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      Officer Involved: Video Shows Baltimore Police Arrest, Tase Woman for Recording Them

      Officer Involved: Video Shows Baltimore Police Arrest, Tase Woman for Recording Them Officer Involved: Video Shows Baltimore Police Arrest, Tase Woman for Recording Them Officer Involved: Video Shows Baltimore Police Arrest, Tase Woman for Recording Them
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      Officer Involved

      Officer Involved: Video Shows Baltimore Police Arrest, Tase Woman for Recording Them

      By VICE News

      Officer Involved is VICE News' running blog covering police in America, where we will report news from around the US that highlights the changing landscape of contemporary policing. While questions of officer conduct, the use of appropriate force, militarization, surveillance, and accountability occupy the news cycle, we will deliver the latest on significant officer-involved incidents, investigations, and shifts in policy, and offer up a broad and balanced picture of policing in America today.

      Friday 12/12
      A video has surfaced showing Baltimore police arresting and using a taser on a woman who was recording them making a separate arrest back in March. 

      Kianga Mwamba told the Baltimore Sun that she was heading home from a family function when she stopped her car at a red light and began to record police arresting a man on the other side of the street. At first the police paid Mwamba no mind, but when the traffic light turned green they told her she needed to move her car.

      "You telling me I can't record on my phone?" Mwamba asks in the video, to which someone off camera responds that she needs to get out of the street.

      On the video, Mwamba clearly says, "I'll park, I'll park," and then tries to pull her car over to the side of the road. Though the footage is unclear, she remarks of being impeded in her attempt to park her car by police officers who proceed to aggressively pull her from it.

      "Give me your fucking hands," says one male voice, presumably a police officer, during the struggle to get Mwamba out of the car. Another male voice says, "get out of the fucking car."

      Mwamba claims she was tased by police, and what sounds like a taser can be heard around the 1:45 mark in the video, after which she yells, "Oh my God, are you serious?"

      Amid the sound of police handcuffing her, a male voice can be heard saying, "You're a dumb bitch, do you know that?"

      "What did I do?" Mwamba asks.

      "You just tried to run over an officer," the male voice replies.

      Police reported that Mwamba's vehicle had struck an officer in the legs. She was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charges.

      She claims that when she was bailed out of jail the day after her arrest, she found that police had deleted the video from her phone. The video was saved in the cloud, however, by an app on her phone that backs up data and was found months later.

      Mwamba has filed a $7 million lawsuit against Baltimore police for their actions in the arrest.

      Tuesday 12/9
      A female corrections officer has been arrested almost 10 months after a prisoner was found dead in a pool of vomit and blood in his 101 degree jail cell at a Riker's Island unit for mentally ill inmates.

      Carol Lackner faces a raft of misconduct charges, including falsifying records saying that she had checked in on 56-year-old Jerome Murdough and fellow prisoners every half-hour on the night of his death, prosecutors told the Associated Press.

      Murdough, a homeless veteran who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, ended up at Rikers after he was unable to make bail on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing for sleeping in a stairwell at a public housing unit in Harlem. He essentially baked to death after a mechanical malfunction overheated his cell on February 14. A medical examiner ruled his death an accident.

      Investigators later found that the unit's inmates had been left unchecked for four hours and that Lackner had falsely recorded conducting five tours of the prison unit that night in a logbook. There was no video evidence to back up her claims that she had looked in on Murdough every half-hour.

      Lackner surrendered to authorities on Monday and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. She has been suspended from service after previously being placed on modified duty, and faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

      The prisoner's mother, Alma Murdough, who had settled with the city for $2.25 million before the matter went to court, said Monday that she hoped Lackner would be convicted and jailed.

      Monday 12/8
      A passing motorist captured video of an Arizona cop allegedly punching a teenage girl in the face twice before shoving her to the ground and restraining her. During the incident, the teen screamed, "I can't breathe" — the same last phrase uttered by Eric Garner, the Staten Island man killed in a police chokehold in an incident that has galvanized protesters in New York City and across the country.

      The cell phone footage uploaded to Facebook on Friday shows the Arizona girl's mother anxiously hovering nearby while the struggle occurred on the ground.

      A Mesa police department statement said the mother called for police assistance, telling the dispatcher that her daughter had exited her car and was walking away.

      The female officer who responded to the scene attempted to talk to the teen three times before grabbing her arm for attention, authorities said. The 15-year-old then allegedly kicked and punched the officer before being wrestled to the pavement, ABC 15, Arizona reported.

      Police said in the statement that aggravated assault charges against the teen are pending, and that she volunteered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Both the officer and the girl were treated at the scene for minor injuries, according to police.

      Monday 12/8
      The trial of a former New York City Rikers Island correction officer charged with ignoring an inmate who died after ingesting a toxic "soap ball" begins in a Manhattan court today.

      According to prosecutors, Terrence Pendergrass was the head guard on duty in August 2012 when mentally ill prisoner Jason Echevarria's swallowed the poisonous cleaning agent. In the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Preet Bharara, Pendergrass is accused of purposely ignoring the 25-year-old inmate's cries for help.

      The soap ball in question was a toxic cleaning concoction of chemicals, including the corrosive chemical ammonium chloride, which the more than 11,000 inmates at the jail use to scrub down their cells. According to prosecutors, the solution should not to be given to prisoners unless it has been "diluted in multiple gallons of water before use," but a new guard on patrol "was unaware of the danger of soap balls" when he gave Echevarria an undiluted version to clean his flooded cell during a sewage backup.

      Despite the cries and banging for help from Echevarria, and being notified by other guards, Pendergrass allegedly did not call for medical help. According to court documents, the 50-year-old guard "knowingly ignored and instructed others to ignore" the inmate's need for medical help. Echevarria was found dead hours later in his cell.

      Pendergrass was arrested in March of 2014 and according to court documents, faces a charge of "deprivation of rights under color of law." There is a pending civil suit against the city for $40 million brought on behalf of Echevarria's father.

      The case and other reports of abuse have contributed to a year of bad press for Rikers prison. In September, Bharara warned Mayor Bill de Blasio's office that his office would file a civil rights lawsuit to force action if city officials did not move quickly to reform Rikers. It was announced the following month that the city's Department of Corrections chief, William Clemons, would resign. 

      Friday 12/5
      In the minutes after New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang shot and killed Brooklyn housing project resident Akai Gurley in November, he and his partner were unreachable. Sources have now told the New York Daily News that Liang chose to text his union representative before calling in the incident.

      According to an exclusive report from the newspaper, Liang and his partner Shaun Landau could not be reached for six and a half minutes while an emergency operator attempted to contact them.

      The operator was trying to reach the pair after a neighbor had called 911 to report the incident. According to Daily News sources, during this time Liang was texting union representatives. In the texts the officer sent, he was allegedly unaware of the address to the houses they had been patrolling.

      In the early morning hours of November 20, Liang and Landau were patrolling the unlit stairwells of the Pink Houses in East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. Liang had drawn his gun and took out a flashlight as he walked in the stairwell. Gurley and his girlfriend entered the stairwell on the floor below and Liang shot the unarmed 28-year-old man in the chest.

      The investigation is ongoing, but in the wake of the incident, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Liang had "accidentally discharged" his gun. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson is heading up the investigation and while the time frame is unclear, some expect he could bring evidence in front of a grand jury by the end of the year.

      Thursday 12/4
      Two years before joining the Cleveland Police Department, the police officer involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a city playground in November had previously been described as "weepy" and was found unfit for police duty by a previous employer, according to documents released Wednesday.

      Prior to taking a policing job in Cleveland earlier this year, 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann worked for five months in a suburban police department about 13 miles south of the city. His personnel records, which the city of Independence, Ohio has made public, show the department had recommended firing Loehmann, but instead he left the job at the end of 2012 for personal reasons.

      In the records, senior officers said Loehmann was "distracted and weepy," lacked maturity, and exhibited "dismal" handgun performance. He was described as being unable "to perform basic functions as instructed" at a gun training session, where he experienced a "dangerous loss of composure" and had an "emotional meltdown." He also reportedly brought up girlfriend problems during the episode.

      According to a statement, the Cleveland Police Department did not look at these personnel files when hiring the officer, which is something that internal policy does not require. The department said it plans to change its policy to gain access to these type of documents for prospective employees.

      Loehmann shot and killed Rice on November 22 after he and another police officer reported to the playground to follow up on a 911 call about a boy carrying the Airsoft gun. Both Rice and his accompanying officer, 46-year-old Frank Garmback, have been placed on administrative leave.

      Wednesday 12/3
      Hundreds of police killings have been left out of a nationwide database that keeps tabs on these acts, according to an investigative report published by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

      The newspaper collected information from more than 100 police agencies across the country, all among the largest departments in the US. According to the report, more than 550 killings by police had not been included in the national data kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

      "When cops are killed, there is a very careful account and there's a national database," Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan told WSJ. "Why not the other side of the ledger?"

      In its report, WSJ took data from the FBI and compared it with information provided to the media outlet by 105 police agencies. The paper tallied 1,800 deaths at the hands of police between 2007 and 2012, which is 45 percent more than the number of "justifiable homicides" recorded by the FBI in the same time period.

      The report comes after a year of heavy attention on police killings, particularly after mass protests erupted following the August 9 shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.

      Wednesday 12/3
      An Albuquerque police officer who shot dead a 19-year-old woman in April has now been fired for failure to turn on his body camera during the fatal incident — but he has not been charged in the woman's death.

      Police Chief Gorden Eden said after an internal investigation that Officer Jeremy Dear was fired on Monday for "insubordination and untruthfulness," because he did not turn on his uniform camera when he shot teenager Mary Hawkes.

      Hawkes, the daughter of a former police officer and judge, was suspected of car theft and allegedly pointed a gun at police when she was shot, according to KRQE News.

      In his statement, Eden did not link Dear's discharge to the shooting incident itself.

      "Insubordination tears at the fabric of public safety, especially when the officer makes a choice not to follow a lawful order," Eden said.

      "In imposing the discipline of termination, I considered the seriousness of the acts and omissions, aggravating circumstances, and Officer Dear's disciplinary record," he added.

      The officer's attorney, Thomas Grover, said Dear was being used as a "scapegoat" in light of the release of Department of Justice findings on the use of excessive force within the department in April.

      "If they fire every officer who doesn't turn on his uniform camera, they won't have anyone left on the department," Grover said. "I think the department is struggling to get the lapel camera policy in place and set an example of him to show the Department of Justice they are doing something."

      Dear has had three prior complaints filed against him. The officer did not have bodycam footage from any of the previous incidents, according to KRQE.

      Tuesday 12/2
      The fallout from Ferguson has forced many municipalities to reconsider policing tactics, and Chicago appears to be the latest. This week, the city's police superintendent said officers could start testing body cameras within the next two months.

      Garry McCarthy, head of Chicago police, didn't give much more than a timeframe, but said he supports the use of body cameras on officers, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

      "We have a number of officers who have volunteered because that's how we're going to handle it initially," McCarthy said at a press conference on Monday. "I endorse the program. I would say within 60 days we'll be up and running."

      News emerged in September that the Chicago police department was planning to test the cameras, but this is the first mention of any sort of specific rollout plan.

      Chicago's effort reflects a renewed nationwide interest in police interaction, after 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri this summer. The events that directly preceded Brown's death were intensely debated, and a grand jury had to rely on witness testimony to determine whether or not they would charge Wilson with Brown's killing.

      The jury decided against charging Wilson last week, and supporters of the use of body cameras by police say that the devices would make future similarly debated officer involved instances more clear-cut. Most police forces now use a dashboard camera and microphone, but the body cameras would offer video when an officer is away from the police cruiser.

      Body camera use by police forces is not yet widespread in the US, but small bodies of evidence indicate that they are effective. The Tribune reported that the use of body cameras in 2012 by police in Rialto, California coincided with an 88 percent decrease in complaints against officers and a 60 percent drop in the use of force by police.

      Tuesday 12/2
      An investigation is underway after a New Orleans sheriff's recruit was killed on Sunday night as he was sitting in his Pontiac at an intersection in the city's Tremé neighborhood.

      Aaron White, 24, had dinner with his grandparents and his girlfriend on Sunday evening before leaving with his girlfriend and dropping her off at home, according to a report from the New Orleans Times Picayune. White then went to a daiquiri shop and planned to return home to get ready for the night, but he never made it.

      White was stopped at the intersection of North Johnson Street and Orleans Avenue around 7pm on Sunday when shots were fired. He was struck in the side and drove several blocks before he stopped and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

      "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Recruit White at this most difficult time," Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman said in a statement Sunday.

      White was hired as a sheriff's office recruit in September and was training to become a sheriff's deputy. He reportedly worked as a Walmart security guard.

      Police have not identified a motive or any suspects in the case.

      Monday 12/1
      Delaware Governor Jack Markell has voiced his support for equipping his state troopers with body cameras, as events like Mike Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri this summer have reinforced the need to record police interactions.

      Police officials in Delaware are weighing the option of requiring state troopers to wear body cameras and the governor is set to meet with Delaware State Police Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr. and the president of the Delaware NAACP, Richard Smith, according to a report from the News Journal.

      Officers in Delaware now use a combination of dashboard cameras and microphones to record police and citizens, but the body cameras would allow a look into interactions that happen away from the police car, which is often the setting of instances that merit the use of such cameras.

      "It protects both parties, police and the citizens," Smith said. "The community really wants cameras on police. If the officer in Ferguson had a camera on him, even when he went after Mr. Brown, it would have been a different outcome."

      The police department in Wilmington, Delaware's largest city, reportedly has some body cameras in storage, but officers don't yet use them. Police departments elsewhere in the state simply don't have the body cameras.

      It's not clear from the report how long it will take Delaware officials to make a decision on body cameras for police, as the state is still studying the logistics of the cameras, such as cost and quality, as well as legal issues surrounding the devices. Current policing rules don't define how to use a camera in the house of a suspect, for example.

      Monday 12/1
      Add putting hands in pockets to the growing list of activities black people should stop doing if they want to avoid police suspicion.

      Brandon McKean, a resident of Pontiac, Michigan, was stopped by a police officer on Thanksgiving after police received a call about a man walking around with his hands in his pockets and looking suspicious, according to a report by Mic. The high temperature in Pontiac on Thanksgiving was 32 degrees Fahrenheit, AccuWeather shows.

      McKean recorded his interaction with the officer, who also pulled out his iPhone to capture the encounter. In the video posted to his Facebook page, McKean expressed his surprise that someone would call the cops on him for walking with his hands in the pockets.

      "You were making people nervous," the officer said when McKean asked why he was being stopped.

      "By walking by?" McKean then asked.

      "Yeah, they said you had your hands in your pockets," the officer said.

      "Wow. Walking by with your hands in your pockets makes people nervous when it's snowing outside?" McKean said to the officer, while snow flurries visibly fall in the frame.

      McKean is clearly incensed at being stopped, prompting the officer to ask "Is it an inconvenience to talk to me?"

      "Hell yeah, just because the whole police situation going on across the country," McKean responds, referencing the nationwide protests on police and race relations that heated up again last week after a grand jury decided not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer for shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager.

      "This is outrageous that you would let somebody tell you there's somebody on out the street with their hands in their pockets. There's 10,000 people in Pontiac right now with their hands in their pockets," McKean said.

      The officer agreed that it's not unusual that someone would have their hands in their pockets in the cold, but said he was just responding to the call because "we do have a lot of robberies."

      McKean then said he's just recording the incident to ensure his and the officer's safety, to which the officer replied "Me too," and pointed at his phone.

      "I'm being very respectable, you're being very respectable... I'm just really mad at the situation of whoever called," McKean said.

      "We gotta check on it," the officer said, referring to the initial call to police. "If you were feeling nervous and you called us, we'd check on it for you."


      Friday 11/28

      A pregnant St. Louis woman has lost her left eye and incurred severe injury to her right eye after she was struck in the face bean bag fired by police at a gas station on the edge of Ferguson, Missouri.

      On Monday, the night St. Louis county prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that no charges would be brought against Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, Donnella Conner was in a confrontation with cops attempting to clear a BP gas station.

      Police claim that Conner's boyfriend drove towards them in his car, the New York Daily News noted, while Conner sat in the passenger seat. Police fired a bean bag round towards the car, shattering Conner's window and striking her face. Conner challenges the police narrative. She told KMOV that her boyfriend, De'Angelas Lee, was attempting to drive away when police fired the less-than-lethal rounds.

      "They pulled up while we were coming towards the street, De'Anglas was trying to get away, they blocked us from the side, front and back," Conners said.

      "I will have justice for what they did to me," Conner wrote on Facebook Thursday. "But I'm happy I'm alive." Images of her bandaged face have garnered viral attention on social media.

      According to KMOV, police said that a warrant has been issued for Lee's arrest, with a bond set at $50,000. No police officers are currently being investigated over the incident. On Monday, during a night of intense protest nationwide, 16 individuals were arrested in the area around the gas station where Conner was injured.

      Conner spoke to the media from hospital:

      Friday 11/28

      A gunman reportedly opened fire Austin Police Department headquarters and other downtown buildings, including a courthouse and the Mexican consulate, in the Texas capital before being shot dead by police early Friday. According to police reports, the suspect fired over 100 rounds. Precise details about the currently unnamed middle-aged suspect's death remain unclear. CNN reports that on officer standing outside one of the targeted buildings saw the gunman and shot him. However, it has not been determined if the gunman died from the cop's shot or whether he took his own life.

      The shooting officer, a sergeant, then noticed that the gunman appeared to be standing near a homemade explosive device, wearing "some type of vest," Austin's Assistant Police Chief Raul Munguia said at a news conference. According to the Guardian, a bomb squad was called to the scene and it was later determined that the suspicious-looking devices were not explosive. No police officers or bystanders were harmed in the incident and only damage to police headquarters was reported. No motives for the incident have currently been suggested.

      Thursday 11/27

      Video footage from August showing a Denver cop punching an unarmed man six times in the face and then tripping his pregnant wife has been made public by Fox 13.

      According to Fox 13, witnesses and police agree that the man in question, identified as David Nelson Flores, stuffed a white sock into his mouth when he saw an undercover narcotics officer approach his car. The officers pulled Flores from the vehicle, bringing him to the ground.

      The unidentified plainclothes cops were then joined by two uniformed officers, Charles Jones IV and Christopher Evans. The video footage shows Evans holding down Flores while Jones proceeds to punch his face six times after audibly yelling, "Spit the drugs out! Spit the drugs out!"

      "Those were the hardest punches I have ever heard," Levi Frasier, the witness who recorded the incident on a tablet device, told Fox 13.

      A visibly pregnant woman, screaming in Spanish for the officers to stop, can be seen running towards the melee. As she approaches, Jones swipes at her legs, tripping her to the ground — face and stomach down. According to Fox 13, Jones later told a superior he believed the woman was going to kick him.

      Frasier said that when police noticed that he was recording, they demanded that he turn over his device and threatened him with arrest. He said that the officers seized his device despite his protestation that they had no authority to do so. He alleges that they sifted through his personal photos and images, and that on returning the tablet, he found that the video of the Flores incident had been deleted. The footage had been immediately uploaded to the cloud, however, and Frasier was able to retrieve it and share it with the media.

      Police reports make no mention of deleting video footage.

      Images of Flores's face, also obtained by Fox 13, show him to be distinctly bruised. The suspect was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and two drug felony charges. The pregnant woman, Mayra Lazos-Guerrero, faced charges for obstruction, drug possession, and child abuse because there was a child in the car during the arrest. Following a missed court appearance, Denver police has issued a demand that the two suspects turn themselves in.

      Fox 13 reported that the Denver Police Department initially declined an offer to access Frasier's footage. The FBI Public Corruption Unit confirmed that they were investigating both the incident and the Denver Police Department's response to it.

      Watch Frasier's video via Fox 13:

      Wednesday 11/26

      The Cleveland Police Department Wednesday made public video of the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The boy was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer in a recreation center playground, after a passerby saw Rice walking around with an Airsoft-type toy gun. The officer who shot Rice has been identified as Timothy Loehmann, 26. The officer was accompanied by 46-year-old Frank Garmback, WKYC reported.

      The grainy surveillance video, revealed Wednesday at a press conference, shows Rice walking around the near-empty playground, holding the toy weapon and talking on his cell phone. The highly pixilated and unclear footage shows a police cruiser pull up and two officers exit the vehicle. Rice collapses to the ground — apparently shot — almost immediately after the cops leave their car. Rice's family asked for the video to be publicly released.

      "We are honoring the wishes of the family in releasing this and also in the spirit of being open and fair with our community," Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba said at the press conference.

      The officers claimed that they asked Rice three times to raise his hands, which he refused to do. They said the boy then reached for the toy gun in his waistband. There is no sound in the video footage. Both cops are on administrative leave, pending internal investigations into the shooting.

      According to Cleveland.com, Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said that the 911 caller told the dispatcher that the gun was "probably fake," but the patrolling officers sent to the scene were not given this information.

      On Tuesday evening, around 200 protestors gathered in Cleveland's Public Square to express anger at Rice's killing and to express solidarity with demonstrations in Ferguson and nationwide against the police killing of unarmed teen Mike Brown and other black youth.

      Watch the video of Rice's shooting below, with commentary from Deputy Chief Tomba:

      Wednesday 11/26

      A Louisiana police officer who crashed his police cruiser into a lake after a night of drinking has gotten off without being charged.

      Officer Byron Boudreaux was reportedly taking a female passenger on a joy ride in his cruiser when he drove it into Louisiana State University Lakes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at 1:43am on September 11, according to a report from 9News. Boudreaux was off duty at the time of the crash.

      A photo from the Baton Rouge Police Department shows Boudreaux's police cruiser after the accident.

      Sgt. Byron Fontenot, the reporting officer who arrived at the scene after Boudreaux called 911, wrote in his report that Boudreaux smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. Boudreaux allegedly told Fontenot that he had been out at a bar, gone home, met up with friends, and then decided to take a female for a joy ride when the accident happened.

      After being taken to the police station for breath testing, Boudreaux allegedly refused to blow into a breathalyzer until more than two hours after the crash, when he blew a blood-alcohol level of .068. The legal limit in Louisiana is .08.

      Since Boudreaux blew below the legal limit, he wasn't charged with DWI. However, a toxicologist told 9News that Boudreaux's blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash likely was somewhere around .10.

      Reporters from 9News obtained tapes of Boudreaux's 911 dispatch call.

      "I just had a, uh, single car (accident) involving my police unit," Boudreaux told the dispatcher. "I'm going to need a supervisor at the corner of East Lakeshore and Cedardale."

      "Are you in the roadway?" the dispatcher asked.

      "No ma'am. It's in the lake," Boudreaux said.

      Tuesday 11/25 

      A report this week from the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that police in Utah are responsible for more homicides than gangs, drug-related killings, and child abuse. Only intimate domestic partners are responsible for more homicides in Utah than the police.

      The newspaper reviewed 300 homicide cases using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records. The study found that 45 people had been killed by law enforcement officers in Utah since 2010, accounting for 15 percent of homicides.

      Although domestic partners were responsible for more killings in that period, Utah law enforcement officers have ranked as the state's the highest cause of homicide so far this year, claiming 13 lives to date.

      Of all the fatal police shootings reviewed, only one was officially deemed unjustified. In 2012, two West Valley city detectives faced criminal charges for the fatal shooting of Danielle Willard, an unarmed woman. Though the shooting remained unjustified, these charges were later thrown out by a judge.

      Monday 11/24

      The hacker collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for shutting down the Cleveland city website early on Monday in retaliation for the police killing of a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy air gun.

      Tamir Rice died in hospital after being shot in the stomach by a Cleveland police officer. The Cleveland Police Department said in a statement that the child had not complied with orders to raise his hands. Rice instead allegedly reached towards his waste band, where the pellet gun was tucked. The child had reportedly been pointing the toy weapon at members of the public outside the Cudell Recreation Center, prompting a 911 call.

      According to a report on Cleveland.com that cited the deputy chief of police, Rice did not confront the officer verbally or physically. His father, Gregory Henderson, has questioned the use of lethal force.

      "Why not taze him? You shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don't shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body," Henderson said.

      The Department's Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is currently investigating the incident.

      Watch the Anonymous video communique below:

      Friday 11/21

      Video of an NYPD officer beating a young man with a nightstick to his head for attempting to evade a subway fare was posted online Friday.

      Police confirmed, according to Gothamist, that the footage shows an officer detaining 20-year-old Donovan Lawson after he attempted to jump a turnstile at the Myrtle Avenue-Broadway in Brooklyn. According to the police, the officer drew his nightstick and struck Lawson after the man had resisted being put in handcuffs. The video, apparently captured by a bystander with a cell phone, shows the officer strike Lawson below his waist, then over his head, lacerating the young man's face.

      Lawson is then seen trying to get away from the officer, who aggressively grabs him, shoving him around the station entrance. Gothamist reported that Lawson, was taken to Woodhull Hospital and treated for cuts to his head, while the officer was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and treated for injuries to his hand and arm.

      Lawson has been charged with fare beating, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration. Meanwhile, the NYPD Internal Affairs department is reportedly investigating the incident.

      Watch the video below (warning, graphic):

      Friday 11/21

      A 28-year-old unarmed man was shot dead Thursday night by an NYPD officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.

      According to the New York Daily News, Akai Gurley had spent the evening with his girlfriend in her apartment in east New York. Leaving the building complex, he entered the stairwell and was shot immediately by an officer, who has not yet been named in reports.

      In a press release cited by the Daily News, the NYPD stated that two officers were patrolling the apartment block and that one shot was fired by an officer, but no reasons have been given. Officer Peter Liang, a rookie cop, reportedly told colleagues, "I shot him accidentally." In a statement Friday, Police Commissioner William Bratton also said that the fatal shot was accidentally. He said that Gurley appeared to be a "total innocent." During a separate news conference Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the shooting a "tragic mistake."

      "He didn't do nothing wrong," said Melissa Butler, Gurley's girlfriend. "He was just standing there and they shot him. He was an innocent man."

      Thursday 11/20

      A police chief in small-town Kentucky has made a public apology following his citation for drunken driving while in Hazard, in the east of the state, over the weekend. According to Kentucky.com, Whitesburg police chief Tyrone Fields was found passed out in the driver's seat of his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru early on Sunday morning. A passerby called 911 and Fields was issued with a DUI citation.

      Fields was taken to hospital and was not arrested. Hazard's police chief told WKYT that the Whitesburg cop's condition took precedent over the decision to arrest him.

      "It's very unfortunate, but I've learned from it," Fields said. "Just never do it again, pick up the pieces and move on." He met with the town mayor early this week to discuss the incident.

      Wednesday 11/19

      A Californian woman is raising funds online to pay for a criminal defense attorney lawyer to fight public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer misdemeanor charges she claims were in fact a result of involuntary epileptic seizures, the San Luis Opisbo TribunereportedTuesday.

      Andrea Nicole Hansen, 32, of Pismo Beach says police used excessive force when arresting her on October 11. She reportedly called 911 after having several seizures as a result of her juvenile myoclonic epilepsy — the most common form of epilepsy that emerges during childhood.

      Hansen, who goes by Andrea Starr online, began a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 to fight her charges. At the time of writing she has raised $2,996. Her posting includes a number of images of bruises and minor cuts allegedly suffered during her arrest.

      Hansen claims that she has cell phone footage to support her case, the Tribune reported. Police have denied her account and say they have body camera footage to support their narrative. The woman also said she was denied access to medication while in police custody, prompting further seizures.

      "They are uneducated in epilepsy or are in a state of denial, because they are still claiming, my limbs kicking, thrashing, vulgar behavior was voluntary and no seizure activity was noticed," Hansen wrote on her fundraising page about the police's alleged behavior on the night of her arrest.

      She admits that she had "a few drinks" on the night of her arrest.

      Pismo Beach police commander Mark Miller said that a department review of the body camera footage had cleared both officers involved of any wrongdoing.

      "I can tell you that there's no truth to any of it," Miller told the Tribune.

      Hansen is due in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Thursday for a pre-trial hearing.

      Tuesday 11/18

      Deon Nunlee, a former Detroit police officer, has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison — and a minimum of 19 months — after he pled guilty to sexually assaulting a women while on duty.

      Michigan Live reported today that Nunlee assaulted a 31-year-old woman in her home on October 13, 2013 after she had called 911 to report a domestic violence attack by her boyfriend. While Nunlee's partner interviewed the boyfriend downstairs, he assaulted her on the second floor. He was linked to the crime by DNA evidence.

      Tuesday 11/18

      An 80-year-old Missouri man was pulled of his tractor and left bloodied, bruised and with two broken ribs this week by police following a dispute, KCTV reported.

      Bill Swan of Lone Jack, Missouri, who has cancer, reportedly became verbally abusive towards a public works utility crew who he saw digging on his land. The workers called the police, leading to a further dispute with Swan. Lone Jack Police Chief William Forbes told KCTV that Swan refused to dismount his tractor when police arrived and allegedly tried to back the tractor into the cop car.

      Forbes stated:

      "The officers gave him verbal and hand signs to stop. He refused to do so, turned his tractor around, and tried to run over the officers. One of the officers was able to get on the tractor and shut it off. He became combative, swung at the officers, and tried to get the officer's firearm out of his holster. During the scuffle trying to subdue him, he suffered a cut on his head. EMS was called. EMS responded. He was abusive to them and refused treatment. He was then brought to the station where were was booked for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and two counts of assaulting a police officer."

      Swan faces charges for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His wife, Libby Swan, told KCTV that she believes her husband's poor hearing contributed to the incident. "Sometimes I have to get right in his face and talk to him," she said.

      Swan's wife said she and her husband have been living in fear since the incident. "I'm afraid for us to even drive out of our driveway or to get on the street. I don't know what they [the police] will do."

      Forbes told KCTV that the officers properly handled the situation, as "they were in fear of their lives."

      Monday 11/17
      Cleveland police allegedly slammed a 37-year-old woman to the ground outside her house, leading to her death, according to her brother.

      Police were called to the home of Tanesha Anderson by a family member for a disturbance on November 13, Cleveland.com reported. The woman had been reportedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Police accounts of events leading up to Anderson's death dramatically diverge from the version offered by her brother, Joell Anderson, an eyewitness.

      According to police, Anderson began to resist after she was escorted away by officers, who planned to take her to St. Vincent Charity Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation.

      "As the officers escorted Anderson to the police vehicle, she began actively resisting the officers," police spokesman Sgt. Ali Pillow said in a press release. He said that Anderson was then handcuffed. "The woman began to kick at officers... A short time later the woman stopped struggling and appeared to go limp. Officers found a faint pulse on the victim and immediately called EMS."Joell Anderson included a number of extra details in his account, as reported by Cleveland.com. According to the deceased's brother, Anderson entered the police cruiser willingly before panicking and trying to leave the vehicle. He said that an officer drew a Taser and threatened Anderson, who then called out to her mother and brother. Joell maintained that they did not use the stun gun but threw Anderson to the ground with a takedown move.

      Anderson's brother added that officers then handcuffed the woman while she was unconscious. He claimed that the male officers would not touch Anderson again until a female officer arrived on scene. "They killed my sister," he said, "I watched it."

      Anderson was taken to Cleveland Clinic where she was pronounced dead. The Cleveland Division of Police Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is now investigating the case. 

      Friday 11/14

      On Wednesday, the New Orleans inspector general released a damning report on the city police's treatment of sexual assault cases. The New York Times reported that, according to the findings, hundreds of reported sexual assault cases were not pursued by the five NOPD detective charged with the task. Only 14 percent of sexual assault reports were found to have records of follow-ups over a three year period.

      "As the chief of police, I am deeply disturbed by the allegations in this report," Superintendent of Police Michael S. Harrison told reporters.

      According to the Times, the detectives appointed to oversee sexual assault calls have now been removed from the special victims section following the report's release. The inspector general is further investigating the NOPD negligence and the Times reported that criminal charges against the detective could follow.

      Of 1,290 sex crime "calls for service" made to the NOPD detectives between 2011 and 2013, 840 were designated "miscellaneous" in police records and were given no further follow up, the Times noted. The Times highlighted a particularly disturbing case from the inspector general's report, in which a 2-year-old was brought to the emergency room and was suspected to be a victim of sexual assault. The child was found to have a sexually transmitted infection. The detective failed to follow up on the case and closed it, the Times reported.

      NOPD has come under previous scrutiny for its treatment of sex crime. A 2011 Justice Department report found that the police department routinely reclassified rape as "miscellaneous charges" and discouraged victims from pursuing prosecution.

      Thursday 11/13
      A new FBI report released Monday reveals that the number of felony suspects fatally shot by police in 2013 was the highest in two decades. A total of 461 individuals listed as "justifiable homicides" were shot dead by police in 2013, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. Unlawful police uses of lethal force are not listed.

      The justifiable homicide count shows that an average of 96 black individuals are killed by a white officer every year, USA Today reported. Investigative site ProPublica last month published an analysis of reported police-related deaths, revealing that black male teens were 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white peers.

      The annual Uniform Crime Report is considered by experts to offer an incomplete picture of police use of lethal force. As USA Today notes, the killings are self reported by police and not all law enforcement agencies even participate in the FBI count. The entire state of Florida, for example, submitted no statistics for 2013.

      "It is irresponsible that we don't have a complete set of numbers,'' University of Nebraska criminologist Samuel Walker told USA Today. "Whether the numbers are up, down or stable, this (national database) needs to be done. ... This is a scandal," he said.

      Wednesday 11/12
      On Wednesday, The New York Post reported that the New York City Council will be introducing a bill on Thursday stipulating that NYPD officers must get audio or written consent before they can carry out a search on a suspect.

      It is already an individual's right to reject a search in instances when police lack a warrant or don't have probable cause for arrest. However, under the proposed legislation, suspects would have to be informed of this right and give explicit consent for the search to proceed.

      According to the Post, the bill, a rehashing of the 2012 Community Safety Act, would need 26 votes in City Council to then be passed on to Mayor de Blasio for veto or approval.

      Police union representative are slamming the proposal, which intends to reform discriminatory and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices. According to the Post, Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called the bill "total insanity," while Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said, "This is the exact kind of poorly conceived idea from this City Council that starts with the belief that aggressively fighting crime to keep communities safe is a bad thing."

      In 2013 the New York Civil Liberties surveyed police data on 5 million stops made by the NYPD under Mayor Bloomberg. The analysis found that over 86 percent of the stops were on black or Latino individuals. 88 percent of the stops did not result in an arrest or summons, let alone a conviction.

      Tuesday 11/11

      On Sunday night, Ann Arbor Police shot dead a 40-year-old woman in her home who was reportedly holding a knife. The police were called by the boyfriend of the woman, not yet named, over a domestic dispute, Michigan Live reported.

      "We had an argument. Glass was being broke, so I called the police to escort her out," Victor Stephens said. He expressed disbelief at the officers' use of lethal force. "Why would you kill her? He shot her in the head and in the chest. It was a woman with a knife. It doesn't make any sense."

      Stevens told Michigan Live that she had a history of mental illness.

      According to a police report cited by Michigan Live, one officer fired his gun and struck the woman, who was declared dead at the scene. Both the Michigan State Police and the Ann Arbor Police Department have launched an investigation into the shooting, but further details are not currently available. Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto explained that state police were brought in to investigate as an attempt to provide an "objective, unbiased review of the facts."

      Monday 11/10
      New York police will stop making arrests for low-level marijuana possession this month and instead will write tickets, ending years of arresting people who have no prior convictions for a "minor" offense.

      City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference today, announcing that the new policy will take effect on November 19. From that day forward, people found in possession of 25 grams or less of weed can be subject to a summons, similar to a traffic citation.

      That level of pot possession has been classified as a misdemeanor offense and perpetrators were subject to arrest. Mayor de Blasio said too many people have been arrested in New York for possession and it goes on to hurt them in the future.

      "There have been, in some cases, disastrous consequences for individuals and families," de Blasio said at the press conference. "When an individual is arrested for even the smallest possession of marijuana, it hurts their chances to get a good job, it hurts their chances to get housing, it hurts their chances to qualify for a student loan, it can literally follow them the rest of their lives."

      De Blasio also said that arrests for simple marijuana possession have disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos in New York, adding that the policy change is another step in the effort to improve relations between police and the community.

      NYPD officers will still use their discretion to determine the proper action to take in cases involving weed possession, de Blasio said, but the new guidelines suggest writing a summons instead of making an arrest.

      The new rules don't change anything about use of marijuana in New York. Bratton said that anyone burning or smoking weed — no matter how small the amount — will still be subject to arrest. People possessing pot who have outstanding warrants, are lacking identification, or have an amount not consistent with personal use will also be arrested, Bratton said.

      Monday 11/10
      A 27-year veteran county sheriff in Saratoga County, New York has been suspended after a video emerged online last week appearing to capture him slapping and verbally abusing a young man.

      The incident was filmed by the young man's friend, during which the officer demands to enter and search the unidentified man's car, which according to the local Times Union newspaper contained a rifle on the backseat.

      In the video, Sgt. Shawn R. Glans threatens to get a "fucking search warrant," but with no warrant in hand goes on to demand "Let me see your fucking keys... because we're searching your fucking car, that's why."

      The US motor vehicle exception law does allow police officers to search a car without a warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe that evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle, as was established by a US Supreme Court ruling in 1925.

      The man refuses, and Glans says, "You want to fucking resist?" The sound of a slap can be heard on the footage, but is not caught on screen. The cop then grabs the car keys and tosses them off screen to what appears to be his partner, saying "search the fucking car."

      The individual holding the camera comments to Glans that the interaction has been "intense," at which point the officer informs him that he could "rip [his] fucking head off and shit down [his] neck."

      Saratoga Sheriff Michael Zurlo said he was "very disturbed" by the footage and that an internal investigation was underway.

      Glans, who is under suspension, defended his actions but expressed regrets that they were caught on camera, the Times Union reported. "There was a gun that was involved [that] I spotted in the vehicle... I was concerned. It was a public safety issue," the sergeant said. "If I had to do it all over again ... I'd probably do the same thing. If I knew the camera was there, no, because it does look bad."

      Watch the video via LiveLeak:

      Friday 11/07
      Seven months after the Justice Department issued a damning report on the Albuquerque Police Department, accusing the New Mexico cops of reckless and excessive use of force, the city has agreed to enact reform.

      The Justice Department announced the agreement on November 1 that Albuquerque city council would vote on "a court-enforceable settlement agreement that will overhaul the way in which APD handles use of force by its officers." On Thursday night the City Council met and approved the agreement eight votes to zero, The Washington Post reported.

      Among the agreed upon reforms is the stipulation that APD officers must turn on body cameras whenever they use force. The agreement also requires that a "force review board" be developed "to detect and correct patterns and trends, and utilizing surrounding law enforcement agencies as part of a multi-agency task force to investigate officer-involved shootings to provide greater objectivity and accountability."

      Another detail aimed at reducing the use of force in crisis situations demands the establishment of a "a mental health response advisory committee; providing behavioral health training to all officers, police dispatchers, and 911 operators."

      While Albuquerque has agreed to the reforms, the city did not concede to accusations in the Justice Department's 17-month investigation. Despite the federal findings, The Washington Post noted, the agreement admits no liability and does not acknowledge any wrongdoing by APD officers.

      Friday 11/07
      A 25-year-old law student who lost a testicle after he was kicked in the groin by an Albuquerque police officer during a DWI arrest will not faces charges. 

      Jeremy Martin was stopped by Officer Pablo Padilla on April 25. According to Raw Story, Padilla asked Martin to exit his car and sit on the curb. When Martin stood up and attempted to talk to Padilla, the officer became angry and pointed a Taser at Martin and threatened to mace him.

      According to reports and based on Padilla's lapel camera footage, the officer grew irate, kicked Martin in the groin, and pushed him against the side of his car.

      The incident occurred amid a swelling brutality scandal after the Albuquerque police were accused of overuse of deadly force in the shooting of James Boyd, a homeless and mentally ill man police discovered illegally camping out in the Sandia foothills.

      Drunken driving charges were dropped against Martin in court in October when a judge saw the lapel camera footage, which shows Padilla destroying other video evidence of the incident. One of Martin's friends filmed the arrest on his cell phone. Padilla grabbed the device and deleted the footage.

      Martin filed a lawsuit against Albuquerque and the police department for Padilla's use of force and destruction of evidence. The officer was suspended for six weeks for his use of excessive force, but has not been disciplined for destroying evidence, Martin's attorney said.

      The lapel camera evidence can be seen below: 

      Thursday 11/6
      Two NYPD officers were charged Wednesday over a brutal attack on a 16-year-old during which they beat the teen with their fists and pistol whipped him.

      One officer, David Afanador, 33, faces charges for felony assault and misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a weapon and official misconduct. Tyrane Isaac, 36, faces misdemeanor assault and official misconduct charges. The cops, both nine-year NYPD veterans, pled not guilty in Brooklyn Supreme Court, the New York Daily News reported.

      Video of the August 29 attack in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, captured by a local business surveillance camera, shows 16-year-old Kahreem Tribble raise his hands after the two cops catch up to him following a brief chase over a marijuana possession stop. Isaac then strikes the teen numerous times in the face and Afanador hits him in the head with his gun.

      "The video speaks for itself, doesn't it?" said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, according to the Daily News.

      The officers' lawyer, Stephen Worth, told the Brooklyn court that Tribble made the cops apprehensive when he refused to stop for them. Tribble, whose teeth were broken in the attack, was arrested for marijuana possession, for which he has pled to a violation.

      The case represents a rare instance of officers facing official charges for assault. "The last time a city cop was convicted of brutalizing a suspect was when Justin Volpe pleaded guilty mid-trial to sodomizing Abner Louima with a broomstick in 1997," the Daily News noted.

      Watch the assault video (warning, graphic) via The Young Turks:

      Wednesday 11/05
      In what the New York Post described as a "desperate attempt to... regain support from minorities," the Bill de Blasio administration will reportedly be bringing an end to the NYPD's "buy-and-bust" practice last week, according to the paper.

      "Buy-and-bust," a New York policing staple, involves an undercover officer asking a suspected drug dealer to buy product, then arresting him or her when the drugs are produced. It has been regularly used to carry out low-level marijuana arrests as well as seizures of guns and arrests for outstanding warrants.

      Source told the Post that the head of each of New York City borough's narcotics units was summoned to NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan last week and told to end "buy-and-bust" style arrests. The source speculated that the move came from City Hall directly, and had to do with minority relations.

      De Blasio ran his mayoral campaign on a cornerstone promise to end discriminatory marijuana arrests. However, black and Latino New Yorkers still account for 86 percent of those arrested on marijuana charges under the new mayor, and the pace of marijuana arrests has not lessened since former mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, according to an October Drug Policy Alliance report.

      The Post reported that an end to "buy-and-bust" is part of an effort to move away from police low-level drug violations, to aim instead at the city's proliferation of heroin and pills. 

      Tuesday 11/04
      A Florida police officer reportedly broke the arm of a 14-year-old while arresting her at her high school, the Palm Beach New Times reported.

      Jared Nash of the Greenacres Police Department demanded to see the teen's phone without a search warrant on October 21, reportedly as a part of an investigation into an earlier fight at John I. Leonard High School in Palm Beach County. The unnamed girl was, according to the New Times report, on the phone to her mother and attempted to walk away from Nash.

      "I told [her] to put the phone down, but she continued to talk on it," Nash wrote in the police report. He then claims that she raised her arm and pushed him back. His report continues, "When she did this I took a hold of her left arm... [She] then began to twist and pull her arm around in an increased physical level trying to pull away," Nash claims. "I then tried placing [her] left hand behind her back to secure her in handcuffs due to her pushing me, her increasing attempts to break away from my grasp, and continuing to try hand the phone to [her friend] despite my orders not to."

      The girl, detained on resisting arrest charges, complained of arm pain while in police custody. She was taken to hospital where, as the New Times reports, X-rays were taken evidencing a broken arm. The Greenacres Police Department stated that an investigation into the incident was ongoing. The teen's father, who leaked the X-ray images to anti-police brutality site Davy V blog, said he wanted to see the officer responsible fired.

      The full arrest report is available here.

      Tuesday 11/04
      Utah prosecutors announced Monday that police officers were justified in using lethal force against Darrien Hunt, the 22-year-old black man who was shot dead in September while carrying a sword as a part of an anime costume.

      Saratoga Springs Police Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson will not face criminal charges for the shooting but, according to the AP, Hunt's family plans to file a civil suit and a wrongful death suit. They have contested that race played a role in the two white officers' decision to fire seven shots at Hunt — a claim that was not substantiated by prosecutors' investigations, the AP reported.

      Hunt's mother Susannah, who is white, told the Deseret News: "They killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away."

      Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman told a press conference Monday that deadly force was warranted, since the officers reportedly feared for their own lives and the safety of others. "This happened so quickly, violently and without provocation the officers had to use what was most immediately available to them, which was their firearms," Buhman said. He added that the investigation uncovered no trace that race or ethnicity played a part in Hunt's death. 

      The shooting took place on September 10 when someone who passed Hunt in a Saratoga Springs strip mall called 911 to report a "suspicious" man carrying a sword. 

      According to Buhman, the officers approached Hunt and conversed with him. When Hunt was asked to give up his sword, he reportedly refused and, Buhman said, "That's when he swung the 3-foot metal sword at them."

      An autopsy report from the Utah State Medical Examiner's Officer said that Hunt was shot several times in the back, indicating that he was running away.

      Monday 11/03
      The Austin Police Department announced Friday that it is launching an internal investigation after damning dashcam footage capturing two officers joking about rape went public. During a conversation in their patrol car in May of this year, the two officers joke about "turning a blind eye to everything." When a woman walks by the car, the following back-and-forth ensues between the unnamed officers inside the vehicle:

      Officer 1: Look at that girl over there.
      Officer 2: (whistles) Go ahead and call the cops. They can't un-rape you. (laughter)
      Officer 1: You didn't turn your camera off, did you?
      Officer 2: They can't un-rape you.

      Attorney David Gibbs first discovered the footage as he reviewed dashcam video for a traffic collision case — the reason the officers were on the scene in the first place — according to Raw Story. Gibbs posted the video online, stating, "the comments on the video struck me as inappropriate, and I chose to allow the court of public opinion to decide if they agreed."

      Raw Story reports that the Austin Police Department verified the video and released a statement announcing an internal investigation. The department stated: "The investigation will include a comprehensive audit of the involved officers' contacts with victims of sexual assault to ensure the actions taken during the contacts meet the expectations of the Department, the public and most importantly, the victims. Upon conclusion of the investigation, the Department will take appropriate corrective action."

      Watch the video below, via the Free Thought Project:

      Friday 10/31
      The mother of a homeless man, who according to officials "baked to death" in a Rikers Island jail cell, received a $2.25 million and an apology from the City of New York today.

      On February 15, former Marine Jerome Murdough, 56, was found dead in a prison cell of the jail's mental observation unit, his blood and vomit on the floor. The cell's temperature was recorded at 101-degrees, and Murdough's internal body temperature was 103 degrees. Murdough's death drew public attention to prisoner abuses at the New York prison.

      "Mr. Murdough essentially got the death penalty simply for being arrested for trespassing," commented Derek Sells, the family's attorney. The family had planned to sue to city for $25 million according to the New York Daily News.

      In a public apology Friday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said to Murdough's crying mother, Alma, "On behalf of the City of New York, I'm sorry, Ms. Murdough, for your loss... I hope that in some small measure, it will provide closure for Mrs. Murdough and her family."

      Jail officials had reportedly been aware of the problem of high heats in Rikers cells, according to the Associated Press, but repairs had been delayed over a holiday weekend — tragically too late for Murdough.

      Friday 10/31
      A Baltimore police officer is facing second-degree assault and perjury charges after a tape showing his brutal beating of a man at a bus stop emerged. On June 15, Officer Vincent Cosom was caught on city surveillance camera repeatedly punching 32-year-old Kollin Truss in the face. Cosom allegedly lied on the police report, stating Truss attacked him first — a claim undermined by the video evidence. Charges were filed on Wednesday against Cosom. Truss is seeking a settlement from the city.

      Cosom's case sparked outrage across Baltimore and led Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blaketo to call for a federal investigating into the conduct and training of the Baltimore police department.

      "Not getting it right, that's not an option. We have to get this right," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

      According to a recent investigation by the Baltimore Sun, over 3,000 misconduct complaints have been filed against Baltimore police between 2012 and this summer. 

      Thursday 10/30
      A federal appeals court has ruled that the immediate relatives of a suicidal Louisiana man who was killed by a sheriff's deputy after being called to his house are not eligible for accidental-death benefits, and determined that police do not need a warrant to enter a home when an individual poses a threat to him or herself.

      The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed several claims against two Louisiana law enforcement officers filed by the family of Gerald Rice.

      The ruling details how Rice was shot and killed on Jan. 27, 2010 by Livingston Parish Sheriff's Deputy Joel Arnold. Police were notified that Rice was sitting in his truck with a loaded gun to his head. He was under the influence of medication and alcohol, and threatening to commit suicide.

      Arnold and Sheriff Willie Graves responded to the call, entered the house, and found Rice sitting in his vehicle in the garage with the weapon. Despite repeated requests by officers, Rice refused to drop the gun, and even fired a shot into the wall of the garage while the officers were in the kitchen. Rice eventually left the truck and moved toward the kitchen, still carrying the weapon, and Arnold fired four shots at him. He later died from three gunshot wounds to his chest.

      The Rice family filed several claims against the officers, among them excessive and unreasonable use of deadly force, assault, battery, and false imprisonment. The family also believed that ReliaStar Life Insurance Company owed them $179,000 in accidental-death coverage.

      The insurance company refused to pay out after Rice's death, arguing that he had put himself in a situation where he had to have realized that serious injury or death was possible. His death was therefore not "an unexpected, external, violent and sudden event," as stipulated by his policy. The Fifth Circuit agreed with that assessment.

      The three-judge panel noted that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, and didn't need a warrant to enter the house because they reasonably thought that Rice was an imminent threat to seriously injure himself.

      Thursday 10/30
      Over two years after police in Saginaw, Michigan killed a homeless man after firing a reported 46 shots, the ACLU has released new dashcam video footage of the incident, following a federal investigation that failed to bring charges to any of the six involved officers.

      Milton Hall, 46, a mentally ill black man, can be seen pulling out a small pocket knife in the July 2012 video in response to a police dog lunging towards him and growling. Officers opened fire, and Hall was then struck 14 times by a reported stream of 46 bullets.

      In February, the Justice Department announced that it could not find "sufficient evidence of willful misconduct" to prosecute the police.

      The ACLU obtained the new footage from Hall's family's lawyer and used it as testimony this week before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — a body that has no legal authority. The ACLU reportedly hoped to deliver a "wake up call" about police violence.

      The video opens with comments from Hall's mother about her son and racial justice activism. Warning, graphic footage:

      Wednesday 10/29
      "America's Toughest Sheriff," Arizona's Joe Arpaio, has been ordered to participate in a training program similar to that of his deputies to counter racial profiling and unlawful detention, Reuters reported.

      Despite US District Court Judge Murray Snow ordering Arpaio to stop using race as a factor in law enforcement decisions last year, the sheriff is in trouble yet again after remarking to an Associated Press reporter in Phoenix that he would conduct another immigration raid in the town of Guadalupe in 2008. In 2013, Judge Snow found parts of the activity to be unconstitutional.

      "With the same circumstances, I'd do it all over again," Arpaio told the media outlet.

      Arpaio has a track record of unconstitutional racial profiling in his police work (he also was the guy to start his own probe to prove President Barack Obama's birth certificate was a fake): the same federal judge told Arpaio that he violated the rights of Latino drivers in a May 2013 hearing. The ruling was the result of a class-action lawsuit brought by Hispanic drivers six years earlier, which argued they were unlawfully singled out for traffic stops on the basis of ethnicity.

      Arpaio's attorney, Tim Casey, claimed First Amendment protections for Arpaio's statement to the AP. In court on Tuesday, Casey argued, "Good faith exists in the deed, not the spoken word." Arpaio was not present at the hearing.

      Wednesday 10/29
      An official autopsy report has found that 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, killed by Utah police on September 10, was shot at least four times in the back. "A fifth shot that struck his left arm appears to have come from the front and a sixth traveled downward after entering the back of his forearm," the AP reported.

      Hunt, a black man, was killed by police at a Saratoga Springs strip mall while dressed as an anime character carrying a sword, which his family claims was decorative. On seeing the sword, a passerby called 911. Police reports state that Hunt swung at officers with the sword. The autopsy does not undermine this claim, but does show that Hunt was shot multiple times while running away. 

      Hunt's mother has stated publicly that she believes race had something to do with her son's death — a claim the police deny. Tim Taylor, chief deputy at the Utah County Attorney's Office, said that an investigation into whether the shooting was legally justified is near completion. Neither officer identified as involved in the incident, Corporal Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson, have been charged.

      Tuesday 10/28
      Twenty-four armed officers arrived along with an armored vehicle at the home of a 75-year-old man in a small Wisconsin town to collect a civil judgment, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Roger Hoeppner of Stettin had been involved in a longstanding dispute with Stettin over the use of his property; as a result, he owed the town $80,000 in fines and legal fees. Officials said that the vehicle was called in to aid in quickly and safely settling the dispute after Hoeppner initially refused to leave his house. Accompanied by Sheriff's deputies to the bank, Hoeppner paid the fee.

      Hoeppner's attorney criticized the police action, which had been ordered by town officials. "Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice... and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment," he said. 

      The county sheriffs are defending their action, asserting that the heavy police presence was in place in case property such as tractors and wooden pallets had to be seized in lieu of payment.

      Monday 10/27
      Former New York Police Department Officer Frank Serpico, famously portrayed by Al Pacino in the eponymous film, has spoken out against police violence and impunity in a lengthy forPolitico magazine, out today. In the piece, Serpico revisits the 1971 incident in which he believes he was abandoned by fellow officers when he was stuck in a door and shot in the face during a drug bust. The former officer maintains that he was the victim of a corrupt force.

      In the piece, Serpico specifically highlights the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, claiming that policing today is "out of control." Calling for an end to impunity, Serpico writes:

      [P]olice violence — has probably grown worse, and it's out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability... Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he's typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets — this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      Monday 10/27
      Two sheriff's deputies were killed and two more were wounded in a shooting spree in Sacramento on Friday. After an intensive manhunt, 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez and his accomplice, identified as Jannelle Monroy, were taken in to custody for the rampage, which began in a Motel 6 parking lot and ended at a home in Auburn, California.

      On Friday morning, Officer Danny Oliver was shot in the head as he approached the suspects in a car. Marquez and Monroy then allegedly car-jacked another vehicle, shooting the civilian driver in the head and leaving him in serious condition, the Sacramento Bee reported.

      The suspects then drove across county lines, car-jacking yet another vehicle en route. When two Placer County officers approached the car as it pulled over on a roadside, the gunman reportedly shot at them. Homicide Detective Michael David Davis later died in hospital and Officer Jeff Davis was wounded in the arm, but has been released from the hospital.

      The ensuing manhunt for Marquez and Monroy over the next 6 hours involved hundreds of officers. The two fled into an Auburn neighborhood and attempted to hide in a residential basement, but were finally arrested after police used tear gas to flush them out, according to witnesses.

      Federal investigators told the Sacramento Beethat Marquez had been deported twice from the United States to Mexico in the past. The Sacramento County Sheriff Scott James gave a press conference on the incident:

      Friday 10/24
      Zale Thompson has been identified by New York police as the man who rushed at four officers with a hatchet on Thursday in Jamaica, Queens, striking one in the arm and another in the head.

      Thompson was shot and killed by the other two officers at the scene, CNN reported. Both officers who were attacked were taken to the hospital. The officer struck in the arm is expected to be released shortly, while the officer struck in the head is in critical but stable condition. During the incident a woman was hit in the back by a stray bullet fired by police and is in stable condition at the hospital.

      In the video, Thompson is seen running along the rain-soaked sidewalk toward the officers, who are out of the frame. He comes from beside a bus stand, dodges a pedestrian, and swings the hatchet with two hands before the video cuts off.

      The hatchet attack came the day after a gunman killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa before firing shots in Canada's Parliament. Authorities in the US were put on alert for similar attacks, but New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he doesn't think the attacks are at all related.

      "There is nothing we know as of this time that would indicate that were the case. I think certainly the heightened concern is relative to that type of assault based on what just happened in Canada," Bratton said at a press conference.

      Thursday 10/23
      A New York police officer has been stripped of his badge and gun following the emergence of a video showing him kicking another officer, having reportedly been aiming for an arrest suspect. The unnamed plainclothes officer was rushing to join uniformed colleagues attempting to arrest a fare beater at Coney Island's Stillwell Avenue subway station in January. According to DNAinfo, the undercover officer realized he had kicked a fellow cop and reached to rub the back of his colleagues head. The officer then reportedly turned to the suspect and punched him in the face.

      Wednesday 10/22
      Advocates against police brutality launched a nationwide day of action today to "stop police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation."

      Groups from a number of social justice coalitions planned to take to the streets of New York City, Chicago, and dozens of other locations across the country, standing in solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri and demanding more police accountability.

      The national call to action was bolstered by recent protests against police violence and a weekend of resistance that brought thousands of advocates to St. Louis earlier this month.

      But the "October 22" campaign actually dates back to that day in 1996, when activists from a number of organizations joined hands for a National Day of Protest.

      Social media users shared images and report of the action throughout the day under the hashtag #O22.

      In New York City, protesters gathered in Union Square and marched to Time Square.

      In St. Louis, Missouri , where protests have continued nearly uninterruptedly since the August 9 police killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown, protesters staged a funeral procession on a local highway, while others rallied inside the St. Louis County police department headquarters.

      Tuesday 10/21
      Former Rikers Island inmate, Bishme Ayers, 25, plans to sue the City of New York over extreme assault allegations. Ayers claims that a corrections officer beat him and sodomized him with a nightstick while the prisoner was shackled to a bed in Jacobi Hospital following a seizure. According to Ayers' claims, currently under investigation by the Bronx district attorney's office and the Correction Department, the officer said: "I'm going to make you my bitch now."

      The New York Daily News reported that Ayers was serving his second stint in Rikers for assault when the alleged incident took place. Ayers alleges that the reported attack was payback for prior complaints he had made about guards during his first sentence in the notorious jail. The Corrections Department has not yet commented on the ongoing litigation.

      Monday 10/20
      Marijuana arrests by the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio are on track to equal, even possibly exceed, the number made under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that the NYPD "made slightly more total marijuana possession arrests in March through August of 2014 than in the same six months in 2013 under Mayor Bloomberg," despite de Blasio's campaign vows to bring down weed arrest numbers in the city. 

      The press release accompanying the report, which is based on statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, also stated "that overall, low income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates of marijuana possession arrests than do white communities of every class bracket." 

      "The NYPD continues to arrest blacks at seven times the rates of whites, and Latinos nearly four times the rates of whites. But young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks and Latinos," the report noted.

      Thursday 10/16
      The police officer who in April shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a mentally disturbed Milwaukee man living in Red Arrow Park, has now been fired from the police department over the incident. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn stated on Wednesday that officer Christopher Manney, who has not faced criminal charges over the shooting, was not being fired for use of excessive force, but rather his actions leading up to the deadly moment.

      "Christopher Manney treated Hamilton as though he were a dangerous criminal, instead of following his training. If the outcome had been benign, we would be looking at a training issue. But the outcome matters," Flynn said.

      The police chief told press, "This was not a call of a mentally ill man waving a gun. This was not a call of a mentally ill man threatening to kill other people. This was a check welfare call. There's a set of training and approaches that you are taught, and you don't go hands on and start frisking somebody only because they appear to be mentally ill."

      Hamilton, 31, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, reportedly began to fight Manney in response to the pat down.

      The District Attorney's Office told Fox6 News that the FBI is reviewing the specific question of the use of force.

      Watch Flynn's announcement below:

      Wednesday 10/15
      Five Denver sheriff's deputies on Tuesday were found to have used excessive force in the 2010 death of a homeless man and a federal jury awarded his family $4.65 million in damages.

      Marvin Booker, 56, died after the officers placed him in a sleeper hold, piled on top of him, and shocked him with a Taser on July 9, 2010, reported the Denver Post. Booker was in the booking area of a downtown Denver police station after being arrested on an outstanding warrant for a drug-possession charge.

      Police claimed that Booker was cursing and refusing to follow orders, leading to the altercation. Inmates who witnessed the incident said it began when Booker was told to sit down in the holding cell but instead moved to get his shoes, which he had taken off.

      Attorneys for the Booker family said during the trial that the officers stunned Booker for too long and should have stopped when he said he was having trouble breathing. The lawyer representing the city of Denver said the deputies followed protocol.

      "I think the Colorado community is finally saying enough is enough," the Booker family lawyer Mari Newman said, according to the Post. "It seems like the police can't police themselves. If law enforcement doesn't do something then the community has to step in. I definitely think this is a wake-up call for the city of Denver."

      "We're obviously disappointed in the verdict," Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we thank the jurors for their effort and respect the legal process. The city remains committed to its ongoing efforts to improve the Denver Sheriff's Department."

      Tuesday 10/14
      Ballistic testing found gunpowder residue on the hands, shirt, and jeans of St. Louis teen Vonderrit Myers, the St. Louis police department said on Tuesday, evidence which backs up the police assertion that Myers fired at an off-duty officer before he was shot and killed last week.

      Police have maintained that Myers was the first to fire, but the victim's family and friends claimed the 18-year-old was unarmed and was holding a sandwich when he was shot. A 9mm Ruger was recovered at the scene of the shooting.

      The officer who shot Myers is a six-year veteran of the St. Louis police department and was working a second job at a private security company in the Shaw neighborhood of the city when the shooting took place. Police say Myers, who was black, shot at the white officer three times before the officer returned fire, shooting at the teen 17 times.

      Myers' death ignited fresh protests in the St. Louis area, which is still reeling from the August shooting death in nearby Ferguson, Missouri of 18-year-old black man Michael Brown, who was unarmed, at the hands of a white police officer.

      Gunpowder residue can be found on anyone near a shooting, but police said that the amount found on Myers indicates he was the shooter, because the officer's position was too far away. 

      Tuesday 10/14
      Young black men are approximately 21 times more likely to get shot by police in the US than their white peers, according to new research from ProPublica. Analyzing federal and state statistics on 1,217 deadly police shootings between 2010 and 2012, the investigation found that black males aged 15 to 19 were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million compared to only 1.47 per million white males in the same age range. As AlterNet noted, to put the statistics in perspective, "calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week."

      Monday 10/13
      The NYPD has reportedly paid out over $428 million in settlements in the past five years, according to Muck Rock's review of case files brought against the police department.

      "We've only just begun to look through the data, but already there's a couple interesting take-aways: one, the sheer volume of capital that is being spent on settlements, and two, that the overwhelming majority of these cases end with the NYPD at fault," Muck Rock noted. "While's there a handful of Zero Disposition and Administrative Closing statuses, the Settlement category outnumbers them three to one."

      The average settlement sum has been $33,875 per closed case, Muck Rock reports.

      Monday 10/13
      new investigation from the Washington Post reveals how police forces around the country have spent hundreds of millions of dollars taken from US citizens under forfeiture law to buy weapons, equipment, and vehicles. "They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles," the Post reported. Federal law allows police forces to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize, in both cash and property, even if no indictment has been filed. Since 2008 about 5,400 departments and drug task forces have participated in the Equitable Sharing Program, which aims to curtail drug organization cash flows. 

      Friday 10/10
      The NYPD is pushing back against claims that an officer stole $1,300 dollars from a Brooklyn man's pocket during a heated stop-and-frisk in Coney Island in September. Damning video emerged this week appearing to show an officer holding the reportedly stolen cash in his hand as he pepper sprays Lamard Joye, who can be heard saying "Give me my money, man! Give me my money."

      The NYPD claims that the officer took and vouchered $62 from Joye's pocket, not $1,300. The Brooklyn District Attorney's office and the NYPD internal affairs department are investigating the incident.

      Watch the video below, via the New York Times:

      Thursday 10/9
      Video emerged on Wednesday apparently showing an NYPD officer delivering a knockout strike to 17-year-old Marcel Hamer on June 4 in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood. The teen is shown lying on his back with a plainclothes officer's foot pressing on his stomach.

      "You wanna get fucked up?" one officer can be heard saying. The reported hit to the face is not caught on video, but the sound of a punch is audible. It appears that the teen was stopped for smoking a suspicious looking cigarette. Police told the New York Daily News that the officer who hit Hamer has been suspended, and another officer present has been stripped his gun and badge.

      Watch the video, obtained first by the Brooklyn Paper, below:

      Thursday 10/9
      The family of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died July 17 after NYPD officers put him in an allegedly illegal choke hold, is suing the city of New York for $75 million. The death of Garner, 43, was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner, caused in part by "compression of the neck and chest." On a video that went viral, showing NYPD officers wrestling Garner to the ground, he can be heard saying several times, "I can't breathe." Garner was being approached by police for reportedly selling "loosie" cigarettes on a street corner.

      Thursday 10/9
      A Michigan cop bought a booster seat for a five-year-old girl after he responded to a report of a young child riding without a car seat. The child's mother Alexis deLorenzo had thought Emmett Township Department of Public Safety Officer Ben Hall would give her a ticket to her and her friend, who was giving her and her child a lift. But when the mother told the officer that her car had been repossessed, the booster seat inside, Hall told her to meet him at a Walmart in 15 minutes, where he bought a booster seat for them. 

      "A ticket doesn't solve the situation," Hall told Fox 17 News. "What solves it is the child being in the booster seat like she should be."

      Topics: americas, crime & drugs, appropriate force, militarization, surveillance, police, policing, officer involved

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