Police chiefs apologize for historical mistreatment of minorities

❝ The president of America’s largest police management organization on Monday issued a formal apology to the nation’s minority population “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”

❝ Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement was issued on behalf of the IACP, and comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

…Cunningham’s comments are an acknowledgement of police departments’ past role in exacerbating tensions and a way to move forward and improve community relations nationwide. Two top civil rights groups on Monday commended Cunningham for taking an important first step in acknowledging the problem.

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❝ “…If we are brave enough to collectively deliver this message, we will build a better and safer future for our communities and our law enforcement officers. Too many lives have been lost already, and this must end. It is my hope that many other law enforcement executives will deliver this same message to their local communities, particularly those segments of their communities that lack trust and feel disenfranchised.”

The IACP members present for Cunningham’s speech gave him a standing ovation, IACP spokeswoman Sarah Guy said. Cunningham made the remarks on behalf of the membership…

Overdue. Justly applauded.

Colorado’s legal weed impacts Kansas – not necessarily in a bad way

❝ Early results from a survey of law enforcement agencies conducted by the Kansas attorney general suggest legal Colorado marijuana is having a big impact on Kansas, but it may not be all negative.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt received responses from 390 Kansas law enforcement agencies and district attorneys indicating that less marijuana is being confiscated, but it’s much higher in potency than pot smuggled in from Mexico.

Survey results also show that the legal system has been swept by changing attitudes about marijuana, with some jurisdictions no longer enforcing pot laws much. When they do they’re finding it tough to win convictions…

“The criminal justice system is moving in the direction of what appears to be changes in public attitude,” Schmidt said. “Obviously not moving as far as some people would like, but there is obviously an evolution or a change, and this showed that it has reached the enforcement level as well.”

❝ Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized marijuana. California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will vote on marijuana legalization this fall…

❝ Schmidt said he also is concerned about the growing popularity of edibles, which are food products made with marijuana or infused with marijuana oils.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported its seizure of marijuana edibles increased from zero in 2013 to more than 30 in 2015. Confiscated items have included chocolates and other candies, powder mix, hot sauce — even lip balm.

Got that part right. The simplest reason for me NOT smoking ganja is that I don’t smoke. Now, if it was legal for me to add Alice B. Toklas brownies to my weekly baking – I’d certainly check out some recipes.

The real face of terrorism in America

Gavin Wright, 49, Curtis Allen, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47

Three Kansas men from a militia cell called “the Crusaders” plotted to bomb a mosque and apartment complex home to Somali immigrants…

Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47, were charged Friday with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, according to the Department of Justice’s national security division. The Crusaders call Muslims “cockroaches,” and they had discussed attacks brutal attacks on Muslims for months, federal prosecutors said.

FBI agents working on tips from an undercover informant said the three men planned to blow up four car bombs at the Garden City apartments. Allen, Wright and Stein hoped the attack on the 120-resident complex would “wake people up,” the feds said.

The arrests followed an eight-month investigation that took the agents “deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence,” said acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall. “Many Kansans may find it as startling as I do that such things could happen here.”…

If you read more than the TV Guide, watch more than Fox Noise, you shouldn’t be surprised.

…Allen, Wright and Stein had stockpiled guns, ammunition and explosive components, prosecutors said. They also spied on possible targets and planned to issue a manifesto, according to the feds.

They decided on the apartment complex in Garden City, a meatpacking town of 26,000 people in southwestern Kansas. Many Somali refugees who work at a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse live there, and the complex includes a mosque where they worship together.

“They chose the target location based on their hatred of these groups, their perception that these groups represent a threat to American society, a desire to inspire other militia groups, and a desire to ‘wake people up,'” the complaint said…

They talked about attacking targets such as city or county meetings, landlords who rent to Muslim refugees, organizations that assist Muslim refugees, a mall frequented by Muslims and Garden City’s African Community Center, investigators said. They decided on the W. Mary St. apartment complex in August, according to the complaint.

…Police in Liberal arrested Allen on Tuesday night after his girlfriend said he beat her, the charging documents showed. His car had ammo for an AR-15, an AK-47 and a Glock handgun, according to investigators.

Liberal police later found nearly a metric ton of ammo at Allen’s house, investigators said. FBI agents who searched G&G, where Allen worked for Wright, said they uncovered a detonator believed to be a homemade explosive and other bomb components…

Federal agents took custody of all three of them Friday morning. Allen, Wright and Stein face up to life in federal prison without parole if they’re convicted.

Throw away the key!

American coppers arrest more people for marijuana use than all violent crimes combined

On any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 men and women sit behind bars on simple drug possession charges, according to a report…by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. According to the report, most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime: They’re sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court which may be months or even years off, because they can’t afford to post bail.

“It’s been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared and it hasn’t been a success,” lead author Tess Borden of the Human Rights Watch said in an interview. “Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds we’re arresting someone for drug use.”

A significant number of those folks simply see no sense to criminalizing a vegetable less harmful than beer. They won’t arrange their recreational habits to please puritans and conservative politicians.

Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug possession rate has since fallen slightly, according to the FBI, hovering now around 400 arrests per 100,000 people…

“Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.”

In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.

The report finds that the laws are enforced unequally, too. Over their lifetimes, black and white Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates, according to federal data. But black adults were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be arrested for drug possession…

The report calls for decriminializing the personal use and possession of drugs, treating it as a public health matter instead of a criminal one.

That brings us, as usual, to participating in the demented political construction of our 2-party political trap. Yes, a great deal of how issues and progress is treated is crap. Unseemly dedication to superstition, cultural leftovers useless as your little toe dominate legislative debates.

But – the big “BUT” – is winning what you can, making life a little bit better for people, while still being clear in your own mind what goals should be pinned in the long-term portion of that meat machine inside your skull.

Whether you decide to participate or not, the real creeps, reactionaries who still don’t approve of anyone voting other than white males whose wealth is measured by property-holding – are going to be at it 24/7.

Do Not Resist!

Craig Atkinson’s documentary about police militarization, Do Not Resist, is filled with unsettling scenes like the one where a Swat team destroys a family’s home during a drug raid that nets small amounts of loose marijuana. But the most disturbing scene transpires during the relative placidity of a seminar when a hugely successful lecturer tells a room full of police officers: “We are at war and you are the frontline.

“What do you fight violence with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. Violence is your tool … You are men and women of violence.”

The speaker, Dave Grossman, is a retired army lieutenant colonel with a packed national speaking schedule. In the film, Grossman also promulgates the notion that one perk of violent encounters is that police often say that afterwards they have the best sex of their lives, which Atkinson, in an interview, sees as parallel to promising virgins to a suicide bomber.

Been part of my whole life, folks. Decades stepping forward from a factory town in New England, through every day of the civil rights movement, opposition to imperial war, confronting the greedy bastards who always, always, place profits before people.

Don’t get used to it. Hate it. Condemn it. Fight with every fiber of your being against those who are willing and ready to use a police state to shut down our freedom to think, to speak.

After coppers were given body cameras complaints fell 98%

❝ Cameras worn on police uniforms have been lauded as a possible solution to many of the problems facing officers in the line of duty, from violence against law enforcement to the unnecessary use of force. The US Department of Justice recently announced a plan to spend $20 million on body cameras for cops in 32 states.

❝ The cameras are controversial, as all surveillance technology tends to be. And until recently, there’s been little hard evidence about how effective body cameras actually are. According to new research from the University of Cambridge, which studied seven police forces in the US and the UK, the answer is that they are transformative in at least one way.

Researchers used complaints against police as a proxy for the effect of the cameras, hypothesizing that one major reason for complaints is that cops behaved in a negative, avoidable way…

Compared to the previous year when cameras were not worn, complaints across the seven regions fell by 98% over the 12 months of the experiment. The study encompassed nearly 1.5 million officer hours across more than 4,000 shifts…

❝ The theory is that cameras make police officers more accountable for their actions, because people tend to change their behavior when they believe they are being observed. At the same time, this also limits non-compliance from people with whom the police interact…

They also noted that there was a reduction in the amount of complaints against officers who didn’t wear cameras but were working in the same forces among those who did. The researchers called this “contagious accountability.” All officers were acutely aware of being observed more closely, whether they were wearing a camera or not.

Nothing new about the result. Folks often forget about the Hawthorne effect because it’s been decades since it was noted in the results of a number of experiments at one location. The Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois.

Knowing that is fun. The result is what’s important, however.

Saudi women file petition to end male guardianship — the fight never ends


❝ A petition signed by more than 14,000 Saudi women calling for an end to the country’s male guardianship system is being handed to the government.

Women must have the consent of a male guardian to travel abroad, and often need permission to work or study…

Activist Aziza Al-Yousef told the BBC she felt “very proud” of the campaign, but now needed a response.

❝ In the deeply conservative Islamic kingdom, a woman must have permission from her father, brother or other male relative – in the case of a widow, sometimes her son – to obtain a passport, marry or leave the country.

Many workplaces and universities also demand a guardian’s consent for female employees and students, although it is not legally required…

Renting a flat, undergoing hospital treatment or filing a legal claim often also require a male guardian’s permission, and there is very little recourse for women whose guardians abuse them or severely limit their freedom.

❝ In July, an Arabic Twitter hashtag which translates as “Saudi women want to abolish the guardianship system” went viral after a Human Rights Watch report was published on the issue. Saudi women tweeted comments, videos and artwork calling for change. Bracelets saying “I Am My Own Guardian” appeared.

❝ The women counted on the petition all gave their full names, though more signed anonymously. Hundreds of women – one estimate suggests as many as 2,500 – bombarded the Saudi King’s office over the weekend with telegrams containing personal messages backing the campaign.

Human Rights Watch researcher Kristine Beckerle, who worked on the report, described the response as “incredible and unprecedented”.

❝ Ms Yousef, who was stopped by police in 2013 for breaking the country’s ban on women driving, said she did not expect any negative consequences from the petition: “I’m not worried, I’m not doing anything wrong,” she said.

She and another activist took the petition to the Royal Court in person on Monday, but were advised to send it by mail…

“In every aspect, the important issue is to treat a woman as a full citizen,” she said.

Might be nice if some of our prominent citizens get on board this Freedom Train.

The evidence is clear: film police confrontations! Always. Every time.

❝ Video won’t solve everything, but it sure seems effective at holding cops accountable.

With first-degree manslaughter charges filed against the Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, there is now a clear, recurring theme in police shooting cases: Video — whether from a body, cellphone, or dashboard camera — truly works for holding police accountable.

❝ Now, video doesn’t always work perfectly. There are still issues with how the public can access video maintained by the police — like in North Carolina, where police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, but have so far refused to release video of the shooting. And there are valid concerns surrounding privacy, how and when officers can turn cameras on, cases where cameras don’t work or aren’t at the right angle, and more.

❝ But when the camera is on, the public can see the situation unfold, and investigators can examine the video as evidence, there have now been multiple cases in which the video seemingly led to charges against a police officer — a real attempt to hold cops accountable for wrongdoing.

Time and time again, the video won the day. In the past, the public and prosecutors would have had to rely on a police officer’s account and maybe some eyewitnesses’ testimony to decide whether a shooting was justified — and almost always side with police in such cases, because the public by and large saw cops as trustworthy. Now, we have video to show just how dishonest police can be after they kill someone.

Still, these are charges. The police officers involved in these shootings will still need to go to trial and be convicted before they’re truly punished for the shootings…

❝ The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project analyzed 3,238 criminal cases against police officers from April 2009 through December 2010. They found that only 33 percent were convicted, and only 36 percent of officers who were convicted ended up serving prison sentences. Both of those are about half the rate at which members of the public are convicted or incarcerated.

❝ But video evidence has proliferated over the past few years, thanks to cameras on mobile devices and more police departments adopting body cameras and dashboard cameras. Video managed to lead to charges in cases where there likely wouldn’t have been charges before. Maybe it will lead to convictions where there wouldn’t have been convictions before…

Still, the charges are, by themselves, important. They signal to police that prosecutors and the public are more serious about holding them accountable.

Police misconduct against minority communities is the rule rather than the exception. Anyone who has lived on those streets knows who rules – and the rules of law and equal rights do not apply. Easy access to video technology is slowly proving that point to the larger community of Americans.

If I’m sitting and chatting with another geek about mobile phones one of the first things I let them know about is the ACLU mobile justice project. How to load an app on their cellphone that instantly communicates to a protected server via cloud and cell services. Record that video! It’s safe even if someone in a blue uniform decides to confiscate and destroy your phone.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz