Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
‘Police are a force of terror': the LGBT activists who want cops out of Pride
Queer groups are protesting mainstream festivals and organizing alternative events that recognize ongoing police mistreatment of LGBT people
by Sam Levin -- in San Francisco
It took half a century, but this LGBT Pride month, the New York police department (NYPD) finally apologized for the infamous 1969 raid on the Stonewall gay bar.
Some queer New Yorkers had a simple response: apology not accepted.
“It was a symbolic PR stunt,” said Colin P Ashley, a local queer black activist. “The NYPD is still an oppressive force in so many lives.”
Ashley is part of Reclaim Pride, a coalition that wants more than a 50-year-late apology. The group wants police removed from Pride altogether.
Queer and trans activists across the US are engaging in “cops out of Pride” efforts this month, with protests and alternative “cop-free” events that seek to recognize the ongoing police mistreatment of LGBT people. These groups are pushing back against corporate-sponsored parades that embrace police in the name of “inclusion” and “unity” – and return to the radical and riotous roots of the movement.
“Police have often been a force of terror for queer and trans communities,” said Malkia Devich Cyril, a queer activist and leader in the group Movement for Black Lives, who said they won't be attending San Francisco Pride due to the way police and corporations have co-opted it.
“The efforts to remove policing from Pride are really efforts to ensure safety for the communities that are there. It's a protective act. It's an act of resistance,” said Cyril, whose mother was a member of the Black Panthers. “It's an act that attempts to restore some measure of safety to our rights to organize.”
Opposition to law enforcement marching in Pride parades is not new, but has intensified this year as the festivals have adopted themes honoring the anniversary of Stonewall, the LGBT rebellion against police abuses that led to the first Pride march and cemented June as Pride month around the globe.
“The tide is growing around the idea of restricting police involvement in Pride across the country, and across the world,” said Ashley, whose group is organizing a Queer Liberation march on 30 June separate from the city's world-famous parade. Police aren't invited.
Some Pride organizers have argued that the festivals are an opportunity to build bridges between law enforcement and queer communities, that LGBT officers deserve to march, and that the police brutality of 1969 is not today's reality. But in California, New York, Florida and other regions this year, activists are standing up to pro-police LGBT leaders.
‘Police are not standing with us'
“We're not going to ‘build a bridge' with police officers who keep burning them down,” said Alex Andrews, a sex worker activist in Florida, who was upset to learn this week that a police contingent was scheduled to march just a few groups behind her Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) coalition at St Pete Pride on Sunday. “We want to march and we want to be proud participants, but there's going to be this element of fear that is going to be following us.”
Sex workers were integral to the original Stonewall riot, and many who work in the underground industry today are queer and trans people who have reported suffering violence, arrests and harassment at the hands of police.
“It's kind of a punch in the gut,” said Kristen Cain, another SWOP organizer in Florida, who is bisexual. Pride is about “family for me”, she said, the holiday she most cherishes every year, but now she is feeling anxiety about police: “They are not standing with us, they are actively fighting against us.”
Some queer groups have organized mass actions in response. In Sacramento, hundreds of demonstrators blocked an entrance to the city's festival, carrying “No Cops at Pride” and “Black Trans Lives Matter” signs. Pride organizers had initially said police would be banned from marching in uniform to honor community members “harmed by police violence”, but reversed course days before the event.
“Police don't protect us,” said Ayotunde Ikuku, who is part of a group called Still Here that organized the protest. “Every other day, we are trying to not be murdered by them.”
Ikuku, a 22-year-old non-binary black activist, said some Pride attendees were uninterested in learning about the protest, and even enraged at the disruption. A group of older white gay men were openly hostile, racist and violent to the protesters, they said: “There was such unwarranted anger misdirected at us.”
Some videos captured physical confrontations, and at least one man mocking a protester for being trans.
“There was just a lot of hate,” said Ikuku, adding that it was clear some gay people were satisfied with marriage equality and uninterested in the continued struggles of other LGBT people: “They could support us, too, and would lose nothing from doing that … Pride is about showing up for our community who is not shown up for, who is not heard.”
Police violations of LGBT Sacramento residents are also not a concern of the past, activists noted. Last year, a black trans woman protesting the police killing of unarmed Stephon Clark was arrested by Sacramento police and thrown in the male section of the county jail.
Independence Taylor, a 21-year-old Still Here activist, said that when he was a homeless teenager on the streets of Sacramento, police would mock and threaten him and the other trans and queer youth, waking them up in the middle of the night.
With police welcomed by festival organizers, he said, “I worried about the security and safety of my friends of color … It makes me feel like any wrong move could be cause for them to walk up to me and harass me.”
Some of the attendees opposing Still Here just wanted to “party” or believed Pride should be about “love and unity”, said Taylor, adding that he wished the event was welcoming to low-income and homeless queer people, who can't afford tickets: “Don't keep people out … Pride to me should be a day of community building and community education.”
While some have argued that police are necessary for public safety purposes at Pride, others have said there are ways for communities to provide their own security. Ikuku cited the work of the Black Panthers as a model for community patrols.
Why gay cops aren't welcome
In San Francisco, home to one of the biggest Pride parades in the country, the police department (SFPD) has given out rainbow “pride patches” for officers to wear this month, and has a “Pride SUV” that will drive in the parade, a spokesperson said, adding that officers and their “families and friends are looking forward to walking in this year's parade”.
SF Pride's theme this year is “generations of resistance”, which some critics have argued is particularly insulting given this embrace of SFPD, which raided a queer hangout spot in 1966, sparking a rebellion against police in a riot that pre-dated Stonewall.
“Kick cops and corporations out of pride” stickers are common around the Bay Area, spread by an activist group called Gay Shame, made up of mostly working-class trans people of color.
Police “exist to kill and torture black and brown people”, the group said in an email to the Guardian. “If you are [celebrating] cops, you are celebrating white supremacy, there is no way around it. A Pride cop car is like a rainbow confederate flag.”
They added: “People say that we just need more trainings and more LGBT cops, but you cant reform a system that is built on racial terror.”
At Pride in Detroit this year, neo-Nazis disrupted the celebrations and police, in effect, provided an armed escort for the white supremacists in an effort, officials said, to prevent violent clashes.
In New York, the police commissioner's belated apology was limited to the event 50 years ago, and did not acknowledge ongoing problems.
“We reject this apology. It's empty,” said Natalie James, a co-founder of Reclaim Pride. “It implies as if the police abuses are a [historical] thing.”
Ashley said the apology did not change his mind that police should be unwelcome at Pride – including the gay ones: “While I understand the struggles of black police in an institution that is racist, and I understand the struggles of gay officers in an institution that is still homophobic, the institution as a whole is still oppressive to these communities.”
One day after the commissioner's apology, Layleen Polanco, a trans woman, died inside New York's notorious Rikers island jail, where she was housed in solitary confinement, and stuck behind bars because she couldn't afford bail for a misdemeanor charge.
“We have made no progress,” said James. “The NYPD as it exists is antithetical to queer liberation.”
Science & Technology, Human Rights
The Big Picture: The World According to AI
How will Artificial Intelligence be used in the future? Who will it be used by and who will it be used against?
Episode 1: Targeted by Algorithm
Artificial intelligence is already here.
There's a lot of debate and hype about AI, and it's tended to focus on the extreme possibilities of a technology still in its infancy. From self-aware computers and killer robots taking over the world, to a fully-automated world where humans are made redundant by machines, the brave new world of Artificial Intelligence is prophesied by some to be a doomed, scary place, no place for people.
For others, AI is ushering in great technological advances for humanity, helping the world communicate, manufacture, trade and innovate faster, longer, better.
Marginalised communities are experimented upon, and they're on the front lines of these technological systems, the front lines of harm. They are also on the front lines of rebellion and refusal.
But in between these competing utopian and dystopian visions, AI is allowing new ways of maintaining an old order.
It is being used across public and private spheres to make decisions about the lives of millions of people around the world - and sometimes those decisions can mean life or death.
"Communities, particularly vulnerable communities, children, people of colour, women are often characterised by these systems, in quite misrepresentative ways," says Safiya Umoja Noble, author of the book, Algorithms of Oppression.
In episode one of The Big Picture: The World According to AI, we chart the evolution of artificial intelligence from its post-World War II origins and, dissect the mechanisms by which existing prejudices are built into the very systems that are supposed to be free of human bias.
We shed a harsh light on computerised targeting everywhere from foreign drone warfare to civilian policing. In the UK, we witness the trialling of revolutionary new facial recognition technology by the London Metropolitan Police Service.
We examine how these technologies, that are far from proven, are being sold as new policing solutions to maintain order in some of the world's biggest cities.
The Big Picture: The World According to AI explores how artificial intelligence is being used today, and what it means to those on its receiving end.
Episode 2: The Bias in the Machine
Artificial intelligence might be a technological revolution unlike any other, transforming our homes, our work, our lives; but for many - the poor, minority groups, the people deemed to be expendable - their picture remains the same.
There are human biases in targeting on the battlefield, there are human biases in who gets loans, there are human biases in who is subject to arrest ... The algorithms have refined the worst of human cognition, rather than the best.
"The way these technologies are being developed is not empowering people, it's empowering corporations," says Zeynep Tufekci, from the University of North Carolina.
"They are in the hands of the people who hold the data. And that data is being fed into algorithms that we don't really get to see or understand that are opaque even to the people who wrote the programme. And they're being used against us, rather than for us."
In episode two of The Big Picture: The World According to AI we examine practices such as predictive policing, predictive sentencing, as well as the power structures and in-built prejudices that could lead to even more harm than the good its champions would suggest.
In the United States, we travel to one of the country's poorest neighbourhoods, Skid Row in Los Angeles, to see first-hand how the Los Angeles Police Department is using algorithmic software to police a majority black community.
And in China, we examine the implications of a social credit scoring system that deploys machine learning technologies - new innovations in surveillance and social control that are claimed to be used against ethnic Uighur communities.
As AI is used to make more and more decisions for and about us, from targeting, to policing, to social welfare, it raises huge questions. What will AI be used for in the future? And who will stand to benefit.
PAWAR's next act — POLICING pivot — ‘QUEER EYE' meets “VEEP' — GAMBLING ADDICTS
by SHIA KAPOS and ADRIENNE HURST
SCOOP: AMEYA PAWAR has been named a fellow at Economic Security Project, a nonprofit started by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to boost tax credits for low-wage workers. He has also taken on posts with ties to NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Chicago entrepreneur and political wonk.
The group supported a task force Pawar co-chaired while he was city treasurer that studied expanding universal basic income and earned income tax credit programs in Chicago.
It's all about reversing the “racial and gender wealth gaps,” the former alderman told Playbook. “Since Hurricane Katrina, my life's work has been about narrative change.”
Pawar has also joined the board of Zeyo, an online dispute resolution platform started by Spielfogel. And the Chicago politico is a senior adviser to the Academy Group, a nonprofit co-founded by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners investment firm in Chicago. Academy Group funds a nonprofit that helps guide young people from under-served communities into corporate careers. Pawar will focus on building the organization's operations in Chicago and downstate.
Mayor LORI LIGHTFOOT and Chicago Police top brass today will start unveiling community policing initiatives that New York City has found successful, according to police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Expect more consultation and collaboration between police and local residents, officers assigned to neighborhoods to solve community problems, and business liaison officers to work with shops affected by crime.
The pivot to community policing comes after another weekend of gunfire — this time leaving at least 30 shot, three fatally.
Civil society demands ‘community policing' legislation
Civil society urged Government to introduce legislation for community policing, fiscal decentralization of funds to police stations, allocation and provision of funds to investigation officers at all levels in Punjab.
As part of new PTI led Government, Police reforms agenda is one of the major parts of its manifesto that aims to provide relief to the local communities and access to justice.
Community policing is a successful model introduced in many countries of the world but the provincial and federal government have not yet made any legislation to introduce and strengthen community policing in Pakistan.
The initiative of community policing can help in reforming police and controlling crimes through community engagement at every police station level.
Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director of Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) said that the PTI led Government at federal and provincial level could not take any practical steps yet and need to introduce community policing as part of their police reforms agenda.
He said, the community policing is the successful model to bridging gaps between police and the public and combat crimes through community engagement at local level. He also emphasized on the allocation of budget and fiscal decentralization of budget to the Station House Officer of each police station.
Kauser maintained that the police stations does not have the enough resources to deal with the criminal activities in their localities and provide relief to community due to unavailability of funds and lack of resources due to which they takes bribes from the victims.
The budget of the police station should be given to the Station House Officer (SHO) of the respective police station and he/she should be responsible to manage the affairs of the police station through budget, he suggested.
There is a lack of trust between the police and the citizens due to which the criminal activities are not controlled by the engagement of the community. Government should make immediate legislation on the community policing to engage the local communities and stakeholders to build the trust and bridge the gaps between communities and the local police, Kausar Abbas added. He urged the government to take immediate measures of police reforms and introduce community policing at all levels in Pakistan.
Cops on Facebook
To protect and slur
Inside hate groups on Facebook, police officers trade racist memes, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia
by Will Carless and Michael Corey
First in a series
Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook, a Reveal investigation has found.
These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff's departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as “White Lives Matter” and “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.”
The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside. Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
More than 50 departments launched internal investigations after being presented with our findings, in some cases saying they would examine officers' past conduct to see if their online activity mirrored their policing in real life. And some departments have taken action, with at least one officer being fired for violating department policies.
We've been telling stories that change laws and lives for more than 40 years. And we're just getting started.
U.S. law enforcement agencies, many of which have deeply troubled histories of discrimination, have long been accused of connections between officers and extremist groups. At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marchers flew a “Blue Lives Matter” flag alongside anti-Semitic and white supremacist messages. In Portland, Oregon, police officers were found to have been texting with a far-right group that regularly hosts white supremacists and white nationalists at its rallies. A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept, warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups had infiltrated American law enforcement.
It can be difficult to determine how deep or widespread these connections run. Researchers recently found numerous examples of police officers posting violent and racist content on their public Facebook pages. Reveal's investigation shows for the first time that officers in agencies across the country have actively joined private hate groups, participating in the spread of extremism on Facebook.
Most of the hateful Facebook groups these cops frequent are closed, meaning only members are allowed to see content posted by other members. Reveal joined dozens of these groups and verified the identities of almost 400 current and retired law enforcement officials who are members.
One guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana, Geoffery Crosby, was a member of 56 extremist groups, including 45 Confederate groups and one called “BAN THE NAACP.”
A detective at the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston, James “J.T.” Thomas, was a member of the closed Facebook group “The White Privilege Club.”
The group contains hundreds of hateful, racist and anti-Semitic posts; links to interviews with white supremacists such as Richard Spencer; and invites to events such as the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Users regularly post memes featuring Pepe the Frog, the alt-right mascot, with captions such as, “white people, do something.” And there are explicitly racist jokes, such as one with a photo of fried chicken and grape soda with the caption, “Mom packed me a niggable for school.”
Thomas once posted the logo for the Black College Football Hall of Fame inside the group with a simple caption: “Seriously. Why?” Soon after, he posted a meme about an elderly African American woman confusedly responding to a reporter's question by naming a fried chicken restaurant.
After being presented with Thomas' postings on Facebook, the Harris County Sheriff's Office fired him in February for violating a number of employee conduct policies.
“These policies state that ‘an employee's actions must never bring the HCSO into disrepute, nor should conduct be detrimental to the HCSO's efficient operation. … Personnel who, through their use of social media, cause undue embarrassment or damage the reputation of, or erode the public's confidence in, the HCSO shall be deemed to have violated this policy and shall be subject to counseling and/or discipline,” the department said in an email.
In a hearing to appeal his firing, Thomas said he didn't realize he was a member of the closed group and defended his behavior. “If you remove the black female out of the picture, what's racist about it?” he said. The Harris County Sheriff's Civil Service Commission upheld his firing.
Lonnie Allen Brown of the Kingsville Police Department in Texas, a member of three Islamophobic groups, posted a photo of a young black man with a pistol to his head with the header, “If Black lives really mattered …. They'd stop shooting each other!” He also posted an image that read: “Islam. A cult of oppression, rape, pedophilia and murder cannot be reasoned with!” Neither he nor his department returned calls for comment.
Peter Simi, an associate professor of sociology at Chapman University who has studied extremist groups for more than 20 years, said biased views like those expressed in these Facebook groups inevitably influence an individual's decision-making process.
“The perceptions we have about the world at large drive the decisions we make,” Simi said. “To think that people could completely separate these extremist right-wing views from their actions just isn't consistent with what we know about the decision-making process.”
While Facebook vows that it prioritizes meaningful content, its algorithms also appear to play a role in strengthening biases. The more extreme groups we joined, the more Facebook suggested new – and often even more troubling – groups to join or pages to like. It was easy to see how users, including police officers, could be increasingly radicalized by what they saw on their news feed.
What's harder to see is how these views affected their policing offline.
‘I may have used the N-word'
Disciplinary records and investigations into police misconduct are kept secret in a majority of states, meaning most American cops enjoy a blanket of protection that can cover up biases. But in some cases, we found public documents that showed the officers we identified via Facebook also had been involved in real-life instances of alleged racism or other misconduct.
Will Weisenberger, a sheriff's deputy in Madison County, Mississippi, was a member of a closed Facebook group called “White Lives Matter.” He's also been caught up in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the department for allegedly engaging in decades of systemic racism and discriminatory policing.
Racism was so systematic at the Madison County Sheriff's Department, the ACLU asserts, that the department's blank arrest forms came with two words already filled in: “Black” and “Male.”
Lawyers for the ACLU deposed Weisenberger and asked him about an incident in which a fellow deputy alleged that Weisenberger had punched an African American man in the face while the man's hands were cuffed. Then they asked him if he ever uses any racial slurs while on duty.
“I may have used the N-word,” Weisenberger said, according to the deposition.
“It's not something I'm proud of or do every day,” he continued.
Neither the Sheriff's Department nor Weisenberger responded to calls for comment. The Sheriff's Department wouldn't release Weisenberger's disciplinary record or a copy of the complaint made by his colleague. Police disciplinary records in Mississippi are confidential.
In Chicago, Lt. Richard Moravec was a member of a closed Facebook group called “Any islamist insults infidels, I will put him under my feet,” which disappeared from Facebook before we could join it or search it for posts by officers.
While we don't know if he ever interacted with the Islamophobic group, Moravec has posted content that appears to be openly anti-transgender and anti-Islam on his personal Facebook page.
One meme Moravec posted featured a photo of a young girl with the caption, “Please! Don't confuse me. I'm a girl. Don't teach me to question if I'm a boy, transexual, transgendered, intersexed or two spirited.”
And Chicago's open records on police conduct revealed that he also has been the subject of 70 allegations, including accusations of illegal use of force, verbal abuse and criminal misconduct, according to the Citizens Police Data Project. That's more than 99 percent of Chicago police officers. One of the allegations resulted in a five-day suspension.
Moravec didn't respond to a call for comment.
‘This group is sometimes racist does this bother you?'
To find cops with connections to extremist groups, we built lists of two different types of Facebook users: members of extremist groups and members of police groups.
We wrote software to download these lists directly from Facebook, something the platform allowed at the time. In mid-2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and after we already had downloaded our data, Facebook shut down the ability to download membership lists from groups. Then we ran those two datasets against each other to find users who were members of at least one law enforcement group and one far-right group.
We got 14,000 hits.
We did not assume that everyone in a police Facebook group was an actual officer, because many could be relatives of police officers or just really into law enforcement. So, we spent months poring over individual Facebook pages, looking for clues, such as photos of the officer in uniform, or posts about police events, or notes mourning lost cops. Then we corroborated what we found on Facebook with additional research, often calling the departments to confirm the individual either still or had once worked there.
Ultimately, we confirmed that almost 400 users were indeed either currently employed as police officers, sheriffs or prison guards or had once worked in law enforcement.
We then asked to join the closed extremist groups. Many groups ask users questions in order to join, and these often offer insight into the nature of the group. The group “Stop Radical Islam in America,” for example, asks, “Why do you personally think Islam should be banned in America?” At least 12 current and former police officers were members of that group.
The group “Confederate Brothers & Sisters,” which counts at least 25 current and former cops as members, explicitly asks, “This group is sometimes racist does this bother you?” Inside that group, we found several cops and ex-cops posting racist comments.
We used our real names and photos and answered the questions honestly to join these groups. We used general language, often saying we were “interested in learning more.” As a result, many of the most extreme groups rejected our application to join, ignored us or blocked us from viewing the group.
But dozens let us in.
We didn't seek to find every single hate group or police group on Facebook, and we couldn't confirm the professions of hundreds of the users in our database.
Several officers claimed that they didn't even know they were members of the closed groups we identified them in. And that's probably the case for at least some of these officers, due to Facebook's policies for joining groups.
Until late 2018, Facebook allowed users to invite friends to join groups they thought would interest them. The invitees would receive a notification telling them they were a member of a new group, and depending on each user's algorithm, the user's news feed might include content and postings from the group. But it's certainly possible that cops could have been added to groups without realizing it, especially if they're not active on Facebook.
Facebook has since changed its policies. Users now get a request to join a group that they have to confirm.
But that doesn't apply to dozens of current and retired officers who have commented on and liked posts in closed extremist groups or who proactively joined groups themselves, without being invited by somebody else.
We examined a tiny sample of what exists on Facebook — what Megan Squire, a computer science professor from Elon University in North Carolina, called “a tiny, postage-stamp-sized window into Facebook's skyscraper of data.”
Squire, who has studied hate groups on Facebook for years and maintains her own database, said the social media platform, and especially closed groups, are used by hate groups such as white supremacists to plan events and build camaraderie.
“Charlottesville was planned on Facebook,” Squire said. “Extremists are definitely using Facebook groups to plan physical, real-world events or just to make their lives a little smaller, to find friends.”
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company doesn't tolerate hate speech on the platform and works extremely hard to identify and shut down hate groups. In the last year, as part of a push to reform the company, Facebook has said it won't tolerate white nationalist or white supremacist content, and it has moved to shut down the accounts of some of the most popular hate-speech provocateurs.
But while groups with overt neo-Nazi, white supremacist or Ku Klux Klan names get shut down relatively quickly by Facebook, hate groups have wised up in response.
‘I like memes, they make me laugh'
As has happened elsewhere on the internet, extremist groups on Facebook often use in-jokes and subtle references in their names to avoid takedown policies. Moderators of closed groups control who can join, and on Facebook, cops can hide who they really are — using false names and listing pretend jobs.
Inside the closed Facebook groups to which we gained access, transparently racist, misogynistic and homophobic content is on full display. We catalogued more than 120 active and retired officers posting in these groups or commenting in support of others.
In one 48-hour period, civilian members of one closed group posted a steady stream of hateful content:
One user posted a link to a piece about how the skins of African slaves were once turned into jackets. It garnered 34 comments and 103 emoticon responses in 24 hours. Almost all of the people reacting to the post gave it the “haha” response. “10/10 would wear, ” a commenter said.
Another post mocked the removal of a citizenship question from the 2020 census, playing off the common white supremacist conspiracy theory that an international group of Jews is masterminding the immigration of Latinos into the United States. “When are we going to show everyone what the Jewish cabal is doing?” commented one member.
A video showing an African American man being arrested by an African American police officer resulted in an immediate comment: “Just reading that made me crave some fried chicken and watermelon.”
At least six law enforcement officers were members of the group, which was called “Anti-SJW Pinochet's Helicopter Pilot Academy.” The name showcases the wordplay central to the white supremacists' rebranding as the “alt-right.” It refers to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who had his political opponents thrown out of helicopters into the Pacific Ocean. “SJW” stands for “social justice warrior,” a term used to mock individuals who support equal rights for people of color, women and the LGBTQ community.
While the terminology is new and sometimes cryptic, the core messages of the alt-right echo longstanding neo-Nazi and white supremacist premises. Perry Tolliver, a retired corrections officer from Baltimore, and Michael Pinegar, a former Arizona Department of Corrections officer — who were both members of the Pinochet group until it disappeared from Facebook earlier this month — seemed well-versed in the alt-right's terminology. In separate posts in the group, both Tolliver and Pinegar referred to African Americans as “dindus” — a racist slur common on Facebook and elsewhere.
In a similar vein, Detective Steve Fumuso from Westchester County in New York frequently inserted comments into posts in the Pinochet group that denigrated African Americans, Latinos and the LGBTQ community.
Fumuso posted a meme with a white man making the “OK” symbol — a favored gesture of the alt-right — and the words “fuckin mint” under a racist joke about Mexicans in December 2017. Earlier, he had commented, “Ha ha ha haaaa. Fuck em,” under a “Tucker Carlson Tonight” clip about Mexicans being worried about crime committed by Central American migrants.
Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Gleason said the department's Special Investigations Unit would launch an investigation.
In an interview months later, Fumuso said he had retired shortly after the internal affairs investigation. He said the two things had nothing to do with each other.
“I like memes, they make me laugh. I didn't join to express any racist views,” he said. “I don't care what you think. That's my opinion. You know what's a racist comment? ‘Brits are all full of shit.' ”
Several officers contacted for this story countered that they have a First Amendment right to opine on social media, even if those opinions are unpopular or offensive to some people.
However, while civilians enjoy First Amendment protection from government censorship or harassment, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public agencies such as police departments may penalize their employees for speech and behavior in certain cases.
Valerie Van Brocklin, a former federal prosecutor who trains police departments and other public employees on social media use, said police officers across the country have been fired or suspended for making off-color jokes or leaving problematic comments under newspaper articles.
“I ask them, ‘Would you, as a cop, in your uniform, put that on a sandwich board and walk up and down the streets of your town? ' ” Van Brocklin said. “And they'll say, ‘No, because I could be fired for that.' Well, instead of putting it on a sandwich board, you put it up for the whole world to see, so why would you think it's protected?”
‘We don't discuss personnel matters'
No single code of conduct or ethics policy governs the thousands of jurisdictions in the U.S. that employ police officers. Different law enforcement agencies have widely differing standards for the behavior they accept from their personnel, and this was reflected in the responses we received from departments.
In Watkins Glen, New York, Sgt. in Charge Steven Decker refused to talk about the fact that one of his officers, Robert Brill, was a member of two groups connected to the Proud Boys, a violent alt-right gang, and the group “Kekistani Freestate,” named for Kek, a sort of deity employed by the alt-right for memes and other jokes.
“We don't discuss personnel matters,” Decker said, before hanging up. Brill didn't respond to calls for comment.
The Abbeville Police Department in Georgia hasn't responded to multiple phone calls and emails about one of its officers, Joel Quinn, frequently featuring conspiracy theories and anti-Islam posts on his personal Facebook wall. He also has posted inside a Confederate group.
Reached via Facebook Messenger, Quinn defended his posts. “Its also my responsibility to detect possible threats to my community all the way up to and including my country,” he wrote. “Think about this, majority of crimes are committed by minorities (black, hispanic, etc) per FBI statistics yet I don't ‘prey' on any particular one.” (According to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics, 68.9 percent of arrestees in 2017 were white.)
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections hasn't commented on corrections officer Sheldon Best, a member of “Crusades Against Degeneracy,” a group that trades in racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and homophobic content. In 2017, Best commented on an NPR story reporting that babies of color are now the majority in the United States. Below it, he wrote: “Maybe, but minority on minority homocide (sic) will make sure adults of color remain a minority.”
Best said in an interview that he was apologetic about this and other posts in the group. “Some people” could view his membership in the group as problematic, he acknowledged. However, he said that while some members of the group hold discriminatory views, he does not.
We provided the New York Police Department with posts from Officer Randy Paulsaint, a member of 13 groups committed to the anti-feminist Men Going Their Own Way movement.
The groups contain memes depicting women as evil, greedy and jealous. In one, someone posted a meme about a woman asking for a Christmas present. In the comments, Paulsaint inserted a gif of a man kicking a woman in the head.
The NYPD said its investigation was closed as unsubstantiated. “The investigation was unable to clearly prove or disprove that the subject officer made the offending posts,” the department said.
Peter Simi, the sociologist, said white supremacists and other extremists have been working hard to integrate their hateful views into society in as many ways as possible.
“Leaders have long been advocating for infiltration of society — graduate from high school, go to college, join the military, become a police officer, become a school teacher — get inside the system,” he said. “That's why it's so difficult to get a handle on the scope of this, because the purpose for those who are infiltrating these systems is to be careful not to tip their hands. So we're always dealing with the tip of the iceberg.
Community policing producing results
LAHORE: Punjab Inspector General of Police Cap (R) Arif Nawaz Khan has said that Punjab police is working to maintain law and order along with the speedy solution of the problems of public according to the principles of community policing which is also enhancing the service delivery and trust between public and police.
He expressed these views during a meeting with provincial ministers Nauman Ahmad Langrial and Sardar Asif Nakai. During the meeting law and order situation and issues of mutual interest were discussed.
The IG Punjab said SP complaints in all districts were working to resolve the public complaints with ensuring timely registration of FIR. He also informed the meeting about new projects and reforms in policing system. He said Punjab police has established Police Khidmat Marakaz in all districts where citizens are availing 14 different services about police under one roof.
Provincial ministers praised the security arrangements during Ramazan and said due to the effective actions by Punjab police the incidents of terrorism had declined significantly where as research on 8,787 IGP complaint cell and Khidmat Marakaz by renowned educational institutes was evidence of its success. They said Punjab police was equal to developed forces of the world in terms of IT usage and the IT projects of Punjab police were worth adoption and replication by police forces of other provinces.
Grenfell left a stain on London's reputation as a global city with its arms open to the world
Families mourning the 72 people who died in the devastating fire are still waiting for answers and real change
by Nour-eddine Aboudihaj
June 14 marks a day painfully etched in the memories of our community, and a haunting reminder to the rest of the world about the collective failures that led to one of the biggest calamities in British peacetime. Two years ago to the day, 72 people, including 18 children, died in the fire that consumed Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London, within minutes. Many have since written about the tragedy that befell Grenfell; numerous stories have been told and much ink and paper spent on covering the aftermath. But the only story that can be told is by those who are living through the fallout, day after day. They, and the generations that follow, are the ones who will be impacted for years to come.
Two years on, anger, frustration and disappointment run high among the bereaved and survivors of the devastating fire, primarily because of a lack of action and the snail's pace of implementing basic recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy happening again. At the heart of it lies deep contempt, its fracture lines of class and poverty laid bare in Britain's richest borough. As Nigel de Noronba wrote in his book After Grenfell, Violence, Resistance and Response, it “reflects a return to the open hostility that the British ruling class have felt towards the working class and colonial subjects they ruled over”.
North Kensington has the highest level of deprivation in London, yet sits alongside central and South Kensington, where royals and oligarchs rub shoulders in some of the most expensive homes in Britain. The disparity is clear not just in wealth but in a 15-year gap in life expectancy. Yet North Kensington is home to a vibrant and ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse community. Its population includes a large number of Moroccans as well as communities from the Caribbean, Portugal, Somalia and Spain. Most of those who died in Grenfell Tower had only been in the UK since 1990. A total of 80 per cent of the victims were Muslims; nearly one in seven were Moroccan. Other victims were Lebanese, Egyptian, Sudanese, Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian, Iranian, Spanish, Italian, Ghanaian and Eritrean.
That was reflected in the names and backgrounds of those who died in the blaze. Take Mohammed Al Haj Ali, a 23-year-old civil engineering student who had escaped the war in Syria, only to die when trying to escape his 14th floor flat. Or Fethia and Hania Hassan, aged four and three respectively, two bright little sisters who died along with their mother, Rania Ibrahim. Or Rabeya Begum, a loving mother who lost her life, along with her husband and three of her children. Or Moroccan university porter Abdulaziz El Wahabi, whose wife and three children were also killed.
Grenfell has left an indelible stain, not just on the North Kensington landscape but on London's reputation as a global city with its arms open to the world. The scars of a collective trauma have not yet healed.
As we reach the two-year mark, few answers have been forthcoming and there has been no real change, despite numerous conversations and meetings with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) local authority and the government, including the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May, Nick Hurd, the minister for policing and the fire service, and London mayor Sadiq Khan. The first phase of an independent inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the fire on June 14, 2017, has concluded but its report has yet to be made available. A second phase of the inquiry is not due to begin until next year.
It must be acknowledged that this event did not happen in a vacuum. Despite many warnings by the tower's residents about fire and building safety, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation responsible for the building chose to ignore them. Residents were not consulted on the refurbishment of the tower with highly flammable cladding but were silenced and intimidated. That refurbishment, carried out by the authority and the tenant management organisation, effectively turned Grenfell into a death trap. Fire safety policies were out of date. The tenants were treated with disdain, looked down on and treated unfairly for years. That appalling mistreatment continued even in the aftermath of the fire.
The one positive outcome has been the strengthening of community spirit of people living in North Kensington and the wider support that Justice4Grenfell receives from all sections of society, both in Britain and elsewhere.
The real lifeline in this tragedy came from volunteers, local organisations and mosques that provided support to those affected. As far as the authorities are concerned, the community was failed horribly before, during, and after the fire.
The major issue has been housing for families who lost their homes and possessions. This situation has not been helped by promises made and broken.
The first promise that was shattered was Mrs May's pledge that all survivors would be rehoused within three weeks. Two years on, 16 families are still waiting in limbo. Earlier this week Kim Taylor Smith, the deputy leader of RBKC responsible for rehousing Grenfell residents, wrote: “We got the Grenfell housing process wrong and it's time to apologise to survivors.” This apology will not help those who are still homeless, nor will it lessen the suffering and pain they have been subjected to. There are daily calls for help from families who have yet to be rehoused; some have even contemplated suicide.
The catalogue of failures were summed up by the MP John Healey, who told parliament: “Ministers have been frozen like rabbits in the headlights. Their action has been too slow and too weak on every front. There has been a failure to give justice to the Grenfell community.”
The fact Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chairman of the Grenfell public inquiry, has not kept his promise either and still has to publish his report of phase one has just exacerbated the level of anger and anxiety among the bereaved, survivors and the local community, who are seeking justice and redress. Police leading the criminal investigation have made matters even worse by announcing they will not bring any criminal charges before the end of the second phase. This means people affected by the tragedy will have to wait at least five years before they can get any closure.
The government and RBKC are far removed from the reality of the local community. One of the most striking examples of this attitude can be seen in the development of a commission to oversee and manage a memorial park in place of Grenfell Tower. Bereaved families were so angry about the proposal that only five mourners could have a say and had to be voted onto the commission panel that they walked out of talks. They did not want to compete with each other while still grieving their loved ones.
All these issues have deepened the level of trauma experienced by the local community. Work is underway to form a five-year health and wellbeing recovery strategy but mental health facilities in the area are woefully inadequate. Cultural and faith-based therapies have proved more effective in helping many families.
The one positive outcome has been the strengthening of community spirit of people living in North Kensington and the wider support that Justice4Grenfell receives from all sections of society, both in Britain and elsewhere. That has strengthened our resolve to fight until justice is done, and a healthy and resilient community is rebuilt. This weekend will be marked with remembrances, vigils and – as has happened on the 14th of every month since the fire – a silent walk in memory of those who died. Earlier this week, Grenfell families launched legal action in the US against the manufacturers of the cladding used on the tower and projected messages onto buildings with similarly dangerous fittings in London, Manchester and Newcastle. As Kensington and Chelsea MP Emma Dent Coad says: “The time for platitudes is done.” Together, we hope we can effect change and that no death will have been in vain.
‘City on a Hill' creator Chuck MacLean knows all about the local flavor
by Christopher Wallenberg
NEW YORK — Chuck MacLean isn't the kind of guy who pulls punches in his writing — or when the subject is himself. A self-described loudmouth and former “lunatic” from Quincy, he talks about raising hell in his teenage years — “getting in giant [expletive] brawls in the middle of downtown” and “running from the cops” as a student at Emerson College. Creator of the new Boston-set television series “City on a Hill,” which debuts Sunday on Showtime, MacLean says he's mellowed over the years. But his eyes twinkle as he shares stories about trading insults and profane jokes with “City” producers Tom Fontana and Ben Affleck, battling with his grad school professors at USC, and getting fired after only a few weeks from his first post-college job, as an editorial assistant at the Patriot Ledger.
“I busted a joke on the first day there, and no one laughed. After that, I couldn't do anything right,” MacLean says. “I was 21 years old and a [expletive] maniac. They were like, ‘You are way too much to handle and you're way too loud.' ” In an effort to “soften the blow,” MacLean says, the paper's editor suggested he move to Los Angeles and pursue his dream of writing movies.
Several years later, after one of his scripts, “Bridges on the Fort Point Channel,” ended up on the 2011 edition of the prestigious Black List, a survey of Hollywood executives' favorite unproduced screenplays, he e-mailed the news to his former editor with a sly note: “Thanks for the advice.” He never heard back.
Now MacLean, who grew up in Quincy and Plymouth, has finally had his breakthrough, thanks to “City on a Hill,” which explores the intersection of crime, law enforcement, and public corruption in Boston, and the changing face of the city in the early '90s. MacLean's triumph comes after years of toiling in Hollywood as a screenwriter-for-hire — and watching his script for “Boston Strangler,” with Casey Affleck set to star, get shelved at Warner Brothers, despite landing on the Black List in 2014.
“If you don't want to lose your mind as a writer working in this industry, you have to take the small victories where they come,” says MacLean, 33, during a conversation at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, home base for the series (the pilot and parts of a later episode were filmed in the Boston area). “I've always had that ‘one-foot-in-front-of-the-other' thing. I just focus on what I can control.”
“City on a Hill” stars Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr, a corrupt, fast-talking veteran FBI agent, and Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward, an idealistic, ambitious African-American assistant district attorney. The duo form an unlikely alliance to solve a string of armored-car robberies, perpetrated by a pair of brothers from Charlestown, and to upend the way law enforcement operates in the city.
The idea for the series sprang from Ben Affleck, who serves as executive producer and knew MacLean through his brother Casey. He wanted to make a show inspired by the so-called “Boston Miracle,” the outcome of the game-changing community policing initiative that led to a dramatic drop in gang-related youth gun violence in the '90s.
In 1992, when the show opens, the city is still grappling with the repercussions of the Charles Stuart case, in which a white man murdered his pregnant wife and concocted a cover story about being robbed and shot by a young black man. “The Stuart murder ripped up all of these problems that had been festering — racial tensions but also corruption within the political and law enforcement communities,” MacLean says.
“I wanted to essentially smash ‘The Wire' and ‘The Sopranos' together and to have a strong character base at the heart of it,” MacLean says.
The coke-addled Rohr personifies Boston's corruption, tribalism, and blinkered approach to law enforcement. As the show progresses, Ward represents the city's future. The character is loosely based on Ralph C. Martin, the first black district attorney in Suffolk County, who served from 1992 to 2002, and other prosecutors in his office. “This first season is when white men rule the earth,” MacLean says. “That is going to change very abruptly for all of them.”
Showrunner Fontana (“Oz,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”) says he found MacLean passionate about telling the story in an authentic and honest way. “Yes, he is incredibly opinionated, but he is not uncompromising. Like all of us, he wants to be heard and not dismissed out of hand. I'm a guy who's always done TV shows that don't pull punches, and he didn't want to pull any punches.”
Indeed, “City on a Hill” is unvarnished in its depiction of racism among white law enforcement officers and working-class Bostonians, and MacLean makes no apologies for that.
“That's the world that I grew up in. It was important to show what it was really like and to be unsparing. I believe it would do an injustice to the Decourcy character to show it in a different light. It was a town where someone would drop the N-bomb on you and not care and pay no consequences for it. The other side of it is to show that it's a problem,” MacLean says. “But the whole subject of the show is that people aren't as simple as you want to make them out to be.”
Born into a family of yarn-spinners with a penchant for mordant humor, MacLean always had storytelling in his blood. His grandfather would tell wild tales of being shot to save his wife from gangsters or getting his stomach sliced open by modern-day pirates while he was in the Marines. He'd show his grandson his appendix scar as proof. “He had a way of making you believe him,” MacLean says, calling him the “world's greatest” slinger of horse manure (though he used a more profane expression).
Before his grandfather's funeral, the family asked if one of the grandkids wanted to say something, and so MacLean, then only 9, wrote what he thought was a eulogy — and shared all the stories about his grandfather's life that the old man used to tell him. “In a packed church, my whole family was cracking up,” MacLean says. “Everyone was rolling on the ground laughing. He wouldn't want everybody to be crying [over his death]. So I was like the perpetrator of his last con job.”
The experience of captivating an audience was a thrill, and MacLean had caught the bug. “I wanted to be a writer ever since,” he says, “and it all started there.”
Getting On The Right Foot: Officers Help Teen Find Job, Shoes For Work
CHICAGO (CBS) — Young people across Chicago are now on the hunt to find summer jobs.
But Rydiun Walton had a special reason to find work and a new pair of shoes to wear to the job.
He contacted the 25th District of the Chicago Police Department to explain his plight.
“I was out here in the streets of Chicago. I was a victim of a gun crime,” he said.
“In this instance this young man reached out to me. He was brave enough to reach out,” said Sgt. John Bartuch.
Bartuch said he was able to help the 23-year-old via a new approached called the District Coordination Officers Program. The new neighborhood policing pilot initiative started in January in the 25th District and is made up of 20 officers. The plan is to offer long-term solutions.
“Which centered around removing the traditional policy that was done in the past,” Bartuch said. “Creating those long term relationships with community, diving into people's problems.”
Officers Danny Lopez and Carolina Salcedo are part of DCO and worked with the Sketchers Outlet in the neighborhood to provide the boots. They say speaking to gang members is no easy task, but the approach is key.
“Reach out. We have resources,” Lopez said. “This young man to it to himself to reach out to us, and we showed him we kept our word.”
“The future holds a lot of things, honestly,” said Walton. “I can't specifically say what it holds, but definitely nothing but a lot of open doors.
New ACPD program brings back old-fashioned neighborhood policing
by Lynda Cohen
Albert Herbert remembers knowing the police officers who lived around him when he was growing up in Atlantic City.
“Because there were guys in the neighborhood doing the job, friendly, it kind of broke down the barriers,” he recalled Tuesday as he stood in Chelsea Heights, where he still lives and now patrols.
The Atlantic City police officer is one of 16 assigned to the new Neighborhood Coordination Officer Program, which has assigned two officers to each of the city's six wards along with four who will work homeless outreach.
Herbert and his partner, Jerard Ingenito, have a strong connection to their new beat.
Both men own homes in the neighborhood. Herbert grew up here. Ingenito has been here since 1999.
As they went on their inaugural rounds Tuesday, it didn't take long to bump into those they knew, including the officers who influenced them.
“What they did is they changed the perception,” Ingenito said as he stood next to Detective Joe Corson and retired Patrolman Connie Hackney.
“Every day you would see them coming around and they would stop and, ‘How's your mom? I heard she was sick,'” Ingenito continued. “And that's the kind of thing this program is trying to bring back. It's trying to bring back. That we need officers on the street, getting to know the residents.”
This is the first of what will be an expanded program, Police Chief Henry White promised as the officers were officially introduced in City Council chambers.
“What we're seeing here is exactly what's supposed to happen when everyone is working together,” White said, surrounded by officials including Mayor Frank Gilliam and Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was supposed to be an the announcement but was sick Tuesday.
“No one is more excited than I am,” said Lt. Will Santiago, who is leading the officers.
“As a young child walking the streets of Atlantic City, I was approached by police officers walking the beat, they instilled in me why I really wanted to become a police officer,” he recalled.
Residents will have these officers' cell phone numbers and be able to reach out to them whenever they need.
At least two of the officers speak Spanish. Officer Syed Shah, who is in Ward 5, speaks Punjabi, Urdu and Pashto.
The 3800 block of South Honore Street will be the focus of increased scrutiny by police
Police Tactical Team Deployed to Neighborhood Gang and Drug Hot Spot
by Justin Kerr
Additional Chicago Police Department resources, including specialized tactical officers, have been deployed to concentrate on an identified area of problematic drug and gang activity in the McKinley Park neighborhood, said Community Liaison Officer Cheryl Clark at the Wednesday, June 12, meeting of Beat 912 of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS). The 3800 block of South Honore Street in Chicago — long an area receiving complaints at CAPS meetings and the site of past gang-related activity — will receive extra scrutiny this summer, she said.
"We have assigned tactical teams to look at these problems," Clark said.
Clark also detailed the crime statistics for Beat 912 between May 8 and June 11, including 1,630 calls for service and 26 reports of shots fired. During this period, police conducted 14 arrests and recorded incidents of three aggravated batteries, two aggravated assaults, four robberies, six burglaries and one motor vehicle theft, Clark said.
A String of Robberies
One robbery occurred late at night on June 9 around 3900 South Damen Avenue, Clark said. A resident agreed to give a stranger a ride home from a bar and was robbed when dropping off the stranger, Clark said.
On May 30, a victim was robbed in the 3400 block of South Archer Avenue after withdrawing money from a bank ATM, Clark said. Officers apprehended a suspect in the robbery, in which the perpetrator displayed a gun and then fled in a vehicle.
A robbery occurred on May 25 in the 3500 block of South Winchester Avenue, Clark said. An African-American male around 25 years old implied to the victim that he had a gun, then fled in a red vehicle, she said. Another reported robbery included a gang-related incident on May 23 when seven offenders jumped out a green SUV, claimed to be members of the Spanish Cobras street gang, and then beat and robbed the victim, Clark said.
Burglary Pattern, Other Crimes, Events and Tips
A reported crime on May 26 in the 3700 block of South Winchester Avenue involved a reported aggravated battery with a gun, Clark said. A victim reported being shot several hours after coming home to the neighborhood from a party elsewhere in the city, Clark said. The victim said she didn't remember when or where the shooting occurred, Clark reported.
The string of burglaries in the neighborhood are part of a tracked pattern of criminal activity, Clark said. These burglary incidents have also been reported on here in the McKinley Park News.
Beat Facilitator Glenn Young noted the upcoming National Night Out on Tuesday, August 6, in which the police and community gather for events and activities. The nearest event to McKinley Park will be the 9th District's National Night Out from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 6, at Sherman Park, 1301 W. 52nd St., Young said. Neighborhood residents can also show their support for police by flying blue balloons and tying up blue ribbons on their property, he said.
Young also touched on the past month's graffiti activity and encouraged residents to help prevent street flooding during heavy rainstorms by clearing street drains of debris. Residents can also call 311 or the 12th Ward office to report problems with flooding, he said.
Clark, a 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, lauded the beat meeting attendees for having one of the most active CAPS groups in the city. "You should be a model of what a beat meeting should be," she said.
Mayoral Candidates Agree Kansas City Needs More Cops, But Police Say There's No ‘Magic Number'
The department and police union suggest Kansas City needs at least a hundred more officers.
by Sam Zeff
Part 1: Kansas City needs more police officers.
It's 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, and officers Kelsey Wingate and Uriel Ojeda from the Kansas City Police Department's Central Patrol Division are already behind.
“We're starting our shift with all these calls waiting for officer response," Ojeda says as he settles in behind the wheel and turns on the laptop.
Almost a dozen calls for service pop up. "That's very common for us," says Wingate.
KCPD officers are busy. The number of homicides in Kansas City is up 9% over this time last year (57 versus 51) and approaching the pace of two years ago when there were 151 killings in the city.
Also, police commanders say, there have been 134 non-fatal shootings this year and drive-by shootings are on the same pace as last year.
All this has police and both candidates for mayor saying Kansas City needs more cops.
But how many?
“I don't know what that magic number is," says KCPD Chief Rick Smith.
There are 1,354 sworn members in the department. While Smith may not have a magic number, he does have a wish list.
“I know I'd like to have neighborhood officers for every sector in the city," says Smith. "That's about 38 more officers just to do kind of neighborhood policing, quality of life issues.”
After some more thought, Smith says 150 more officers would be good.
Violent crime isn't curbed with just boots on the ground. Smith says he wants more detectives and a second shift at the crime lab.
Another hundred officers sounds right to Sgt. Brad Lemon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge that represents KCPD.
“I also remember a time when we had for over 1,400 police officers on this job, and we did a spectacular job,” says Lemon.
In a rush
It is not that calls go unanswered or crimes are not responded to, but Lemon says cops must rush from job to job.
"I hear from officers all the time that they just don't have time to handle calls properly but they're getting pushed to answer as many calls as possible.”
That is certainly true for Ojeda and Wingate on a 4 p.m.-to-2 a.m. shift on a Saturday in April.
Their first stop is a possible domestic violence call at an apartment on Armour Boulevard. Then they move on to check on a woman in midtown, who appears to be off her medication.
A generation ago, this wouldn't be a problem for the police to handle.
Now it is, and the department has added social workers. Smith says he'd like more.
“When we can't solve that in five minutes on a call and that family needs more help than we can provide or direction or whatever the case may be, that's where that social worker comes in and helps.”
Before the night is over, Wingate and Ojeda will do another medical check with paramedics, investigate a fight at the Negro Leagues Museum, check on a man who shot himself in the leg outside of his apartment and end up at a triple shooting inside an under 21 club near Westport.
All of this happened in the Central Patrol Division. Elsewhere in Kansas City on the same night, police responded to a sniper in an ally and were called to a serious car accident; also, an officer killed a suspect.
Some cities hire police based on population. Others on geographic size. Still others on calls for service. Which one is best?
Part 2: How many new officers does Kansas City need?
“There is no one formula,” says Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank.
Wexler says it all depends on what a city wants from police. Do people want community policing? A Police Athletic League? Mounted patrol? More detectives?
The KCPD has or wants all of those things.
Wexler says if citizens demand those services, it's going to take more cops.
“But I will tell you this, more officers does not necessarily mean less crime. It's really about how you use them."
Kansas City has been wrestling with how to use the police going back decades. A city auditor's report in 1998 said more officers were needed on patrol to alleviate so-called blackouts, when all officers were busy and nobody was available to take new calls. Another in 1998 suggested the city could save a million dollars a year by hiring civilians to do administrative jobs handled by officers.
That was echoed just two years ago in a report done by an outside consulting firm.
Smith says he would put some of his administrative officers on the street but questions how to pay the new civilians?
“The reason why we have some officers in administrative positions is because we don't get funding for those civilian positions,” he says.
Wingate and Ojeda responded to a triple shooting in Westport inside an under 21 club. It was a typically busy nigh in Central Patrol. The pair also handled a fight at the Negro Leagues Museum, a man who shot himself in the leg and two calls for possible domestic violence that same night.
Both candidates agree the city needs more officers
The Kansas City mayor has little direct influence on the police department. The city funds the police department, but a police commission, appointed by the governor, runs the department. The mayor automatically gets one of the six seats on the police board.
Neither Jolie Justus nor Quinton Lucas has a number of officers they would like to see on the KCPD, but both want more officers.
Lucas says he wants more officers in neighborhoods.
“I think we need more cops that are getting to know areas better, that are actually getting to spend time in given sectors and not just driving around the city all the time.”
Justus agrees and says she would like two more community officers in each police sector. That is at least 36 more officers. She also supports civilians replacing administrative officers.
“I would like to see more civilians doing the work that civilians are absolutely capable of doing. And those people that we invest the time and the money and the training in, our uniformed officers, I want to see them in the field doing the work that I'm talking about."
The answer to how many cops Kansas City needs is complicated, and how to pay for more officers likely is even more complicated.
Will a new policing strategy make a dent in Anchorage's crime?
by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media
Police in Anchorage are trying something new: having officers patrol beats built around community boundaries, rather than covering the entire city. It's an attempt to deliver “community policing,” a general set of tactics the mayor's administration has emphasized as it continues increasing the size of the police force.
On a recent weekday morning, Officer Brian Fuchs was patrolling his beat in the Mountain View neighborhood. He got out at a popular park and began checking on people sleeping in their vehicles to make sure they weren't in distress.
Then, he wandered down a footpath into the woods, where there were half-a-dozen tents and piles of rubbish. Hidden under branches and a tent cover was a small Mazda spray-painted black. In the backseat, two people were asleep.
“Hey, open the door,” Fuchs said, knocking on the window and growing increasingly alarmed.
“Is she alive?” he asked a bleary-eyed young man. Fuchs couldn't see her breathing, and when the boyfriend tried shaking her she hardly stirred.
“Ma'am, are you ok?” Fuchs asked, reaching into the car.
The 19-year-old woman gradually began to come around. She exited the car but had trouble standing. Fuchs asked the 20-year-old boyfriend if they'd been using drugs. He said no, but the backseat was littered with used syringes. Worried the woman might have overdosed, Fuchs called for an ambulance to check her out. There were no drugs on hand, and the car's ownership status was unclear. Short of having medics evaluate the young woman, there was not much for police to do.
“These kids are out here, addicted to drugs, living on the streets,” Fuchs said. “It's just a sad state of affairs for these kids, wish I could do more for them.”
A car parked overnight and filled with possessions in Officer Brian Fuchs's normal patrol area (Photo: Zachariah Hughes – Alaska Public Media, Anchorage)
This interaction didn't happen in response to a specific call for service. Essentially, it was a spontaneous intervention in the course of an officer patrolling his community beat. And it's the kind of policing that the Anchorage Police Department and Berkowitz Administration want more of.
For the last few months, APD has been sending officers to the same parts of town each shift, making them responsible for safety in one area rather than the city as a whole.
“It does give you a greater sense of ownership to the one area where you work,” said Fuchs, who has been with the department for more than a decade and lives outside of the municipality.
In the past, officers moved around the city during their shifts. One minute they might be responding to a call in South Anchorage, downtown the next, and the east side after that. A lot of this was simply triage, with available units racing between the most serious incidents while deferring less time sensitive requests for help.
The department's staffing levels fell low enough that it became a central campaign issue in the 2015 mayor's race.
According to Fuchs, the situation left officers frequently scrambling to react. And the public never knew who would show up to a call.
“If the officers are constantly changing in an area, that can cause contention for some people if they don't know who they're going to get,” Fuchs said during the course of a ride-along that lasted the majority of his morning-to-afternoon shift.
It's not as if under the new strategy Fuchs is confined to Mountain View. He still responds to calls in other areas. At one point in the morning there was a request for backup, and Fuchs turned his sirens on as he sped through traffic to get downtown.
Mostly, though, he spent this particular weekday responding to lower level calls, like de-escalating a tenant-landlord dispute, transporting a woman to jail and investigating a tripped alarm inside an industrial park.
He also spent a lot of time simply rolling through Mountain View's side-streets, waving at people, listening to scanner messages and looking to see if anything appears suspicious. Like a pile of discarded junk next to two burned out abandoned buildings. As Fuchs examined a mound of old couches, a broken TV and a bucket of spent bullet casings, a woman wandered over to him.
“Hi ma'am, how are you?” Fuchs said cheerily. “I'm Brian.”
They began commiserating about how all the garbage had appeared in just the last week or two. And Fuchs had credibility in the conversation, because he had been by frequently enough understand where the woman was coming from, how the site had already been once cleared. He shared her frustration. He told her who at the city to call, and the phone number she could reach him at if she needed.
Interactions like these are what the city means when it says it wants more community policing. However, it's hard to measure the effectiveness of this approach in reducing crime. The new patrol model started in March. Assembly members and the heads of several community councils say that to the extent residents are noticing the changes, they are pleased.
“We've seen more cops,” said Mark Butler, who lives in the North Star Community Council's area. “They seem to be interacting with the public a lot more.”
“It's totally great,” said Patty Higgins of the Abbott Loop Council, adding that anecdotally people she has spoken with feel somewhat safer.
Allen Kemplen with the Fairview Community Council has not yet seen a difference from the new policing strategy, but says that the neighborhood generally has a cooperative relationship with APD. Still, he believes the community boundary policy's efficacy is constrained by other limitations in the criminal justice system.
“I don't see the connection with the prosecutor's office,” Kemplen said as an example. The point he and others have made is that proactive policing has limits in an environment that lacks access to substance abuse treatment, sufficient housing for the homeless, and a severely strained legal system.
What everyone does seem to agree on, though, is that this type of policing is only possible because APD has grown its ranks, putting enough officers on the street that they aren't constantly in a state of reaction. Which, according to Fuchs, is crucial.
“If you're constantly going call to call to call to call to call, which we do a lot of, then you never have the opportunity to do community-based policing, and going out and talking to people and doing all these different things,” Fuchs said.
Currently, APD is staffed at 406 officers, significantly higher than in recent years, but still about 40 positions short of what is recommended for Anchorage based on a comprehensive report issued by the Police Executive Research Forum.
How Gentrification Brings Over-Policing for D.C.'s Black Residents
by Kenya Evelyn
The MetroPCS store on the corner of Florida and Georgia avenues in Washington, D.C., sits at the heart of the Shaw neighborhood. Once surrounded by boarded homes, fast food joints, and Howard University, the store, which sells cellphones and electronic accessories, is now wedged between luxury condos, hipster cafes, and a concert venue.
For 25 years, one thing hadn't changed: Go-Go, a funk-like music unique to the district, blasting from the store. That was until a noise complaint threatened to shut it down.
“It started with condo residents writing letters to the owner, then noise complaints to police,” says Natalie Hopkinson, a Howard University professor and advocate for the store's owner, Donald Campbell. “When they didn't get their way, the residents threatened to sue.”
At first they were successful. Soon executives from T-Mobile, Metro's parent company, notified Campbell that the music should be shut off. Corporate executives didn't anticipate, however, that appeasing condo residents would ignite a firestorm of backlash from D.C. natives, leading to anti-gentrification protests. More than 50,000 people signed a petition demanding that the Go-Go music resume, and by late April dozens of protests—including live concerts in front the store—became a rallying call for black natives to take back D.C., at one point nicknamed “Chocolate City.”
After nights of demonstrations, T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced that the Go-Go music would resume. But the incident is one example of how communities in transition create cultural clashes between mostly black and low-income longtime denizens and rich, white transplants.
“Everyone thought it started from one noise complaint, but this was a coordinated campaign to shut the store down,” Hopkinson says. She says MetroPCS had already received multiple police visits, each one requiring the store's employees to prove the volume was within regulation.
“Many white people, when they feel threatened by African-Americans, call 9-1-1 because they know the state will respond to their racial anxiety.”
“That's harassment, which creates unnecessary interaction between law enforcement and people of color,” she says.
The store's owner isn't the only one facing increased police scrutiny. Across the District of Columbia, black natives complain that with each new resident comes increased targeting by law enforcement tasked with keeping their communities safe.
“Gentrification and police work can feel like they have the same goal,” says Paul Butler, a Georgetown University professor and former federal prosecutor. “Many white people, when they feel threatened by African-Americans, call 9-1-1 because they know the state will respond to their racial anxiety.”
According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Washington, D.C., experienced the most “intense” gentrification of any major city in the country. Between 2000 and 2013, 40 percent of all low-income neighborhoods in D.C. experienced gentrification, displacing more than 20,000 African Americans. The District ranks third in the number of neighborhoods to transform overall.
Although African Americans remain the city's largest ethnic group, their numbers declined since the 1970s, when a 70 percent population earned D.C. the nickname “Chocolate City.” A black majority ended in 2011, and the African-American population stands at 47 percent today. Butler says that rapid change can make people of color vulnerable to the prejudices of their new neighbors.
“[These studies] reflect the experiences of black Americans everyday and the fact that police are laser focused on them,” he says. “It feels like police are not there to serve and protect their communities but are part of the apparatus making them feel unwelcome in the neighborhoods they've been in for generations.”
Open The Government, a consortium of government transparency groups, and the ACLU, examined arrest data from the Metropolitan Police Department between 2013 and 2017, finding sharp disparities in arrests for minor offenses like noise ordinances, driving without a license, and marijuana consumption. Black residents were 47 percent of the city's population but 86 percent of all arrests—a rate 10 times that of white people.
“The complaints we're getting from community members are of officers stopping them or arresting them without probable cause,” says lead attorney Michael Perloff. “By and large the people complaining to us are overwhelmingly black.”
Disparities are citywide. Black people are disproportionately arrested in every D.C. neighborhood no matter its racial makeup or crime rate—making any link to gentrification difficult to determine. One element preventing the researchers from making that connection to is how many arrests stem from calls to 9-1-1 or 3-1-1.
“The Metropolitan Police Department is not doing a good job collecting data on stops overall,” Perloff adds. Metro police are required to provide data as part of a transparency law enacted in 2016. But Perloff notes researchers acquired the data via the Freedom of Information Act but are suing Metro police over what they consider further non-compliance.
Recent cases of police stopping black people for moving into an apartment or barbecuing originated from a 9-1-1 call. While the report's researchers can't correlate arrests to gentrification, research does suggest that changing communities nationwide lead to increased policing of black people.
According to Brenden Beck, assistant professor at the University of Florida who studies sociology, criminology and law, calls to police tend to be higher in gentrifying communities. That's because as richer, mostly white transplants permeate once black and brown neighborhoods, with them come new standards and expectations. Cultural differences can result in new residents calling law enforcement to report neighborhood norms as nuisances.
“Early research already shows a pretty clear connection between gentrification and increased stops or arrests,” he says. “Whether looking at gentrification from a class, race or housing-market standpoint, it's pretty clear that as race and class tensions get exacerbated, 3-1-1 calls to the police increase.”
By 2015, natives of D.C's historic H-Street Corridor met with Metropolitan Police Department complaining of increased racial profiling and unwarranted stops. There, both law enforcement and longtime residents implored new residents to stop calling police on their black neighbors for mundane activities. Then-police chief Kathy Lanier promised better community relations; Hopkinson smirks when reminded of that meeting.
Spotlight: Neighborhood Crime Apps Stoke Fears, Reinforce Racist Stereotypes , and Don't Prevent Crime
by Sarah Lustbader
If I open an app called Citizen, which offers neighborhood “911 crime and safety alerts,” an alert pops up: “200 FEET AWAY: police search for four suspects after shooting incident.” There is a thumbnail picture of a map with a bright red dot in the middle, and shades of red cover the area around the dot, as if half of Brooklyn is currently under a red cloud of danger.
Yikes. But underneath is another message:
We can't verify your location: Citizen can't send you urgent nearby crime and safety alerts unless you set your location services to “always allow.”
So, no shooting. Just a naked attempt to scare me into giving my location data. But it only made me laugh at the idea that an app could try to shock me with news of a shooting on my block and also admit it didn't know where I was. Besides, I know my neighborhood. I walk around. I'm friends with my neighbors. I am part of an email group for the block and a social media group for the neighborhood, where I learn about lost pets, block parties, notorious landlords, and bikes for sale. If a shooting happened 200 feet away from me, I think I would know.
Violent crime in the U.S. is at its lowest rate in decades. But you wouldn't know it if you use one of the increasingly popular social media apps that stoke fears of crime to gain a user base. “Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen, and Amazon Ring's Neighbors—all of which allow users to view local crime in real time and discuss it with people nearby—are some of the most downloaded social and news apps in the U.S.,” writes Rani Molla for Vox. Nextdoor has become a “hotbed for racial stereotyping.” Citizen, which sends users nearby 911 alerts, was originally called Vigilante, and encouraged users to fight crime on their own. A highly produced video ad for the app—in which a woman is being pursued by a man in a “dark hoodie” under a bridge—seemed to be recruiting potential George Zimmermans. Citizen also allows users to livestream footage, chat with other users, and create a personal safety network, to receive alerts whenever anyone is “close to danger.”
“In the alternative reality that is Nextdoor, people are committing crimes I've never even thought of: casing, lurking, knocking on doors at 11:45 p.m., coating mailbox flaps with glue, ‘asking people for jumper cables but not actually having a car,' lightbulb-stealing, taking photos of homes, being an ‘unstable female' and ‘stashing a car in my private garage,'” writes Joel Stein for the Chicago Tribune. “Last time I looked at Nextdoor, it attempted to scare me with ‘Black Audi no license plates scoping the hood again.' My neighbors can somehow make an Audi seem frightening.”
Amazon's Ring, a doorbell equipped with a video camera, and Neighbors, the accompanying social media app, recently advertised an editorial position that would coordinate news coverage on crime. Neighbors describes itself as “the power of your community coming together to keep you safe and informed.” It alerts users to local crime news from “unconfirmed sources” including Amazon Ring videos of people taking Amazon packages and “suspicious” brown people on porches.
“These apps have become popular because of—and have aggravated—the false sense that danger is on the rise,” writes Molla. “Americans seem to think crime is getting worse, according to data from both Gallup and Pew Research Center. In fact, crime has fallen steeply in the last 25 years.” Unjustified fears and racist neighborhood watches are not new. But the proliferation of smart homes, social media alerts, and doorbell cameras have scaled it up, fomenting fear around crime, and reinforcing stereotypes around skin color.
As Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice, said, “These apps are not the definitive guides to crime in a neighborhood—it is merely a reflection of people's own bias, which criminalizes people of color, the unhoused, and other marginalized communities.” The apps “can lead to actual contact between people of color and the police, leading to arrests, incarceration and other violent interactions,” including police shootings. And as police departments shift toward “data-driven policing” programs, he said, the data generated from these interactions becomes part of the crime data used by predictive policing algorithms. “So the biases baked in to the decisions around who is suspicious and who is arrested for a crime ends up informing future policing priorities and continuing the cycle of discrimination.”
For all of the downsides, William Antonelli points out in The Outline, there's no proof that these programs reduce crime—the only one that claims it does is Ring, and it refused to supply the MIT Technology Review with any specific evidence. “Some independent studies reported to the Tech Review actually showed that houses with Ring cameras are broken into more. But that hasn't stopped police departments across the country from giving Ring cameras out to citizens and monitoring the posts for potential crimes.”
Ring recently partnered with various local law enforcement agencies in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California, allowing officers to monitor security video, and any other video, posted on the app. Just as Axon, maker of the Taser stun gun, equipped police forces with body cameras for free to expand its user base, Amazon is “donating” its video doorbells to communities with police partnerships, and police often install them on people's doors. “Police regularly use videos recorded by Ring devices and other kinds of surveillance cameras to identify suspects or ask for the public's help in identifying them,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This new network will allow residents to submit these kinds of videos even if a crime has not occurred, in case of suspicious activity or other out-of-the-ordinary occurrences residents may consider potentially helpful to police.”
All of this sounds terrifying, and perhaps this kind of crowdsourcing will not subside until local journalism picks up across the country, but there is precedent for fearmongering apps being driven out of existence for being too racist. Four years ago, a writer—who happens to be married to this writer—chronicled the short life of SketchFactor, an app that “would allow users to report having seen or experienced something ‘sketchy' in a particular location.” Serious pushback came before the app was even launched, including a Gawker headline that read “Smiling Young White People Make App for Avoiding Black Neighborhoods,” and a tweet from the writer Jamelle Bouie: “Are you afraid of black people? Latinos? The poors? Then this app is just for you!” SketchFactor's Twitter feed was inundated with such hashtags as #racist, #classist, and #gentrification. The young (white) entrepreneurs behind the app never officially admitted defeat, but eventually they “pivoted.”
Police know the mentally ill need more than handcuffs. Their response is shifting
by FRANK SHYONG
The first time that Bob Hung had to handcuff his sister, in 2010, he was afraid.
He was just two years into his career as a patrol officer for the Monterey Park Police Department when his father called and told him that his older sister, diagnosed with schizophrenia, had run away from home. He called his supervisor and quickly shed his uniform.
On the long drive to his parents' home in Rowland Heights, he imagined her being hit by a car. He thought about the time he had to run into traffic to tackle a mentally ill patient who had run away from a local hospital and worried that he wouldn't be able to find her.
And even as a police officer who has had to use force on mentally ill suspects himself, even understanding that difficult choices must be made in seconds, he admits to another nagging fear: that police officers might use excessive force on his sister.
“Using force as an officer is not as simple as it looks,” said Hung. “But also from an officer's perspective, anything could happen.”
Hung found his sister high up on a hill in a residential neighborhood overlooking Rowland Heights. He put the handcuffs on her, which seemed to calm her, and took her to the hospital, where she agreed to take medication. But it wouldn't be the last time.
Police interactions with mentally ill people typically happen when everything else has failed. When therapy, counseling and education have been tried; when antipsychotic drugs lose their efficacy or patients stop taking them; when families can no longer manage the care of the patients themselves and relapses occur, somebody calls 911, and police officers respond.
It's a situation with a well-documented risk of violence. More than one-third of the people shot by L.A. police officers in 2015 had documented signs of mental illness. And a Washington Post analysis of lethal police shootings in 2016 found that more than one-quarter of victims were mentally ill.
But the risk of violence also exists if the police are not called, in the form of injury to family members or caregivers who are attempting to manage a mental health crisis on their own.
Officers responding to a mental health call have to balance criminal law, patient rights, patient safety, their own safety, the safety of the patient's family members. Police aren't always the best people for the job, said Jim Smith, Monterey Park police chief and chairman of an L.A. County task force on mental illness and homelessness.
“There are much better people than us to respond. This is an issue that's thrust upon us,” said Smith.
But Smith says there's been a recent shift in the way police departments in Southern California police the mentally ill.
Over the last few years, governments have invested heavily in emergency mental health resources. Five mental health urgent care centers have been established across the county, with a sixth one coming to La Puente, Smith said. A dedicated psychiatric emergency response team now gives family members who are afraid to call police a number other than 911. And 39 teams across the county staffed with a police officer and a mental health professional act as “second responders” for cases involving mentally ill people.
“Having been involved in this issue for a lot of my career, I would have never thought I'd see so many resources,” said Smith, who credits Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey for the reforms. “The troubling thing is that the number of calls we get are increasing.”
I recently accompanied Lee Norris, a Monterey Park police officer, and two employees from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health as they responded to mental health crises around Monterey Park.
At the first house we visited, a police cruiser was already parked out front.
An elderly woman lives there with a daughter who officials believe may be mentally ill. Neighbors have been complaining to police about paranoid, confrontational behavior for more than a year. And on a recent Saturday, when police responded to one of six 911 calls originating from their home, officers noticed a cut on the mother's arm.
The daughter has made similar complaints about the neighbors to police, Norris said — she actually had called the police that morning.
Norris and Tina Webb, a clinician from DMH, knock on the door with the goal of trying to convince the daughter to get evaluated and receive care.
If that fails, then they'll try to establish whether she is a danger to herself and others, and grievously disabled. If she meets the criteria, they can write what's called a 5150 hold, a legal classification that allows them to force her to get evaluated and potentially get her into care.
But the daughter does not believe she is mentally ill. She has learned what words to say to prevent officers and clinicians from declaring a 5150 hold and repeats them. She refuses to talk about the cut on her mother's arm, saying only that they have argued often since her father died recently.
After checking for signs of violence in the house and speaking to the mother to make sure she is safe, everyone leaves. Sometimes there's nothing else to do.
“There are much better people than us to respond. This is an issue that's thrust upon us.”
“You kind of have to take baby steps,” said Juan Aguirre, the other DMH employee. “Keep building trust, keep doing what you say you're going to do, at the end hopefully we'll have some success stories.”
On each call, Norris makes sure to encourage family members of mentally ill people to call the police if they feel unsafe. He teaches a 16-hour mental illness training for first responders, where his goal is destigmatizing mental illness and changing the culture of policing, Norris said.
That means things like confronting officers who use disrespectful slang terms for the mentally ill on the radio; teaching patrol officers that raising their voices at noncompliant people who have schizophrenia will probably make things worse; and encouraging supervisors to budget more time for emergency responses involving mental health crises. One training activity involves placing a bag over a police officer's head to help them understand the symptoms of schizophrenia.
The collaborative responses have allowed law enforcement and mental health professionals to educate one another, Webb said. And because they follow up after the initial emergency call, they've been able to get people into care.
At the next house, Josephine Reyes, 64, answers the door.
Her son, who is schizophrenic, has been homeless and sleeping in a car, and recently reentered the home. Norris came to check on Reyes' safety because her son has gotten violent with her in the past.
In high school, Reyes' son was a popular student and the captain of the water polo team. But in college he started to have “strange thoughts,” failed classes and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, Reyes said.
He has gone off and on his medications over the years because antipsychotic drugs can cause excessive weight gain and emotional swings. He managed to get a job at a grocery store last year when he went off his medications, but the stress from not taking his medications caused a relapse.
Reyes is still hoping that his condition improves, but if not, she's grown comfortable with the idea of calling the police when she feels unsafe.
“God is in control. That's just my belief,” she said.
The last time that Hung had to handcuff his sister, a few years ago, he wasn't afraid anymore.
Now a corporal supervising patrol officers, with years of experience responding to mental health crises, he got the same call from his father as in 2010 — his sister had run away again.
He drove to Rowland Heights, where officers had responded to Wilson High School and restrained his sister out front. When she tried to get away, he had to take her down himself. Eventually he convinced his sister to get in his car and drove her to a hospital. It's almost routine at this point — he knows how best to approach his sister, and to which hospital she likes him to take her. They've talked about it together.
Hung first began to suspect his sister was sick when he was in high school and she was studying English at UC Berkeley. On their weekly phone chats, she'd complain that professors were following her around.
She started to fail her classes and came home. The family took the news of the diagnosis hard — she was the most responsible sibling, the hardest worker, the kindest one. She always gave Hung spending money from her wages at her job at a Chinese bakery, and she volunteered at animal shelters and the local Buddhist temple in her spare time. She was studying to be a speech pathologist.
It was especially difficult for everyone to let go of the idea that she might get better — schizophrenia has no cure, though it can be successfully treated and managed. But over the years the family has learned to treasure small victories, like when she feels good enough to accompany them on trips to Costco and goes on hikes with her dad. Everyone rejoiced when she completed her UC Berkeley degree with additional coursework from a local college.
His mother still worries about his sister, so Hung and his brother promised that they would always take care of her.
They bought homes close to their parents' house in Rowland Heights so they would always be around to help. And both sons made sure to buy properties large enough to construct a back house for their sister, so she will always have a home.
(video on site)
Police Investigate Murder of Former Arkansas Senator Linda Collins-Smith – Frequent Critic of CPS Corruption
by Brian Shilhavy
Former Arkansas Senator Linda Collins-Smith was found dead in her home last week, and local media sources are reporting that her death is being investigated as a homicide.
Collins-Smith was a frequent critic of government corruption, but who the attacker was and what the possible motive might have been are not being reported, and the public may never know, as Third Judicial District Judge Harold Erwin has ordered that documents and evidence obtained by the police during this investigation are to be sealed.
Yang says that her death is being investigated as a murder.
Yang also tells KATV content partner, KAIT8 that Collins-Smith was found shot in her home.
According to Yang, neighbors had reportedly heard gunshots a day or two before Collins-Smith was discovered today. Her body was reportedly found wrapped in some sort of blanket.
Was Linda Collins-Smith Investigating the Link Between Child Protective Services (CPS) and Child Trafficking That Led to Her Murder?
There is a lot of speculation about how Linda Collins-Smith's criticisms of government corruption might have led to her murder, such as a possible investigation looking into a link between the seizure of children by CPS services (Arkansas Child Services Division of The Arkansas Department of Human Services) and child trafficking.
But so far, this appears to be only speculation, as Health Impact News has not found any evidence linking Collins-Smith to such an investigation, and as we mentioned above, the Judge has ordered all evidence uncovered by the police sealed.
We do know that Collins-Smith, during her tenure as a State Senator, did participate in hearings investigating CPS, as is evidenced from this video recording from 2016 where she questions the “disappearance” of certain emails that may have been covering up corruption:
Some have produced what appears to be a screen shot of her Facebook Page, with what is reported to be her last Facebook Post before her death.
She is allegedly sharing the Brandy Murrah story of the falsified lab tests that were allegedly used to take children into state custody falsely. (See: Alabama Lab Owner Arrested for Falsifying Results of Drug Tests Used to Medically Kidnap Children.)
She appears to be critical of Arkansas CPS (DHS in Arkansas) and judges who rule on child custody cases.
But that post does not appear on her Facebook page today, and we cannot verify if it is authentic or not.
Those most vocal critics concerning her death appear to be former constituents of hers, who claim she was one of the few in the Arkansas government that parents could go to for help on child custody issues.
One of those former constituents from Arkansas, Michaele Walker, took to Facebook Live to address Collins-Smith's death.
Walker claims to have worked with Collins-Smith on CPS corruption cases linked to child trafficking nationwide, and that there is allegedly a current 2-year investigation pending looking for over $50 million in missing government funds.
What We do Know About Linda Collins-Smith
Based on published reports and public records, this is what we do know about former Arkansas Senator Susan Collins-Smith.
Collins-Smith served one term in Arkansas House of Representatives, District 80, from 2011 to 2013. She was elected as a Democrat, but switched parties in August 2011.
In 2014, she was elected to the Arkansas State Senate, District 19.
Collins-Smith lost to James Sturch in the Republican Party primary for the 19th district in Arkansas in May 2018 by fewer than 600 votes.
Politically, Collins-Smith described herself as: “Christian Conservative; Pro-Life, Business, Family, Guns, Veterans, Better Education & Patriot. Love God, Family and Country!”
She openly supported President Donald Trump and many of his policies.
She was married to Circuit Judge Philip Smith and the two reportedly went through a bitter divorce that was finalized in 2018.
As a result of testimony given during the divorce proceedings, Philip Smith was reprimanded by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, and agreed to not serve again as a judge in the future.
The reprimand states that he:
.. made improper use of court premises, or other resources to engage in extrajudicial activities that did not concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.
What those “activities” were is not specified. Child Sex-Trafficking Through Foster Care is a Known Problem – Is this What Happens to People Who Want to Expose It?
While we may not know the truth as to why Linda Collins-Smith was murdered, and may never know, she would not be the first State Senator to have a murder linked to allegations of investigating child trafficking.
Similar allegations have been made in the past regarding former Georiga Senator Nancy Schaefer. (See: Senator Nancy Schaefer: Did her Fight Against CPS Child Kidnapping Cause her Murder?)
What we do know is that the vast majority of children who are sexually trafficked today come from the nation's Child Protection Services agencies and Foster Care, and that this child sex trafficking business is reported to be larger than the illegal drugs and illegal gun trades.
To learn more see:
800K Children in the U.S. Missing Each Year – International Tribunal Exposes Pedophilia Problem – Victims Testify of Child Sex Trafficking and Satanic Ritual Abuse
America #1 in Child Sex Trafficking and Pedophilia – CPS and Foster Care are the Pipelines
Attorney Reporting in Newsweek: Foster Care is a System Set Up to Sex Traffic American Children
Child Sex Trafficking Through “Child Protection” Services Used by the Rich and Powerful?
The Essence of Evil: Sex with Children Has Become Big Business in America
Attorney General William P. Barr Announces the Creation of a Working Group on Prosecuting Gun Crimes to Stop and Reduce Domestic Violence
The United States Department of Justice
WASHINGTON – Attorney General William P. Barr today announced the formation of a Domestic Violence Working Group aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, using the tools of federal prosecution to stop and prevent domestic violence. The group will operate under the auspices of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee and be comprised of nine U.S. Attorneys, including Nicola T. Hanna, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” said Attorney General Barr. “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”
“With so many domestic disputes escalating from bruises to bullets, we felt we needed to supplement our state and local partners' efforts to curb domestic violence with federal prosecutions,” said Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, who will chair the Working Group. “We hope our initial cases send a message to convicted abusers: Not only could the Justice Department theoretically prosecute abusers for firearm possession – they have and they will.”
Federal law has long barred convicted felons, as well as individuals subject to certain domestic violence protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, from possessing firearms.
Offenders with domestic violence in their past pose a remarkably high risk of homicide. Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don't have that same access to a firearm. And according to one recent study, more than half of America's mass shootings are cases of extreme domestic violence.
Keeping guns from domestic abusers legally prohibited from possessing them would significantly reduce violence in America, a major priority of the Justice Department.
However, federal gun cases involving domestic violence present unique challenges. In some states, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ, requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on the location of conviction.
U.S. Attorneys' offices have worked tirelessly over the years to address these legal challenges with tremendous success. The Working Group will share best practices, legal analysis and guidance on prosecuting abusers who unlawfully possess guns, and will advise U.S. Attorneys across the country on outreach to local law enforcement, judges, and nonprofit groups.
In addition to U.S. Attorneys Hanna and Nealy Cox, the Working Group members are:
- Scott W. Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania;
- Robert M. Duncan, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky;
- Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio;
- Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont;
- Byung J. Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia;
- R. Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma; and
- Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
AG -- 19-644
Office of Public Affairs at 202-514-2007
(video on site)
Shocking Video of Phoenix Cops Holding Black Family at Gunpoint Over $1 Doll
by Ellyn Santiago
The term shocking is oft used to describe surprising or eye-popping viral videos. There may be no more ‘shocking' videos than these of Phoenix police pulling guns on a young black family in a parking lot over the alleged shoplifting of a 99-cent Barbie-like doll from a dollar store.
On May 27, Dravon Ames, 22, his pregnant fiancée Iesha Harper, 24, and their daughters, Island, 4 and 1-year-old London, were held at gunpoint by several screaming Phoenix police officers. Police were responding to an anonymous caller about a possible shoplifting incident of a dollar store Barbie doll. Court documents show that the dollar store did not call for police. With guns drawn, and screaming orders rife with foul language, cops surrounded the family at their car, pulled guns, and threatened to kill them.
The police were either not wearing body cameras or had them shut off, and did not file a report, a court document states.
“This is everything that's wrong with (law enforcement) today,” AZ State Senator Martín Quezada tweeted, adding the “community deserves better than this type of inexcusable and unjustifiable rage and abuse of power from the Phoenix police.”
Here's what else you need to know:
People Were Worried Ames ‘Was Going to End up Dead'
"My hands are up! My hands are up!" 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to "get your fucking hands up." The same officer later says "You're gonna fucking get shot!"
Ames says the officers stopped him after his child walked out of a Dollar Store with a doll.
Another angle of the incident filmed by a different resident of the apartment complex where Ames and his pregnant fiancee were dropping off their kids with a babysitter show a Phoenix police officer trying to yank the child from the mother's arms.
A local clergy member advocating for, and speaking on behalf of, the family says that the Phoenix police department's claim that it will investigate to see whether excessive force was used is stunning in its audacity.
“Clearly, excessive force was used. Clearly, policies and procedure were not followed. Clearly, body cameras were not being utilized. Clearly, the officers felt empowered to be disrespectful and abusive,” said Reverend Jarrett Maupin. “What we demand to know is, what kind of background these officers have? They held toddlers and a pregnant woman at gunpoint, grabbed a mother and infant by the neck, dislocated a 1-year-old's arm, endangered a delicate pregnancy, terrorized and tortured a young father, and nobody was charged or jailed. These officers must be held accountable. We want justice.”
In an email to Heavy, Maupin said, more than 10 independent eyewitnesses have agreed to come forward and cooperate with the family's lawyers and with any investigations that may be conducted.
“We have an unprecedented number of citizens coming forward to share footage and give eye-witness accounts. So many residents were shocked to see police being so abusive with a pregnant mother and kids. So many people were concerned that the father was going to end up dead because of police brutality and the violence of officers,” Maupin said.
Officers never recovered the allegedly stolen doll.
In the second video, which Maupin believes “is worse than the first …officers are acting like bullies and thugs. They endangered an unborn child and traumatized two toddlers. Shame on them and shame on the department for not suspending them immediately – without pay.”
Ames' older brother is worried about his sibling.
“We want to know, are any of these sickos on the so-called Brady List of known rogue or problem officers? Are any of these cops part of the 75 identified social media racists who kept their jobs? What happens to officers when they are caught on tape violating policies and procedures and how fast does it happen,” Maupin asked rhetorically. “The culture of wilding within the Phoenix PD is making a mockery of police everywhere.”
“The police officers committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of civil rights under the fifth and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution,” the claim reads in part.
The claim states that Ames and Harper had been shopping at the dollar store and were pulling in to their babysitter's building a few blocks away when police pulled in behind them: “There had been no sirens or lights prior to that indicating that they should stop their car. A police officer, who we believe is named Meyer, came to the front driver side of the car with a gun pulled, pulled open the door, and stated to the father: “I'm going to put a cap in your ass.' Later he stated ‘I'm gonna shoot you in your fucking face.' Both statements were in front of the children in the back of the car.”
Jay-Z and his company Roc Nation have committed to help support the family. Roc Nation Managing Director of Philanthropy Dania Diaz said the incident was “absolutely sickening.”
“There is no place for that behavior in our world – let alone our justice system – and we are calling for the immediate termination of the police officers in question,” Diaz said. “We are committed to supporting the family to ensure that justice is served.”
The complaint goes on to describe the accounts of Ames, Harper, and what is seen and heard clearly on the videos:
“The police officer then went to the back door on the driver side but could not open it because it was malfunctioning. He banged on the rear window. The mother and the two children were in the backseat on the driver side. The police officer said ‘open the fucking door.' The mother said, ‘the door won't open.' The police officer said “put your fucking hands up”. The mother said ‘my hands are up,' which they were at the time.”
“A second officer came with a gun to the front seat on the driver side and pointed it at the father. The first officer pulled the father out of the car. The father did not resist in any way then or at any time. The officer put the father on the ground, and pushed the father's head onto the hot pavement. The father tried to protest that he was complying and not resisting. The officer stated, falsely, that he was resisting. The officer stated “you have to do what I fucking tell you”. The officer handcuffed the father on the ground. There was no resistance. The handcuffs were too tight. The first officer then yanked up the father by his hands, threw his head against the door of the car which closed the door, and then threw him up against the back of the car. He told the father to spread his legs, which the father did. The officer kicked him in the right leg so hard that the father collapsed, and then the officer yanked him back up. He kept his knee between the father's legs. He punched the father very hard in the back for no reason.”
“More officers arrived, put the father in a police car, and kept them there for an hour. They did not loosen the handcuffs until after 1/2 hour in the car. They asked him “did you steal the fucking car”. He responded that he owned the car, which was a true statement. The first officer issued a ticket but put another officer's name on the ticket. The car was impounded with no justification. The father now was unable to get to work. He had been gainfully employed at a warehouse. He is limping, cannot stand straight or carry weight. All of this is reducing his earning capacity.”
Meanwhile, as the interaction with Ames was occurring, the other officer went for the mother.
“The first officer then pointed the gun again at the mother and the children. The second officer walked around the car and continued to point a gun at the mother and the children. The mother was pregnant, which was obvious from her appearance.
The mother and children exited from the rear driver side. The first officer grabbed the mother and the baby around both of their necks, and tried to take the baby out of the mother's hand. He told her to put the baby on the ground, which she was
unwilling to do because the baby could not walk, and the ground consisted of hot pavement. The first officer pulled the baby by the arm to get her away from the mother, which injured the arm, in a condition known as ‘dead arm.'”
“The mother gave the child to a lady bystander. The officers then handcuffed her, which hurt her arm. The mother and father both had bruises on her arms. The officer threw her into the police car face first. She was kept in the car for 15 minutes. The first officer, Myers, came back and yelled at her. He kept saying “I could have shot you in front of your fuc*ing kids.”
Attorney Horne wrote that the dollar store “made no complaint, and the police proceeded on the basis of what they were told by some anonymous alleged witness.”
Horne wrote that the Phoenix police “committed battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of civil rights under the fifth and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution …”
“Just think, that four-year old girl, one of her *first memories* will be of a cop pointing a gun at her mommy while threatening to kill her. Think about that. That's important here. Poor child. How will she ever feel safe again?”
The Outrage Over the Phoenix Officers' Conduct is Omnipresent
A seemingly global sense of outrage is shared in tweets like these:
“@phoenixpolice I'd like to report an assault on May 29th,” one Twitter user wrote. “Suspect is a white male wearing a Phoenix Police Officers uniform. He was seen threatening to shoot a family of black people outside a dollar store. Suspect is ARMED and DANGEROUS and remains at large within the PPD!”
“I don't like speaking like this,” another user tweeted, “Because I only say what I mean. This officer or any other that points a weapon in the direction of my children would have to defend their life. He is very fortunate these people are not trained and armed as many of us are.”
“What in the world are you training your officers to do that they treat a woman with a baby like this,” another Twitter user asked. “Unbelievable!”
Phoenix Police Have Said They're Investigating & Offer Their Version of Events
Phoenix TV news quoted Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson as saying Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams “has called for an investigation by the Professional Standards Bureau.”
In a Facebook post, Thompson wrote:
“On June 11, 2019, we were provided video of an officer taking two individuals into custody while investigating a shoplifting incident in the area of 3200 East Roosevelt Street. This occurred after the suspect vehicle was stopped a short distance from the scene of the theft. It involved a man and a woman with two small children. Please be advised, there is some language which might be considered offensive. The video is intentionally blurred for redaction purposes.”
Many noted that of the other videos available of the incident, Phoenix police Sgt. Thompson used this video, where bystanders can be heard.
“You take this seriously, Sgt. Thompson, then these officers are fired with no further review and without pension or benefits of any kind. This is all the evidence that is necessary, and then some. You should probably be fired as well.”
“I lost quite a bit of respect for you guys regarding this post. First you mute/ blur down the video to flip the story a bit ..then I see the actual unaltered clip…you need to admit that you have a rogue cop with serious anger issues that will eventually cost someone their life.”
“The Phoenix Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and for this reason, this incident is currently being investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau.”
The comments on this post are almost entirely critical of police.
“Disgusting behavior on the police officers' part, and in front of children, AND the woman is pregnant. Those police officers need to be fired and the rest of the department needs to go through intensive training. This is absolutely unacceptable. SHAME ON YOUR ENTIRE DEPARTMENT FOR HIRING THESE PEOPLE AND FOR THE LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRAINING. You need a major overhaul if this is how our tax dollars are being spent.”
“FIRE THIS OFFICER IMMEDIATELY. Everyone in the department is also in question. Including whoever chose this version of the video to post.”
“You are not protecting. You are harming. You are the thugs and people to fear. Fire these officers and agree to prosecute. How dare you do this to children.”
“Both officers used overly excessive force! Why did your officer kick his leg then told him he wasn't cooperating?? Why are your officers threatening to shoot this woman?? Wtf!! I want to see both officer FIRED!!”
Per a report from Phoenix New Times, Phoenix police released a statement noting officers “did not believe the family to be in possession of any weapons” They were pursuing them because they “allegedly stole food and underwear from a dollar store.”
“On May 27, 2019, at approximately 11:17 a.m., a Phoenix Police Officer was investigating an unrelated shoplifting at a store in the area of 1600 N. 36th Street, when he was advised by store employees of another shoplifting. The officer was directed to some individuals who were getting into a vehicle. He observed a woman drop a “food foil,” when she saw him. As he walked towards the vehicle, the car quickly backed up and started to leave parking lot. It stopped at McDowell Road, and one of the women got out and the car drove away. The woman was detained by the officer. It was later found the woman he detained had three misdemeanor warrants for her arrest. She was later booked for the warrants.
“A description of the vehicle was broadcasted over the radio. The vehicle was located a short distance from the store near 32nd Street and McDowell Road and it was followed into the parking lot of an apartment complex in the area of 3200 E. Roosevelt Street, where a man and woman in the car were taken into custody and detained. After being advised of her rights, the woman who had been detained, said her aunt and child went into the store and when she saw her child walk out of the store with a doll, she believed they had stolen it, because they didn't have any money.
She heard the officer who approached the car in the parking lot tell the driver to stop several times, but he didn't. After being advised of his rights, the man said he knew they had shoplifted from the store and that he threw a pair of underwear out the window, because he knew they were stolen. In addition, he stated he knew he was driving on a suspended driver license. Because the property was returned, the store employees said they did not desire prosecution, so no one was charged with the shoplifting. The man however, was cited and his vehicle was impounded, due to his driving on a suspended license.”
Friday night, the police chief posted a video statement to Facebook.
The responses to Williams' statement were mostly from incredulous residents.
Rob Jones wrote: “Every word that officer spoke and every single action he made is disgusting. Nice question about insinuating that the car was stolen… telling them to keep their hands up but wanting them to open the door to get out…pulling a gun on them WHY??? If I was in the car, I would be seriously in fear of being shot. That officer is nothing more than a menacing, terrorizing criminal hiding behind a badge. And unfortunately I would NOT have had the same experience if it was me because I am white.”
Facebook user Cyn Tyler-Felt, wrote simply, and as one person pointed out, “profoundly,” that: “In this day and age I guess the bright side is we're not talking about a dead family.”
Among the more than 3,500 comments that had the most social engagement on the Phoenix police Facebook post from Williams were:
“You know…'I apologize on behalf of the Phoenix PD' would go a long way. I hope this family wins a very large settlement from your Police Department and can move somewhere they don't have to fear for their lives.”
“Thank God for the citizen who recorded this incident. Hopefully an actual investigation is taking place rather than another “we investigated ourselves and found no wrongdoing.”
Meanwhile, as was reported by Meg O'Connor of the New Phoenix Times, Williams' assurance that the actions witnessed in the video are not representative of the majority of police officers may not ring entirely true.
"I stand by my commitment to transparency" but I won't let anyone know the names of the officers who said "I'm gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head" and pointed a gun at a pregnant mother and her children."
“I assure you this incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers who serve this city,” it's just representative of the 8 or so officers who were on the scene & allowed this all to happen, & this isn't representative of PPD either…”