Tag Archives: law enforcement

State rep. wants Clarke removed from sheriff’s office

State Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, is calling for the immediate removal of David Clarke from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office.

Crowley, chair of the Milwaukee legislative delegation, sent the following letter to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

The duty bestowed upon law-enforcement officers is to protect and serve. Unfortunately, that is not what the Sheriff of Milwaukee County is most concerned with. Today I call on you to remove Sheriff David Clarke from office for his willful neglect of duties, repeated inappropriate and incendiary comments, his promotions of violence, and use of intimidation against innocent civilians.

Since April of 2016, four people, including a newborn baby, have died at the Milwaukee County Jail under the supervision of Sheriff Clarke. The Jail is woefully understaffed due to a high rate of jail staff turnover, as well as a lack of adequate training and supervision. In November, a court-ordered monitor of the jail reported that the previous three deaths all came from mistakes in medical care and/or poor monitoring of vulnerable inmates. Yet still in public, Sheriff Clarke has remained remarkably silent regarding the deaths and staffing concerns. Instead, behind closed doors, he took to verbally threatening the Milwaukee County Chief Medical Examiner over the information that he had made public regarding these deaths.

Those are not the only inappropriate comments that Sheriff Clarke has made recently. He has used the official website and Facebook page of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office to personally attack and intimidate his opponents and accusers. He has used racial slurs such as calling an African-American commentator a “jigaboo.” Further, he has repeatedly threatened or insinuated violence, recently claiming that if people “messed with him” they would get “knocked out.”

This last statement was made in response to a new complaint filed against Clarke by a Milwaukee resident who claims he was unlawfully detained, interrogated, and escorted out of Mitchell Airport because he shook his head at the Sheriff while on a flight home. After the incident, the Sheriff took to Facebook to taunt and intimidate the individual. He posted a picture of the individual with the statement “Cheer up snowflake. If Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it”.

The comments and actions of the Sheriff are completely unacceptable for any public official and constitute a cause for removal from office. I call on you to remove David Clarke from his position as Milwaukee County Sheriff immediately. The people deserve a Sheriff who is committed to protect and serve, not one committed to threaten and intimidate. The time for action is now.

Sincerely,

Representative David Crowley

Also see: Sheriff David Clarke has cost taxpayers over $400,000 for lawsuits

 

Lawyers preparing to defend, protect inauguration protesters in D.C.

The National Lawyers Guild is coordinating with the DC NLG Chapter in preparation for mass protests surrounding the 58th presidential inauguration.

Mass demonstrations are planned for Jan. 19-21 in the capital and across the country.

Large numbers of people are expected to converge in the nation’s capital to protest the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president.

The inauguration is National Special Security Event. So the swearing in and other events will be accompanied by an intense degree of policing coordinated by over three dozen federal intelligence, law enforcement and military agencies, with security costs expected to exceed $100 million.

Such high levels of security and policing at previous national events have led to mass arrests, surveillance of protesters, unconstitutional restrictions of permits and free speech and intimidating shows of force by police, according to a statement from the guild.

“Tens of thousands of people are answering the call to resist the incoming administration at inaugural protests next weekend. As always, the NLG is mobilizing its dedicated team of radical lawyers, legal workers, and law students, to provide the critical legal support infrastructure needed for such large scale demonstrations,” said Maggie-Ellinger Locke, DC NLG Mass Defense Chair.

From the various actions on the day of the inauguration to the Women’s March on Washington planned for Jan. 21, the NLG is organizing a mass defense infrastructure of Legal Observers , jail support and lawyers.

Legal observers will monitor on-site at protests and document any arrests and potential abuses inflicted on demonstrators by law enforcement, according to the guild.

The jail support team will handle hotlines, track arrests and assist people as they are released.

Attorneys who can practice in D.C. will represent arrestees and do jail visits.

In preparation for the inauguration, DC NLG members have been holding trainings in the capital, as well as online trainings for those coming from other parts of the country.

The NLG also recently released an analysis of recent trends in protest policing, based on an updated version of the Field Force Operations training manual for crowd control produced by the Department for Homeland Security and FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness.

Get involved

Lawyers, legal workers and law students interested in assisting with legal support can fill out this form to volunteer.

Resources

  • Website: dcnlg.wordpress.com
  • Legal Support Hotline:  202-670-6866
  • NLG Know Your Rights Booklets in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali and Urdu.

Attorney General offers ‘national strategy’ to combat human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , as required by the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In addition to this new national strategy, every year, the attorney general also submits the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which details the programs and activities carried out by all federal agencies and sets forth recommended goals for the upcoming year.

The most recent report, for FY 2015, is available here.

The department also has launched www.justice.gov/humantrafficking as a central destination to learn more about the department’s efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes that we confront,” said Lynch.  “The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking summarizes the work that our many components and our U.S. Attorney’s Offices are doing to better help survivors and target traffickers. These efforts encourage increased collaboration within the department as well as between the department and our partners in order to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.”

The National Strategy sets forth plans to enhance coordination within the department and to develop specific strategies within each federal district to stop human trafficking.

The National Strategy includes the following:

  • An assessment of the threat presented by human trafficking based on FBI case information.
  • An account of the work of the department’s components that are most extensively involved in anti-trafficking efforts, including the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit; the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI; and various grant-making components within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • A description of the district-specific strategies developed by each U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • A discussion of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts in Indian Country.
  • Information about annual spending dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking.
  • A description of plans to encourage cooperation, coordination and mutual support between the private and non-profit sector and the department to combat human trafficking.

On the web

To learn more about the report and the department’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

Milwaukee legislators offer ‘Sleeping in the Park’ bill

State Reps. Frederick Kessler, Jonathan Brostoff and David Bowen and Rep.-elect David Crowley are proposing legislation to prevent law enforcement officers from arresting or attempting to arrest a person for simply sleeping in a county park.

The measure is a response to the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee on April 30, 2014, by a Milwaukee police officer. The officer had been responding to concern that Hamilton was sleeping in Red Arrow Park. Hamilton had been questioned by two other officers and was found to have been doing nothing more than sleeping.

He was questioned a third time in a situation that escalated to a fatal confrontation.

“Given the tragic death of Dontre Hamilton, it raises questions about the alleged violation he committed by simply sleeping in Red Arrow Park,” Kessler said in a press statement. “For that simple concern, Mr. Hamilton was confronted by two officers initially, on two occasions, and then later, after being questioned by a third officer, lost his life.”

Brostoff stated, “Public parks are for people, period. This legislation will help members of our community who simply want to enjoy a public park and decrease the sort of harassment that led to Donte Hamilton’s terrible demise.”

“If we do not govern to prevent this kind of human rights violation, who will?” asked Crowley. “For too long we have seen an erosion of human rights, especially in communities of color. We need to take proactive steps with legislation like this to ensure the rights of all citizens, without stifling the honorable work of law enforcement.”

The legislation would allow for police to arrest someone sleeping in a county park if that person is known to be wanted for arrest on other charges or the officer believes the individual is a threat to public health or safety. The measure also would provide for county ordinances that prohibit sleeping in a park, but limit the penalty for doing so to a forfeiture of not less than $10 and no more than $200, plus costs.

“There has to be more common sense,” Kessler said. “If you are merely sleeping in a county park, and an officer has no reason to believe you have committed another crime and there is no warrant for your arrest, then there is no reason to be arrested or questioned if all you are doing is sleeping. This legislation is a simple proposal and will hopefully prevent a tragedy such as that involving Dontre Hamilton from happening again.”

Rights groups urge Justice to investigate police use of face recognition

Fifty national civil rights, civil liberties, faith, and privacy organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department urging it to investigate the increasing use and impact of face recognition by police.

The letter, sent in partnership with the ACLU and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comes amid mounting evidence that the technology is violating the rights of millions of Americans and having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Also, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology has released a report finding that police departments across the country are frequently using face recognition technologies to identify and track individuals — whether crossing the street, captured on surveillance cameras, or attending protests.

The report highlights that existing deficiencies are likely to have a disparate impact on African-Americans.

“We need to stop the widespread use of face recognition technology by police until meaningful safeguards are in place,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “Half of all adults in the country are in government face recognition databases, yet the vast majority of law enforcement agencies using this technology lack clear policies, audits to ensure accuracy, and transparency.”

The letter, sent to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was signed by 50 diverse organizations.

The letter explains how federal, state and local police forces use driver license photos to identify suspects — without warrants, accuracy tests, or audits.

“This technology supercharges the racial bias that already exists in policing,” said Sakira Cook, counsel with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “For the good of the nation, we can’t afford to let these inherently biased systems operate without any safeguards.”

 

Doc shows militarization of US police from the inside

The documentary Do Not Resist provides a timely look at the state of policing in the United States, from the escalation of SWAT raids to the unregulated technology police departments are using.

Director Craig Atkinson for over two years traveled around the country shadowing various police departments in their everyday activities. The film is now playing in limited release, with weeklong runs launching in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on Friday, and expanding throughout October and November.

Atkinson, the cinematographer on the documentary Detropia, was first intrigued to pursue the issue of police militarization after seeing the police response to the Boston Marathon bombing and the military grade equipment they used. He was struck by how police acted more like an “occupying force,” he said.

“I was seeing reports coming out later where people were handcuffed face down on their front lawn detained, no charges filed, no questions, police officers entering homes without search warrants,” Atkinson said.

It was just different from what he’d known. Atkinson has in some ways been observing the police his entire life. His father was an officer for 29 years outside of Detroit and a SWAT member from 1989 to 2002. As a boy, Atkinson would tag along to training exercises and play hostage. When he got a little older he would play the role of armed assailant.

“I always had a great deal of respect for the work he was doing,” Atkinson said. “He was a very upstanding officer.”

He knew, too, in the War on Terror era that police, and SWAT, were getting a bad rap and thought it would be a good idea to go behind the scenes and show it as it really happens — “the full breadth of the SWAT experience.”

What he found, however, was not what he expected. In one department, SWAT was being used for raids over 200 times a year. It was a striking difference to the experience of his father, who, in a similarly sized department, did 29 search warrants in 13 years.

“We never found an opportunity where you see the equipment being used in a situation where you would actually want it used,” he said. He thinks something like the Florida nightclub shooting was one instance where SWAT was in fact used appropriately.

The issue of the militarization of police in the United States has been vexing the country for years, most pointedly during the police-shooting protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where police wore riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles, sometimes pointing assault rifles at protesters.

The ACLU has spoken out against it, and the Obama administration, which defended the use of military vehicles during the Boston Marathon bombing, subsequently issued stricter controls over weapons and gear distributed to law enforcement. But it remains a hot button issue in the country, with some passionately defending the necessity of riot gear for the protection of officers in dangerous situations.

In the tense aftermath of a police shooting death in Louisiana, for instance, Gov. John Bel Edwards said a Baton Rouge police officer had teeth knocked out with a rock thrown by a protester. He said if officers don’t use riot gear, “you have no defense against that sort of thing.”

For his part, Atkinson started filming about a year before the events in Ferguson. Once that happened, he knew his footage would be timestamped around that, and there became an urgency to finish.

He chose to present the footage in a verite style. Thus, we hear only from those either involved in policing or public events like congressional hearings or community meetings.

People encouraged him to include his father’s story (he didn’t) or a “voice of god” narration to guide the audience (also absent). Atkinson says his personal interjections are not the point.

“Everybody already has an opinion about these issues,” Atkinson said. “We’re just showing things, we’re letting things unfold.”

As the film continues its run throughout the country, he’s mainly surprised and “disheartened” that it remains relevant.

“Here we are years later and it’s as timely as it ever could be,” he said.

Milwaukee police: August homicides highest in 25 years

More homicides were recorded in Milwaukee in August than in any other month over the past 25 years, police said.

Milwaukee’s total of 24 homicides in August was the highest since July 1991, when the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer were discovered, according to police. The department said the city’s per capita rate was even higher than that of Chicago, which recorded 90 homicides in August.

Chief Edward Flynn discussed the violence at an afternoon news conference on Sept. 1, saying police have recorded a slight increase in domestic violence homicides this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“But the biggest driver of our homicides is arguments and fights and retaliation among people with criminal records,” Flynn said.

A statement from the department said it is being stressed by recent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, where a black man died after being shot by a police officer earlier this summer.

The fatal shooting of Sylville Smith on Aug. 13 sparked two nights of violence, including gunfire and fires that destroyed businesses. Police have said Smith was holding a gun when he turned toward the officer who shot him.

The department’s statement also cited the use of two-officer squads as a strain on its resources. Milwaukee police have patrolled in two-person teams since July, after an officer was shot and wounded by a suspect, according to the newspaper.

Walker statement after police shooting in Milwaukee

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on Aug. 14, issued the following statement after a police shooting in Milwaukee ignited protest:

Following a request from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and after discussions with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Adjutant General Donald Dunbar, I have activated the Wisconsin National Guard to be in a position to aid local law enforcement upon request.

I commend the citizens who volunteered in clean-up efforts this morning. This act of selfless caring sets a powerful example for Milwaukee’s youth and the entire community. I join Milwaukee’s leaders and citizens in calling for continued peace and prayer.

It is also important for citizens to know that Wisconsin is the first state in the nation to have a law requiring an independent investigation anytime there is a shooting by a law enforcement officer that leads to a death. I will not comment on the specifics of the case as it is now under this investigation. I do, however, hope people will give law enforcement the respect that they deserve for working so hard to keep us safe.

Attorney General: Bonds of trust broken in Baltimore

The Justice Department has found reasonable cause that the Baltimore City Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as federal anti-discrimination laws.

The Justice Department, in the new report, said BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; uses enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression.

The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies that have persisted within BPD for many years and has exacerbated community distrust of the police, particularly in the African-American community, the federal department said.

A news release from Justice said it entered into an agreement in principle with the city to work, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation.

“Public trust is critical to effective policing and public safety,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch stated. “Our investigation found that Baltimore is a city where the bonds of trust have been broken and that the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful and unconstitutional conduct, ranging from the use of excessive force to unjustified stops, seizures and arrests.”

She continued, “The results of our investigation raise serious concerns and in the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to ensure that all Baltimoreans enjoy the safety, security and dignity they expect and deserve.”

In May 2015, after considering requests from city officials and hearing from community members about a potential pattern or practice of constitutional violations, Lynch announced the investigation would take place.

The federal review focused on BPD’s use of force, stops, searches and arrests, and discriminatory policing.

Justice officials interviewed and met with city leaders and police officials, including BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis, former commissioners and numerous officers. Investigators also accompanied officers on ride-alongs, conducted hundreds of interviews and participated in meetings with community members, activists and others.

The review also involved looking through hundreds of thousands of pages of police documents, including all policies and training materials, internal affairs data and papers related to use of force, sexual assault cases and pedestrian stops, searches and arrests.

The department, according to the news release,  found the legacy of “zero tolerance” street enforcement resulted in conduct that routinely violates the U.S. Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law.

The department found reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of:

• Conducting stops, searches and arrests without meeting the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

• Focusing enforcement strategies on African Americans, leading to severe and unjustified racial disparities in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Safe Streets Act.

• Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

• Interacting with individuals with mental health disabilities in a manner that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment.

The department also identified serious concerns about other BPD practices, including an inadequate response to reports of sexual assault.

Another significant concern identified by the department was transport practices that place detainees at significant risk of harm.

In the agreement in principle, both parties agreed that compliance with the consent decree will be reviewed by an independent monitor.

The agreement in principle highlights specific areas of reform:

• Policies, training, data collection and analysis to allow for the assessment of officer activity and to ensure that officers’ actions conform to legal and constitutional requirements.

• Technology and infrastructure to ensure capability to effectively monitor officer activity.

• Officer support to ensure that officers are equipped to perform their jobs effectively and constitutionally.

• Community policing strategies to guide all aspects of BPD’s operations and help rebuild the relationship between BPD and the various communities it serves.