shira scheindlin

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NYC official calls for police body cameras

A New York City official is calling for body cameras on police officers as a check on misconduct, citing last month’s death of a man who was put in a police chokehold.

Public Advocate Letitia James on Monday called for a pilot program to put body-worn cameras on patrol officers in 15 percent of the city’s precincts, with the eventual goal of outfitting all patrol with the cameras.

“We are living in an increasingly technological world, and we should take measures to incorporate video cameras into policing to improve public safety,” James said.

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered some patrol officers to wear the cameras in a pilot program in her 2013 stop-and-frisk ruling.

A police spokeswoman said Monday that the department is exploring the feasibility of camera technology.

But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch says his union wants to see evidence of the cameras’ effectiveness.

James said the body cameras could put a dent in the $152 million the city paid to settle claims of police misconduct in 2013.

Lynch countered that the city “refuses to fight even the most ridiculous and baseless of the claims.”

U.S. Apartheid Abuse Cases Against Ford, IBM Go Ahead

Apr. 18 2014

A federal judge on Thursday declined to toss out decade-old lawsuits that accuse IBM Corp. and Ford Motor Co. of supporting apartheid by letting their subsidiaries sell computers and cars to the South African government.

The three lawsuits seek to hold IBM and Ford responsible for race-based injustices including rape, torture and murder under apartheid, a system of race-based segregation and discrimination against nonwhites that ended 20 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on the legal reach of the statute under which the plaintiffs are suing, the Alien Tort Statute. The 1789 statute originally was enacted to prosecute pirates and was revived in recent decades to permit lawsuits in the United States against those who violate human rights abroad.

Thursday’s ruling from Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan allows plaintiffs to file amended complaints that fit within the reach ruled upon by the Supreme Court.

Emails seeking comment from Armonk-based IBM and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford weren’t immediately answered.

Close to 80 companies initially were named in the lawsuits, filed about 12 years ago, and the vast majority of those claims were rejected.

A district judge threw out the lawsuits in 2004, saying he did not have jurisdiction. He noted that Congress had supported and encouraged business investment in South Africa as a way to achieve greater respect for human rights and a reduction in poverty. And he cited vigorous objections to the lawsuits by the U.S. and its allies.

The U.S. had said the lawsuits posed a foreign policy problem, threatening to inflame U.S. relations with South Africa. The South African government had said the cases interfered with its rights to litigate such claims itself, though it later reversed its position.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that New York City had reached an agreement with civil rights lawyers who had challenged the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which would allow the sweeping reforms ordered by a federal judge last summer to be carried out.

Those changes, which included the appointment of a federal monitor, were blocked last fall after the Bloomberg administration appealed the judge’s rulings, which found that the city’s stop-and-frisk policies were unconstitutional and that the department had resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling.”

The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ruled that the policy resulted in “the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”

But on Thursday, Mayor de Blasio, seeking to fulfill a long-stated campaign pledge that helped to propel his landslide victory, said his administration had taken a major step toward resolving the polarizing dispute that for years had strained relations between the police and minorities.

“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said in a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”

In announcing the agreement, Mr. de Blasio pledged a “commitment to fix the fundamental problems that enabled stop-and-frisk to grow out of control and violate the rights of innocent New Yorkers.”

The mayor, appearing with Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, chose a symbolic location to make his comments — the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn.

A 2010 report in The New York Times found that the highest concentration of police stops in the city had occurred in a roughly eight-block area of Brownsville that was predominantly black.