Observing that only about 12 percent of police stops resulted in an arrest or summons, Judge Scheindlin, who is hearing the case without a jury, focused her remarks on Monday on the other 88 percent of stops, in which the police did not find evidence of criminality after a stop. She characterized that as “a high error rate” and remarked to a lawyer representing the city, “You reasonably suspect something and you’re wrong 90 percent of the time.”
A 61-year-old man was shot to death by police while his wife was handcuffed in another room during a drug raid on the wrong house. Police admitted their mistake, saying faulty information from a drug informant contributed to the death of John Adams Wednesday night.
Bad information from a drug informant? Why, that never happens!
One of the many “voluntary” searches that took place in Watertown, Mass. during the Tsarnaev manhunt. This resident no doubt feels much safer and secure with a loaded gun pointed at her face.
PoorRichardsNews makes the necessary point:
I am not anti-police. I have no problem with a police show of force, a manhunt for a suspect, or a “shelter-in-place” directive when a fugitive is on the loose. The police in Boston were searching for some dangerous criminals who killed innocent people, killed a rookie police officer, hurled at least 3 bombs at police during the chase, and engaged the police in a massive gunfight. Obviously, extraordinary precautionary measures are reasonable and necessary.
However, when there is a manhunt for 1 person, it’s also important to remember that over 99% of the other people in the area are innocent. These innocent people shouldn’t be herded like cattle out out of their homes at gunpoint. They shouldn’t be treated as suspects. The number one priority of police officers should be to protect citizens, not protect themselves from citizens.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, from an opinion granting Habeas Corpus relief to Debra Jean Milke, who was sentenced to death for murder, conspiracy to committ murder, child abuse, and kidnapping of her own son. The conviction was largely based on the testimony of a Phoenix area Police Detective who testified that he obtained a confession from Milke behind closed doors. The court found such a long list of both police and prosecutorial misconduct in this case that the en banc panel sent copies of its opinion to both the Arizona Attorney General and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, along with a request to investigate “whether Det[ective] Saldate’s conduct, and that of his supervisors and other state and local officials, amounts to a pattern of violating the federally protected rights of Arizona residents.”
Sometimes the good guys win. But not before walking through miles of broken glass.
Ed Krayewski over at Reason magazine believes that the Christopher Dorner incident should spark a conversation about the victims of state-sanctioned violence, and counts up the number of high-profile deadly encounters with law enforcement officials in recent years that occurred under questionable circumstances:
What about Kelly Thomas, who screamed for his father while five cops beat him to death? Or Patricia Cook, shot to death by a deranged alcoholic with a badge? Or Andrew Scott, killed during a wrong-door raid? Or Nick Christie, gagged and pepper-sprayed to death by prison guards? Or Seth Adams, shot four times by a cop behind his family business, then left to die? Or Wendell Allen, who was unarmed when a New Orleans cop shot and killed him during a raid? Or Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old New Yorker shot and killed by plainclothes cops for trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet? Or Kyle Miller, killed by Colorado police for waving a BB gun in the air? Or Todd Blair, killed by Utah police for raising a golf club above his head?
That’s a smattering of names from the last year or so. A complete list is impossible, though you could spend months culling names from local media outlets. It would be significantly longer if we included people who were shot, but didn’t die; or people who were just shot at by cops. It would be exponentially longer if we included people who were beaten, intimidated, wrongly arrested/incarcerated, or otherwise abused by police officers.
As I mentioned recently, a substantial outpouring of sympathy for Christopher Dorner is only possible in a world where people regularly have bad experiences with police. Those who feel sympathy for Chris Dorner don’t care that Dorner shot and killed several LAPD officers, because in their eyes, it pales in comparison to the number of people who have been shot and killed by the LAPD. Police regularly walk away from lethal encounters which would have gotten them charged with manslaughter or murder if they weren’t wearing a badge. And even in cases where they are charged, they often walk away unscathed. This systematic impunity produces attitudes like this:
A few years ago, I attended a conference on the use of police informants. In one session, the “Stop Snitchin’” movement, which discourages African Americans from cooperating with police, came up. I was astonished to hear one hip-hop artist and activist say he would not cooperate with the police even if he had witnessed the rape and murder of an old woman in broad daylight. He just didn’t trust the police. I told him his position was absurd: Whatever his concerns about the police when it comes to the use of drug informants (concerns I share), they shouldn’t prevent him from cooperating with the investigation of an innocent person’s murder. His response: “Isn’t the Blue Wall of Silence really just the most successful Stop Snitchin’ campaign in history?”
Everyone understands that police have a very difficult job, and that hesitating to pull the trigger in an ambiguous situation can mean the difference between coming home in a cruiser or a casket. But the legal mechanisms of accountability have long been tilted so far in favor of the law enforcement community that they border on impunity. This includes protecting pedophiles and murderers who would have suffered the full force of the law if they were private citizens. It includes tolerating a mind-numbing amount of viciously racist conduct, both verbal and physical, towards the communities they serve. And while clearly not all police behave this way, there are enough that do that Christopher Dorner’s shooting spree is not simply viewed as a tragedy, but as an understandable outburst motivated as much by police corruption as lunacy.
Police departments around the country must be willing to accept accountability reforms if they want to change the anti-cop culture that permeates many of the over-policed communities they serve. Failure to do so will perpetuate the cycle of violence, and the next Christopher Dorner incident will only incite more sympathy for the devil than it already has.
UPDATE: Yet another former LAPD officer has come forward to confirm Christopher Dorner’s accusations of systemic corruption and racism in the LAPD (See previous example here). Brian Bentley, the ex-cop in question, notes: “It took longer than I thought it would for something like this to happen.”
Back in February of 2005, Howard Morgan, a Black detective with the Chicago PD, was shot 28 times by four White officers after they allegedly pulled him over for driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Morgan was charged with attempted murder of the four officers in question, and was convicted. He was sentenced last year to 40 years in prison.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in Morgan’s case. For starters, there were a number of missing puzzle pieces in the evidence:
Howard Morgan’s van was crushed and destroyed without notice or cause before any forensic investigation could be done.
Howard Morgan was never tested for gun residue to confirm if he even fired a weapon on the morning in question.
The State never produced the actual bullet proof vest worn by one of the officers who claimed to have allegedly taken a shot directly into the vest on the morning in question. The State only produced a replica.
Second, according to a web page set up by Howard’s friends & family, an independent witness testified that Howard never fired his weapon.
Third, Morgan was tried back in 2007 and acquitted on separate charges related to the same incident. This creates a Double Jeopardy problem in Morgan’s case. Even though Howard was acquitted on separate charges, the Double Jeopardy clause prevents the Government from re-litigating a case against the same Defendant involving facts found by a jury in a prior acquittal. If this were not the case, prosecutors could essentially re-charge defendants for the same transaction or occurrence, over and over, trial after trial, in front of different juries, until one of the charges eventually stuck. See Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S. 110 (2009); Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436 (1970) (both appropriately cited by Howard’s web page). Why the judge in Morgan’s second trial allowed these charges to be pressed is unclear.
No one appears to be sure what motive the White police officers would’ve had to gun down Howard in the absence of a threat. What is known is that 21 of the shots that hit Howard entered through his back. Morgan also appears to have been a veteran law enforcement official with over 20 years of experience, first as a Chicago officer, than as a Railroad officer with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. As Morgan’s wife told the Sun Times, “Four white officers and one black Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad police man with his weapon on him — around the corner from our home — and he just decided to go crazy? No. That’s ludicrous[.]”
But if Howard’s first acquittal was based on a question of whether he fired his weapon, that would make it “a critical issue of ultimate fact in all of the charges against [him],” and “a jury verdict that necessarily decided that issue in his favor protects him from prosecution for any charge for which that is an essential element.” Yeager, at 111. Given that Howard was originally charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm, the jury’s acquittal on that charge would almost certainly preclude future prosecution on attempted murder charges. While it’s not safe to speculate without seeing a transcript of the trial testimony, but I cannot see how the attempted murder charge could’ve possibly stuck in a second trial if the prior jury found that Morgan did not discharge his weapon—which would have estopped the Government from charging Howard with further crimes related to the shooting.
What is more likely at work here is another example of the Blue Wall protecting itself from scrutiny. Perhaps one of the officers thought he saw Morgan make a threatening motion, got scared, and pull the trigger. When they realized they screwed up (as the police often do when confronting unarmed Black men, much less those that are armed), they closed rank to protect themselves. Indeed, that’s the story that was told by Morgan at his trial:
Morgan [says he] was pulled over for driving the wrong way on a one-way street near his home at 12:45 a.m. on February 21, 2005. Morgan said he was ordered out of his car and searched. Spotting Morgan’s holstered weapon, which he carried for his job at the railroad, a rookie officer shouted, “Gun!” At that point, according to Morgan, he became target practice and could not have returned fire.
Just as we shouldn’t trust the story of the White officers who shot Morgan, we shouldn’t necessarily trust Morgan’s side of the story either. But the fact remains that the amount of relevant evidence that was held back by the CPD—which could have helped paint a clearer picture of what happened—is staggering. The CPD destroyed the vehicle Howard was driving when he was pulled over. They never produced the bulletproof vests worn by the officers to determine if any shots from Morgan’s gun had hit them. Morgan’s trigger hand was never even tested for gun powder residue after the shooting to determine if he’d actually fired his weapon. This is a standard forensic investigation technique that is performed routinely around the country, and yet it wasn’t done in Morgan’s case. Add this all on top of the fact that independent witness says Howard did not fire his gun, 21 of the shots were fired into Howard’s back, and a previous jury acquitted Morgan of charges related to the shooting in 2007. Based on the record alone, there is more than enough to suggest that Morgan is the victim here, not the four police officers who shot him 28 times.
But much like every other incident in which a “threatening” Black male is gunned down by trigger-happy police, the chances that the truth will come out in Morgan’s case are slim. Based on the CPD’s behavior leading up to Morgan’s trial, they have everything to hide in this case. Routine forensic tests were not done. Evidence was destroyed. And what we have here is just another case of the police gunning down a Black male in cold blood, and then doing everything in their power to cover up their mistakes.
With any luck, Morgan will prevail on appeal, since the law appears to be on his side. But given the infamous reluctance of state appellate courts to overturn jury verdicts, Morgan’s battle will be decidedly uphill. Of course, that assumes he won’t die before-hand from the residual health effects of being shot 28 times. But such is the audacity of hope, one could suppose.
LTMC: Slow clap for days.
ormer LAPD Officer Joe Jones posted the following to his Facebook with this picture:
I can’t go into re-living the emotions of what I went through so I will say this. I had my home viciously attacked by a gunman with my family and myself inside the house. No arrests were made and my family and I Received very little support. I had my Civil Rights violated on several occasions. I was falsely arrested at gunpoint by the Sheriffs as an Officer who ID’d himself and was conspired against by both LAPD and the Sheriffs when my Civil case went to Trial. I was falsely accused on more than one occasion and simply placed in a position that the trust was so compromised that I could no longer wear the Uniform. Also know there were many more episodes. All of these issues are well documented and I present them not to be a Whistle blower, However to hope that one would not assume that all of what is being said is Lies as presented by Dorner. I don’t know him, But I know me. I will say from my experience, If a person knows they were wrong it is easier to move on without anger. Seems that Dorner obviously could not move on… Could I just be content and move on with my life and not say anything? Yes…Then I would feel that I for once had my chance to speak on something that hurts me to this day and I did nothing to arouse thought or provoke reform. This is what I hope comes from this whole situation:
LTMC: Christopher Dorner was crazy to start shooting people, but he was not crazy about the corruption in the LAPD. It will be interesting to see if more ex-LAPD officers come out to tell their stories as a result of this incident.
Firedoglake reports on two civilian shooting incidents by the LAPD which have occurred since the manhunt for Christopher Dorner began:
5 a.m. on Thursday, Police received a radio call saying a truck matching Dorner’s gray Nissan Titan was spotted near the home of a high-ranking LAPD officer. A few minutes later, a truck rolled down the officer’s street in Torrance. As the vehicle slowly approached, officers at the house opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the back of the truck.
The truck was a Toyota Tacoma not a Nissan Titan.
The color was aqua blue, not gray.
And inside the truck wasn’t Dorner, a large black man, but two not-large Hispanic women — Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71 — delivering newspapers.
The L.A. Times reported:
Law enforcement sources told The Times that at least seven officers opened fire. On Friday, the street was pockmarked with bullet holes in cars, trees, garage doors and roofs. Residents said they wanted to know what happened.
“How do you mistake two Hispanic women, one who is 71, for a large black male?” said Richard Goo, 62, who counted five bullet holes in the entryway to his house.
Glen T. Jonas, the attorney representing the women, said the police officers gave “no commands, no instructions and no opportunity to surrender” before opening fire. He described a terrifying encounter in which the pair were in the early part of their delivery route through several South Bay communities. Hernandez was in the back seat handing papers to her daughter, who was driving. Carranza would briefly slow the truck to throw papers on driveways and front walks.
Here’s the second incident, also reported by LAT:
David Perdue was on his way to sneak in some surfing before work Thursday morning when police flagged him down. They asked who he was and where he was headed, then sent him on his way.
Seconds later, Perdue’s attorney said, a Torrance police cruiser slammed into his pickup and officers opened fire; none of the bullets struck Perdue.
His pickup, police later explained, matched the description of the one belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner — the ex-cop who has evaded authorities after allegedly killing three and wounding two more. But the pickups were different makes and colors. And Perdue looks nothing like Dorner: He’s several inches shorter and about a hundred pounds lighter. And Perdue is white; Dorner is black.
“I don’t want to use the word buffoonery but it really is unbridled police lawlessness,” said Robert Sheahen, Perdue’s attorney. “These people need training and they need restraint.”
There are two problems with incidents like these. First, they create civil liability for the municipality of Los Angeles. All the victims of police recklessness described above have lawyered up, and rightfully so. Both of these cases will probably be settled, possibly for hundreds of thousands of dollars, costing the taxpayers of Los Angeles an equal sum.
Second, incidents like these validate & create more sympathy for Chris Dorner, who has become something of a folk hero to many of the citizens of Los Angeles. This reader comment cited by FDL is illustrative:
… Our community have been a victim of their mistakes and brutality for decades. The Rodney King incident was one of thousands only that time it was caught on tape. People still didn’t believe it. Oh Well. Dorner had the audacity to cross the thin blue line in other words he snitched. You see what LAPD do to snitches …
When police departments regularly brutalize and dehumanize their communities, they should not be surprised when the community, in turn, dehumanizes them. While the LAPD does not have an official Stop n’ Frisk policy like the NYPD, stories of humiliations and brutality by the LAPD in poor communities are still common-place. These stories fuel resentment and anger on the part of the communities affected. At least one LAPD officer was shot and killed by Chris Dorner, and another was injured. But news of the death & injury of LAPD cops is not being mourned by significant portions of the poor & marginalized communities served by the LAPD, or indeed, by members of similar communities across America.
To the contrary: the death of this officer is being celebrated—or at the very least, touted as an understandable backlash. The “I Support Christopher Dorner” Facebook page has over
6,500 7,500 likes. Oppressed individuals in over-policed communities are expressing a vicarious rage and frustration through Chris Dorner that was most bluntly captured by Zach de la Rocha in the lyrics to a track off of 1999’s Battle of Los Angeles:
With this device I spit non-fiction
Who the got the power, this be my question?
…The pig who’s free to murder one Shucklack;
Or survivors who make a move and murder one back?
This type of vindictiveness can only flourish in an official culture that rarely holds malfeasant police officers responsible for their actions. In cities across America, poor communities & communities of color know all too well that police impunity is the norm, rather than the exception. As David Cole wrote in 2003, two years after riots shook the streets of Cincinnati in protest of the fifteenth Black male to be shot by Cincinnati police since 1995:
The problem extends far beyond Cincinnati … [w]ere it not for its dated rhetoric, the following excerpt from the 1968 Kerner Commission Report, discussing the causes of the urban riots of the 1960s, could well be a description of Cincinnati, New York City, or many other U.S. cities today: “Negroes firmly believe that police brutality and harassment occur repeatedly in Negro neighborhoods. This belief is unquestionably one of the major reasons for intense Negro resentment against the police. Physical abuse is only one source of aggravation in the ghetto. In nearly every city surveyed, the Commission heard complaints of dispersal of social street gatherings and the stopping of Negroes on foot or in cars without objective basis.
This impunity extends far beyond excessive uses of force. Police in many large cities regularly victimize the communities they serve by planting evidence on innocent people, bombarding them with racism-laced verbal abuse, and humiliating them with unconstitutional stops. A Brooklyn judge recently remarked that he was “shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct [in the NYPD’s drug enforcement units], but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.” This conduct is not limited to New York or Los Angeles. It happens in cities all across America, being “routinely employed” for various reasons.
When one reads Chris Dorner’s manifesto, many people are struck by how familiar his accusations of excessive force, lying, and racism on the part of his former colleagues are. Stories about officers of good conscience trying to do the right thing and being retaliated against by their peers are far too common. Even Internal Affairs units, who often require their agents to serve as police officers before being admitted, are riddled with the same biases against seeing police misconduct that affect the police force writ large. In one of the links above, an Orange County, California officer was exonerated of misconduct involving the search of a civilian vehicle because his Supervisor “didn’t feel comfortable holding one officer accountable for it when others were doing it as well[.]” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist figure out the problem with this logic. And yet, it gets applied to cases of police misconduct on a regular basis.
We are also told that the LAPD has re-opened the investigation into Dorner’s disciplinary file in order to demonstrate “transparency.” But the results of this investigation are entirely predictable, particularly given that the LAPD has covered up evidence of its own wrong-doing in the past. The Special Joint Task Force that will lead the investigation is composed entirely of law enforcement officials from various jurisdictions. While bringing in officers from other jurisdictions does help increase the objectivity of internal investigations, true transparency in Dorner’s case requires something more, because it is not simply one officer’s misconduct that is at issue here. The task force should include members of the community who don’t wear a badge—whether they be civilian officials, journalists, or private-sector investigators with no conflicts of interest. Just as nobody trusted officials from within the Penn State community to conduct an objective investigation of the University’s wrong-doing in the Sandusky case, the LAPD cannot seriously suggest that it will objectively investigate itself with respect to what happened in Dorner’s BOR hearing. Even if the investigation is conducted in a good-faith fashion, nobody will view the task force’s findings with credibility unless the LAPD separates itself entirely from responsibility for the investigation.
At the end of the day, Christopher Dorner is a fugitive from justice, and needs to be caught. Civil society cannot tolerate shooting sprees simply because the shooter has a point to make. But the fact that substantial numbers of people are not only sympathetic towards Dorner, but glad that someone is finally “fighting back” against the LAPD is indicative of just how widespread negative impressions of America’s police are in over-policed communities. So long as these communities continue to view the police as an occupying force rather than protecting them from harm, people like Chris Dorner will be viewed by these communities as heroes, rather than villains.
Back in July of last year, Heather Mac Donald claimed that Stop n’ Frisk has reduced the homicide rate in NYC. In defense of her thesis, she cites the higher murder rate in Chicago:
Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, has calculated that New York’s homicide rate would have been 73 percent higher in 2007, had New York’s black residents been killed with the same frequency as blacks in San Diego. New York’s 80 percent drop in crime since the early 1990s is twice as deep, and has lasted twice as long, as the national average, as Zimring shows in his recent book, “The City That Became Safe.“
Heather Mac Donald’s argument, however, is essentially a giant misplaced correlation canard. Los Angeles’ crime rate has fallen for ten straight years and they do not have an official stop n’ frisk policy in place like NYC does. L.A.’s annual homicide rate in particular has fallen by 73% over the last 20 years, from 1,092 to 298 in 2012. In fact, L.A.’s homicide rate is now almost half that of New York City, and L.A. now has the lowest crime rate of any major U.S. city, including NYC. And they did it without systematically harassing poor communities and communities of color on the scale which has taken place in NYC.
One purpose of stop and frisk is to deter criminals from carrying guns, in order to minimize spur-of-the-moment shootings. That deterrence has taken place. Street gangs now keep “community guns” in communal locations rather than on their person, to avoid a gun possession arrest if they are stopped. The city’s astounding homicide drop — 82 percent from 1990 to 2009 — is driven by a decline in gun crime, which disproportionately affects black males. In 2011, guns were used in 61 percent of all homicides, but 86 percent of black males between the ages of 16 and 21 killed that year died from gunfire, according to N.Y.P.D. data.
The bolded text is, quite simply, bullshit. During Bloomberg’s first five years as mayor of NYC, the number of Stop n’ frisks in NYC increased from 97,000+ in 2002 to 506,000+ in 2006. During this same period, the number of annual shooting victims increased from 1,556 to 1,880 at the end of 2006. Meanwhile, 1,821 shootings were reported in NYC in 2012, a reduction of less than 1 percent from 2002, a decade prior. 685,000+ Stop n’ Frisks were performed in 2012. This means that despite a six-fold increase in the number of Stop n’ Frisks between 2002 and 2012, the number of shootings has either remained the same or increased in the last decade. This hardly supports Mac Donald’s assertion that the declining homicide rate is linked to declining gun crime—particularly when the number of shootings in NYC either remained the same or increased over significant portions of the relevant period.
In addition to all of this, for all Mac Donald’s talk about public safety, she ignores another problematic aspect of the Stop n’ Frisk program: Stop n’ Frisk has made it more difficult for prosecutors in some NYC bureaus to do their jobs, since the constant harassment makes communities more suspicious of law enforcement. In the Bronx, where some of the most aggressive stop n’ frisks have taken place, the Bronx D.A.’s office has the highest decline-to-prosecute rate of any borough, where “Half of the dropped cases are declined because victims refuse to cooperate.” In Queens, police are so distrusted that prosecutors essentially have to first prove to juries that police witnesses aren’t lying in order to get them to find someone guilty. For those who feel that bringing criminal offenders to justice is an important aspect of public safety, Stop n’ Frisk is a policy that makes it more difficult for prosecutors to accomplish that goal. Of course, none of this is reflected in the statistics that MacDonald cites.
The Stop n’ Frisk program, at its core, is a ham-fisted execution of Wilson & Kelling’s broken windows theory, which has proven problematic in numerous ways over the years. As C.R. Sridhar noted in his 2008 article for Economic and Political Weekly, when one compares NYC’s Stop n’ Frisk program to other larger cities that experienced similar decreases in crime rates, the “zero tolerance” premise of broken windows theory finds little support. Furthermore, a numerous scholars have demonstrated that the “order maintenance” paradigm that the Broken Windows theory rests on is not analytically sound.
In short, there is plenty of evidence that Stop n’ Frisk is not good policing. Despite this, folks like Heather Mac Donald—who unsurprisingly, has little presence or credibility in academia—continue to argue that Stop n’ Frisk is the primary reason for the decline in crime rates in NYC over the past 20 years. Mac Donald cites data from a few cities in support of her argument, while completely ignoring other jurisdictions where the data does not support her argument. Her premise is essentially no different than if I were to stand in a room with someone, turn the lights off, punch them in the face for twenty years, turn the lights back on, and then claim that their mangled face was caused by the darkness rather than my fists.
Clearly that is absurd. Mac Donald’s argument is equally so. And it’s no surprise that one can’t find a single Law Journal or Law Review that has published her work. That’s not to say that credible academics haven’t defended Broken Windows policing. But few of them claim as much certainty or stridency in their thesis as Mac Donald does, which is what separates actual scholarly analysis from a bush-league intellectual who completely ignores much of the evidence which contradicts her position.
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