Tag Archives: officers

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.

Wisconsin Republican asks for prayers for dead officers

A Wisconsin legislator is asking people to pray for the families of the officers who were slain in Dallas.

Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican and a former police officer who chairs the Senate public safety committee, issued a news release Friday that people should pray that “during this time of increased tension between police and certain communities that God’s wisdom and guidance will keep all lives safe.”

Wanggaard says people need to remember that they’re all on the same side and everyone wants to return home to their loved ones at the end of the day and too many haven’t lately.

At least one person opened fire on police Thursday night in Dallas during a protest over recent killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Five officers were killed.

 

President, Dallas mayor talk about ‘tremendous tragedy’

President Barack Obama said on July 8 he had spoken with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to extend his condolences and offer support after snipers killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack in the city.

Obama said he told Rawlings that the federal government would provide the city with any assistance it may need as it deals with this “tremendous tragedy”.

“We still don’t know all the facts, what we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” Obama after a meeting with European Union leaders ahead of a NATO summit in Poland.

“We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. In the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Obama said his team is keeping him updated on the investigation and that he would have more to say as more details about the attack are learned.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

 

Some police unions push boycott of Beyonce concerts, music

Police unions are criticizing Beyonce in the wake of her Super Bowl halftime act and new video, calling for a boycott because they think her work contains “anti-police” messages.

Unions in Miami and Tampa in Florida and also in Nashville, Tennessee, are either calling for officers to boycott her music or urging them not volunteer to work at her shows.

Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami union, said this week that “Beyonce used this year’s Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her anti-police message shows how she does not support law enforcement.”

The Super Bowl halftime show — seen by an estimated 112 million people — drew praise from her fans and consternation from some critics.

It was a display of unapologetic blackness and political activism. Beyonce’s dancers donned berets, sported Afros and wore all black, similar to the style of the Black Panther party that was founded 50 years ago in the Bay area —  the location of the Super Bowl. At one point during their routine, the dancers formed an “X” on the field, which some people took as a tribute to slain black activist Malcolm X.

Tampa Police Benevolent Association President Vincent Gericitano posted a statement on the group’s website saying it was “disgusted” with the Super Bowl show and “equally disgusted” with her new music video.

The video for “Formation” invokes the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans and includes a shot of the singer lying atop a police cruiser overtaken by floodwater. It also references the Black Lives Matter movement with police standing in riot gear and the words “stop shooting us” spray-painted on a wall.

The tour kicks off with a sold-out show in Miami on April 27. Two days later, the tour arrives in Tampa.

Tampa Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said there is no indication that officers are not taking the extra-duty, voluntary shifts to provide security for the concert.

“This has been blown way out of proportion,” she said.

Tampa Police tweeted a GIF of Beyonce with the statement: “What?! (at)TampaPD officers have been in (hash)formation for days signing up to keep the (hash)Beehive safe! (hash)Truth (hash)Fact”

Miami Police spokesman Lt. Freddie Cruz said the extra-duty shifts for the concert will be “open for officers to sign up. Whether they sign up, it’s up to them.”

In Nashville, that chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police asked members to not volunteer for Beyonce’s concert there in May.

Wisconsin gun shop to pay $1 million to settle lawsuit

A Wisconsin gun shop will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit in which a jury found it negligently sold a gun used to injure two Milwaukee police officers, the store’s attorney said.

The settlement eliminates what was expected to be a yearslong appeal of an October verdict in which jurors awarded Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch nearly $6 million.

An attorney for Badger Guns, James Vogts, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1QaOzBU ) late Friday that the case has “been settled and dismissed.”

“This case is over,” Vogts said. He declined to say why his client decided not to appeal.

A jury found that found that Badger Guns and its owner negligently sold the gun to a straw buyer — someone buying a gun for someone who cannot legally purchase one. 

Kunisch and Norberg sued Badger Guns, its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, and the owners five years ago.

Out of the $1 million settlement, Kunisch, who has retired from the department on duty disability, will receive $216,120, while Norberg will receive $74,427. The rest is split up among the city, lawyers’ fees and other costs.

The officers’ attorney, Patrick Dunphy, didn’t respond to requests for comment Saturday.

A separate lawsuit, filed by two different Milwaukee officers also wounded with a gun from the shop, remains set for trial in May.

Norberg and Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in 2009. Investigators said Burton got the weapon, a Taurus .40-caliber handgun, a month earlier, after giving $40 to another man, Jacob Collins, to make the purchase at the store in West Milwaukee.

One bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged into his shoulder. He remains on the force but said his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was shot several times, resulting in him losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He said the wounds forced him to retire.

Jurors ordered the store to pay Norberg $1.5 million and Kunisch $3.6 million. The jury also ruled the store must pay $730,000 in punitive damages.

The gun shop’s attorneys denied wrongdoing. They said the owner at the time of the sale, Adam Allan, couldn’t be held financially responsible for crimes connected to a weapon sold at his shop and that the clerk who sold the weapon didn’t intentionally commit a crime. Rather, they said Collins and Burton went out of their way to deceive him.

The case was only the second of its kind nationwide to make it to a jury since Congress passed a law a decade ago holding gun dealers and manufacturers largely immune from such lawsuits. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska.

Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence. Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.

Investigation: 1,000 police officers lost badges in a 6-year period for sex crimes

Flashing lights pierced the black of night, and the big white letters made clear it was the police. The woman pulled over was a daycare worker in her 50s headed home after playing dominoes with friends. She felt she had nothing to hide, so when the Oklahoma City officer accused her of erratic driving, she did as directed.

She would later tell a judge she was splayed outside the patrol car for a pat-down, made to lift her shirt to prove she wasn’t hiding anything, then to pull down her pants when the officer still wasn’t convinced. He shined his flashlight between her legs, she said, then ordered her to sit in the squad car and face him as he towered above. His gun in sight, she said she pleaded “No, sir” as he unzipped his fly and exposed himself with a hurried directive.

“Come on,” the woman, identified in police reports as J.L., said she was told before she began giving him oral sex. “I don’t have all night.”

The accusations are undoubtedly jolting, and yet they reflect a betrayal of the badge that has been repeated time and again across the country.

In a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, The Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.

The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action. California and New York — with several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies — offered no records because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. And even among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.

 “It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”

Even as cases around the country have sparked a national conversation about excessive force by police, sexual misconduct by officers has largely escaped widespread notice due to a patchwork of laws, piecemeal reporting and victims frequently reluctant to come forward because of their vulnerabilities — they often are young, poor, struggling with addiction or plagued by their own checkered pasts.

In interviews, lawyers and even police chiefs told the AP that some departments also stay quiet about improprieties to limit liability, allowing bad officers to quietly resign, keep their certification and sometimes jump to other jobs.

The officers involved in such wrongdoing represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands whose jobs are to serve and protect. But their actions have an outsized impact — miring departments in litigation that leads to costly settlements, crippling relationships with an already wary public and scarring victims with a special brand of fear.

“My God,” J.L. said she thought as she eyed the officer’s holstered gun, “he’s going to kill me.”

The AP does not name alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent, and J.L. declined to be interviewed. She was let go after the traffic stop without any charges. She reported her accusations immediately, but it was months before the investigation was done and the breadth of the allegations known.

She is one of 13 women who say they were victimized by the officer, a former college football standout named Daniel Holtzclaw. The fired cop, 28, has pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, and his family posted online that “the truth of his innocence will be shown in court.” Each of his accusers is expected to testify in the trial that begins Monday, including one who was 17 when she said the officer pulled down her pink cotton shorts and raped her on her mother’s front porch.

But on a June night last year, it was J.L.’s story that unleashed a larger search for clues.

A nurse swabbed her mouth. A captain made a report. And a detective got to work.

***

On a checkerboard of sessions on everything from electronic surveillance to speed enforcement, police chiefs who gathered for an annual meeting in 2007 saw a discussion on sex offenses by officers added to the agenda. More than 70 chiefs packed into a room, and when asked if they had dealt with an officer accused of sexual misdeeds, nearly every attendee raised a hand. A task force was formed and federal dollars were pumped into training.

Eight years later, a simple question — how many law enforcement officers are accused of sexual misconduct — has no definitive answer. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, which collects police data from around the country, doesn’t track officer arrests, and states aren’t required to collect or share that information.

To measure the problem, the AP obtained records from 41 states on police decertification, an administrative process in which an officer’s law enforcement license is revoked. Cases from 2009 through 2014 were then reviewed to determine whether they stemmed from misconduct meeting the Department of Justice standard for sexual assault – sexual contact that happens without consent, including intercourse, sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.

Nine states and the District of Columbia said they either did not decertify officers for misconduct or declined to provide information.

Of those that did release records, the AP determined that some 550 officers were decertified for sexual assault, including rape and sodomy, sexual shakedowns in which citizens were extorted into performing favors to avoid arrest, or gratuitous pat-downs. Some 440 officers lost their badges for other sex offenses, such as possessing child pornography, or for sexual misconduct that included being a peeping Tom, sexting juveniles or having on-duty intercourse.

The law enforcement officials in these records included state and local police, sheriff’s deputies, prison guards and school resource officers; no federal officers were included because the records reviewed came from state police standards commissions. About one-third of the officers decertified were accused of incidents involving juveniles. Because of gaps in the information provided by the states, it was impossible to discern any other distinct patterns, other than a propensity for officers to use the power of their badge to prey on the vulnerable. Some but not all of the decertified officers faced criminal charges; some offenders were able to avoid prosecution by agreeing to surrender their certifications.

Victims included unsuspecting motorists, schoolchildren ordered to raise their shirts in a supposed search for drugs, police interns taken advantage of, women with legal troubles who succumbed to performing sex acts for promised help, and prison inmates forced to have sex with guards.

The AP’s findings, coupled with other research and interviews with experts, suggest that sexual misconduct is among the most prevalent type of complaint against law officers. Phil Stinson, a researcher at Bowling Green State University, analyzed news articles between 2005 and 2011 and found 6,724 arrests involving more than 5,500 officers. Sex-related cases were the third-most common, behind violence and profit-motivated crimes. Cato Institute reports released in 2009 and 2010 found sex misconduct the No. 2 complaint against officers, behind excessive force.

Cases from across the country in just the past year demonstrate how such incidents can occur, and the devastation they leave behind.

In Connecticut, William Ruscoe of the Trumbull Police began a 30-month prison term in January after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl he met through a program for teens interested in law enforcement. Case records detailed advances that began with explicit texts and attempts to kiss and grope the girl. Then one night Ruscoe brought her back to his home, put his gun on the kitchen counter and asked her to go upstairs to his bedroom. The victim told investigators that despite telling him no “what felt like 1,000 times,” he removed her clothes, fondled her and forced her to touch him – at one point cuffing her hands.

In Florida, Jonathan Bleiweiss of the Broward Sheriff’s Office was sentenced to a five-year prison term in February for bullying about 20 immigrant men into sex acts. Because the victims wouldn’t testify, Bleiwess’ plea deal revolved around false imprisonment charges, allowing him to escape sex offender status. Prosecutors said he used implied threats of deportation to intimidate the men.

And in New Mexico, Michael Garcia of the Las Cruces Police was sentenced last November to nine years in federal prison for sexually assaulting a high school police intern. At the time, he was in a unit investigating child abuse and sex crimes. The victim, Diana Guerrero, said in court that the assault left her feeling “like a piece of trash,” dashed her dreams of becoming an officer, and triggered depression, nightmares and flashbacks.

“It had never occurred to me that a person who had earned a badge would do this to me or anybody else,” said Guerrero, who is now 21 and agreed to her name being published. “I lost my faith in everything, everyone, even in myself.”

A 2011 International Association of Chiefs of Police report on sex misconduct questioned whether some conditions of the job may create opportunities for such incidents. Officers’ power, independence, off-hours and engagement with those perceived as less credible combine to give cover to predators, it said, and otherwise admirable bonds of loyalty can lead colleagues to shield offenders.

“You see officers throughout your career that deal with that power really well, and you see officers over your career that don’t,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty, who fired Holtzclaw just months after the allegations surfaced and called the case a troubling reminder that police chiefs need to be careful about how they hire and train officers.

The best chance at preventing such incidents is to robustly screen applicants, said Sheriff Russell Martin in Delaware County, Ohio, who served on an IACP committee on sex misconduct. Those seeking to join Martin’s agency are questioned about everything from pornography use to public sex acts. Investigators run background checks, administer polygraph exams and interview former employers and neighbors. Social media activity is reviewed for clues about what a candidate deems appropriate, or red flags such as objectification of women.

Still, screening procedures vary among departments, and even the most stringent standards only go so far.

“We’re hiring from the human race,” Martin said, “and once in a while, the human race is going to let us down.”

***

In the predawn hours of June 18, 2014, J.L.’s report made its way to Oklahoma City sex crimes detective Kim Davis. By that afternoon, Miranda rights were being read to the suspect, an officer who had arrived out of the academy nearly three years earlier, a seemingly natural move for the son of a career policeman but one borne of deep disappointment.

Holtzclaw was a high school football star in Enid, Oklahoma, and a standout on a middling squad at Eastern Michigan University. He was a 6-foot-1, 246-pound leader to teammates who called him “Claw,” and constantly focused on his ultimate goal of the NFL.

“He trained that way. He talked that way,” said fellow linebacker Cortland Selman.

But the collegiate record for tackles Holtzclaw chased went unbroken, and the draft came and went.

He found traces of life on the field in his life on the beat, telling a reporter for his hometown paper that he enjoyed high-speed chases and once charged through two fences while pursuing a suspect on foot on a snow-slicked winter day. He hoped to eventually join the police gang squad.

The Oklahoma City Police Department said Holtzclaw had not received any prior discipline that resulted in a demotion or docked paycheck, but both the department and the state declined to release his full personnel record, citing state law making it confidential.

J.L.’s accusations made Davis and a fellow detective curious about an unsolved report filed five weeks earlier in which an unidentified officer was accused of stopping a woman and coercing her into oral sex.

According to pretrial testimony, the detectives reviewed the names of women Holtzclaw had come into contact with on his 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and interviewed each one, saying they had a tip she may have been assaulted by an officer. Most said they had not been victimized but, among those who said they were, other links to Holtzclaw were found, Davis said in court. The GPS device on his patrol car put him at the scene of the alleged incidents, and department records showed he called in to check all but one of the women for warrants, the detective testified.

By the time the investigation concluded, the detectives had assembled a six-month narrative of alleged sex crimes they said started Dec. 20, 2013, with a woman taken into custody and hospitalized while high on angel dust. Dressed in a hospital gown, her right wrist handcuffed to the bedrail, the woman said Holtzclaw coerced her into performing oral sex, suggesting her cooperation would lead to dropped charges.

“I didn’t think that no one would believe me,” she testified at a pretrial hearing. “I feel like all police will work together.”

All told, Holtzclaw faces 36 counts including rape, sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy.

One additional accuser who came forward after Holtzclaw’s arrest later was charged with making a false report. Supporters of the former officer who congregate on social media express hope that others’ claims will be proven false, too, and friends wear T-shirts that say “Free the Claw.”

Earlier this year, while out on bond, Holtzclaw answered the door of his parents’ Enid home, saying of the allegations: “I’m not going to make any comment about it.” His attorney, Scott Adams, canceled an interview and did not respond to calls, emails and a letter.

Adams’ line of questioning at the pretrial hearing suggests he will raise doubts about the accusers’ credibility and portray investigators as having coaxed the women into saying they were attacked. Many of the women had struggled with drugs. Some had been prostitutes or have criminal records. Most lived in the same rundown swath of the city in sight of the state Capitol dome, and they all are women of color.

Many of their allegations are similar, with the women saying they were accused of hiding drugs, then told to lift their shirts or pull down their pants. Some claim to have been groped; others said they were forced into intercourse or oral sex.

The youngest accuser said Holtzclaw first approached her when she was with two friends who were arguing and he learned she had an outstanding warrant for trespassing. He let her go but found her again later that day, walking to her mother’s house. She said he offered her a ride and then followed her to the front porch, reminding her of her warrant, accusing her of hiding drugs and warning her not to make things more difficult than they needed to be. She claims he touched her breasts and slid his hand into her panties before pulling off her shorts and raping her.

When it was over, the teen said he told her he might be back to see her again.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she testified at the pretrial hearing. “Like, what am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop.”

***

Victims of sexual violence at the hands of officers know the power their attackers have, and so the trauma can carry an especially crippling fear.

Jackie Simmons said she found it too daunting to bring her accusation to another police officer after being raped by a cop in 1998 while visiting Kansas for a wedding. So, like most victims of rape, she never filed a report. Her notions of good and evil challenged, she became enraged whenever she saw patrol cars marked “Protect and Serve.”

“You feel really powerless,” said Simmons, an elementary school principal in Bridgeport, Connecticut, who works with Pandora’s Project, a support group for rape survivors.

Diane Wetendorf, a retired counselor who started a support group in Chicago for victims of officers, said most of the women she counseled never reported their crimes — and many who did regretted it. She saw women whose homes came under surveillance and whose children were intimidated by police. Fellow officers, she said, refused to turn on one another when questioned.

“It starts with the officer denying the allegations — ‘she’s crazy,’ ‘she’s lying,'” Wetendorf said. “And the other officers say they didn’t see anything, they didn’t hear anything.”

In its 2011 report, the IACP recommended that agencies institute policies specifically addressing sexual misconduct, saying “tolerance at any level will invite more of the same conduct.” The report also urged stringent screening of hires. But the agency does not know how widely such recommendations have been implemented.

John Firman, the IACP’s research director, said the organization also is encouraging its chiefs to hire more women and minorities as a way to improve the environment inside departments.

“What you want is a culture that’s dominated by a bunch of people that reflect the community,” he said.

Experts said it isn’t just threats of retaliation that deter victims from reporting the crimes, but also skepticism about the ability of officers and prosecutors to investigate their colleagues.

Milwaukee Police Officer Ladmarald Cates was sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2012 for raping a woman he was dispatched to help. Despite screaming “He raped me!” repeatedly to other officers present, she was accused of assaulting an officer and jailed for four days, her lawyer said. The district attorney, citing a lack of evidence, declined to prosecute Cates. Only after a federal investigation was he tried and convicted.

It’s a story that doesn’t surprise Penny Harrington, a former police chief in Portland, Oregon, who co-founded the National Center for Women in Policing and has served as an expert witness in officer misconduct cases. She said officers sometimes avoid charges or can beat a conviction because they are so steeped in the system.

“They knew the DAs. They knew the judges. They knew the safe houses. They knew how to testify in court. They knew how to make her look like a nut,” she said. “How are you going to get anything to happen when he’s part of the system and when he threatens you and when you know he has a gun and … you know he can find you wherever you go?”

***

Though initially out on bond, Holtzclaw has been jailed since July after letting the battery in his ankle monitor go dead.

While he and his attorneys have remained mostly silent on the accusations, he has offered glimpses of his life in online postings. A photo montage he shared showed him flexing his muscles, Eminem playing in the background. He wrote of God’s blessings and copied Bible verses, and offered photos of him cuddling his dog. He wrote that he had maintained faith, that winners overcome and cowards run. He portrayed himself as David fighting Goliath.

“Behind these eyes and this big heart is pain,” he wrote.

Most of Holtzclaw’s accusers also have stayed silent outside of court. Most did not respond to requests from the AP to speak or cited fear or a desire for privacy, but two did agree to interviews.

One woman alleges Holtzclaw coerced her into giving him oral sex. She cried as she spoke, sitting on a dirty couch in a rundown apartment where a blanket attached to the wall with thumbtacks blocked the sunlight. She talked of how afraid she was to go to police, of how images of her alleged attack haunt her. Enveloped in fear, she said she slipped further into drugs.

“I was getting high, but I wasn’t feeling,” she said. “I was too upset to feel anything.”

In the Oklahoma City neighborhood that prosecutors say served as Holtzclaw’s hunting ground, a narrow ribbon of road twists through a canyon of untended growth littered with black bags of stinking trash. Locals call the spot Dead Man’s Curve.

It’s here that Syrita Bowen contends Holtzclaw took her on May 21, 2014, and told her she could submit to oral sex and intercourse or go to jail. In an interview, she said she was convinced it was the cruel joke of some hidden-camera show until he insisted he was serious. She had been jailed many times before, and knew the math: a 15-minute ride downtown, two hours to be booked, up to a day of waiting to move to a cell, hearings drawn out over weeks or months.

She figured she could give him what he wanted in six minutes.

“God forgive me,” she said, “that was the easiest thing for me to do.”

Bowen agreed to have her name published, and initially she offered a steely front, contending no fear or sadness lingered from her alleged encounter with Holtzclaw. But, before long, tears flowed.

She has known poverty and addiction and imprisonment, and said she was repeatedly raped by a relative as a little girl. The violation she alleges now doesn’t even rank as the worst thing to ever happen to her. But she said she thinks about it daily. There are no nightmares, she said, but reminders come in other ways.

Patrol cars seem to pass more often than they did before. Sirens are more jarring. And when a man in uniform goes by, she wonders what might happen.

High-speed pursuit: Wisconsin police officers chasing more suspects

High-speed police chases and injuries are becoming more common in Wisconsin, despite some police departments’ restrictions on chases over minor infractions, according to a recent analysis of Wisconsin Department of Transportation records.

Law enforcement officials were involved in 567 chases during the first six months of this year, accounting for a 33 percent increase from last year, the report by Gannett Wisconsin Media found. That’s the highest number of police chases since 2007.

The number of incidents involving injuries also reached a five-year high, but no deaths were reported by police.

It’s unclear what’s driving the increase, but it contradicts efforts by some law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country to refrain from chasing suspects.

Police officials in some of the state’s communities moved to restrict officers from chasing suspects involved in minor offenses after the deaths of four bystanders in Milwaukee in late 2009 and early 2010.

“We have a very tight policy. It’s not a no-pursuit policy but it’s awful close,” Evansville Police Chief Scott McElroy said. “I don’t think everybody is trained to drive that fast. We don’t do enough of it and I just think there’s too many other things that can go wrong.”

But the surge largely is due to an increase in police chases that took place in the state’s southeastern region and stemmed from minor offenses, the Gannett Wisconsin Media analysis of state records determined. The number of chases over traffic violations during the first half of 2015 in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties nearly doubled to 131, compared to 71 last year.

In comparison, law enforcement agencies in central and northeastern Wisconsin reported 102 chases during the first six months of this year, a 10 percent decrease from the same period last year, the records show.

The analysis of state records also calls into question the accuracy of Wisconsin’s system for tracking police chases. Although local police agencies are required by state law to report all of their chases to the Department of Transportation, many chases are missing from the statewide records database, according to Gannett Wisconsin Media.

Most of the missing chases happened in southeastern Wisconsin, so comparisons between past and present data could be skewed.

Madison removing stones from Philosopher’s Grove

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on Aug. 10 announced that he instructed city staff to remove the granite and bronze stones from the area in the 100 block of Mifflin Street known as Philosopher’s Grove.

Police officials have reported that the matter is one of public safety.

Officers have had increasing calls to the area for numerous violations ranging from vandalism and fights, to the sale of illegal narcotics and assaults.

The mayor said the stones were being removed this week at the request of the police department.

“While I appreciate the continued efforts of the State Street BID to plan events in the area, there continue to be many complaints and concerns raised by business owners, visitors and residents,” said Soglin in a news release.

He continued, “It is really unfortunate that this step is needed as these stones, created by local Wisconsin artist Jill Sebastian, are part of a piece of art which have been part of the grove for over 10 years. The city intends to work with the artist to determine an alternative location for their installation, so that the work will continue to be a celebrated and an important part of the city’s public art collection.”

On the Web …

More in the issue: 

Public art or public enemy? Madison’s ‘Philosophers’ Stones

ACLU: Chicago leads NYC in use of stop-and-frisk

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Chicago says the Chicago Police Department leads the NYPD in the use of the controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice. The report highlights the use — or overuse — the practice and makes the argument that the justification for such stops often fails to meet constitutional standards. 

The report indicates that last summer, the Chicago Police Department conducted more than 250,000 stops of civilians that did not lead to arrest. The ACLU said Chicagoans were stopped four times more often than people in New York City.

Stops per 1,000 residents was 93.6 in Chicago compared with 22.9 — at the highest point in 2011 — in New York City. The NYPD has been forced to curb significantly its use of stop-and-frisk after a federal judge found the use in that city to be unconstitutional.

“While most of the media coverage has suggested that that stop-and-frisk was a New York phenomena, it’s misuse is not limited to New York,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “Chicago has been systematically abusing this practice, for reasons that are not justified by our constitution.”

“And just like New York, we see that African Americans are singled out for these searches,” said Grossman.

A “stop-and-frisk” search has become common in African-American and Latino communities across Chicago, the ACLU said.

A 1968 Supreme Court ruling has allowed for officers to stop a civilian if they have reasonable suspicion that person has been, is, or is about to be involved in criminal activity. Once the stop has occurred, officers can frisk the individual if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is dangerous or has a weapon.

The ACLU report demonstrates that in Chicago, the stops are disproportionately target people of color and often are done without the justification required by the court.

The ACLU said African Americans represent nearly 72 percent of all the stops in the city of Chicago; aAfrican Americans represent only about 32 percent of the city’s population.

The data analyzed by the ACLU shows that stops most commonly take place in the districts with the largest minority populations. For example, in 2014, police conducted 266 stops per 1,000 people in the Englewood area, which is predominantly African American, while the rate in the predominantly white Lincoln/Foster district was 43 per 1,000 people.

The data also shows that African Americans are more likely to be the target of stops in predominantly white neighborhoods. In Jefferson Park, where the population is just 1 percent African American, African Americans account for a full 15 percent of all stop-and-frisks. In the Near North District, where the African American population is 9.1 percent, African Americans are subjected to more than one-half of all the stops.

The ACLU report concludes that “black citizens are disproportionately subjected to more stops than their white counterparts.

“What this data shows should be a wake-up call for residents of the City,” said Karen Sheley, senior legal counsel and one of the authors of the report.  “CPD is engaging in wholesale stop-and-frisks of African American youth, without any link to criminal activity in most cases.”

“These stops don’t make us safer, they simply drive a wedge further between the police and the public they serve,” Sheley added in a news release.

The ACLU also said the city of Chicago only records information about stops if there is no arrest or charges. Stops that result in arrest are not identifiable and so the rate of innocent persons stopped cannot be ascertained. In New York, which does keep such data, 88 percent of people stopped were innocent.

Also, Chicago records no information about frisks, which prevents the city from computing the rate of frisks resulting in the seizure of contraband. For example, in New York, which records frisk data, 2 percent of the frisks turned up weapons.

“The data makes clear that stop-and-frisk is a problem in Chicago and needs to be reform,” said Grossman. “The city has an opportunity to make modest fixes now, rather than risk further alienation with large swaths of the public.”

New York activists release video of alleged anti-gay police violence

The New York City Anti-Violence Project on June 10 released a 3-minute video said to show anti-gay violence by the New York City Police Department.

The incident occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on June 3.

The AVP, in a news release, said, three gay men – Josh Williams, Ben Collins and Antonio Maenza – reported they were walking past the 79th Precinct when an NYPD officer accused one of the men of public urination and attacked him, throwing him against a police car.

The AVP said other police officers joined in the assault, throwing the man to the ground and pepper spraying him while he was in handcuffs.

The man was handcuffed tightly, causing lacerations. He also was restrained at the hospital where he was treated.

The two other men also were arrested, according to the AVP, which planned to hold a news conference on June 11 at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan.

AVP will be joined by the survivors, their lawyer, additional survivors of anti-LGBTQ police violence and community partners, including the LGBT Justice Project of Make the Road NY, Streetwise and Safe, the Safe OUTside the System Collective of the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Communities United for Police Reform, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, the LGBT Advisory Panel to NYPD Commission Kelly, City Council Member Daniel Dromm.

AVP, according to the release, also reached out to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the Office of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the NYPD.

The AVP, in an annual report released earlier this month, said about 40 percent of LGBT people who interact with the NYPD report police misconduct and that reports of misconduct rose from 2008 to 2012.

The AVP also has reported a series of hate crimes against LGBT people in New York in recent weeks, which has prompted calls for self-defense training in the community and also Friday night safety walks in LGBT neighborhoods.

On the Web…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ArQTF0ZJZY