Tag Archives: police brutality

5 Startling Numbers Reveal the Militarization of U.S. Drug Policy

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The number of Americans that die each year due to violent crime caused by the drug war

This average death toll of Americans murdered in drug-related crimes is higher than the annual fatality rate of US soldiers in either the Afghanistan or Iraq war. In fact, according to an analytical study of FBI crime statistics, the Vietnam War is the only conflict in the past half-century that has been deadlier for Americans. Disturbingly, this figure doesn’t even take into account the numerous individuals who have been killed by law enforcement in drug-related raids.

$51 billion – The amount that the U.S. government spends each year on the war on drugs

This huge figure, which is $5 billion more than the average annual expenditure on the Afghanistan War, is primarily allocated to arming and training the increasingly militarised law enforcement.  According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), weaponry held by US counter-narcotic agencies for use against American drug suspects includes flashbang grenades, sniper rifles, and submachine guns. There is also an increased prevalence of drug-targeting SWAT teams using armoured personnel carriers – vehicles that were originally created to “transport infantry and provide protection from shrapnel and small arms fire on the battlefield.”

61 percent – The percentage of individuals targeted by drug-related SWAT raids who are people of color

The ACLU investigated the impact rates of SWAT teams in sixteen counties around the US, and in every single one, people of color were disproportionately targeted. In Allentown, PA, Latinos were 29 times more likely than white people to endure a SWAT raid, while Blacks in Burlington, NC, were 47 times more likely than whites to face this violence. This bias treatment is ongoing despite the rates of drug use and selling being comparable across racial lines.

18 months – The age of Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, a recent American casualty of the drug war

On May 28, a team of police officers raided the Phonesavanh’s home, with the mistaken belief that the residents were involved with drugs. As they entered, they tossed a flashbang grenade that landed directly in the crib of baby Bou Bou, which exploded within point-blank range – critically injuring him. In  a harrowing article, his mother, Alecia, described seeing “a singed crib” and “a pool of blood”, and later being informed by medics of the “hole in his chest that exposes his ribs.” Alecia said that the sole silver lining to this story is that it may “make us angry enough that we stop accepting brutal SWAT raids as a normal way to fight the war on drugs.” Fortunately, Bou Bou has been making a gradual recovery, but his family is  relying on donations to support their living and medical costs.

82 percent – The number of Americans who believe that the government is losing the War on Drugs

American polling company, Rasmussen,  reported this staggering statistic, which contrasts considerably with the miniscule four percent who believe that the drug war has been successful. Despite the inordinate human and financial cost of the war on drugs, and its lack of success in quelling drug use or trafficking, Republican and Democrat leaders continue to express anti-democratic defiance as they ignore the will of the people and perpetuate the drug war’s inhumanity.

This article first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/5-startling-numbers-reveal-militarization-us-drug-policy

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Judge Rules Police Illegally Detained Couple in San Diego Parking Lot & Led To Ugly Incident

SAN DIEGO – A police mistake turned a lunch date into a nightmare for a local couple, and a judge ruled officers illegally detained them.

“I was hurt. I was confused. I didn’t know what was going on,” said Dante Harrell.

For Harrell, that March day in 2010 began as a day of relaxation. He, his fiancee Shannon Robinson and a friend were headed to brunch in City Heights.

After they pulled into the restaurant, a San Diego police patrol car, right behind them, parked and blocked a potential exit.

Harrell said one of the officers approached them, admitted to typing in the wrong letter during a routine license plate check, but wanted to check them out anyway.

Harrell said after repeated questioning and about 15 minutes of waiting, he asked Robinson to call 911 to ask for a supervisor because something didn’t feel right.

He said he heard one officer says this: “He says, ‘They’re on the phone with our supervisor. Isn’t that childish? I’m about to OC them.”

“OC” is another word for pepper spray.

Harrell said he held on to his fiancee as he was pepper sprayed and then tasered repeatedly, before he and Robinson were dragged out of the car.

In a civil ruling, a judge decided the couple was illegally detained and Robinson was unlawfully arrested.

Attorney Julia Yoo, who represents Harrell and Robinson, said, “They didn’t have a right to continue that stop. Once you realize you’ve made a mistake and pulled over innocent people, you don’t have a right to further interrogate them. It’s unconstitutional. This needs to be stopped, because it could happen to anybody.”

Harrell, a barber, said he suffers from weakness in his hands from the incident. He also said stress related to the incident led to a break-up with Robinson.

“I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Our neighborhoods need to feel safe with their officers. We just came to eat that day, and the people we expected to protect us are hurting us,” said Harrell.

In September, a jury will decide whether the police officers used excessive force.

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office declined comment.

The two officers involved, Officers Ariel Savage and Daniel McLain, remain on the force and both have served for eight years. One is accused of false arrest in another civil lawsuit.

http://www.10news.com/news/judge-police-illegally-detained-couple-061313

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Cleveland Punishes 12 Officers in Deadly Chase Involving 62 Police Vehicles and 115 Officers & 2 Unarmed Suspects

DUI CONVICTION DOESN'T REQUIRE IMPAIRMENT

Cleveland Punishes 12 Officers in Deadly Chase Involving 62 Police Vehicles and 115 Officers & 2 Unarmed Suspects

Cleveland’s police chief said one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine were suspended for their roles in a November chase in which officers fired 137 shots and killed a fleeing driver and his passenger.
CLEVELAND — Cleveland police fired a sergeant and meted out demotions and suspensions Tuesday for a car chase last year that involved five dozen cruisers, 137 rounds of ammunition fired by 13 officers, and the death of two people who, it turned out, were probably unarmed.A captain and lieutenant were demoted, and nine sergeants got suspensions ranging from one day to 30 days. They and the fired sergeant will appeal their punishment, according to Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8, which represents police supervisors.

Dozens of cruisers became involved in the chase without permission from superiors and with little direction, according to a state report released earlier in the year. The episode damaged the department’s relationship with residents and must be repaired, Chief Michael McGrath said at a news conference Tuesday.

“That means we have to work a little harder on our end,” he said.

In March, the U.S. Justice Department said it was opening a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the use of force by Cleveland police, looking beyond the chase to analyze several years of excessive force claims and police policies, training and procedures.

But the upheaval from the Nov. 29 chase alone is likely to spread through the ranks. More than 100 patrol-level officers involved in some way face disciplinary hearings beginning in July.

And 13 officers who fired their weapons as the chase ended in a blocked-off school parking lot in East Cleveland face a county grand jury investigating possible criminal wrongdoing.

The chase began around 10:30 p.m. when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police and courts complex in downtown Cleveland. A parking lot attendant thought it might have been a car backfire, a theory endorsed by the driver’s family.

The officer jumped into his patrol car, made a U-turn and radioed for help.

The chase went through crowded residential neighborhoods, then reversed course, headed east onto busy Interstate 90 and through parts of Cleveland, and eventually into East Cleveland.

Then the gunfire erupted, 137 rounds. Driver Timothy Russell, 43, was shot 23 times and passenger Malissa Williams, 30, was shot 24 times.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath answers questions during a news conference Tuesday in Cleveland.AP Photo: Tony Dejak. McGrath said one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine were suspended for their roles in a November chase in which officers fired 137 shots and killed a fleeing driver and his passenger.

The union has said the shootings were justified because the driver tried to ram an officer. No weapon or shell casings were found in the fleeing car.

Of the 276 officers on duty that evening, 104 were involved in some way in the chase. Sixty police cars were involved.

Police don’t know why Russell didn’t stop. Russell had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction.

Mayor Frank Jackson, trying to defuse complaints that the deaths were racially motivated executions by police, promised to punish officers who operated “outside the box” of police procedures.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in February the chase resulted from leadership failures. “Command failed, communications failed, the system failed,” DeWine said.

A state report noted the driver was legally drunk when he became involved in the chase, and both people in the car tested positive for cocaine. DeWine said they likely had been smoking crack.

Many of the officers who became involved told investigators they were frightened and feared for their lives, the state report said.

The sergeant dismissed Tuesday, Michael Donegan, briefly participated in the chase last November but pulled off, parked his patrol car and failed to supervise his officers, police officials said.

Donegan could not immediately be reached for comment. A message seeking comment was left at a home phone listing.

Charges against the demoted officers and the suspended sergeants included failing to supervise officers under their command or being unaware that officers were involved in the cross-city pursuit.

Lt. Brian Betley, president of FOP Lodge 8, called the disciplinary actions heavy-handed and the dismissal extreme. Betley said dismissal usually is reserved for drug use or drinking on the job or criminal wrongdoing.

One suspended sergeant could face harsher punishment. The chief sent the case to the city safety director, who has broader disciplinary powers. The sergeant will get a new hearing, Betley said.

Paul Cristallo, an attorney for Russell’s family, said after the disciplinary actions were announced that it was naive to think Russell stopping his car would have guaranteed a good outcome.

“I just think that’s unrealistic. I think that’s unreasonable. They were fleeing for their lives,” Cristallo said. He declined to comment directly on the disciplinary actions.

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