Tag Archives: police department

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.”

2 Albuquerque officers charged with murder in March shooting

Deadly police encounters in New York and Missouri resulted in no charges against the officers recently amid closed-door grand jury proceedings that infuriated some members of the public. Faced with a similar decision for a high-profile police shooting in New Mexico, the top prosecutor in Albuquerque took an entirely different approach.

The Albuquerque district attorney brought murder charges this week against two officers who shot a mentally ill homeless man during a standoff last year, bypassing a grand jury and taking the case before a judge who will decide at a public hearing whether the case should move forward.

“Unlike Ferguson and unlike in New York City, we’re going to know. The public is going to have that information,” District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said. “I think officer-involved shooting cases are important around the country where we want to share all that information with the public.”

The March shooting death of 38-year-old James Boyd led to protests and helped lead to a major federal-ordered overhaul of the Albuquerque Police Department amid a rash of police shootings over the last five years.

It also came during a year when police tactics came under intense scrutiny nationwide, fueled by the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of another unarmed man in New York City. Grand juries declined to charge officers in those cases, leading to more large protests.

Police said SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy fatally shot Boyd, who had frequent violent run-ins with law enforcement. Video from an officer’s helmet camera showed Boyd appearing to surrender when officers opened fire, but a defense lawyer characterized him as an unstable suspect who was “unpredictably and dangerously close to a defenseless officer while he was wielding two knives.”

“I’m looking forward … to the DA’s office presenting one single witness that says this is murder,” said Sam Bregman, a lawyer for Sandy.

Brandenburg refused to provide specifics about the reasons for bringing the case, but said it was a lengthy and deliberate process involving several members of her staff.

A date for the preliminary hearing has not been set. The officers have not been booked or arrested. That would not happen until a judge renders a decision at the preliminary hearing. A date has not been set.

The case suddenly elevates the stature of the district attorney, who has been elected to four consecutive terms and been in office since 2001. Brandenburg is the daughter of a prosecutor who served as a public defender before becoming the prosecutor in New Mexico’s most populous city.

The criminal charges were the first Brandenburg has brought against officers in a shooting. She is also waging a fight with the Albuquerque Police Department over allegations that she committed bribery while intervening on behalf of her son in a burglary case.

Police believe she should be charged with bribery because, they say, she offered to pay a victim not to press charges. The attorney general’s office is handling the matter.

Brandenburg said the charges against police had nothing to with the agency’s investigation into her and that her office got the case long before the bribery claims came to light.

Each officer faces a single count in the March death of the 38-year-old Boyd. The charges allow prosecutors to pursue either first-degree or second-degree murder against the officers.

Even before Boyd’s death, the U.S. Justice Department was investigating the use of force by Albuquerque police. The department recently signed an agreement to make changes after the government issued a harsh report. The agreement requires police to provide better training for officers and to dismantle troubled units.

Since 2010, Albuquerque police have been involved in more than 40 shootings – 27 of them deadly. After Boyd’s death, outrage over the trend grew and culminated with protests that included a demonstration where authorities fired tear gas and another that shut down a City Council meeting.

Bregman said there is “not one shred” of evidence to support the case and insisted the officer had no criminal intent when he encountered Boyd. He said Sandy followed training procedures outlined by the police department.

Luis Robles, an attorney for Perez, said he was “confident that the facts will vindicate officer Perez’s actions in this case.”

The FBI is also investigating, but U.S. authorities have not said if the officers will face federal charges.

Police are legally empowered to use deadly force when appropriate, and a 1989 Supreme Court decision concluded that an officer’s use of force must be evaluated through the “perspective of a reasonable officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

Philip Matthew Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies police misconduct, found that local officers were charged in 41 cases with murder or manslaughter stemming from on-duty shootings between 2005 and 2011. By comparison, over the same period, police agencies reported more than 2,700 cases of justifiable homicide by law enforcement officers to the FBI, and that statistic is incomplete.

The figures suggest it’s difficult to get a conviction “because juries are so reluctant to second-guess an officer’s split-second decision,” Stinson said.

Young Gifted and Black Coalition: Open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval

An open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval from the Young Gifted and Black Coalition:

Dear Police Chief Koval, 

We are writing you to explain our position and our demands as they relate to your police department. 

First, we think that in comparison to departments in other cities you have done well in protecting our right to free speech at our weekly actions. 

Our targeting of the police department relates to the violence that Black people have faced at the hands of police in the murders of Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, but it also relates to the violence of heavy policing and arrest rate disparities in Madison. 

Although Madison’s model of community policing and attempt to build trust between the community and police, even acting as “social workers,” may be a step above certain other communities, our arrest rates and incarceration disparities still top the nation. The relationship that we desire to have with the police is simple: no interaction. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and to expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods. Our people need opportunities for self-determination, not policing. 

The situation in New York City where police have decided to police less, has led to no changes in the crime rates. Thus we can draw the conclusion that decreasing policing in our communities will not lead to an increase in crimes. It is also safe to assume that decreasing policing in our communities will lead to a decrease in the disparity rates we see in Dane County. 

We understand that the system of policing and incarceration is closely linked to the system of slavery and the continued oppression of black people. Our ultimate goal is finding alternatives to incarceration and policing, and our steps forward as a community should reflect the values of community control and self-determination. 

One of our publicly-stated demands is for the immediate release of 350 Black people from the Dane County Jail, with the ongoing demand to keep this number out of the jail in order to remove 350 beds from the facility. This means that, every month, 350 Black people must be prevented and/or diverted from entering the jail, as there are typically 3,900 Black people that cycle through the jail every year. This would eliminate the need for 350 beds in the jail, and also eliminate the need for renovations due to safety and mental health concerns. If there was no structural racism, the jails and the arrest rates should be proportional to the demographics of the population. In a jail of 800, without structural racism and a demographic of 5% Black population there should be closer to 40 Black people, rather than the 400 Black people currently incarcerated. 

Therefore, we demand that Madison and Dane County act swiftly to address structural racism and bias. One of the key reasons that Black people are incarcerated is because of poverty. Jails should not function as poor houses. 45% of people who are incarcerated, are incarcerated because they have not paid bails of $1,000 or less. Therefore, they are not incarcerated for a public safety concern, but rather because they are poor. The proof of this, is that people with money, who have bails of both less and more than $1,000 are not kept in jail—and this is not considered a public safety issue. Therefore we demand the immediate release of people incarcerated due to crimes of poverty. 

This includes arrests for crimes of poverty such as public urination, intoxication, sleeping, retail theft for survival, and low level citations. 

While this is a goal that needs the involvement of other areas of government such as the Municipal and Circuit Judges, other police departments, judges, the DA, prosecutors, Clerk of Courts, public defenders, and those in our community with influence in areas such as education, employment, housing, and health, you and the MPD do have a large role to play. We also include the Mayor’s office, the Criminal Justice Council, and the Common Council as decision-makers in these areas. 

We want to see a plan for how the Madison Police Department is going to do the following to address racial disparities:

Dramatically reduce the number of police contacts with Black people and poor people. 

Significantly increase voluntary referrals to community-led resources and programs when police do contact Black people and poor people. 

Cut in half the number of Black people and poor people arrested to address racial disparities 

Of those arrested, refer as many people as possible to community-led alternatives to incarceration. 

Given that the arrest rate shows that Black people are eight times more likely to be arrested than white people, we demand that disparity cut in half by the end of 2015. (While our emphasis is on the disparity, we also desire to see fewer arrests for everyone–not just Black people–that Madison police come into contact with.) To do this will require an immediate and thorough public review of all Madison Police Department policies and practices to determine which need to be changed or eliminated in order to immediately reduce the racial disparity in arrest rates. 

We want to see the plan involve accountability measures. For example, if you do not reach a particular goal, there will be potential for a funding cut or some other consequence. Also, we would like your plan to include a citizen review board for questions of police misconduct in addition to Public Safety Review Board and the Police and Fire Commission. We aim to move towards community controlled policing with advisory boards in communities throughout Madison and Dane County. We also need you to follow the recent advice of the Department of Justice and release data about arrest demographics in order to address racial disparities. 

Your plan may include diversity training and recruitment of people of color as staff; however, we do not see these steps as significant remedies to existing problems. We believe that change needs to happen at a systemic policy level. It will also involve closer connection to social service agencies and increased restorative or transformative justice programming. 

Your plan should seek to identify best practices from other locations, but not be limited to them, as this is a problem that faces many cities around the country. We need to think outside the box, and we want to lead the way in doing so. 

For many years there have been studies done on how to address racial disparities in the Dane County criminal system and Madison policing that are relevant, but we haven’t seen the concrete action required to make the changes that our communities need. 

Please have your plan completed by the end of February 2015. 

Racial disparities have plagued Madison and Dane County for many years. It is well beyond the time that concrete and intentional efforts are made. We look forward to celebrating with you the decrease in racial disparities at the end of 2015. 

All Power to the People, Young Gifted and Black Coalition 

New Jersey sheriff delays acquiring military vehicles

Sheriff Michael Saudino in Bergen County, New Jersey, will delay the acquisition of two mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles from the Department of Defense.

The disclosure follows the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, where civil rights protesters faced a police department outfitted for warfare.

Before the Ferguson unrest, the ACLU of New Jersey had asked Saudino to withdraw his department’s application for the military vehicles.

And on Aug. 29, the ACLU’s public policy director, Ari Rosmarin, said, “We applaud Sheriff Saudino for listening to Bergen County residents and putting the brakes on his plan to bring two battlefield vehicles to the streets of Bergen County.

“As the ACLU-NJ cautioned weeks ago, militarizing local law enforcement could come with troubling ramifications for Bergen County communities, and the people of Bergen County must have a chance to weigh in before such a decision is made in their name.”

The ACLU said that the county is not a war zone and the sheriff’s department does not need to militarize.

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.

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