All the cops responsible for Freddie Gray’s death have now escaped legal consequences
This is not justice.

From yesterday’s post at Rare:

You see, in our legal system, if you unintentionally kill someone, you are criminally liable. It’s called manslaughter. It’s not murder, but it’s still a crime, because there’s still a victim.

Freddie Gray should have received medical attention at the arrest site, should have only ridden about five minutes in the police van instead of 40+, should have been restrained by appropriate seat belts or other safety measures, should have—well, you get the idea.

I don’t know and can’t know whether those six officers intended to kill Gray, but it seems indisputable that they are responsible for his death in custody.

Gray didn’t confront himself. He didn’t arrest himself. He didn’t drag himself to that van or give himself a rough ride or fail to offer himself prompt medical treatment when there was something visibly wrong with his legs.

We don’t have to say these cops are monsters to concede the simple fact that they did all those things, and those things left Freddie Gray dead.

In fact, in April of this year, both Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis admitted those six cops were medically negligent toward Gray. “No excuses for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.” With a concession like that, the conclusion that any regular citizen who accosted and abused Gray the way these officers did would at least found responsible for manslaughter, probably involving criminal negligence.

In other words, any of us would be convicted for this behavior. That these six have been let off without consequences is an indictment of the double standard with which the state excuses its own malfeasance.

I’ve been paying attention to police brutality since around 2010, as best I can tell from my archive on this blog. That’s a few years longer than it’s been a major feature of national politics, but in the grand scheme of things not very long at all.

I mention that to say that as much as I think I know this topic—the numbers, the names, the stories, the videos, even the theology of it—there’s still a small part of me that thinks after many brutality stories break, “Ok, surely this is the one that convinces people. This is the one that makes it impossible to ignore how our criminal justice system so desperately needs reform. This one will go to trial and produce a conviction—because how could any judge or juror who sees what I’m seeing not recognize the injustice here?”

I thought it with Eric Garner. And Walter Scott (at least there we got an indictment). With Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray. And I confess I’m thinking it right now about Philando Castile.

So far I’ve been right 0% of the time.

It is surprising and utterly unsurprising at once. It is above all discouraging. I can only imagine what watching this cycle of death without consequence is like for people who have been aware of police brutality longer than I, especially those for whom personally encountering similar violence is more likely simply because of the color of their skin.

I have plenty of ideas for criminal justice reform, some fairly common (e.g. body cameras) and some less so (e.g. making police pay their own settlements in civil cases and requiring all cops to walk, not drive, a beat). I sincerely believe these changes can increase accountability and leave fewer people brutalized or dead.

Still, without massive cultural change—without judges and jurors who no longer default to accepting the police account of a situation—without a major overhaul of how America thinks policing should work—well, without all that there’s still a serious weak link in the process. 

Reforms can make brutality incidents less frequent, but absent such a cultural shift, the pursuit of justice in criminal court will consistently break down.

That’s not to say the situation is hopeless. Public opinion can undergo and has undergone significant moves. Think about the relatively recent revolution of views on gay marriage, for example, or legal marijuana. Yet as “quick” as those changes were, they still happened on the scale of decades. Not years. Not months. Not the weeks—or sometimes days—from one police killing to the next.

I don’t know how to make that change happen. I am encouraged by the knowledge that it’s possible. But right now I’m mostly disheartened by the realization that the longer it takes, the more Freddie Grays there will be.
Is America Repeating the Mistakes of 1968?
The Kerner Report confronted a tense nation with data about structural racism throughout the country and made recommendations to solve the problem. But America looked away.
By Julian E. Zelizer

Nothing has changed!!!

“The police received the most scrutiny in the report. In a haunting section, the report explained, ‘Negroes firmly believe that police brutality and harassment occur repeatedly in Negro neighborhoods.’ The rioting had shown that police enforcement had become a problem not a solution in race relations. More aggressive policing and militarized officers had become city officials’ de facto response to urban decay. “In several cities, the principal response has been to train and equip the police with more sophisticated weapons.” The report stressed that law-enforcement officers were not ‘merely a spark factor’ to the riots but that they had come to symbolize “white power, white racism, and white oppression.’”

Amid growing criticism of the military-style equipment and tactics deployed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a Democrat from Georgia plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month.

Rep. Hank Johnson asked his all his colleagues Thursday to join him in supporting the bill, which he said in a letter “will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for.”

Images of assault rifle-carrying camouflaged police riding through Ferguson on military vehicles similar to the IED-resistant equipment used by American armed forces in combat have proven to be a jolt of energy for a long-simmering debate about police militarization.
In his letter to Congress, Johnson signaled that he expects his bill to break through the partisan gridlock in the House.

Black Teenage Girl Asphyxiated To Death From Asthma In Jail Cell, Cops Did Nothing to Help

Black Teenage Girl Asphyxiated To Death From Asthma In Jail Cell, Cops Did Nothing to Help

While the NYPD is still trying to figure out which way to face NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of the NYC Mayor’s support for the Eric Garner protests, a strikingly similar incident involving the needless death of a black female at the hands of police has come to light.

Meet Sheneque Proctor, an 18 year-old female African-American, who sadly died in a Bessemer City, Alabama jail cell  after…

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The ABC7 I-Team is uncovering thousands of pieces of military equipment meant for the battlefield that are instead now in the hands of local police forces statewide.

From high powered military grade rifles to combat helicopters, law enforcement agencies statewide are cashing in on a federal program that provides battle-ready equipment to agencies in your backyard. For the past two decades, Illinois officials have used the Federal Law Enforcement Support Office or LESO 1033 program to outfit law enforcement departments with the latest in military grade equipment and technology. Distribution of weapons as part of the program has come under new scrutiny after the widespread utilization of military grade equipment this week to counter protests in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown there this past weekend.

As the I-Team first reported in 2013, the LESO 1033 program has given away at least $2.6 billion dollars in surplus military equipment nationwide, with at least $37 million ending up here in Illinois.

Now, the I-Team has uncovered a county by county breakdown of exactly what military equipment is here in Illinois. Federal officials refused to release what specific department possesses the equipment, citing homeland security concerns. But, a federal spreadsheet obtained by the I-Team following our initial reporting does detail the kinds of equipment local departments have received as of May 2013.

According to federal records, Illinois law enforcement agencies have received roughly 5,500 rifles and pistols,16 military helicopters and more than 12,000 pieces of assorted military equipment as part of the program. Knox County, west of Peoria, received the most non-weapon military equipment statewide. Knox County agencies’ inventories include more than 1,900 pieces of equipment, from Kevlar combat gloves to paintball guns to combat knives. Cook County is in second place statewide with 1,700 pieces of military equipment registered with the feds.

Weapons distributed are counted separately in federal LESO 1033 program inventories provided to the I-Team. Cook County leads the state with 1,336 weapons assigned to county law enforcement agencies. Downstate Sangamon county has 794 weapons assigned to agencies headquartered there. Interestingly, Knox County, the leader in equipment statewide, only has 15 weapons assigned to their countywide agencies.

“You can’t arm police departments with military-grade equipment and expect them not to behave like an occupying force,” says local watchdog Rey Lopez-Calderon with Common Cause Illinois. He continues, “the Ferguson madness can happen anywhere in the USA including Illinois.”

Militarized police pointed their guns at an empty house for hours this afternoon, while community members talked down suspect who had run to nearby church. [part seven/]

Tuesday, April 21st.

The three hour police standoff in Ferguson this afternoon ended with a SWAT team finding the house to be empty. The man they were searching for, named Lorenzo, had escaped to a nearby church, where people there spoke with him and convinced him to turn himself over to the police. Lorenzo, who is schizophrenic, is currently receiving mental health attention.

Part Seven [final]


“When you arm police like soldiers and outfit them with military weapons and train them on military tactics and tell them they’re fighting a war, whether it’s a war on crime or drugs or looters and rioters, they’re going to start seeing themselves as soldiers, and seeing the people they serve less as citizens with rights and more as potential threats, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said Radley Balko, author of the book “Rise of the Warrior Cop” and a reporter for the Washington Post.       ABC News

I own none of these pictures. I only added the text.

Another week, another galling report of police brutality.

This time, the victim is an 8-year-old Rosebud Sioux girl whose babysitter called the cops when the child threw a tantrum while holding a paring knife. The babysitter told the 911 dispatcher that the girl was trying to cut herself but also admitted there was no visible blood. In other words, this was more a case of an unprepared babysitter than a suicidal kid.

Nevertheless, police arrived and tased the girl within two minutes of meeting her. Explains the family’s attorney:

The material facts are fairly undisputed, they walked in, they saw a child holding a small kitchen knife throwing a tantrum and they shot her with 50,000 volts of electricity with a weapon that put two hooks into her.

As the girl’s grandmother commented, the way police escalated the situation is totally inexcusable: 

Four police officers responded to this…To a little girl who stands maybe only 4 feet tall. All you have to do is grab her arm and correct the situation. I feel that these guys must not have been in their right minds. At that age, children are very easily talked into changing their minds. I find it ridiculous because I just don’t see how this could happen.

Only after the tasering was the child’s mother called—a move which indicates they had (or could easily have gotten) her number all along.

Per the grandmother’s account, the police’s continued defense of their actions included the excuse that they could have used a baton or handgun instead.

Two months after the incident, which occurred last year but is only just now receiving extensive media attention, the local State’s Attorney, one Wendy Kloeppner, released a report which stated “she was satisfied with an independent investigation, deploying a taser was the best viable way to diffuse the situation.“ As a result, no charges were filed against the officers involved.