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.
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Nearly a month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers inside Robb Elementary School, shattering a West Texas community, a litany of key questions about the police response remain unanswered. The shifting narrative from state and local leaders in the massacre's aftermath could threaten to exacerbate the trauma for those affected. "These types of tragedies can tear communities apart," said John Cohen, a former senior Homeland Security official who is now an ABC News contributor. "One of the ways the healing process can begin is for the community to have a clear understanding of what happened, and of what will be done to prevent something similar from happening again." As families of the victims lay their loved ones to rest, residents of Uvalde continue to hope for answers. They may start to get some on Tuesday, when a Texas House panel convenes to hear testimony regarding the shooting. Since the very first days after the attack, law enforcement officials have said their response was stymied by ... a locked door. But now surveillance video shows that police never tried to open the door. Two months before the mass shooting, the Uvalde school district hosted an all-day training session for local police and other school-based law enforcement officers that was focused on "active shooter response." But basic training protocols - including those involving communication channels and chain of command - went unheeded.
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Two Uvalde city police officers passed up a fleeting chance to shoot a gunman outside Robb Elementary School before he went on to kill 21 people inside the school, a senior sheriff's deputy told The New York Times. That would mean a second missed opportunity for officers to stop Salvador Ramos before the May 24 rampage inside the school that killed 19 children and two teachers. Officials said that a school district police drove past Ramos without seeing him in the school parking lot. The unidentified officers, one of whom was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, said they feared hitting children playing in the line of fire outside the school, Chief Deputy Ricardo Rios of nearby Zavalla County told the newspaper. Rios said he had shared the information with a special Test House committee investigating the school massacre. Uvalde police officials agreed Friday to speak to the committee investigating, according to a Republican lawmaker leading the probe who had begun to publicly question why the officers were not cooperating sooner. "Took a little bit longer than we initially had expected," state Rep. Dustin Burrows said. On Thursday, Burrows signaled impatience with Uvalde police, tweeting that most people had fully cooperated with their investigation "to help determine the facts" and that he didn't understand why the city's police force "would not want the same." He did not say which members of the department will meet with the committee, which is set to continue questioning witnesses in Uvalde on Monday.
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The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Thursday of the Louisiana State Police, launching the review after a series of videos showed officers brutally beating Black motorists. One particularly violent video showed state troopers punching, stunning, and dragging an unarmed man, Ronald Greene, as he apologized for failing to stop during a high-speed chase in 2019. He died shortly after, but state police initially told his family that he was killed when his car hit a tree. "We find significant justification to investigate whether Louisiana State Police engages in excessive force and in racially discriminatory policing," said Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division. State Police Superintendent Lamar Davis has said he would welcome the Justice Department investigation. Two-thirds of his agency's uses of force have been directed at Black people, he [said]. Greene's arrest was one of least a dozen over the past 10 years in which state police troopers or their superiors ignored or concealed evidence of beatings. Under Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Justice Department has opened similar investigations of police departments in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd and in Louisville, Kentucky, following the death of Breonna Taylor.
The Justice Department is updating its use of force policy for the first time in 18 years, saying explicitly that federal officers and agents must step in if they see other officers using excessive force. The policy takes effect on July 19. The new policy is outlined in a memo Attorney General Merrick Garland sent to senior Justice leaders. The rules apply to all agencies under the Justice Department, including the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service. "It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life," the policy begins. It later adds, "Officers may use force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist and may use only the level of force that a reasonable officer on the scene would use under the same or similar circumstances." The policy's first portion deals with deadly force, barring tactics such as firing guns to disable cars. But the next section calls for de-escalation training, and the next two spell out situations in which officers have an "affirmative duty" – to prevent or stop other officers from using excessive force, and to render or call for medical aid when it's needed. Law enforcement officers should be able to recognize and act on "the affirmative duty to intervene to prevent or stop, as appropriate, any officer from engaging in excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, other federal laws, or Department policies on the reasonable use of force," the policy states.
Congress passed a bill last week explicitly prohibiting federal law enforcement officers from having sex with people in their custody, closing a loophole that previously allowed them to avoid a rape conviction by claiming such an encounter was consensual. The legal loophole gained widespread attention in 2018, after an 18-year-old woman in New York, Anna Chambers, said that two detectives raped her inside their police van. The detectives, who have since resigned, said she consented. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the sexual assault charges, and the men were sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to bribery and official misconduct. In February 2018, BuzzFeed News reported that laws in 35 states allowed police officers to claim that a person in their custody consented to sex, and that of at least 158 law enforcement officers charged with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control from 2006 to 2018, at least 26 were acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense. Last week ... the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act passed the House and Senate as part of a broader appropriations bill. The act also requires states that receive certain federal grants to annually report to the Department of Justice the number of complaints alleging a sexual encounter between a local law enforcement officer and a person in their custody. The ... Act applies to the 100,000 or so law enforcement officers across all federal agencies.
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Police shot and killed at least 1,055 people nationwide last year, the highest total since The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by officers in 2015 – underscoring the difficulty of reducing such incidents despite sustained public attention to the issue. The new count is up from 1,021 shootings the previous year and 999 in 2019. The total comes amid a nationwide spike in violent crime. Despite setting a record, experts said the 2021 total was within expected bounds. Police have fatally shot roughly 1,000 people in each of the past seven years, ranging from 958 in 2016 to last year's high. The number of fatal police shootings ... suggests officers' behavior has not shifted significantly since The Post began collecting data. Advocacy for policing overhauls has intensified since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. More than 400 bills were introduced in state legislatures last year to address officers' use of force. Police departments increasingly partnered with mental health experts to respond to people in crisis. Cities established civilian review boards for use-of-force incidents. None of it decreased the number of people shot and killed by officers last year. Last year, all but 15 percent of people shot and killed by officers were armed. Ninety-four percent were men. Roughly 14 percent had known mental health struggles, down from about one-fifth in the two previous years and about one-fourth in 2016 and 2015.
The caption read "hanging with the homies." The picture above it showed several Black men who had been lynched. Another photo asked what someone should do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The answer, according to the caption, was to break "a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him." The comments represent a sliver of a trove of racist text messages exchanged by more than a dozen current and former Torrance police officers and recruits. The Times examined some of the contents of the until-now secret texts and identified a dozen Torrance police officers under investigation for exchanging them. The broad scope of the racist text conversations, which prosecutors said went on for years, has created a crisis for the Torrance Police Department and could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests. California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said Wednesday his office will investigate the department in the wake of the scandal. The officers' comments spared no color or creed. While no officers currently face criminal charges in direct relation to the text messages, the racist exchanges have led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases involving the officers implicated in the scandal. County prosecutors had tossed 35 felony cases as of mid-November, and the Torrance city attorney's office has dismissed an additional 50, officials said. In total, the officers were listed as potential witnesses in nearly 1,400 cases in the last decade.
The Supreme Court had an opportunity this week to protect your right to record the misbehavior of rogue police officers. Instead, the court looked the other way while cops who sought to seize such a recording are shielded from accountability. So much for First Amendment protections. By declining to hear a case from a federal appellate court, the Supreme Court let stand a dangerous ruling granting qualified immunity to Denver police officers accused of snatching a computer tablet from a man who had used it to record them punching a suspect in the face and grabbing his pregnant girlfriend, causing her to fall to the ground. In recent years, such recordings have been vital to a national movement against racial injustice and excessive police force. In a few cases, the recordings have been a key to holding police accountable for a person's brutal death. By refusing to take Frasier v. Evans, the Supreme Court managed to set back both the public's right to record police and efforts to hold police accountable for violating citizens' constitutional rights. The decision in this case makes the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals an outlier and leaves people living in the six states it covers – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming – with weakened constitutional rights. Six other federal appeals courts, covering nearly half of the states, have ruled that citizens have a clear constitutional right to record police in public.
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.
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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.
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