Tag Archive: Obama

The Dystopian Danger of Police Body Cameras

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From Common Dreams/ By Rachel Levinson-Waldman

Police-worn body cameras are the newest darling of criminal justice reform. They are touted as a way to collect evidence for criminal investigations, oversee and expose abusive police practices, and exonerate officers from fabricated charges. While the nation continues to debate how effective these body cameras are for police departments, less attention has been paid to the appearance of body cameras in other public sectors, most recently in our schools.

Since Michael Brown was shot by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department last summer, at least 16 cities have introduced body camera programs. In the past month alone, at least seven cities have begun studying, initiated, or expanded body camera programs. President Obama has asked Congress to allocate $75 million for technology and training in body-worn cameras, and the Department of Justice recently provided the first $20 million in grants.

As these programs began to proliferate, schools took notice. In Houston, Texas, 25 school officers have started wearing body cameras in a pilot program, and the school district plans to expand the program to all 210 members of the force.

An Iowa school district has even taken this initiative one step further, buying cameras for principals and assistant principals to wear while interacting with students and parents. While the administrator overseeing the program has said the cameras are not intended to monitor every activity, he expressed the hope that any complaint could be investigated through body camera footage, suggesting that principals would need to record early and often. (more…)

Mass Incarceration and Bipartisan Unity: An Anarchist Perspective

BlackMenMassIncarceration

From The Agency/ By Kristina Khan

As momentum builds behind the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, I begin to wonder how much time and energy will be pulled away from the revolutionary anti-racist work of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and funnel instead into the fervent campaigning of Democratic candidates. Within the horrific, seemingly endless loss of Black lives, there has erupted a new era of racial justice work, much of it surprisingly and wonderfully radical in nature. Entire communities are calling for localized conflict resolution, the dismantling of institutional white supremacy, and even the abolition of police and prisons.

Democratic presidential nominees are very clearly aware of the power of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and are taking advantage of this momentum to build their platforms and gain votes. And as I correctly predict every election season, I dread that many people around me will fall for the illusion of a better future through the election of so-and-so only to be disappointed just months after inauguration day. In my current work as an anarchist in the small town of Champaign, Illinois, I organize with several other committed people against jail expansion – a local manifestation of institutional racism. As election season nears I am beginning to grow anxious about what direction our group will take.

Just two days after Freddie Gray’s funeral, Hilary Clinton gave a speech in New York where she called for an end to mass incarceration. Clinton, a Democrat who once called for more prisons in the 1990s now joins the growing list of politicians and corporate thugs who are suddenly concerned with the U.S. prison population. Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Mark Holden (senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress, President Obama and many others are all apparently very concerned with the prison industrial complex or at least that’s what they have been saying; and they’re all willing to come together in unity to fix the problem. If you look more closely, however, you will find that many of these “advocates” have supported, both politically and financially, policies and people who are directly responsible for the United States achieving the highest incarceration rate in the world. (more…)

After Obama Clemencies, Activists Question Scope of Bipartisan Prison “Reform”

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From Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

On July 13, President Barack Obama granted commutations to 46 people, including 13 serving life sentences, in federal prisons for nonviolent drug offenses. More than 35,000 people, or 17 percent of the federal prison population, have applied for early release since his administration announced its Clemency Project for people in federal prisons for nonviolent drug offenses in 2014.

“We’re at a moment where some good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and folks across the country, are coming together around ideas to make the system work smarter, make it work better,” the president said in a Facebook video posted July 13.

Less than three weeks earlier, on June 25, 2015, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective (SAFE) Justice Act. The bill calls for allowing sentence reductions for federal drug war prisoners, a move which could potentially affect half of the current federal prison population.

The latest in bipartisan criminal legal reforms, the act has been championed by organizations from the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union to the Koch brothers, the Police Foundation and Right on Crime. But, notes Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which also supports the act, “The bill does not repeal any federal mandatory minimum sentences or reduce drug mandatory minimum sentences across the board, but instead limits the application of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences to the highest-level offenders, as Congress originally intended.” (more…)

How Police Body Cameras Were Designed to Get Cops Off the Hook

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From GIZMODO

In the wake of protests over police violence against black men, many civil rights activists are calling for a high-tech solution: strapping wearable body cameras to cops. The idea is to hold police accountable for unnecessary violence. But the history of police body cams reveals that the devices have often had the opposite effect.

On the afternoon of March 1st, a band of Los Angeles Police shot a homeless man. Video of the incident was captured by both a witness armed with a cell phone, and by body cameras strapped to the officers. Despite the evidence, what actually happened on Skid Row before police shot Charly Keunang remains a matter of dispute. How it went down depends on who you ask — and, more importantly, on whose video you’re watching.

The civilian shot video from a short distance away, and the footage shows officers circling Keunang before a physical struggle erupts. Keunang is thrown to the ground. Officers struggle to contain him. He’s resisting but subdued. He’s not going anywhere but he hasn’t been cuffed. Then after some yelling, three officers open fire. (more…)

Obama’s Police Reforms Ignore the Most Important Cause of Police Misconduct

police_scary_ap_imgThese well-meaning changes will simply reproduce racial inequality.

From The Nation/ By Alex S. Vitale

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has released a long list of reforms to American policing, some of which, including independent police prosecutions and dramatically scaling back the role of police in schools, are true advancements. However, there are also major pitfalls in the report’s reliance on procedural rather than substantive justice.

Liberal police reforms of the 1960s, including the Katzenback Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and Johnson’s Safe Streets Act, were intended to achieve similar ends of improving police community relations and reducing police brutality through police professionalization and a host of procedural reforms. The result of this process, however, was the massive expansion of policing in the form of SWAT teams, the War on Drugs and, ultimately, mass incarceration.

Princeton political scientist Naomi Murakawa, in her book The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, details how the liberal assessment of the problems of race failed to take seriously the role of racial domination in the structuring of the criminal-justice system. Instead, they focused on the need to create a criminal-justice system that was more professional and less arbitrary in its meting out of punishment against people of color. Embedded in this approach was the misconception that the negative attitudes of blacks about the police were based on a combination of poorly trained and biased officers on the one hand and exaggerated feelings of mistrust by African-Americans, derived from their social and political isolation, on the other. (more…)

Police “Reforms” You Should Always Oppose…

1-caution-police-stateFrom US Prison Culture

I read today that President Obama has offered some measures for ‘reforming’ the police.

Here is a simple guide for evaluating any suggested ‘reforms’ of U.S. policing in this historical moment.

1. Are the proposed reforms allocating more money to the police? If yes, then you should oppose them.
2. Are the proposed reforms advocating for MORE police and policing (under euphemistic terms like community policing run out of regular police districts)? If yes, then you should oppose them.
3. Are the proposed reforms primarily technology-focused? If yes, then you should oppose them because:
a. It means more money to the police.
b. Said technology is more likely to be turned against the public than it is to be used against cops.
c. Police violence won’t end through technological advances (no matter what someone is selling you).
4. Are the proposed ‘reforms’ focused on individual dialogues with individual cops? And will these ‘dialogues’ be funded with tax dollars? I am never against dialogue. It’s good to talk with people. These conversations, however, should not be funded by tax payer money. That money is better spent elsewhere. Additionally, violence is endemic to U.S. policing itself. There are some nice individual people who work in police departments. I’ve met some of them. But individual dialogue projects reinforce the “bad apples” theory of oppressive policing. This is not a problem of individually terrible officers rather it is a problem of a corrupt and oppressive policing system built on controlling & managing the marginalized while protecting property.

What ‘reforms’ should you support (in the interim) then? (more…)

Police Violence Is Not A Problem Because Of Its Invisibility

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Officers wearing riot gear walk through a park in downtown St. Louis on Sunday.

From Ben Brucato

For months, in response to the killing of Michael Brown, Ferguson and Saint Louis have been sites of ongoing rebellion, with frequent actions of solidarity throughout the United States. Last week, after a grand jury declined to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, Officer Darren Wilson, protests erupted across the country.

In response, today US President Obama proposed a national program to outfit 50,000 police officers with body-worn cameras. Many, including Michael Brown’s family, advocate in favor of wearable cameras for police. Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange.org wrote today that, “If what happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson had been captured on video, we would not be here today—and Michael Brown might be alive.” This advocacy is predicated on the idea that police violence is a problem because it remains hidden.

For most of a century, police studies have operated under the idea that policing’s most crucial function—the use of force in the production of social order—is something that occurs outside of the public view. In their influential book, Above The Law, Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe explained this hidden quality of policing has historically been a defining one, but that it was changed with the video recorded beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers.

Policing’s new visibility, as John B. Thompson calls it, is a consequence of surveillance that is rapidly approaching ubiquity. An institution once defined by operating outside of public view is now on exhibition as a result of cameras. Not only are private and government security cameras capturing many spaces—public and private alike—on video, but dash-mounted cameras in police cruisers and weapon-mounted cameras have produced a kind of self-surveillance (in addition to their primary intended functions of gathering evidence to criminally implicate civilians). On-officer wearable cameras, first developed by Taser, were developed from earlier stun-gun cameras (which, captured the moments before Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was shot and killed by police in White Plains, NY).

If we believe police violence is a problem as a result of it being hidden from public view, we should expect to see a crisis in the police institution over the past two decades since the beating of Rodney King. As Skolnick and Fyfe wrote, “in the absence of videotapes or other objective recording of gratuitous violence, brutality rarely causes public controversy and is extremely difficult to prove.” But as I wrote last week, police violence appears to be on the rise in the presence of this new visibility. As much as we might hope for a simple, technological fix to the problem of police violence, more cameras are not the answer. (more…)

FERGUSON: CHRONICLE OF AN INSURRECTION

From SubMedia

An in depth look at the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri following the police murder of Michael Brown, a black teenager. Also features an exclusive interview with former Black Panther, Ashanti Alston, about the state of black “America”, abolishing penile power and taking care of your peeps in the muthafuckin resistance.

More analysis on the Ferguson insurrection here.

“It’s the End of the World as we know it and I feel fine” or ITEOFTWAWKIAIFF, is a fowl mouthed, satirical and irreverent news show that aims to celebrate global resistance movements, radical music and anarchist rabble rousers. Hosted by The Stimulator, ITEOFTWAWKIAIFF has been running since 2006, and is watched by thousands of fans around the world. Once again the show is filled with expletives, so if the word fuck offends you, don’t watch this show!

The US government doesn’t want you to know how the cops are tracking you

stopitFrom The Guardian

All across America, from Florida to Colorado and back again, the country’s increasingly militarized local police forces are using a secretive technology to vacuum up cellphone data from entire neighborhoods – including from people inside their own homes – almost always without a warrant. This week, numerous investigations by major news agencies revealed the US government is now taking unbelievable measures to make sure you never find out about it. But a landmark court ruling for privacy could soon force the cops to stop, even as the Obama administration fights to keep its latest tool for mass surveillance a secret.

So-called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers – more often called their popular brand name, “Stingray” – have long been the talk of the civil liberties crowd, for the indiscriminate and invasive way these roving devices conduct surveillance. Essentially, Stingrays act as fake cellphone towers (usually mounted in a mobile police truck) that police can point toward any given area and force every phone in the area to connect to it. So even if you’re not making a call, police can find out who you’ve been calling, and for how long, as well as your precise location. As Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU explained on Thursday, “In one Florida case, a police officer explained in court that he ‘quite literally stood in front of every door and window’ with his stingray to track the phones inside a large apartment complex.”

Yet these mass surveillance devices have largely stayed out of the public eye, thanks to the federal government and local police refusing to disclose they’re using them in the first place – sometimes, shockingly, even to judges. As the Associated Press reported this week, the Obama administration has been telling local cops to keep information on Stingrays secret from members of the news media, even when it seems like local public records laws would mandate their disclosure. The AP noted: (more…)

ICE Raids Durham Home: Free Hugo Now!

From Dream Activisthugo2

On December 23, 2013, ICE agents raided the home of Hugo Leonel. Despite pleas from his children to ICE agents, Hugo Leonel was taken into custody and is currently being held at Stewart Detention Center.

In early 2013, Hugo Leonel was charged with a DWI. Being his first offense, Hugo Leonel was released under bond. In compliance with his sentence, he completed community service hours and an alcohol treatment program. So why is he detained?

HUGO LEONEL IS SET TO BE DEPORTED ON TUESDAY NIGHT!

Help get Hugo Leonel released and his deportation stopped by making a phone call and signing the petition!

TAKE ACTION – MAKE A CALL:

Call Atlanta ICE @ (404) 893-1210
Call DC ICE @ (202) 732-3000 or (202) 732-3100

Sample Script
: “Hi, I am calling to ask for the release of Hugo Leonel Perez (A# 077-665-965) from Stewart Detention Center. Hugo Leonel has been living in the U.S. for 8 years. He came from Guatemala to reunite with his family. His U.S. citizen son, Rhodinson, needs him home. Please don’t separate Rhodinson from his dad! Release Hugo Leonel now!”