In A Cop Culture, The Bill Of Rights Doesn’t Amount To Much

Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions.—Law professor Joanna C. Schwartz (paraphrased)

“In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

Unfortunately, if you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is never held accountable for violating your rights and his oath of office to serve and protect, never forced to make amends, never told that what he did was wrong, and never made to change his modus operandi, then you don’t live in a constitutional republic.

You live in a police state.

It doesn’t even matter that “crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike,” as the New York Times reports.

What matters is whether you’re going to make it through a police confrontation alive and with your health and freedoms intact. For a growing number of Americans, those confrontations do not end well.

As David O. Brown, the Dallas chief of police, noted: “Sometimes it seems like our young officers want to get into an athletic event with people they want to arrest. They have a ‘don’t retreat’ mentality. They feel like they’re warriors and they can’t back down when someone is running from them, no matter how minor the underlying crime is.”

Making matters worse, in the cop culture that is America today, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much. Unless, that is, it’s the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which protects police officers from being subjected to the kinds of debilitating indignities heaped upon the average citizen.

Most Americans, oblivious about their own rights, aren’t even aware that police officers have their own Bill of Rights. Yet at the same time that our own protections against government abuses have been reduced to little more than historic window dressing, 14 states have already adopted LEOBoRs—written by police unions and being considered by many more states and Congress—which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food/water/bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us.

Not only are officers given a 10-day “cooling-off period during which they cannot be forced to make any statements about the incident; but when they are questioned, it must be “for a reasonable length of time, at a reasonable hour, by only one or two investigators (who must be fellow policemen), and with plenty of breaks for food and water.”

According to investigative journalist Eli Hager, the most common rights afforded police officers accused of wrongdoing are as follows:

  • If a department decides to pursue a complaint against an officer, the department must notify the officer and his union.
  • The officer must be informed of the complainants, and their testimony against him, before he is questioned.
  • During questioning, investigators may not harass, threaten, or promise rewards to the officer, as interrogators not infrequently do to civilian suspects.
  • Bathroom breaks are assured during questioning.
  • In Maryland, the officer may appeal his case to a “hearing board,” whose decision is binding, before a final decision has been made by his superiors about his discipline. The hearing board consists of three of the suspected offender’s fellow officers.
  • In some jurisdictions, the officer may not be disciplined if more than a certain number of days (often 100) have passed since his alleged misconduct, which limits the time for investigation.
  • Even if the officer is suspended, the department must continue to pay salary and benefits, as well as the cost of the officer’s attorney.

It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, I suppose: protection from the courts, immunity from wrongdoing, paid leave while you’re under investigation, and the assurance that you won’t have to spend a dime of your own money in your defense. And yet these LEOBoR epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

Once in a while, the system appears to work on the side of justice; and police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens.

Yet even in these instances, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.

For example, Baltimore taxpayers have paid roughly $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits stemming from police abuses, with an additional $5.8 million going towards legal fees. If the six Baltimore police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray are convicted, you can rest assured it will be the Baltimore taxpayers who feel the pinch.

New York taxpayers have shelled out almost $1,130 per year per police officer (there are 34,500 officers in the NYPD) to address charges of misconduct. That translates to $38 million every year just to clean up after these so-called public servants.

Over a 10-year-period, Oakland, Calif., taxpayers were made to cough up more than $57 million (curiously enough, the same amount as the city’s deficit back in 2011) in order to settle accounts with alleged victims of police abuse.

Chicago taxpayers were asked to pay out nearly $33 million on one day alone to victims of police misconduct, with one person slated to receive $22.5 million, potentially the largest single amount settled on any one victim. The City has paid more than half a billion dollars to victims over the course of a decade. The Chicago City Council actually had to borrow $100 million just to pay off lawsuits arising over police misconduct in 2013. The city’s payout for 2014 was estimated to be in the same ballpark, especially with cases pending such as the one involving the man who was reportedly sodomized by a police officer’s gun in order to force him to “cooperate.”

Over 78% of the funds paid out by Denver taxpayers over the course of a decade arose as a result of alleged abuse or excessive use of force by the Denver police and sheriff departments. Meanwhile, taxpayers in Ferguson, Missouri, are being asked to pay $40 million in compensation—more than the city’s entire budget—for police officers treating them “‘as if they were war combatants,’ using tactics like beating, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and stun grenades, while the plaintiffs were peacefully protesting, sitting in a McDonalds, and in one case walking down the street to visit relatives.”

That’s just a small sampling of the most egregious payouts, but just about every community—large and small—feels the pinch when it comes to compensating victims who have been subjected to deadly or excessive force by police.

The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.” Indeed, a study published in the NYU Law Review reveals that 99.8% of the monies paid in settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases never come out of the officers’ own pockets, even when state laws require them to be held liable. Moreover, these officers rarely ever have to pay for their own legal defense.

For instance, law professor Joanna C. Schwartz references a case in which three Denver police officers chased and then beat a 16-year-old boy, stomping “on the boy’s back while using a fence for leverage, breaking his ribs and causing him to suffer kidney damage and a lacerated liver.” The cost to Denver taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $885,000. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Kathryn Johnston, 92 years old, was shot and killed during a SWAT team raid that went awry. Attempting to cover their backs, the officers falsely claimed Johnston’s home was the site of a cocaine sale and went so far as to plant marijuana in the house to support their claim. The cost to Atlanta taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $4.9 million. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, a police officer was convicted of raping a woman in his police car, in addition to sexually assaulting four other women and girls, physically abusing two additional women, and kidnapping or falsely imprisoning five men and boys. The cost to the Albuquerque taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $1,000,000. The amount the officer contributed: 0.

Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

Still, the number of times a police officer is actually held accountable for wrongdoing while on the job is miniscule compared to the number of times cops are allowed to walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

A large part of the problem can be chalked up to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, not to mention these Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights laws, which allow officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing.

Another part of the problem is rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats; those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils, and judges.

Most of all, what we’re dealing with is systemic corruption that protects wrongdoing and recasts it in a noble light. However, there is nothing noble about government agents who kick, punch, shoot, and kill defenseless individuals. There is nothing just about police officers rendered largely immune from prosecution for wrongdoing. There is nothing democratic about the word of a government agent being given greater weight in court than that of the average citizen. And no good can come about when the average citizen has no real means of defense against a system that is weighted in favor of government bureaucrats.

So if you want a recipe for disaster, this is it: Take police cadets, train them in the ways of war, dress and equip them for battle, teach them to see the people they serve not as human beings but as suspects and enemies, and then indoctrinate them into believing that their main priority is to make it home alive at any cost. While you’re at it, spend more time drilling them on how to use a gun (58 hours) and employ defensive tactics (49 hours) than on how to calm a situation before resorting to force (8 hours).

Then, once they’re hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge and their gun, throw in a few court rulings suggesting that security takes precedence over individual rights, set it against a backdrop of endless wars and militarized law enforcement, and then add to the mix a populace distracted by entertainment, out of touch with the workings of their government, and more inclined to let a few sorry souls suffer injustice than challenge the status quo or appear unpatriotic.

That’s not to discount the many honorable police officers working thankless jobs across the country in order to serve and protect their fellow citizens; but there can be no denying that, as journalist Michael Daly acknowledges, there is a troublesome “cop culture that tends to dehumanize or at least objectify suspected lawbreakers of whatever race. The instant you are deemed a candidate for arrest, you become not so much a person as a ‘perp.’”

Older cops are equally troubled by this shift in how police are being trained to view Americans—as things, not people. Daly had a veteran police officer join him to review the video footage of 43-year-old Eric Garner crying out and struggling to breathe as cops held him in a chokehold. (In yet another example of how the legal system and the police protect their own, no police officers were charged for Garner’s death.) Daly describes the veteran officer’s reaction to the footage, which as Daly points out, “constitutes a moral indictment not so much of what the police did but of what the police did not do”:

“I don’t see anyone in that video saying, ‘Look, we got to ease up,’” says the veteran officer. “Where’s the human side of you in that you’ve got a guy saying, ‘I can’t breathe?’” The veteran officer goes on, “Somebody needs to say, ‘Stop it!’ That’s what’s missing here was a voice of reason. The only voice we’re hearing is of Eric Garner.” The veteran officer believes Garner might have survived had anybody heeded his pleas. “He could have had a chance,” says the officer, who is black. “Butyou got to believe he’s a human being first. A human being saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’”

As I point out in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, when all is said and done, the various problems we’re facing today—militarized police, police shootings of unarmed people, the electronic concentration camp being erected around us, SWAT team raids, etc.—can be attributed to the fact that our government and its agents have ceased to see us as humans first.

Then again, perhaps we are just as much to blame for this sorry state of affairs. After all, if we want to be treated like human beings—with dignity and worth—then we need to start treating those around us in the same manner. As Martin Luther King Jr. warned in a speech given exactly one year to the day before he was killed: “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Do Not Like Spike Lee Film Title ‘Chiraq’

Prominent officials in Chicago have raised concerns with a film being produced by renowned director Spike Lee. The concerns include the working film’s name and a $3 million tax break.

The Chicago Tribune reported Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with Lee Wednesday to discuss his film documenting violence on Chicago’s south side, specifically the neighborhood of Englewood.

During the meeting, Emanuel conveyed his displeasure with the film’s working title, Chiraq, a portmanteau combining ‘Chicago’ and ‘Iraq’ and a term popularized in the hip-hop scene. “He said the movie is about the neighborhood of Englewood. I was clear that I was not happy about the title,” Emanuel said at a press conference.

I told him also that there are very good people who live in Englewood who are raising their family. There’s a lot of positive things happening in Englewood, mainly driven by the people that make up Englewood.

The former chief of staff to President Barack Obama said Lee did recognize Chicago was not the only violent city in the U.S. during their meeting. “It’s happening in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, where he’s from. He talked about a name of a part of Brooklyn where he’s from. He talked about how Philadelphia’s referred to. He talked about how Baltimore’s referred to,” Emanuel added.

While the recently re-elected mayor did not say whether Lee would agree to changing the film’s title, he did say it would tackle important issues including black-on-black violence:

I said then, and I believe, that’s an important conversation to have. Given you’re a great artist, while I don’t support the title and I don’t like the working title, the topic is a conversation that has been ignored for too long and needs to be discussed.

Chicago Alderman Will Burns Wednesday also slammed the ‘Chiraq’ title. “For people who live on the South and West Sides who pay their taxes, are active in block clubs and work to make their neighborhoods better, it’s a slap in the face,” Burns said.

South Siders and West Siders already walk around with a massive chip on their shoulders. There’s a sense the media only comes to cover dead bodies and not the positive things that happen every day. And why is this guy from New York coming to do a movie about Chicago?

Passed in December 2008 by the Illinois General Assembly, the tax credit offers filmmakers a 30 percent break on “all qualified expenditures,” Politico pointed out. The intention of the policy was to create jobs and “stimulate diversity in production hiring,” says the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Still, Burns had no objection to Lee making the film.

It’s not a First Amendment issue, and I’m on the board of the ACLU by the way, because no one is saying he can’t make the movie. I’m just saying if you’re going to take the subsidy, the public should be given a seat at the table, and we need to have a conversation and a dialogue about it. It’s our money, and it’s our city.

h/t: DNA Info

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

George W. Bush Took Just One Word To Sum Up Jeb’s Biggest Problem In Running For President

According to an analysis just published in The Washington Post, Jeb Bush is not running away from many of the views and policies of his older brother when he was president. In fact, says author Ed O’Keefe, the former Florida governor and likely GOP presidential contender is “embracing” and “emphasizing” what George W. Bush did when he was in the White House, particularly in the area of international relations.

If Jeb Bush is elected president, the United States won’t be on speaking terms with Cuba and will partner more closely with Israel.

He’ll tighten sanctions on Iran and urge NATO to deploy more troops in Eastern Europe to counter Vladimir Putin. And he’ll order the U.S. military to root out “barbarians” and “evil doers” around the globe.

Curiously, if the Post article is accurate, Jeb’s older brother says that very alignment is the biggest problem facing the younger Bush in his likely bid for the presidency — which, of course, may be a big clue as to the Post’s intention in making this analysis. Politico reports that the former president spoke to IT experts in Chicago on Wednesday, telling the crowd of some 7,000 that Jeb’s candidacy has a problem that could be expressed in one word: “Me.”

“That’s why you won’t see me out there, and he doesn’t need to defend me, and he’s totally different from me. The role of family is not to be a political adviser or a policy adviser — there are plenty of those around — the role is to say, ‘Hey man, I love you.’

When it comes to critical matters of foreign policy, Jeb Bush’s “embrace” of his brother’s positions — if such is the case — could prove to be a good thing if the younger Bush does throw his hat into the presidential ring. As reported by Bloomberg Politics, New Hampshire voters in a recent poll expressed their preference for Jeb over potential GOP rivals because of his perceived foreign policy strengths, not necessarily his other positions on major issues.

Jeb Bush has taken a slight lead over other potential Republican presidential candidates in a new Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm New Hampshire poll, even though his party’s voters have doubts about his famous last name and his positions on immigration and education.

A follow-up piece on Bloomberg noted of that New Hampshire voter survey: “Republicans said their top issue was fighting terrorism, and that the former governor would be far better combating terrorism than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Rand Paul Paul, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.”

Though he has not indicated any specific date for his long-expected announcement about entering the 2016 race, Jeb Bush has accepted an invitation to speak at the May 9th commencement at Liberty University in Virginia. That’s where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy only a few weeks ago.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Wendy Davis Was Right—Just Look At Obama’s Destruction Of Black America

Photo credit: Facebook/Wendy Davis

Democratic Texas State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was heavily criticized for a political ad she ran against her disabled Republican opponent, Greg Abbott. To clarify, she did not claim Abbott was an unfit candidate because he is disabled—that would be discriminatory.

She argued, and rightfully so, that Greg Abbott politicizes his disability; yet he actively ruled and legally fought against the blind, deaf, and those with amputees among others. Despite his successful lawsuit for the injury he incurred 30 years ago, Abbott has consistently blocked disabled Texans from suing the state for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Davis’s logic, however, reveals the same fallacies about herself. She claims as a woman to support policies that safeguard and empower women, yet has little to show for it. Consider the issue of birth control, for example. Davis, like the majority of female elected officials, claims women should have unfettered access to it. Yet, the birth control medications available and readily prescribed to healthy young women—Depo Provera, Ortho Evra, and the Nuvo Ring—are killing and/or destroying women’s health.

Davis is not “standing with” the women who cite numerous examples in class actions lawsuits of the life-long and life-threatening health conditions they suffer because of these drugs: blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks, blood disorders, sterilization, and death. Young women are dropping dead, and Davis is silent.

But more importantly, the first black president of the United States has caused more harm to black Americans than most of his predecessors.

Barack Obama’s policies of “hope” and “change” have increased long-term unemployment by 14 percent since he took office, increased the national debt more than all of his predecessors combined, increased inflation 43 percent more than President Bush, and caused more Americans to lose their health insurance and access to medical care than ever before.

Under the first black president, black unemployment is higher; and black participation in the labor force (60.2 percent) is at its lowest since December 1977. Both unemployment and underemployment among blacks is more than double that of whites according to national labor statistics.

In Obama’s Illinois, it’s worse—less than 50 percent of blacks are employed. They face significant challenges in a state whose food-stamp enrollment outpaces job creation by nearly 2 to 1, and ranks last of all 50 states in job creation. In fact, Illinoisians are leaving the state at a rate of one person every ten minutes because of Obama’s disastrous economic policies.

Obama’s economic policies have fostered a cycle of abject poverty and erosion of societal cohesion distinguished by the largest increase in criminal activity in nearly two decades. Federal statistics reveal that violent crime since 2011 is at an all-time high, with a significant increase of racially motivated hate crimes and “violent victimizations” of whites by blacks.

Worse still, black on black violence is escalating. In 2010, for example, 55 percent of homicide victims who were shot were black. Statistics indicate that 90 percent of black murder victims are killed by blacks.

In Obama’s Chicago, a city with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, there are more murders committed than in New York City or Los Angeles. In 2012, for example, compared to Chicago’s 512 murders, there were 418 in New York City and 298 in Los Angeles. Yet, Chicago is one third smaller than New York City and has one million fewer people than Los Angeles.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Ouch: Obama’s Home City Just Did Something That Might Make Him Not Want To Go Back

Obama Chicago

When unveiling the project with great fanfare back in April, the president’s former Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, announced that a new Chicago high school would be named for Barack Obama.

A number of schools across the country have been named for Obama, but this was to be the first in his home state of Illinois. The operative word in the previous sentence — WAS.

The Chicago Tribune now reports that, without any fanfare whatsoever, Emanuel let it be known that Obama’s name will not adorn the new $60 million high school.

In announcing the decision, Mayor Emanuel indicated it was the result of community input…in other words, the people didn’t want Barack Obama’s name on their new school.

“Over the last few months, my team has listened to questions and concerns from the community, ranging from location of the building to the naming of the school. We take that community input seriously, which is why – as we continue to look for a thoughtful way to honor President Obama – we will look for other possible names for this future school,” Emanuel said in a statement.

Given the coverage of this development in the New York Daily News, one must ask how long it might be before cries of racism fill the Chicago air.

Two sources confirmed to The Daily News that the Chicago Board of Education has quietly decided to not go ahead with plans for the name of a new so-called selective enrollment public high school on the city’s predominantly white North Side.

The board has a policy that does not allow schools to be named after those who are still living. It will cite that stricture as reason for the about-face.

It’s not as though President Obama has been overlooked when it comes to the naming of schools. As ABC News noted even back in 2010:

He has been in the White House 18 months, but President Obama already has seven U.S. schools named after him, far more than his predecessor George W. Bush and a designation that educators say bucks the trend.

Still, given the fact that this about-face has happened in the city where Barack Obama started his political career, one might suppose the sting of rejection for the president could be rather painful.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom