Police Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on police corruption
Ties between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon are deeper than previously known, according to thousands of previously unreported subcontracts published Wednesday. The subcontracts were obtained through open records requests by accountability nonprofit Tech Inquiry. They show that tech giants including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have secured more than 5,000 agreements with agencies including the Department of Defense, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI. Tech workers in recent years have pressured their employers to drop contracts with law enforcement and the military. Google workers revolted in 2018 after Gizmodo revealed that Google was building artificial intelligence for drone targeting through a subcontract with the Pentagon — after some employees quit in protest, Google agreed not to renew the contract. Employees at Amazon and Microsoft have petitioned both companies to drop their contracts with ICE and the military. Neither company has. The newly-surfaced subcontracts ... show that the companies' connections to the Pentagon run deeper than many employees were previously aware. Tech Inquiry's research was led by Jack Poulson, a former Google researcher. "Often the high-level contract description between tech companies and the military looks very vanilla," Poulson [said]. "But only when you look at the details ... do you see the workings of how the customization from a tech company would actually be involved."
When thousands of New Yorkers poured into the city's streets last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, they were met with the very police violence they had come to protest. New York police arrested hundreds of people, many with no probable cause. Over multiple incidents, police regularly and unjustifiably used force against peaceful protesters, with state investigators finding that they beat people with blunt instruments at least 50 times, unlawfully pepper-sprayed them in at least 30 instances, and pushed or struck protesters at least 75 times. Officers targeted and retaliated against people engaging in constitutionally protected activity, New York Attorney General Letitia James's office concluded, and "blatantly violated the rights of New Yorkers." Leading the violent crackdown was the New York Police Department's Strategic Response Group, or SRG, a heavily militarized, rapid-response unit of several hundred officers. Investigators found a disproportionate number of SRG officers accused of wrongdoing to have exceeded their legal authority, when compared with the wider department. The group earned a reputation among activists as the NYPD's "goon squad." Despite initial reassurances to the contrary, the SRG ended up policing protests far more than it did any "counterterrorism" work – already the job of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau – but it brought its militarized mentality and tactics to the policing of civil unrest.
It was an unusual forearm tattoo that the police said led them to Luis Reyes, a 35-year-old man who was accused of stealing packages from a Manhattan building's mailroom in 2019. But the truth was more complicated: Mr. Reyes had first been identified by the New York Police Department's powerful facial recognition software as it analyzed surveillance video of the crime. His guilty plea this year ... was part of the sprawling legacy of one of the city's darkest days. Since the fall of the World Trade Center, the security apparatus born from the Sept. 11 attack on the city has fundamentally changed the way the country's largest police department operates, altering its approach to finding and foiling terrorist threats, but also to cracking minor cases like Mr. Reyes's. New Yorkers simply going about their daily lives routinely encounter post-9/11 digital surveillance tools like facial recognition software, license plate readers or mobile X-ray vans that can see through car doors. Surveillance drones hover above mass demonstrations and protesters say they have been questioned by antiterrorism officers after marches. The department's Intelligence Division, redesigned in 2002 to confront Al Qaeda operatives, now uses antiterror tactics to fight gang violence and street crime. The department's budget for intelligence and counterterrorism has more than quadrupled, spending more than $3 billion since 2006, and more through funding streams that are difficult to quantify, including federal grants and the secretive Police Foundation.
New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered a controversial robotic dog undergoing trials with the city's police off the street, and a $94,200 contract with creator Boston Dynamics cancelled. The robot canine, named "Digidog", is to be returned to its manufacturer following outrage tied to calls to cut police funding and law enforcement access to military-developed or surplus hardware. De Blasio voiced that he is "glad the Digidog was put down." A city government spokesperson added: "It's creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers." The 70lb robot could run at three and a half miles per hour and climb stairs. It was primarily intended to go into situations deemed dangerous for officers, and had been undergoing trials in the Bronx since it was unveiled last December. But the dog sparked an immediate backlash, with critics noting police dogs have been traditionally used to suppress and intimidate communities of color. Some critics also pointed out it was reminiscent of robot dogs in the dystopian Netflix series Black Mirror.
In response to the high rate at which American police kill civilians, many on the left have taken up the call for defunding the police, or abolishing the police entirely. But some policing experts are instead emphasizing a different approach that they say could reduce police killings: training officers better, longer, and on different subjects. Police in the United States receive less initial training than their counterparts in other rich countries - about five months in a classroom and another three or so months in the field, on average. Many European nations, meanwhile, have something more akin to police universities, which can take three or four years to complete. European countries also have national standards for various elements of a police officer's job - such as how to search a car and when to use a baton. The U.S. does not. The 18,000 police departments in the U.S. each have their own rules and requirements. "Police officers, police chiefs, and everyone agree that we do not get enough training in a myriad of fields," Dennis Slocumb, the legislative director of the International Union of Police Associations [said]. Many policing experts recommend that officers be trained to slow down when they are able to do so, giving themselves time to decide the best course of action. "Police are taught in the academy [that] police always have to win," says Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. But sometimes it's okay not to win, particularly if it means saving a life.
The Alexandria police chief, Mike Ward, was “sick and tired” of sending his officers to respond to 911 calls that they lacked the skills and time to handle. In this small Kentucky town of 10,000 people ... two-thirds of the calls police responded to were not criminal – instead, they were mental health crises and arguments resulting from long-brewing interpersonal conflicts. Police would show up, but they could rarely offer long-lasting solutions. Often, it was inevitable that they would be called back to the same address for the same problem again and again. In 2016 he decided to try a new approach: he talked the city into hiring a social worker for the police department. The current police chief, Lucas Cooper, said he was “the most vocal opponent” of the plan at the time. But now four years later, Cooper sees the program as indispensable: it frees officers from repeat calls for non-criminal issues and gets residents the help they needed, but couldn’t get. In Alexandria two social workers are now on the police department’s payroll. But while working for the police, they are not cops: they do not have arresting powers and they do not carry weapons. They ride in a Ford Focus instead of a police cruiser. They wear polo shirts, not police uniforms, and carry a radio with a panic button in case they find themselves in danger. “We’re like a non-threatening type of follow-up,” said Cassie Hensley, one of the department’s social workers. “I’ve been told by individuals that they’re very glad I didn’t show up in a police cruiser ... and that they’re more likely to talk to me.”
Note: Could it be beneficial rather than defunding police to include social workers in their ranks for the many calls involving mental health? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption from reliable major media sources.
Attorney General William P. Barr oversaw the deployment of a show of military force in the District in response to protests in recent days. His “flood the zone” strategy included the use of men in military tactical gear without any markings to indicate their names or agencies where they work. He thus took a page from the dictator’s handbook, threatening force without any accountability. Why did these unmarked troops refuse to identify themselves when asked by journalists and protesters? Some of the mystery forces in the District were “special operations teams from the Bureau of Prisons.” The bureau confirmed this in a statement to NBC, saying the “crisis management teams” were sent to Washington and Miami at Mr. Barr’s request, and carry badges but were “not wearing BOP specific clothing as they are serving a broader mission.”. Mr. Barr also personally authorized the clearing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square on Monday so President Trump could walk to his photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Two U.S. Park Police officers have been put on administrative leave after video showed Australian reporter Amanda Brace and cameraman Tim Myers being assaulted while reporting live on that melee. Was Mr. Barr in control of the Park Police, too? The Justice Department’s inspector general and Congress ought to seek answers. In a democracy, where law enforcement works for the people and not against them, it must be identifiable — and accountable.
Note: Read a related, incisive article on politico.com. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
As protests and unrest continued in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd, people are questioning the identity of a man filmed smashing windows. Footage emerged of the white man, dressed all in black, and in gloves and boots, calmly smashing the windows of an auto parts store with a large hammer. His face is obscured by an expensive-looking gas mask and he is also holding an open black umbrella — although it was not raining. Twitter quickly christened him 'Umbrella Man'. As he methodically smashes the windows of the Minneapolis branch of AutoZone, video shows that he is confronted by two people, apparently trying to stop him, before he turns and walks quickly away. A small group follows him and he tries to snatch the phone of the person filming. Someone yells: "Are you a f***ing cop?" Twitter users have accused him of being everything from an undercover police officer, to part of Antifa, to a white supremacist, or an agent provocateur there to incite violence that would ultimately trigger a widespread riot. The incident was recorded before fires were started. Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison even chimed in, tweeting: “This man doesn’t look like any civil rights protester I have ever seen. Looks like a provocateur. Can anyone ID him?” A popular theory that went viral identified a specific police officer from neighbouring St Paul by name, based on screenshots of a series of text messages purportedly from a former partner. The identity of 'umbrella man' continues to be a subject of speculation and rumour.
Note: Watch the umbrella man video here. A tweet you can see in this article suggests it was a policeman in the video. Read an excellent but disturbing article on how recent protests are being infiltrated by militias and other groups intent on causing trouble. Here's another example of an undercover police officer discovered among protestors in Oakland, CA several years ago. A member of the WTK team who lives in Minneapolis has a friend who was putting out fires during the riots only to then have uniformed police chase them away and restart the fires.
When the editor of a weekly paper approached me about writing a regular column about local politics, the first thing I asked her was: “Are you sure you know what you’d be getting yourself into?” I wrote just six pieces before the column was canceled. Two centered on the need for police accountability in a city traumatized by the memory of officers standing by as neo-Nazis beat residents in the streets. In a column published in May, I mentioned a photograph taken in August 2017 of an officer with his arms around James Napier, of the neo-Confederate group the Highwaymen, and Tammy Lee of the American Freedom Keepers militia. Lee’s caption read: “You should know the police escorted us and worked days with us 2b there.” The image of a Charlottesville officer with his arm around a member of a white supremacist militia was to me a perfect illustration of a department choosing to ignore the community it serves. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when I received a letter from the attorney for the local Southern States Police Benevolent Association, sent on behalf of the officer in the picture. One of the remarks the letter quoted and claimed to be “odious” and defamatory was taken directly from the after action report, commissioned by the city. Despite the editor’s best efforts on my behalf and the absence of any follow through on the threat of a defamation suit, the paper’s owners did not want to continue to run my column.
Philando Castile, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland were all pulled over by police in routine traffic stops. All are dead. In an effort to curb racial profiling, North Carolina became the first state to demand the collection and release of traffic stop data. University of North Carolina professor Frank Baumgartner took a look at that data and wrote a book on the subject titled, "Suspect Citizens." Baumgartner analyzed 22 million traffic stops over 20 years ... and found that a driver's race, gender, location and age all factor in to a police officer's decision to pull over a vehicle. The data showed that African Americans had been stopped twice as often as white drivers, and while they were four times more likely to be searched, they were actually less likely to be issued a ticket. The study also highlighted that whites were more likely to be found with contraband than blacks or Hispanics. "There's a way that police interact with middle-class white Americans and there's a way that people in the police forces interact with members of minority communities, especially in poorer neighborhoods," Baumgartner said. Police discretion is a power that's been backed by the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. Baumgartner believes that's largely because the court looks like him, a white man. Philando Castile was stopped 46 times according to police records, racking up a total of $6,000 in fines. "When we look at some of these infractions, they're trivial. It's not keeping us any safer," Baumgartner said.
Thousands of California law enforcement officers have been convicted of a crime in the past decade, according to records released by a public agency that sets standards for officers in the Golden State. The revelations are alarming, but the state’s top cop says Californians don’t have a right to see them. In fact, Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned two Berkeley-based reporters that simply possessing this never-before-publicly-released list of convicted cops is a violation of the law. The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training — known as POST — provided the information last month in response to routine Public Records Act requests from reporters. When [California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra’s office learned about the disclosure, it threatened the reporters with legal action unless they destroyed the records. The documents provide a rare glimpse at the volume of officer misconduct at a time of heightened interest over police accountability. The list includes cops who trafficked drugs, cops who stole money from their departments and even one who robbed a bank wearing a fake beard. Some sexually assaulted suspects. Others took bribes, filed false reports and committed perjury. A large number drove under the influence of drugs and alcohol — sometimes killing people on the road. The Berkeley journalists chose not to publish the entire list until they could spend more time reporting to avoid misidentifying people among the nearly 12,000 names in the documents.
In the summer of 2015, as Memphis exploded with protests over the police killing of a 19-year-old man, activists began hearing on Facebook from someone called Bob Smith. His profile picture [was] a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of anti-government dissent. Smith acted as if he supported the protesters. Over the next three years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to observe private discussions. He described himself as a far-left Democrat, a “fellow protester” and a “man of color.” But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security whose job was to keep tabs on local activists. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The revelation validated many activists’ distrust of local authorities. It also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement operates online. Social media monitoring - including the use of software to crunch data about people’s online activity - illustrates a policing “revolution” that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at [the] Brennan Center for Justice. But there are few laws governing this kind of monitoring.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
A trove of documents released by the city of Memphis late last week appear to show that its police department has been systematically using fake social media profiles to surveil local Black Lives Matter activists, and that it kept dossiers and detailed power point presentations on dozens of Memphis-area activists. The surveillance project was operated through the Memphis police department’s office of homeland security. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the information gathering, officials said it ... began to focus on “local individuals or groups that were staging protests” [around 2016]. This included the publication of daily joint information briefings on potential protests and known protesters. The briefings regularly included information about meetings on private property, panel discussions, town halls, and even innocuous events like “Black Owned Food Truck Sunday”. A good deal of that information appears to have been obtained by a fake MPD Facebook profile for a “Bob Smith”, which the ACLU said was used “to view private posts, join private groups, and otherwise pose as a member of the activist community”. The briefings, which contained ... photographs, dates of birth, addresses, and mental health histories were distributed beyond the department according to the ACLU lawsuit, to a number of local businesses including the region’s largest employer FedEx and the county school district.
An African American family of six sits inside the Nissan Quest in this first-ring suburb of St. Paul. The car tells a story of poverty: Plastic covers a broken window; rust lines the wheel wells. Officer Erin Reski pulled the vehicle over for a burned-out taillight, a problem similar to the one that led an officer to stop Philando Castile in the Twin Cities two years ago. That incident ... ended with Castile fatally shot. This situation ends very differently. Reski walks back to the minivan ... hands over a sheet of paper and offers a brief explanation. The response is swift and emphatic. “Oh, thank you!” the driver says. Scenes like this have been taking place across the Twin Cities thanks to the Lights On program, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Instead of writing tickets for minor equipment problems, police officers are authorized to issue $50 coupons so motorists can have those problems fixed at area auto shops. Twenty participating police departments have given out approximately 660 coupons in a little more than a year. For motorists such as Sandy Patterson, another African American resident who was pulled over for a burned-out headlight in January, the small gesture of being offered a coupon makes a big difference. “I was relieved that I was getting a voucher to purchase a service that could’ve been quite expensive,” she said. “I had an overwhelming feeling of decreased anxiety because of the whole way the communication went, with somebody helping out versus giving a ticket.”
Cedric O’Bannon tried to ignore the sharp pain in his side and continue filming. The independent journalist, who was documenting a white supremacist rally in Sacramento, said he wanted to capture the neo-Nazi violence against counter-protesters with his GoPro camera. But the pain soon became overwhelming. He lifted up his blood-soaked shirt and realized that one of the men carrying a pole with a blade on the end of it had stabbed him in the stomach, puncturing him nearly two inches deep. He limped his way to an ambulance. Police did not treat O’Bannon like a victim. Officers instead monitored his Facebook page and sought to bring six charges against him, including conspiracy, rioting, assault and unlawful assembly. His presence at the protest – along with his use of the black power fist and “social media posts expressing his ideals” – were proof that he had violated the rights of neo-Nazis at the 26 June 2016 protests, police wrote in a report. None of the white supremacists have been charged for stabbing O’Bannon. O’Bannon’s case is the latest example of police in the US targeting leftwing activists, anti-Trump protesters and black Americans for surveillance and prosecution over their demonstrations and online posts. At the same time, critics say, they are failing to hold neo-Nazis responsible for physical violence. Michael German, a former FBI agent, said the Sacramento case was part of a pattern of police in the US siding with far-right groups and targeting their critics.
Note: A New York Times article describes how journalists, legal observers and volunteer medics were charged with riot-related crimes for attending a protest. United Nations officials recently said that the US government's treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The Florida sheriff whose department responded to this month's high school massacre defended his leadership Sunday while insisting that only one of his deputies was on the scene as the gunman killed 14 students and three staff members. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN that investigators are looking into claims that three other deputies were on the scene but failed to enter the school when the chance to save lives still existed. Israel and the sheriff's office have come under withering scrutiny after last week's revelation that deputy Scot Peterson did not go in to confront the suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, during the Valentine's Day attack. It is also facing backlash for apparently mishandling some of the 18 tipster calls related to the suspected shooter. The tips were among a series of what authorities now describe as the clearest missed warning signs that Cruz ... posed a serious threat. The FBI has acknowledged that it failed to investigate the tip about Cruz that the agency received on Jan. 5. A transcript of the phone call [to the FBI] spanned more than 13 minutes. During the call, the woman described a teenager prone to anger with the "mental capacity of a 12 to 14 year old" that deteriorated after his mother died last year. She pointed the FBI to several Instagram accounts where Cruz had posted photos of sliced-up animals and rifles and ammunition he apparently purchased with money from his mother's life insurance policy. "He's thrown out of all these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student, because he didn't like the way they were talking to him."
Note: The above article describes problems in government organizations that allowed a threat to become a tragedy, but does not mention the well-documented connection between prescription drugs and mass shootings.
Broward County deputies received at least 18 calls warning them about Nikolas Cruz from 2008 to 2017, including concerns that he "planned to shoot up the school" and other threats and acts of violence before he was accused of killing 17 people at a high school. The warnings, made by concerned people close to Cruz, came in phone calls to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, records show. At least five callers mentioned concern over his access to weapons, according to the documents. None of those warnings led to direct intervention. In February 2016, neighbors told police that they were worried he “planned to shoot up the school”. The new details add to the growing list of red flags missed by law enforcement officials, including the FBI, in the months leading up to last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The FBI is reviewing why a tip last month called into the agency about Cruz's desire to kill people was not forwarded to Miami agents for investigation. The Sheriff’s Office has since opened two internal affairs investigations looking into whether its deputies followed the department’s standards after receiving two phone calls. After the February 2016 call, a deputy forwarded the information to the Stoneman Douglas School Resource Officer, Deputy Scot Peterson. Peterson, 54, retired after an internal investigation was launched into why he sat outside the school for about four minutes and never entered as the shooter killed students and staff.
New York City ended the year with the fewest murders and the lowest crime figures in decades, the mayor and the NYPD said Friday. There were 290 murders in the nation's largest city in 2017, compared to 335 killings the previous year, said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news conference. “No one believed it was possible to get under 300 murders,” de Blasio said. The murder rate is a far cry from 1990, when 2,245 people were killed in the city. The numbers of other crimes - shootings, robberies, burglaries and grand larcenies auto - also dropped, officials said. “To see crime levels as low as we have today, you’d have to go back to 1951, when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn and a slice was 15 cents,” de Blasio added. Overall, 2017 was the fourth straight year of declines in crime in New York City. According to NYPD records there were 96,517 crimes reported last year, compared with 102,052 in 2016, a drop of 5.4 percent.
I traveled from Baltimore to join hundreds of thousands of protesters at counterdemonstrations around Mr. Trump’s swearing-in. Little did I know that I would be swept up into a legal nightmare that demonstrates how prosecutors intimidate and manipulate defendants into giving up their rights. Minutes after I got to downtown Washington on Jan. 20, police officers used pepper spray, “sting-ball” grenades and flailing batons to sweep up an entire city block in a mass-arrest tactic known as “kettling.” Next, prosecutors ... took the highly unusual step of indicting more than 200 of those arrested. Most of the people in the group, which includes journalists, legal observers and volunteer medics, face charges of engaging in a riot, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and property damage. In addition to seizing the contents of at least 100 cellphones, prosecutors secured broad warrants for Facebook pages. The government has failed to provide most defendants in the case with evidence of their alleged individual wrongdoing. For example, I was offered a plea deal (to a single misdemeanor charge) on the basis of virtually nothing more than being at the site of the protest. This serves to illustrate a critical problem in the American justice system: Prosecutors have the power to single-handedly destroy lives, and there are few consequences for abuse of that power. At the same time, their main measure of success is the ability to secure convictions, not the degree to which justice is served.
Note: United Nations officials recently said that the US government's treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
This week, Donald Trump lifted the ban on certain military-grade weapons and equipment available from the Pentagon to our local police forces across the nation. Before Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2015 limiting the transfer of certain types of military equipment under the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, the Department of Defense transferred more than $5bn in surplus military equipment directly to police agencies. The Pentagon program creates a pipeline that bypasses normal ... procurement processes, enabling police departments to acquire expensive-to-maintain and often unneeded military equipment directly from the Pentagon without the approval or even knowledge of [elected] government officials. Citizens are left to pay the price when these military “toys” are put into the anxious hands of often untrained local law enforcement. Handing our police weapons of war, including but not limited to large-capacity, rapid-fire weapons and ammunition – including .50-calibers – bayonets, grenade launchers, armored vehicles including military tanks, unmanned vehicles (armed drones), explosives and pyrotechnics, and similar explosive devices, makes us less safe. It also drives a wedge between police officers and ... communities. Our nation was built on the principle that there are clear lines between our armed forces and domestic police. Moreover ... law enforcement is subject to civilian authority. This program blurs those lines. Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful.
Note: The above was written by US Congressman Hank Johnson, author of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2017. The Pentagon's 1033 program now being revived led to what the ACLU called an "excessive militarization of American policing". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
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