Tag Archives: officer-involved

ACLU calls for transparency in investigation of Milwaukee shooting

In response the Wisconsin Department of Justice declaring it will not release video footage of the officer-involved fatal shooting in Milwaukee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin again called for transparency in the investigation of the underlying incident.  ACLU executive director Chris Ahmuty wrote the following letter to Attorney General Brad Schimel:

Dear Attorney General Schimel,

It is time for you and your agency to give the public more information about your investigation into the officer-involved fatal shooting of Mr. Sylville Smith on August 13, 2016 in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.

In an August 14, 2016 news release you stated “The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), at the request of the Milwaukee Police Department, is leading the investigation of yesterday’s officer involved death.  DOJ will work expeditiously to ensure a thorough and transparent gathering of the facts.”  According to an August 16, 2016 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, your spokesperson said, “In recognition of the violence that has affected Milwaukee residents for the last 48 hours, DOJ is working expeditiously, and within the parameters of the law, to provide the community a transparent view of the events that took place on August 13 in a timely manner.  However, we are not prepared to release any of the video evidence at this time.”

To date you have promised transparency, but provided little information on your investigation to the community and Mr. Smith’s grieving family and friends, who seek understanding of the deadly incident that transpired on August 13.

In your news release and your spokesperson’s statement as reported in the media, you don’t even mention Sylville Smith’s name.  It is important for you to recognize that a Milwaukee police officer has killed a specific person, with family, friends and neighbors.

You have said that you will not “release any of the video evidence at this time.” Failure to timely release video of similar incidents has been a source of unrest in Chicago, leading officials there to adopt a policy of prompt release of video.  Note that Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has already expressed conclusions drawn from a video the public has not been allowed to see.

You have remained silent regarding a host of other questions that would help the public ascertain whether your agency is conducting “a thorough and transparent gathering of facts.”  We ask that you please answer the following questions about your investigation:

  1. Are any of the investigators/analysts assigned to this case former Milwaukee Police Department employees?
  2. Has DCI interviewed the officer(s) who encountered Mr. Smith on August 13?  If so, when were the officers interviewed?
  3. Has DCI or MPD interviewed neighbors/witnesses?
  4. Who gets access to Smith’s companion (Is he in custody?  Does he have an attorney?)
  5. Does DCI have the body worn camera(s) (BWC)?  Does it have access to evidence.com?
  6. Did the officer or other witnesses review the BWC or dash cam video before your agents interviewed them?
  7. Was the officer given a blood test?
  8. What was the basis for the stop?  Are there radio communications that would reflect the basis for the stop?
  9. Is there audio from the dash cam or from nearby Shotspotter microphones?
  10. When will the medical examiner issue a report?

Nearly all of these questions are procedural and address aspects of your gathering of facts.  None call for details regarding the evidence, much less conclusions.

Please answer these questions.  If you refuse to answer any of these questions, please let me know your justification for refusing at this time.

Thank you.  I hope to hear from you shortly.

 

Millions view Facebook video showing aftermath of officer-involved shooting

A live, 10-minute video of the aftermath of a police officer shooting a black man in Minnesota was the latest example of the riveting power of video streaming and the complex ethical and policy issues it raises for Facebook Live and similar features.

The graphic video taken by the victim’s girlfriend and broadcast on her Facebook page shows Philando Castile covered in blood in the driver’s seat of a car as the officer points a gun into the vehicle.

By early July 7, the footage had more than 4 million views and together with another police shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, topped the items on Facebook’s Newswire, which promotes stories of broad interest.

Facebook this year has made its Live feature, which allows anyone to broadcast a video directly from their smartphone, a central component of its growth strategy. Rivals Twitter and Alphabet’s YouTube are also pushing live video as a new frontier in Internet content.

While traditional TV broadcasters are subject to “decency” standards overseen by the Federal Communications Commission — and have a short delay in their broadcasts to allow them to cut away from violent or obscene images — internet streaming services have no such limitations.

That easy accessibility and openness are fostering a new type of intimate, personal broadcasting that proponents said can be extraordinarily powerful, as evidenced by the demonstrations that began shortly after the Minneapolis video.

But critics said the lack of regulation can allow a somewhat cynical exploitation of tragedy.

Facebook and others can “rush forward and do whatever they think will get them clicks and users” without concerns for potential legal consequences, said Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who helps run the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. She advocates on behalf of revenge porn victims and would like companies to do more to prevent dissemination of such content.

Indeed, internet companies enjoy broad protections under federal law for content users posting on their services. Merely hosting third-party content that is objectionable or even illegal does not expose those companies to litigation as long as they adopt reasonable takedown policies.

The companies do enforce their own terms of service, which restrict many types of images. They rely heavily on users to report violations, which are then reviewed by employees or contractors for possible removal.

POLITICAL PRESSURE

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate project, said live video provides unprecedented opportunity to seize public awareness and cultivate political pressure on a topic such as police brutality.

But Cooper said the technology also raises concerns. “The availability of a live broadcast, unencumbered, becomes a horrendous tool in the hands of a terrorist.”

Facebook said last month that it was expanding the team dedicated to reviewing live content and staffing it 24 hours a day. The company would also test the monitoring of broadcasts that go viral or are trending even before they are reported, giving Facebook a way to stop offending broadcasts quickly, just as a TV network might do.

In the July 6 shooting in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, the footage was taken offline for about an hour, leading to outrage on social media. It was then restored with a warning labeling it as “disturbing.”

“We’re very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “It was down due to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”

Details of the technical glitch were not immediately known.

Facebook’s push into live streaming assures that such violent or otherwise disturbing events would not be the last.

About 1.65 billion people used Facebook monthly as of March 31, spending at least 50 minutes per day on the social media platform. In Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings, it reported a 50 percent surge in revenue, handily beating Wall Street expectations as its promotion of live video won new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to increase spending.

Facebook pays some companies, including Reuters, to produce content for Facebook Live.

The Minnesota shooting followed other violent events that were streamed live on the Internet and went viral.

Just last month, a 28-year-old Chicago man, Antonio Perkins, filmed himself on Facebook Live spending time with his friends outside when shots rang out. The graphic video showed Perkins falling to the ground and what appears to be blood on the grass.

Days earlier, there was a double homicide in France in which the killer later took to Facebook Live to encourage more violence in a 12-minute clip.

In April, an 18-year-old woman was charged after she live streamed her friend’s rape on Twitter’s Periscope. In May, a young woman in France recorded herself on Periscope as she threw herself under a train.

 

 

Louisiana protesters demand prosecution of police in fatal shooting

Hundreds of protesters stood vigil early on Thursday outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, demanding the prosecution of police who fatally shot a black man there two days earlier.

The demonstration was largely peaceful as about 300 protesters remained outside of the Triple S Food Mart, where Alton Sterling, 37, was pinned to the ground and fatally shot in the chest by two white police officers on Tuesday.

“There is not going to be a riot until they show they are not going to prosecute these people,” said Arsby, a 53-year-old truck driver who declined to give his last name, as he stood outside of the store. “Right now it’s just started.”

Some protesters blocked traffic while others marched, sang, and chanted, accusing the police of using “excessive force” against black residents.

“If we stand divided, we are already defeated,” Bishop Gregory Cooper of Baton Rouge told the crowd. Police stayed on the fringes of the gathering.

Graphic video images of Tuesday’s shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, unleashed protests and social media outcry over alleged police brutality against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York.

One officer shot Sterling five times at close range and the other took something from his pants pocket as he was dying, according to images recorded by Abdullah Muflahi, owner of the store where Sterling was killed in the parking lot.

Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. on July 5, 2016, is seen in an undated photo posted on his Facebook account. Alton Sterling via Social Media/Handout via Reuters
Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. on July 5, 2016, is seen in an undated photo posted on his Facebook account. Alton Sterling via Social Media/Handout via Reuters

The U.S. Justice Department said it would investigate the killing. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden and police said they welcomed the probe launched by the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal prosecutors.

“Now, all eyes are in Baton Rouge. What may have been easier to cover up before because it was just us … now they’ve woken up the sleeping lions,” said protester Tammara Crawford, a 33-year-old mother and school administrator in Baton Rouge.

“HE’S GOT A GUN”

Video recorded on the bystander’s cellphone shows an officer confronting Sterling and ordering him to the ground. The two officers then tackle him to the pavement, with one pulling a gun from his holster and pointing it at his chest.

Muflahi’s video shows the officers on top of Sterling. One of them yells, “He’s got a gun.” The video jerks away from the scene after the first two shots are fired.

Three more shots are heard, before the camera shows one officer lean over Sterling and take something from his pocket.

The two police officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, have been put on administrative leave, police said.

Still images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Video taken July 5, 2016.  Abdullah Muflahi/Handout via REUTERS
Still images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Video taken July 5, 2016. Abdullah Muflahi/Handout via REUTERS