VISTA, Calif. - Two Border Patrol agents accused of committing lewd acts in public took the stand in their own defense Wednesday claiming that no inappropriate behavior occurred during a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Totem."
by George Ciccariello-Maher and Mike King
Yesterday was not simply a day like any other, and yet an entire system is grinding into motion to ensure that the peculiarities of the day be promptly forgotten: Another crazy person lost it and committed unthinkable acts. The act of killing stands in and speaks for the person: Look what he has done. Of course he must be crazy. Case closed.
What they want you to forget is the sheer strangeness of what is happening in Los Angeles. Christopher Dorner allegedly killed a police officer and two civilians. This was not a random shooting by a right-wing gun-nut mourning the loss of the “Real America.” Here is a man with good things to say about liberal democrats, a supporter of heightened gun control, a former LAPD officer and Navy reservist, targeting his own institution, which he accused of racism, violence and corruption.
We know all of these things because what is most peculiar about this entire case is the written testament that Dorner has left us. In a letter titled only “Last Resort” and addressed to “America,” he makes clear his grievances, his objectives and the rationale behind his actions – a chilling declaration of war on the Los Angeles Police Department.
The press is busy citing only those bits of the statement which make Dorner seem crazy: when he addresses Tim Tebow or Larry David, for example, or when he laments the fact that he will not survive to see “The Hangover 3.” (See, for example, Buzzfeed’s “Everything You Need to Know,” which conspicuously says very little.)
But the vast majority of the letter paints a picture of someone who, while clearly undergoing some sort of mental break, is astonishingly lucid as to the causes and candid as to what he intends to do about it. These causes and these intentions, regardless of what you may hear on MSNBC or Entertainment Tonight – both will essentially carry the same message – begin and end with the LAPD.
The LAPD has long played a vanguard role in white supremacist policing in the United States. Whether it be the conscious recruitment of racist cops from the South in the 1960s under William Parker – sparking the 1965 Watts Rebellion – or the continuity of well-worn brutal methods under Darryl Gates – sparking the massive 1992 L.A. Rebellions – there has been little new under the sun.
Even after 1992, when change seemed for a moment inevitable and when the Bloods and Crips had, themselves, laid down arms and put forth a plan to rebuild the city, this long-needed transformation didn’t materialize. Instead, South Central became South L.A., Gates was canned and the LAPD forcibly destroyed the gang truce. Nothing had changed.
It wasn’t long before the next scandal. Toward the end of the 1990s, what many had already known became public knowledge: that the LAPD, and especially the Rampart Division, routinely brutalized suspects and planted evidence. As a result of this revelation, the LAPD was charged under the RICO Act (as a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) and placed under the federal oversight of a consent decree that would only be lifted in 2009.
According to Dorner’s statement: “The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions … Are you aware that an officer… seen on the Rodney King videotape striking Mr. King multiple times with a baton on 3/3/91 is still employed by the LAPD and is now a Captain on the police department? … As a commanding officer, he is now responsible for over 200 officers. Do you trust him to enforce department policy and investigate use of force investigations on arrestees by his officers?”
The presiding officer ruled Monday to keep hearings closed in a high-profile case regarding suspended Hamilton Police inspector David Doel.
“I'm critically aware of the public interest,” said presiding officer Robert Fitches, a retired OPP superintendent, during a pre-hearing motion. “On the other hand, there is ... responsibility of retaining information on Ms. Y.”
Lawyer Gary Hopkinson, representing the female complainant referred to as Ms. Y, said neither he nor his client want to be subjected to public scrutiny, and that any information released would be damaging to her personal and professional life.
“I can't sit here and presume to be Yoda [and open and close the door to the public],” Fitches said during the public portion of the hearing. “The danger is far too great.”
David Doel faces a total of 14 charges of misconduct under the Police Services Act.
Monday was the first day of proceedings for Doel, whose offences date as far back as 2006.
Doel faces a total of 14 charges of misconduct under the Police Services Act, including allegedly having sex while on duty, keeping pornography on his work computer, using police phone and video equipment for personal use, and using the national criminal database for personal use.
Doel, a high earner from the police service, has been suspended with pay for the past three years. He is listed on the province's Sunshine List as earning $140,725.94 in 2011.
Fitches first ruled in December that the hearings would be closed to the public in order to protect to privacy of the female complainant.
The Baltimore police commissioner has suspended some training academy staff after a campus police trainee was shot in the head by an instructor.
In March 1992, police in Snohomish County, Washington conducted six simultaneous raids on members of the same extended family. An informant had implicated the targets of the raids for the robbery of an armored car and the murder of its driver a year earlier.
One of the raids was on the home of Larry and Robin Pratt. The informant had implicated Larry Platt. Though police knew there were likely to be innocent people and possibly children in the house, they decided on the pre-dawn, no-knock raid instead of confronting Pratt as he was coming or going to work. The police had also obtained a key to the apartment from a landlord, but decided instead to enter the residence by slamming a 50-pound battering ram through a sliding glass door.
As they executed the raid, shards of glass flew out toward the Pratts' six-year-old daughter and five-year-old niece sleeping nearby. The police confronted 28-year-old Robin Pratt as she came out of her bedroom to see what was wrong. She immediately dropped to her knees. She briefly raised her head, looked at Dep. Anthony Aston, and said, "Please don't hurt my children." Aston then fired a single bullet into Pratt's neck. She bled out and died in front of her daughter.
The police then went to the bedroom, where they confronted Larry Pratt and put a gun to his temple. When he asked if he could move, the officer said if he did, he'd blow Pratt's head off.
Police later learned that the informant had been lying -- he admitted as much. Every one of the raids conducted that morning were waged against innocent families. The police never bothered to check the informant's statements with the accused before confronting them and their families with violence. If they had, they'd have found that every one of the people he had implicated -- including Larry Pratt -- had solid alibis disproving the informant's story.
A policeman in Richmond, Virginia says he fired for telling a local news stations about threats that other officers made against President Obama and Michelle Obama.
The whistleblower told CBS 6 last year that the inappropriate comments were made by a 20-year police veteran who was talking on the phone to an officer assigned to provide outside security for the president and first lady. The whistleblower reported that the veteran suggested the officer “take a couple of shots . . .” and that another voice in the background talked about planting a bomb under the stage.The Secret Service investigated and found no criminal act, but the two officers were fired amidst the furor. The fired officers have been fighting to get their jobs back.
The whistleblower told CBS 6 last year that the inappropriate comments were made by a 20-year police veteran who was talking on the phone to an officer assigned to provide outside security for the president and first lady. The whistleblower reported that the veteran suggested the officer “take a couple of shots . . .” and that another voice in the background talked about planting a bomb under the stage.
The Secret Service investigated and found no criminal act, but the two officers were fired amidst the furor. The fired officers have been fighting to get their jobs back.
The officer told a CBS 6 reporter that he was terminated from his job because of the interview he gave CBS, which his supervisors say was a violation of the police department’s policy.
The most striking fact about ex cop Christopher Dorner’s rampage against his brothers in blue is that it stems from the LAPD’s apparent cover-up of a single, minor excessive force incident of the kind we seldom talk about, ubiquitous though it is.
Beyond that, the story intersects so many contemporary issues it reads like a morality play: A seething police mob hunts a renegade black cop who declared war on them and their families for firing him for reporting his training officer’s use of excessive force. They go on a rampage themselves, shooting several innocent people along the way before cornering their quarry in a cabin and, it appears, deliberately setting it ablaze – all amid a national debate about whether anyone other than the military and police should be allowed to keep assault weapons under the Second Amendment, which some are arguing was drafted to protect the power of militias to hunt fugitive slaves and crush revolts. You might say the Dorner story takes a manifesto to understand it properly.
Pundits across the spectrum, from former Portland and D.C. Police Chief Charles Moose to civil rights activist Van Jones, say don’t examine Dorner’s motives; doing so only dignifies the actions of a cop killer and domestic terrorist. Despite their command, though, a healthy riot of discussion has sprung up in the blogosphere and social media among citizens exasperated with perpetual police brutality, racism, and lying. Dorner is not a hero, he is a wanton murderer who targeted not only those he claimed wronged him, but their families and random officers. But the notion that he forfeited his grievance because he resorted to violence robs us, not him, of the lessons to be learned.
Whether or not Dorner’s training officer unnecessarily kicked a mentally ill man in the head and chest and covered up the incident in 2007, there is no question the LAPD fired Dorner for violating the police officer code of silence by accusing his trainer, not because he lied, as the Department absurdly found. First, it is virtually unheard of for police departments to terminate officers for false reporting. Lying is not a disqualifier but a virtual criterion for the job of police officer, as former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper observed in his memoir, Breaking Rank. Second, there was ample evidence the brutality in fact occurred, including Dorner’s several pained inquiries to confidantes about what to do before he officially reported it. He had no incentive to breach the code of silence, and everything to lose by doing so.
But even if the evidence had not fully supported Dorner’s allegation, there was no basis for concluding he lied, let alone firing him for reporting it, a move which is also contrary to the basic principle of encouraging whistleblowers to step forward. As such, at least part of Dorner’s gripe is valid on its face, namely that despite the LAPD’s success in diversifying its ranks since the Rodney King and Rampart scandals of the 1980s and 90s exposed a culture of bigotry, brutality, and dishonesty, it has not remedied the second and third items on that list – problems which are endemic to police forces.
The reality, too well known to the marginalized and dispossessed, but little known to their affluent fellow citizens on the other side of town, is that modern paramilitary police operate with virtual impunity, in a vacuum of both institutional accountability and societal ignorance and apathy. They patrol the urban streets with a siege mentality, regularly harassing and administering street justice to people they know wouldn’t dare complain, or whose word wouldn’t stack up against theirs anyway.
There is a degree of alienation which stems from having your complaints fall on the deaf ears of people in the hierarchy of repression, such as captains, district and city attorneys, judges, and mayors. But a different and more explosive kind of alienation builds from watching members of your own supposed community coddle and worship the oppressor, deny there’s a problem because it isn’t part of their experience, and at regular intervals negate your own experience as jurors of your so-called peers. As a former cop, Dorner is not the typical victim of a police gang up. But when his fellow officers walled him off for trying to do the right thing, it festered in him like a regular victim of police abuse, as he made clear in trying to wake us up with his manifesto.
Those who would lay this tragedy exclusively at Dorner’s feet and table further inquiry play into the hands of people who prescribe more social control as a panacea for all that ails us domestically, including more laws, more police, and more powerful police arsenals. To such fortress Americans, the blue line will always be too thin, because they hide themselves and their wealth behind it. They start from the anti-historical notion that every act, or mere utterance, of anti-government violence or rhetoric is necessarily the product of a diseased mind which must be neutralized. Yet they thrill to the truly insane spectacle of thousands of cops in military tech fanning out over hundreds of square miles in vague pursuit of one armed assailant, all itching to be the gunslinger to put a bullet in his skull, menacing the public in countless untelevised ways along the path on top of shooting several innocent people. In cheering for such demented drama, we also help produce it, collateral damage and all. Like in war. The real disease is systemic apathy to the plight of others making us all complicit but detached drone pilots. Whatever lip service we pay to the nostrum that violence is a last resort, we want and expect it like a Hollywood ending, so much so that we have confused reason and patience for a boring plot.
This is the point where the journalist is virtually conscripted to say: Dorner was a lunatic who clearly was not going to let himself be taken alive. But that conclusion is really code for, he deserved to die, and we experienced collective catharsis by killing him. The question isn’t whether anyone will miss him. The question is, what so constrained his choices that he so constrained ours, spilling so much blood? Because government is far mightier than the individual, it has more choice and greater responsibility to pause, reflect, and avoid an emotional responses. Instead, we’ve spiraled into a vortex of emotional responses. We’re more bravado and cowboy swagger, more shoot first ask questions later, than we were when those frontier myths were getting made. Our romantic fascination with police makes us practical extensions of their viscera, causing us to over-feel and under-question their behavior. In so doing, we helped to write both Dorner’s violent beginning and his violent end.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff denies deliberately torching the cabin where Dorner made his last stand by deploying pyrotechnic tear gas canisters known for their propensity to start fires. But intercepted police audio reveals an officer yelling early in the shootout, “Burn that fucking house down…Fucking burn that motherfucker.” Later, another officer exclaims, “burn it down.” The Sheriff and various spinmeisters dismiss this as the emotional upwelling of a few individuals unrelated to the tactical decision to smoke Dorner out, not burn him out, after he refused to surrender. They add condescendingly that the gas canisters are called ‘burners,’ hence our confusion. But the grammar doesn’t make sense. “Tear gas that fucking house down?” Numerous police experts question the decision and the explanation. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time police intentionally set fire to an occupied structure. Witness the FBI’s execution by fire of white supremacist Robert Mathews on Whidbey Island, the Philadelphia police firebombing of the MOVE house, and of course, Waco. The Sheriff is promising an inquiry – not into the decision, but into the cops’ careless utterances. Already, the cover-up has begun. But given the public’s apparent comfort with assassination, it might not be long before police can openly embrace ‘the tactical use of fire.’ From an online troll’s lips (burn that motherfucker) to a policymaker’s ear. So progresses American democracy.
Those who clamor for unfettered police power to confront the Dorners of the world are oblivious that Dorners are also the products of state violence and control, which expects total obeisance in the midst of widening structural inequality, and puts you down on the ground – or in it – just for questioning authority. You don’t have to be a political scientist to understand that this combination produces quiescence in the masses for only so long before it ignites rebellion.
Had Dorner’s narrative not culminated in such tragedy, it might be a thing of allegorical beauty. The LAPD created a monster who, fueled by rage and unbridled by reason, set out on a rampage to avenge the sin of his twisted creation. Had the LAPD sincerely investigated the claims of a whistleblower, nine fewer people would be dead or injured. What goes around comes around. We’re all in this together.
Ben Rosenfeld is a civil rights attorney in San Francisco, and a Board Member of the Civil Liberties Defense Center based in Eugene, Oregon.
The incident unfolded about 6 a.m. Friday when the officer's wife called him while he was at work, saying their 2-year-old black Labrador retriever, Trax, was seriously ill, said police Lt. Bisa French.
The officer returned home, secured his police canine, a Belgian Malinois, in a kennel in the yard and, along with his wife, took the Labrador retriever to a veterinary hospital.
The dog's food had been poisoned, and it died the next day, French said.
When the couple returned from the vet, they found that the police canine had also been poisoned - and their house burglarized - in their absence, meaning somebody had probably been staking out their home and waiting for them to leave, French said.
The police dog is recovering, she said.
The burglars made off with three "sporting guns," two handguns and other items, French said.
Police believe the burglars knew that an officer lived in the home.
"It's frightening that somebody would target him specifically, that they would not only burglarize the house but also harm the dogs," French said.
Six Boston cops fired after testing positive for cocaine have been ordered reinstated — with back pay — after a state board struck down hair tests as
unreliable in a bombshell ruling that could have a far-reaching impact on how city workers are drug-tested.
In a stunning, 134-page ruling, the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission this week ordered the six cops back on the job, finding that “the present state of hair testing for drugs of abuse ... does not meet the standard of reliability necessary to be routinely used” to fire someone.
“Hair testing for drugs of abuse has not achieved general acceptance within the scientific or law enforcement communities,” the board wrote. “A reported positive test result is not necessarily conclusive of ingestion and ... may or may not justify termination.”
The six ex-cops — Richard Beckers, Ronnie Jones, Jacqueline McGowan, Shawn Harris, Walter Washington and George Downing — failed drug tests when cocaine showed up in their hair samples in the early to mid-2000s, records state. They all appealed and the board ruled that all should be reinstated with back pay to October 2010, which is when Civil Service took on the case.
For McGowan, the positive test was her second — and she testified before the commission that she was formerly a “regular” cocaine user, the ruling states. Attempts to reach all the officers last night were unsuccessful.
The head of the ATF’s St, Paul Field Division acknowledged mistakes were made during a botched undercover sting operation of gun and drug dealers at a store in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The Journal Sentinel recently exposed serious problems during a 10-month ATF sting. Among them: the theft of nearly $40,000 in merchandise; an agent’s machine gun was stolen; wrong suspects were charged; and sensitive information about undercover help was lost.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Louisville police officer has been fined $2 after being convicted of official misconduct and harassment for striking a handcuffed suspect multiple times.
A Jefferson District Jury on Friday fined officer David Graham $1 for each of the charges stemming from the March 31, 2012 arrest of 19-year-old John R. Sanders. A videotape of Sanders' arrest shows Graham poking Sanders multiple times in the throat and slapping him.
By Elizabeth Flock
Two of the former Drug Enforcement Agency officials who came out this week urging the federal government to nullify new state pot laws in Washington and Colorado are facing criticism for simultaneously running a company that may profit from keeping marijuana illegal.
Robert L. DuPont, who was White House drug czar under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Peter Bensinger, who was administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the 1970s, today run Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, a company that specializes in workplace drug testing, among other employee programs. Both men signed an open (along with eight other former DEA officials) addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee members this week criticizing the Obama administration for failing to quickly address the new states laws legalizing pot, which are inconsistent with federal law.
[PHOTOS: Marijuana Through the Years]
But a number of supporters of marijuana legalization are upset over what they consider are conflicts of interest for the former drug czars who helped pen the letter.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana nonprofit NORML, points to DuPont and Bensigner's work in drug testing as problematic.
"These individuals still have financial and professional interests in ancillary businesses and endeavors that benefit from keeping marijuana illegal," he says. "So there's a lot of bluster to imply the sky is falling, while to the rest of the public this is no big deal." Armentano cites a number of recent public opinion studies on pot, including a 2011 study from Gallup that found at least half of America today supports legalizing marijuana.
Howard Wooldridge, a lobbyist for the pro-marijuana legalization group Citizens Opposing Prohibition, says he doesn't have a problem with former DEA officials making money by using their expertise. "They understood during their time at the agency that this was going to be a long-running policy, and they realized the financial possibilities and they acted on them." But Wooldridge says he was disturbed by the letter this week because it "promotes the policies that line their pocketbook."
In their letter, the former DEA officials called marijuana "a dangerous and addictive drug" that "significantly impacts" a number of aspects of society—including employee productivity.
Both DuPont and Bensigner tell Whispers the law, and not their company's work, was the motivation for the letter. Bensigner maintains that only 15 percent of their business is drug-related, while DuPont notes that the company consults on how to set up workplace drug testing but does not actually conduct the tests.
[READ: Where and How Can You Smoke Pot Legally Now]
According to its Web site, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates provides "full-service" drug testing for employers, which includes everything from developing company policy to selecting a laboratory to training supervisors.
"In a sense that's true," DuPont says of whether the company benefits from keeping marijuana illegal. But he argues the company could also benefit from marijuana legalization, "because the problems it would create for employees would be greater."
Even if the two men don't financially profit from keeping marijuana illegal, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, says they benefit in other ways.
"They realize they are going to suffer the fate of the people who ran the bureau of prohibition [of alcohol] in the '20s and '30s, and that must be a little demoralizing," he says. "So they are justifying their legacy and their life's work."
The DEA is refusing to answer questions about three of its agents who are still on the federal payroll despite their alleged involvement in a prostitution scandal in Colombia, the Washington Examiner reports.
March 22, 2013,
A fundraiser being hosted by Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials Thursday night ended in violence, with one guest arrested and more arrests possible, a spokesman confirmed.
Sheriff’s deputies were hosting a party at Cities, a bar and restaurant in East Los Angeles, to raise money for an annual law enforcement relay race. About 2 a.m. Friday, there was an altercation that involved off-duty deputies and guests.
One woman invited to the party was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer. Her deadly weapon was a high-heel shoe she allegedly used to hit a deputy.
On Valentine's Day, prisoner Deane Brown, who sounded an alarm that drew international attention to the savagery of solitary confinement and other abuses in the Maine State Prison's "supermax" unit, was returned to the Warren prison after an exile of more than six years.
On March 12, the American Civil Liberties Union told an international commission that Maine had become a model for how solitary confinement can be reduced.
With these two events, a nearly eight-year-old chapter in the struggle for prison reform in Maine may have closed.
"We could all take a moment to feel good about what has been achieved," reflected Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition (MPAC) co-coordinator Jim Bergin.
In 2005, Brown not only spoke out but also organized other supermax prisoners to be interviewed by the Phoenix. In 2006, to try to end his connection to the Maine news media, the Department of Corrections shipped him to violent, racial-gang-ridden prisons in Maryland and, in 2010, to the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
The supermax abuses Brown and other inmates described — especially, prolonged isolation's destructive effects on mentally ill prisoners — are still common across the country. But they are increasingly recognized as torture. The ACLU report calls solitary confinement "barbaric."
Referring to his whistleblowing, Brown, 49, said in a recent prison interview, "I'd do it all again tomorrow."
He has returned to a changed prison. The first change he mentioned was the huge reduction in the number of inmates held in the supermax because less-harsh disciplinary methods have been substituted for solitary confinement. Guards may defuse disruptive situations simply by talking with prisoners.
And "guards aren't going out of their way" now to rile up prisoners, Brown said.
He noted, however — confirming other reports — that not all guards have accepted the changes. Some "feel their hands are tied," he said. They say they fear the new policies will lead to more inmate violence.
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