: kill the Oakland "Domain Awareness Center" spy-program


Eddan sez, "The Oakland City Council is in the final stretch of approving the funding of the Domain Awareness Center to be built in Oakland. Though there has been a great deal of public outcry at the City Council itself, it just keeps going forward especially because they're now trying to pitch this as a crime-fighting law enforcement tool. Which is especially important to be on the right side of in Oakland during a City Council/Mayor election year. The Public Safety Committee to meet Jan. 28 is made up of most of the City Council members that are most skeptical and least supportive of the way this Department of Homeland Security new gadget funding is dangled before a resource-poor and embattled police department."

Read the rest

Holding mirrors up to police lines at #Euromaidan


Ukrainian protesters from the #Euromaidan movement have faced brutal police violence. A moving demonstration on December 30th included a line of protesters who held up mirrors to the riot police who faced them across the barricades.

Read the rest

FBI no longer primarily a crime-fighting agency


A new info-sheet issued by the FBI redefines the bureau's primary mission, dropping "law enforcement" and replacing it with "national security." The bureau has not made any formal announcements regarding this change -- but it does signal that the bureau's leadership views its primary activity as spying on Americans, not catching bad guys, possibly because the budget for spying is effectively bottomless.

Read the rest

UK legal proposal: authorities can prevent anyone from doing anything for any reason


The UK's proposed new Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill creates a new kind of injunction, the Ipnas ("injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance"), which judges can hand down without proof of wrongdoing to anyone over ten, and send them to jail to violate them (kids go to young offenders centres for up to three months). Along with the Ipnas comes "dispersal orders," which police can use to order anyone to leave any public place for any length of time, for any reason, on their own say-so.

As George Monbiot writes in the Guardian "The new injunctions and the new dispersal orders create a system in which the authorities can prevent anyone from doing more or less anything."

Read the rest

Cops parked in bike lanes


The Cops in Bike Lanes tumblr is just what you'd expect: photos from around America of police cars illegally stopped in bike lanes, a practice that forces cyclists to abruptly and dangerously enter the stream of automotive traffic.

The photos are often annotated by their submitters; the commentary on the photo above notes that "There is clearly plenty of room for this van to parallel park and not obstruct the bike lane if the officer gave half a second’s thought to cyclists' safety."

Cops in Bike Lanes (via Making Light)

LAPD declares war on downtown's pedestrians

Downtown Los Angeles's renaissance has led to a surge in pedestrian traffic, to the enormous benefit of local businesses and the neighborhood itself. The LAPD is having none of it, and have declared war on jaywalking, handing out $200 fines for infractions as minor as walking into the crosswalk after the pedestrian signal starts to blink red. Cory 55

Bob Basset's brutal repression mask auctioned to benefit independent Ukrainian media outlet


Ukrainian mask-maker Bob Basset made this grotesque mask depicting a baton smashing the wearer's face; it symbolizes political repression in Ukraine, and is being auctioned to benefit Hromadske.tv, a news outlet Basset calls "one of the last outposts" of "truly independent journalism" in Ukraine.

For more on the political situation in Ukraine, see our feature EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev .

Bob Basset for Hromadske.tv