Tales of piss-headed police officers dominated the news in the week before New Years (at least, in my social circles, if we discount everything related to Star Wars). In West Virginia, the governor has finally recommended the firing of the full Hitler Heil-ing cadet class. In Kansas, another cop was (allegedly) terminated after writing "Fucking Pig" on his own McDonald's coffee cup and trying to blame it on the hard-working, underpaid workers whom he should be theoretically serving and protecting. (Some cops in Alabama also made a mocking "homeless quilt" that the department later apologized for, though the officers weren't actually reprimanded as far as I can tell.)
On the surface, this is largely a good thing. Although these are somewhat-minor acts in the grand scheme of police behaviors, the fact that there are actually repercussions for police misconduct already represents a sea change from the way things have been. Police departments across the country have kept secret lists of criminal crops who remain in their employ; typically, when cops are caught lying about things (even as dumb and small as a McDonald's coffee cup), the rest of their testimony is still given weight. Hell, the National Center for Women and Policing found that at least 40% of police officers self-reported domestic violence in the home … and still keep their jobs.
But these guys in West Virginia and Kansas? They might actually lose their jobs over a couple of pictures.
The public outrage towards unfair and overly aggressive policing has noticeably swelled alongside the raise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and particularly in the aftermath of that obscene military occupation in Ferguson. Read the rest
An off-duty cop got into a fight with a group of children who walked on his lawn, dragged a 13-year-old unarmed boy into his yard, pulled his firearm, then fired a shot. Thankfully, he missed. The incident in Anaheim, California, was captured on camera and has already led to protests.
Christian alleged in the video that the off-duty cop called a girl a "cunt" when telling her to get off his property, and then tackled him first when he stood up for her.
The verbal exchanges led to the off-duty cop dragging the kid towards some bushes. It's unclear from the tape if he ever identified himself as a police officer. "I'd understand if you were a cop, but you're not a cop," Christian told the off-duty officer at one point during the video. One teen came in to shove the man over the bushes after the impasse. Another took a swing but missed. That's when the off-duty cop reached into his waistband and pulled out a gun. The surrounding youth started backing off—and then a shot rang out.
The kid was charged with battery on an officer. KTLA has other footage.
Read the rest
The officer responds that the teen had said he was going to shoot him, and the teen denies that, saying, “I didn’t say that. Why you lying? I said, 'I’m going to sue you.'”
Then the pair tell each other to “get your hands off me.”
“I’m only like 13,” the teen says.
Mattthew Luckhurst, a 5-year veteran of San Antionio Police Department, was fired after feeding shit to a homeless person. Josh Baugh reports that he "placed fecal matter between two pieces of bread" and placed it in a styrofoam container next to his victim. It's not clear if they ate it.
“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect,’ Chief William McManus said in a prepared statement. “The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community.”
Even the police union has ditched him: “He’s on his own right now,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Read the rest
Take care when asking provocative questions at Kansas City's library events: you might end up in jail.
The executive director of Kansas City Libraries says he's outraged by the charges against Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, a Jewish man grabbed by private security after asking the event's speaker, former diplomat Dennis Ross, uninvited follow-up questions. Off-duty cops moved in to arrest Rothe-Kushel when he objected to the hands-on treatment—as well as a library staffer who had moved to intervene.
The Associated Press reports Kansas City police spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves as saying officers "acted properly in helping private security stop an audience member from asking follow-up questions."
Issues arose after Ross finished speaking and took a question from Jeremy Rothe-Kushel concerning whether Jewish Americans like Rothe-Kushel should be concerned about actions by the U.S. and Israel that amount to "state-sponsored terrorism."
"When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?" Rothe-Kushel asked.
When Rothe-Kushel tried to ask another question, a private security guard grasped his arm, followed by an off-duty police officer, both employed by the Jewish Community Foundation. Rothe-Kushel then shouted, "Get your hands off of me right now!"
Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, tried to intervene. Both men were arrested by off-duty officers.
On-duty officers posted to the event apparently did not get involved until later: he was arrested by a man out of uniform and paid by the event's organizers.
Rothe-Kushel was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, was charged with interfering with an arrest. Read the rest
Alfred Okwera Olango, who was black, was fatally shot by police in El Cajon, California on Tuesday. Police in the San Diego suburb city say the 38 year old Ugandan immigrant pointed a vape pen or e-cigarette device at them, before police shot the man to death.
Officers were responding to a call of a man behaving erratically, and walking in traffic. Olango's friends and supporters say court records show that he suffered from mental illness, and may have been experiencing a seizure before his death. An El Cajon police officer is believed to have shot Olango within as little as one or two minutes after arriving at the scene. Read the rest
Rakeyia Scott, the wife of recent police shooting victim Keith L. Scott, recorded a video on her cell phone just before and after the fatal shooting of her husband by police in Charlotte, N.C. The New York Times obtained the video from attorneys for the Scott family. It includes graphic violence of a man being killed by police, and strong language. Read the rest
WARNING: The video in this post is graphic and documents a violent death.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, police have released video that shows a white police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man. In the video, Terence Crutcher can be seen raising his hands above his head. Read the rest
A report out this week from Bloomberg says that since January, 2016, people in the city of Baltimore, Maryland have secretly and periodically been spied on by police using cameras in the sky. Authorities today effectively admitted that the report is accurate. Read the rest
Two of the most prominent makers of body-worn cameras for cops and first responders are fightin' it out over patents.
Read the rest
A New York man who spent a month in jail after Pennsylvania state police mistook homemade soap he was traveling with for cocaine has filed a lawsuit. Read the rest
I loved watching the 1986 comedy TV series "Sledge Hammer!" as a kid. David Rasche's portrayal of San Francisco's most aggressive, least sensitive, and completely absurd police detective, the titular Sledge, is fantastic. Read the rest
Spoiler: Native Americans. Read the rest
A police officer in the Northern California city of Rohnert Park was caught on video pulling his gun on a resident who was recording the cop on his cellphone. Read the rest
Lex is a drug-sniffing police dog. His owner trained Lex by giving him a treat every time he alerted, whether or not Lex was right. Is that a good way to train drug-sniffing dogs? Maybe not for innocent people who get stripped searched when they are falsely identified as drug carriers, but it's great for police departments that use the dogs to enrich themselves with civil asset forfeitures.
Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes about how Federal Courts are making matters ever worse.
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The problem here is that invasive searches based on no more than a government official’s hunch is precisely what the Fourth Amendment is supposed to guard against. Unfortunately, the way the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue not only doesn’t account for the problem, but also has given police agencies a strong incentive to ensure that drug dogs aren’t trained to act independently of their handler’s suspicions. A dog prone to false alerts means more searches, which means more opportunities to find and seize cash and other lucre under asset forfeiture policies. In fact, a drug dog’s alert in and of itself is often cited as evidence of drug activity, even if no drugs are found, thus enabling police to seize cash, cars and other property from motorists. For example, I’ve interviewed dog trainers who have told me that drug dogs can be trained to alert only when there are measurable quantities of a drug — to ignore so-called “trace” or “remnant” alerts that aren’t cause for arrest.