Category: police corruption

Michelle Alexander: Why Police Lie Under Oath

Tom Coleman receives Texas Lawman of the year award from John Cornyn

By Alan Bean

Michelle Alexander says police officers lie under oath because people are desperate to believe them.  There is only one oblique reference to Tulia, Texas in this opinion piece, but I can’t hear the phrase “lying police officer” without thinking about Tom Coleman, the gentleman receiving the Texas Lawman of the year award in the picture to the left.  Everybody was prepared to believe every word that proceeded from the mouth of this man.

Friends of Justice was organized by a ragtag collection of Tulia residents who were convinced Coleman was lying.  We couldn’t prove it to a scientific certainty.  But, as Judge Ron Chapman ruled four years after our fight began, the man was simply not credible under oath.  A close look at the facts made that patently clear.

But nobody wanted to look at the facts.

Why were so many people willing to bet the farm on Coleman’s truthfulness?  In this opinion piece written for the New York Times, Michelle Alexander provides some disturbing answers.

Why Police Lie Under Oath

By MICHELLE ALEXANDER

THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.” (more…)

New York activist arrested for protesting “stop and frisk” policing

I met Jazz Hayden, the subject of this story, the same way Sharon Kyle met him, and in precisely the same company.  The only difference was that I met Jazz in Chicago instead of LA.  In other words, this story is kind of personal.  Hayden, a reformed criminal with a record as long as your arm, understands the dynamics of what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow” from the inside out.  Recently, his efforts to undermine the NYPD’s infamous “stop and frisk” style of policing, Jazz took to photographing officers in action.  They didn’t like having their picture taken, and now Jazz faces criminal charges that could place him back in prison.  Please read this account and join me in signing the Change.org petition at the bottom of the story.

iStock 000011299509Small 300x199 Stop and Frisk Citizen JournalistsStop-and-Frisk Citizen Journalists

In November of 2011 Dick and I attended an event in south Los Angeles where we met three friends face to face for the first time. Even though we were meeting for the first time in persom, I characterize them as “friends” because  we established a bond online as we all worked to support the work of Michelle Alexander.  All three live in New York and all three are progressive activists. When we learned that they’d be attending a conference in Los Angeles, Dick and I extended an invitation to have them come to our home in Mt. Washington for dinner during one of the evenings they were here in town. (more…)

9 Police Departments With Corrupt Pasts

By Hazel Taylor

This piece was originally published on onlineclasses.org.

If you want to learn more about the history of your city, explore the history of corruption within the city’s police department. Police corruption, which can include kickbacks, shakedowns, and protection of or even direct participation in illegal activities, has been around since the creation of the country’s first police force. Initially, the police were not asked to “serve and protect,” but to mediate between criminal and political kingpins as they fought each other for power. Some may say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. But perhaps understanding the history of city and police corruption can help to provide the vision and leadership for a better future. Here are nine police departments with well-documented corrupt pasts.

  1. New York Police Department

    Since its establishment in 1844, corruption has been a fact of police life in New York City. From the very beginning, New York’s underpaid and overworked police officers were expected to serve the needs of the city’s political leaders while collecting money from gang leaders, gamblers, and pimps for the privilege of operating relatively unmolested. Back in 1895, officer Alexander S. Williams, took advantage of his appointment as captain of the city’s 21st Precinct, which included the Tenderloin and Gas House districts, to collect money from criminals, including the madams of several brothels, and make a fortune as a result. Williams, who earned his nickname “Clubber,” once said, “There is more law in the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.” After investigation by two committees, Williams resigned, went into the insurance business, and died a multimillionaire. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

  2. New Orleans Police Department

    New Orleans Mayor Landrieu released a hopeful, conciliatory statement in the wake of the sentencing of five New Orleans police officers to several years in prison for their roles in shooting unarmed citizens in the chaotic days that followed Hurricane Katrina. “We now have an opportunity to turn the page and to heal,” Landrieu said. “It is my commitment to the people of New Orleans to rebuild and reform the NOPD.” The first police force in the then-French New Orleans was established in 1803, only to be disbanded due to countless complaints from civilians. Given the history of the NOPD, Landrieu definitely has his work cut out for him.

  3. Chicago Police Department

    By the end of the 19th century, the city of Chicago enjoyed the dubious reputation of being a haven for “dangerous classes;” a city that was more like an out-of-control frontier town “with an absence of moral virtue.” The Chicago Police department went without large-scale reform until 1960 when eight police officers from the city’s North Side or Summerdale district were charged with running a large-scale burglary ring. Known as the Summerdale Scandal, the case generated unprecedented media attention, and prompted the creation of a much-needed police superintendent role to oversee and enforce rules and regulations within the department.

  4. Los Angeles Police Department

    The 1951 Bloody Christmas Scandal, a real-life scandal that appears in author James Ellroy’s book L.A. Confidential and its film version, involved as many as 50, mostly drunk, police officers who took time out from a Christmas party to beat six prisoners for more than 90 minutes. Since more than 100 people either witnessed or knew of the beatings, the incident became public, and prompted the city’s Mexican community to come forward with more charges of police brutality against citizens. In 1952, a grand jury succeeded in convicting only five of the officers involved, and none of them received a sentence amounting to more than a year in prison. And then there was the Rampart scandal and theRodney King beating.

  1. Miami Police Department

    Miami in the ’80s experienced an “epidemic” of police corruption due in part to the enormous amount of cocaine being smuggled into South Florida from Latin America. A cheap, deadly derivative of the drug known as “crack” would infiltrate other cities throughout the U.S., and transform many once relatively peaceful working class neighborhoods into war zones. Police corruption in Miami reached its height in 1986 when, as a result of an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than a dozen officers from the police department faced charges that ranged from drug dealing to murder.

  2. Sheriff’s Department, Dallas County, Alabama

    Students of Civil Rights history know that Selma, Ala. was the location of abrutal assault on a group of peaceful marchers led by John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Reverend Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by the Selma Police Department led by Sheriff Jim Clark, as well as state troopers, and recently deputized members of the community. Law enforcement officers used nightsticks, horses, and tear gas to indiscriminately attack the peaceful demonstrators. Televised images of the attack inspired even more support for the Civil Rights movement. Sheriff Clark later lost his bid for reelection, went on to sell mobile homes for a while, and in 1978, was busted for conspiracy to import marijuana.

  3. Ahome Municipal Police Force

    Ahome is a municipality in the Mexican state of Sinaola. Just last November, Ahome’s entire Police Department, 32 officers and commanders, were arrested by state police for the department’s connection to two powerful drug cartels. Amazingly, the director of the state police who carried out the arrest,“Chuytoño” Aguilar Iniguez, was at one time one of Mexico’s Attorney General’s most wanted men for his connections to kingpins within the Sinaloa drug cartel. After having fled to Cuba in 2004 while undergoing investigation for corruption, Iniguez was granted a sort of immunity in 2009 by a federal court, and returned to Mexico to profit from, er, whoops, we mean “fight” crime.

  4. Philadelphia Police Department

    You know you’ve got a corrupt police department when it comes under the scrutiny of Human Rights Watch. HRW has stated that, “the Philadelphia police department (in terms of) corruption and brutality … has one of the worst reputations of big city police departments in the United States.” In the early 1990s, a group of PPD officers, some known throughout the city as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, conducted a series of unreported raids on crack houses where officers would steal from suspects. The arrest of Mumia Abu-Jamal for the murder of a police officer, and the public outcry at his being sentenced to death (this sentence was recently overturned), brought national attention to the PPD’s reputation for brutality and corruption.

  5. Baltimore Police Department

    In March 2012, a Baltimore police officer was sentenced for his part in what is known as the Towing Scandal, a criminal ring that included more than 50 other members of the Baltimore Police Department. Vehicles were towed from accident scenes by a towing and repair company owned by two police officers. Other officers were paid to participate in the scam, which generated hundreds to thousands of dollars for those involved. Accident victims were even encouraged by officers not to talk to their insurance companies.

2011 low-level pot arrests top 50K in NYC

By Melanie Wilmoth

Last September, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered NYPD officers to stop making improper marijuana arrests after the police department came under fire for alleged illegal drug searches.

In New York, possession of small amounts of marijuana is not considered to be a criminal offense unless the drug is displayed publicly. However, police officers often use “stop-and-frisk” tactics and illegal searches to force individuals to bring marijuana into the open. Once the pot is displayed in public, officers will arrest and charge individuals for marijuana possession:

“Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marijuana arrests,” Kelly stated. “The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marijuana pursuant to a search of the subject’s person or upon direction of the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana,” Kelly ordered.

 

Although pot arrests initially decreased in the months after Kelly issued his order, advocacy groups and arrestees still claim that the NYPD uses illegal searches and stop-and-frisk tactics to book people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Moreover, the number of low-level marijuana arrests in New York City increased from 50,400 in 2010 to 50,700 in 2011.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, “the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests(2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).”

Pot arrests top 50K in 2011 despite NYPD order

By JENNIFER PELTZ 

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police still arrested more than 50,000 people on low-level marijuana charges last year despite a drop off after officers were told not to use tactics that critics decry as tricking people into getting arrested, according to New York state data obtained by an advocacy group. (more…)

“Both sides are us”: Stuntz and Kennedy unpack the spirituality of criminal justice reform

By Alan Bean

In 2010, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, rocked the civil rights community back on its heels.  Alexander accused the criminal justice reform movement of seeking legal solutions to a moral problem, of fighting for affirmative action while abandoning the victims of a brutal and counter-productive drug war, of telling pretty stories about wrongfully convicted poster-boys while ignoring the social nightmares unfolding in poor communities of color.

 If the way we pursue reforms does not contribute to the building of a movement to dismantle the system of mass incarceration, and if our advocacy does not upset the prevailing public consensus that supports the new caste system, none of the reforms, even if won, will successfully disrupt the nation’s racial equilibrium.  Challenges to the system will be easily absorbed or deflected, and the accommodations made will serve primarily to legitimate the system, not undermine it.  We run the risk of winning isolated battles but losing the larger war.

In 2011, two books by white males revealed that Michelle Alexander is not the only American scholar in search of a new moral consensus for ending mass incarceration.   The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William J. Stuntz, and Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America by David M. Kennedy are not books written in response to Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.  Stuntz and Kennedy are white male academics who see mass incarceration and the war on drugs as unmitigated disasters.  These authors tackle America’s racial history head on.  Most importantly, they agree with Alexander that a movement to end mass incarceration must begin with a new moral consensus.    (more…)

Why is Jeremiah Paul Disnard still locked up?

By Melanie Wilmoth and Alan Bean

Jeremiah Paul Disnard was arrested on April 2, 2008.  He claims he was framed.

According to a letter Friends of Justice recently received from Disnard, shortly after he was arrested drugs were planted on his person in the back of a Dallas Police Department (DPD) patrol car by the arresting officers (Officers David Nevitt, David Durica, Jerry Dodd, Frank Poblez, and Sgt. Randy Sundquist). According to Disnard, the patrol car had both a “dash cam” and a camera facing the backseat of the car. However, the officers testified that the cameras were “malfunctioning” at the time of Disnard’s arrest.

Friends of Justice gets several letters making similar claims every week, but there is rarely anything we can do.  Once a defendant has been convicted, uncorroborated claims are legally worthless.

But Disnard’s case is different.

His story follows a familiar pattern (more…)

NYPD detective admits to fabricating drug buys to meet arrest quotas

Already in the spotlight for its racially biased “stop and frisk” tactics, the NYPD took another hit when Stephen Anderson, a former narcotics detective, admitted to falsifying drug buys and planting drugs on innocent people to meet arrest quotas. Based on Anderson’s testimony, NYPD supervisors put significant pressure on narcotics officers to meet buy-and-bust quotas. Check out the New York Daily News’ report on the issue below. MW

We fabricated drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas, former detective testifies

by John Marzulli

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as “flaking,” on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.  (more…)