Tag Archive: Obama

The Dystopian Danger of Police Body Cameras

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

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”

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

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…)