How funds from major fossil fuel corporations help control police departments

A recent investigation from the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit corporate and government accountability research institute, and its LittleSis database partners breaks down some of the ways that oil producers such as Chevron, Shell, and Wells Fargo are closely intertwined with police departments in cities like Seattle, Chicago, Washington, New Orleans and Salt Lake City. None of this is particularly surprising — whether you've been paying to environmental justice and its disproportionate impact on Black and Brown Americans, or you're just generally aware of corporations who like to bend the laws to their will and enforce a hierarchical structure on the communities around them — but it's still interesting to see spelled out so clearly:

Marathon Petroleum, the nation’s largest oil refining company, has a history of environmental pollution that disproportionately impacts the health of Black and Brown communities where their refineries are based. Sine 2000 Marathon has been fined over $1.4 billion for various environmental, consumer, and workplace violations.The company operates 16 refineries around the country, including a notorious 250-acre refinery in a Detroit, Michigan community that is 71% Black. Since 2013 Marathon’s Detroit refinery has received 15 violations from the state environmental regulator for surpassing state and federal emissions limits. In 2019 the refinery leaked a “gasoil” mixture that created a toxic vapor cloud that sent workers to the hospital.Marathon’s Security Coordinator sits on the board of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, the city’s police foundation. Marathon is also listed as a “Commanding Sponsor” of the foundation’s fundraising event “Above & Beyond” and a “Bronze Sponsor” of their “Women in Blue” event.
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Can insurance be used to reign in police misconduct?

NBC News has a recent piece on, "the hidden hand that uses money to reform troubled police departments" — essentially, looking at the private industry solutions to public law enforcement problems. It's a worthwhile read if you're interested in police reform like me. While it doesn't go too in-depth, it does provide a glimpse at the ways that the existence (read: threat) of private insurers have helped to mitigate some potential police misconduct … and also how that can totally backfire and end up sapping resources away from a town — especially when the lawsuit and insurance coverage means that offending cops still keep their jobs..

For insurers, police reform is about money, not morality. Just as State Farm wants to prevent car crashes, a liability insurer wants to prevent lawsuits.

When the customers are police departments, "loss prevention" means teaching police departments how to reduce risk. In the first in-depth study of how insurers affect police, Rappaport surveyed the industry's carrots and sticks, from policy audits to virtual reality use-of-force simulators. Often, insurers educate departments about risky topics like vehicle pursuits and strip searches. Many do site visits and go on ride-alongs, keeping "watch lists" for departments with histories of costly lawsuits, according to the study. Rappaport's favorite example is the insurer that sends representatives incognito to hang out at "cop bars" to observe the police culture.

"Insurers are clearly affecting the behavior of police departments they insure, for better or for worse," Rappaport said. "They are capable of doing it for the better and sometimes more efficiently than governmental agencies and prosecutors."

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Billie Joe from Green Day covers "Police On My Back" by the Equals

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This was originally written and performed by The Equals, Eddy Grant’s beat group from the 60. And of course The Clash slay it. #theequals #theequalsband #dervgordon #eddygrant #theclash

A post shared by Billie Joe Armstrong (@billiejoearmstrong) on Jul 17, 2020 at 8:21pm PDT

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has been posting different cover songs from quarantine every week. This week's offering is the topically-relevant "Police On My Back" by the Guyanese-British pop band, The Equals (famously covered by The Clash)

Image: Sven-Sebastian Sajak (Sven0705) / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0) Read the rest

What you need to know about police drone surveillance at protests against police brutality

Technology writer Faine Greenwood has a great piece in Slate about the expansion of police drone surveillance fleets. While there are still many, many reasons to worry about abuses of drone technology and mass surveillance in general, Greenwood takes a look at the legal, technical, and practical limitations of these policing methods. Greenwood essentially argues that, as much as American police officers love to think of themselves as special military tactical forces (often treating normal-ass citizens like enemy combatants), they're really just cosplaying, and their use of drones is part of that:

Unlike a Predator—which is capable of staying aloft for more than a day—these small drones usually have short battery lives, from as little as 16 minutes, when carrying a very heavy camera, to 35 minutes when carrying a lighter sensor. (Drone evasion tip: If you think you’re being followed, duck under a shelter or a convenient tree. You can probably wait the drone’s battery out.)

Police drone users are largely not exempt from the same rules that other drone users must abide by, which include restrictions on flight over people, at night, and beyond the pilot’s “visual line of sight.”

[…]

While a police drone can certainly chase someone for a bit, that doesn’t mean police can readily use drone-collected imagery to identify who that person is. In my research for this piece, I couldn’t find a single example of U.S. law enforcement using facial recognition technology and drone imagery to identify someone in the real world. This almost certainly isn’t because police don’t want to, or because they’ve been legally barred from doing so.

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I don't think the creator of this pro-policing political cartoon actually read "Frankenstein"

Michael Ramirez is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist who works for the Las Vegas Review Journal. And I am sure he has definitely read Mary Shelley's classic novel, Frankenstein (or, the Modern Prometheus), as evidenced by his latest cartoon, titled "LIBERALS CITIES ABOLISH AND CUT FUNDING FOR POLICE DEPARTMENTS."

See, given the choice between:

a heavily-armed and heavily-entitled mediocre white guy with a boner for power and violence; or a miracle of science who was famously gentle and misunderstood, despite the angry assumptions of a mass mob who viewed him as subhuman just because of his appearance and conditions forced on him by a power-hungry monster of a man;

I think it's pretty easy to decide which one you'd rather have patrolling your neighborhood. (Assuming that police even actively "patrol" in suburban and rural areas.)

LIBERALS CITIES ABOLISH AND CUT FUNDING FOR POLICE DEPARTMENTS [Michael Ramirez] Read the rest

Massachusetts governor proposes a $5000 bonus for cops who undergo anti-racist training

From Boston.com:

Amid mounting criticism, Gov. Charlie Baker Tuesday defended a proposal — tucked inside a larger bill to create a state certification system for law enforcement officers — to provide up to $5,000 bonuses for police to take on additional training.

“It’s for people who go above and beyond with respect to what they’re required to do under our proposal,” Baker said during a press conference. “And I don’t expect many to do it, but I think it’s important. If you want people to up their game, if you want people to perform at a higher level, if you want people to do a better job in serving the communities they represent and to be leaders with respect to the way they do that, it’s not unusual to create a modest incentive for them to do that.”

Local activists are, understandably, outraged at this proposal, which is, uhh, quite literally the opposite of the "Defund the Police" cry that many of them have been championing.

Existing anti-bias training programs for police are not particularly known for being effective, although it is certainly a profitable venture — and not just for the officers who take the governor up on that $5000 incentive. I'm also not sure why Baker thinks anyone wouldn't take him up on the offer for an easy $5K. A few weeks ago, I shared a blog post from a self-proclaimed former bastard cop, who had this to say (among other things):

Let me tell you what probably won’t solve the problem of bastard cops:

Increased “bias” training.

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A bunch of rookie cops have recently been fired for doing bad things. Let's think about that for a moment.

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

Cops and spooks all over the world rely on a junk-science "walking polygraph" method to steer their investigation

SCAN (Scientific Content Analysis) is a lie-detecting method invented by Avinoam Sapir, a former Israeli spook turned polygraph examiner that involves picking out small textual details from writing samples to determine when someone is lying. Sapir has used his method to determine the veracity of the Book of Genesis, and to conclude that Anita Hill might be a secret lesbian and that James Comey was likely sexually assaulted as a child. Read the rest

Uganda installs Huawei's AI-powered facial recognition surveillance system 'nationwide'

“The cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security.” — Ugandan Police.

Louisiana police officers fired over death threat to politician

Two police officers in Louisiana lost their jobs this week after one said Democratic Party legislator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot and the other signaled their agreement.

Charles Rispoli wrote that she "needed a round" and Angelo Varisco "liked" the post. Rispoli was responding to a fabricated news item falsely reporting that Ocasio-Cortez had called for US troops to get a pay cut.

"This vile idiot needs a round...and I don't mean the kind she used to serve," he wrote.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 29, worked as a waitress and bartender before stunning the political world last year by defeating veteran Joe Crowley in their party's congressional primary in New York City. Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson told reporters that both Charles Rispoli and a fellow officer who "liked" the post, Angelo Varisco, had been fired.

"These officers acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted a sitting U.S. congresswoman," Mr Lawson said.

The extent to which U.S. policing is infested with and inflitrated by white supremacists is still more or less ignored, despite the FBI's own investigation and plenty of reporting on the matter. Read the rest

Most U.S. police departments report sharp fall in applicants

Cops see themselves as a thin blue line, but the job is is turning into a scarlet letter.

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. In Nashville, job applications dropped from 4,700 in 2010 to 1,900 last year. In Seattle, applications have declined by nearly 50 percent in a department where the starting salary is $79,000. ...

Videos of police misconduct and fatal shootings have damaged the perception of American police officers but not irrevocably, said Antoinette Archer, director of human relations for the police department in Richmond Many people are “taken aback by the brutality, not by the profession,” she said. “If we can be inclusive” of women and people of color, “those individuals who can see a part of their fabric in the department will come forward. ... If the environment is not inclusive, you’re going to lose them.”

Too many cops and too little crime. The invisible fist, it turns out, prefers "less cops" to "more crime," however hard some departments try to manufacture the latter.

Archer is maybe concerned with recruitment standards falling to make up numbers, creating a vicious cycle with respect to the "white supremacists and outright psychos" policing problem. Read the rest

UK police to scan the fingerprints of anyone unable to present identification

There are about 4,200,000 surveillance cameras in United Kingdom. According to a feature in Wired UK, police want to take an even closer look.

The West Yorkshire Police Service is currently testing a mobile fingerprint scanning system that's connected to databases containing the fingerprints of 12 million immigrants and criminals. 250 mobile fingerprint scanners have been issued in the North Eastern region of England and will be used, as part of a pilot program, to help identify individuals who refuse to or are unable to tell the police who they are or are. The Yorkshire Police Service says that the system would most likely only ever be used on suspects at the scene of a crime, those who are found to have no identification papers or anyone found dead or unconscious. Read the rest

Racist authoritarians insisted that ending stop-and-frisk would increase violent crime, but the opposite just happened

For years, racist authoritarians in New York City defended the stop-and-frisk program in which primarily black and brown people were repeatedly stopped without any particularized suspicion and forced to turn out their pockets, empty their bags, even strip naked in public on frozen-street corners. Read the rest