JUSTICE FOR LAQUAN MCDONALD: #BLACKLIVESMATTER

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While the family of a Chicago man fatally shot by police last year opposed the release of dramatic video showing the incident, their attorney said Wednesday that “now the whole world knows what happened.”

There have been protests in Chicago since authorities on Tuesday released dashcam video showing the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October of 2014. The officer who shot the teen, Jason Van Dyke, is being held on a charge of first-degree murder.

“They’re still in grieving and his mother is in counseling, but she understands that the truth had to come out and she understands that the video will be used in the prosecution of the officer so it’s really kind of a mixed reaction,” Jeff Neslund, an attorney for the McDonald family, said on MSNBC.

Related: Hillary Clinton Says Laquan McDonald Kin Deserve Justice

“We are relieved and thankful that finally charges have been brought against the officer and that the truth is out there, and now the whole world knows what happened to Laquan,” Neslund said.

The video shows a young man, later identified as McDonald, walking down the middle of a street as multiple officers draw their weapons. One of the officers appears to fire his weapon, and the man spins and collapses on his right side.

 

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Why Police Lie Under Oath

THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”

But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly.  Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.

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Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record.  “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.

All true, but there is more to the story than that.

Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”

For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something.  You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.

Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.

The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so.

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Officer throws student out of her chair

Officer Ben Fields asaults a female student at Spring Valley H...

Please make this video famous. This is Officer Ben Fields assaulting a peaceful female high school student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia South Carolina. Students and graduates both told me he has been brutal like this for years. This was earlier today.The Sheriff's Office just confirmed for me that this student was not physical, but that she was "verbally disruptive" and that the officer was "forced" to do this since she "resisted arrest". Nah.

Posted by Shaun King on Monday, October 26, 2015

Richland County deputies are investigating after a video reportedly recorded Monday at Spring Valley High School shows an incident between a school resource officer and a student.

Lt. Curtis Wilson says Sheriff Leon Lott is aware of the video and is reviewing the situation but did not release any further details.

The video shows the officer grabbing the student’s arm and putting his arm around the student’s neck. The student falls to the floor in the struggle and is dragged out of the camera’s view, at which point, you can hear the officer attempting to put the person in handcuffs.

A statement from the Richland Two School District says,”Our District is deeply concerned about an incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School today. The incident took place between a school resource officer employed by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and a student. Video of the incident is circulating on social media.”

The statement continues, stressing the district’s position on taking student safety seriously, stating they are currently investigating the incident.

“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the District has directed that the school resource officer not return to any school in the District.”

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Since 1980 California built 22 Prisons and 1 University

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California has built 22 prisons since 1980. In the same period, the University of California system has opened one new campus. And although California’s prison population has declined in recent years, the state’s spending per prisoner has increased five times faster than its spending per K-12 student in the last two decades.

California has more than 130,000 prisoners, a huge increase from the state’s 1980 prison population of about 25,000. Prisons cost California taxpayers close to $10 billion, compared with $604 million in 1980. While some say the additional spending is needed for rehabilitation services, they also note that the prisons are draining scarce funds from education and other key areas.

This week, Californians who hope to see the state scale down its prison spending were dismayed to learn that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wants to further expand the prison system, spending an additional $700 million on prisons over the next two years. Brown is trying to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding by the end of this year: Despite the 21 new prisons built since 1980, construction hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the inmate population, and California’s prison system is one of the most crowded in the country.
But Brown’s fellow Democrats in the state Senate have thrown their support behind an alternate plan. The rival approach, proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, calls for the state to invest $200 million a year on counseling programs and other services aimed at keeping low-level drug offenders out of jail. To succeed, it will need to gain the approval of the panel of federal judges who ordered California to resolve the overcrowding problem in the first place, and it’s not at all clear that the judges will play along.

But if they do, the state could ultimately save millions in prison costs, Steinberg says.

Brown’s approach, by contrast, is an “expensive Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” Steinberg said in statement Wednesday.

Brown is widely perceived as a strong supporter of public education, and he has introduced prison reforms that have helped bring down the state’s inmate count by about 25,000 since 2011.

But criminal-justice advocates say that the prison system is still way too big — and costly. And unless the state invests more in teaching people the skills they need to get by, they say, it isn’t likely to get a whole lot smaller.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Callison, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, stresses in an email that the governor’s plan to increase prison capacity is temporary.

“The Governor has made it very clear in public on numerous occasions that he wants California to spend less money on incarcerating people,” he writes. “His plan will secure enough time for the state to work on longer-term criminal justice reforms to bring down the population in the long term.”

Callison also stresses that one reason for the rising cost of incarceration in California is the “huge investment made by the state in improving medical, mental health and dental care.” And he notes that prisoners spend a lot more time in prisons than students spend in school. “All of their basic needs must be met, largely at taxpayer expense,” he writes. 

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