Tag Archive: police murder

Put Down Your Phone And Save My Black Life

Paul Lachine illustration

From Hartford Courant / By Frank Harris III

I was thinking about Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and other blacks across the country killed by police. I was thinking about their images posted on YouTube for the world to see. I was thinking about how I don’t want to be like them.

See, I survived police interactions that could have gone bad at ages 13, 16, 18, 19 and 57.

I am now 58 and despite my advancing maturity, I have long understood there is no age-related statute of limitations on being a black male in America. I have also come to understand that many in this country believe that whipping out their smartphone to record these “incidents” is the ultimate fulfillment of their civic, if not humane, duty. (more…)

A Statement from a Comrade and Baltimore Native About the Uprising There

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From SIC

Im heading home in two days.

There is something very important happening not only in Baltimore, but across black America. As of now there have been no reported deaths at the hands of protesters in a city where 250 people are killed a year, nearly all of those homicide victims being black. In spite of the fires and the looting, the young people of Baltimore are still showing a greater restraint in their conflicts with police and store-owners than they have shown in their conflicts amongst each other. I say this because for years it has been my family too that has done some of the killing and much of the dying.

Why is it that the current uprising has, in spite of its violence, not tilted toward a shooting war between whites and blacks, cops and kids, landlords and tenants, bosses and workers, given the fact that the shooting war between young black men across the region is invariant? Because young black people still value the lives of their structural enemies more than they value their own. The engineering of what is possibly the most efficient self-cannibalizing social organism in history – the nightly shootouts, the stabbings, the overdoses – is a project that has been centuries in the making.

The black youth of Baltimore have been conditioned to view themselves as the problem. Every socio-economic issue that arises is somehow the result of their behavior. They hear this not only from the white cops, the filipina teachers, the korean liquor store owners, but also from too many of the blacks who attended Coppin or Morgan and secured decent jobs and decided that the reason the police still profile them, or their home values dont rise, or they didnt get that pay raise, is because “the niggas” moved out the county, or they are still robbing each other, or they make “the rest of us” look bad. (more…)

Nonviolence as Compliance

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Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.

From The Atlantic/ By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

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We must disband the police: Body cameras aren’t enough — only radical change will stop cops who kill

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The courts, the media, and the political system are designed to back killer cops. Only radical change will work

From Salon/ By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER

After Michael Slager gunned down Walter Scott in a North Charleston park, a deafening chorus of voices has emerged, insisting that “the system worked.” And they are right. The system did work, just not in the way that they mean.

The system didn’t only begin to work when the video of the shooting emerged days later: it went into motion immediately. The system began to work when Slager cuffed a dying man and then ran (ran!) back to grab his alibi, the Taser he would then plant near Scott’s failing body (as some have noticed, Slager did so in an eminently practiced way).

The machinery continued to whirr smoothly as the second officer on the scene—Clarence Habersham, who is Black—ignored the planted evidence, raised no questions, and did not administer CPR. Habersham insisted that he immediately applied pressure to Scott’s wounds, but recently synched audio suggests that he was instead counting the bullet holes in a still-dying man. Multiracial policing, after all, is still just policing. (more…)

Everything The Police Said About Walter Scott’s Death Before A Video Showed What Really Happened

south carolinaFrom Think Progress

On Tuesday, South Carolina police officer Michael Thomas Slager was charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott. Charges against South Carolina police officers for shooting someone are extremely rare. But what was particularly remarkable in this case was, for at least two days, Slager was apparently unaware that video of the entire incident existed.

This provides a unique opportunity to observe how one police officer sought to avoid accountability for his actions.

Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events. He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott.

Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened.

On Saturday the police released a statement alleging that Scott had attempted to gain control of a Taser from Slager and that he was shot in a struggle over the weapon. (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…)

Record 346 inmates die, dozens of guards fired in Florida prisons

Jerry Washington (left); Latandra Ellington (middle); Randall Jordan-Aparo (right). All died in prisons at the hands of guards in the most unjust ways imaginable.

Jerry Washington (left); Latandra Ellington (middle); Randall Jordan-Aparo (right). All died in prisons at the hands of guards in the most unjust ways imaginable.

From Daily Kos

The United States has a prison crisis of epic proportions. With just five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the United States has, far and away, the highest incarceration rate, the largest number of prisoners, and the largest percentage of citizens with a criminal record of any country in the world.The highly respected Prison Policy Initiative breaks it down:

The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, our rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although our level of crime is comparable to those of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the United States has an incarceration rate far higher than any other country.Nearly all of the countries with relatively high incarceration rates share the experience of recent large-scale internal conflict. But the United States, which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in nearly a century and a half, tops the list.

If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.

Now, what we are learning is that the United States is not just imprisoning people at an outrageous pace, but that men and women are dying in these prisons at all-time highs, often at the hands of guards, in the most awful and brutal ways imaginable. The state of Florida, it appears, is ground zero for the deaths of prisoners, and the crisis is so deeply corrupt and out of hand that it needs immediate national intervention.In 2014, Florida recorded at least 346 deaths inside of their prison system, an all-time high for the state in spite of the fact that its overall prison population has hovered around 100,000 people for the five previous years. Hundreds of these deaths from 2014 and from previous years are now under investigation by the DOJ because of the almost unimaginable role law enforcement officers are playing in them.

Below the fold I will highlight some of the most egregious stories.

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Prison worker dismissed for inmate’s death has new position

michael_kerr_webFrom The Indy

At least one North Carolina prison official who lost his job following the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr has a new position in the Department of Public Safety.

DPS spokeswoman Pam Walker confirmed this week that John Monguillot, the former assistant director of mental health in the prison system’s western region, received a demotion after Kerr’s death. He is now the psychological services coordinator at Marion Correctional Institution in western North Carolina, where he oversees mental health services at the facility.

As a result, Monguillot’s annual salary dropped from $93,786 to just under $80,000. Walker did not offer any additional comment on Monguillot’s demotion. (more…)

Prison captain fired over inmate death wants job back

kerrFrom WRAL

A corrections captain fired earlier this year after a mentally ill inmate died of thirst appeared in court this week to fight for his job.

Shawn Blackburn, formerly a captain at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, N.C., was dismissed for “grossly inefficient” job performance in April amid an investigation into the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr. Correction officials found Kerr dead in the back of a van March 12 after the inmate was transferred from Alexander to Central Prison in Raleigh. The state medical examiner later found Kerr died of dehydration.

The former captain is one of at least nine Alexander employees fired in the wake of Kerr’s death. At least two others resigned, and the N.C. Department of Public Safety says close to 30 people have been disciplined or demoted in some form. Like Blackburn, many are appealing their dismissals.

Although the hearing is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in a courtroom environment, it is not a trial. Rather, Blackburn was making the case he should not have been fired for Kerr’s death. Others investigating the matter for possible criminal conduct include a federal grand jury and the State Bureau of Investigation, which is overseen by the same administrative department as the prison system.

Corrections officials say Blackburn violated policy and demonstrated poor judgment when he left Kerr, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder, confined in handcuffs for five days in solitary confinement, where the inmate had been segregated for more than a month.

“Yes he was an inmate, but he was a human being,” Assistant Attorney General Tamika Henderson, arguing for the state, said. “It comes down to fact that while in control of the Department of Public Safety, a man died after being handcuffed for five days in a segregation cell sitting in his own urine and feces.” (more…)

NC inmate’s death shows need for prison review

kerrFrom News and Observer

When a convict goes to prison, he loses his freedom, but he does not lose his humanity. And he should not lose his life.

Michael Anthony Kerr lost all. The 53-year-old former Army sergeant who had a mental illness died March 12 while being transported from the Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to Central Prison in Raleigh. He was being taken to Raleigh for medical treatment after spending his last five days in solitary confinement, handcuffed and lying unresponsive in his own waste.

Kerr’s sister, Brenda Liles, who had taken her concerns about her brother’s well-being to top prison officials, said, “They treated him like a dog.”

Now the state Department of Public Safety is treating the public like Kerr’s death is none of its business. The department gave minimal assistance to the medical examiner doing the autopsy, and Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry has declined to discuss the facts of the case . (more…)